TV-PGSeptember 22, 2002: Yes, we've been out of commission lately; blame it on Apple's inexplicable willingness to keep doing business with Best Buy. Meanwhile, Larry Ellison steps down from Apple's Board of Directors, and rumors that those new IBM PowerPC rumors are false are... um, false...
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We Can Sue, Can't We? (9/22/02)

Yes, folks, it's really us-- your friendly neighborhood AtAT staff, finally back after many years of war and strangely changed, thus prompting suspicion among the local populace as well as our own families about whether or not we're really who we claim to be. Actually, no, wait... that's Le Retour de Martin Guerre. Never mind. But actually, a month is darn close to forever in 'net time, so that's not to say that you patient and not-so-patient folks aren't allowed to voice concerns about the authenticity of our claimed identity, followed ever-so-quickly by the inevitable question, "Just where in bejeezus have you people been?!

Well, first off, you can rest assured that we are indeed the bona fide AtAT staff and not some cheezy stand-ins slapping together "in-the-style-of" episodes à la those ersatz Mac The Knife columns that MacWEEK trotted out after the authentic Gay Blade departed for greener pastures lo these many years past. As proof of our genuine we-ness, we offer the fact that we just used both "à la" and "lo" in the previous sentence-- a feat that, if attempted by lesser soap producers, would send those hapless souls into paroxysmal fits of stylistic convulsion, the poor bastards. And if that's not enough to convince you and push comes to shove, we suppose we'd also be willing to divulge certain bits of privileged information (such as the exact latitude and longitude of Steve Jobs's secret Batavian love nest) strictly for the purpose of verifying identity. For a hefty price, of course.

As for where we've been all this time, well, you know we departed for BabyTour 2002 on the 23rd of last month, right? And we were hoping to get started back up again shortly after meeting some AtAT fans at the Apple Store Mayfair grand opening (which went smashingly, by the way-- many thanks to those who turned up to say howdy) and then returning to the AtAT compound on Labor Day? Well, scout's honor, we were true to our word... but on September 3rd, disaster struck: as we were cruising around the 'net, probing for prospective plot twist material, we stumbled upon this landmine of an Apple press release and subsequently needed to spend the next three weeks in a trauma ward.

Okay, so maybe we're slightly more sensitive to Apple's on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again, and-dear-sweet-lord-now-it's-actually-ON-again relationship with Best Buy than most people. Still, though, we have to assume that anyone fanatical enough about the day-to-day workings of Apple Computer to want to tune into this sorry show is familiar with Apple's past retail dalliances with the dank and murky ickiness of the Big Yellow Price Tag. You will recall, of course, that Best Buy was sacked by Apple in 1998 for ineptness in selling Performas, viz., placing display models in remote, ill-lit corners behind piles of empty shipping cartons and then smashing them with large, blunt instruments before setting them on fire. And you also know that Best Buy came crawling back about nine months later to get in on that sweet, sweet iMac action-- and then crawled right back out again in 1999 when it revealed itself to be so completely and mind-numbingly incompetent that it couldn't even sell what at the time was the hottest-selling and most visible and talked-about computer on the planet.

So what does Apple do? Why, it gives Best Buy yet another chance to grow a brainstem and evolve past its apparent fundamental inability to move any product with an Apple logo on its packaging. The latest development is that Best Buy is now carrying iPods, and while that may make a whole lot more sense than trying to get them to sell Macs again (iPods are electronic appliances, not computers, and now there are Windows-compatible ones for Best Buy to sell alongside those s00per-kewl eMachines systems, d00d), you can understand how any press release from Apple that includes the phrase "thrilled to be working with Best Buy" might pop a few choice blood vessels in our braincases.

We're mostly recovered now, though, and we're easing back into production despite doctors' orders to avoid any unnecessary aggravation. Mostly at this point we're just hoping Apple doesn't announce a newly-reformed partnership with Sears before Tuesday night; we'd really hate to keel over dead before the Buffy season premiere.

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And Then There Were Five (9/22/02)

Speaking of shocking Apple press releases, by now you've likely noticed that the company has confirmed the rumors: Larry "Trust Me, You Could Never Afford This Suit" Ellison-- CEO of Oracle, poster boy of the Flashy Loudmouth Multibillionaire Society, and reportedly Steve Jobs's bestest buddy-- has officially said buh-bye to his long-held seat on Apple's Board of Directors. Larry gained the post in the Great Coup of 1997, when Captain Steve got the feckless Gil Amelio heaved ho from his CEOship, seized the position himself (on an "interim" basis-- yeah, right), and replaced nearly all of Apple's board with an assortment of hand-picked cronies and lifelike androids.

So why the sudden change? Well, we were all set to take the cheap shot (hey, we're not proud) and make a crack about Larry apparently having one too many yacht races in his schedule to fulfill his duties as an Apple board member, which presumably consist largely of showing up to board meetings and fighting over who has dibs on the last Krispy Kreme. Unfortunately, an Associated Press article-- you know, a real news source-- really does cite Larry's "upcoming bid to win the America's Cup yacht race" as a major factor in the lil' fella's resignation. Oooh, don't you just hate it when reality nixes a cheap joke like that?

So yes, apparently Sailor Larry is too busy doing yachtesque things (and, er, running Oracle) to improve his dismal Apple board meeting attendance record, which reportedly hovers in the 75% range over the course of his five-year stint. And if you're thinking "heck, three out of four ain't bad," well, normally we'd agree-- after all, it's not like we're paragons of Showing Up or anything. But consider that Larry has some $15 billion in the bank and was still paid seventy thousand stock options for his role as an Apple director. Look, folks, as you're all too aware, we're dyed-in-the-wool slackers over here, but if someone were funneling us that kind of compensation just to show up and shoot the breeze about Apple's future strategic direction over donuts and coffee, well, the odds are pretty good we'd make it to at least four out of five of those meetings. And half the time we'd probably even be on time.

Those of you who are panicking because you realize that Steve is just a puppet CEO and all of Apple's progress in the past five years is a direct result of Svengali Larry's masterful string-pulling, well, keep your hair on; saith the Master, "I will continue to offer my advice to Steve and the executive management team at Apple" on a more informal basis. Well, thank heaven for that-- at least now the stock price won't collapse on the news. Which means that you can stop worrying about a Larryless Apple tailspinning into a death plunge and instead devote your brain's unused CPU cycles to pondering the universe's other Great Unknowns-- like, is Larry's departure really about too much yachting, or is there maybe some bad blood between Steve and Larry over the outcome of last Sunday evening's weekly Magic: The Gathering showdown?

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Power Mac G3, G4, G5... GPUL (9/22/02)

Much as it pains us to admit it, we'd be remiss not to point out that the Naked Mole Rat, infamous for embarking on long and unscheduled chemically-induced hibernations, actually posted two updates during our own most recent dry spell. Yes indeedy, we actually became more infrequent than the Rat; how incredibly embarrassing. Indeed, this is apparently some sort of a trend, since Mac OS Rumors (which has, in recent months, been rather infrequently updated) has also upped the ante, publishing new content every day or three, presumably just to make us look bad. Good lord 'n' butter, all we need now is for the classic rumors format AppleInsider to rise phoenix-like from its only-a-forum-now grave and commence updating more often than us, at which point we'll just have to toss our sorry mortal coils under the wheels of a speeding laundry truck or something.

But we digress. What we meant to point out is that the Rat's most recent report (cunningly crafted as if written by a third party, in what we can only assume was a massively entertaining pharmaceutical lapse) claims that those recent rumors are untrue. Which rumors, you ask, assuming you've been shamefully lax in your Rat-reading duties lately? Why, the rumors that those other rumors are untrue. And we know you're going to ask anyway, so we'll just tell you: the rumors that Apple plans to stick gi-normously powerful POWER4-derived PowerPCs from IBM in future Macs, thus possibly uncoupling our beloved platform's performance gains (or lack thereof) from the arguably lackluster Motorolan attempts to keep our Macs from looking like sloths on Methadone and grain alcohol.

Since we're a little rusty, for clarity's sake, let's make sure we're explaining this okay: it's not the rumors of the IBM Uberchip that are untrue; it's the rumors that those rumors are untrue that are (allegedly) untrue. See? Crystal clear. In other words, IBM is working on a desktop PowerPC variant of the POWER4, said chip does boast Altivec-like technologies (if not necessarily Altivec itself), and it is destined to star in a Power Mac near you-- according to the Rat, at least.

Well, and eWEEK, which, as pointed out by faithful viewer potuncle, echoes and amplifies several of the juicy tidbits to have spilled from the Rat's... er... mandibles, or whatever. To wit, this zesty little chip is called the GigaProcessor Ultralite (or GPUL for short), it's a true 64-bit processor, it's already running Mac OS X in Apple's secret underground labs, and further details will likely emerge at IBM's Microprocessor Forum session in a few weeks' time. (Given that the session description is public, it's pretty tough to imagine that GPUL isn't a real thingy.) Apparently GPUL is a multi-core chip and performance is said to be roughly twice that of a current-model G4 at the same clock speed. And GPUL will initially ship at "1.4 to 2 GHz," so we're talking about a pretty hefty chunk of zip, here.

The only catch, as usual, is time; IBM is reportedly not expected to ship the GPUL until "late summer 2003," meaning that until then, we're going to be mired squarely in G4-land. And if you're a little worried that you won't have anything to whine about come the GPUL Era, fear not; just make sure you take clock speed far too seriously and you should be golden, since if GPUL ships at 2 GHz in mid-2003, it's a pretty safe bet that Intel and AMD will be running chips at frequencies at least 50% higher than that by then. See? There's always something to complain about, if you just dig deep enough. And hey, at the very least, you can always keep whining about our spotty broadcast schedule. We aim to please.

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