Stories by Tom Yager

A hit and a near miss from Apple

Apple’s first Intel-based Macs, iMac and MacBook Pro, were born into a position of advantage. OS X Tiger, a loyal base of customers and developers, firm ownership of high-margin specialty markets, and high regard in the mainstream have turned everything Apple’s touched (at least since the Titanium PowerBook G4) into gold.

Dell’s close encounter proves to be a smart move

This week’s spike in my job-satisfaction index is sponsored by that least likely of catalysts: Dell. That vendor’s acquisition of the low-volume, high-end PC maker Alienware is so strategically brilliant that I may have to ditch Dell and find a new exemplar for the lack of vision and innovation that typifies the PC market.

Opening the way for Windows on the Mac

On April 4, a date chosen because April Fools’ Day fell on a Saturday, Apple released a freely downloadable beta utility called Boot Camp. The product has one astonishing, if not bizarre, purpose: to give Intel-based Macs the capability to boot and run Windows XP. It doesn’t surprise me that Windows runs on Macs — that was inevitable. Also, by the time Boot Camp was released, open sourcers were within two or three device drivers of achieving that goal without Apple’s help. Indeed, the stout-hearted crew at set up a cash kitty to reward those who solved the problem of Macs’ inability to boot Windows.

Device drivers becoming virtually redundant

There is one area where the DOS era’s “I own the whole system” attitude persists, and it’s a virtualisation millstone: device drivers. You may not realise how ugly the problem and present solution are — or how simple and elegant the real solution will be.

Why Opteron is wasted on Intel x86

AMD has its hands in a lot of technology areas, and I track and report on all of them. I’m a huge fan of AMD’s Athlon FX and X2 client CPUs, Turion notebook CPUs and Geode ultra-low power technology. But I know the AMD you care most about is the one that will turn your entire server room into a one-rack, one-man operation.

My vision of energy-efficient servers

I’ve learned that Intel is wedging notebook CPUs into places they ought not go. The Core Duo CPU, the very same one that’s now in the iMac, MacBook Pro and (cover your ears) the Mac mini, is being branded as a Xeon and sold for blade servers. That’s, well, that’s just not natural, that’s what.

New Apple products have plenty of juice

Last month, I received an invitation to an unveiling of some “fun new products” at Apple’s headquarters. After being dropped into a herd of journalists all crushed into a cubicle, I asked and was assured that there was no trap door.

What virtualisation is — and what it is not

When a computer or an operating system uses software to do anything it normally can’t, the enabling technology tends to get labelled “virtualisation.” Well, don’t believe everything you read about that (except when you read it here). Let’s see what virtualisation is — and isnt.

Net TV won't lead to a gated web

Within the next two weeks, I'll be getting in deep with the Mac and PC technology that will take us into the next decade of internet with every TV. This time, I'm certain it'll catch. Intel's Viiv internet media hub initiative isn't just a brand; it's an orgy of partnerships between system component makers, broadband providers, content owners and electronics giants. Apple, as is its tradition, is partnering with itself, making access to the iTunes Music Store and its .Mac online service an infrared-remote click away through Mac systems and its ingenious Front Row iPod-like GUI.

RIM's BlackBerry will prevail

Several patent hassles facing Research In Motion (RIM) will cost it a good deal of money to resolve, but speculation about the demise of the BlackBerry or its network service is a waste of time. RIM is a company that knows how to tough it out — it’s hung on through a lot worse than this. That seems easy to forget. The media also loses sight of the differences between the BlackBerry and other devices such as PDAs and smartphones with email capability.

Intel’s push for secrecy threatens users

Intel has got thumped in Japan for violating that nation’s anti-monopoly laws. The Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) found that Intel coerced system makers into limiting or eliminating AMD processors in their products. The punishment seemed light: fessing up in public and sending letters to customers to let them know that Intel’s gravy train wasn’t permanently parked. It may be that the JFTC knew that AMD would come along behind to inflict a more severe spanking in the form of a lawsuit.

The iMac perfects the desktop

I have never owned a desktop computer. I own servers. I own scary desk-side systems with 64-bit AMD and IBM G5 CPUs. I have AMD Turion and Apple PowerBook G4 notebooks. In the world of computing, I consider desktop computers the muck at the bottom of the tank that swallows creativity and imagination. They are slapped-together sheet-metal sedatives that carry petty-cash price tags and quality to match.

Dell's Intel intentions

By now, we should be enjoying a true commodity market in which the pricing trends of x86 CPUs track those of other PC components and semiconductors. Today, we're celebrating the US$500 (NZ$720) PC, even though economic forces should have that price closer to US$200. With chip manufacturing capacity and yields being as high as they are, all but the most advanced x86 processors should be readily affordable. They should be as cheap as light bulbs. Well, designer store light bulbs.

Reviving native traditions

I was once renowned and reviled for my lack of regard for Visual Basic. I have since reformed, realising that we all benefit from languages that target developers at different skill levels and shorten the distance between concept and delivery. Modern server computing power and capacity more than offset the performance limitations of Visual Basic and its follow-ons, .Net and Java.