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Switch to Apple?

2002-07-23 16:09:52+00 by TC 23 comments

So Apple has resorted to hiring Idiot spokes people to prove that anyone can use their computers. Meanwhile Ben is showing us how to mac-off with the ports and Uber geek explains how some of us grew up with our dads beating us with a PC. So let's all move to Iceland.

[ related topics: Apple Computer Technology and Culture moron Television Macintosh ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-07-23 17:07:06+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

Watch that with the sound off, and tell me she's not stoned off her gourd and telling you she likes Macs because "they're all psychedelic colors".

I think it's time for a Linux version: "Dude, I run Linux 'cause it's all 'l33t 'n shit, and besides, my Mom can't figure out how to use it so she'll never find my porn stash. But that's okay, 'cause it, like, still talks to my stoner girlfriend's Mac just fine, dude, Netatalk rules, and even that Windows dweeb with the briefcase can use Samba to see my computer, on, like, his 'my computer'. Heh."

#Comment made: 2002-07-23 20:05:40+00 by: Jerry Kindall

You know, over the last couple weeks I've been setting up a dual-Celeron box to run Win2K Small Business Server because, well, I use Win2K at the office and it sucks far less than any Windows I've used in the past, and besides I'm in love with Opera 6, which they don't have for the Mac yet, and my own site is built in ASP, so I figured I'd just buy a faster DSL connection and host all that at my house, and get a box that I can occasionally use for Windows apps too. Figured I'd build it myself to save a little money -- I already had some of the parts -- and learn a bit in the process. After all, all the parts are standardized, right? Snap together.

The experience has really given me a lot of appreciation for the Macintosh.

I already had a case, but it turns out it's too old (not "ATX") and the new motherboard won't fit in it. So, buy new case, $80. The guy I bought the motherboard from (an Abit BP6) included two humongous heatsinks with fans perched atop them. Fair enough, I want to experiment with overclocking a bit, except the case I bought won't close with them installed because the CD-ROM's in the way. (I thought I was being clever buying that case: "Look, they make a case where the side folds down for easy access to everything, like on my G4!" Um, guess I wasn't so clever after all.) So I bought some low-profile CPU coolers. They said they were for Socket 370, my motherboard has Socket 370, surely that means they'll fit, right? Wrong, they're too big: 60mm square where the ones I had were 45mm square. I'd have to break off a bunch of capacitors to squeeze it in, and I'm given to understand that's bad for the motherboard. At this point I've resigned myself to just getting a different case. I bought the old case several months ago so I'm sure CompUSA won't take it back. If anyone in the Seattle area wants this case, it's yours, just come get it, I don't want to look at it anymore.

Next, Windows 2000 wouldn't see the hard disks I'd installed on the BP6's built-in UltraATA controller. It turns out you have to press F6 as the Win2K installer boots up and insert, get this, A FLOPPY DISK with the drivers for the ATA controller on it. WTF is this, 1997? I haven't even seen a floppy disk in years. Also had to upgrade the BIOS, which required a DOS boot floppy. A DOS. Boot. Floppy! Luckily we had some floppies at the office, and I scrounged a floppy drive from an older PC I had, so was able to get that going.

Okay, so the machine is running (with the case open, I still need to get a new case). The box proudly displays 384 MB installed. Waaaait a second, two of those DIMMs should be 256 MB modules! It should say 640 MB! Why's it only seeing half of those modules? Okay, worry about that later, at least the box is running and the Win2K installer is doing its thing... A day later I've got all the service packs downloaded and installed and I'm rarin' to go.

One of the reasons I wanted to get the Windows box up was so I could get my MP3s onto my Nomad Jukebox 3 without having to burn a fistfull of CDs and carry them to the office and download them via USB. So first order of business: put the FireWire (IEEE 1394) interface and the sound card in, and install the drivers. That seems to go swimmingly, except that when I restart the box the computer starts taking five minutes just to open a window. I'd formatted the volumes as NTFS so I couldn't just boot into DOS and delete the drivers, but I yanked the cards and the problem persisted. Sooo... reformat and re-install Win2K and all the service packs again. Try just the FireWire card this time and not the sound card, and for God's sake put it in a slot that doesn't share an IRQ with the slot the Ethernet NIC is in this time! (What? This is PCI, Plug-n-Play! Why should I have to worry about that?)

Okay, that went much better. Now install the Nomad software. Plug in the Nomad -- success! The computer sees the Nomad and launches Creative PlayCenter! Woohoo! Oops, spoke too soon; the computer sees the Nomad, but PlayCenter doesn't. Okay, Creative released new drivers and firmware for the Nomad last Thursday; let's install those and see if it helps. The drivers install fine, but the firmware flasher claims there's another application using the Nomad. That would explain why PlayCenter couldn't see it, except for one minor detail: there ARE NO other applications running!

Sigh deeply. Pack up FireWire card, sound card, CPU coolers, and Nomad Jukebox 3 and send them back to NewEgg and Buy.com, respectively. Place order for just-announced iPod 20 GB. It's got half the capacity of the Nomad, and it doesn't have anywhere near the number of features, but at least I know it works (had a 5GB iPod before the Nomad). And the Nomad's UI blows, anyway. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Oh, did I mention that the Win2K Small Business Server installer didn't install Outlook properly? Luckily I had an Office 2000 Professional CD. Also, even though I told Small Business Server to install SQL Server, it didn't; apparently it's not enough to tell the installer to install the top-level SQL Server package, you have to tell it to install all the subordinate packages too, because the installer just doesn't understand the concept of hierarchy. Oh, and I had to try the Win2K SBS serial number a dozen times before I finally twigged to the fact that what I was entering as a "B" was really an "8." Of course installing SQL Server necessitated a whole new set of service packs and hotfixes. The Baseline Security tool told me to download Service Pack 1, 100MB worth of stuff, to fix one of the known security holes in the version of SQL Server I had. After doing this, I moved on to the next one, which instructed me to install Service Pack 2, another 100MB worth of stuff. And, of course, Service Pack 2 includes everything from Service Pack 1, so the first 100MB download wasn't necessary. Why did it tell me to download SP1 then? Baseline Security still tells me I have serious problems, but that's because the vulnerabilities it has "detected" are in services I'm NOT RUNNING. In fact, they're not even installed. Pretty dumb.

Next task: try to get the Win2K box to talk SMB with my Mac. Based on recent experience I've allocated the entire weekend and a dozen rolls of Tums for this task.

If I had to do this for a living you damn bet I'd buy a Mac to use at home. Switch? Hell, why would anyone in his right mind put up with all this crap to begin with, let alone KEEP using it year after year? Suddenly paying twice as much for a nominally slower computer seems like a hell of a deal to me.

#Comment made: 2002-07-23 20:27:16+00 by: meuon [edit history]

Linux Ad: My Linux story is a pistol range run by a single Linux boxen. Using a 16 relay controller card (rs-232 interface) to control the ranges and door access, and it uses two serial card scanners for access control and time/membership billing.

Why Linux? Because I don't want a bunch of well armed rednecks mad at me when the server crashes and their range stops working.

#Comment made: 2002-07-23 21:10:57+00 by: Dori

Jerry -

Yeah, this is why I'm teaching a "Build a Mac Clone" session at O'Reilly's Mac OS X conference. I figure that the 60 minute slot they've given me may be overkill: "Here's a clone. Here's a Sonnet card. Here's some RAM. Plug 'em all in. It'll work."

At that point, it's no longer twice as much $, it's about the same $ for that nominally slower computer.

#Comment made: 2002-07-23 21:36:38+00 by: dws

The Apple ads have been perplexing. They must have given *some* thought to demographics, but those ads seem like they're intended to insure that midwestern parents will ground their children rather than letting them anywhere near Mac users.

#Comment made: 2002-07-23 21:50:10+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

Jerry, it ain't over yet, expect more problems with the BP6 motherboard. Mine's been torn apart and might end up a single processor machine if the rat boys can get it running.

Hardware sucks.

The big difference between a Mac and a PC as you lay it out above is that you don't have any of those options with a Mac. At all. Maybe it really is better now, but my experience with at least two Macs is that if you wanted to, say, replace the power supply or add a new ethernet card to a Mac that's as old as a BP6 motherboard (about 3 years), you have to find the surplus dealer who still has parts for that Mac in stock, supply them with the serial number, because the model number isn't accurate enough, and then hope that you communicated the part correctly to them, otherwise you're shipping it back and it's another two week delay.

All hardware sucks.

Not even going to sympathize with your Mac to XP issues; I'd drop a Debian server in the middle 'cause it speaks the native network file systems of both. Speaks the network print system of the Mac better than another Mac, but I've never configured one to be a print server for Windows. But then you'd have to learn Un*x too.

Software sucks.

Meuon, thank you! I need one of those cards, and I was going to build one with an Atmel chip and a couple of 2N2222s, but we need a hundred or so, too few to mass produce, too many that there'd be any savings from an off-the-shelf solution. Any experience with the Windows and USB driver solution? That would be completely perfect for the product I'm building in conjunction with some guys in Hong Kong who speak mainly milled aluminum and solenoid.

Some hardware sucks less.

#Comment made: 2002-07-23 22:23:09+00 by: TheSHAD0W

Uhm. Jerry. Most of the problems you had in your little adventure were because you built your own PC. I've had similar issues when building them, I admit. But you can't BUILD a Mac. If you had bought a pre-assembled box from HP, you'd have spent more money, obviously... But even then, you would've paid less than for a Mac of equivalent speed.

#Comment made: 2002-07-23 22:51:02+00 by: Shawn

I will only build my own PCs. Having worked in technical support, I've seen way too many evil things inside pre-built boxes. Plus, they never seem to offer the exact combination of what I want...

A DOS. Boot. Floppy!

Yep. Win98'll work. But that's the last version of windoze from which you can get create a boot disk. Try trying to figure out how to create a boot disk in an office filled with nothing but Win2k and WinME boxes. grrrrr....

#Comment made: 2002-07-23 23:51:39+00 by: Jerry Kindall

Yeah, actually I ended up making the DOS boot floppy from a Win98 HD I had lying around.

I think my problems have been software as much as hardware, so it would have still sucked if I'd just bought a box from Dell.

But, hey, at least I'm learning a lot... Let me guess, the guys who make the motherboards make them to do well in the benchmarks when they're new, and who cares if they fail within a year...

#Comment made: 2002-07-23 23:52:14+00 by: Dori

But you can't BUILD a Mac.

Obviously, someone who should attend the class I'm teaching (as mentioned above) on how to do just that.

#Comment made: 2002-07-24 02:22:48+00 by: mkelley

Amen Dori! I have an old PowerComputing box that I put together from other PowerComputing boxes and plan on adding OS X as soon as my upgrade comes in. I've heard of some issues, like SCSI, but what's an install without problems?

Are you using the built in SCSI or an IDE upgrade for the computers in your class?

#Comment made: 2002-07-24 12:20:39+00 by: Pete

So, Dori, I can build a Mac from nothing but all new non-Apple parts and an OS X CD-ROM?

I hand-built the PC I'm at now that way. And it's been overclocked by 55% for 3 solid years now (464 vs. 300), with no hardware changes in that time other than a new 3D card.

And if you're really allergic to floppies, burn a damn CD. Modern PC's do boot from CD-ROMs. In fact, a buddy of mine whipped up a really fiendish boot CD that presents a menu of something like a dozen different boot images that the user selects from interactively at boot time. That was years ago, btw.

#Comment made: 2002-07-24 13:17:13+00 by: ebradway

Yesterday I downloaded and burned CDs of Red Hat 7.3. Openned up a friend's machine, installed a CD-ROM temporarily (this is an AMD 500 in an AT case - he usees it for a distributed DNS server, web server as well as some stuff related to his real job at SANS). It took about an hour and a half to get the machine back up to snuff and him ssh'd in. Most of that time was burning CDs and configuring his RAID partitions.

Microsoft is in bed with Intel as well as Dell. Microsoft wants you to buy a new operating system every couple years (Win9X/ME and NT4, btw are now officially obsolete - no support available). They make sure that the new operating system doesn't like old hardware. You need a 2Ghz Pentium IV with a GB of RAM to write letter - just like in 1988 I needed an 8Mhz 8088 with 640K of RAM to write a letter.

To make matters worse, there are some pieces of hardware that are really, really bad. Apple, by keeping tight control over the hardware available for there machines, makes most of the compatibility issues irrelevant. But I'm damn glad Microsoft doesn't do the same thing (not that they haven't tried in the past). When you buy an all-in-one premade box, you do usually get a set of hardware that works together without conflicts - but only with the operating system that orignally came with the box.

#Comment made: 2002-07-24 13:18:28+00 by: pharm


If you trust them of course...

#Comment made: 2002-07-24 16:01:46+00 by: other_todd

The most beautiful piece of seamless hardware in our home is our Laserjet 4ML printer, which contains both a PC-style parallel port and an Apple Desktop Bus port in the back. (It predates the dawn of USB.) All our Macs are strung together with phone-cable Appletalk connectors, and the one PC in the house uses the parallel port, and thus everyone can print. If Debby makes good on her threat to go wireless one of these days, I'm sure we can figure out a way to get that in on the game too. And we don't need more print capacity, and HP drivers are pretty universally available, so we don't plan to ever replace the thing. Joy!

I tend to want the low-tech solutions. I have to move files from my Mac to my PC a fair amount. I use Zip disks. The only thing one has to remember is that the Mac will mount and read a PC-format zip disk, but the PC will not read a Mac-format one. So PC-formatted Zip disks are the common coin. I think every machine in the house has a Zip drive. I also have a few spares lying around.

I go from Unix to other systems with FTP. Networks? What networks?

I only buy hardware these days from people who will let me specify, checklist-style, exactly what's going into them. (I'm talking mostly about cards, memory, and key chips. I don't much care who manufactured my motherboard, case, fan, and power supply.) If they don't do that, they don't get my business. But I will never, never build a computer from scratch. I've tried it and it is simply too much of a pain in the rear.

I should note, though, that I have several friends who are otherwise sane who insist that they will never buy prebuilt again ... because they feel all prebuilts cost too much money. So mileage varies! Me, I wonder if they're undervaluing their personal labor and time ....

I agree that the inability to make DOS boot disks is a real pain, but then, is anyone surprised? Microsoft has spent the last four years trying to tell the world that DOS does not exist and that you shouldn't look behind the curtain.

#Comment made: 2002-07-24 20:55:44+00 by: Dori

Mkelley: Are you using the built in SCSI or an IDE upgrade for the computers in your class?

IDE, because (imo) you get a lot more bang for the buck. IDE drives keep dropping in price and increasing in size, so that's the way I go.

Pete: So, Dori, I can build a Mac from nothing but all new non-Apple parts and an OS X CD-ROM?

All new? No. But you can do it with a mix of new and used all non-Apple parts. The only bit of Apple you need is, as you say, the OS X CD.

I did a brief write up on this last year which anyone can use as a starting point. Various speeds and sizes have doubled (such as the CPU card) and prices have halved (such as the RAM), so I need to bring it up to date prior to doing the class.

#Comment made: 2002-07-24 21:41:47+00 by: Pete

Dori, you are misleading people. Your instructions are dependent upon the presence of Apple ROMS in the UMAX machines, i.e. proprietary Apple hardware. You can not build a Mac without money having gone into Apple's pocket for the hardware.

#Comment made: 2002-07-24 22:38:25+00 by: Dori

It's used hardware, Pete. Purchasing a used machine does not put a single penny into Apple's pocket. And it's not like purchasing the used machines can encourage any of the cloners to make new ones!

For some reason, what most people I've known who care seem to object to is the little Apple logo, particularly the old rainbow logo. These machines don't have that. In addition, there's the side benefit that Mac fans can have the computer they want when their boss won't allow Apple machines--these look just like low-end Wintel clones.

Do I think that this is a machine for everyone? Nah. But I do think that it's a valid option for a lot of people and a lot of situations, and too many of those people don't even know that it's a possibility.

#Comment made: 2002-07-24 23:16:54+00 by: Shawn

I've tried it and it is simply too much of a pain in the rear.

Speak for yourself (yes, I'm aware that you are - a figure of speech). With the exception of my Mac and the laptop, I built all my computers. On average it takes me about 4-6 hours and I wind up with exactly what I want - configured how I want it.

Me, I wonder if they're undervaluing their personal labor and time ....

Probably. I've been told I do this regularly. But I don't care. I'm having fun.

#Comment made: 2002-07-25 05:49:42+00 by: Pete

But you can do it with a mix of new and used all non-Apple parts.

That's what I saying is incorrect. You need Apple's proprietary ROMS, Apple hardware.

Yes, you can buy it used, but money will have gone to Apple for the hardware you build.

#Comment made: 2002-07-25 14:46:18+00 by: other_todd

Ah, that is the difference, Shawn: It wouldn't take me four to six hours. It would probably take me four to six days. Nothing would work right together the first time. My main "just let me build you one, don't pay those prices" friend/advocate could probably do it in four to six hours too. I think that's the barrier, right there.

Not an editorial comment, you understand; glory to you if you can do it! But some of us are braindead that way. I'm a software guy by nature.

#Comment made: 2002-07-25 19:40:02+00 by: Shawn

I'm a software guy by nature.

Me too. Hardware by hobby ;-)

#Comment made: 2003-01-12 04:35:05+00 by: flamingdragon3

Hi i bought a Nomad 2c mp2 player 2nd hand all though i didnt get the software (playcenter) for it. If anyone has it could you send it to me via e-mail? If you could that would be great