TV-PGOctober 25, 2004: Signs point to the iTunes Music Store practically exploding into every corner of the globe tomorrow. Meanwhile, the "developer" of the CherryOS PowerPC emulator can't keep his story straight, and in other emulation news, some brilliant nutjob may have gotten Mac OS X running on a Centris 650-- we'll let you know in a week when it finishes booting...
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From the writer/creator of AtAT, a Pandemic Dad Joke taken WAYYYYYY too far


 
Globalization Gets Funky (10/25/04)
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We hope you've been carbo-loading for the big event, people, because less than twenty-four hours remain until the Jobs 'n' Bono dog and pony show. (We assume Steve is the pony in this scenario, but these zoomorphic role-assignation exercises are always tricky.) As far as special Apple media events are concerned, this one could be a biggie, as speculation is all over the map right now, with rumors on the iPod front ranging from a black U2 special edition model to a color-screen video-out 60 GB high-end unit to a flash-based low-cost teensyPod. And on the topic of the iTunes Music Store, Beatles settlement and/or merger aside, conservative prognosticators figure on an all-Europe store expansion, while others have been projecting further-flung store openings, such as one in Australia. Add to that the possibility (no matter how remote) that we might get to hear Steve Jobs sing lead vocals for a live performance of "Beautiful Day," and heck, we've got the makings of a classic, here.

"But AtAT," we hear you whine, "that isn't nearly enough music-related speculation to feed my insatiable appetite for the ludicrously improbable!" (Okay, so you're not saying that, because you'd rather hear about something vaguely substantial instead of more pointless guesswork about what tomorrow may bring, but he is. That guy right over there. No, the one behind the guy with the hat. Yeah, him. Blame him.) Well, good news for those jonesing for ever-wackier music event predictions: faithful viewer David Triska tipped us off to a very intriguing report at MacRumors about a clue as to which countries may be getting their very own shiny new iTMSeses come tomorrow. Apparently readers from various non-iTMSed countries around the globe have discovered that they're no longer able to browse the existing four iTMS catalogs anymore; they could do it just fine yesterday, but now when they try they're greeted with the message "iTMS is not available in your country yet."

Now, the announcement of additional European iTMSeseses tomorrow is practically a given, since Apple remarked not even two weeks ago that the pan-European store would launch by the end of the month, and November's less than a week away. That means it's not all that surprising that iTunes users in European Union countries like Austria, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, Poland, Ireland, and Denmark have all reported the new "not available yet" error, similar to that "the Apple Store is currently down" message that appears for a few hours before Apple releases new hardware. What's slightly more surprising is that users in non-EU "European" nations like Iceland, Switzerland, and Norway are reporting seeing the error too-- and even more intriguing is that the same error has also been spotted by readers in New Zealand, Japan, Canada, and Mexico.

So does this mean that Apple fans in all these countries-- yes, even Canada-- might suddenly know the joy-slash-pain of blowing an entire paycheck on forgotten hits of the '70s and '80s 99ish cents at a time? Well, that's certainly one way to interpret it. Another explanation might be that Apple's imminent launch of a pan-EU store has required that it mess with the iTMS central infrastructure in tortuous and goofy enough ways to warrant turning off access from countries that can't use it anyway. But hey, it's all open to interpretation, so if you're looking for evidence of the looming advent of, say, iTMS Mexico, more power to you. And we'll know the truth soon enough, so don't sprain anything trying to figure it all out.


 
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Pass Us That Scuba Gear (10/25/04)
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We hope you packed your hip waders, people, because it seems we're at least knee-deep in bull hockey and the level's rising fast. Remember a couple of weeks ago when the Mac world was all abuzz over this CherryOS thing? It's allegedly a PowerPC emulator for x86 that's capable of running Mac OS X on Wintel hardware just like PearPC can, except that while PearPC currently runs "about 15 times slower" than the x86 on which it runs, Maui X-Stream claims that CherryOS can run as fast as 80 percent of the hardware's native speed. This is understandably exciting stuff-- except that no one's actually seen it work. The 1.0 version that was (maybe) initially posted for download has since evaporated and the product has allegedly gone back into "beta release for selected users."

Suspicious? You should be, especially since it appears that nobody who has managed to get a copy of CherryOS has successfully gotten Mac OS X running at all, let alone at the insanely high relative speeds it's supposedly capable of achieving. More to the point, the software has a single developer (one Arben Kryeziu) who claims to have pounded this thing out entirely on his own from scratch in (cough) four months. Considering that Microsoft evidently considered the task of writing emulation software to be tricky enough that it was better to buy all of Connectix than to assign a few of its gazillion programmers to spend three or four weeks developing their own emulator, well, yeah, we're a little skeptical.

And don't forget Arben's initial insistence that he wrote the product himself and "did not use any PearPC code"; it wasn't long before somebody noticed that CherryOS clearly uses a variable name identical to one buried way down in the depths of PearPC's source code. Whoops. Even more suspiciously, Arben's original explanation for the variable name was that "names are going to be similar or identical because there are only certain ways to do things"-- but the name in question is "SPIRO MULTIMAX 3000," a jolly bit o' nonsense that has nothing whatsoever to do with the variable's function.

Confronted with that fact (and other instances of obvious PearPCery in CherryOS, like the fact that both have emulated IDE controllers named "Ein Gebuesch Media" in supposed reference to a Monty Python sketch), Arben changed his tune; according to another WIRED article pointed out by faithful viewer xxx, Arben now admits that there's PearPC code in the version of CherryOS that people are looking at, but claims that the version in question "is not CherryOS. It is a premature CherryOS. Basically, it was a very bad version."

Well, okay, that may explain why no one's gotten it to work, but it still doesn't explain what the PearPC guts are doing in there. So here's the Gospel According to Arben: "the inclusion of PearPC code was the fault of one of his programmers," and Arben "fired his ass" for having snuck it in there. Interesting. But if this superfast PowerPC emulator for x86 was written by one programmer from scratch in four months, who's this other developer? If he was one of the "couple of programmers" that Maui hired to create a standalone version of CherryOS that can boot without Windows, why would he have replaced entire chunks of code of the allegedly-working and superfast CherryOS with vast wads of PearPC when PearPC ran more than an order of magnitude slower?

More to the point, if the version of CherryOS that Arben now admits contains PearPC code is a "premature CherryOS" (which, we assume, means one that predates the 1.0 release that appeared on and then vanished from his company's web site), how can it be the fault of another programmer that was hired to continue development after Arben allegedly wrote the 1.0 version of the software from scratch? Time machine?

We'll be perfectly happy if we're proven wrong, folks, but Arben contradicts himself over and over again, and there's still no "real" product to back up any of his claims, so we can't see how this is anything but a hoax. We'll know one way or the other in a month, though; Maui now says that a free trial version and the "real" 1.0 software will be available for download one month from today. Any bets on another "unexpected delay"?


 
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Try Launching Photoshop (10/25/04)
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Speaking of emulators running Mac OS X, there are some sick, sick people out there using them to do sick, sick things. And by "sick" we don't necessarily mean "icky," although there's definitely an unwholesome quality to Mac OS X running on an Xbox. Mostly, though, by "sick" we just mean "of or relating to the thoughts, deeds, or actions of someone who is mentally ill and/or on serious drugs." And again, that's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, it's given us the miracle of Mac OS X running on an eleven-year-old Centris 650.

That's right, we said a Centris 650. Old-school Macaholics will recall that this thing came out before PowerPCs existed at all in the Macintosh line-up, and without getting absolutely nutso with emulators or bizarre hacks, it won't even boot Mac OS 9, let alone Mac OS X. However, as faithful viewer Molasses pointed out, a seriously unbalanced mad genius over at AppleTalk Australia remembered that a Centris 650 will boot Debian GNU/Linux for the Motorola 680x0, provided you're insane or bored enough to make it work.

She was.

Okay, so then she had a 25 MHz Centris 650 running (and we use the term loosely, if not blindingly incorrectly) Linux. Then what? Well, that's where PearPC comes in. In addition to being a handy source for stolen code if you're looking to dupe the world into thinking you've written a high-speed commercial emulation product, PearPC just happens to be a working PowerPC emulator in its own right, albeit a painfully slow one. But it's open source, which means its code can be compiled for Debian GNU/Linux-- you know, like the version that's running on that Centris.

You see where this is going.

Yes, after jumping through a lot of hoops (and engaging in a whole lotta thumb-twiddling), this woman was able to get PearPC up and running on her Centris under Linux, complete with a Mac OS X 10.3 boot volume ready to go. Believe us when we tell you that there are serious performance issues. We've already mentioned the 25 MHz 68040 processor, which was plenty zippy in '93, but these days it's a good ten times slower than the chips found in high-end cell phones. On top of that, whereas PearPC runs 15 times slower than an x86 processor that's running it, when run on any other chip architecture (like, say, that of a 68040) it runs "about 500 times slower than the host." And just to make things interesting, the Centris only has 68 MB of physical RAM, which is well below what Panther needs for minimal breathing space.

Add all that together and you've got a Centris 650 that can, in fact, run Mac OS X-- in theory; you'll have to wait a while before we all know for sure. "At 9 PM on Monday 25th October 2004, a Mac Centris 650 started booting Mac OS X... about an hour and a half later, the familiar Apple logo bootsplash appeared." At this rate, taking into effect the processor speed, PearPC's performance ratio, etc., we're "looking at at least 6.99 days" just for the Finder and Dock to finish launching. "One week to boot!"

Gee, suddenly our 400 MHz G3 PowerBook doesn't seem nearly so slow anymore...


 
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