TV-PGMarch 27, 2000: You know it's spring, because the "Mac OS X on Intel" rumors are sprouting all over. Meanwhile, Apple's lawyers shut down the MacCards site, a mere two months after its own iCards site premiered, and Stephen King's Riding The Bullet finally surfaces for Mac users...
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The Grass Has Riz (3/27/00)
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Spring has sprung-- heck, it sprang a week ago. But even though the Boston weather's been rather sunny and pleasant so far, we couldn't help but feel that something was missing. See, when winter's over, we just don't feel like we've shifted gears until one of the Classic Mac Rumors™ pokes its leafy green shoots out of the ground. How lucky for us, then, that Darwin 1.0 is nearing release-- for PowerPC and Intel processors. Those are perfect conditions for the blooming of the perennial "Star Trek" rumors.

"Star Trek," for those who've forgotten, was the secret project at Apple to get System 7 running on Intel hardware. The engineers succeeded, but the project was killed for political reasons before the product ever saw the light of retail. But ever since Apple bought NeXT, rumors of "Star Trek: The NeXT Generation" have popped up from time to time. Since Mac OS X (and its open-source core, Darwin) are based on NeXTSTEP, and NeXTSTEP ran on Intel iron, it's not inconceivable that Apple could in fact port Mac OS X to Intel. Of course, there's a lot more to Mac OS X than the core OS-- porting Carbon and Classic and the Apple user interface isn't exactly the kind of thing a couple of Apple engineers are likely to do to kill time on a slow Sunday afternoon. But according to a Wired article, Apple's lead Darwin engineer publicly stated that the first full release of Darwin will definitely include an Intel build, which is a start. And that's why the rumors of Mac OS X on Intel are blooming nicely.

Our personal take on the matter is that we're not likely to see boxed copies of Mac OS X for Intel PCs anytime even remotely soon. Apple makes its money primarily from hardware sales, and especially with Intel and AMD extending the lead in the processor speed race, we just can't imagine that Apple would throw a bunch of Mac sales right out the window. Think about it; if the complete Mac OS X ran on Intel, you could run it on a PC that's faster than the fastest Mac. You could also run it on a PC that's cheaper than the cheapest Mac. Colored plastic and funky industrial design only goes so far; all else being equal, money talks. And so does speed. With Mac OS X poised to be insanely great, we imagine Apple's just loving the idea of boosting Mac sales to people who will buy whatever machine can run it. Still, we're glad the "Mac OS X for Intel" rumors are sprouting again; that means it's time to play frisbee in the park.


 
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Cease And Desist (3/27/00)
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Another one bites the dust; as faithful viewer Ed Nelson reports, MacCards is no more. Do we detect the faint odor of Ninja Death Squad in the air? Nope, Apple's wetworks team is a lot more subtle than that-- they crash servers, sever network cables, intercept bandwidth payments, and make uncooperative webmasters "disappear" to get certain sites off the 'net. But MacCards was overtly shut down with a nasty letter, so what you're smelling there is the distinctive odor of Apple's lawyers.

MacCards, for those of you who missed it, was a site that specialized in e-cards "promoting the Macintosh and other Apple products." After almost a year online, last week the site's webmaster was notified by Apple Legal that MacCards was in violation of Apple's trademarks. Which, in fact, is undeniably true; the designs at MacCards featured every Apple trademark you can think of, including the Apple logo, the Mac OS smiley face, the phrase "Think Different," etc. MacCards was told to cease immediately or face a lawsuit. And while we agree with the webmaster that "wading into this situation waving a lawsuit" seems like "somewhat of an overreaction," our understanding is that in order for Apple to retain its legal rights regarding its intellectual property, that was pretty much the only thing they could have done.

We fully understand that Apple has to protect its trademarks and copyrights, or else it could lose them. We just think it's a bummer that, as things are, it wouldn't have been legally sufficient for Apple to call the MacCards guy and say, "hey, look, we love that you're promoting our products, but unfortunately, with the way trademark and copyright law exists today, we've got to tell you to stop." So we don't think it's right to cast Apple as the villains here, since their hands may well have been tied-- even if the shutdown of MacCards comes suspiciously soon after Apple's own iCards service debuted. Hey... wait a minute...


 
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Downloading The Bullet (3/27/00)
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Mac-using Stephen King fans, rejoice: a solution has materialized. When King's latest book, Riding The Bullet, was recently released only in e-book format, Mac users were left out in the cold. E-books are only viewable on actual, honest-to-goodness e-book devices, or through special reader software, which so far exists only for the Windows platform. Seeing as there are no plans to converting Riding The Bullet into dead-tree format, Mac users had only two options to read the story-- shell out a couple hundred bucks for a Rocket E-Book, or get a PC.

Needless to say, King (himself a devout Mac user) wasn't thrilled to find out that he couldn't read his own book on the computer with which he actually wrote the thing. Promises of a Mac-compatible version were kicked around, but subsequent email messages claiming to lead to a PDF version of the book instead led right back to the original e-book file. Development of Mac reader software that would work with the e-book format is reportedly underway, but waiting for Mac ports is about as much fun as licking the terminals on a car battery. That was the point at which we figured we'd just worry about other things and be pleasantly surprised when a Mac-friendly version of Riding The Bullet finally surfaced.

Well, that time is now-- and indeed, it's Adobe to the rescue, because King's e-story is now available as a free PDF from Amazon.com. All you need is the free Acrobat Reader 4.05a and you're in business. Be warned, though: the process of getting and reading the book itself is rather byzantine. In fact, we doubt King himself could dream up a more horrible series of steps to get this thing working.

First we downloaded and installed the latest version of Acrobat Reader. Then we clicked the "Get E-book Now" link on the Amazon page, which downloaded a "request.fdf" file. Double-clicking that launched Acrobat Reader, connected to Adobe's web site in our browser, and sent us a "license.fdf" file. Double-clicking that told us there was no document to unlock, and gave us a button to click that sent us back to the Amazon page. We again clicked "Get E-book Now," which this time sent us a file called "bullet.fdf." Double-clicking that (talk about giving your clicking fingers a workout!) prompted us to save the file "bullet.pdf." At some point in there we also found we'd gotten a "bullet.rmf" file. Finally, "bullet.pdf" could be opened in Acrobat Reader, and we found ourselves staring at the "cover" of Riding The Bullet. It's a lot of unlocking/licensing hoops to jump through, considering the book itself is free, but hey, it works. Unfortunately, we can't print the book to take it to lunch, nor do we want to risk spilling Chana Masala on our iBook's keyboard-- so this is strictly a bedtime read for us, unless we get nuts and decide to print out a screenshot of each page. Anyway, if you've been waiting for Riding The Bullet and your mousing hand is up to the task, download away...


 
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