Push Eject needs a new MacBook Pro because his old PowerBook is old. he wants to know how he can sabotage it so it looks like is borked, kaput, done in a way that is hard to fix. the fix cannot be “sink it with your coffee” because then it’s intentionally damaged. 

note from John: this is all in fun. but here’s the thing. old hardware is old hardware. there’s a point at which it needs to be upgraded. it’s costing everyone time. and we all know what time equates to. but even more important is that new hardware makes employees happy. that thousand dollar MacBook or HP Envy is lots cheaper than giving raises. and new things are taken care of while old things are just the target of abuse. run a happy company and stuff doesn’t “just break.” just sayin.

most of the time the company you work for won’t upgrade your computer as long as it’s working. never mind that you’ve used it for the last 5 years. never mind that it’s 3 versions back. hell Vista has come and gone since you got your last computer! the problem is that you’ve tried to justify a new shiny but your “they” won’t budge. so you’re stuck with it until it just doesn’t work anymore.

the computer can’t look like it was done in by the likes of you. it has to look like it “just gave up.” it’s old so it’s possible. but you also have to be aware that some companies can easily justify getting something repaired but getting something new is impossibly hard. 

there are two ways that this can go down and you have to pay attention to this because IT people are smart people. you may have enough computers in the company where people are on staff who’s JOB is to fix problems. or you may have a “computer guy” who does stuff who is really busy with lots of problems. he won’t try very hard to fix your machine so you won’t have to go to great lengths to get new hardware. but the other guys aren’t so easily tricked.

I had to deal with an employee that wanted a new PowerBook. the person complained about it being slow, it crashed for no reason and it was a constant problem. the problem was that when it was tested none of the problems seemed to actually happen. one day it showed up broken. the screen was separated from body. it was pretty clear that it had been intentional dropped. it might have been when he gushed about how a backup had just been made that gave him away. he used one of the desktop Mac’s while I figured out what to do. instead of ordering a new Mac I got parts instead. new screen clutches got purchased from eBay that day and I made the repair soon after. the screen metal on G4 PowerBooks is epoxied together rather then screen so it wasn’t a clean replacement. it required JB Welded to get it back together. but it matched the color of the metal so it wasn’t completely ugly. the Mac worked seemed to work much better for the person after that.

in either case you need to know one thing: what happens to the computer? is it is going away, away, is it used for parts, do machines get fixed instead of replaced. even if you might get to keep using it for something else don’t act too interested in it’s future. but knowing it’s future will help you determine how drastic you have to get with it’s demise.

you can start by complaining. show a clear case that against the hardware: it crashes, it’s slow, I can’t run XXYYZ, the version I need to run doesn’t run OS installed but the new OS doesn’t: support my hardware, video card, PCI bus. show that it’s costing the company money. or make a case that new hardware will help you do your job better. “I’d like to take an online class but my hardware doesn’t support it.” “if I had After Effects CS5 we could save 5 hours a week.” “I’m late on this because the render time is really long.” old hardware can cost your company money. so it’s in everyone’s interest to keep employees happy with newer hardware.

so let’s say that making a case for new hardware didn’t work. it’s time to consider more drastic actions. the worst thing you can do is show up for work after you’ve been bugging about a new something with a borked something. everyone will assume that you dropped it (like my story above) or some other intentional malicious action. you need to be smart about what action you do take. DO NOT try to take apart a computer if you’ve never done it before. DO NOT let somebody else try to do it for you if they don’t do “computers” for a living. you will do more damage than you intended.

a better option is to be invisibly careless with how you use it. plug it into the wall at a meeting even if the battery working. be sure to sit in place where everyone has to step over the power cord. eventually somebody will trip over that cord.

here are some non-damaging ways to make a Mac (or Windows) slow. there are few that we know.

    load up on Fonts with no manager. install as many as you can find. Word and Illustrator are two programs that load so incredibly slow when overloaded with fonts. so slow it will drive you nuts.

    make the hard drive 99% full. OS X and Windows use virtual memory for performance. it the disk is space starved performance will greatly suffer. the machine will run slower and slower and it might even kernel panic.

hardware hacks that to make your hardware look like its running but will make it go away:

    replace the hard drive with one that click, clicks.
    the power supply connector is always a weak link. especially on old notebooks. this can be bent off the circuit board.
    cut just one of the VGA lines.
    use clear nail polish to cover one of the critical connectors.
    super glue a bad battery. “yeah, it was falling out all the time so I did that.”
    make real kernel panics with bad RAM. but RAM can be replaced.
    make one of keys or more keys not work by cutting the rubber dome slightly. which key? try offing one of the keys in your assigned password.
    iron filings.

remember you are doing this for the greater good of the company. but you DO NOT want to get caught in the lie that you are trying to pull off. you could get fired. you might have to pay for the damage. it will go down on your permanent record. we do not condone damaging hardware intentionally that can still do real work. we did not tell you it was okay to damage company property. it’s not yours to destroy.

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Reusing Old Stuff

trevor: what to do with an old G3 or Pentium?
the world: pretty much it’s so old that it’s old. recycle it.

don’t listen to the world, Trevor! there’s lots of life left in that old, old Mac (or Pentium). we’ve got lots of ideas about what it might do. but we know you wouldn’t make a $1000-2500 computer do something dumb. it’s too expensive and too useful to use for something that is for art. it’s always hard to justify dedicating a computer to a single task like scanning, playing music, or displaying information. but that changes when the machine is free or nearly free! while you wouldn’t think of using a ten year old computer for day to day work it’s certainly powerful enough to do hundreds of dullard tasks.

but before you get excited about putting memory lane back in to production here are the some rules or guidelines to help you:

the rules of reuse:

    -1) some things are too old.
    0) free is good. nearly free is okay too.
    1) don’t get sentimental about what the hardware was to you.
    2) don’t spend money on making it better. use it like it is.
    3) okay, you can replace the hard drive(s) and noisy fans. we like SSD drives for this!
    4) take out what you don’t need to reduce the power footprint. cards like modems. old CD/DVD drives. 
    5) clean the case. completely take it apart to remove the dust.
    6) as long as you have it apart paint it!
    7) ditch the CRT unless it’s built in. VNC, SSH or PC Remote into it.
    8) don’t try to run the latest software
    9) keep it specific to one task. maybe two. okay three. but that’s it!
    10) have fun. if you break it that’s okay. there’s more.

here’s the details on what the guys at Panic made for their work place. it’s got lots of useful data in one glance.

but what could it do for you?

    alarm clock
    remember keyboard hacking is a easy way to get inputs
    what else can a mouse do?
    weather station
    scan station
    MP3 Jukebox
    web cam
    wall art
    GarageBand station
    stop mo camera controller
    Home Automation
    Show Me My Today
    run OS 9
    run OS/2

the best old stuff tools to have:

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GarageBand Revisited

when was the last time you played with GarageBand? I was inspired to revisit the tool. I found it be as fun as it was the first time I played. what was the inspiration?

I while ago I was given a real copy of the movie “It Might Get Loud” that features Jack White, Edge and Jimmy Page telling stories and playing guitar. it’s a movie that I didn’t get distracted by outside forces and watched it from beginning to end without doing anything but watch. except I had to pause it about 13 minutes in because there was a mind blow. Edge is showing off his old demo tapes made with a 4 track cassette based tape recorder. the very basis for the band was created on the most basic of recording equipment. and later in the movie Jack White records a one-take on a reel-to-reel deck using a microphone and a guitar. it’s the best modern examples of musicians making with whatever they had. that early Four Track wasn’t the best but it ran on batteries and you could make real songs on it. the reel-to-reel recording shows off that you can make song using any recording technology.

the modern equivalent of those recorders is GarageBand (and other apps that are similar to it). GarageBand was released in January of 2004 at Macworld Expo. the demo was captivating. sure, there were other recording sequencers but they cost more, were way more complex and they didn’t come with a new Mac. sure you would eventually hit the wall or the ceiling with GarageBand making you seek a different tool. but this was the same exact thing that happened with MacPaint back in 1984.

simply, that GarageBand comes with every Macintosh is amazing.

there are four main functions of GarageBand: recording, virtual instruments, MIDI editing and Music Lessons. you can record your own songs, podcast or practically everything you’d need to record. music is not a requirement of recording. meaning if you need to dictate something GarageBand can do that job.

the hardest part about GarageBand is that it’s an instrument. it’s to you to practice using it because it’s not instantly intuitive. so far the best way to get started with it is to watch somebody showing you around. or watch the how-to-videos on Apple. you don’t want to wait until it’s time to record the band for your first time to use it. why? because you’ll want to turn off that annoying metronome. you’ll want to know how to set levels. you’ll need to know how to switch inputs. and anything else that will stop you from recording. you want it to be part of you not something against you.

that’s what I did when GB first came out. it took days of my time. I made songs for people. I learned about different effects it had. I found out how powerful it was as an editor and later I recorded podcasts with it.

for learning about how to mix multiple tracks there are some very good example files that will help you. multimixing isn’t obvious until GarageBand you may have never been exposed to the task. that’s why you should see how other people do it. Nine Inch Nails and Ben Folds have released real tracks of songs. also Jonathan Coulton released the parts and pieces of Code Monkey. you don’t have to be a fan of the music to play with the tracks as there is lots to learn from having “real” to rearrange.

if you want to really get “good” at GarageBand you have to treat it like an instrument and practice. that means making beats, laying down tracks, and arranging things. and you don’t have to download anything extra to do that. there are thousands of loops and beats installed on your Mac already. play everything to get an idea of what it can do. spend an hour every other day. play every loop, play every keyboard, and try out all the amps. use Search to find specific sounds. mess with the effects to see what they do. and change the keyboards to all the different styles.

speaking of Keyboard: you don’t need a music keyboard to play the keyboards as you can use your keyboard to do that. Shift-Command-K will bring up a “virtual” one octave keyboard. find the sound set called Radio and press G.

okay so you don’t “need” an instrument to “play it” because it is an instrument. but let’s say you want to. if you don’t already have a electric piano or a guitar please don’t run down to your music store and thrown down money. why? because there have been enough instruments purchased on the road to good intention. instead spend a little time looking for a used axe. these are the instrument that get used for a while, then then get put aside and they sit until the day they need to go. you can always find something unloved for less money which will totally do the job. the bottom line is don’t get big eyes about something that might not like.

Garage Band can be a better tool if you do some things to help it. if you have an older Mac dedicate it to your studio. that way it can be set up and ready to go when it’s time to jam. an old iMac G5 with any size screen will do. or an old MacBook. remember the first ones are coming up on 4 years old now. get some control surface(s) like the mini Korg that has knobs, sliders and drum pads. if you want a keyboard watch craigslist or your local want ads. there are always deals to be had. and for recording your voice any of the $100 USB mics are nice. or get an interface like the Fast Track which will allow you to plug in a Mic and a Guitar.

Windows? what about Windows! there are Windows equivalents to Garage Band.

eventually you may grow up and out of GarageBand. the two versions of Logic will import your GB projects. and any of them can read the raw MIDI files and AIFF files the program creates allowing you recreate your creation.

    Ableton Live
    Pro Tools
    Digital Performer

other stuff mentioned on the show:

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making the iPhone camera better

it’s been said that the best camera you own is the one that is in your pocket. this makes the camera in an iPhone the best thing for millions of people. but we find the camera amazingly craptacular.

one of the things that makes the iPhone camera so accessible is that it’s very easy to use. click the Camera icon then click the shutter button. shoot simple. and that is just fine for most of the situations where you use the camera. it works and that’s most important. but we find that there is so much more that this camera can do with just a little extra software.

we talk about a lot of apps on the show. some of them are free but most of them cost a few dollars. you don’t have to buy everything but if you did it would set you back about what dinner and a movie costs. in other words not much.

one thing that we didn’t talk about on the show is that you should try to learn all these camera apps at the same time. just get one at a time spending a few hours learning how to make it work. that way when it’s time to enhance, crops, pano or scale you’ll have an idea of what you can do instead of head scratching about what to do.

My workflow comes down to nine apps at this point and I could probably trim it a little further. Here’s a quick overview:

TrueHDR: A surprisingly good iPhone tone-mapping app. Grab a bright exposure, grab a dark one, let it do it’s magic. It won’t push the colors into fairy-tale painterly glowing halo land, but it will help you make the most of the limited iPhone exposure tools. It does a great job of aligning both photos too since you’re shooting handheld.

AutoStitch and Pano: both are similar with slightly different work flow. Frankly, if there was a full OS X or Windows app that could do panoramic stitching as easily and seamlessly as these apps on a <$25 budget I think it would be quite successful. I'm sure the low resolution helps, but these are also a great way to increase your maximum shooting resolution if you can move further in and take multiple photos. Liquid Scale: One of the coolest apps on my phone, I wish I had more use for it actually. Basically it takes the smart rescaling technology that debuted a few years ago in research circles and was introduced commercially in Photoshop CS4.

ColorSplash: Mostly superflous but it does something none of my other apps doe. selective desaturating. I’ve used it once or twice but keep it around just in case.

Now for the four I use the most.

TiltShift & TiltShiftGen: Let’s you get some fake tilt-shift lens effects. TiltShift has better tools for controlling what to blur but TiltShiftGen adds really nice blown out exposure to it’s blurring. Both can be used for really subtle effects for focussing your eye on a key area without getting really stylized.

Mill Colour: I do almost all of my color correction with Mill Colour. Having an iPhone app based on the Mill’s color grading suite is both cool and really refined. It isn’t the easiest app to use, the changes you make are very gradual but that’s what I love about it. Mill Colour has primarily replaced all the canned effects apps.

Naked touch: Odd name, “I’m using naked touch on my phone right now,” but it’s the most powerful traditional photo-editing app I’ve seen. Features include sharpness, noise reductions, shadow and highlight contrast controls, levels, curves, contrast and brightness, white balance, color balance, intensity and saturation. All parallel the features you’re used to on a desktop app though with some simplifications. I also do all my cropping with it.

That’s my cheapish iPhone photography setup. I’ve listed them in my order of workflow too, it’s a surprisingly functional system for an iPhone, it’s not instant like the effects apps but it gives me a lot more control that I really enjoy.

–Chris White

And one more…

Camera for iPad is actually a universal app by purpose, despite the name. It’s a tethering app, lets you use your iPhone as a camera for the iPad, displaying a viewfinder on the iPad’s display, and even using the iPad’s display as a flash when snapping.

–Dave Chartier

so this camera tool call GorillaCam (that has the low cost of free) needs 3.1 iPhone OS to run. I’m all about some of the things that are offered in the app as long as using it doesn’t take longer then the camera app that Apple provides. Grid is essential to learning to shoot better pictures. the self timer, continuous, three frame and one touch features bring that thing in line with my Canon.

thinking out loud about Grid for a second. it’s nice that the basic rule of thirds is here. but, and maybe this is an opportunity, I’d like to see other grids. because not everything is so simple as 3rds forcompositon. it sure would be nice to have different grids. like center, center with a ring. 15%, 20%, 30% square, 30 degree parallel lines on the horizontal, 16 squares, and 10% & 20% from the edge lines are all useful depending on the situation. all these would greatly aid shooting portraits, group shots, buildings, etc.

my only complaint is the startup page graphics are fuggly. but aside from that the software runs just fine. and it’s nice to not have to wait to take the next shot. just click, click, click and then it takes time to catch up.

–John Foster

links to the app Dave uses:
Camera Plus Pro
QuadCamera – Multishoot

links to the apps Chris uses:
Mill Colour
Naked touch
AutoStitch Panorama
Liquid Scale

Note that some of those are overlapping, TiltShiftGen is fast, TiltShift is more powerful. Naked touch and PhotoForge are both trying to be Photoshop for the iPhone. AutoStitch and Pano do the same thing but you use Pano to take photos while AutoStitch stitches photos you’ve already taken.

We’re playing with ProHDR right now as an alternative as it has better ratings. we saw it when looking up the TrueHDR link.

camera apps for Kids:
LEGO Photo
Funny Face Symmetry

other interesting photography apps:

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the “i” stands for imaginary. and the PDA stands for whatever PDA used to stand for. funny that as I write this I simply cannot remember what the words that acronym shortens. and I don’t feel like searching for the factoid because it doesn’t matter. odd the things we don’t remember.

but I’m serious about the “i”. because iPad is a game changer exactly like the Mac 128 was in 1984. things that we thought we knew about computing are no longer true. stuff that know from our culture of computing could be considered obsolete much the same way the PC ended the dominance of the IT department in the 80’s. it’s amazing what happens when you take the priests out of the equation. so the best way to approach this future is to make it up as you go.

want to know how game changing it is? put it on the table and show some pictures. everyone around the table can easily see them. you aren’t gathered around it like a TV. it’s more like a camp fire. so instead of think about the top of the screen you have to think about how there are four sides. there isn’t a visible keyboard unless you need one so the controls are no longer arrow, ESC, RETURN or F-Anything. it’s exactly the same thing that happened with the Mac. if you want to change the rules of the game you have to take the expectations of how it used to work away.

it’s interesting looking back on what I wrote (it’s the software and tablet thoughts ) prior to the iPad making it’s entrance. one of the things that I could not know is how dependent the iPad would be on another computer in it’s 1.o release. the fact that it relies on iTunes seems to be a mistake. but it’s how iPhone works so you live with that. although moving forward it will have to work independently without help from another device. sure it will always be able to sync with something but it won’t be a requirement.

this is Craig’s drawing that he spent most of the show doodling.

links to developer tools mentioned:
Unity 3D

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iPad. Thoughts?

Yesterday MJ asked me: “iPad. Thoughts?

here is my answer:
we didn’t buy one for the office. thought about it. talked about it. but didn’t.

I’m sure it will be a wonderful experience for lots of people. but for the things that I do, or rather, all of us do in our day to day it’s not going to help.

sure, I can see using one to help me produce the podcasts, but paper works too. I do lots of reading on my iPhone and maybe the iPad would be a better experience yet the reason I’m reading is because it’s in my pocket. there’s the presentation possibilities for clients yet we have a BIG screen in a conference room for that.

but the biggest reason I waited was I’m really not into the idea of 1.o products. this thing is a thing that is here to stay. having one on Saturday won’t change that at all.

I’m not waiting for 2.o or the for the next hardware reversion. I will get one between now and the next 6 months. I just don’t like being first anymore. let the other kids learn first and steal from that.

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Single App mode in OS X

there are lot’s of odd leftovers inside OS X that can actually be useful. take Single App Mode for example. useability studies showed that new users were often confused as to what window was what when using a Mac for the first time. and out of that study came a feature that made it less confusing. the solution was that as you switched from App to App the old app would automatically hide uncluttering the screen allowing you to totally focus on your task. but Mac users are a picky lot meaning that long time users complained about app hiding as default behavior meaning it didn’t make the 1.o cut. for whatever reason the feature can be turned on using a command line incantation. it turns out to be useful! and it’s very easy to turn on allowing you to try it for yourself.

you need to open the Terminal then copy/paste these two CLI incantations to turn on Single App Mode

defaults write single-app -bool true
killall Dock

if you decide you can’t take it anymore use these to commands to change it back.

defaults delete single-app
killall Dock

here’s the Tidbit’s article.

the other tool that Kenji talked about is called Hyperspaces. it let’s you choose the background image for each one of your spaces. this is a can help you recognize what space is up more quickly.

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G4 NAS drive MK3

the Mark Three is the last of version of the G4 NAS Drive project. the idea started back in the day when the readyNAS hit the scene. it was the first of the “appliance servers”. it’s only problem was it’s cost. without drives it was around $800.

I realized that an older G4 was roughly the same specs at the readyNAS in terms of CPU speed, bus speed, memory and if you installed a few bits of software onto a standard OS X one could gain specific permissions for file/folder sharing making it more like a server instead of a share. OS X 10.5 would make these tools unnecessary. but getting 10.5 installed on the older hardware is a trick. and while it can be done it and it works just fine it’s not supported.

the reality of the G4 NAS is that it’s really just a G4 Server. I used the word NAS as a way to draw attention to the project and to hit home that it’s really easy to setup and run OS X so it behaves like a server. yes, you can run OS X Server on the G4. it will run 10.4 just fine. running the newer OS X 10.5 Server requires a mac with better specs. you’ll find it much harder to get a more modern G4 for free or nearly free though.

the G4 machines I used for this project were retired hardware that had been purchased new. eventually they were deemed too old to do day to day work. in addition the machines that were made into NAS drives were passed over for faster G4 macs when a gift or donation was made to somebody who needed a machine. they were pretty much unloved.

the G4 NAS had three distinct versions. it was always a work in progress. each was based on a Sawtooth G4 upgraded with as much RAM possible. RAM is a particular problem because the G4 needs specific timing making it hard to find today.

Mk1 – RAID1 two 500G PCI SATA card.
Mk2 – RAID5 four 250G 3.5 drives PCI RAID card
Mk3 – RAID5 four 500G 2.5 drives PCI RAID card

the write up for the Mk1 reveals that there isn’t much to making the upgrade. it’s as simple as plugging in a card and mounting two hard drives. then formatting the drives using the Disk Utilities as RAID1.

problems with the MK2
there wasn’t an article for the Mk2. mostly because the build was completely complicated. it required cutting the metal case to wedge in the SATA backplane to hold the drives. this required removing everything from the case: drives, motherboard, power supply. I also had to cut the plastic bezel front. the first attempt basically ruined a case and a bezel. undaunted, because I had more than one, the second mac came out okay. and it was in use until recently. but it had problems. it’s power supply had died for the third time making it was clear that it was over taxed. this wasn’t a good solution for anyone expecting reliability.

the thinking behind the MK3
the MK3 G4 NAS drive upgraded the Mk1 which has been running continuously for three years. in that time both of it’s hard drives had failed. and one of the SATA cables also went mysteriously bad. this caused random server lock ups. fortunately Seagate promptly replaced both failed drives. and I had lots of SATA cables around.

what I really wanted was a more reliable Mk2. there were a few ways to achieve this. one was to brain transplant into a case that was more suitable to the task. but that came with a cost and more work. retrofitting a larger power supply isn’t hard but soldering wires together is beyond the skill set of the wide spread audience.

one day while searching for something else I found a a backplane made for 2.5″ hard drives. this tiny thing is the size of a 5.25″ device like a CD/DVD drive. the cage holds four 2.5″ hard drives. the drives are on sleds allowing them to be “hot swapped”. cooling is provided by a small fan that has speed control. it’s pretty small and slick.

this setup has three really big advantages compared to the 3.5″ version.

1) less heat.
2) uses less power. all four drives use less then one 3.5″ drive.
3) virtually no noise.

unlike the Mk2 that was an invasive build the Mk3 wasn’t a big deal. the drive backplane slid into the space where the DVD drive was before. in the three years that it ran the MK1 I never burned a DVD from here so it’s not a loss. once installed I plugged the cables into the controller I took the from the Mk2. I also connected the power. that was it. installed.

formatting it to working
formatting the hard drives required “logging into the controller” using a web browser that asked for a username and password. the card listed all the hard drives, I formatted them, then created the RAID5. the final step was the format the array again using Disk Utility. this is important because it reveals the RAID part is invisible to the Mac. it just thinks of it as a big volume.

the RAID5 took 20 hours to format. which is typical on this class of controller. even a Drobo has formatting that it must complete before it can be rebuild itself. I found that I could use the drive normally during this process. however, if a drive were to fail at this point no data would be recoverable.

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there are people that right now aghast at the thought of using a “laptop” drive for a server. I think this is a better drive compared to the larger drive. both have a similar MTBF. plus the smaller drive produces less heat because it uses less energy. I have found that the larger drives don’t seem to stand the test of time. in the three years that the MK1 was running I replaced both drives. these are “server” class Seagate with 5 year warrantees. and the Mk2 proved that over loading a power supply will kill it.

I’ve written that a drive has a useful life of three years. after that the next series of drives is available: more capacity and smaller power requirements. it’s a good idea to move with progress. I can’t imaging how much has been lost because copying data forward to more modern hardware wasn’t part of the plan.

the future?
the G4 is 10 years old. while there are fast G4 to be had the later Mac’s aren’t always better. especially the last one. it’s so noisy that you will hate it being on unless you change all the fans inside. also because of it’s speed we don’t always see these for free or low cost. the over 1Ghz seems to make them useful. even if you go with newer hardware there are no more software updates for this Mac. half of the line was left behind with OS X 10.4 and the other half get dropped with 10.5. these Macs continuing to run are only doing so because of the diligence I’ve taken to keep them running. free is a motivating factor. so is because I can.

while the G5 has some advantages the line is splintered. the PCI bus changes slightly with each build. but worse is it uses an obscene amount of power compared to the G4. even though it has a huge case there isn’t much room inside of it for mods although I’ve eyed that area where the PCI slots are. but the best reason to skip it is that PPC hit the end of the upgrade line with OS X 10.6. it really is game over turn out the lights for this Mac.

I am very likely going to experiment with the modern Mac Mini (Intel) as a platform. it’s small, doesn’t use much power, and doesn’t need a fan. it also has possibilities for re-casing. as in dump the tiny case putting the guts in something that will make the hard drives more easy to deal with.

there are interesting mods that could be added like a 5 way drive controller allowing the Mini to talk to 10T of storage.

other future
from a DIY point of view FreeNAS or OpenFiler have bright futures. an old Intel or AMD box can be had for free (or nearly free) giving you the same platform advantage as the G4. although you will want to re-fan it for quiet. I plan on re-useing our 3.5″ backplane for either of these projects. FreeNAS has a ZFS possibility. OpenFiler is the new kid with new ideas. both of these mean you have to depart from the Mac-dom. which shouldn’t be a big deal really, it just means you might have to learn something new.

there are still lots of commercial offerings that you might consider if you don’t want to roll your own. especially if the benefits of support and a warrantee are important to you. devices to check out include the readyNAS, Lacie, QNAP, Buffalo, Freecom, Addonics, and that very inexpensive Intel NAS. if you decide to go this way let us know how the device you choose works out for you.

RAID controller
HighPoint RocketRAID 1740 PCI Card $119 (pulled from the Mk2)
an altenate card is the Rosewill RC-217 4 Port PCI RAID Card we did NOT tested this card.

Drives and backplane
4 Fujitsu 500GB 2.5″ Hard Drive hard drives.
2.5″ Hot Swap Backplane RAID cage 4 x 2.5″ HDD in 1 x 5.25″ bay $50
SATA cables $12 for four

the old back plane is a
ICY DOCK MB674SPF-B 4 in 3 SATA I & II Backplane Raid Cage

total cost
RAID card $119
backplane $55
drives $79 each
total $490

MK1 build pictures
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MK3 build pictures
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it's the software not the tablet

it’s oddly boring watching everyone raw-rawing the tablets. but so far nobody has shown the magical thing missing from them. you see, you simple can’t take desktop functions, lose the mouse and the keyboard and expect it to be great. it can never be. repurposing is not the answer.

it’s the software. it’s always been about the software. if you go back in to time and look at the “Digital Lifestyle” video you will instantly see this. the idea is simple. that is do things that are hard, heavy lifting tasks and make them mundane. computers got popular with writing, calculating and presenting words and numbers. this was what computers did all through the 80’s and 90’s for the most part.

today we have cameras that do video and stills. editing either used to be a chore. mostly because images take a lots of disk space and video takes even more. on top of that the colors that a computer could show were limited by the display. today my iPhone can capture video streaming it to a web server without me thinking about it. and my iPod nano can capture video and it’s just one more step to get it shared. these things used to take hours to accomplish, you had to have some skills, and it certainly wasn’t cheap.

the point about this is that video and audio is now just part of the conversation the same way that using a werp, calculator and projector moved from their techie roots. you plug in your camera to your Mac and it asks “want me to move those photos?” when I first saw this happen the world changed. the same way it changed when I clicked on “make photo book”, arranged, cropped, uploaded and clicked buy. the same way it changed when video was “just there” in the Twitter feed.

so when you think about what’s next you see that it’s not a hardware problem to solve. hardware is not the problem. the iPod Touch is a great example of modern marvel. there isn’t much to it. it’s mostly screen and battery. the CPU and memory make up about 10% of it’s mass. so scaling an iPod to bigger means that you have room for a way bigger battery, better camera(s) and screen that has room to do more than just tap, tap with your thumbs. and this is the secret to making this awesome.

but what awesome is it going to be?

what do I need to do that my iPhone and more importantly my Mac can already do? start looking at iLife for starters. if it only did that it would be interesting. edit video, edit, sort, tag and share pictures, manage music.

except you have to take things away so it’s not just the iLife experience we already know. the first thing to take away is what iPhone did: take away the file system. I don’t really need to know where my music, pictures and books are on the device. I need access to them to be sure but there are better ways to display content then a directory of files. I don’t find a picture by searching for IMG_7083.JPG because that has no meaning. I certainly know what it looks like, when I took it or where I took it. finding that one shot among 1000’s of pictures can happen very quickly when you do a visual-spatial search. a huger problem to solve will be with ingesting media. there are no good ways to get pictures and video from a camera to storage other than a computer.

so now you can imagine how iLife makes sense. how that thought and tools that we haven’t thought of are what becomes the killer “slate”. speaking of slate. slate was how kids used to learn to write. it wasn’t paper. it was a tablet that used chalk.

so lets add—”and do classes” to one of the things the tablet does really well.

we have loads of music. related but not the same are classes on any subject in audio and video. the Album format that was recently introduced could also be a way to deliver courseware. it’s not a jump to see that iWork is what makes this happen. it’s not that big of a jump in the changes to the tools needed to make them perfect for class creation. these tools might not run on a tablet but they certainly can play the content there.