TV-PGApril 10, 2001: One of Apple's latest promotions offers customers a "Mobile Newsroom" getup, but the price break is iffy. Meanwhile, rumor has it that the PowerPC G5 may hit 2 GHz late next year (now if only Intel would enter cryogenic stasis until then), and the Installer application in Mac OS X may be a messy accident waiting to happen...
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Your Ticket To The Good Life (4/10/01)

Do you hate your job? Are you tired of the same old 9-to-5 grind day in and day out? Do you dream of chucking it all, leaving the rat race far behind, and assuming the exciting role of a one-person mobile news team? Of course you do... who doesn't? Glamour, excitement, travel, and a career vaguely associated with show business can all be yours. All you need is the will to succeed-- and Apple's new PowerBook Mobile Newsroom bundle!

That's right, for a limited time Apple is making it easier than ever for different-thinkers unsatisfied with the workaday world to cast off the chains of normalcy and drink deep the heady draughts of life as a gonzo field reporter. Apple's latest promotion bundles together all the "cutting-edge, real world technologies" you'll need to produce your own professional-quality video news segments: a 500 MHz PowerBook G4; an AirPort card and Base Station; a copy of Final Cut Pro 2; and a Canon GL-1 MiniDV camera. Pack it all up in the convenient carrying case* (*convenient carrying case not included), lug it to the site of the nearest natural disaster, grab some footage of the wreckage, interview a few grief-stricken survivors, edit it all together, and then just sit back and wait for those journalism awards to start piling up at your feet. It's just that easy!

Be the envy of all your less-daring cubicle-dwellers. Call up the people who picked on you in high school and rub their noses in your newfound success. Attend A-List parties and hobnob with the other big names in television news, such as Al Roker and Gene Shalit. Go on a massive ego trip and trash your hotel room because the management forgot to pick out all the green M&M's. Fame, fortune, and the adoration of throngs of attractive members of your preferred gender are guaranteed!* (*Guarantee will not be honored.)

Best of all, by ordering before June 30th, you can save literally dozens of dollars! Until then, the cost of this Mobile Newsroom bundle at the Apple Store is a mere $7199; order the components separately, and you'll see that Apple's special promo price represents a whopping $196 off the regular cost. That's a 2.65% savings you just can't afford to miss, so act now!

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Complainers' Job Security (4/10/01)

Has anyone noticed that whining about the clock speed deficit has fallen out of fashion in the Mac community of late? After being stuck at 500 MHz for about a year and a half, we hardly expected that a boost to 733 MHz would quiet the career complainers, especially since the competition is already running at over twice that speed, and word has it that a 1.7 GHz Intel chip is just weeks away. Why the sudden lack of indignant megahertz outrage that was once such a staple of the Mac pessimist's diet?

Perhaps it's because Motorola's ongoing painful layoffs have inspired a certain level of sympathy. Maybe it's because once the economy tanked, consumers weren't buying computers anyway, so clock speed comparisons are sort of moot. Or maybe the loudest complainers are too busy yammering on about Mac OS X's sizeable list of shortcomings to be bothered with last millennium's problems. We don't know. We're just revelling in the comparative silence.

Interestingly enough, it's into this apparent vacuum of clock speed concern that Mac OS Rumors dishes some dirt on the PowerPC's Next Big Thing™: the G5. Remember, the G4's been available for almost two years now, and even Motorola doesn't sit still that long. According to MOSR, the 64-bit G5 (known to non-slangy types as the PowerPC 7500) is still at least a year away, but when it finally ships, it'll be the first "completely new" chip architecture to grace the Mac platform in years. We're talking deeper pipelines, silicon-on-insulator technology, full backwards-compatibility, multi-core capabilities, and a .10-micron wiring process-- all of which adds up to a chip that'll debut at 1.2 GHz and should eventually reach speeds of up to 2 GHz.

Should you choose to accept that rumor as fact, you may be feeling all warm and sunny inside. We feel it's worth pointing out, however, that if the proposed timetable is accurate, Macs may not see 1.2 GHz (in other words, 300 MHz less than the fastest Wintels available right now) for another year. It'll be quite a bit longer before we hit 2 GHz, while, according to The Register, Intel will be shipping a 2.2 GHz Pentium 4 by the end of this year. We fully expect clock speed boosts in the G4 long before the G5 shows up, but we doubt it'll get much above 1 GHz. All of which means, of course, that by the time Apple smooths out most of Mac OS X's rough edges, we can all fall back on clock speed complaints to satisfy our need to whine incessantly. Woo-hoo!!

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Installer: Russian Roulette (4/10/01)

Speaking of Mac OS X's "rough edges," one of them is apparently sharp and ragged enough to cut deep and do some real damage. A report over at Stepwise contains troubling technical details of some nasty bugs in Apple's own software installer, which basically add up to this unsettling conclusion: through no one's fault but Apple's, the simple act of installing a software package can have "serious side effects, including disabling your system completely." We'd like to take this opportunity to thank Apple for making even the most mundane tasks in Mac OS X so fraught with adrenaline-soaked excitement.

Apparently the problem arises from Apple's "Installer" application using the UNIX pax architecture, which doesn't always play nice. It can change the permissions of existing file system directories and replace symbolic links with actual directories-- in short, in certain specific situations, it can mess you up but good. Stepwise has plenty of nitty-gritty technical examples in which these icky behaviors could cause some real grief. And these aren't just theoretical problems; MacInTouch reveals that one of Tenon's actual posted installation packages can cause severe data loss due to problems with Apple's Installer. (Tenon's working around the problem now; in the meantime, the company's home page includes a big, red warning informing customers that "installing the Xtools package currently listed on our site may destroy your OS X install.")

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this whole mess is that the Stepwise article on the bugs is a sequel; the original article was posted a year and a half ago. No fooling, kids! Stepwise has been writing about these problems since Apple's installer first switched to pax in Mac OS X Server back in 1999. What's more, the article's author Scott Anguish states that he has "brought this particular issue to Apple's attention on at least a dozen separate occasions, in articles here on Stepwise and in direct communication." The fact that, as of Mac OS X 10.0, Installer still contains known bugs that can potentially torch your system is at least mildly alarming. But we're sure it'll be fixed in 10.0.1. Right?

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