THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL LIVE UPDATE
The biggest story these days in the computer business, at least until Apple gets around to releasing some more new hardware, is the ease of running Windows on the new Intel-based Macs. So I’ve devoted two shows, so far, to the subject. On April 13th, we featured John Rizzo, of MacWindows.com and a return visit by Macworld’s Rob Griffiths. A new application that promises to run Windows and the Mac OS side-by-side with top performance was discussed by Benjamin H. Rudolph of Parallels. It was enough to sorely tempt me to give Parallels Workstation a run for its money.
In addition, we were joined by Mike Baldwin, Senior Product Manager, Symantec, who talked about about the new Mac version of pcAnywhere. Symantec has been producing remote control software for years and, with version 12.0, it’s a cross-platform product that works with the Mac OS, Windows and Linux. You can even use it at home, to help a relative master their Mac, or just get them out of trouble.
On April 20th, we’ll be joined by Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus and Jason Snell, Editorial Director of Mac Publishing. The discussions will take the issues of Windows support on the new MacIntels to the next level. Another guest will be announced shortly.
As to our other show, “The Paracast,” on April 18th, we’ll be spending an evening with Stanton T. Friedman. He’s a nuclear physicist and UFO investigator and strives to take a very scientific approach to his work. This is one interview that had the potential to cover so much ground, we couldn’t limit it to just 40 or 45 minutes. If you listeners like the approach, we’ll devote the full show to other notables in the future.
And don’t forget our weekly contests. So far we’ve given away such prizes as iPod shuffles, iPod accessories, memory upgrades, network music players, video tuner/recorders, software and books. More great prizes will be offered in the weeks to come.
If you haven’t heard our program, be sure to visit The Tech Night Owl LIVE Web site to listen to our archives or download the Podcast version. Enjoy.
THE MAC OS AND WINDOWS: WELCOME TO THE SILLY SEASON
Although such things are usually expected during the dog days of summer, when the temperature is 100 degrees in the shade, it appears that the release of Boot Camp has brought things to a head far earlier. In fact, I sometimes wonder whether some people are smoking or imbibing some mighty strange substances to come up with some of the ideas I’ve read about.
Consider, for example, the possible impact of being able to boot from the Mac OS to Windows and back again. This would seem to be nothing more than an extension of something we’ve been able to do on a Mac for quite a while. At one time, in fact, both Apple and third parties sold so-called DOS cards, which allowed you to place the guts of a PC inside your Mac. Via software, you could switch between the two environments and enjoy the best advantages of both. Well, maybe, because such products were perennially bug ridden, and getting full peripheral support and decent performance from the PC side was a hit-or-miss proposition.
The other solution, more workable, was emulation. At one time, we had SoftWindows and Virtual PC, although the former didn’t survive the competition from the latter, even though it was superior from a performance standpoint. Microsoft has made Virtual PC a pretty decent emulator with a slick interface, except for the fact that performance is pathetic. You’d also think that they’d be able to come out with a Universal or Intel-based version pretty quickly, but, no. All you get are excuses embedded in corporate-speak, without any concrete answers.
For now, Microsoft is going to have to work real hard to take the lead now that there are credible alternatives to run Windows on your Mac. If Boot Camp doesn’t do it for you, and you don’t want to have to waste two or three minutes rebooting and moving from one platform to the other, it does appear that Parallels Workstation shows real promise. It’s still public beta, but appears to perform much better than any of those open source alternatives that have struggled to gain traction in the marketplace.
Of course, the jury is still out on Parallels. It seems a pretty simple solution, although the product manuals appear to be written by computer science graduates who never talk to real people. I just struggled through the literature, and I hope this small startup company will hire a real writer to sort things out. It’s not that the setup process is difficult. It’s not, but the directions want you to think otherwise, which is unfortunate.
That, and a little more attention to interface issues and the potential would be positively huge. If performance is as smooth and fast as some claim, and I’ve not had personal experience with it just yet, I can see where Microsoft’s audience for Virtual PC will be long gone before it gets to market; that is, if it gets to market.
The speculation is also wide-ranging about where Boot Camp will go. It was clearly a fast and easy solution, although it works so well it’s hard to consider it a beta. But will it appear in the same form in Leopard? Will Apple continue to take the dual-boot approach, or rebrand Boot Camp and make it a virtualization product, one that allows you to run the Mac OS and the “guest” operating systems in a single session?
Obviously, the folks at Parallels would hope that Boot Camp remains Boot Camp, in concept if not name. That would leave the way free for Parallels Workstation to live long and prosper. The only alternative that would appear to have more potential is, perhaps, a Darwin-port of Wine, which would allow you to run a Windows application under Mac OS X without having to cope with a different operating system. That would be the best possible answer of all possible answers, assuming it works reliably and with good performance.
However, all this raises some larger issues, and some of the commentators out there seem really out to lunch in their conclusions. While I don’t pretend to know how it will all sort out over time, I do respect common sense and logic and I strive for both, so I’m going to consider some of the possibilities, both negative and otherwise.
The first is that Mac market share is poised for a huge increase because of the newfound capability to run Windows at full speed. This is the ultimate stealth fighter, some say, a computer that may cost a little more (although that’s debatable) yet it offers the ability to run Mac OS X for people who want Apple’s elegant and relatively reliable operating system, or Windows when the need arises to play games or run software that won’t make it to the Mac platform.
So far, such possibilities make a lot of sense. Add to that the fact that many people, in general, use Windows out of necessity not because of their unfettered love of the platform, and you can see why Wall Street reacted to the whole deal so favorably.
But there are dark sides to this whole affair. Some have a modicum of reality and others are way out there, to put it mildly. Consider statements that the mere ability to run Windows on a Mac will encourage some of you to switch entirely to Windows. Once you gain extended exposure to that other operating system, you’ll want to ditch the Mac OS X forthwith, no doubt about it, or at least that’s the claim.
Now I really can’t take such things seriously. If you wanted Windows all the time, why would you ever buy a Mac? There are plenty of options, some of which are way cheaper. Clearly the ability to run Windows at native speeds on a MacIntel is present for a different purpose, even though some writers have trouble dealing with the possibilities. As I said, it is the silly season.
But there is another dark side of Boot Camp that might have a modicum of reality and that is the possibility some publishers will ditch their Mac products and just tell you to dual-boot. Or get a virtual machine, such as Parallels Workstation. Either way, you’d have to spring for a copy of Windows and some virus software to keep you safe from malware. All this to run that application that publishers don’t want to make for Macs anymore. If you run into this situation, and it hasn’t happened yet, just tell them no. They want your business, they have to make a Mac version; otherwise, unless there is no useful alternative product, tell them where to do and how to get there.
My opinion is that Boot Camp is just a logical extension of something you could do on your Mac for years. It didn’t kill the platform then and it won’t kill it now, even if a few Kool-Aid drinkers have other ideas.
THE TECH NIGHT OWL: THE SPAM REPORT: MAYBE IT’S YOUR HOST
I can’t help but make my commentaries personal, and I depend very much on my own encounters with products or sales in writing these reports. But I do compare them to your experiences and those of others who’ve tried the same things. Take email and the ever-present spam problem. I don’t know how much of that junk pollutes your mailbox, but does 5,000 per week sound about right?
Now I should make it clear that only a fraction of that spam made its way to the junk filters on my Mac. Most of it was caught by the firm hosting my Web sites, which was, until recently, Yahoo Yes, there are lots of hosting services, but Yahoo offered the advantage of huge mailboxes, a hefty amount of bandwidth for the radio shows and a fairly decent price. As with any self-respecting Internet business, there are spam filters in place that are allegedly trainable.
I say allegedly because the spam filtering software they use stubbornly refused to be trained. Even when I marked a message as junk, it reappeared in my Inbox the next time the spammer sent some more. This no doubt sounds familiar, but I once lost an order for a product from a customer at one time because an inquiry was lost within thousands of pieces of spam. The only way to correctly flag a message as good was to add the sender to my online address book; otherwise it just wouldn’t work reliably, and Yahoo was never able to fix the problem.
While talking with a Web designer two weeks back, he wondered why I hadn’t tried godaddy.com, which has become a huge success story after suffering during the dot-com bust several years ago. When bringing up the site, I thought I had entered the online equivalent of Wal-Mart, because godaddy.com was hawking incredibly low prices for everything from hosting services to custom email accounts, all with promises of world-class security, spam filtering and all the rest.
I don’t know why I never noticed, but the company’s headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona lie a mere five minute drive from my office. Prices were less than half those of Yahoo, and monthly bandwidth was much larger. After examining the details, I made the switch one Sunday morning, to ensure minimal interruption for our visitors, and listeners to our radio programs.
Sure enough, the account transfers went through without incident, and by Monday afternoon, all out traffic was safety moving through its new destination. As I began to configure my email accounts, however, I noticed that the amount of spam captured by the service appeared to be but a fraction of what was being received at Yahoo
Indeed, after two weeks of configuring whitelists (good mail) and blacklists (the bad), the spam filters were capturing about 600 messages per week. The filtering process is quite effective, as only a small number ever pass through to my email software.
So what’s the difference, and why did Yahoo attract more than eight times the spam? Well, it seems that godaddy.com simply blocks messages that contain phishing schemes, such as the ones that purport to come from your bank and want you to give up your user name and passwords and other personal information. Incoming messages are also scanned for viruses and both categories never reach your bulk mail repository. Does that mean that the remaining 4,400 messages I that ended up in my bulk mailboxes stored at Yahoo were virus-ridden or were phishing-related? I can’t say for sure, but I’d rather cope with less than 100 per day when I need to check for good messages that were mistakenly withheld.
It’s also true that the best-known providers of free email, and I paid the regular price for my accounts mind you, such as Yahoo and Hotmail, seem to be spam magnets. They attract far more than many other services. Even AOL isn’t so bad these days. So if you find yourself missing messages from family, friends or business associates more and more these days, maybe your email provider is at fault. godaddy.com offers email accounts beginning at $9.95 for two years, including your own custom domain, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. They are ad-free and offer the very same security protections I receive, including the ability to retrieve messages via your own software or from a convenient Web-based interface.
The advantage of having your own custom email account is not just to eliminate the aol.com or yahoo.com from your address. If you switch ISPs from time to time, you’ll be assured of getting your mail without interruption, and waste less time pouring through spam for good messages mistakenly flagged as bad.
THE FINAL WORD
The Mac Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
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