What's davintosh? Mostly just the random ramblings of a hopelessly distractible… Hey, what's that?

Psystar — Almost There…

Filed under: Computers,Psystar Open — dave @ 8:49 am 2008/04/28

Excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor and bring my lower jaw back in line with the rest of my teeth…

I just got a phone call from a polite young man by the name of Jose from Psystar to let me know about the delay with the white cases, which would delay my order unless I switched to a black case. I confirmed that switching to the black case was fine with me, and he let me know that the machine would ship within a day or so. From the voice on the line, my guess is that Jose is the same guy who did the speaking part for the a href=”http://www.psystar.com/a_peek_at_the_open_computers.html”>video posted on their website last week.

Granted, there still is no outside confirmation that anything has or will ship, but I’ve got to tell you that if the whole Psystar thing is a scam, these guys are running the con far beyond what you’d expect. If it were a con and I was running it, a phone call to the customers definitely wouldn’t be part of the plan.

“Get ‘em While They’re Hot”

Filed under: Psystar Open — Tags: , , , — dave @ 9:08 am 2008/04/24

There’s a new post on Psystar’s website this morning, which includes a video of their “triplets”; three of their Open Computers, each running a different OS. One running Windows XP, another running Ubuntu, and a third running Leopard. This marks the first time the Psystar geeks have actually given us a peek at OS X running on one of their machines, albeit way too brief to draw any conclusions about how well it works.

psystar_leopard.jpg

News flash: I emailed Rudy yesterday asking for an update on the ship date for the machine I ordered, and got two responses back. The first was time stamped 1:13PM yesterday, but didn’t show in my inbox until this morning:

We would like to inform you that due to the high demand for Open Computing Products, our White Cases are currently out of stock. We can equip your Open Computer with a black case with no delay, or you can keep your order for a White Case, however there will be a delay of at least 15 days.

We apologize for the inconvenience. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us at Support@psystar.com

Sincerely,

The PSYSTAR Support Team
www.Psystar.com
888-456-7801

Of course I ordered the white box; I don’t know why. It used to be that most all PC’s were in boring beige boxes; these days beige has been supplanted by black, so white is a good alternative to set it apart. I guess. Or maybe it had something to do with the time Toby W. gave me a hard time about that BEST ColorStation we had at CCL that was running on a funky looking black Proliant box, and he thought it was an Apple machine… Whatever.

But then the second message, time stamped 8:21AM, gave a little more encouragement:

We are pleased to inform you that your open computer is currently in the build stage, and is scheduled to be shipped out on monday. You will receive a tracking number with your shipment. Thank you for your patience.
Thank you,
PSYSTAR Support Team
www.psystar.com 305-356-6666

Woohoo! That is most definitely good news!

The email messages and the video give me great hope today that I might actually get my hands on one of these machines, and soon. Here’s hopin’!

And still, there has not been word one from Apple about the whole situation. That is what is truly weird about all of this.

The Virtual KVM

Filed under: Computers,Cool Technology — dave @ 10:26 pm 2008/04/23

These days at work I’m supporting both Macs and PC’s. With recent change in my job responsibilities, the PC side is eclipsing the Mac somewhat (and no, I’m not liking it so much!) I finally broke down this month and purchased a real live modern Windows XP machine to go on my desk (which replaced a dog-slow 1.5GHz P4 machine). It’s a nice Lenovo ThinkCentre AMD-powered machine that I got off the clearance rack at a great price through CDW. I loaded it up with lots of RAM, a big hard drive, a DVD/CD writer, and it’s almost a pleasure to work on. Almost. But I’m neither ready nor willing to give up my PowerBook, and thankfully, since I am still responsible for the Mac end of things, I keep it.

I already had a nice 22″ flat panel Samsung monitor that I’d hook up to the PowerBook while at work, and thought it could work for both machines with a USB KVM switch between the three devices, but had some difficulty getting the Belkin unit I have on hand to work. So I went shopping online for a replacement, with DVI connectors instead of the VGA on mine. But then I happened across a neat piece of software that works so slick, I dropped those plans altogether…

It’s called Synergy, which is an Open Source utility which allows you to set up two or more computers — each with it’s own monitor — and use one keyboard & mouse to control all of them. (So I guess my title on this post is a little off, since it’s more of a Virtual KM switch, but oh well!)

quicksynergy_icon.jpg

On my desk, the Windows machine acts as the “server” portion of my setup — because the keyboard & mouse are plugged into it — and the PowerBook, being a portable, acts as the client. The setup instructions were a little obscure; definitely not written for the Mac “fire it up and it just works” crowd, but I got it configured ok on the windows side. The Mac side of the software downloaded from the Synergy SourceForge page was totally baffling, so to Google I went for help. What I found is that I wasn’t alone in having trouble getting it to work, but thankfully some kind soul put a GUI on the Open Source code and made it Mac-easy. Downloaded QuickSynergy, draged it to the Applications folder, fired it up, entered the server’s IP address in the Client tab and hit Start; that’s it.

So now I’ve got the Lenovo box hooked up to the keyboard, monitor & mouse, and the PowerBook on a stand right next to the monitor. I move the cursor to the right side of the monitor and it hops over to the PowerBook, just as if the PowerBook’s screen is an extended desktop on the PC, and like the mouse is connected directly to the PowerBook. And when I need a larger screen on the Mac, I push the mouse over to the Mac side, plug the DVI cable into the side of the PowerBook, and press the input switch on the monitor (the PC uses the VGA input.) Extended desktop on the Mac, controlled via the keyboard & mouse on the PC. Several people at work think it’s magic; I almost have to agree with them.

work_desk.jpg

Yes, the Apple BlueTooth keyboard is still sitting there, only because it hasn’t found a new home yet, but it did come in handy while getting things set up. You’ll notice the Logitech TrackMan Wheel on the keyboard drawer; one of the best input devices ever. My hand rests on top of it, my thumb rolls the ball to move the cursor, and I get no wrist pain. Unless of course I end up working on someone else’s machine for an extended time.

Even though the keyboard is Windows-centric, I have no trouble with on the Mac side. The Alt key acts as the Apple key, and the Windows key acts as the Option key. No muss, no fuss. However, I do have trouble remembering which keyboard command to use depending on which machine is being controlled at a given time; most keyboard shortcuts on the Mac involve using the Apple (Command) key, but in Windows it’s Ctrl. Copy on the Mac is Apple-C (or rather Alt-C on the physical keyboard), but Ctrl-C on the Windows side. Ditto with Paste, Undo, Cut, etc… Not a huge issue, but it really drives me nuts some days!

In the photo you also see the Windows Server 2003 screensaver, which is running inside a VMWare console in the foreground on the main monitor; what a cool app that is, and for free even. VMWare lets you run a virtual machine inside a machine — I’ve been using it test on an upgrade to our print management database system (looking forward to that like a root canal) — in much the same way that Virtual PC allowed you to emulate a PC inside a Mac in years past. And at that price it can’t be beat. Another neat thing is that the VMWare site has a huge library of virtual appliances that you can download (either for free or for a price, depending on the device). The virtual appliances are all preconfigured, along with the properly configured OS, and will do any number of chores for you on a network. It’s too amazing for a sidebar here, so I may have to write about that later.

Psystar — Still Hopeful

Filed under: Computers,Cool Technology,Gadgets,Geek,Psystar Open — dave @ 11:08 pm 2008/04/20

crabapple.jpg

Earlier today I checked the Psystar website, and they must’ve been doing some maintenance on the server or changing something with the configuration; got nothing but errors. And the pit in my stomach came back.

It was Sunday, so it wasn’t difficult to put it out of my mind for most of the day. When I checked it again just now; the site is back, with a new post on the front page saying they’ve contracted with a new payment processor with more capacity (… we challenge you, let’s see if we can max this one out.) Last I heard they had switched to PayPal when the original processor dumped them. I went through the order process just for fun, and no sign of PayPal anywhere, just the standard Visa, MasterCard & American Express.

The post also says that they’ve started shipping orders that were placed the week of April 7; that’s funny, I thought they hadn’t started selling until April 14, which is the first day they showed up on the Internet radar and announced that they were building a Mac clone. They say, “We will be shipping units out of our new facility starting Monday, April 21st, including those orders placed the week of April 14th.” I wonder who the lucky recipients of those early shipped machines are. I keep hoping to see something on the net from one of these people, reporting their experience with the machines.

Forbes Magazine has an article containing an interview with Rudy Pedraza. There, he’s being as evasive as usual, but insistent that Psystar is legitimate, and people who have ordered will receive the goods they’ve ordered. The facts of the matter — that the website is still up, still being updated, and orders can be placed — is all a bit reassuring. I’m still a little nervous, but still holding out hope.

And Apple continues to be silent on the whole matter. Hmmm.

The Psystar Saga — Riding It Out

Filed under: Computers,Cool Technology,Gadgets,Geek,Psystar Open — dave @ 6:33 am 2008/04/18

crabapple.jpgAll the hysteria on Gizmodo and elsewhere over the Psystar saga had me all weirded out yesterday. I was ready to call them up to cancel my order, then take it to the credit card company if they balked.

But then I had a decent night’s sleep, and woke up to see this insightful comment on the Gizmodo thread from commenter AJcorex:

Meh, sounds like it’s just a few guys who’ve tried to make it in the world of sales with little success, found somethin that the world wants, and don’t know how to cope with the demand.

all these blunders could be due to the mass hysteria this has all caused.

I’m waitin it out to see what happens. But this is clearly not the work of any con artists, it’s just too full of doofy errors.

So, so very true. If they were con artists they would’ve,

  1. known that marketing a Mac-compatible clone would generate the attention — & scrutiny — they’re now receiving;
  2. made themselves conveniently unavailable for comment,
  3. been long gone with the money and credit card numbers after only a day or so of business.

So, I think I’ll give Psystar the benefit of the doubt and assume that the business is run by a handful of doofuses who are now struggling with the demand and attention they’ve generated, and the with some of the stupid but well-intentioned blunders they’ve made along the way.

Here’s hoping. Still!

Open Computer Update — The Screenshot

Filed under: Computers,Cool Technology,Psystar Open — dave @ 2:51 pm 2008/04/17

Not much new about the Psystar machine I ordered on Monday… But when I logged onto their website this morning, they had a blog entry with a screenshot from System Profiler running on the machine. At least that’s what they claim. (Click on the image below to see the full-size version.)

crabapple_screenshot_sm.jpg

Of course, something like this is pretty easy to mock up & fake, but…

The question of Psystar’s legitimacy is still open. Engadget has had a few articles on Psystar, and has spoken at length with owner Rudy Pedraza, who supposedly promised to send a machine to them for testing. It was Tuesday when that was mentioned, and as of today, Engadget has not posted anything on that at all. Hmmm.

Just now I opened Psystar’s home page and found an interesting note:

We’re in the process of moving to a new location which is now listed on our contact page. The first new address posted (10481) was in error and our correct address is 10475 NW 28th Street. PSYSTAR was, prior to this past week, not ready to handle the enormous production capacity demanded by the online community. Due to the incredible response we have now expanded to a larger commercial unit to handle the supplies and assembly of Open Computers. THANK YOU for all of your orders.

Midday yesterday our store was not receiving any orders. This was due to the fact that our merchant gateway, Powerpay, dropped the ball on us and refused to process any more transactions from our company. We have reverted to Paypal until we can find a high-volume merchant. Apparently Powerpay was not ready to handle the community’s demand for Open Computing.

Due to the wave of orders for Open Computers coming through there is currently a 10 to 12 day build time for all products.

The contact page says this new address is in Doral, FL. I popped that address into Google Maps, but it didn’t recognize the city Psystar lists — Doral, FL. Using the Zip Code 33172 brings you to Miami, and shows what looks like yet another residential neighborhood.

crabapple_new_addr_sm.jpg

That makes the second time they’ve changed their address. The first published address looked like a residential area. The second address was in a commercial area, but a manager at that building has never heard of Psystar. And now this? Dang. What are they trying to pull?

And the thing with their merchant gateway, Powerpay… If this cnet article is true, it turns out that they didn’t exactly “drop the ball”; more like they tossed the hot potato as far as they could when they found out exactly what Psystar was selling.

Another interesting thing I bumped into yesterday was a Google Ad at the OSX86 Project Wiki page:

crabapple_google_ad.jpg

That’s pretty bold, having a Google Ad on that site, especially considering that the guy who developed the EFI emulator, the gadget at the core of the OSX86 project, claims that Psystar ripped it off without giving him credit.

I’m getting a little nervous. Maybe I should talk with the bean counters & let them know what I’ve done in case they need to undo it with the credit card folks. Gulp.

Psystar — The CrabApple That Could

Filed under: Computers,Cool Technology,Gadgets,Geek,Psystar Open — dave @ 2:20 pm 2008/04/15

crabapple.jpg

Psystar made a huge splash on the interwebs yesterday by introducing the OpenMac (later renamed “Open Computer” when they realized how badly that would piss off Apple.) The Open is essentially a white box Intel-based computer that can run unmodified OS X Leopard kernels, and can even be ordered with Leopard preinstalled. The computer’s specs match a high-end MacPro pretty closely, but with a base price of $399 (sans OS). Wow! Even with the OS installed (another $155) it’s cheaper than the base Mac mini.

They also sell a higher end machine, the OpenPro, which can be configured with up to 8GB of RAM and 2.6GHz Core2 Quad processors. That one starts at $999, but can go all the way to $2,169 if you check all the boxes. That’s still a far cry from a similarly equipped MacPro.

I think this is a great idea; Apple has a huge untapped market that will not buy or even try the Mac OS because it’s always tied to Apple’s hardware, which in some comparisons appears overpriced. Actually, if you compare apples to apples (pun intended) Apple hardware isn’t that much more expensive than comparable high-end WinTel gear. But the problem is that Apple’s hardware lineup has a huge hole in it that Apple should’ve filled long ago; there is a staggering price difference between the iMac and the MacPro that could be filled with a mid-priced machine with no monitor and a wider range of upgrade options. As it is you’ve got the iMac — which is a great machine, don’t get me wrong — but many PC heads bristle at the thought of an integrated monitor, and they bristle at the thought of the limited upgrade options of the mini. The next option would naturally be the MacPro, but the base price for one is a staggering $2,799. You would think a natural middle ground would be to build a mini-tower, powered like the iMac but sporting three or four PCI slots for upgrades, and room for two or three hard drives and maybe a couple of optical drives. It really wouldn’t be that difficult to pull off, but it would definitely cut into the MacPro sales figures. And the iMac. And the mini. But who cares? They’d be selling computers to people who would otherwise not even consider a Mac.

So, the natural progression here is for a third party to step in and build what Apple will not. That’s where Psystar comes in. And it looks like they have what could be a winner, but their entry starts the race with a huge millstone around it’s neck; Apple’s end user licensing agreement (EULA). Apple’s EULA specifically prohibits running Apple’s OS on anything but Apple’s hardware; you must agree to the EULA before the OS can be installed. That’s a big catch, and considering Steve Jobs’ view on Mac clones, not one that will change anytime soon. So I’m absolutely certain that Psystar has been kept busy with Apple’s legal team for the last 24 hours. Very busy.

I tried to find out what I could about the company, and there really isn’t much out there via a Google search other than what has been published after their Open Computer announcement. Not sure if it’s a new outfit or what. Yesterday the company listed their address as 10645 SW 112th St, Miami, FL, which looks an awful lot like a residential area in Google Maps. But today there is a new address; 10481 NW 28th St, Miami, FL; if you look up that address up in Google Maps, it looks more like light industrial/office. Not sure if that change is comforting or not.

Today’s news says that indeed, Psystar has been dealing with Apple Legal, and they intend to fight. Not sure how far that will go, but it sounds like they are going to proceed with selling computers and the OS package. And they’re being feisty about the upcoming legal battle, citing antitrust violations built into that EULA and charging that Apple marks up their hardware 80 percent. I don’t know how far they’ll get with arguments like that, but I do know they’ve got one heck of an uphill battle ahead of them.

I’m not sure if it was a good idea or not, but last night I went ahead & ordered an Open Computer for work — base machine with Leopard installed for $588 (of the boss’ money!) shipped. We’re in need of updating a few Macs in Prepress anyway, and I figure even if this doesn’t work out, we also need to replace some older PC’s, so I can install Windows on the box and use it elsewhere on the network. And the copy of Leopard won’t go to waste either; I can install that on one of the Macs. $155 is about $30 high for Leopard, but $399 is pretty cheap for a WinTel box spec’d like the Open. So if nothing else, it ought to prove to be a fun experiment.

Now the big question is, will my machine ever ship. And if it ships, how long before I hear from Apple Legal. Time will tell, and I’ll keep posting updates.

Be a Good Do-Bee — Romper Room

Filed under: Fun!,Just Stuff,Old Things — Tags: , , , — dave @ 3:58 pm 2008/04/13

rr_dobee_sm.jpg

My Mom, bless her soul, was a true packrat. She saved everything. Maybe it was that she grew up during the Great Depression (if so, what’s my excuse?)… No matter; I’m grateful for some of the things she saved and was able to pass along to me. One of them is a packet of stuff from my time in Romper Room.

Romper, bomper, stomper boo.
Tell me, tell me, tell me, do.
Magic mirror, tell me today.
Have all my friends had fun at play?

(more…)

De Ruijter Chocoladehagel Melk

Filed under: Favorite Things,Just Stuff — Tags: , , , — dave @ 9:45 am

hagelslag.jpg

This stuff is a true Dutch delicacy, and a rare one here in the States. I’d never heard of them before my introduction to Dutch ways after meeting my wife’s family. They look like the standard candy sprinkles you might find on a doughnut or a cake or whatever, but they certainly don’t taste the same. They’re called “hagelslag” or “muisjes”, the latter referring to their resemblance to little mice. To me they look more like mouse turds; that coupled with the way muisjes is pronounced (sounded like my-sheets to me) made me laugh out loud! Guess you had to be there.

The way to eat hagelslag is pretty straightforward; butter some toast, sprinkle it on & enjoy. Oh, one other thing; you’ve also got to lick the stragglers off your plate, Queen Beatrix has even approved this method.

We’re fortunate to have close relatives living in Holland, so we’re able to get resupplied semi-regularly. I haven’t found any local sources for buying hagelslag, but there are some online retailers that sell it.

Windows Rant of the Day — Screenshots

Filed under: Computers,Geek,Mac Stuff,Work — dave @ 10:01 pm 2008/04/10

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m spoiled by the Mac OS, and making a screenshot on the Mac is just one of many places where the Mac shines and the PC… um… doesn’t. For just about forever on the Mac, to take a screenshot of what’s in front of you, all you’d need to do is hit Shift-Command-3; you hear a little camera click noise, and you get a file on your desktop. Neat. And. Tidy.

To get just a shot of a selected area, it’s Shift-Command-4; the cursor turns into a target shape that you can drag over the area you want to get a shot of, you hear the camera click, and you get the nifty .png file on your desktop. To get just a window is a little less intuitive, but once you know the trick it’s still dead easy — Shift-Command-4, then tap the Spacebar; the cursor turns into a little camera and any window your mouse hovers over is highlighted. If you can see the edge of a window that’s obscured by another window, you get a shot of the window you clicked on.

In the current flavor of OS X the file you get is a .png named “Picture 1.png”, which can be emailed to just about any computer user on the planet and they can open it. The little .png files that end up on your desktop can be opened in Preview and saved out in a different file format if you like, or placed in or copied & pasted into or imported into most any application you like for more flexibility. Or you can just rename it and save it somewhere on your drive for future reference.

And then there’s Windows. In my new role at work, I’m spending a lot more time in Windows XP (I even have an XP machine on my desk! Gasp!), and I’m learning some of the stuff I can do in my sleep on the Mac isn’t so easy on the PC. Getting a decent screenshot in Windows… it’s a little more involved. First you hit the Print Screen button, which copies the contents of your screen to your clipboard. Of course there’s no feedback whatsoever to tell you that anything has happened when you hit that button, but… Since you really can’t do anything with it sitting on your clipboard you first have to open a graphics or desktop publishing program, then paste the clipboard into and save it to a file from there.

prtscrn.jpg

Copying the current window to the clipboard is even less intuitive than the Mac; press Alt-PrintScreen (Alt-PrtSc) on the keyboard, then jump through the same hoops as before.

I was on the phone with a tech support guy earlier today — on the PC — and needed to send him screenshots of three windows. That’s what spurred the inquiry into figuring out what it takes to get a shot of just a window, because with just the PrintScreen-paste-save trick I ended up with three 2.5MB files. I ended up bringing them over to the Mac, opening them in Photoshop (Preview would work also), cropping them down and saving out to jpeg format. Bleah. Took way too long. And that was after trying to crop the images down in Paint before saving them. It all helps me understand why Windows users tend to just click and send anything with little regard to file sizes; it’s just too much hassle to do anything about it.


You know, looking back at this post, it looks like I’m comparing apples to apples from a UI standpoint; the shortcuts for getting a snapshot of a desktop or a window aren’t terribly intuitive for the new user either way. Windows seems less intuitive for me, probably because I’ve spent most of my working life in front of a Mac. But I think there’s more to it than that; first, when you take a screenshot on a Mac, you get audible feedback — the camera click — then you get a file, which can be dealt with on its own. If you really want to bring that photo into a separate app, you can, but you don’t have to.

And on Windows, the button to use is Print Screen, or PrintScreen, or PrtScrn, or whatever manglish the keyboard manufacturer could come up with. But I don’t want to print the screen; I want a screenshot of it! That’s about as far from intuitive as you can get. Sure there are other 3rd party apps available to make it easier (none of which I found today were free) but Apple proves that you don’t have to hunt something down to do a job like that. Heck, Apple even gives every OS X user a copy of Grab that gives you even more options for taking snapshots. For free.

Ok, I’m done complaining. But even through all the complaining I can still be thankful; thankful that I have a PC on my desk to make me appreciate the Mac all the more. And thankful more that I still have a Mac on my desk!