TV-PGDecember 2, 1999: The Power Mac G4 just got a whole lot cooler-- especially the cheap model. Meanwhile, Intel wrestles with a Pentium III "erratum" that can mess with the boot-up process, and "Redmond Justice" hits a lull in the action as newcomer Richard Posner enforces radio silence...
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Yikes!-less In Cupertino (12/2/99)
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The title comes courtesy of Rick Stolba, just one of many faithful viewers who wrote in and told us that "Yikes!" is no more. The blue and white G3 Yosemite motherboard variant that Apple hacked together in order to get the G4 on the market in a hurry has finally been completely supplanted by the new Sawtooth architecture, instead. Apple's got a press release heralding the change, and in case you still don't believe it, head on over to the Apple Store and see for yourself (and note the seven-day delivery times!). That means that even Apple's entry-level 350 MHz G4 will soon carry the advanced motherboard benefits of the higher-end models-- a DVD-ROM drive, AGP graphics, dual USB buses, AirPort compatibility, a faster RAM bus, and various other goodies highlighted in an Apple Tech Note. That brings Sawtooth performance down to a truly affordable level-- the good ol' $1599 price point.

But wait, there's even more good news; for no extra charge, all Power Mac G4 systems will now come with the ATI Rage 128 Pro graphics card, which Apple claims is up to 40% faster than the already-zippy Rage 128 in the current models. If you were an "early adopter" and already own a Sawtooth G4, fret not-- early next year, Apple will sell you a $99 upgrade kit that will fill your G4 with Rage 128 Pro-y goodness. And due to the recent passing of the Press Release Bandwidth Conservation law, Apple was compelled to throw still more good news into the mix: they announced the Apple Cinema Display's little brother, an all-digital 15" LCD Apple Studio Display which only works with the AGP graphics cards that ship with Sawtooth G4s.

We can only assume that prices for the remaining "Yikes!" boxes in the channel ought to head south pretty darn quickly. So if your primary lust factors for getting a new G4 are the gorgeous Graphite enclosure and bragging rights to having a supercomputer on your desk, keep your eyes peeled for some sweet deals to come. We know those "Yikes!" systems are out there; just last night the Micro Center in Cambridge, MA had both the recent G4/350s and the original pre-"speed dump" G4/400s, both for $1599 each. (Go figure.) On the other hand, if you want AGP graphics, AirPort compatibility, and the various other architectural improvements of the Sawtooth motherboard, save up for one of the newest G4s. Either way, we figure it's tough to go wrong. Hey Santa, we swear we've been good...


 
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Let's Play Dueling Errata (12/2/99)
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Another day, another Pentium bug. Oh, wait, we're sorry; chips don't have bugs-- they have errata. We know this because when Motorola admitted that the PowerPC G4 couldn't run at 500 MHz or higher without potentially corrupting its own data cache, "errata" was the word they used. "Errata," and not the phrase "big honkin' bug that's going to prompt Apple to downgrade the speeds of their whole Power Mac G4 line-up without lowering prices until we can figure out how to fix this damn thing." Granted, it's shorter, but it's also not nearly as descriptive. Still, when in Rome...

So this new Pentium III "erratum" is either more or less serious than the G4 speed ceiling, depending on your perspective. Basically, Intel admits that one or two percent of all the "Coppermine" Pentium III chips they've made might not actually boot correctly. If a system with the affected chip "is powered all the way down, and someone turns it on, it may not boot until you turn it on again," according to Mike Sullivan, an Intel spokesperson. So while it's nothing that's going to hold back the whole architecture from reaching its originally-expected clock speeds, it is a problem that might make some computers exhibit some puzzling behavior. It's your call.

Dell made a call, too, though, and it was decisive: according to a Reuters article, the company has "stopped shipments and manufacturing" of all systems which use Coppermine processors until Dell lab techs finish performing their own tests. Even though the delay is expected to last at most a few days, that's one point in favor of the Motorola G4 erratum: at least it never halted a Power Mac G4 shipment. Then again, for a while there, availability was so poor, there weren't any G4 shipments to halt in the first place. Anyway, the only real lesson we've learned here is that nobody has a monopoly on processor errata. At least, until Microsoft starts making chips.


 
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Communications Blackout (12/2/99)
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"Get out of the way, please." What kind of entrance line was that?! Tsk, tsk... It seems that the latest addition to the "Redmond Justice" cast just hasn't gotten into the swing of things yet. Richard Posner was appointed by Judge Jackson to be the mediator in settlement talks between the government and Microsoft, but rather than give us the traditional invisible-fourth-wall view into all the juicy proceedings, Posner's actively discouraging our antitrust viewing pleasure. Not only was he rude to reporters trying to bring the drama home, but he also exercised directorial control and put a virtual gag order on the rest of the cast, leaving us poor fans with nary a crumb. A Reuters article has the details-- what few there are.

What nerve! This newcomer to a stellar and entertaining cast actually had the gall to suppress what we're sure must have been some great performances. Truly shocking. Pretty boy "Smilin' Dave" Boies still managed to charm the crowd, though; when asked for comment, he reportedly replied, "I won't even comment on the fruit plate." You can always count on Dave for a laugh. Still, we must know more about this fruit plate. Was there honeydew and cantaloupe? Were the grapes red or green? Seedless? Was the kiwi too tart? Dammit, Dave, fill us in! We're dying, here!

So, Posner's a dud as a new cast member. Perhaps a representative from Greenhill & Co. LLC will be more entertaining; an Associated Press article indicates that the financial consulting firm will be joining the cast as the government's advisor. Apparently Boies and the boys are looking for expert opinions on what measures could be taken to prevent Microsoft from abusing its monopoly power in the future. Normally we wouldn't have high hopes that a financial consultant would be an entertaining addition to the "Redmond Justice" cast, but hey, after Posner, we've got to put our hope in something.


 
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