TV-PGSeptember 12, 2000: Eleventh-hour peace talks have gone and wrecked our fun, and the Expo protest is off. Meanwhile, last-minute details of the Mac OS X public beta leak out just prior to the big day, and it seems that some G4 Cubes are cracking along their mold lines-- Jenny Craig, anyone?...
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From the writer/creator of AtAT, a Pandemic Dad Joke taken WAYYYYYY too far

A Kindler, Gentler Keynote (9/12/00)

We suppose there are two reactions we could have to the news, first reported to us by faithful viewer GORDYmac, that the Apple Expo keynote protest has been called off. The more mature and rational approach would be to rejoice at the prospects of an uninterrupted and unsullied introduction of the Mac OS X public beta, as well as whatever else Uncle Steve's got up his big, baggy sleeves. At the same time we could be proud that Apple defused a potentially explosive adversarial situation not by being aggressive and territorial, but by opening a meaningful dialogue with the disgruntled would-be protesters. How enlightened; Stuart Smalley would be proud. So would Mr. Van Driessen. Group hug!

However, we think we'll go the other way, which is to whine petulantly about how this opportunity for high drama and potential violence has slipped through our fingers due to some new-age hippie nonsense about how a peaceful exchange of ideas is the best way to settle differences. Here we had this great mental image of an elite cadre of hired goons that Apple would disperse through the keynote crowd, ready to Taser anyone who climbed up on a soapbox and then beat him senseless with a sock full of quarters. Snipers up the rafters would pump tranq darts into troublesome whiners, who would then be dragged backstage to be revived for "re-education" with a length of rubber hose. If things got out of hand, Steve would don a gas mask and lob CS gas canisters into the crowd while shouting "eat this, you ungrateful malcontents!" Now that's a keynote for the history books. But instead, according to MacAddict, the protest is off, and Apple Europe has agreed to meet with the protest group next week to discuss its complaints and hopefully come to some sort of amiable agreement. (It's probably just as well; we wouldn't be able to watch anyway, since Macworld confirms that the keynote won't be webcast. Hey, somebody add that to the protesters' list of gripes!)

Okay, okay, so we should be happy that Apple is doing what's best for business. While we've never seen a scientific study to back this up, we'd have to guess that rubber bullets and bloody protesters during major product introductions are generally not good for a company's stock price. For that matter, neither is alienating a group of customers so thoroughly that they feel that disrupting a high-profile corporate event is the only way to make their voices heard-- so it's nice to hear that Apple's willing to listen and hopefully address the group's complaints. But the part of us aching for a dramatic confrontation is still holding out hope that the cancelled protest is simply a ruse to get Apple to let down its guard. Then again, Steve's no fool; you can bet he'll keep a couple of tear gas grenades on hand just in case.

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The Hour Draws Nigh (9/12/00)

The countdown continues: in less than twenty-four hours, the public beta version of Mac OS X will be a reality. Depending on how Apple chooses to make it available, eager Mac fans will be test-driving the future of the platform anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks later. If you can't wait until tomorrow and want more Mac OS X chewy goodness right now, faithful viewer Adam Gillitt pointed out (and co-wrote) a massive preview of the public beta over at ZDNet which ought to tide you over until the official Apple info is released. We warn you, however, that at least some of the facts outlined within might harsh your buzz just a little.

See, back when Steve first announced that the summer release of Mac OS X would be a public beta instead of a 1.0 full version, he tried to downplay the postponement by claiming that the software would be the same, and that only the name had changed. If that's true, then it sounds like Apple was originally planning to sell one feature-incomplete operating system, because one thing that leaps right out at us is the claim that the beta lacks AirPort support. That complicates our plans to test the software somewhat, since the only hardware we've got in the AtAT studios that even comes close to the Mac OS X public beta system requirements is our AirPort-dependent iBook; guess we'll have to tether it to a hub for testing purposes. Oh, and speaking of those system requirements-- apparently you need at least 128 MB of RAM and 1.5 GB of free disk space to run this sucker. We really hope that those numbers drop significantly by the 1.0 release, or else we may have to eat a whole lot of crow about Windows 2000 being a resource hog.

That said, there's one nifty feature of the public beta (which we're now told has existed in at least one developer release as well) that really has us juiced. Apparently we'll be able to install Mac OS X onto an existing Mac OS Extended hard disk-- without partitioning or reformatting. And once the installation is complete, we'll be able to switch between Mac OS X and our current Mac OS 9 setup whenever we restart. Maybe it's just us, but that sounds too cool for words. If it really works, then kudos to Apple for making the beta installation so painless and straightforward.

By the way, conflicting reports of the beta distribution methods are flooding in from all sides. Most reports claim that the beta will only be available on CD-ROM via the Apple Store for $19.95, though almost as many also state that there will be a downloadable installer for people with fast connections or a whole heap of patience. We've even heard one intriguing report that Apple will only be giving the beta to people who pre-pay for the full version of Mac OS X for $129.95, though this is, of course, unconfirmed. But we suppose we'll know pretty darn soon...

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Bursting At The Seams (9/12/00)

Hands up, who remembers the "Cracked Ice" subplot? To recap, back in March, a whole lot of iBook owners confirmed a phenomenon that we had witnessed ourselves: multiple "stress fractures" visible in the Ice plastics surrounding the keyboard and trackpad. At first people thought this was a quality control debacle on par with Apple's finest, but soon it became apparent that the cracks weren't cracks at all-- they were "mold lines," which occur when two flows of plastic come together. In other words, they're a normal, though somewhat unattractive, result of the manufacturing process. Most molded plastic parts with holes in them have these lines, though they're not nearly as noticeable in opaque plastics. (We can see them in the beige casing of the Power Mac 7500 broadcasting our show, for instance, but we've really got to look hard.)

Anyway, we closed the books on that story with this statement: "if these hairline imperfections turn out to be real cracks after all, the drama fiends among you will have a field day when iBooks start falling apart at the seams." Well, there hasn't yet been a mass iBook disintegration to the best of our knowledge, but the issue of mold lines has come up again-- this time in reference to the G4 Cube. According to Think Secret, visible mold lines are enough of an issue with the Cube that Apple has circulated an official document among its service providers to explain the issue: "Mold lines are not cracks, and do not represent a weakness or defect in the plastic."

That's all well and good, provided that it's true. But Think Secret's sources report that "over 50 different technical professionals have reported cases of actual open cracks along these mold lines" in the G4 Cube. Yikes! We should have known that when Apple stuffed nearly a whole Power Mac G4 into a cube one quarter the size, something had to give. Clearly these Cube enclosures are literally splitting at the seams. Quick, does anyone have a safety pin?

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