Tech Week in Review

Kudos to Velocity Upgrades, questions on Microsoft innovation, freeware for low-end Mac Web servers, Microsoft's irresponsibility, and the Palm BeOS buyout.

Doing Right by the Customer

For those of you who are in desperate need of RAM (and at these prices, who isn't?), I heartily endorse Velocity Upgrades. Let me explain.

It all started about 12 weeks or so ago, when I was wondering aloud on Stuart Bell's Colo(u)r Classic Forum about whether 64 MB 72-pin SIMMs would work on an LC 575 motherboard or not. I piggybacked one onto a memory order I was making from Velocity, and it arrived around the first week of June. I put it in, and it didn't work. Well, it sort of worked, but it was only recognized as a 32 MB chip. No good. I tried to sell it a couple times on the LEM Swap list, but I got no bites. I decided I might as well set up an RMA with Velocity.

Meanwhile, information about the LC 575 with 64 MB SIMMs was slowly trickling in, mostly thanks to a kind Japanese fellow, Mr. S. Watanabe (a.k.a. MISUTHiKU). After obtaining more useful information, I called Velocity with some questions. By a stroke of luck, I got Rob, their head technician, with whom I carried on intelligent, productive discourse for about half an hour. (Note that this is probably the first time I've actually talked to a RAM vendor on the phone who actually knew what was going on with banks, refresh rates, and chip setup.) We came to the conclusion that he would test the different types of RAM they had in their testbed LC 575 and then call me back. Two days and two phone calls later, Rob still hadn't tested anything, so I sort of gave up on the idea of hearing back from him, although I did take the time to put in an RMA request for the "faulty" module I had.

A few days went by and still nothing. Then a FedEx package showed up from Velocity; it contained two 128 MB DIMMs. "Oops," I thought, until I realized a week later that they were an RMA for two faulty DIMMs I had sent to a friend in London. Meanwhile, on the CC Forum, more information become available that assisted me in my quest for RAM nirvana on a 575 board. I got inspired to check with some other memory vendors and see what they had to say.

Lemme just say that some of you who think you're doing yourselves a service by sticking with other memory vendors are deluded. Of the seven other vendors I called who claimed to have stock of a 64 MB SIMMs (according to RAMseeker), two had nothing, two had what I needed but couldn't (or wouldn't) match Velocity's price, one put me on hold for ten minutes after which I got disgusted and hung up, one had a similar product for "a deal" of $149, and one "technician" told me he had been "selling RAM for seven years" and had never heard of banking on RAM modules. (A bank is, well, some technical thing that I don't totally understand myself, but if a technician hasn't even heard of it, I don't want to deal with his company.)

I called Velocity back, but I didn't ask to speak with Rob right away. At this point, I knew what I wanted: a single-bank, 64 MB, 4k (or faster, i.e. a lower number) refresh, 5V, 72-pin SIMM. That's what both of MISUTHiKU's chips were, and correspondence proved our RAM controllers and ROMs to be essentially identical, so I didn't think that was the issue. The salesman asked what I was going to put it in, and I told him, asking if he thought it would work.

He put Rob on the phone, who repeated my request to make sure the salesman passed on the question properly. I confirmed it, and Rob asked what Mac I was planning on putting it in. "An LC 575," I replied. "Ah, you're that guy!" (Hi, Rob!) We talked some more, I explained the new information I had, and Rob determined that his test machine was an LC 475, not a 575. Because they didn't have a 575, he very generously offered to send out two single-bank SIMMs (one FPM and one EDO) for my testing at no charge.

When the FedEx box came on Monday, it contained five modules of various specs, all single-bank, 64 MB modules. I spent most of Monday night testing them in various Macs I had around the house (I've passed a copy of the report on to Dan Knight, who updated the respective pages on Low End Mac). Suffice it to say that most 68040-based Macs can take a single-bank 64 MB module (EDO or FPM) and use it fully. For specifics, check the profiles here at LEM. I personally guarantee the RAM information in them is the most accurate and comprehensive on the Web.

For their low (generally industry-leading) prices, but most of all for going above and beyond what would be expected to do right by their customers, Velocity has earned my permanent business and respect. Thanks to Rob, I now have a Colo(u)r Classic/575 (a.k.a. a "Mystic") with 64 MB of RAM at no charge to me. (And yes, I would have written this glowing review even if they had still charged me $32.95 for the RAM. Their service alone would have been worth an extra $30, but instead, they have the lowest price on 64 MB SIMMs anywhere — and the best service.)

Microsoft: "Innovating" Again?

For those of you who missed it, Microsoft unveiled an unprecedented breakthrough in keyboard technology on Monday, the Microsoft Office™ Keyboard.

What's the big deal, you ask? It has Copy, Paste, and Cut keys over on the left side. As Dan Knight noticed on Monday, Apple has been shipping keyboards with those labels since the Apple Extended Keyboard was introduced with the Macintosh II in 1987. Nice "innovation," Microsoft. Sorry, but you just set yourselves up for this rehash of an old joke:

Microsoft Keyboard 2001 = Macintosh Keyboard 1987

Obscure Technology Use(r)s

This isn't exactly recent news, but it's the first time I stumbled across it and it's esoteric enough to really catch my eye. The Deuce of Clubs has a site dedicated to the famous Mojave Phone Booth, which was thoughtlessly removed by Pacific Bell at the behest of the National Park Service in April of 2000. I take no responsibility for time you may find yourself wasting at this site.

Web Server Source Available

From the "keeping-those-older-Macs-useful" department.

Courtesy of MacInTouch, MacHTTP 2.4 has been released as freeware, with its source code available from SourceForge. According to the docs, it requires merely System 7, AppleScript, and 2 MB RAM. It works with either Classic Networking (MacTCP) or Open Transport.

Wanna show off your geekiness to your buddies while also putting a low-end Mac to work as a Web server like Marshall Lewis does — or maybe that Mac Plus Web Server? You're all set with this software. It's good to have a group working on MacHTTP again, too. If we can't have a 68K port of Apache, at least we have this.

Get Your Server License Here

Remember two weeks ago I mentioned that people had been tossing around the idea of requiring licenses to operate a server? Wired has picked up on the idea and has an article analyzing the situation. I agree with most of its points, especially with holding software publishers more responsible for their products. If my car's engine quits and causes me to hit someone due to a failure in the engine, the manufacturer, not me, is going to be held responsible.

Instead of going after all the people who don't know any better (after all, I don't need to know how my car's insides work to drive it), why not go after Microsoft for aiding and abetting theft of services or a DDoS attack? How about port scanning? That's illegal in many jurisdictions, and the huge security holes in IIS allow Code Red to do it.

Don't get me wrong — I'm not totally excusing end users here. I simply think that people should be expected to be ignorant of technology (at least to the extent that they shouldn't have to know how IIS operates in order to use their computer) and that companies, especially Microsoft, have a responsibility to thoroughly test server-type products before unleashing them on the Internet at large.

This makes a nice segué into the next topic...

Responsible Software Publishing

When you write the OS that runs on 90 percent of the computers in use in the world, you have a certain responsibility to your users. You have a responsibility to give them an OS that won't cause other people grief. Microsoft has completely failed its users in that regard, not only by allowing their products to be used to attack other, non-Microsoft products, but by allowing their own customers' machines to be crippled or disabled by worms and virii written to exploit security holes in their products.

The security hole exploited by Code Red was publicly announced nearly a month before the first Code Red variant surfaced, yet Microsoft did nothing until the initial round of damage had been done. Even then, their patch was either inadequate or ineffective, because the hole was left open just wide enough that a new variant of Code Red has been able to work its way through holes left by the first patch.

Am I disgusted with Microsoft? Absolutely. And this time, it's not because Windows is little more than a cheap, unstable knockoff of the Mac OS. It's because Microsoft is singularly responsible for the following:

Do I need more reasons?

For those of you who just answered "Yes" to that rhetorical question, I present the following piece of evidence as Another Reason Microsoft Is Really And Truly Evil. (Really, people, stop answering rhetorical questions. That's why they're rhetorical.)

Service Pack 2 for IE 5.5 on the PC, as noted a few days back on a private mailing list I'm on and noted today on just about every Mac news site in existence (I first saw it on MacInTouch), completely disables QuickTime as a plug-in for IE. Microsoft's official excuse is that the original Netscape plug-in API is being phased out, and ActiveX (with all its associated security problems — see above notes) is "preferred [sic] technology for extending the functionality of WinIE."

I guess we can send this one over to the "coincidence?-I-think-not" department. Maybe the DoJ would be interested too. Might bolster a new case if Microsoft somehow wins the appeal.

Handheld Market Suddenly Resurgent?

In case you were hiding under a rock yesterday, Palm bought what's left of Be (yeah, the BeOS company founded by former Apple tech Jean-Louis Gassee) for about $11 million. Maybe it's just me, but I didn't think Palm was in a particularly good position to be throwing tens of millions of dollars around, what with the handheld market taking a nosedive recently and the Palm OS losing massive (at least compared to what they had a year ago) market share to the (Microsoft) PocketPC platform. As one of my friends said, "Now there's one I didn't see coming!"

It could be a Really Good Thing™, though. Palm OS isn't a bad platform, and I've never used the BeOS, but from what I've heard of BeOS, if Palm were to integrate some of BeOS's key technologies, the Palm OS would be a killer handheld OS that could probably rival the Newton.

Now if only Palm would get Apple to partner with them for UI design...

copyright ©2000-2004 by Chris Lawson