Cracked Quartz

On my G3 iBook and iMac, the new OS X 10.2 is having some real rendering problems in Internet Explorer. Words appear and disappear, especially with cursor movement and selection. Some words turn into greeking (little vertical lines that look like type from a distance) when scrolling or mousing. I tried turning Quartz Smoothing off in IE, tried using a Mozilla OS X browser, tried changing the settings in General for text smoothing, all to no avail. This was never a problem with 10.1, so I'm assuming it's a 10.2 Quartz error. It's frustrating. (I've even reinstalled Internet Explorer 5.2.1.) Here's a 500K QuickTime movie of the problem.

Jaguar Review

My take on Jaguar, Mac OS X 10.2, appears in today's Seattle Times. They don't have the graphic online, which shows a few details in place. For those who want to iChat with me, I'm, and, depending on how much time I have, I might even iChat back!

Jaguar is a huge improvement primarily in two fronts: in taking advantage of graphics processing on newer G4 machines or cards with graphics upgrades through something Apple calls Quartz Extreme; and in supporting Windows machines and virtual private networking.

Quartz Extreme fully offloads a number of calculations that formerly were split between the OS and the graphics cards. For newer graphics cards, this can result in a multi-fold improvement in rendering.

On the interconnection front, you can easily mount a Windows-style (or Unix/Linux + Samba server) volume, or share a Mac volume using SMB. Jaguar also includes a PPTP client for VPN, and the resources to build IPSec VPN clients. (Several companies I've spoken to are hard at work: by early 2003, there will be at least three packages with IPSec clients, and I'm not entirely tied into the community yet.)

Should you upgrade? If you're running 10.1, probably, sure, do it. There are a variety of speed and interface improvements that just make it worth it, and all the software out there pretty much already works under 10.2, or updates are happening. There are only a couple pieces of software that didn't put out pre-Jaguar patches, even.

Nun Blog

My college classmate Stephanie Simon writes in the LA Times (reprinted in the Seattle Times [no registration needed!]) about a contemplative order of Carmelite nuns in Indiana who have employed an ad agency, pro bono, and the Web to reach out with their thoughts, as part of their efforts to bring in novitiates and perpetuate the mission of the monastery they built with bulldozers and their own two hands in younger days:

The heart of the site is the News Perspective page, where sisters post essays about current events � from famine in Eritrea to pedophilia in the church, from corporate scandals to the temper of basketball coach Bobby Knight. "It's like we're raising our antenna, so if someone out there has a calling to this life and is raising her own antenna, we might be able to communicate," said Sister Terese Boersig, 69.

Yes, they're blogging, and it's beautiful.

Back in Google

Way, way back in March, I discovered that my book price comparison site, had been dropped from Google. Read that March post for details, but it wasn't nefarious. After months of gradual improvements, they were finally able to spider me like crazy, and as of this morning, I have 90K results (up from 4K yesterday).

As I said at the time, even though I experience a nearly 50 percent drop in revenue from commissions from bookstores because of falling out of Google's index, Google's business model is not to make me money. Rather, my success at being listed and getting sales indirectly was an epiphenomenon of how they index. Still, I'm happy to be back.

$5 Billion Might Save 1,000 Lives over 35 Years

Here's my takeaway from Paul Boutin's excellent article on a connection between power lines and certain illnesses: despite tons of information, the three lead scientists on this report from the California Department of Health Services didn't find a smoking gun, and are only mostly convinced that there's a connection.

It obviously warrants even further study, but a report from a group with a more vested interest estimates that $5B spent on mitigating risks (although the health group's report doesn't define how to solve the problem) might save only 1,000 lives over 35 years. This kind of estimate boggles my mind because I start thinking about $5B put into homeless shelters, drug abuse programs, and job training (saves 500 lives a year? contributes $500M to the economy?); $5B put into AIDS research (saves 10,000 lives a year?); $5B put into airbag research; $5B put into solar-power research; and on and on.

Of course, it's all about position: like parents who want to ban certain innoculations because a very small percentage of children die or develop complications (a known fact and calculable risk but not on a per-child basis), it's all about their child. Forget the fact that stopping many useful innoculations -- not all are useful anymore, apparently -- a huge percentage of children could die or develop lifelong ailments. That happens directly: the cause and effect aren't needle + child = death. They're cough and hack + disease spread = outbreak.

Once we find a cause, however, we Americans are determined to fix it. If we could really turn the greenhouse gas debate into a cause and effect, and we're getting closer with Republicans starting to admit that we are warming the Earth, maybe that's what it takes to "fix" greenhouse emissions? A smoking gun, or at least one with wisps of steam.

Revised Dell Versus Apple Comparison

Based on the feedback received over the last few days, I decided to go back and rethink starting points. Instead of the more robust Dell workstation, I chose a lower-end machine with a slower bus and processor. Instead of the base-level PowerMac, I chose a dual 1 GHz unit. Other features are now closer I believe, such as the graphics card, and I was able to add FireWire/IEEE 1394 to the Dell configuration and remove the modem cards from both. The Apple is pushing 2 GHz versus a single processor running 1.8 GHz on the Dell, but many comments indicate that the Pentium architecture allows faster bus speeds and memory access, which offsets the better raw performance of the G4, cycle for cycle. More feedback welcome.

Dell Precision Workstation 340

Apple PowerMac dual 1 GHz

Price with these options

$1,823 (includes $250 mail-in rebate, but excludes $100 small business purchase discount which you must qualify for)



Single Intel Pentium Processors, 2.20 GHz, 512K Full Speed Cache

Power Mac G4 Dual 1 GHz w/167 MHz system bus: 256K Level 2 Cache, 1MB DDR SRAM Level cache per processor



256 Mb PC2700 DDR SDRAM


Entry Level Quietkey Keyboard, PS/2, (No Hot Keys)

Apple Pro Keyboard

Graphics Card

ATI Radeon VE, 32 Mb VGA (dual monitor capable)

ATI Radeon 9000 Pro dual-display w/64Mb DDR

1st Hard Drive

80GB ATA-100 IDE 1-inch (7200 rpm)

80GB Ultra ATA drive

Floppy Drive

3.5" 1.44MB Floppy Drive


Operating System

Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional

Mac OS X 10.2 (Jaguar), OS 9.2


Dell, PS/2 (2-button, no scroll)

Standard optical mouse

Additional Network Card

Intel PRO/1000 XT, Gigabit PCI NIC

Built-in gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000)




CD ROM, DVD, and Read-Write Drives

"32X" DVD-ROM/CD-RW Combo Drive

8x DVD-ROM/16x CD-R/10x CD-RW/32x CD-ROM (Combo Drive)

Sound card

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live! Value

Front headphone minijack and speaker, rear Apple speaker minijack, audio line in, audio line out

Hardware Support Services

Promotional support deal: 3Yr Same Day 4Hr Response Parts + Onsite Labor (M-F 8am-6pm) and Gold Technical Support by phone (no details as to limits)

3-year AppleCare warranty (carry-in, onsite w/in 50 of service center, prepaid express mail in) which includes both hardware and unlimited phone support for software and hardware


IEEE 1394 controller card

Two FireWire ports

Apple Slash DDR

I posted the benchmark article noted below onto Slashdot as a story and they accepted it generating a really informative thread. I've learned quite a bit from it, plus the posters on this blog. Man, you have to love the Internet when it's used for collaborative, threaded discussion!

My summary would be this: Apple designed the Xserve architecture to support full DDR (double data rate) memory speed, and the only flaw is that the Motorola chips don't have support for this. All of the other system components, like the graphics processor, can make full use of DDR memory's higher speed, and some mythical day when a better G4 (or a G5?) ships, Apple can simply plug the new chips into existing architecture and produce enormously faster memory interaction.

One wise poster on Slashdot reminds us: Apple has never offered processor upgrades. The Xserve architecture apparently has component on daughtercards that could be swapped, so it remains to be seen if Apple finally opens up and sells processor upgrades or if we'll still be relying on third parties.

It also reveals an interesting strategy question: was Apple hoping for full-DDR-capable chips from Motorola and built their boards with the chance that they wouldn't be available? Because Apple didn't raise the price (more or less) from the previous generation of PowerMac tower models, people buying machines today are definitely getting faster computers for the same price that they paid a week ago.

Me Me Meme

I've become part of a meme: a new site named references my decision to take sponsorships as part of their announcement. I was also one of the crass folks who started taking money way back in 1995 when I was trying to figure out how to run my business Point of Presence Company while investing 5 to 20 hours per week running the Internet Marketing Discussion List (archives live on).

Back then, I asked for voluntary donations, which people paid via CyberCash (long gone at least in that form -- what did they become?), if I remember right, and possibly via First Virtual Corporation (long gone). So now, to fund my Wi-Fi blog, I, uh, ask for donations -- but more efficiently via the Honor System and looks like a must-stop-every-day site. They're also smart from the outset: items are linked via affiliate programs, so if they're popular, they'll fund through downstream sales.