TV-PGSeptember 28, 1998: Several prominent Mac rumors sites are on hiatus due to "personal matters;" do we detect the faint scent of ninja in the breeze? Meanwhile, daredevil developers continue to push the iMac envelope with more upcoming expansion cards for the verboten Perch slot, and the forthcoming iMac II may well gain a zippy 3D chip and more SGRAM...
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Ninja Attack II? (9/28/98)
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The first thing we want to address on our return from our unscheduled hiatus is a growing conspiracy theory among AtAT viewers about Macintosh-oriented rumors sites. Several of you found it "noteworthy" that the two largest rumors sites-- Mac OS Rumors and MacNN Reality-- are both currently missing in action, and that AtAT has been static throughout roughly the same time period. For instance, faithful viewers Scott Pennington, Eric Gold, and others independently note that all three shows are off the air due to self-described "personal reasons," which admittedly qualifies as "suspicious circumstances."

While we can't speak for either Rumors or Reality, rest assured that AtAT's recent broadcast irregularity was due to nothing more insidious than an energetic three-year-old and a teething four-month-old baby, neither of whom are on Microsoft's payroll. At least, we assume that's the case, since the three-year-old in question commands more exuberance than subtlety and by now would have traded in everything she owns for Mulan-branded replacements if she were truly on the take. The baby, on the other hand, while generally seeming to be a guileless little fellow, occasionally gets this look on his face like he knows exactly what's going on and it's pretty funny that all these adults are falling for the act. Or maybe it's just gas. Hard to say. But to the best of our knowledge, AtAT's most recent hiatus was an entirely voluntary one, taken in order to run around in the grass playing tag and to get spit up on and various other activities associated with having fun with small children. And we've returned safely to AtAT headquarters (despite a nasty snarl with Northwest Airlines, who displayed such gross incompetence and lack of attention to detail that we simply can't feel safe flying with them ever again) and are back in the saddle, as it were.

Now, just because our hiatus was seemingly legit, that doesn't mean that Rumors and Reality's "personal matters" didn't originate from a vast outside conspiracy. Longtime viewers will recall the persistent campaign of ninja attacks that brought down several prominent Mac news and rumors sites last year, under the guise of "server difficulties," "DNS problems," etc. We admit that the recent "radio silence" looks a bit suspicious, so we're wondering-- what momentous back-room deal went down in Cupertino over the course of the past week or so which was so secret that it might necessitate the silencing of the two best rumors sites on the 'net? And will we ever get to find out?


 
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Adapting Adeptly (9/28/98)
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See, technology is cool because its "lifeforms" evolve almost organically, but at a vastly accelerated pace. For example, it's amazing to watch the evolution of the iMac-- or actually, the adaptation of the iMac to its user environment. Many of the iMac's perceived shortcomings are being addressed in ingenius ways as the Mac community comes up with its own "unsanctioned" workarounds. For instance, there was that funky German article about how to solder a standard 3.5" floppy drive connector onto the iMac's motherboard, thus allowing the installation of any old floppy drive that might be scavenged from an older Mac. Pretty crazy.

Many of the upcoming iModifications, however, involve nothing quite so drastic. Despite Apple's requests that third parties stay away from the hidden Perch expansion slot on the underside of the iMac's motherboard, we at AtAT fully expect more and more goodies to be announced for that special little connector. The first was Griffin Technologies' iPort, which adds a Mac-standard serial port and a mirroring-only video-out port to the iMac for only $60 or so. The next, according to iMacInTouch, is a nifty new card in development by Formac, which will add a SCSI port to the iMac for only about $150. A news piece at the German MacGadget site claims that Formac's "iPowerRaid" will support Ultra Wide SCSI as well as older SCSI standards and will ship worldwide this coming November. Now there's an intriguing development.

While plugging anything into the iMac's Perch slot is potentially a warranty-voiding action (to the best of our knowledge, Apple hasn't specified, since they rarely even publicly acknowledge that the the Perch slot exists at all), we're going to hazard a guess that a lot of iMac owners would be willing to take that risk if it meant they could connect all their old SCSI devices to their new Blue Wonder. After all, when you're weighing the potential cost of paying for iMac repair versus, say, the definite cost of buying new USB equivalents of your existing scanners, Zip drives, CD-R's, etc., well, for some people the decision is a no-brainer; the cost of new USB peripherals might well be more than the cost of a whole new iMac! So what's a little warranty-voiding behavior between friends? After all, popping in a Perch card isn't nearly as risky as soldering a new connector onto your motherboard just to get a floppy drive.


 
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Natural Selection (9/28/98)
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The actual evolution of the iMac will occur as Apple rolls out new versions of the little blue lump, keeping features beneficial to its survival in a "dog-eat-dog" marketplace, possibly ditching useless appendages, and hazarding new genetic tweaks that may further boost its position in the silicon food chain. There have been rumors galore about just what we'll see when the iMac II rolls off the assembly lines, though nothing's yet written in stone. Bigger screen? Custom colors? Pre-loaded VirtualPC? Free matching steam iron? Your guess is as good as anyone's at this point.

However, as longtime viewers will no doubt recall, we at AtAT believe the single biggest evolutionary advantage that the iMac could sprout would be a decent 3D accelerator. The Rage II on the iMac's motherboard is the single component of the iMac which is last year's technology inside of next year's computer. Don't believe us? Would you believe the games themselves? For instance, fire up Unreal on an iMac and it will tell you that it detects the presence of a Rage II chip, but since that processor is so slow, the game will use the software renderer instead. The iMac is currently the only shipping Mac to use the Rage II chip, now that even the PowerBook G3 series is using the three-times-faster Rage Pro instead. Isn't it a tad askew that Apple's only consumer Mac is also its only Mac that is hobbled for playing today's hottest 3D games? (Worse yet, there's no way to add a decent 3D accelerator to the iMac, due to the lack of PCI slots; we're still waiting for that Perch-compatible Voodoo card to be announced.)

However, it sounds like Apple may finally have been convinced of the importance of good 3D games performance in a consumer machine. According to Mac the Knife, the iMac II will contain a "swank new ATI video chip" and 6 MB of video RAM. Whether that "swank" new chip is the existing Rage Pro or the upcoming Rage 128, we'd be thrilled either way. We know from personal experience that a 6MB SGRAM Rage Pro-equipped Power Mac G3/266 plays Unreal very well, so the iMac II should be able to hold its own. If this all turns out to be true, we're betting dollars to donuts that ex-MacSoft dude Peter Tamte, Apple's new Senior Director of Consumer Marketing, was instrumental in getting better games performance into the new iMac. Rock on, Peter. (Now what about those of us with current iMacs?...)


 
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