Down But Not Out

Virus-Free Macs, G5 Delays, Joys of Mplayer, and Negative Mac Reviews

Dirk Pilat - 2003.09.17

Arrrr!

Walk the plank and jump off the mast, you horrible little man!

(Note to self: When referring to Bill Gates, stop using pirate speech, as neither funny nor appropriate.)*

Good day, dear virus-free members of that more and more elitistic cult of Apple users. Now that we all have stopped grinning and gloating to our Windoze using friends after our OS has once again been kept free of any weird script-kiddies virus catastrophes, it's time to clean the inbox of "re: movie" files and go back to work.

I gather the electricity is up again wherever you read this, as I am pretty sure this column is not yet syndicated for international print use. The news roundup this past week for the Apple community has actually been quite positive, but only if you're not waiting for one of the new G5s, in which case there seems to be a slight delay in your order.

As Slashdot reported recently, Virginia Tech has ordered 1,100 Dual 2 GHz G5s and apparently have jumped the cue with this project. The orders for VT have been (so we're told) prioritised, and everybody else will just have to wait. If this baby works, the project is to jump into the Top 5 of the Linpack Supercomputer list, which I think is a first for an Apple powered cluster. Good luck to them and happy wiring.

The other customers waiting for their supercomputers will have to wait a bit, though.

The next bit of good news is the first prerelease of the upcoming 1.0 version of Mplayer. I don't know about you guys and girls, but my Mplayer has slowly but surely replaced the rather clumsy QuickTime player - at least on my humble and aging 500 MHz iBook, it plays AVIs. MPEGs, MOVs, and even has taken over playing streaming content destined for the (still in stone age beta) Windows Media Player rather snappy even in larger windows. Kudos to this Hungary-based project.

Access to a range of free software that works is obviously one of the numerous benefits of having a *nix-based operating system, and everybody who has Fink and X-Windows installed will vouchsafe for that.

There is bad news as well: According to Germany's most influential computer mag c't, Apple's current hardware is overpriced and underperforming: They compared the iBook to its cheaper PC colleagues and, although it got good points for usability and design, it wasn't able to keep up with the Windoze colleagues when it came to speed, ports, screen, and, of course, price.

They looked even less favourable on the smallest of the new G5s (1.6 GHz PowerPC G5): Although they congratulated Apple on the brilliant design and accessibility of the hardware, they criticised the rather old video card and the price. With 10.2.7, they did not see a significant speed increase compared with the 1 GHz G4s and commented that hopefully later OS X versions would give the user the speed increase we'd all be hoping for.

The most damning, however, was the comparison to a 2.6 GHz Pentium 4 machine for a third of the G5's price, which outshone the Apple's performance in every category. That really hurts.

So all there is left to do is cross our fingers and hope that Panther might put the tiger in the tank of the smaller G5s.

Literally speaking. LEM

* Editor's note: September 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day. This has nothing to do with Bill Gates, Microsoft, sharing music files, or Macs. It just seemed the right place to drop a link. ;-) dk

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