May 2005, Part II
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June 2005 - Vol. 5, Issue No. 70
By Scot Finnie, Cyndy Bates Finnie, and Martin Heller
IN THIS ISSUE
So what do you have to do to win? The TechWeb Pipelines will publish four separate feature stories in the month of June. The first went live today, and it's called the Software Hall of Fame (this may sound familiar to some of you -- and for good reason). The story consists of entries to the Software Hall of Fame nominated by the Editors at the TechWeb Pipelines (including, of course, yours truly). Read the 10 nominations from the Editors, and then at the end, you'll be given your chance to name a top software product from the last 10 years, and argue in an essay why it deserves top honors in the Software Hall of Fame. The judges will make their selections based on product selection, originality, humor, wit, and strength of argument. Get our attention with what you write, and get an iPod! Enter the contest.
Each Monday throughout the month of June, a new article will appear with another 10 editorial nominations (and, boy, do we miss some obvious ones), and another chance for you to compose a creative and persuasive entry with a chance to win. I'll let you in on a small secret: Next week's June 13th contest is titled the Hardware Hall of Fame.
The contest ends July 6. Don't miss your chance to enter and win!
Check out Desktop Pipeline
Have you considered Desktop Pipeline's newsletter? Barbara Krasnoff, who used to be Desktop Pipeline's Editor, was recently promoted to Reviews Editor at the TechWeb Pipelines. The new editor of Desktop Pipeline is David DeJean. I've known David since 1990, when we worked together at PC/Computing. David is, among other things, a great writer with strong, interesting opinions about all things desktop. I think you'll enjoy his work. Check out Desktop Pipeline and its newsletter:
My Pipeline recommendations to SFNL readers include Advanced IP Pipeline (think VoIP), Messaging Pipeline, Networking Pipeline, Personal Tech Pipeline (think handheld devices and gadgets), InternetWeek, Linux Pipeline, Mobile Pipeline, Security Pipeline, and Small Business Pipeline. The Pipeline sites, which number about 20, are the focus of my day job.
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Microsoft came to town to have lunch and gave me a demo of a newer build of Longhorn. I learned three or four new things that I want to pass along to you.
The first is that the Avalon "Glass" features will not extend all the way to transparent program backgrounds and dialog box windows that Microsoft hinted at in earlier demos. According to Microsoft Windows Client Group Product Manager, Greg Sullivan, this proved confusing to many people. Personally, I think that's a mistake. Window overload is a huge issue for some of us. Some smarter implementation that allows the important parts of program windows to be opaque while other parts are see-through would be useful to those of us who juggle eight, 10, 14, or 27 open windows at a time. Apple offers a useful feature called Expose in OS X that solves this problem pretty well, although not as intrinsically as semi-transparent windows would. More work needs to be done here, because Microsoft is missing an opportunity to solve a serious UI (user interface) problem.
That said, Sullivan notes that application makers will be able to build transparency into their applications. It's a new tool in their available palette. And from Greg's demo, it's clear that program window title bars and borders will be transparent. It's a step in the right direction.
The second thing I learned is that, due mostly to Build 5048's partial feature implementations and the fact that Microsoft hasn't explained this extensively, a couple of features in the desktop search/Windows Explorer area will show up better in future builds of the new OS. I'm not going to go into great depth here, but there are two different user constructs planned for Longhorn. I talked about Lists in the last issue. There's also something called Stacks. Both of these are ways for people to group files together by associations that are personally meaningful.
Stacks are meta-data keyword based, and they're a visual representation of related files and other objects on your local computer. The operating system will be able to create stacks for you. Lists are something you create, either graphically by drag and drop or manually, and they're designed to create links to files that exist both on your PC and also across a network. Think of Lists as a collection of support materials related to a project. Even though they don't appear to be shortcut links, that's effectively what they are. Stacks, though, are a virtual representation of your actual files. The differences between these two constructs are confusing. And in build 5048, a pre-configured file type called .Autolist muddies the waters even further.
Expect these descriptions of Lists and Stacks to evolve, it's all still a bit hazy.
Another change from what I personally experienced is that, according to Sullivan, the main desktop search form field, which appears at the top of every Windows Explorer window, doesn't just search file names, as I said. It will also do full-text search of all the files on your computer. I couldn't get it to do that in 5048, but apparently it will in the final version.
Microsoft isn't yet focused on the marketing message about how all this works and what things are called. The later build I saw at lunch with Sullivan had better a user interface representing these features, so I'm hopeful that I'll be able to give you better information and detail once Beta 1 is in my hands.
I asked Sullivan whether there's a chance that the final product will have automatic keyword generation that would smartly add keywords to the properties for each of the data files on your drive based on full-text search of the file. That feature is not incorporated in these late Alpha builds of Longhorn, and I don't expect it for Beta 1. But without that feature, most of the true power of Longhorn's desktop search features will be lost, because the best features are exposed by file properties keywords, and no one is going to add these manually.
Sullivan agrees, and he said Microsoft is trying to add this functionality. Of course, they might not be able to do it well enough to pass muster. It's a possible feature.
NTFS Not Required, but Greatly Preferred
In the last issue of the newsletter, I wondered whether Microsoft's NTFS file system might be required when Longhorn ships. The answer, according to Sullivan is no. Longhorn will continue to support FAT32, even for the primary boot drive. Unlike under Windows XP, however, many of the better features in Longhorn will require NTFS. So much so, in fact, that my guess is that I'll be recommending NTFS with Longhorn.
One thing I hope Microsoft gives some serious consideration to is dealing with NTFS when things go south on your hard drive or in your Windows installation. I've covered these issues before, though not recently. Bottom line: There are severe limitations to what you can do when you boot to XP's Recovery Console, as well as the few other options available to you, in the event of a severe system problem when your drive is formatted with NTFS. These limitations are all about making XP more secure from hackers, but they protect us so much that they may in some instances drive us crazy. Many more experienced PC users refuse to use NTFS for this reason. Microsoft needs to straighten out this problem in Longhorn. We need tools for fixing our PCs that let us do what we need to do to extricate ourselves from severe problems. The key may be to secure the access to these tools, not to eliminate their utility altogether. Give us a full-fledged recovery console, but make us authenticate to use it, Microsoft. Sometimes the zeal for security outstrips common sense.
Peer Networking Improvements
Home networking is another area that Sullivan tells me Microsoft hopes to fix in Longhorn. Windows XP made this a lot harder, again in the name of security. Part of what Microsoft is planning to do is implement IPv6 fully throughout the networking stack and all aspects of the operating system that deal with networking. While there is an IPv6 add-on for Windows XP, it's a band-aid that doesn't fully implement IPv6, and the result may be more problematic than the problems with the native stack.
Microsoft is also considering the notion of the "home networking castle," the idea that you could draw circle around all the computers in your home network and build a "home firewall" around your network instead of having separate firewalls around all your individual PCs. This is how enterprise firewalls are implemented, and it makes a ton of sense for peer networks. The idea is to make it easy, for example, for home-networked or small business groups of computers to share data from computer to computer. Whether NTFS is being used, whether Simple File Sharing is in vogue, whether individual PC logins are password protected, and security permissions ... the variations and levels of security are totally baffling under XP for home network "administrators."
What's happening as a result is that the data winds up being located on every computer on the network because it's far too difficult to access files over the network. Or worse, we just do without the file. Version control issues are often rampant as a result. I've been saying for several years that Microsoft has to fix this problem. This is the first time that Microsoft brought up the idea of fixing it before I did. So far as I'm concerned, if Microsoft gets this right, that would be reason enough for home users and small businesses to upgrade to Longhorn.
Beta 1 on the Way
The big news with Longhorn, though, is that the first real build of the product, Beta 1, is due sometime in July. Expect the end of July, though, and it could even slip into early August if Microsoft's dev team runs into large issues.
The main thing to know about Beta 1 is that it won't even be close to feature complete. Beta 2, which we can roughly expect in December or January, will be nearly feature complete. Beta 1 should get close to having some features that are all or most of the way there, at least in functionality. Other features will be placeholders or non-existent. And this is just fine by us. This is how Microsoft develops operating systems.
I've recently teamed up with CPU magazine, and some of my original Longhorn coverage will appear in that magazine, which is available on the newsstand. Of course, I will also continue to write extensively about Longhorn right here in the newsletter. Check out CPU magazine.
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Anyway, there's also a link between Longhorn and high-end digital cameras. CNET describes Microsoft's intention to support "raw" digital cam formats in Longhorn, something that would be a major boon.
But let me also take this time to let the world know that one way or another, I've decided to find a way to buy the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT 350D. [Editor's Note: This is how I find out? --Cyndy]
I never did buy the Canon EOS 20D last year. Just couldn't afford it. This new model from Canon, released a few months ago, solves most of the problems of both the 20D (like price and loud shutter noise) and the previous Digital Rebel (slow to turn on, fewer frames per second, short flash height). And it uses a new 8 megapixel CMOS sensor (not the same as the Canon EOS 20D's 8.2-megapixel CMOS sensor). But the image processor is the same as the more expensive Canon EOS 20D. It also has instant-on power, faster shutter release, and a continuous shooting speed in the 3 frames-per-second range. It also has a new smaller, lighter camera body, which Cyndy might prefer. It's what I need, for several hundred dollars less than the 20D. You can pick up the body only for around $800.
Now I just have to convince Cyndy and find the bucks! But with another baby on the way, the time is right.
For more information about the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT, check out past Link of the Month Award Winner, Digital Photography Review. For pricing, check out this PriceGrabber search. This is for the body only, in black. (Silver is about $20 less.) If you need a lens, buy a Canon USM model separately. The kit lens that comes with this camera is pretty junky.
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The price point, $74.95, is pricey for the download market, so X1 isn't exactly an impulse purchase for most end users. But an under-$100 purchase is acceptable for most businesses looking to maximize employee productivity.
While there are several flavors of free desktop search (Google, MSN, Blinkx, etc.), they are all personal desktop search tools. That's true of Copernic Desktop Search, which we named a Scot's Newsletter Top Product! in the last issue of the newsletter.
X1 Technologies ups the ante by offering indexing of Lotus Notes, network drives, external PST archives, as well as Outlook, Outlook Express, and Eudora. We're not aware of any desktop search product that handles Lotus Notes, so that alone puts X1 in a class by itself. The fact that the extra functionality in X1 Desktop Search costs makes my frugal side rebel, but sometimes quality is worth paying for. [Editor's Note: Hey, quality if always worth paying for, if you need it. I just happen to always need quality. --Scot]
Works Hard for the Money
X1 is fast! It indexed my entire Eudora mail file (162MB worth) in about 10 minutes. It went on to index the rest of the files on my hard drive in less than an hour. And when I say index, I mean it indexed virtually everything. See screenshot of X1's Search Results (163K). Not only did it include the Trash and Junk (i.e., spam) folders in my mail file, but it also included nearly every subfolder and file in the Windows, Documents and Settings, and Program File directories.
Comprehensive indexing can be an advantage, since some programs install handy files most of us don't bother to check out. After all, the point of a desktop search is that you can type in a few words to find *all* relevant files. If you're looking for a .LOG or .DLL file, you'd want to find all instances of that file, and X1 does that wicked fast.
That said, my main need is to locate a document by its contents. It's nice to know that two of the programs I just installed include extensive clipart libraries -- after all, some day I might even need clipart. In the meantime, though, X1 includes information about far more documents and files than I will ever begin to care about. It found over 78,000 files on my computer, including cookies, local settings, .CAB files, and so on. Most of them don't have contents to index, so the search results display just file name and date. In X1's case indexing speed isn't affected by its inclusive nature, so the main downside is that, for me at least, the search results are cluttered by a lot of noise. Sometimes you like to browse your results, but that just isn't an X1 strength.
What X1 needs is an extra step during installation that asks you:
1. Do you want to index your entire hard drive, or
2. Would you prefer just to index the places where user data is usually found (such as My Documents and your mail store)?
I can understand why X1 Technologies doesn't offer that option. Most other desktop search companies default to that sort of index scope to speed up their index times. X1 is so blazingly fast it doesn't need to do that for performance reasons. But it does need to offer an option like that for those of us who don't want to see search results containing file types such as .INF, .CAB, .DLL, .LOG, .EXE, .SYS, and so forth.
Customize and Winnow
All that sounds like a major criticism, and it is something that bugged me, but it's also merely the default setting of the program. And there are two offsetting attributes of X1. You can limit the scope of the index on a directory by directory basis with the Indexing Options screen. See screenshot of Indexing Options (34K). The process is easy if you want to turn off everything but My Documents, but user interface X1 offers is somewhat laborious when you want to institute a complex custom indexing configuration. Worse, while you can add file extensions for X1 to consider as data file types (such as the .GED extension used for genealogy), you can't disable indexing of specific file extensions preconfigured in X1. That's a bit heavy handed, and it's a failure that should be rectified in future versions of X1. Don't tell me what my data is!
The second attribute that offsets noisy search results is that it's easy in X1 to quickly narrow the search results. Just type in a word or phrase from the document contents, or you can choose to narrow by file name, file type, and other criteria. X1 supports Boolean operators, so you can limit the search to Word Documents and HTML documents simultaneously, for example. You can also use OR, NEAR, NOT to home in the data you're pursuing. A good description of how to use these can be found in the Help file. When creating a search you'll use frequently, it's easy to save the search terms to for reuse later, and even apply a keyboard shortcut to a saved search. This is a powerful X1 feature.
X1 also offers toolbar buttons to browse documents, pictures, and music files, though not video files. These buttons are nothing more than preconfigured searches that, while a great starting point, are oddly configured. The Documents search includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, and PDF files, but not HTML, RTF, or TXT documents. The Pictures button doesn't include PCX or PSD (Photoshop) images. You can manually modify these built-in search buttons, but your modifications can't be saved.
So, what I liked a lot better is that you can remove X1's search buttons from the toolbar and create new toolbar buttons with your own custom searches. Again, the process for carrying out this customization is not very intuitive. You can't, for instance, drag and drop to the toolbar. But I created my own Video search button. I clicked Files, then typed Video OR Movie into the Type search box. You might use file extensions instead in a search string something like:
avi OR mpg OR wmv
I saved the search, naming it Video. Then I turned on the Searches pane and dragged the custom search up to Favorite Searches -- the folder that controls the toolbar. See screenshot of the Search Pane, creating a custom button (113K). My Video button instantly appeared on the toolbar beside Music. You use the same process to create buttons that do a better search job than the existing buttons (Documents or Pictures, for example). Too bad you can't modify the preexisting buttons directly or delete them entirely from X1, because their existence also means you can't create your own buttons of the same name.
The Bottom Line
Yahoo! Desktop Search is a free version of X1, with some important differences. Though it indexes all the same file types as X1, it's not as robust. X1 Desktop Search indexes Eudora, Mozilla Mail, Netscape Mail, and Thunderbird. YDS does not. X1 also indexes network drives and external .PST (Outlook) archives. YDS does not. The Notes Edition version of X1 sells for $99.95, or you can buy the Outlook + Notes Edition for $129.95. Volume pricing is available on all versions. You can even pay to add Notes support to the Outlook version and vice versa. For details on file support, see Yahoo! file types indexed and X1 file types indexed. (At press time, the X1 list didn't specifically mention Thunderbird, but we checked, and it does support that popular mail package.) Bottom line: X1 has the best file format and file-viewer support of any desktop search package in its price range.
The Lotus Notes version not only searches Notes email messages, attachments, and contacts, it can also search locally replicated Notes databases and Lotus Domino-hosted databases. Combined with X1's extensive file search, this is extremely powerful, and makes it easy to find all documents and correspondence relating to a single project. The Notes Edition only supports Lotus Notes email, although you can add the Outlook Edition to the Notes Edition, or purchase the Outlook + Notes Edition.
IT managers will definitely want to evaluate either the X1 Team Edition (up to 50 seats) or Enterprise Edition. Team Edition includes volume pricing and a Deployment Manager to ease installation and allow for company-wide toolbar customization. Enterprise Edition adds a centralized index and search capability.
If you're an avid Outlook or Outlook Express user and don't ever use other email packages, the free Yahoo! Desktop Search package is a viable alternative. You'll get all the same features and performance, plus the ability to search your Yahoo! Address Book and Yahoo! Instant Messenger messages.
Eudora, Mozilla and Netscape Mail, and Thunderbird users have the toughest decision. On the one hand, Copernic works great, offers grouping by date and type for easier browsing -- and it's free. On the other hand, X1 is wicked fast, found files I didn't even know existed, and has a more robust file viewer (supporting PhotoShop images, Zip file contents, even DLL description documents). Truthfully, I haven't been able to choose between Copernic and X1 yet. They're both running on my PC, and only time will tell which one I wind up uninstalling. They're both great products.
I've spent enough years looking at software evolving into bloatware in a marketing-driven features chase to become a tad cynical about the value proposition of more features justifying higher price. But X1's raw power, adequate customization features, excellent search-results winnowing features, best-of-class file format support, and strong file-viewing capabilities are worth paying for. X1 is so good, in fact, even I would buy it.
What we have here is another Scot's Newsletter Top Product! In the last issue, Copernic won by virtue of its amazing value. In this issue, X1 is joining the Top Product! ranks by virtue of its performance and strong feature set. If you're willing to spend $75, X1 is the one to get, hands down.
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The installation started by replacing the copper aerial wiring from the pole to the house with fiber optic cable, and replacing the ancient telco interface outside the house with a huge fiber-to-copper interface box, called an Optical Network Terminal (ONT). The ONT supports one Internet feed and four telephone lines.
In the basement, they installed two boxes near my electrical circuit breakers: one a power supply for the ONT, and the other a battery back-up system. The battery back-up does *not* let the FIOS Internet run during a power failure -- it only lets you call out during a power failure. (I learned just recently that it works when I was able to call the electric company during an outage.)
They ran CAT5 from the basement up to the second floor hallway where my main computer sits, and installed a 10Base2 jack on the wall. They provided a D-link DI-624 AirPlus Extreme-G wireless router for about $65; a wired-only router would have been free. I retired my cranky old 802.11B wireless router.
I noticed that the DI-624 they supplied has slightly customized firmware. When I checked for newer firmware on the D-link Web site, I found out that I shouldn't upgrade the firmware unless I get a new customized build from Verizon.
The installers configured the router and computer, with a little kibitzing from me. The FIOS service uses PPPoE, like some DSL installations, and unlike cable. The installation CD is the same one that Verizon uses for DSL. The installers told me that the download portion of the installation over my FIOS connection was *way* faster than the download portion they see when they install DSL.
Once we got it going, we tested the data rate using Speakeasy's east coast bandwidth tester. We got something like 14Mbps downstream and 1.8Mbps upstream, which is just about full speed (allowing for parity bits) for a connection that's nominally 15Mbps down and 2Mbps up. The speed has stayed about the same no matter what time of day I've tested it, which is a big improvement over what I saw with cable Internet. In my neighborhood, cable Internet tends to slow down in the evening and on weekends.
My house is a few blocks from the my town's phone company Central Office (CO), but unlike DSL, I don't think distance matters for FIOS. As I understand it, there's no speed degradation over distances, to speak of, with fiber-optics. If they have fiber going past your house, you can get the full bandwidth they offer.
Apart from the wireless router, the installation was free. The monthly cost for Verizon FIOS 15/2 service is about $1/month less than I was paying for Comcast cable 4Mbps down/384kbps up service: $44.95 per month. (There's a small discount if you have Verizon telephone service.)
FIOS 15/2 service feels snappier than cable Internet to me for normal usage, but my wife doesn't notice the difference. My kids and I notice a *big* difference when we download files from fast servers, but there are still lots of slow servers out there, and nothing we can do at our end will help that.
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But in the very next breath, I have to say something. The future of desktop computing is 64-bit hardware, operating systems, and software. That might not be a serious reality for most of us on the desktop until the year 2010 or so. But it's coming, and it's going to be worth it. And it's coming a lot sooner on servers.
You may not be aware of it, but most Windows XP applications are limited to 2GB of virtualized memory. An application and the data it loads in RAM can't exceed 2GB. There are exceptions and workarounds that I'm not going to delve into. But bottom line, Windows XP 64-bit can virtually address 4GB for 32-bit applications, and it can virtually address 8 Terabytes for 64-bit apps. The physical memory story is similarly impressive in favor of 64-bit Windows: 4GB max. for 32-bit Windows and 128GB for 64-bit Windows.
Windows XP Pro 64-bit also supports the full power of 64-bit processors offered by AMD and Intel, and there are significant advantages to these processors. CPU-intensive tasks will see serious performance and reliability advantages under 64-bit Windows. Suffice it to say that when enough people have 64-bit hardware and software on their desktops, you can expect a paradigm shift or order-of-magnitude transformation of what your applications will be able to do for you. They are going to change, become larger, richer, do more things. The same thing happened when we moved from 16-bit apps to 32-bit apps when Windows 95 made 32-bit Windows widespread. I think the shift to 64-bit apps will take longer to evolve, but in the end will be even more profound.
Microsoft sees this coming, and it's doing everything it can to create the building blocks now that will lead toward a true kick-off of 64-bit Windows when Longhorn ships. The next version of Windows will offer both 64-bit and 32-bit versions simultaneously. Meanwhile, AMD has been in the van, offering its first desktop 64-bit CPUs back in late 2003. Intel recently offered a similar desktop solution. So by the time Longhorn ships, the hardware will be out there in droves. AMD just introduced dual-core 64-bit CPUs, in fact. And Microsoft finally matched AMD and Intel by releasing Windows 2003 Server x64 and Windows XP Professional x64.
The desktop version of 64-bit Windows is based on the more reliable Windows Server 2003 kernel and it runs all your existing 32-bit apps just fine. In fact, they may run a little better under 64-bit Windows. And a few specific application areas could benefit seriously from 64-bit Windows right now or in the near future, including digital content creation, especially 2D and 3D animation for games or movies; CAD/CAM; digital photo management and manipulation; and advanced game users.
I can tell you that I'm running 64-bit Windows on one machine now, and I will be making the switch to 64 bits more primarily with Longhorn, if not before.
So that's the good news. But there's a downside, naturally. Win XP x64 doesn't support 16-bit and 32-bit device drivers, like those that Windows XP supports. That starts with the CPU by the way. You can run either 32-bit or 64-bit Windows on a AMD's (or Intel's) 64-bit CPUs, but the reverse is not true. Windows XP Pro x64 requires a 64-bit CPU.
And it's not just the CPU; all device drivers for pre-existing hardware must be rewritten to work with Win x64. That includes both internal components and external peripherals, like printers (although many generic USB devices will be fine). Microsoft includes a 64-bit device driver pack in Win XP x64, plus a small list of companies (including HP, Samsung, and several others) have already written 64-bit drivers. My 1995 HP LaserJet 5MP found a Windows-provided driver very easily.
AMD maintains a 64-bit Windows and Linux driver page that anyone trying out 64-bit Windows will find useful.
Other limitations of 64-bit Win XP Pro include the elimination of support for all these things: MS-DOS, OS/2, POSIX subsystems, IPX/SPX, AppleTalk Services for Macintosh, DLC LAN, NetBEUI, IrDA, and OSPF protocols.
Win x64 also comes with 32-bit versions of Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, Windows Media Player, and others because of issues with support of 32-bit DLLs. For example, 64-bit Internet Explorer (which is also included) can't run 32-bit ActiveX applets.
There are also two Program Files folders in x64, one for 32-bit programs and one for 64-bit programs.
Other than those limitations and changes, and the fact that the desktop wallpaper is different, you'd be hard pressed to know that Win64 isn't Windows XP.
Windows XP Pro x64 is a transitional operating system, literally designed to be an 18-to-24-month bridge that supports existing 64-bit processors now and helps make the world aware that Windows Longhorn will be the first real 64-bit desktop Windows.
Microsoft is offering a 120-day trial of Windows XP Pro x64. Download the 550MB ISO or order a CD for the cost of shipping.
You can bet that I'll be returning to the topic of 64-bit Windows in the months to come.
Review In the Works: HP dx5150 Win x64 PC
HP's newest 5000 series business-class PC became the first desktop machine from Hewlett-Packard to ship with 64-bit Windows XP Pro. The PC maker was able to get me a review unit and I'm testing it now. Look for a review in the next issue, and possibly on Desktop Pipeline a little earlier than that. One thing that amazes me is that an apparently well made "micro tower" PC with a AMD 64-bit CPU, ATI chipset, ATI Radeon 9600 64MB video, DVD/+R/+RW/CD-RW drive, 8 USB ports (two front mounted), DVI-D port, Serial ATA, PCI Express, TPM 1.1 and 1.2 security module connector, and onboard business audio is available at prices starting at $470. (But figure at least $600; HP is still trying to get me the final price on the model I'm testing.)
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I make it a policy not to give out the names of people who donate (without permission). But recently someone donated $100 via letter mail, and it took me a long time to cash this welcome check. My apologies to all my letter mail contributors. It seems that there was some sort of problem at my post office, because a small handful of letters much older than the last time I picked up my mail appeared there recently. They must have been misrouted to the wrong P.O. Box. They were all finally deposited recently.
It's been roughly six months since I've called for new donations. I'm not going to make my usual impassioned plea. (It's much harder to do than you might think.) But if the spirit moves you to help the cause, than here's where you can do that:
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With the recent reports that Apple will be switching to Intel to power some or all of its future Macs, you have to wonder whether they'll give thought to releasing OS X for Wintel PCs. Nah, it'll never happen.
Tiger isn't a huge upgrade, but its 200 minor tweaks are welcome additions, as are the tweaks being added by Apple's reportedly upcoming 10.4.2 patch to Tiger, according to this rumor posted on MacNews.net.
The biggest new features of Tiger are desktop search and the new Dashboard and widgets, which are little graphical applets that perform functions like bringing you live weather information or sports scores. The Apple site lists about 250 widgets available already, some from Apple and some from third parties. Last issue, Konfabulator was Link of the Month. Tiger's Widgets are similar and in some cases the same. Most of Firefox's extensions are visually rudimentary compared with Tiger's widgets, although functionally, the Firefox add-ons are in many cases at least the equal of widgets.
I'm still working through my assessment of Tiger's Spotlight desktop-search features. Will let you know what I think as soon as I've had time to fully assess it. But in initial tests, it looks fine.
For The Great Tech Call-'Em-Like-You-See-'Em Contest, I nominated OS X to the Software Hall of Fame. You can check out what I had to say about OS X there:
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Jon is a developer, and he writes frequently about development technologies and techniques. But he's also a full-fledged journalist who knows how to explain things, and is plugged into enterprise computing and Internet publishing. Intelligence shines through most everything Jon does. You may not be interested in everything he writes about, but I promise you that if you poke around in this blog's rich archives, you'll learn something you might not find anywhere else.
Have you discovered a relatively unknown Windows or broadband related website that's a little amazing? Please send me the URL so I can check it out and let everyone know about it.
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The first thing to know is that whenever you have a problem with the newsletter or you think there's an error in it, check the website version. I can't fix problems in the copies of the newsletter that reside in your inbox. But I can fix them on the website archival version of the newsletter. And I do so. Please bookmark this link:
There's a large link on that page to the current issue of the newsletter.
So far, I don't have a solution to the problem that people experienced last time. If it happened to you last time or happens with this issue, please follow these steps:
Reveal all the headers on your received copy of the newsletter (how you do this varies from email package to package). Then forward the message to me, placing a little note at the top that you had the "Missing Words" problem. Thanks!
Editing, Or Lack Thereof
One or two people wrote me about the excess of typos, word disagreements, extra words, etc., in the last issue of the newsletter. I'm a professional editor and writer, and have been for 25 years. But I'm very, very far away from perfect. Especially when I'm acting as both writer and editor, especially on what is a moonlighting task, especially when my wife is seven months pregnant and too tired to edit my newsletter.
I *hate* that I have errors in any issue of the newsletter. Instead of complaining to me that my writing ain't great, please, please send me a description of errors to help me find and fix them. I love it when people constructively help me make the newsletter better. Even after the fact. I would like to correct the website version if nothing else. It may seem like an easy thing to do, but editing your own copy is very difficult. This is why there are writers and editors. Trying to do both things well is literally impossible. Especially under time constraints. So, please be patient with me, and lend a hand!
Note: I have made some corrections to the last issue on the Web, but I'm sure errors remain. Cyndy, as you may have surmised, was not able to do her usual read last time.
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