Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Glow Internet

I read the family news on the internet today (as you do in my family) that my younger brother, Thom, has just quit his job of 7 years at an internet consultancy in Liverpool. He and a friend are starting up their own consultancy called Glow Internet. Thom is someone I regularly pick the brains of with various obscure questions about best practices, browser conformity, CSS and SQL and I’m sure that Glow will do very well. So if you need any web type work, marketing or other bits of bespoke software click below:

The Glow website (coming soon): http://www.glow-internet.com/
Thom’s tech blog: http://www.ts0.com

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Apple MacBook and Parallels

I’m writing this on my new 13” MacBook which arrived yesterday. I briefly tried one out when they were first released but this one will actually replace my daily use 12” Powerbook. It’s a nice looking machine and the increase in speed of the Intel platform really makes a big difference.

I’m looking forward to getting Boot Camp and Parallels running so I can switch between Mac OS X and Windows XP because in the main I’m a Windows user. Parallels runs a virtual Windows machine in the OS X environment (similar to VMWare). The latest beta now allows something akin to seamless windows they are calling “coherence” which is one step closer to running Windows apps straight from the dock in OS X. It makes the XP desktop transparent so your XP apps look to be running happily alongside OS X windows.

Another big new feature in this beta is the ability to drag-and-drop files from the Mac to the virtual Windows machine and vice-versa. However this only seems to drop the files onto the XP desktop no matter where you drop it over an application window. I was really hoping you could drop files straight into the XP apps as you normally can within Windows since this would be a nice way to avoid having to navigate folders shared between the virtual machines.

I think apart from a few tweaks and some kind of Direct X graphics emulation (if this is technically possible) there isn’t really a whole lot more you would want from Parallels and I think it will be very interesting to see the effect this cross platform ability has on Apple’s future.

There is no doubt that OS X is a very elegant, secure and usable system that can take on Windows, however the main gripe is often the reduced choice of software available, particularly for businesses when compared to Windows. A lot of business software still doesn’t support the Mac and although open source software is great and we try to use it where ever possible it can by its nature be somewhat hit and miss.

When it becomes possible to run Windows apps completely seamlessly on a Mac then who could possibly lose out? Apple can sell more of their systems, boasting the ability to provide both OS X and Windows compatibility. Microsoft will be happy as long as they are selling their Windows licences.

However the real question is what will the developers do. Many software companies will see this as an opportunity to not write their software for each platform, the majority of which will probably be biased towards the larger Windows market. What you then end up with is the software developers dropping native support for Mac OS X and shipping the same version for both platforms. I can imagine MS Office being one of the first, perhaps with MS bundling an OEM copy of “Vista Mac Edition” to run the suite.

Will this empower OS X or does it mean that Apple will essentially become a hardware manufacturer and concentrate on iPods, iPhones and content delivery such as iTunes? I think it will be very interesting to see what 2007 holds for the Mac.

Friday, 15 December 2006

Norhtec Microclient Jr

Christmas came early in the office on Friday afternoon when the new toy finally arrived all the way from Thailand. The Microclient Jr is basically an very small form factor PC that runs from a compact flash card.

It came preinstalled with Puppy Linux which it seems to cope with pretty well considering it's only running a 200Mhz CPU with 128MB of RAM. Web browsing isn't hugely practical unless you have a lot of spare time on your hands, however it does run Firefox with Flash 9 plugin which Kieron tried with some of our own Flash based applications.

On the front it has a couple of USB sockets, audio in and out and the CF slot. The back is crammed with more serial ports, ethernet, keyboard PS2 socket and a standard 15pin VGA socket.

One of the best things is the price. Starting at $120 it doesn't work out at much more than £60 in the UK. At this price its easy to think of lots of useful applications for the little box, the first thing we are going to try is running Nagios and see how it deals with serving some PHP pages.