The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Archive for the 'Mac' Category

All things pertaining to Apple and OS X

My take on Light Peak/Thunderbolt

Posted by Deliverator on 25th February 2011

With this week’s refresh of Apple’s Macbook Pro line of computers, consumers are going to get their first sampling of Intel’s Light Peak technology under the moniker “Thunderbolt.” Apple is no stranger to introducing new external interfaces, having premiered and acted as the die-hard champion of Firewire and Displayport. Both of these technologies, though offering technical advantages over other interfaces at their time of introduction, haven’t really become very mainstream and have remained pricier than alternatives. With USB 3.0 having beaten Thunderbolt to market by almost a year, I know a lot of techies have taken a brief look at Thunderbolt and dismissed it as yet another connector to try and fit on a motherboard bezel. I’ve looked at Thunderbolt in some depth and the deeper I’ve dug, the more I am interested. If widely adopted, I think it may widely reshape the collection of peripherals and mess of wires that have come to represent a “Desktop” level computing environment.

The salient points:

-Thunderbolt offers significantly more bandwidth than USB 3.0 with dual fully bi-directional 10 Gbps. That is up to 20 Gbps in both directions. USB 3.0 after overhead offers around 3.2 Gbps This greatly influences the classes of peripherals that could be run over a link. Think externalizing GPU’s vs external hard drives.

-Thunderbolt provides significantly more power to external devices than USB 3.0. USB 3.0 gives you a little under 5 watts to play with, which, while an improvement over USB 2.0’s ~2.5 watt, is less than half of Thunderbolt’s 10 watts. 10 watts is enough to power most full size desktop 3.5″ hard drives in external enclosures. It is enough to drive a monitor reasonably bright 20″ LCD monitor. With a little bit of power conserving design, it may be possible to do away with the need for power adapters for most present, common, PC peripherals except laser printers.

-Thunderbolt lets your daisy chain up to 7 devices. All the devices chained together have to share the Thunderbolt port’s overall bandwidth and power allotments, but both are fairly ample. The daisy chaining ability, combined with more directly powered peripherals, means a lot fewer cable will be needed to connect all your peripherals to your CPU unit and a lot of those cable runs will be shorter. In brief, way less desktop mess / tangle of cables.

-Thunderbolt tunnels the PCI Express protocol as well as Display port. Since tons of interface chips are designed to plug into PCI Express buses already, this will make it relatively trivial for 3rd party device manufacturers to take existing designs for internal peripherals and create “external peripheral” versions of the same. This, combined with much friendly licensing to implement compatible implementations and support of the underlying technology via Intel could make Thunderbolt a rapid starter, whereas some of the “inside baseball” aspects of Firewire lead to its slow adoption and lack of mainstream support compared USB 2.0.

Am I going to jump in headfirst and order a Macbook Pro today? No, but if Apple doesn’t try to play this one too close to its chest (and smother the baby in the process), Thunderbolt has the potential to truly become the “universal” bus that USB has long claimed to be.


Posted in General, Mac, Rants and Raves, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

The Obligatory Iphone Post

Posted by Deliverator on 3rd July 2007

I wasn’t going to post about the Iphone, but for several weeks, it is all that anyone seems to want to talk to me about and I have had a lot of inquiries about it from my clients. In short, I think the Iphone incorporates some very interesting technology and productizes some amazing rethinking of computer/human interaction, but is fundamentally flawed as a device in many, many deep ways. I am thoroughly disinterested in owning one. Here is a canonical list of reasons why:

-Touchscreen only interface makes it impossible to execute common phone functions without pulling it out of your pocket. I frequently make use of my phone without ever looking at it. The touchscreen only interface and glass screen make for a device quickly covered in oily finger print smudges. The touchscreen is also of a type which is only useable with fingers, so forget using a stylus, using a gloved finger or protecting your precious Iphone from your keys with most (I have heard a few work) screen protectors.

-Battery is internally sealed and soldered in place. It is not end user swappable or replaceable. It has long been anathema in the cell phone world to make a device with a battery which is incapable of getting through the day. My own experience with the batteries used in Ipods and other mobile devices is that they greatly diminish in overall capacity within the first year of heavy use and that they can fail very unpredictably. I find the idea of having to go without my phone for likely weeks when I need to send in my entire phone to have my battery replaced to be an incredible turnoff. The stated price I have seen for out of warranty replacement is $86. My Nokia 6620 has exceedingly long battery life and takes less than an hour to recharge. I have for years carried a spare battery around with me in my wallet for those not so rare cases when I forget to charge my phone for days on end. I have no such option with the Iphone. My spare battery cost me $5, shipped to my door.

-The Iphone is $600 (you do want 8GB right?) and the minimum monthly charge is $60 for service with a minimum commitment of 2 years. The Iphone is just plain EXPENSIVE AS HELL.

-The only current service option (barring future hacking) is through AT&T. AT&T’s EDGE data network is extremely slow for even light web and email use, much less the bandwidth intensive intertube 2.0 uses everyone seems to envision for the device. My own experience with EDGE and GPRS through various providers is that it delivers a modem class experience, not the “slow dsl” experience of more modern CDMA networks such as offered by Sprint and Verizon. Did I mention the first day after ATT/Apple released the Iphone their EDGE network was down throughout the US?

-As stated, the ONLY service option right now is AT&T. This is not the phone for you if you want to travel outside the country (or just outside of ATTs coverage) and use it via prepaid SIMs on global GSM networks.

-The Iphone has a standard 3.5″ headphone jack, but the jack is so far recessed within the Iphone’s shell that the majority of headphone are unusable without an adapter jutting from the side and causing pocket maladjustment/clipping/breakage issues.

-Built in camera app has no adjustable parameters, only a shutter button and isn’t capable of video.

-Bluetooth profile support is extremely limited and doesn’t extend to sharing the EDGE connection with other devices. I frequently use my Nokia 6620 to provide internet access to my laptop or to my Nokia N800 internet tablet while on the run. The Iphone basically supports monaural bluetooth headsets period. It doesn’t even support A2DP (stereo), which seems like a no brainer on a device which doubles as a music player.

-For $600, the Iphone is the dumbest Smartphone in history. You are limited to only the applications that Apple chose to bundle with the device. Basically every modern phone has allowed for 3rd party applications, many of which have provided much needed and more refined functionality than that provided by the built in ones. My mantra over the last few years has been that “The non-obvious uses for a technology/device are far more compelling than the obvious ones.” Apple has left many functions out of the Iphone that phone users have taken for granted for years and some of their implementations of other functions are less than overwhelming and not fixable by anyone other than Apple.

-There is currently no support for exchange/push email. Although support has been vaguely alluded to, it isn’t here yet and nobody has had a chance to evaluate how good that support will be. I don’t see anyone dropping their Blackberry or Treo for the Iphone in the near future.

-The on screen keyboard which Apple has been trying to assure the world is just as good as dedicated keys has been getting decidedly mixed reviews. Avid SMS/mobile email users need not apply.

-The Iphone’s screen resolution (480*320) is too low for web browsing without significant reformatting of most pages, yet Apple has attempted to display the screen layout as if you were browsing on a desktop. This makes most text far too small to read, necessitating constant zooming and panning. The mobile version of Safari on the Iphone does not support Flash, which for better or worse, has become a defacto standard. It also doesn’t support JAVA. For a desktop like mobile web browsing experience, I recommend the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet. Its 800*480 screen provides a much closer to desktop web browsing experience and it supports flash (if only through version 7, currently).

-There is no Instant Messaging client built in and no ability to easily add one. It doesn’t even work with iChat, Apples own service. I consider web based IM clients to be a very poor alternative and reports are that some of the more popular web based clients do not work with the Safari browser on the Iphone.

-No MMS messaging either way and no ability to attach files within the email app. Apparently, you are supposed to send photos one at a time (only one per email) through email and only to people capable of receiving email.

-No Voice dialing

-No GPS. I know some people could care less about this one, but this has become an increasingly standard feature on phones in this price range.

-Limited ringtone selection and no ability to use mp3’s or AAC files as ringtones.

-No streaming audio support

-Can’t copy/paste and there is really poor integration between all the phone’s built in apps

-No file manager and Iphone doesn’t show up as a UMS. How is one supposed to keep one’s files organized?

-No document editing support or even viewers for most common file types. Again, this makes the Iphone absolutely useless to most of the Treo/Blackberry crowd. Steve Jobs constantly compared it to these phones (mocking them in many ways) and yet the Iphone doesn’t provide much of the functionality that has been taken for granted for years for users of these devices. Oh, you can’t get the Iphone on a business or family plan anyways. Despite all talk to the contrary, it is obvious that the Iphone is for rich, white afluent jerks with more money than sense.

Posted in Mac, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Rants and Raves, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

OSX86 10.4.6 running on VMware Server

Posted by Deliverator on 19th April 2006


At last week’s hacknight, I got to see OSX running on commodity Intel hardware. In particular, it was running on a Dell XPS M170 gaming notebook (one of the new XPS series ones that glow). Unofficial support for non-apple hardware has come along quite a bit, with support for more video cards, non-SSE3 machines (still requires SSE2 minimum), and in the very latest release, support for SATA hard drives. I decided to try it out for myself, so I downloaded an pre-patched image created by someone named Myzar. I ran into one problem after another, trying to install using this iso image in VMware. I managed to resolve one problem after another, but finally bumped into an haulting ACPI error that prevented the system from fully booting after install. I found that Myzar created a new image and had released a PPF differential patch update to patch the previous iso image to OSX version 10.4.6 and also added the option of using a recompiled SSE3 kernel. The default kernel didn’t work, but the recompiled one did the trick. OSX is now running happily in VMware. All the hardware is working (network, sound, usb, etc), except for the video card, which is running with the unaccelerated VGA driver. I ended up having to tweak a lot of VMware settings to get it OSX working properly. Here are some settings I would recommend if you choose to try this at home…

  • Added the line paevm=true to the virtual machine’s .vmx config file. By default, VMware disables support for PAE (physical address extension), a technique for accessing ram > 4 GB on 32 bit CPUs. OSX requires support for PAE to run.
  • Mount the OSX cd image (iso file) using Daemon Tools, and then tell VMware to use the virtual cd-rom created by Daemon Tools. Many PC optical drives have problems with the OSX cds and VMware’s own .iso image mounting doesn’t work well with the HFS+ format cd.
  • Allocate all the hard disk space for your virtual hard disk drive immediately (instead of choosing the option allowing it to grow as space is used).
  • Specify the guest OS type as FreeBSD.
  • Add a USB controller to the list of virtual hardware, but disable the autoconnect option
  • In “host settings” choose the option to fit all guest os memory into reserved memory, rather than allowing for swapping. Produces quite a speedup.

Here are some more pictures of OSX86 running in VMware, as well as some of the error messages I received.

Posted in Emulation and Virtualization, General, Mac, Operating Systems, Tech Stuff | 15 Comments »

It’s Alive!

Posted by Deliverator on 20th May 2005

I finally got OS X 10.4 (aka Tiger) working in Pear PC properly. I had it more or less working yesterday, but some dialogues were displaying as blank and the spotlight thing in the upper right hand corner was showing as a black bar. After trying a number of different things out, I finally hit on the solution. You have to edit the ppc config file to specify a G3 and not a G4 processor. It seems that altivec emulation isn’t quite ready for primetime. Anyways, Tiger now appears to be running without a fault and I have started installing 3rd pary apps and a few hacks (enabling right mouse button/scrollwheel support was top of my list.).

Tiger installed in Pear PC

Posted in Emulation and Virtualization, General, Mac, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

Insert Clever Title Here

Posted by Deliverator on 19th May 2005

Here are some things I have been up to:

  • Been fooling around with the latest builds of PearPC, in particular Prasys’s “Elite” Build. Pear PC has come a LONG way since its release to the public a year ago. Although PearPC is unlikely to get much faster at this point (It currently operates at about a tenth of host PC speed), the latest builds have introduced some neat features like G4 emulation (for application compatibility rather than speed), Sound Support, DVD support, support for 4 EIDE controllers instead of the highly limiting 2 that most build have supported. There are a few projects underway to make the user interface for PPC more friendly, including config builders and installshield type installations (that include a prebuilt disk image). One of the more interesting things coming down the pipe is the ability to suspend/resume an image, revert to a previous image and “differential” imaging. These should make Pear PC much more useful as an application testbed and will let me really cut my teeth on OS-X internals for the first time. In related news, I am taking the time to write this while setting Pear PC to installing Tiger. Thanks to information from a tutorial found here, I think I have an installation procedure that should work (and is much quicker and requires less space than the method used in the article). If you are interested in the details, feel free to email me.
  • Spent a good deal of time doing fundraising for the ROV project. We have yet to find anyone who is willing to donate cash to the project, but a number of local businesses have agreed to supply free parts, at cost parts and logistical support. In particular, I would like to acknowledge Novaray, Silent World, West Marine and Starfish Enterprise Diving for their contributions. We should have their logos up on the Titan Robotics site soon.
  • SIFF starts this weekend and I am just about having an Aneurysm in anticipation. Masochist that I am, I have been preparing for my 13 movie SIFF Schedule of Doom by watching movies that I missed at last year’s SIFF.
  • Went to SWN’s Hacknight which was considerably more technical than last weeks meeting. Matt Westervelt has a good summary at his blog. Hacknights are always a flurry of different conversations. Here are the things that I found most interesting
    • Rob’s Netgear box that runs roofnet isn’t flashy, but has amazing potential to be turned into just about anything. It has a mini-pci slot, making the default radio easy to replace. It has a USB 2.0 host controller, making it easy to hook up to external hard drives and other neat gadgets. It has a pin header for a console supplying serial port (although you do have to add your own ttl->rs232 conversion module. I think Rob should sell kits with directions for this and his and matt’s recent work with the Zippit
    • Rob worked on a script to create Blosxom blog entries starting with pictures emailed from a cameraphone. Should be interesting for those who are into moblogs.
    • Casey (working from afar, not actually at the meeting) has been playing around with video support for IMOB. I really wish Casey could make one of the meetings. I am itching to ask him questions about 1xRTT and EVDO . I might just hop a train to chat him up.

Posted in Emulation and Virtualization, General, Mac, Movies, Tech Stuff, Titan Robotics Club, Wireless | No Comments »

Final Cut Killed My Inner Child

Posted by Deliverator on 9th March 2005

I have been working on a team video editing project called “Smithee’s Lecture” for the last few weeks. It is a 24 minute short film that utilizes green screen and various compositing special effects. It has been a lot of fun as a project, but the last few days have been very frustrating and stressful (particularly in light of my other commitments). The only way to efficiently divy up this project was to assign people specific responsibilies/video segments. James, Amber and I all had our segments of the project finished last Saturday/Sunday, but the fourth member of our team (who reassured us that he was nearly done with his piece and was just polishing stuff up) suddenly stopped responding to emails. Tuesday morning, the date the project is due, the fourth team member (who I will no longer address by name) nonchalantly walks into class and tells us he has it mostly done and just needs some help ironing some stuff out. We take a look at his piece and it is a total *rough* cut. James had to work, so Amber and I have been working our asses off to get this thing done. Luckily, our teacher gives a 2 day grace period on large assignments. We were able to get a final master copy made by 9pm last night. Amber did a bunch of work on it during the day, making a spiffy trailer for our DVD. I have been working since 5:30 this evening on the DVD. iDVD 3 is pretty inadequate for the advanced stuff we wanted to do for the DVD, but we managed to hack it into doing more or less what we wanted. After several hours of transcoding, iDVD finally spit out the finished DVD at 11:05 pm. I still have to whip up a case label and an adhesive disk label to give it a professional spit and polish, so I am going to be at it for another few hours at least. Thankfully, I can do that stuff at home, so I can get out of this lab. For our final project, we are going to do a piece called “Final Cut Killed My Inner Child” :)

Posted in General, Mac | No Comments »