One of the most important stories of the week was the extraordinary onstage encounter between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. A lot of tech industry analysts were amazed that it seemed more of a love-fest between a pair of old friends than the expected WWF smackdown, but I wasn’t surprised in the least.
You probably saw more honesty from Jobs and Gates than you’d normally expect to occur in a public setting. During a round of applause, Jobs even showed signs of breaking up just a bit, which indicates that the session affected him personally and quite emotionally. No bravado there.
Indeed, that’s one of the subjects I discussed with author and raconteur Andy Ihnatko who came on The Tech Night Owl LIVE to bring you up to date on the latest goings on in the Apple universe. In the course of the interview, Andy also discussed Apple’s chances for success in the business market and other hot topics.
On this week’s all-star episode we also entered “The David Biedny Zone,” as David entertained us with cutting-edge commentaries about Apple’s DRM-free music, the future of the music industry, the iPhone, and Microsoft’s new computerized coffee table. Yes, computerized coffee table. And if you have five or ten grand, you can line up with the three or four other people who might be crazy enough to buy one.
If you ever wanted to set up your own Web site for business or personal uses, you’ll want to listen to our middle segment on the show, where we presented the sage advice from long-time Web consultant Sean, affectionately known as the “Geek With Laptop.”
We also present Tracie Austin-Peters, Producer / Host For Let’s Talk…Paranormal, a cable-based TV show from Las Vegas. She recounts her personal experiences and talk about some of the most fascinating guests who have appeared on our show.
Now let’s talk about the way we do our interviews for a moment: When is it time to ask a probing question, and when is it time to tell the guest that maybe they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about and it’s time to face the facts? Or just sit back and let the guests hang themselves?
Although The Paracast is known to ask the questions other paranormal shows choose to sidestep, we do want to be as fair to the guest as we can. So there will be times when we just sit back and let them talk, and experience the journey on which they’re taking us. Sometimes that has a good outcome; sometimes it doesn’t.
I know you listeners will let us know if we fail to ask the questions you want. Sometimes we can, and sometimes the information comes to us too late to do anything about it, because the show is already taped.
Now there may come a time, of course, when we do the show live. We are equipped for that, but logistical reasons make it impossible right now, because our Las Vegas outlet wants the show in their hands two days before it’s broadcast. At the same time, they’ve been urging us to do the show more often, so we’ll have to see where we go from here, particularly as we begin to add more terrestrial stations, probably later this year.
Up till now, most of the hours I’ve spent in the Windows environment have been under the baggage of an emulator. Compared to the real thing, I’ve always regarded that as second-rate, not because of the quality of the operating system, but as a result of the performance drag when you’re not using a real PC.
Apple’s switch to Intel processors has changed the equation considerably. First it was Boot Camp, which is basically a programming trick that lets you run install Windows on a separate partition on your MacIntel, and then boot into that operating system. There’s no emulation; this is the genuine article. Performance and the overall user experience is, in every respect I can think of, identical to that of using a real PC.
Compared to double booting, the Parallels Desktop environment was pretty good overall, but you could tell you weren’t actually using the real thing, even though the impression was fleeting in most respects. Of course, when it came to running 3D games and rendering programs, you were left hanging. Performance was dreadful, if the application would even run.
Well, I’m writing this issue of our newsletter in Firefox version 2.0.4 for Windows, under Windows Vista. And, as far as I can determine, there are no noticeable trade-offs. Graphics performance in my brief testing is identical to a regular high-end PC desktop, which is what my 17-inch MacBook Pro is for the most part. Except, of course, when I look at the bottom of the screen, where Mac OS X Tiger’s desktop is situated.
Indeed, the brilliant programmers at Parallels have figured out how to support 3D graphics, and lots of other cool stuff in the late prerelease version of version 3.0 that I’m using.
Without actually running a 3D game to check out the frame rate, you’ll see the impact that support for OpenGL and DirectX has wrought. Graphics display faster; even animated GIFs on a Web page show more enthusiasm in displaying their magic. However, Vista’s Aero interface is not fully supported, so don’t expect the 3D niceties, or whatever you consider them to be. That’s a feature that is promised before the final release, which is expected in a few weeks.
More to the point, the thin veil that shielded you from the fully-native Windows experience has been lifted. When you fire up Parallels 3.0 and start your XP or Vista virtual machine, you will have entered that alternate universe where that other operating system runs in all its glory. Of course, for better or worse.
Parallels 3.0’s other notable new features are equally compelling. One of my favorites is SmartSelect, which allows you to specify whether a Windows or Mac application will be the default for a specific type of function. Indeed, if you’re so inclined, you could make Internet Explorer 7 your default browser, and it’ll fire up whenever you, for example, click on a Web link in your email application.
Another notable feature is Snapshots, where you can roll back your virtual machine to an earlier version should something go wrong, say a software installation. Now if Apple would only offer a similar feature for Mac OS X — and, no, I don’t mean Time Machine. I am referring to something that’ll function right on your startup drive.
You’ll also witness enhanced support for USB 2, and improved printing by being able to share your Mac’s printers.
If you’re explorations into the world of virtualization are focused on Linux, you’ll appreciate the new Linux Tools that provide improved integration between the two environments.
In all, Parallels promises over 50 new features and over 100 “improvements” to existing features. Their own announcements on the update claim that over 100,000 development hours were spent coding version 3, and I can see evidence of the reworking in the increasingly seamless fashion in which the application runs.
Unlike previous versions, however, there will be no public betas this time. All testing is being done by a team of private beta testers, of which I was one. However, I am not breaking any nondisclosure agreements, because Parallels has given me permission to talk publicly about my experiences.
Of course, I realize this isn’t the final release, and there are apt to be a number of changes before development is concluded. But I will tell you that I didn’t observe any anomalies, at least not so far.
When Parallels 3.0 is released, the upgrade will cost $49.99 for existing users. If you bought the earlier version after May 1st, or you have a maintenance contract, the upgrade is free. In addition, Parallels is reducing the price by $10 if you order by June 6th.
With VMWare’s Fusion for the Mac still under development, Parallels is extremely busy raising the bar, and it’s going to be real hard for any competitor to catch up.
Quite a while back, I announced that I was disinclined to review standard workgroup laser printers. There is a huge selection, in different price ranges, but most are more similar than different, so there’s not much I can offer that hasn’t appeared in lots of tech publications, both online and print.
When it comes to printers that profess unique imaging qualities and hardware, however, there are very few. You heard, for example, of my year-long experience with a Xerox Phaser 8550DP, which uses solid ink instead of toner to deliver output quality that’s close to laser.
In the near future, I’ll be presenting a full review still another alternative printer product line, from Oki. It uses LED imaging technology rather than laser, but is otherwise extremely similar.
I’ll be focusing on the closest competitors to the 8550DP, the c6000dn, which lists for $849.99 and the c6100dn, which lists for $1049.99. Both models are designed for the small office or medium-sized workgroup, but are cheap enough for the home user who wants speedy output and the promise of superior print quality.
Typical of printers of this sort, both offer built-in Ethernet, support for Apple’s Bonjour zero-configuration networking capability, and the ability to duplex, which is jargon for printing on both sides of the page.
Differences between the two models are, according to the manufacturer, confined primarily to output speeds. The c6000dn runs at up to 20 pages per minute for color and 24 pages per minute for black and white. In contrast, the c6100dn delivers up to 26 pages per minute for color and 32 pages per minute for black and white. The first page appears in as little as nine to 11 seconds.
From the outside, both units look the same, except for the product label, and output quality is said to be identical.
Both printers sport a 100-page multifunction tray and a 300-page output tray. Larger paper trays are optional.
My initial encounters have been extremely positive. After removing all the little pieces of tape that seal the various openings of these printers and setting up the toner cartridges, it’s just a matter of plugging it in and turning it on. While the printer engages in its brief startup process, you can install the drivers on your Mac or PC.
At first brush, you’ll see that Oki’s LED printers deliver the best of what you’ll find in a high-quality color laser, including sharp text and bright color. The default setting provides a screening effect that makes the graphics on a Web page look far more crisp than other printer’s I’ve worked with. Other than the higher print speeds, the c6100dn differs from its sibling by delivering a louder, or more robust, sound from its imaging engine when it’s busy processing and outputting your jobs.
As I said, this is a preliminary evaluation. I’ll have more to say about the Oki c6000dn and the c6100dn in a few weeks, so stay tuned.
THE FINAL WORD
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