January 29, 2003
Takes a lot of properties to lose $99 billion
A good chart I saw linked from BoingBoing.
January 27, 2003
More on miniBook
It's pretty much all over but the shouting; I'm pretty sure I'm going with the miniBook. I've seen some reports of the build-to-order SuperDrive systems shipping, but there appear to be a couple of shortages still constraining delivery: the Airport Extreme cards aren't ready, and the DDR266 memory isn't yet available through Apple.
Here are a couple more pictures I got the other day (click on either picture for a larger view):
This one gives you an idea of the changes to the keyboard.
Here's a user's-eye view.
January 26, 2003
Rolling Stone's 'Bug Chasers' Story
Full disclosure: I noticed this story because I wondered if the author, Gregory A. Freeman, who I saw mentioned on Romanesko's MediaNews, was the Greg Freeman I worked with on my college newspaper. It is.
Two of Freeman's sources say they were misquoted, as detailed in the Newsweek story above.
Sullivan rightly takes Freeman to task for the thinness of his sources (he talks to 2 purported bug chasers, and no "gift-givers") and the lack of studies backing up this potentially disturbing phenomenon. It's absolutely true that Freeman is guilty of major innumeracy when he applies a fuzzy number to a wrong statistic to suggest that 10,000 people a year are infecting themselves.
But I thought it was interesting that neither the Newsweek nor the Andrew Sullivan story addresses this paragraph:
One standout in public-health circles is the Miami-Dade County Health Department in Florida, which is taking steps specifically to address bug chasing. Evelyn Ullah, director of its office of HIV/AIDS, readily admits that bug chasing is "a definite problem" in the Miami area, having become more common and more visible in the past few years. Miami health officials regularly monitor Internet sites for bug chasing in their community, and they keep track of "conversion parties," in which the goal is to have positive men infect negative men. The health department also is launching new outreach efforts that include going online to chat with bug chasers and others pursuing risky sex.
January 25, 2003
So I've seen the new miniBook, and it's good.
Circumstances have conspired to give me an especially good feel for the right way to go on the upcoming PowerBook purchase. I'm spending the weekend (at least) in the company of a 500-mhz TiBook, so I can get a feel for how I like its form factor, which I've always felt is a little too big. I'm posting this through it.
The TiBook is still running OS 9, so it seems lightyears faster than the OS X Lombard PowerBook G3 I use most frequently. The extra screen real estate is nice, sure, but it doesn't seem to buy me anything I would really use all the time.
Here's a picture comparing the 12-inch miniBook and the 15.2-inch TiBook on display at the Apple Store. The new keyboard on the miniBook is a noticeable improvement on the mushy keyboards Apple has used on laptops since the Lombard, at least. I sympathize with the people saying the silver coloring of the new keyboards isn't as attractive as the translucent keys of the older keyboards.
The Atlanta Apple Store sold out its first shipment of 12 miniBooks in less than a day, but they're still quoting 2-4 weeks for build-to-order models.
More 12-inch news: Here's a link to miniBook hard drive upgrade pictures. A report this morning on Macintouch says the miniBook gets extremely hot on the left palmrest (the miniBook at the Apple Store didn't seem unusually warm anywhere).
By the way, Howard joined us, and wrote up his thoughts on the littlest PowerBook.
January 23, 2003
Meeting the miniBook
There have been a number of reports that the 12" PowerBook is now available at the Apple Store. I meant to call today to confirm that the Lenox Square store has them, but at midafternoon, my cell phone rang. It was a friend standing in front of the miniBook display at Lenox.
The friend has gone through 2 TiBooks, a 500-mhz and a 1-Ghz, and was pretty impressed by the mini. My understanding is that the Build-to-Order models (with the SuperDrive, extra memory, and/or the larger hard drive) will take a while to filter into the pipeline.
When I was checking out prices at the Apple Store onlince, I spec'ed a SuperDrive model with base RAM and hard drive, since I remembered that Apple has traditionally made the upgrades a pricey option. At some point, they've changed that. The upgrade from a 40-gig to a 60-gig hard drive is a $50 option, for instance. Switching a 128-meg DIMM for a 512-meg, bringing the miniBook to 640 megs, is a $150 option, while Crucial wants $203 for the 512 DIMM.
So, tomorrow, I'm headed off to the Apple Store to get my claws on the new keyboard, see how hot the little sucker runs, and see when I could get a build-to-order model through the Apple Store. I'll be taking along my digicam, so I'll post some pictures tomorrow night.
January 19, 2003
As I mentioned a month or so ago, I signed up to be an O'Reilly Irregular. My assignment: To scope out a local Borders, and inventory the O'Reilly titles, noting which of their books are displayed face-out, which are old editions, and which (from O'Reilly or others) are getting endcap or table placements.
I did a reconnaissance visit a couple of weeks ago, and guessed that it would take an hour. It was closer to 3. This particular store had 8 endcaps and a table, almost 400 O'Reilly titles, and titles (intentionally or not I'm not sure) scattered among sections. I can understand why Learning Unix for Mac OS X would be in both the Unix and Mac OS sections, but why was Building Java Enterprise Applications: Vol. 1 - Architecture in four different sections?
January 16, 2003
Moving from wanting to having
So, through an elaborate combination of events, I think I'm in a position where it makes sense to buy a new computer. More importantly, I think I've talked my wife into it.
So the next step is figuring out what to buy and where to buy it.
I dropped by the Apple Store and CompUSA today; neither one has either of the new PowerBooks in stock, and Apple has a shaky history on meeting promised ship dates. I'm hesitant to buy a new model sight unseen, but my immediate preference is for a fully decked-out 12" PowerBook. Of course, if I want it NOW, I can go with the 12" iBook for around $500 less, or the 15" TiBook for about $500 or about $800 more.
One friend wants me to go with the TiBook, just like his, on the grounds that I need the extra power. Recent benchmarks show a noticeable gap between the PowerBooks, attributable to the Level 3 cache on the 15" models that's absent on the 12", and to differences in the video cards.
On the other hand, running the same test suite on my feeble Lombard suggests I'll be blown away by any of the above. Here's a table to compare the stats:
|Test||Lombard||12" PowerBook||12" iBook||15" GHz TiBook|
The iBook looks like a pretty good deal here. Naturally, I would love it if the machine I like had the fastest scores on everything, but the economics of the subnotebook mean that you have to charge less for it, and it can't outperform its siblings. Still, in the worst test, it's 3 times the speed of my Lombard.
I also confirmed a report on Macintouch that the miniBook requires a different keyboard with the SuperDrive. Update: That may not be true. The part number is for the Keyboard and OS, so it might have a different part number so the SuperDrive machines get iDVD, which combo drive models don't.
January 13, 2003
How much of a tax cut are you getting?
What is a novelty record?
Part of our trivia team went to Tune Trivia last week, and were in the running until the final question: "A Sesame Street character had a top 20 hit back in the '70s. Who was the character and what was the song?"
I feel qualified as a Sesame Street expert, having owned many Sesame Streeet LPs (back then, we didn't have VCRs, kids) and learned to read one sponsor at a time. Still, I missed the trivia question, whose answer is on the page linked above....
I was a little surprised by how liberal the linked author was in his definition of "novelty," including the McCartneys' "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" alongside the Chipmunks, Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue," and others. So what, exactly, makes a song a novelty? Why aren' they around anymore?
January 11, 2003
Review: Behind Deep Blue: Building the Computer That Defeated the World Chess Champion, by Feng-Hsiung Hsu
An interesting look behind the most publicized chess match since Fischer-Spassky, Behind Deep Blue was written by the engineer who designed the evaluation chip at the heart of Deep Blue. Hsu is careful not to go full-geek on the details behind the hardware and software, but he gives enough to whet the hardcore geek's appetite.
Deep Blue was initially a project at Carnegie Mellon called ChipTest, where Hsu and a small group of graduate students found themselves occasionally in opposition to a team (called Hitech) led by Dr. Hans Berliner, a former world postal chess champion whose academic specialty was computer chess. Berliner's Hitech system was designed around selective software searching rather than optimized hardware running a brute-force search. The advantage of the second approach, especially as Moore's Law marched on through the late '80s, became clear as ChipTest, rechristened Deep Thought, won the ACM computer championship and the world computer chess championship, and became the first computer ever to beat a grandmaster in a single regular (non-blitz) game (against Denmark's Bent Larsen, a former world No. 2).
In 1989, the team joined IBM, where they had access to a budget for the first time, and rebuilt their hardware to work on the RS/6000, running multiple evaluation boards in parallel. In 1996, the computer, by now renamed Deep Blue, faced World Champion Garry Kasparov, losing a 6-game match 4-2, but shocking the world with a win in Game 1, the first victory by a computer over a World Champion with regulation time control.
In 1997, Deep Blue got a rematch. Outfitted with smarter evaluation functions, more and faster hardware, and grandmasters to help with preparation (especially of the opening book), Deep Blue put humanity in its place, beating Kasparov 3.5-2.5, and driving Kasparov to accuse the IBM team of providing human help to the supercomputer, which would be akin to having Adam Sandler give Charlie Chaplin comedy tips.
Making an occasional cameo is Ken Thompson, one of the fathers of Unix and C. Thompson developed 'Belle', itself an '80s ACM champ, and helped arrange the first Kasparov-Deep Blue match, which was scheduled in conjunction with the ACM's 25th anniversary and ENIAC's 50th.
Occasionally, it becomes clear that Hsu's first language was not English, and so would have benefited from closer editorial attention. Here and there, the syntax is strained, while idioms get twisted and words are sometimes misused. At one point, he describes the setup for the 1997 Kasparov-Deep Blue rematch, in an office building in Manhattan, as "homely" when I'm nearly certain he meant "homey":
The front half of the game room was the playing area. Compared to the sterile environment of the 1996 match, it looked almost homely. The room...was set up to look like the study of an aristocrat or perhaps a rich lawyer...Several paintings of medieval scenes adorned the walls. The bookshelves were full of old law books. On the shelves was a ship model as well as several wooden duck decoys. Potted plants livened up the well-lit room.
Still, Hsu provides a perspective no one else could, and his ideas are clear enough, even through two languages.