TV-PGApril 6, 2001: Hey, lookee-- Mike Dell's predicting Apple's imminent demise again. Meanwhile, the RAM disabled by Apple's latest firmware update isn't bad, it's just misunderstood, and the "Mac in Space" project is still a go, slated for a launch this October...
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From the writer/creator of AtAT, a Pandemic Dad Joke taken WAYYYYYY too far

Some Things Never Change (4/6/01)

Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please! AtAT is pleased to offer this vivid illustration of "Progress in the Wonderful World of Michael Dell's Brain." The old-timers among you will recall that way back in 1997, Mr. Dell publicly voiced his opinion that Steve Jobs should shut Apple down and give the money back to the stockholders, because the company was beyond saving. It is now 2001, an eon later in this industry-- and what is Mike saying now? Well, according to a MacNN article pointed out to us by faithful viewers Tim Kirk and Nina Tovish, Mike's been flapping his gums to Business Week about how Apple is still doomed. Good ol' Mike; he's been carrying that "THE WORLD WILL END TOMORROW" sign for going on four years, now.

The article isn't online yet, and we have far more important things on which to blow our hard-earned cash than issues of Business Week (there are copies of the Alyson Hannigan issue of UK FHM on eBay, for instance), but MacNN has posted short excerpts of Mike's most recent doom-and-gloom Apple forecast: "We know how the movie ends, it's just a question of what happens in the middle." Evidently Mike's growing obsession with Steve Jobs has sprouted a new psychosis: delusions of psychic ability. He thought he knew how the movie ended four years ago, too-- and he's played catch-up ever since, building consumer-oriented computers in colored plastic (remember Dell's WebPC? Even we saw how that movie was going to end), making a push for wireless networking, and just generally doing everything he can to ape Apple's every move.

So sayeth the oracle of Dell-phi: "Apple has a very little customer base. If you look at the economics, it has been extremely hard for Apple to get a return on its R&D with a shrinking volume base. It's not to say that Apple's products aren't innovative or cool, but the economic factors here are so overwhelming." Assuming, of course, that Apple's volume base keeps shrinking. That volume base has served well enough to carry the company through what, thirteen consecutive profitable quarters, before a faltering economy and a poor-selling Cube ended the winning streak? All while pouring money into the development of Mac OS X, all that sexy hardware that Mike graciously admits is "cool" (he'd better cop to that fact, after copying everything Apple's made for the past three years), and world-class software like iMovie and iTunes. And after all that, Apple still has four billion in the bank. Yeah, those "economic factors" sure are a killer.

Poor Mike; still waiting for the sky to fall. Well, we look forward to checking in again four years from now, when Apple's installed base percentage has doubled, the company's back on top in education, and Mac OS X and a line of enterprise systems has extended Apple's reach into the long-ignored business market. We figure Mike Dell will still be singing the same song, but hey, a little nostalgia never hurt anyone, right?

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Chicken Soup For The DIMMs (4/6/01)

Were you one of the unfortunate multitude who blithely installed Apple's new firmware update a couple of weeks ago, only to discover that some or all of your third-party RAM evaporated into thin air? If so, we feel for you-- but if history has taught us anything, it's that firmware updates from Apple are best left to breathe for a few days while the less wary jump in and install with reckless abandon. Yes, Apple's latest firmware update disables some third-party RAM that it deems unworthy of participation in the Glory of Macdom. No, Apple has no plans to provide a way for afflicted customers to downgrade their firmware and get their RAM back. And if any of this was a total surprise to you, you obviously missed the whole "Blue Blocker" scandal in which an Apple firmware update rendered blue and white Power Mac G3 systems unbootable if a G4 upgrade was installed. Study your history, kids!

But don't despair. That "non-compliant" third-party RAM isn't really gone; your Mac is now just too picky to use it. In the interests of improving system stability, the firmware update includes much more rigorous RAM-checking, and any DIMMs that don't pass are simply ignored, even if they seemed to work fine before the firmware update. Here's the thing, though: it seems that a lot of the rejected RAM is really just fine, except for low self-esteem. No joke! Many DIMMs have been told that they're not good enough for Macs, and they've come to believe it. But with a few kind words, a bit of therapy, and a mere reprogramming of their flash memory, these DIMMs can learn to love themselves again.

See, according to an article in The Register, Macs require memory with a latency rating of CL3, and DIMMs that are rejected by the firmware update are being blocked because they're claiming they're only CL2. However, most of those DIMMs are in fact CL3-compliant, and just need a healthy dose of self-affirmation. You know, as in "I'm good enough, I'm fast enough, and Macs like me." Programmer and up-and-coming chip therapist Glenn Anderson, who discovered this whole CL3 deal, states that he has successfully transformed his frightened and self-deprecating false-CL2 DIMMs into confident and self-actualized CL3 units through and through. These proud new DIMMs are now performing an active and useful role in his firmware-upgraded Mac.

Glenn has also written a teensy little personality test called DIMMCheck, which, when administered to a pre-firmware-updated Mac, asks its installed RAM how it feels about its latency. That way you can check to see if any of your third-party RAM is suffering from low self esteem that might prevent it from working with the new firmware. (We're happy to report that the RAM in AtAT's own beloved PowerBook "checks out OK"; evidently we are empowering, nurturing parents.) As of yet, we haven't heard of any way for average users to "fix" their own afflicted DIMMs, but perhaps Dr. Anderson will refine his treatment methods and release a self-help book with a twelve-step program sometime soon.

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T Minus 6 Months & Counting (4/6/01)

Remember SkyCorp, the company that's planning on deploying a constellation of low earth orbit satellites housing Macs as web servers? The last we'd heard, the first test system was going to be launched sometime this year, boldly going where no web server has gone before. Well, as faithful viewer Dale Rodgie points out, a new article on Apple's Science & Technology site firms up that date a little; it now appears that the mission is slated for this October. Start the countdown!

But wait a minute, here-- something's changed. According to the article, the lucky Mac destined for space flight is a Power Mac G4. Just three months ago, it was going to be a Cube (thus inspiring much rejoicing, since 544 Cubes for SkyCorp would mean someone was buying the things). Personally, we'd have figured the Cube to be a natural choice, since you just have to figure that there's a limited amount of room in a satellite. Oh, well... this wouldn't be the first time that a Cube was passed over in favor of a Power Mac.

At least Mac OS X will be sharing the spotlight, though-- or Mac OS X Server, at any rate. That's the operating system chosen to drive the spacebound Power Mac when it makes its fateful trip this fall. We are, however, a little suspicious of the way that Apple implies that Mac OS X Server is "certified by the U.S. Army as being secure enough for classified missions"; somehow we sorely doubt that any operating system with UNIX at its core and built-in support for telnet is actually rated that high on the security scale. The classic Mac OS, sure, which is why that's what the Army is using to serve its web site. But Mac OS X Server? We'll need confirmation before we'll swallow that one.

It doesn't really matter, though-- the mission is a go, and just six months from now you'll be able to gaze up at the night sky secure in the knowledge that somewhere up there in the heavens there's a G4 smiling down on you. We know we'll sleep better from then on...

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