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#657: Updated Xserve, iTunes DRM is Dead, Browser Spoofing, Windows XP Downgrade


Happy Tuesday,

Vermont today became the fourth state in the union to legalize same-sex marriage, and the first to do so through the legislative process instead of by court order. The Senate voted last night to approve a slightly revised version of the House bill, and, as promised, Governor Douglas vetoed it shortly thereafter. This morning, the legislature overturned the veto. It was a true testament to the power of democracy, and a rare example of extreme legislative efficiency.

Signs of Spring are everywhere now, even though it’s been in the thirties and raining for the past few days. Daffodils and lillies are just peeking through the mulch in the Small Dog gardens, and the first ramps are appearing in droves. In a few weeks I’ll be foraging for morels and chanterelles!

I hope you enjoy this issue. As always, keep in touch.


  Updated Xserve With Intel "Nehalem" Processors!  

Say it with me: “NAHHAYLEM

Today Apple introduced an all-new Xserve line that reportedly delivers up to two times the performance of the previous generation while providing enhanced energy efficiency. Based on next-generation Intel “Nehalem” architecture, the new Xserve features a single-die quad-core architecture, a fully shared 8MB L3 cache design, and a three-channel integrated memory controller with up to 12 slots of 1066MHz DDR3 ECC memory.

The new Xserve introduces new storage capabilities, including an optional 128GB solid-state drive (SSD) for use as a boot drive, SATA/SAS drive support with support for up to 3TB of internal storage, internal second-generation RAID card option with 512MB of RAID cache, and cost-effective dual- and quad-port Fibre Channel cards for external storage connectivity.

The new Xserve is based on a green design that delivers improved performance per watt for reduced energy consumption, eliminates toxic chemicals, and a high-efficiency power supply.

Starting at $2999, Xserve also includes an unlimited-client license of Mac OS X Server as part of its standard configuration (a $900 value). Now you can easily set up and manage servers, add new clients to the network, share calendars, schedule meetings, and more. Leopard Server also offers incredibly smart and efficient services for your network, including iCal Server, Wiki Server, and Podcast Producer. Mac OS X Server Leopard also features enhanced multicore performance.

The standard $2,999 configuration includes a 2.26GHZ Quad-Core Xeon 5500 processor. Build to order options include dual 2.26 GHz, 2.66 GHz or 2.93 GHz Intel Xeon processors.

Click here to read more about the new Xserve!

  iTunes DRM is Dead! But Variable Pricing Lives...  

The success of the iTunes Store is undeniable (it’s the #1 music store in the US). It has proven that people are willing to pay for digital music, movies, TV shows, and games, as long as the content is priced fairly, and the purchase process is fast and easy. I appreciate the iTunes Store and make purchases there almost weekly.

Effective today, iTunes is even better, as the record labels have finally allowed Apple to drop DRM (digital rights management) from all music tracks offered in the store. From now on, there are no DRM restrictions on any music purchased from the iTunes Store. Other content (movies, TV shows) may still have DRM protection in place.

Also, from now on, all tracks are available in 256kbps AAC encoding, which Apple claims to be virtually indistinguishable from the original recordings. In my own testing experience, 256kbps AAC encoded-tracks sound great and truly are virtually indistinguishable from CD quality-tracks. 256kbps AAC encoded-tracks strike the right balance between sound quality and digital file size.

Also, the iTunes Store is abandoning the fixed 99 cents price-per-song in place since its inception in 2005. Apple has adopted a new pricing scheme that includes offering songs for 69 cents, 99 cents or $1.29, depending on factors including popularity. Apple has announced that there would be more 69 cent songs than $1.29 songs.

I’ve read several opinions that the new pricing means that the iTunes Store will lose sales. I don’t think it’s possible to know this until we know how many 69 cent songs are available. Also, without DRM, tracks purchased from iTunes can be played on non-iPod music players, potentially expanding the iTunes Store’s reach.

  Tip of the Week: Browser Spoofing  

Today we had a wonderful customer in the store who had just switched to Apple by buying a new MacBook. He was running into trouble with his company’s web-based calendaring and collaboration system, as the site required Internet Explorer 6 or greater to run. He’d browse to it using Safari or Firefox, and the site would throw an error and refuse access, presumably to make it easier for novice users to know which browsers work and which don’t. Turns out, it was compatible with Safari after all. We just had to tell Safari to masquerade as Explorer.

Unfortunately, not all web developers keep up with the times. It’s likely that this site’s administrators hadn’t conducted compliance testing since at least the release of Internet Explorer 7. It’s getting rarer and rarer, but plenty of sites out there still require Explorer. This trick won’t work on all of them, but it will for a good chunk of them.

While in Safari, select Preferences from the Safari menu. Now, click the Advanced button at the top right of the Preferences window, and check “Show Develop menu in menu bar.” Close the Preferences window, and notice the new Develop menu on top of your screen. In the Develop menu is the User Agent sub-menu. From the sub-menu, select Internet Explorer 7.0. Once this is done, the web sites you visit will think you’re using Explorer, and some of the especially restrictive sites will work for you!

Be mindful of the setting you choose, as Safari will not render some web sites correctly when pretending to be Explorer.

  Windows XP Downgrade Available Through April 2010  

We reported some time ago that Microsoft planned to make Windows XP available through June 2008. Later, the company extended that date to July 31, 2009. With the release of Windows 7 approaching, Microsoft announced today that the XP “downgrade” will remain available through April 2010.

Windows XP was first released in October 2001. That same month, Apple released MacOS X 10.1 “Puma,” with enhancements like faster application launching and the ability to resize windows and move the dock. Admittedly, at that time, XP in my opinion had the edge over OS X, but over the years XP has remained at a developmental and feature-set standstill while OS X has evolved into the Leopard we know today.

Over the years Microsoft hyped “Longhorn,” but eventually abandoned the new operating system’s name in favor “Windows Vista.” We all know how that went. Microsoft admits that Windows 7 is little more than a honed version of Windows Vista. I can’t wait to see it.

Meantime, Small Dog will continue to offer Windows XP Pro installations with new computer purchases while supplies last. We will not be able to re-stock the XP products, but do carry each variant of Vista, and will carry the variants of Windows 7 when they become available.

  Identifying FireWire Chipsets: Follow-up  

I wrote last week about figuring out which FireWire chipset is inside your computer. The technique involved single user mode, which is great if you happen to be restarting, or are investigating the innards of a brand new machine without a configured user on it. But what if you don’t want to restart, or are just curious?

Console is an application in your Utilities folder that keeps track of an organizes all the logs generated by the operating system that are stored in various locations around your computer. Some items that show up in the logs include crash information and records of kernel panics.

To get the FireWire controller information from Console, first open the program from your Utilities folder. By default, Console starts with “All Messages” as the default view. You could use the slider to manually reach the top of the list and search for the entry, or you can use the search box to scan for a certain term or phrase. If you type FireWire in the search box, you’ll see the same entry from single user mode last week, with a different date of course:

Apr 7 08:15:16 localhost kernel [0] : FireWire (OHCI) Lucent ID 5901 built-in now active, GUID 001xxx3xxxx175c60; max speed s800.

  SELECTED SPECIALS | 04/07/09  
   MacBook 2.4GHz 4GB RAM, 250GB drive, iWork 09, Case, Free Shipping - Qualifies for $30 rebate!
   MacBook Pro 15in 2.53GHz 4GB RAM, 320GB HD, AppleCare, Free All-In-One Printer with rebate!
   Flip Ultra Digital Camcorder (black) + Underwater Case
   Apple TV 160GB Drive, FREE 10-ft HDMI Cable , FREE 15ft Audio TOSlink Cable FREE Shipping!
   Western Digital My Book Premium 500GB Hard Drive, USB/FW400, (r) Save $30!
   Small Dog CAR Tune FM Transmitter/Charger for iPod; works with iPod nano 4G and iPod classic!
   Micro Accessories 65 Watt AC Adaptor PowerBook G4 or iBook, Save $10!