Stories by Tom Yager

Parallels Server for Mac underwhelms

No 1U, two-socket rack server bests Apple's Xserve in its price range. No two-socket Intel desktop can touch the MacBook Pro for its combination of durability, efficiency, expandability, and quiet operation.

iPhone hackers go too far, get shut down by Apple

I was all set to give this week's column over to a new register-direct implementation of a JavaScript interpreter that's many times faster than all currently available implementations. It's not exactly growing hair on a billiard ball, but a nitro-boosted JavaScript will put a shine on AJAX and keep my most beloved language on track to becoming the gold standard for dynamic languages.

Your server is wasting your CPU

While using an AMD Barcelona (quad-core Opteron) server to create a portable benchmarking kit for InfoWorld's Test Center, I discovered something unexpected: I could incur variances in some benchmark tests ranging from 10 to 60 per cent through combined manipulation of the server's BIOS settings, BIOS version, compiler flags, and OS release.

Apple gets iPhone 3G right for business

With the iPhone 3G's banner opening weekend and newsstands looking like a rack of brochures for the device, a review of the iPhone 3G at this point might be pro forma, except for one thing: Much of the iPhone 3G and the new iPhone 2.0 software remains an enigma to professionals and enterprises, users set apart by, among other things, their tendency to use punctuation in their e-mail. These users demand more from a handset than a cellular browser and YouTube.

Is the iPhone dev deal fair?

Apple apparently chose the best possible template for its iPhone developer programs: its own Apple Developer Connection for OS X. Why it then made the iPhone SDK confidential even for those who download it for free poses a puzzling contradiction in the company's seemingly open approach to development.

Exchange for the rest of us

Like the presidential seal that vanished without comment from a politician's press podium, the competitive marketing brickbat that Apple flung at BlackBerry -- that BlackBerry's push e-mail works only with Microsoft Exchange, as if Exchange were an onerous burden -- quietly vanished from Apple's campaign.

RTFM: Good advice in troubled times

Back when five bucks' worth of dinosaur squeezings bought you a misspent weekend, working in technology required desks, and the reason for desks was to have a place to lay out your manuals. Massive hole-punched tomes ending in "Guide" and "Reference" were techies' bread and butter. It was so taken for granted that you had manuals that RTM (we'll go F-less now that we know what we're talking about) became shorthand for "go look it up; you might learn something by accident."

Digital TV foreshadows erosion of Internet rights

With regard to the free exchange of information over the Internet, we, the people, have mostly managed to hold our ground. We can thank activists, hacktivists, legislators saying "no, thanks" to money from the entertainment lobbies, and forward-thinking artists and content distributors--I'm proud that writers and publishers took the lead on this--who recognise that reach is the currency of the digital age.

WWDC & iPhone: A deep dive into Apple's mobile empire

On the keynote stage at Apple's 2008 Worldwide Developer Conference, Steve Jobs looked like a man who could use a Gatesian escape from the glass house to a quieter life spent in pursuit of passions that a CEO hasn't time to explore. The difference between Steve and Bill is that Steve's passion is already in his grasp. iPhone can be seen as a culmination point for much of what Steve has set his mind, hand, and brain trust to in the past decade.

AMD sets its sights on laptops

At the logic level, MacBook, the benchmark for success in mainstream notebooks, is unremarkable -- indistinguishable from every PC notebook built on Intel Core 2 and its chipset-integrated graphics. Why, then, can't anyone with the same parts list emulate Apple's growth in an otherwise stagnant notebook market? Because Apple painstakingly hand-optimized its OS for a tiny variety of hardware architectures, presently Intel Core 2, while Microsoft wrote Vista to run on absolutely everything. No PC notebook maker can take the proprietary route that Apple plays to such advantage.

One switcher's tale: Once you go iMac, you never go back

I've been relating the story of a professional colleague who, some months ago and under semi-voluntary circumstances, made the switch from Windows to the Mac. Her twisted arm now nicely healed, she has not only switched, she has an unshakable conviction that even the fastest, newest PC would be an embarrassing hand-me-down next to a mature Mac. If I were to swap her early model MacBook for a quad-core PC desktop, she'd accept it with the graciousness one brings to the gift of a fruitcake (or one from a fruitcake), and then covertly scan eBay for a PowerPC Mac. It is not the particular machine or its performance to which she has become attached; indeed, the hardware is, to her, invisible. The Mac platform is home to her now, not out of religious devotion or some wish not to disappoint me, but because it clicks with both halves of her brain in a way that Windows cannot.

AMD's server roadmap burns through Intel's fog

Intel CEO Paul Otellini's memorable "shame on us... mea culpa, we screwed up" March 2007 speech to Morgan Stanley investors came after his company's marketing fog machine could no longer conceal the truth that, depending on your point of view, Intel was peddling technology that it knew to be somewhere between four and eight years behind AMD's. AMD told you so, and so did I, but Intel's marketing is capable of overpowering reason. Intel manages to thrive by setting expectations that match its technology, and raising those expectations every two years by just enough to make you see your Intel-based PC or server as wanting. Otellini got stuck apologizing because AMD got a chance to show buyers Opteron's potential. The market's expectations followed, as they naturally will when people buy technology that never needs replacing. Given the choice between buying well and buying often, the market chose the former.


Silence your servers: It's quiet, it's green, it's the rack o' my dreams

When I refer to my lab, I use the term loosely. It's a 10-by-10-foot working space whose smooth walls channel the sound from every device with a fan straight into my ears. I share that room with every server I use and test. Of these, an 8-core Xserve is the only box that stays on 24/7, and I wish I could say I've gotten used to the noise. I haven't. While the Xserve idles at a pleasant noise level, as soon as any computing load kicks in, the fans spin up. When they do, they find a frequency resonant with the part of my brain that tells me that if I value what's left of my hearing, it's time to leave the room. The necessity of working with rack servers that get louder with each generation has made noise the primary governor of my workflow.

Apple's little big iron

If I'm not otherwise engaged next Thursday morning, I just might spend my economic stimulus check to enter the PC server business. I could go shopping for a wholesale 1U bare-bones rack server, with my primary criteria being that it boot DOS from a floppy and require you to take your server off-line to change basic system settings. I'll stuff that two-socket black box with RAM, CPUs, and disks; charge you for your choice of Windows or Linux; and unless you're buying these things by the gross, stick you with desktop-grade support. Since I had no involvement in your server's design and engineering, I'll rely on BIOS and driver updates from my volume motherboard supplier. I'll selectively pass these on to you, flagged with warnings about how they may render your system unusable if you misapply them, until my supplier stops issuing them. Don't worry, you'll have a solid year before that happens.

Live Mesh: IT's universal remote

Apple's .Mac comes close to offering professionals secure shared data and remote desktop access without the hassle of VPN. Microsoft Live Mesh hopes to take it all the way.

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