TV-PGApril 9, 2001: Linus "Mr. Linux" Torvalds doesn't dig Mac OS X, and he's got the potty mouth to prove it. Meanwhile, the GeForce3 is late, but Apple's got a nifty scheme to get backordered Macs into customers' hands ASAP, and Apple's latest 50%-off RAM promotion comes at an interesting time...
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There's No Need To Get Nasty (4/9/01)
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As longtime viewers are well aware, the AtAT staff is as diplomatic and tactful as can be (and anyone who says otherwise is obviously an imbecile with nothing above the brainstem). For that reason, we originally chose to stay far, far away from the ugly verbal tussle brewing between Steve Jobs and Linus Torvalds, the father of the Linux operating system. Gasps of disbelief echoed throughout the Mac community last Friday when word got out that in his upcoming autobiography, Linus calmly, coolly, and in a fully premeditated manner called Mac OS X "a piece of crap." (For a graphical rendition of the sitch, check out The Joy of Tech.)

Whoa, there, hotheads; before you go storming the cathedral or the bazaar or wherever the heck ol' Linus is living these days, we should clarify a little. As The Register points out, Linus wasn't badmouthing Aqua or the Dock or even Mac OS X overall; it's the operating system's Mach 3.0 kernel that draws his criticism. Mach, sayeth the Linux poster boy, "contains all the design mistakes you can make, and manages to even make up a few of its own." So as far as we know, Linus may in fact be cool with Mac OS X's lickable exterior-- in which case he still considers Mac OS X to be a piece of crap, but a pretty and candy-coated piece of crap. (Could the man be jealous that Mac OS X beat Linux as "the 'NIX for the rest of us"? After all, he did turn down Steve's invitation to help work on a "mainstream UNIX" back in '97.)

Meanwhile, Apple's Senior Veep of Software Engineering Avi Tevanian (who was already tetchy after not having slept since late 1996) is currently being restrained by six harried members of Apple's security team. Avi, we hear, is taking Linus's comments a mite personally, seeing as he was "a principal designer and engineer of the Mach operating system upon which NEXTSTEP [and Mac OS X] is based." So Avi is foaming at the mouth and writhing around in a deep state of geek bloodlust, shouting unintelligible things about Linus's various internal organs and their eventual destination somewhere rather distant from the rest of his rapidly cooling body. The infirmary nurse is coming with the Haldol.

Despite seeing one of his faithful NeXTians reduced to a babbling psychotic homicidal state, Uncle Steve is handling this whole thing with a commendable level of aplomb. One might fear that His Mercurialness would lose it and unleash a torrent of abuse upon Mr. Torvalds, but in fact his only public acknowledgment of Linus's snippy comments was to call Torvalds a "dent-headed, blanket-clutching, thumb-sucking software commie"-- hardly a worst-case scenario, from a PR standpoint.

Oh, and there's also that little thing with Steve calling upon the Mac faithful to find Linus, rend him limb from limb, and plant his head on a pike outside of One Infinite Loop... but that was pretty much to be expected. The last thing we heard is that Linus has packed his blanket and gone into hiding with Salman Rushdie-- but hey, you mess with the bull and you get the horns...


 
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2 Cards For The Price Of 1 (4/9/01)
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Are you one of those lucky dinks waiting for a brand-spankin'-new Power Mac G4 complete with a groundbreaking nVIDIA GeForce3 graphics card? Please believe us when we tell you that delivering the following bad news brings us no pleasure: according to MacGamer, you're going to be waiting a while longer before you can witness the glory of reducing virtual opponents to bloody chunks at 800 billion operations per second. Delays in GeForce3 chip production have pushed Apple's expected ship date from this month to "late May."

Now, the reason why giving you that bad news brings us no pleasure is not because we're high-minded and noble individuals who take no pleasure in others' misfortunes; heck, "schadenfreude" is one of our all-time favorite words, and not just because it sounds like a cool German car. The real reason our bad news doesn't give us a petty little thrill is that it's followed immediately by some good news for you: Apple has given you three choices when it comes to handling your order. The first two-- cancel it, or just wait until the GeForce3 finally ships-- aren't particularly noteworthy, but the third is something else. Apparently you can have your Power Mac shipped immediately with a GeForce2 MX card installed, and Apple will ship you a GeForce3 separately when they become available. How's that for service?

What's more, that last deal isn't even a swap-out; you can pound on that GeForce2 all month, and when the GeForce3 shows up, you don't even have to send the original card back. You can hold onto it as a back-up, stick it in another AGP computer you may have sitting around, sell it on eBay for a few bucks, or satisfy your basest repressed Luddite tendencies and smash the bejeezus out of it with a meat tenderizer. Just about the only thing you can't do with it, unfortunately, is use it alongside the GeForce3 to drive two monitors, since the Power Mac only has one AGP slot. Still, we think that's a heckuva deal.

In fact, the only situation we can imagine in which you'd be better off waiting instead of going for the "GeForce2 now, GeForce3 later" option is if you're squeamish about installing cards in your hardware. We're guessing that's probably a relatively tiny subset of the "I'll gladly pay $600 for the opportunity to see R0CKITT_D00D's viscera more realistically portrayed as I gut him with a chainsaw" crowd. In any event, one way or another, the GeForce3 is coming to the Mac as promised-- just not when promised. Perhaps in light of the delay, Apple as since dropped the price of the GeForce3 by $100 at the Apple Store, so the dream of higher-polygon disembowelings is now more affordable than ever before. Enjoy!


 
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Take This DIMM And RAM It (4/9/01)
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Fun Fact #137 about Mac OS X: it eats RAM for breakfast. And no, we're not talking about those firmware updates that rendered many Macs too picky to acknowledge the presence of "non-compliant" DIMMs, unfortunate though that situation may be. It's particularly unfortunate, because most observers agree that Mac OS X's minimum listed requirement of 128 MB of RAM might be a tad on the low side. At least for now, Mac OS X's performance improves dramatically with extra RAM-- which makes Apple's base RAM configurations in all shipping Macs that much more frustrating. (By the way, if you're unlucky enough to be stuck with post-firmware-update invisible RAM, check out MacFixit for a repair patch that may just solve all your troubles.)

If you've been following RAM prices lately, you're probably aware that the stuff is cheaper than dirt right now. (In fact, given the price of gasoline, we find ourselves wishing the AtATmobile ran on DIMMs instead.) A quick poke around the 'net revealed that a 256 MB DIMM for use in a current Power Mac goes for as little as $75; in contrast, adding a 256 MB DIMM to a build-to-order Power Mac at the Apple Store would run you $400. In stark mathematical terms, Apple's price is Way, Way Too Expensive.

But wait-- it just so happens that Apple is now running a conveniently-timed Memory Rebate Promo that slashes its RAM prices in half! From now until May 30th, you can get half-off extra RAM on qualifying build-to-order Macs at the time of purchase. That means that adding the same 256 MB of RAM to the Power Mac G4 mentioned above now only costs $200, thus improving Apple's memory prices from Way, Way Too Expensive to merely Slightly Way Too Expensive. Then again, with Apple RAM, at least you can be reasonably certain that a future firmware update won't suddenly make it vanish in a puff of smoke.

Mind if we lob you a few facts? First Apple ships an extraordinarily RAM-hungry operating system that makes people realize they need beefier Macs. On the same day, the company releases a firmware update that makes some "non-compliant" RAM disappear, thus planting a seed of doubt in customers' minds about the reliability of third-party components. Two weeks later, an Apple RAM promotion appears which a) only applies to purchases of new Macs, and 2) which reduces Apple's RAM prices by 50% but which still gives Apple a huge margin on every DIMM sold. The construction of a healthy little conspiracy theory incorporating those diverse elements is left entirely as an exercise for the viewer...


 
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