Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The New iMac

Ok, it's finally out. Apple has released all the details on the new iMac G5 and it's basically what I expected. Far more conventional than the previous "lamp" iMac G4 design, the new iMac looks like a two-inch thick LCD display. On closer inspection however, it's less conventional than one might think.

Take the insides for example. This is the first all-in-one Mac to be anywhere near this accessible. The only thing that came close at all was the PowerMac G3 AIO (also known as the "molar" Mac.) The layout of components reminds me mostly of the old Macintosh LC "pizza box" design, but those weren't all-in-ones. Every major component is easily accessible for upgrade or replacement. I've upgraded the HD in my old iMac DV (the Fall, 1999 model) and that was a nightmare. For an LCD-based AIO, this new iMac really can't get much easier. Apple's engineers should be commended.

There are other interesting aspects of the design. The headline on Apple's iMac page is "Where did the computer go?" and that's actually more insightful than marketing jazz.
1) They actually squeezed the power supply into the computer so there's no extra power brick between the computer and the outlet on your UPS. (You do have a UPS, don't you? ;-)
2) The optical drive is a slot-loader, so there's only a slit on the right side of the screen for that.
3) Upgrade with the internal Airport Extreme card (802.11g), the Bluetooth module, Bluetooth keyboard & mouse, and you now have exactly one cord coming out of your computer: the power cord.

That leaves you with only an LCD monitor and a wireless mouse and keyboard on your desk, kinda like this. "Where did the computer go?" then seems like a pretty valid question doesn't it?

In this image you can see that the iMac G5 smoothly carries on the design tradition started with the first iMac, which in Steve Jobs' words is "Our butts look better than their faces." On the back you'll notice the slit running across the machine near the top. This is the vent output with the intake in the vent/speaker grill on the bottom. The cooling design follows Apple's usual convection technique with several low-speed fans assisting.

The iMac G5 can also use Apple's $29 VESA mount adaptor which opens up all kinds of fantastic professional workspace options which have never been available to the iMac before.

Of course, there are the usual complaints. The graphics card is not what some gamers would like but it must be noted that modern GPUs put out a fair amount of heat themselves and with that G5 in there Apple probably had a lot of problems getting the cooling to work out. Also there is the standard RAM issue: Apple never puts enough ram in its machines and this practice continues. Buyers should plan on adding more RAM.

Although it doesn't fit into my current purchasing plans I have to say that this is the first iMac I've actually wanted to buy since I bought my iMac DV. Congratulations to Apple on a job well done.

Monday, August 30, 2004

My new dream machine...

It's been quite a while since I've had a lust-inducing computer filling my dreams, but I think I've found a new one. Orion Multisystems is a new company which hopes to revive the workstation market. To that end, they've released the ass-kicking Orion DT-12 and the ultimate computer designed for use by a single person, the supreme ball-breaker: the Orion DS-96. With 96 nodes, 300Gflops peak, 150 Gflops sustained, 192GB of RAM and 9.6 terabytes of storage, this is one drool-worthy machine. And it runs Linux. I think I'm in love.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Flying Cars: The Dream Lives On

Here's a BusinessWeek article about the living dream of flying cars. In the public mind since the 1960's, this is a dream that just won't die. As the article concludes "Sure, the flying car is a long way off. But chances are, cars will eventually fly. Pigs won't."

I'd say the flying car is a sure bet. Although I won't dare to give a date, I'm confident that it will happen shortly after pilots are removed from the cockpits of commercial aircraft and that will happen within twenty years; maybe even in as little as ten.

The mechanics of aircraft are well understood, the hard part is training the average person to fly one safely. Thus, AI is the key to the flying car and it's "coming soon."

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Blogger tries something new...

In a very interesting move, blogger has made some changes to allow its users to make money with blogger. I knew something was up when they replaced the ads at the top of our blogs with the Blogger navbar. My first reaction was "Neat!" and my second was "How are they going to make money now?" Now I have my answer.

There are three basic kinds of for-profit sites:

  1. Ad-revenue based sites, where the site is funded by ads shown on its pages.
  2. Pay sites, where the site users pay to use the site.
  3. Sales based sites, where the site exists to sell a product or service.
Naturally, these can be combined and modified.

Blogger primarily relies on method one. Now then, how do you increase Ad revenue from a site where all the content is provided by the users? How about paying the users (the content providers) a portion of the revenue they generate, thereby giving them an incentive to increase their readership, from which ad revenue flows? So Blogger's plan is to pay blogger users to blog?

It's so crazy it just might work. I for one will be real interested to see how it works out. Good luck Blogger. But it'll be a while before I start putting ads here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

How to Seduce Women

Why wasn't this site around in '97? I might have actually enjoyed my college years then... Just more of my wasted youth, I guess. Instead I spent those years studying and watching Star Trek reruns. Now then, where did I put that time machine?

Friday, August 20, 2004

Stupid Humans, Smart Birds.

Here is an article about a study done with a tribe in Brazil. These peoples' number system only has words for one, two, and many. Accurately working with quantities larger than three is basically impossible for them and they lack any concept of mathematics. Lacking the number zero is one thing, but this is something else...

One the other end of the spectrum, we have some very smart birds. These crows have abstract spatial reasoning and tool making skills only exceeded by one species: Homo sapiens.

In one experiment they were given two bits of wire and a long plastic tube with a small basket of food at the bottom. One wire was straight, the other had one end bent into a hook. The purpose of the experiment was to see if they would be able to figure out how to use the hooked wire to get the food and then choose to use that one there after. On the fifth trial the male got frustrated and flew off with the hooked wire. The female then took the straight wire, jammed it under some duct tape, bent the end into a primitive hook, and then used the bent wire to get the food.

Before this experiment none of the birds had observed humans or anyone else bending metal wire, nor worked with wire in any previous experiments. The crow deduced that wire could be bent simply by observing two wires: one bent and one straight. Pretty clever, huh?

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Apple, Real, & The iPod.

This is becoming quite a mess. At the end of March I wrote this slashdot journal entry.

I think I'm going to have to change that opinion because since I wrote that entry a few things have happened: Virgin is now working in France to force apple to license FairPlay and Real came out with Harmony and their new aggressive ad campaign. And now Real is working hard to loose even more money with their half-off sale.

Of course, Apple has made its own positive moves, with the Motorola cellphone deal and the recent expansion of the iTunes Music Store catalog past one million songs.

All of these events have got me thinking that Apple is making the wrong moves. Apple is never going to lock up the entire music player market with the iPod. They may be able to maintain a high market share but they will always have competition. The iPod can't be all things to all people. There are already competing products with neat features which the iPod may never have.

Apple could however lock up the digital music market. All that would be required is sharing iTunes with the other music player manufacturers. Apple would truly be the Microsoft of music then and could maintain that position indefinitely.

Friday, August 13, 2004

No, I won't fix your computer!


I will not fix your computer. I don't care if you'll pay me, I don't have the spare time to spend fixing your computer. After dealing with work, my family and my house I am lucky if I get an hour per night to do the things I would much rather spend all day doing: reading and working on my projects.

Five days a week, from 7:30 AM to 5 PM, I do IT work and have to support and use Microsoft's low-grade, half-assed, crappy products. I do this because it pays well and my genius brain makes the work relatively easy. I do not do it because I love it. After work hours the last thing I want to do is work on your broken, virus infested pile of crap.

Leave me the hell alone or I'll reformat your Goddamned hard drive and install Linspire on it!!!!

Now it's time for...

My Official Policy

These are the people I will happily help with their computers:
1) My wife
2) My wife's parents and her sister
3) My friend Henry
4) I will also generally do my best to help anyone having problems with their Apple Macintosh.

If you aren't on that list you get to suck my balls! If you do a real good job, I might let you pay me $150/hr to fix your pile of crap.



I've been reading this online book about Seasteading. It's an off-shoot of the whole "new country" sub-culture. With my libertarian views I find it to be a facinating subject, even though it is something I'll never be able to pursue.

The book is exhastively researched with many references. One of the more interesting references for this book was International Marine Floatation Systems Inc. This company makes Floating concrete slabs. Lots of cool potential uses there.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Woman becomes one with couch!

This is sick. How can anyone allow this to happen to them?

At least this guy is still alive.

Sad, sad, sad.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Windows Still Not Ready For The Desktop

This new article on OSNews.com explains Why Windows Isn't Quite Ready for the Desktop. On the whole, I have to agree with the guy. Personally, I have lots of problems with Window XP:
  1. It is slow. (Although XP does reboot a lot faster than 2k.)
  2. Many key features are full of bugs. (Printing, for example.)
  3. The Registry is a disaster.
  4. It is full of security holes.
  5. Options and settings are apparently laid out at random.
  6. The UI is generally inconsistent.
Obviously, these are general issues and I could write a book on the specifics. Since I don't have time to do that, I'd recommend looking at a copy of Windows XP Annoyances. This little tome weighs in at a svelte 586 pages.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Tale of two Katies aftermath...

In reading more of the news about the whole Katie.com incident and people's comments about it on Slashdot & elsewhere, I'd like to make what I feel is an important point: While Katie Tarbox and Parry Aftab are obviously not perfect people, they are making a sincere effort to protect children on the internet. Their projects (KatiesPlace.org, Wired safety, and Internet Super Heros) seem to offer real services which will aid in that effort as opposed to being the usual political "the government should do something" anti-freedom, pro-big-brother organizations which only work for more laws and more government funded programs. If there's a lesson to be learned from all this, it's this: When people do the wrong thing they need to be called on it and made to set it right, whether they are "good people" or "bad people." I would consider Katie and Parry to be "good people." Penguin Puttnam, being a corporation, goes in the category labeled "stupid people." It is my hope that after Penguin re-publishes the book under the new title all this will come to an end so those two ladies can get on with their work of helping kids online and Katie Jones can get back to using her domain the way she'd like.

Katie.com & The Power of Slashdot

Well, it looks like the Slashdot article did it. Because of thousands of slashdotters the book "katie.com" had extremely negative reviews at the major book sellers' websites and untold numbers of angry e-mails went to Ms. Tarbox and Penguin Puttnam. Under this pressure, Penguin Puttnam has finally caved and done the right thing, 4 years late. Read PP's press release here: Plume Re-titles Book by Katie Tarbox "A Girl's Life Online." (PDF) Plume is the Penguin Puttnam division currently publishing this book. Read also: My post about this from yesterday. The Slashdot article covering the rename. Katie Jone's response to this. Katie Tarbox's announcement.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Domain Name Greed

The short version: Katie Tarbox writes a book in 2000 about her experience with an online sexual predator. The publisher, Penguin, originally wanted the title to be "Girl.com" but after visiting that site and finding porn they changed the title to "Katie.com." The domain Katie.com was registered in 1996 to Katie Jones and remains in her possession. She has had endless problems because of this blatant misuse of her domain name and recently Tarbox's lawyer has pressured her to donate the domain to Katie Tarbox. The full story is here. Ms. Tarbox is an adult these days and a college graduate. She needs to learn to act like an adult and abandon her aspirations for katie.com or at least offer Mrs. Jones a substantial sum for the domain, which I expect Mrs. Jones would turn down. Domain names are property and Mrs. Jones is the rightful owner of Katie.com. These kinds of disputes are becoming a growing problem. Not too long ago there was the whole mikerowesoft.com fiasco. Thankfully Mike Rowe came out on top that time. I hope Mrs. Jones finds victory in the end too. Some of the geeks at Slashdot have a few good ideas how.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Space Ventures to Watch

  1. Bigelow Aerospace is working on inflatable space habitats.
  2. JP Aerospace will attempt to use airships to reach space.
  3. LiftPort is the "Space Elevator Company"
All of these are interesting and worth keeping an eye on.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Cyborg Search Updated -- Ver. 0.13

I fixed a bug in Cyborg Search and updated it today. There was a minor logic problem that caused the SmartSelect function to run even if the search terms were a web address. I've slacked off a bit on Cyborg Search lately, mostly because it does most of what I initially wanted it to, and because I'm waiting for MacOSX 10.4 to come out so I can port it to a dashboard widget, which should not be difficult. Some other features I'd like to give it are: imdb, reverse phone # lookup, and some kind of people search. Eventually I'll have to declare it 1.0. I'm really not sure when that day will come. Long term, it will need to be ported to a real, compiled application so that I can add some actual AI instead of the cheesy routine it runs now. If you're running Windows, try embedding it in your desktop via ActiveDesktop. That's how I have it set up on my computer at work.


I went into Juarez, Mexico yesterday evening and had my rotting wisdom tooth removed. Still hurts a bit now but I'm glad to finally have it out. Only cost me $25 US. Thanks, Dr. Millot!

Monday, August 02, 2004

Digital Memory Cards Are Indestructible!

Or almost, says The Register. A reliable technogolgy... who would have thought?

Steve Jobs Has Cancerous Tumor Removed

Steve Jobs, CEO of my favorite computer company, underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his pancreas on Saturday, 7/31/04. It sounds like he will make a full recovery. Read all about it here.

Sunday, August 01, 2004


Q: What's the point of this blog?

To talk about whatever is on my mind. It mostly consists of news items I find interesting during the day, updates on my projects, and rants about politics. It's safe to say that this blog has a solid politics and technology focus.

Q: Who are you?

Well, I guess you probably already figured out that my name is Alexander K. Gunkel and I'm a huge geek. Here are some more fun facts:

  • I live on the east side of El Paso, TX.
  • I work in IT.
  • I am a member of the Libertarian Party.
  • I prefer MacOS X and Linux to Windows.
  • There are more computers living in my house than people.
  • I am an Atheist.
  • Reading (hardcopy and online) is my favorite pastime but I read very little fiction.
  • I also have a relatively large DVD collection that's heavy on sci-fi and action.

Q: How can I contact you?

Just email me: