October 04, 2004

Microsoft adopts a new tactic

That's right--Monkeyboy, er, Steve Ballmer decided that it's a good idea to call the millions of Microsoft customers who also own iPods "thieves!".

"We’ve had DRM in Windows for years. The most common format of music on an iPod is 'stolen'."

Good one, Steve. But I have a question for you: in what way did that DRM you've had in Windows "for years" affect your users' ability to install and use notorious P2P filesharing networks like KaZaA?

Not content to leave it there (Steve had a very busy weekend), he also said,

"There is no way that you can get there with Apple. The critical mass has to come from the PC, or a next-generation video device,"

That may be so. However, if it's true, he'd better turn the Microsoft supertanker around fast because all the "mass" is rushing toward the iPod/iTunes/iTunes Music Store these days...

October 01, 2004

They May Be On To Something...

Macintouch has done some additional performance testing on its new iMac G5, this time with Cinema 4D's Cinebench benchmarking tests. When the testers used a version of Cinema 4D somewhat optimized for the new G5 processor, the results showed the astounding performance improvements this new CPU can make. On a clock-equalized basis, the G5 machines showed at least twice the performance of the G4-based Macs.

The lesson is simple: if you have a G5-based Mac, make sure you're using software specifically optimized for this processor.

September 30, 2004

Some Myths Require A Wooden Stake

LinuxInsider, via its columnist Paul Murphy, has taken on two of the most persistent and pernicious myths regarding today's two main contenders for the desktop. In Macs Are More Expensive, Right?, Mr Murphy states:

"At the low end, therefore, the PC desktops are marginally less expensive than the Macs -- if you can do without their connectivity and multimedia capabilities -- and considerably more expensive if you can't. At the very high end, however, all of the design focus is on multimedia processing and the PCs simply aren't competitive from either hardware or cost perspectives...

"So, bottom line, are PCs cheaper than Macs? No, despite what you read in the PC press, it's the other way around. Compare Apples to apples, and Macs are cheaper than PCs"

In his follow-on article, But Macs Are Slower, Right?, he goes on to say:

"So are PCs faster than Macs?...a better way to do this is to look at the per system contribution in the cluster-computer business, where everyone uses their own Unix and the application developers don't have hardware agendas.

"For example, the NCSA 'Tungsten' cluster computer built last year was recently upgraded to include 2,500 dual Xeon Dell Poweredge 1750 servers at 3.2 GHz. According to NCSA public affairs, this thing has a theoretical peak capacity of about 32 Tereflops and yields about 15.36 teraflops in operation -- meaning that each CPU contributes about 3.1 Gigaflops to actual throughput.

"In contrast, the cluster built last year at Virginia Tech using 1,100 Mac desktops has a theoretical peak of about 18.2 Teraflops and initially benchmarked at 8.1 Teraflops to deliver a contribution of 3.7 Gigaflops per CPU.

"Although that was 19 percent better than the most recent Dell Xeon's, later machines built with Apple's X-Serves do much better because they have fewer I/O bottlenecks. Thus the Mach5 cluster built by Colsa Corp. and the U.S. Army, uses 1,566 dual CPU X-serves to deliver an expected 15 Teraflops in sustained throughput. That's 4.8 Gigaflops per CPU -- more than 50 percent faster than the Xeon -- and that's with last year's 2.0 GHz G5"

Unfortunately, as the articles' "Talkback" responses so strongly attest, no amount of factual presentation and good reasoning is enough to overcome the vested interests and chronic biases of the IT world. It will take much more than that to disturb the status quo of this industry.

September 27, 2004

I found an Anti-Homer

This timely article relates a lovely counterpoint to the horrid circumstances related in yesterday's posting:

"Users are spending more time taking care of their PCs instead of taking care of business...

"Firewalls and anti-virus protection are no longer enough to keep confidential information out of the hands of competitors or fraudsters.

"Companies need to consider automatically updating operating systems to patch the latest security holes, to install anti-spyware tools and to keep anti-spam solutions up to date...

""Perhaps the final word should go to Richard Clarke, the cyber-security adviser appointed by former US President Bill Clinton.

"Clarke, who toured New Zealand recently, said he has managed to protect his computer from more than 99 per cent of all known viruses, worms, network attacks and spyware.

"He runs an Apple, not a Microsoft PC, and says that does the job nicely."

Imagine that.

September 26, 2004

Homer Simpson Lives!

You've seen Homer repeatedly do things that cause him injury. He's simply too stupid to understand that the pain will go away if he stops doing what hurts him. Well, here's an example of an actual, large corporation whose collective intelligence apparently barely manages to equal Homer's:

"For the last three weeks I have been assisting a large organization that has been virtually brought to a standstill by a Botnet...

"The organization began to experience loss of Internet connectivity...Their network was under extreme load and continually kept shutting down....we discovered that their Norton Anti-Virus definitions were not getting updated...half of the workstations and some of the servers were infected with W32.GAOBOT...

"We did discover that we had several machines throughout the organization that had various spyware and other downloaded games and programs...In spite of the Policies in place that prohibit download and installation of software, in spite of the policies in place that prohibit P2P applications, despite the Firewalls and protective measures that the organization had taken, despite installing a managed anti-virus solution they got infiltrated...

"We have already identified...policies that need to be put in place and procedures that need to be updated. All of this will be reviewed after this has passed and hopefully we can find solutions to yet better protect their systems." [emphasis mine]

So, their solution is more and/or different policies despite having abundant evidence right before their eyes that "policies" are ineffective solutions! Uh, okay...

The other remarkable thing about this sad tale is that the corporation decided to use server systems that run essentially the same system software as its trouble-prone client desktops. Smart move!

Try to imagine how much this high-level security expertise cost them for this one incident alone. Try to imagine the collateral costs in lost productivity and lost sales. And now try to imagine how or why it would never occur to anyone in that organization to replace its systems--and especially its servers--with systems that have inherently low susceptibility to security threats.

Of course, doing so just might reduce the organization's dependency on all this expensive top-flight security and troubleshooting expertise...

September 25, 2004

There's one in every crowd...

I heard about this posting by R. Jayakumar...:

"Use a PC. who would spend the trouble of creating a program for an OS used by less than 2% of the world computer users, a fraction of which are involved in sequence analysis?"

...in the methodsandreagents.bionet newsgroup (don't ask). I know I should be used to this kind of thing by now, having seen comments like this for years but I have to admit that grossly uninformed or misleading commentary still gets my dander up.

I responded both directly via e-mail to the poster and indirectly in this discussion group thread.

That oughta learn him...

September 24, 2004

It's all about optimization

Today's Macintouch has a short note about their newly acquired Apple iMac G5. As I would expect, they were quite enthusiastic about the new machine. What caught my attention though was the small chart of the performance tests they undertook. It shows an astounding 2-to-1 performance range that depends upon memory configuration and 1 system setting!

My experience is that few computer users are aware of how strongly basic hardware configuration and system settings affect overall performance and those that are don't necessarily have the experience to do an optimal job of tweaking their systems.