Saturday, November 20, 2004

Dual G5 2.4 GHz PCI Express nForce4 blade announced

Continuous Computing Corporation has announced a dual G5 blade server which uses Apple's U3H Northbridge (aka IBM CPC925) controller. This server is called the LINUXbladePPC20A.

The design supports dual G5 PowerPC 970FX 2.4 GHz CPUs, a 1 GHz HyperTransport bus, PCI Express, and up to 8 GB DDR400 ECC memory, all in a blade server form factor with a total maximum power utilization of under 200 Watts.

This represents the first G5 board available which supports the new PCI Express interface, and it uses the nVidia nForce4 chipset popular on the PC side. Apple does not yet support PCI Express, but one might suspect they will adopt it in 2005.

It's also nice to see that the cramped blade design can handle 970FX CPUs of up to 2.4 GHz. Apple has built 2.3 GHz Xserves for Virginia Tech, but they are a custom configuration not (yet) available to the general public, and they are used with specialized cooling equipment.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Apple Store coming to Toronto

It seems that Apple is finally acknowledging the rumours that they are opening an Apple Store in the Toronto region in 2005:
Apple Canada is announcing today that an Apple Branded Retail Store location will be opening in Toronto, mid year 2005.

Apple currently has ninety-six retail stores in the US, two in Japan, and one opening in London, England this weekend. The stores have been incredibly popular, attracting more than fifty million visitors since the first store was opened in May of 2001.

They provide great hands-on experience for customers, and we welcome the store to Canada as a great complement to our existing distribution channels.

To see what the Apple Store concept is all about, please go to:

Where and when are unknown at this time
Most rumours have suggested that such a store will be in a suburb of Toronto, which would make sense since downtown Toronto already has several very good Mac-oriented stores. However, other rumours suggest the Toronto Eaton Centre, which is the main downtown mall and a popular tourist destination.

In addition, the Canadian iTunes Music Store is slated to open this month. Song prices are as yet unknown.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

OmniGraffle and OmniOutliner updates coming

Expect to see new versions of OmniGraffle and OmniOutliner released at Macworld in January. No details are available yet on the new versions, however.

Monday, November 15, 2004

More rumours about the next-gen G5 970GX

I wrote before of the rumoured Antares 970MP dual-core next generation G5. Think Secret revisits the topic, this time focusing on the single-core 970GX version of the chip. Rumoured specs for the chip are a clockspeed of 3 GHz, and 1 MB L2 cache, double that of the current 970FX. In essence, this is the single-core version of the 970MP (which makes one wonder if this could represent the dual-core 970MP chip with a failure of one of the two cores). This doubling of the L2 cache and the increased clockspeed in a single-core chip represents a logical evolution of the 970 design, and would make for a nice upgrade for Apple's machines.

IBM has also released a PDF which mentions the eServer JS20++ (page 18), which has not yet been released. If by their nomenclature, the JS20 represents the version with the 1.6 GHz 970, and the JS20+ represents the version with the 2.2 GHz 970FX, it would not be a leap to think that the JS20++ would use the new 970GX chip. As a side note, this document also confirms that IBM utilizes the U3 Northbridge designed by Apple.

In addition, Think Secret mentions 1.6-1.8 GHz low power chips for PowerBooks, although it's not clear if these would be versions of the 970GX, tweaked 970FX chips, or something else. The mentioned clock speeds seem reasonable, especially considering IBM's previous hints of a low power 1.9 GHz G5 with a max power utilization of 30 Watts, for laptops. Plus, 1.6-1.8 GHz G5s would make for the perfect update to the current G4 line, which uses 1.33-1.5 GHz G4s.

Finally, while IBM's latest 90 nm chip yields have not been stellar, they have been quickly improving, and IBM claims they should get a 40% improvement in chip output this quarter. (It is not clear if that improvement is purely due to increased yields or includes additional wafers.) However, Apple states that 2.5 GHz 970FX Power Macs will continue to be in limited supply this quarter, so it may be quite some time before we see the PowerBook G5 or Power Mac 970GX (or 970MP). Macworld 2005 is in January, but it may be as long as WWDC in June before we see any such generational updates.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Pixar transitioning to OS X

As has been reported several times around the net, Pixar has been transitioning many of their workstations to OS X. One MacNN forum member describes the transition process.

He states that Pixar was on Sun/SGI workstations for quite some time, and then switched to Linux for a time, before they settled on OS X. According to him, OS X's unix base and its excellent support for media production work was a big draw. The HD support provided by Pixlet didn't hurt either of course.

The latest movie from Pixar, The Incredibles, credits Intel because of the large Xeon renderfarm they use. At the time of that purchase, the only Xserves available were G4 based, and too slow for the price in comparison to the competition. One wonders if the next renderfarm they purchase will be G5 Xserve based, especially since Steve Jobs owns 53% of Pixar.

Apple files patent application for wireless iPod

In US Patent Application 20040224638, Apple describes a wireless iPod:
...the media player system pertains to a wireless media player system that includes a hand held media player capable of transmitting information over a wireless connection and one or more media devices capable of receiving information over the wireless connection.

If such a device comes to fruition, it could fill a large hole in Apple's iTunes offerings. Airport Express allows any home stereo with an audio input to stream music wirelessly directly from a computer with iTunes installed. However, it currently requires the user to interact with the computer in order to work. For example, just to skip a song, one must be at the computer.

Two potential solutions to this problem include:

1) An AirTunes remote control that can send and receive information to the computer that is streaming music to the Airport Express unit. The remote would need to be able to display which songs are on that computer in order to be relatively functional.
2) A wireless iPod that can house its own music and stream it directly to the Airport Express unit. This solution would not require a computer at all.

Of note is the fact that this patent application was filed well over a year ago, long before Airport Express was even announced. Also of note is the mention of devices for wireless video. It's clear that Airport Express is just the initial step in Apple's much larger plan to dominate our living rooms.

The 130 nm G5 is alive and well

In a previous article I wrote that Apple/IBM had retired the 130 nm G5 970, and was shipping new machines based on the 90 nm G5 970FX.

However, according to a recent poll, Apple is still shipping new Power Macs (PowerMac7,3) with the older 130 nm PowerPC 970 (0039020) chips, alongside machines with the new 90 nm PowerPC 970FX (003c0300) chips. The dual 2.5 GHz Power Macs do ship only with the 970FX, but that's because there is no such thing as a 2.5 GHz 970.

This suggests that IBM has not yet been able to produce enough 970FX chips cheaply, to support all the Power Macs and the new iMac G5 machines. Along with Apple's admission that 2.5 GHz 970FX machines will continue to be constrained throughout this quarter, this does not bode well for 3 GHz machines any time soon.