TV-PGSeptember 29, 1999: Dell's not the only PC maker poised to ride the iBook's coattails to consumer portable success. Meanwhile, Western Digital reveals that up to five thousand Power Mac G4s may have hard drives that could blow at any minute, and Apple's lawyers are having a tough time stomping out Kihei image sites, as the photos spread virally across the Mac webscape...
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Copycats Come Quickly (9/29/99)
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You have to have one thing to the Wintel manufacturers; it takes a while, but they learn. Well, they learn some things, at least... For instance, you may recall that the recipe for the collective Wintel response to the iMac's original unveiling way back in May of last year was two parts snicker, two parts guffaw, a jigger of ridicule, and just the barest hint of dread. The dread was contributed mostly by a Compaq senior executive, who, in a rare moment of candor, was quoted as saying, "Am I worried? You're damn right I'm worried... We've got to play catch-up." Everyone else, though, shrugged off the iMac as nothing more than a doomed gimmick. And when the funky blue space egg finally proved the naysayers wrong by topping the charts, it took over a year for the first Wintel-based copycat to hit the shelves. (Incidentally, as far as we know, Compaq still has yet to announce or ship an iRipOff, indicating that they haven't caught up yet.)

Things are different now, though; having missed the boat on the iMac's runaway success, a few of the larger Wintel makers are poised and ready to jump on the iBook bandwagon sooner rather than later. The first homage (that's "homage" in the sense of "desperate marketing grab") arrived in the form of the Dell Inspiron 3700 series notebooks. These things are low(er)-cost, consumer-targeted laptops that come in two colors. Well, okay, almost two colors; Pee-Wee Herman knows that grey isn't a real color, even when you give it a pseudo-hip name like "Storm Grey" as Dell has done. But if you want an actual color from Dell, fear not; there's also "Tahoe Blue." However, the blue model appears to retain lots of "Storm Grey" in its components. As faithful viewer Todd Wheeler pointed out, the blue Inspiron looks like someone had the grey model and took a paint roller to it. Mmmm, attractive. On the other hand, at least it's a two-tone laptop, so that aspect of the iBook remains.

The latest, though, comes to us courtesy of faithful viewer Jerry O'Neil again. He pointed out a CNET article that claims IBM "will adopt one of the revolutionary advances in personal electronics-- colored plastic." (Note to CNET staff writer Michael Kanellos: nobody likes a smartass. Except for AtAT viewers, maybe.) IBM's foray into iBook forgery combines the bright hues of the iMac/iBook line with the modular stylings of the Powerbook 1400's "book covers" feature. The forthcoming "i" series of ThinkPads (we almost forgot; they stole the whole "i" thing, too) is targeted at-- you guessed it-- the consumer market, and "will feature snap-on colored covers" in "silver, metallic green, two kinds of red, and IBM blue." Hmmm, we seem to recall that Apple patented the idea of using inexpensive snap-on components to alter the style of a portable computer; here's hoping they gave IBM access to the patent in exchange for the addition of AltiVec to IBM's PowerPCs.


 
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Eewww-- Bad Caviar. :-P (9/29/99)
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Western Digital, makers of hard disks galore, have posted an announcement that several of their "Caviar" model drives are being recalled. Apparently they've discovered a quality control "issue" that can make these specific drives "fail to power-up after six to 12 months of full-time use." Considering the average life of a modern hard drive is quite a bit longer than that, Western Digital is pulling those puppies back in-house. They've got a list of the affected model numbers.

We hear you-- "Why should we care?" Well, some of you might have bought a Caviar drive to add into your existing Macs, but more importantly, MacWEEK notes that Apple's been using Caviar drives in its latest Power Mac G4 systems. While only about 5,000 of the bad Caviars appear to have made it into Apple's desktop supercomputers, that still means there are five thousand time bombs out there, ticking away, just waiting to explode. So basically, we're just trying to do you a favor. If you've got a G4, or you know someone who does, download Western Digital's utility to test the hard drive (assuming they ever get the thing posted correctly), or else you may find yourself staring at a blinking disk icon when the drive goes kablooey.

By the way, for those of you who have never experienced the death of a hard drive, trust us-- someday it'll happen to you, even if your drive isn't a Western Digital Caviar from the bad batch. Hard disks are mechanical beasts, and like anything else with moving parts, entropy will someday claim your drive and your data. So here's an AtAT public service announcement: if you haven't been backing up your data, now's the perfect time to start. May we recommend the excellent Retrospect Express, which we personally rely on each and every day for automatic backups of the AtAT production systems? That's an unpaid and unsolicited endorsement, folks-- it's saved our lives more than once.


 
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"They're Everywhere!" (9/29/99)
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Oh, man... you just know somebody at Apple is screaming his lungs out right about now, and that somebody is most likely Captain Steve. The release of several alleged Apple marketing photographs of the as-yet-unannounced "Kihei" sequel to the iMac qualifies as probably the biggest hole in the Silicon Curtain since Mr. Jobs returned to Apple and started plugging leaks. First we saw a photo of the Graphite iMac posted over at Apple Insider, along with several line-drawing diagrams detailing the new enclosure. Those soon vaporized, and were replaced with stark and ominous images that stated "This image has been removed at Apple's legal demand." But the German site MacNews had also posted that photo, along with lots of shots of fruit-flavored Kiheis as well, and Mac OS Rumors then posted an English translation. Those soon vaporized, too, presumably after Apple's lawyers fired the Threat-of-Litigation Ray.

But it's like Whack-a-Mole; every time Apple smacks down a Kihei image site, another one seems to pop right up. "Kihei Guy"'s page arose from MacNews's ashes, only to vanish soon after. Then a Dutch site, AppleBits, posted the images; when last we checked, they, too, had been blasted by the lawyers. So right now the only public site we know of with the goods is, interestingly enough, MacWEEK-- whose article on the whole controversy includes a screenshot of the MacNews site, complete with Graphite iMac clearly displayed right in the center. Strange that Apple hasn't put the hurt on MacWEEK yet, but we imagine they're probably pretty busy right now.

Given all the legal activity, we're not doubting that the photos are the real thing, despite some theories that Apple cooked them up solely to try to trace the leaks. At this point, it's likely that Apple is losing a few iMac sales here and there to people who now have decided to wait for the Kihei to be released, but that's all speculation. In any case, about all Apple can do to contain the damage is announce and ship the Kihei as soon as possible. Here's hoping they don't take too much of a bath on the suddenly far-less-attractive iMac/333s in the channel...


 
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