February 14, 2005
Hot Mac mini love, now online
The response to the Mac mini has been even more insane than I thought it could be. I've had mine a little over a week now, and I almost feel like there's nothing more to be said about this awesome little box. Of course, I've never let that stop me before, so here goes...
There were a few people who didn't believe me when I said I was going to buy a mini with my spare change, so the evidence is at right: $586 in rolled change, that's been laying in an undisclosed location for at least a year, gradually building up. I weighed it, and it's 46 lbs. of change, converted into just under 3 lbs. of Mac-y goodness.
As of tonight, the mini is my new internet-facing server. It's taken over for a 450 mhz K6-2 Linux box that's 17 x 15 x 9 with a 230-watt power supply (I have no idea what it actually draws, but newer boxes have much beefier power supplies than even that). For comparison, the mini is 6.5" x 6.5" x 2", and has an 85-watt external power supply, so in no circumstances will it draw as much power or generate as much heat as the box it's replacing. It will also stay up longer when pulling power off a UPS.
I bought a second mini for work; we've been looking for a project box we could quickly set up and tear down, and the mini looks like just the thing. The work machine is a 1.42/80/256, where my home mini is 1.25/40/512. They might also replace small-form-factor PCs in some of our field installs; we've piloted using a Cappuccino PC, but they're slightly larger and significantly more expensive than the mini. I just configured a Cappuccino EZ3 with Pentium III, 1 gHz, with Bluetooth, only 256 megs of memory, a 40 gig hard drive, and a combo drive, and it priced at $814. My mini with all that and twice the memory was $624. Their Mocha system offers a Pentium IV at 2 gigahertz and 512 megs of RAM for $1,035.
Some early buyers are reporting video issues when using VGA connectors, but I can't really see them on mine. I'm generally working the mini through my G5 and VNC, but it's also (for now, at least) running a 17" Sony CRT, and I've been able to get the CRT looking very good -- the whites are noticeably whiter than my LCD.
Software setup has been a breeze. The primary duties of that Linux box were to filter outbound web requests by the kids, serve images and redirects from my old weblog, pre-TypePad, serve some ads from Amazon, and manage my dynamic DNS address at DynDNS. None of what I'm doing here is unique to the Mac mini in any way. All of this will run on any Mac that will run OS X.
The Linux box was running DansGuardian and Squid to filter the kids' web requests. Instead of a pure POSIX install, I found the OS X-targeted distribution at Dave Lopata's website. It includes Squid, DansGuardian, and an AppleScript-driven management interface. The POSIX bits run as daemons, but you can do basic configuration and monitoring through the interface. And the Lopatas live just up the road in Buford, to boot.
I found a similar solution for DynDNS: DNSUpdate. It installs as a background daemon, but you can add users and hosts through a Cocoa front end.
And that's also how the latest version of OSXvnc (1.5) works. I fired it up, had it install the daemon, and rebooted. Later, I fired it up again, and it wagged its finger at me: "OSXvnc can't listen on the specified port. Probably because the OSXvnc server is already running as a startup item." I've connected through several different clients without a hitch.
MovableType installed almost without a hitch. I took the opportunity to install MT 3.15, where the old box had 2.63, because I never figured out how to delete unwanted pingbacks in 2.63, and 3.15 has a control for that. I used the directions at Lawver.net. I transferred all those redirects and images using Panic's Transmit. I still don't have outbound e-mail working -- I tried Adriaan's suggestions for enabling Postfix under Panther, but Earthlink blocks outbound requests on port 25. Their status message suggests they may open relays on a case-by-case basis, but I guess I'll wait another day or two for that.
On the Unix/BSD side, I've decided to use DarwinPorts to manage downloading and installing applications. So far, I've fully installed Webalizer, and downloaded Apache 2.0.52. I'm still pondering if I want to migrate to Apache 2; I did almost 2 years ago on the Linux box, but on the Mac, I don't want to give up the integration with user accounts, Rendezvous, and so on that Apple has baked in, so I'm going to tiptoe through that upgrade.
February 13, 2005
Force drop Rattlers; Arena Football back downtown
I've watched Arena League ball on television, but I'm not sure TV does it justice. In a lot of ways, it's like backyard ball: The field is only 50 yards long, and 4-foot-high bumper pads surround the playing field. The goal posts are slightly less than half the width of the NFL's uprights, with a crossbar 5 feet higher than the senior league. Stretching from the uprights to the sidelines are vertical nets that bounce any ball that comes in back onto the field of play, where it's live until it hits the ground.
Each team plays 8 players at a time, with about half playing both ways, on offense and defense. There's no punting, and looser rules about offensive motion; one receiver can be running at full speed at the moment the ball is snapped.
With all the rule changes, it's almost more like pinball than football. The game I saw finished 61-47.
The liberties the league takes with traditional football rules can cause a little confusion. Maybe I'm just not football-smart, but Arizona did something that seemed unbelievably stupid. Twice.
Arena League teams kick off from their own goal line, and typically the kickoff bounces off the backstop nets, forcing the return man to turn his back on the onrushing defenders, grab the ball, turn around, and sprint for a hole. Twice on Saturday, the Rattlers attempted an on-side kick. From their own goal line. Giving Georgia the ball on about the 11-yard line.
The new rules also may lead you to come up with your own favorite rule tweaks. My suggestion: If a kicker can put the kickoff through the 9-foot-wide uprights (from 50 yards away) give his team 1 point, and let them kick it again.
February 09, 2005
Joys of business travel
- Some advice for hotels looking to improve the lot of business travelers:
- More outlets. Tonight's room is better than average; there are 4 outlets in a large room, but one's behind a sofa on the opposite side from the desk and internet access, and one is on the wall shared with the bathroom. Near the desk, there's one duplex wall plate with one outlet taken up, leaving one plug for the laptop. I generally make due by pulling lamps out of the wall, but come on! At a bare minimum, I need a place to charge my laptop and cellphone. When we visited Disney World last year, we had a camcorder, walkie-talkies, and cell phones that all needed recharging, and I think we had two plugs to share. It's almost enough to make me start carrying a power strip.
- Comedy Central. The hotel I'm in tonight (in Alexandria, VA) offers ESPN and ESPN2, CNN, Headline News, TBS, TNT, HBO, Weather Channel, local NBC, Fox, ABC, and CBS, WB, UPN, USA, Cartoon Network, ABC Family, Discovery, TLC, and Maryland Public Television. I can't ever find my Jon Stewart fix on the road.
- DVD player. With DVD players selling for $35 at retail, there's got to be a way to securely provide a DVD player in a hotel room. I realize the hotel chain will lose money renting porn and pay-per-view movies, but most business travelers I know carry at least a couple of DVDs along. Bonus points if the DVD player can read VCDs and MP3s. Partial points if the room TV at least has auxiliary RCA inputs, so I can watch a movie on the big screen through my laptop, or show the family the video we've shot when we get back to the hotel.
Seems like the high-speed internet wars are almost over; this hotel is on Wayport, but access is (temporarily?) free.
February 08, 2005
$70 million in iBooks?
Looks like my old school system has eliminated both Dell and IBM from consideration for a very large laptop program, in favor of about 63,000 iBooks from Apple.
Cobb County's public schools expected to pay about $275 each for the machines (and that's one healthy volume discount), but also will be buying support, training and maintenance, that make up the bulk of the deal. If the Journal-Constitution's numbers are right, 63,000 students times $275 per iBook runs only about $17.25 million, so the majority of the costs (as we all know) come after acquisition.
The system intends to roll the program out in three phases, first to teachers, then high schoolers, and finally to middle school students.
The linked article includes dates and times for 4 meetings the superintendent is holding for parents during the next 3 weeks.
February 06, 2005
EyeTV Wonder USB 2 delayed
It's basically a rebranded ATI TV Wonder USB 2.0 with Elgato software, and was introduced at Macworld in January with an expected ship date of the end of January.
I ordered one the night I ordered my Mac mini, and e-mailed last week when I didn't see an update or product, and got an e-mail back reporting that the product has been delayed a couple of weeks, with shipping now expected on February 18. The e-mail cites shipping delays and coordination with system 10.3.8 as contributing to the delay.
I'm very curious to see if a standard ATI TV Wonder USB 2 will work with the revised Elgato software. You can find the ATI for $99, and the current Elgato software understands all of Elgato's devices. It seems like that would be the same with the Wonder. And I can't imagine that ATI is going to manufacture a whole run of these puppies with firmware changes so that Elgato has a version whose hardware can be distinguished from the PC version.
By the way, the mini is here; lots more soon.