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The Mac Set



Interchangeable interfaces

22 November 2006.

Wow - three and a half years since the last entry. This was too good to pass by, though. It's the best idea I've seen in ages. A configurable input system, as shown in a recently released patent.

The keyboard of Apple Mac laptops was already easy to pull open (and remove), to add extra memory or show off the innards, but this takes it a little further. For musicians or video editors this has the potential to be almost revolutionary.

Also really cool would be to have an OLED keyboard, where every key is a tiny OLED display, which means each application could have it's own unique keyboard.


Final Cut Pro 4 announced

7 April 2003.

We're not actually going to get it until June, but at least Apple announced it today. But what did they announce?

From MacRumors.com:

Packed with more than 300 new features, Final Cut Pro 4 introduces RT Extreme, for real-time composting and effects...

From MacNN.com:

Packed with more than 300 new features, Final Cut Pro 4 introduces RT Extreme, for real-time composting and effects...

It slices, it dices, it fertilises!

(Emphasis added.)


PowerPC 970 rumour update

5 April 2003.

It is said that pessimists are never disappointed. So sooner had I released my prediction for a September rollout of PPC970 Powerbooks (OK, a day after) MacWhispers comes out with this rumour (repeat, rumour):

Finally, we continue to receive small comments suggesting that the availability of production quantities of the new PPC 970 chips is running "surprisingly ahead of schedule," in fact, to the degree that is has caused some serious confusion in Apple's product development and production scheduling. It seems that changes originally planned for as late as September to November are being aggressively accelerated, and are being deployed now, because of IBM's unexpected chip production successes.

This seems suspicious because it comes just a day after my own prediction for a September release (5 April here being April 4 in the States). While I will very happily be proven wrong, I can't see it happening any time soon. I stand by my September prediction. And if I'm wrong, it's about time that Apple moved away from Motorola and their can't-speed-up G4. MacWhispers is the only Mac rumour outfit that is claiming it will happen so soon.

In further refutation of my own objections, MacWhispers claims "a PPC 970 variant of the largest PowerBook is 'only slightly behind' its mid-size brother."

Please note that MacWhispers is the same outfit that predicted the 970-powered iPod for release earlier this week. It didn't happen. (It was probably a joke.) MacWhispers doesn't have a great reputation for accuracy.


PowerPC 970 in a Powerbook

4 April 2003.

The rumour mills are running hot with the possibility that the soon-expected 15.4" aluminium case Powerbook (to replace the current 15.2" titanium case Powerboook) will have a PPC970 CPU instead of the current G4. Some of the pros and cons:

Reasons Against Rebuttals and Reasons For
The 970 will almost certainly need a 64 bit operating system, which isn't ready yet.

From IBM's literature on the 970: "Native 32-bit mode: ... 32-bit PPC application code supported".

In an unusual move, Apple has promised a preview release of Mac OS X "Panther" at WWDC 2003 (Worldwide Developers Conference, which has been delayed to the end of June), well in advance of the conference. 970-based desktops are expected to be announced then, which may require the new OS.

The 970 itself is already available.

 

Updating the mid-size Powerbook would mean their flagship 17" Powerbook would be left behind, since it was released only three months ago and is not likely to be updated again so soon (when it is only just beginning to actually ship - that would really bug the 17" buyers).

Apple updated the Powerbook in November 2002 and then upgraded them to 1GHz two months later.

Apple has never updated the CPU type in portables before desktops. (They have sometimes been updated at the same time.) Recently Apple has been placing more importance on portable computing. Firewire 800 was released first in the 17" Powerbook.
The 970 is too big to easily fit into a portable.

The size of the 970 is much smaller than the Power4 which it is based on and isn't much different in size to a G4.

Supposedly a 1.2GHz 970 runs cooler than a 1GHz G4 and uses less battery power than a G4, which combined with the size means the 970 (like the G3) is well suited for a laptop. (Apparently the G4 isn't).

The up to 900MHz processor bus (!) the 970 can run on hasn't had time to be engineered, what with Apple's crew working on the 17" Powerbook. The idea that the updated Powerbook will have the same speed (and type) CPU as at present doesn't sound likely.
Apple probably thinks it's too early to cut Mac OS 9 boot-up. DON'T TAKE MY MAC OS 9.

It's clear that the reasons against a 970 Powerbook appearing anytime soon are stronger than those in support. What's not in question is that the 15" Powerbook does need updating to the aluminium case soon (with faster RAM, backlit keyboard, Firewire 800, Airport Extreme, Bluetooth, no MacOS 9, different screen aspect ratio, etc). Some people claim that if there weren't so many titanium Powerbooks still with retailers it would have been done already.

However the reason mentioned above that a G4-powered aluminium 15" Powerbook would have the same clock speed as the current one may mean we won't see any update to it for several months - there simply isn't much point. The 12" Powerbook doesn't have Firewire 800 (probably no room for it) and very few people would need it anyway. Airport Extreme is a plug-in card away, as is Bluetooth (USB dongle). The light-up keyboard sounds pretty cool, and fast RAM is always desireable (depending on what you do with it).

So just for the record, I'm predicting the there will be no PPC970 Powerbooks before September 2003 at the earliest.

But the iPod is way overdue for an update.


Final Cut Pro 4 at NAB 2003?

26 March 2003.

Another week goes by and we have more than rumours to work on. Apple has sent out invitations to a press conference at National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 2003 (7 to 10 April) where they will announce their "strategic direction for digital video production technologies". This is significant because:

  • We are already expecting the new version of FCP at NAB.
  • Apple has announced earlier versions of Final Cut Pro at the event in previous years. (For example version 1.2.5 at NAB 2000.)
  • Final Cut Pro is definitely a major part of their digital video strategy.
  • Panasonic’s AG-DVX100 24P mini-DV camcorder was announced at NAB 2002, with Apple committing to supporting it in a future version of Final Cut Pro. Apple hasn't released that new version yet.

Final Cut Pro 4 Rumours

19 March 2003.

Just catching up on Final Cut Pro 4 rumours. This from LoopRumors on 22 Feb (which was 23 Feb here):

Recent information hints that we will see Final Cut Pro 4 announced at NAB in Las Vegas on April 7th. It's been over a year since Apple upgraded FCP to version 3 on December 4, 2001 at DV Expo. Several sources confirm that the most important added feature is support for FireWire 800. Apple is taking major strides to separate FCP from its consumer product, Final Cut Express, launched at January's Macworld Expo. Other features said to be implemented are support for 24fps, improved support for HDTV, built-in 3-D titles, hundreds of effects and transitions, several bug fixes, and overall speed performances.

Like I said, we're overdue for an update, but the rumour sites are still saying "next month." I don't know if the rumours about low-end Shake (compositing) features being incorporated into FCP4 are based on anything but fancy, but it would certainly serve the purpose of setting Final Cut Pro 4 apart from Final Cut Express. When Apple bought Nothing Real (makers of Shake) in February 2002 they were only getting started. Apple purchased the RAYZ and Chalice composition software from Silicon Grail in July 2002. "RAYZ is a compositor based on Chalice, which provides effects and color correction tools for cinema. The program has been used on movies like Deep Blue Sea, Titanic, Star Trek Insurrection, Men In Black, and many others." All of those purchases were months after the real-time colour correction of Final Cut Pro 3 (released in December 2001).

For more on how RAYZ works read this article.


Outstanding Prediction

29 January 2003.

I suppose that in the States it's still yesterday. Either way, please note that I got my prediction out there just in time - before Apple released their new PowerMac G4s. The fastest has dual 1.42GHz CPUs, and yes, the all three new PowerMacs have Firewire 800. The system bus for the top two models is up from 133MHz to 167MHz.

As with the PowerBooks released at Mac World San Francisco, Mac OS 9 is being phased out. According to the tech specs none of the new PowerMacs boot to Mac OS 9. As with the PowerBook, "old" models are still available which will boot to Mac OS 9.

Still no sign of a new version of Final Cut Pro, sadly. A quick check around a few rumour sites indicates the first week of February (hey, that's next week!) may present a few updates.


Outstanding Updates

27 January 2003.

Hmmm. Don't quite know what happened to 2002. Maybe I was too busy using my Mac...

Anyway, at this year's Mac World San Francisco in early January, updates were made to both software and hardware that is not the top of the line software or hardware. This means that us Mac fans are in the surest position for a long time for expected updates - bizarre since this is just after major announcements.

Software:

  • The latest release of iLife application iMovie (namely, version 3) can insert chapter markers for use in creating DVDs by iDVD 3. Apple's flagship video editing software Final Cut Pro 3 can't do this - yet.
  • iMovie 3 can also import video footage and automatically separate the scenes - something I've thought for a long time would be very handy in Final Cut Pro.

Hardware:

  • Firewire 800 has been released to the world, but is only included on the 17" Powerbook. Once again their flagship product, the PowerMac G4, is missing the new technology - a very unusual position for Apple to be in.

Conclusion:

Expect updates to Final Cut Pro and the PowerMac very soon. Hopefully the FCP update will fix the problem of it only working with QuickTime 5 instead of the current version 6. And maybe, just maybe, we'll see the G5 with its 400MHz system bus.



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