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Macs, movies, magazines and dodgy PR

I own an iMac now. It spends its days idling in the front room, which is a bit of a shame because it's a dual-core 2.0GHz beastie with a 20" screen. Having now used it for just about three weeks, I have thoroughly mixed feelings about it.

The hardware is lovely. I've said this for a long time: Apple makes some fine computers. It's almost silent, has eye-blinding brightness levels, boots in a few seconds and the remote control is neat. So far, so good.

However, I just want to shout out SHENANIGANS! to all those people who wrote in to LXF after the last time I had a good rant about OS X being rubbish. You people almost convinced me I was wrong. You almost had me thinking that it was my work Mac that was the problem, and that a new Mac - indeed any normal Mac - would work flawlessly. LIES! Damnable, dirty lies!

I had used my shiny new iMac for under 30 minutes when I had my first Keynote crash. An hour later, and I had an iDVD crash. A day later, I had my first complete OS X lock up. It was at this point that I decided to apply some patches to the machine (at this point, it was a vanilla OS X 10.4.4 + iWork install), only to find that Apple wanted me to download:

  • A 163MB update to 10.4.6
  • A 3MB update to the Mac's firmware
  • A 39MB update to Keynote
  • A 21MB update to Pages
  • A 39MB update to GarageBand
  • An 80MB update to Java

350MB of downloads later, I presumed my Mac was stable. Well, that was at least partially true: Keynote hasn't crashed since, but iDVD still seems rather flaky. Worse, Front Row (the Apple Media Centre thang) happily played all the audio I'd ripped from CDs, but not stuff I had purchased from Audible. Mysteriously, iTunes happily played it, but Front Row claimed I wasn't authorised. Having Googled this and discovered others were having the same problem and calling AppleCare, I did the same - only to have them deny all knowledge of the problem and ask me to try adding a new user (note: the Mac was about a day old at this point)

Days pass and - aha! - the Mac tells me more patches are available. This times it's a 49MB Quicktime patch and, hello, a 4MB Front Row patch. Oh, and of course a 24MB security update, a 5MB iDVD update, a 7MB iMovie update, an 89MB iWeb update, a 14MB iPhoto update and yet another firmware patch. Clearly they didn't get it right the first time. Fortunately for me (and for all the people who had been using Front Row a lot longer than me), this update fixed the Audible problem.

At this point, with over half a gigabyte of patches installed, the Mac seems stable - as long as I avoid iDVD.

Meanwhile, I've been playing with SUSE 10.1. This is a great distro, with only one minor flaw: Gnome 2.12. If this distro had Gnome 2.14, I think I'd say it was absolutely perfect, but with 2.12 it only scrapes a "pretty darn good" rating. Xgl works very easily, but I rather hope that SUSE 10.2 will install it by default and simply disable it.

I'm sure you'll all have seen Novell's "Novell Delivers Device Driver Breakthrough to Accelerate Linux Adoption" PR thing that's been bouncing around the web. The blurb goes on to read something like "Novell today announced availability and details of a process that solves Linux device driver compatibility issues. The new driver process allows customers to obtain drivers independently of Novell kernel updates". This makes it sound like Novell really has managed to produce a Syllable-style driver system where distributors just ship a driver and you can use it no matter what kernel you're running.

How did they do it - with a dummy driver? By enforcing backwards compatibility where before there was none? No. what they're actually saying is, "send us your drivers, and we will distribute them for you so they work with our kernel." This works like a charm for their Enterprise Linux customers (who hardly make a great deal of use of specialised drivers to start with), but leaves the rest of us out in the cold. This, in fact, is a press release trying to make news out of nothing, which is a shame.

With such high-excitement news going on at work, it's no surprise I went to watch Mission Impossible 3 last week. I rather like the MI series of films, and this one was no different - except for one slight problem: we had a group of Americans sitting behind us. That alone wouldn't be a problem, because I quite like Americans. But these were American children, with perhaps an average age of 11. Now I know that you American adults out there are reading this and know exactly what I mean, because - at least based on the comments at Slashdot - you seem to have the same problem here that we do. Children should Not Be Allowed in Cinemas After 8pm. It's quite simple: they are too irritating for the rest of us, and after paying $12 for a ticket (yes, our cinema verges on extortion; dinner cost less than the movie) I do not want:

  1. Someone sucking through a straw into an almost empty soda cup for more than 45 minutes. There was no Coke left after the first 30 seconds (apart from the necessary trickle required to make a racket), so sucking on the bugger again and again and AGAIN until I was honestly thinking of attacking the brat is a crime.
  2. Young girls crying when they seem Tom Cruise die. It's a film. Tom Cruise is not really dead. Heck, even in the film he's not really dead. Your tears are wasted!
  3. People clapping at the end of the film. Worse: the entire row of American kids clapping at the end of the film. It was a good film, yes, but to whom are you clapping? What kind of person hands over $12 then claps at the end? No, please; don't tell me - I already know. One of them even said "Why are we clapping?" while clapping.

Calling all Americans: I know you hate it when this happens to you. Please, your solution of saving yourselves by sending your weapons of mass distraction to annoy us instead is wrong!

Finally, how much does ImagineFX magazine rock? Working for a magazine company means I see dozens of ideas and mags whizz by every month, and I have to say ImagineFX is the most impressive things I've seen for years. Honestly, it's almost at the point where, if I were in a shop and had just £10 to spend on a magazine, I'd choose ImagineFX over Linux Format. "Almost" at that point - it'd take at least twice as many undressed ladies to make me definitely abandon LXF ;) Either way, go pick up a copy from your local store; I think you'll be impressed.


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