TV-PGDecember 21, 2001: Did we say Mac OS X 10.1.2 wasn't out yet? Apple proves us wrong. Meanwhile, the mothership makes it abundantly clear that some Macs that are only fifteen months old have graphics chips that Mac OS X will never fully support, and Mac OS Rumors floats the remote possibility that Uncle Steve's playing around with some seriously wacky enclosures for the G5...
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Not The End Of The World (12/21/01)
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Wouldn't you know it? Less than half an hour after we broadcast a scene yesterday about how Mac OS X 10.1.2 wasn't out yet, faithful viewer Michael Dunne wrote in to let us know that it had suddenly shown up in Software Update. Evidently the universe enjoys making us look bad-- which is perfectly fine with us, provided we get the goods to distract us from our hurt feelings. Unfortunately, when the cosmos smacks us down for saying something's not out yet, it's always just little stuff like a 10.1.2 update. Just once we'd like to say something like "that quad-processor 2 GHz Power Mac G5 with a 36-inch Cinema Display isn't out yet" only to find one sitting on our doorstep thirty minutes later. Yeah, that'd show us.

Anyway, while we're normally pretty cautious about such things, last night we were feeling a bit saucy, so we plunged forth and clicked "Update Now" without so much as a glance at MacFixIt to see if the updater had been causing widespread mayhem and laying waste to small villages. One day later, we're able to report that, at least in our experience, 10.1.2 is completely benign; all of our data is right where we left it, and the only noticeable problem was that our Internet prefs had been reset to default values, meaning that Internet Explorer fired up once until we got things pointing back to OmniWeb. A less eventful update we've yet to encounter.

Most other people appear to have gotten off similarly light, although there are definitely a few glitches cropping up here and there; 10.1.2 appears to have broken support for the Toshiba PDR-M70 digital camera, as well as for certain USB memory card readers. MacFixIt also mentions apparent issues with Virtual PC and Now Up-To-Date and Now Contact, but we assume that those products just need a minor tweak to get going again. Like we said, minor stuff. If you were hoping for widespread reports of Macs running 10.1.2 becoming self-aware, sprouting spiked metal tentacles, and bloodily taking over their households in a coordinated bid for world domination and a future in which humans are merely slaves to our mechanized overlords (and really, who wasn't?), sadly, this is not the update you've been waiting for.

In fact, despite the update's 30 MB worth of heft, we have to say, we don't notice any difference after having applied it. That's more of a testament to how little we actually do on our PowerBook, though, rather than a slight on 10.1.2 itself. After all, among other things, the update improves USB and FireWire device support (we don't connect any), adds support for PC Card storage devices and media readers (we don't own any), adds IrDA modem support (means nothing to us, but according to The Register it's a big deal overseas), improves networking (ours worked fine anyway) and printing (we don't print), and includes a newer version of the Apache web server (which we've never used). In short, the update is nifty-- but if you mostly use Mac OS X to check the TV Guide listings and confirm obscure actor sightings via IMDb without having to get up off the couch, then you can probably take it or leave it.


 
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Kinda Sorta Supported (12/21/01)
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Before now, we've never really bothered to address the issue of Mac OS X's lack of support for a whole slew of ATI graphics chipsets found in several "supported" Macs. For those of you who aren't aware, as of yet, while Mac OS X as a whole will run on Macs with those unsupported chips (such as tray-loading iMacs and "Lombard" G3 PowerBooks), graphics speed on those systems reportedly leaves a lot to be desired; QuickTime performance is abysmal compared to that under Mac OS 9 on the same hardware, and OpenGL on those Macs apparently lacks any sort of hardware acceleration whatsoever, so 3D applications limp along like a drunk sloth with three sketchy ankles.

The reason why we've never bothered to get indignant about this before is because we've always given Apple the benefit of the doubt; we had reason to believe that support for those chipsets was coming, though it'd be a little late. That only made sense, after all-- Apple needs to prioritize its development to support the Macs it sells right now first and foremost, since Mac OS X is shipping preloaded on those systems' hard drives. It wouldn't look good, for instance, if a brand new Power Mac shipped to a reviewer at a major newspaper with 3D, QuickTime, and even Aqua performance so poor it'd have said reviewer clawing his or her eyes out in frustration while owners of two-year-old Macs were happily noodling away, awash in a frenzy of high-res trailer downloads. But we'd always assumed (and yes, we had at least a teensy shred of evidence upon which to base our assumptions) that support for those older ATI chipsets would be filled in over time as the updates and upgrades kept rolling along.

Unfortunately, it seems we were wrong, wrong, wrong; as of yesterday, Apple has officially stated that "further Mac OS X support" for the ATI RAGE II+, IIc, Pro, Pro Turbo, LT Pro, and Mobility chipsets "is not planned." It doesn't get much blunter than that. And while it's not exactly a Greek tragedy or anything, we have to admit we're a little disappointed with Apple for taking that stance. After all, Apple clearly lists OpenGL and QuickTime as two key components of its "fundamental" media layer; at the same time, it also has plenty of Macs on its list of Mac OS X "supported hardware" that shipped with the above-listed graphics chips. In other words, lots of "supported" Mac hardware isn't supported when it comes to graphics acceleration-- and apparently never will be.

It strikes us as "not right" that Apple has absolutely no intention of providing the same level of graphics support for an 18-month-old iBook that was (and is) listed as a fully-supported machine under Mac OS X as it does for later systems. If you agree, you might consider signing this petition; generally speaking, we suspect that online petitions are about as effective a method of facilitating change as yelling in French at a casaba melon, but we doubt it could hurt. We should also note that Apple has shown its willingness to incorporate feature requests made by its customers in the past, so you might also want to stop by the Mac OS X feedback page and formally request graphics hardware acceleration for your semi-supported Mac if such a thing is important to you. If enough people want it, we've no doubt that Apple will take some form of action-- even if that action is just the removal of all those Macs from the list of supported hardware. D'oh!!


 
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What, No Icosahedron? (12/21/01)
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Lastly, what better way to kick off the weekend than with a rumor so goofy, even Mac OS Rumors classifies it as "far-out"? Yes, as faithful viewer Echo Geometer Smythe informed us, that venerable clearing-house of Apple-flavored dirt is back-- and not just "back" like last Monday's "the server's alive but the content is lacking" back. This time around, MOSR's got some actual juice... though you may want to think twice before taking a big ol' swig of it. Especially if you're driving later.

Here it is, in all its wacky glory: MOSR reprinted a letter from a reader who claims that his friend overheard a drunk Apple-employed design engineer tell someone that the Power Mac G5's enclosure will be "a perfect dodecahedron." What's a dodecahedron, you ask? Clearly you're neither a math geek nor someone who played too much Dungeons & Dragons as a sullen teen. (Gamers and ex-gamers: it's the twelve-sided die.) Simply put, it's a solid with twelve faces; a perfect dodecahedron is one whose twelve faces are all equal and regular pentagons. For those seriously unversed in the terms of geometry (or, indeed, the buildings in Washington, D.C.), a pentagon is a shape with five sides. Get it? Five sides? G5?

Your level of belief in the plausibility of this rumor depends largely on whether you accept that Steve Jobs doesn't have a cube fetish (as the NeXT Cube and the Power Mac G4 Cube both suggest), but rather a "perfect solid" fetish, of which his predilection for cubes was merely a symptom. Of course, then you also have to decide whether, according to your definition of "reliable source," a rumors site's reader's friend's drunk Apple-employed partymate actually qualifies. If you can get past both of those hurdles, though, you've got one really nifty piece of hardware to look forward to. Enjoy! And welcome back, MOSR; this one was definitely worthy of your "comeback special."


 
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