Let's Play Dueling Errata (12/2/99)

Another day, another Pentium bug. Oh, wait, we're sorry; chips don't have bugs-- they have errata. We know this because when Motorola admitted that the PowerPC G4 couldn't run at 500 MHz or higher without potentially corrupting its own data cache, "errata" was the word they used. "Errata," and not the phrase "big honkin' bug that's going to prompt Apple to downgrade the speeds of their whole Power Mac G4 line-up without lowering prices until we can figure out how to fix this damn thing." Granted, it's shorter, but it's also not nearly as descriptive. Still, when in Rome...

So this new Pentium III "erratum" is either more or less serious than the G4 speed ceiling, depending on your perspective. Basically, Intel admits that one or two percent of all the "Coppermine" Pentium III chips they've made might not actually boot correctly. If a system with the affected chip "is powered all the way down, and someone turns it on, it may not boot until you turn it on again," according to Mike Sullivan, an Intel spokesperson. So while it's nothing that's going to hold back the whole architecture from reaching its originally-expected clock speeds, it is a problem that might make some computers exhibit some puzzling behavior. It's your call.

Dell made a call, too, though, and it was decisive: according to a Reuters article, the company has "stopped shipments and manufacturing" of all systems which use Coppermine processors until Dell lab techs finish performing their own tests. Even though the delay is expected to last at most a few days, that's one point in favor of the Motorola G4 erratum: at least it never halted a Power Mac G4 shipment. Then again, for a while there, availability was so poor, there weren't any G4 shipments to halt in the first place. Anyway, the only real lesson we've learned here is that nobody has a monopoly on processor errata. At least, until Microsoft starts making chips.

SceneLink (1949)
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The above scene was taken from the 12/2/99 episode:

December 2, 1999: The Power Mac G4 just got a whole lot cooler-- especially the cheap model. Meanwhile, Intel wrestles with a Pentium III "erratum" that can mess with the boot-up process, and "Redmond Justice" hits a lull in the action as newcomer Richard Posner enforces radio silence...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 1948: Yikes!-less In Cupertino (12/2/99)   The title comes courtesy of Rick Stolba, just one of many faithful viewers who wrote in and told us that "Yikes!" is no more. The blue and white G3 Yosemite motherboard variant that Apple hacked together in order to get the G4 on the market in a hurry has finally been completely supplanted by the new Sawtooth architecture, instead...

  • 1950: Communications Blackout (12/2/99)   "Get out of the way, please." What kind of entrance line was that?! Tsk, tsk... It seems that the latest addition to the "Redmond Justice" cast just hasn't gotten into the swing of things yet. Richard Posner was appointed by Judge Jackson to be the mediator in settlement talks between the government and Microsoft, but rather than give us the traditional invisible-fourth-wall view into all the juicy proceedings, Posner's actively discouraging our antitrust viewing pleasure. Not only was he rude to reporters trying to bring the drama home, but he also exercised directorial control and put a virtual gag order on the rest...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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