The Null Device
A court in Sicily has overturned a decision by road authorities who suspended a man's driving licence because he was gay:
In a written ruling released on Monday, the Sicilian court said: "It is clear that sexual preferences do not in any way influence a person's ability to drive motor cars safely."
The judges added that homosexuality "cannot be considered a true and proper psychiatric illness, being a mere personality disturbance".
Homosexuality is legal in Italy, but openly anti-gay comments from politicians and officials rarely cause a stir.
It's official; Apple are moving to an Intel Pentium architecture, and will phase out the PowerPC by 2007.
Steve Jobs says that a reason for the move is that Intel chips now offer much more power per watt than PowerPC chips. Which sounds strange, given that Intel chips are encrusted with legacy backward-compatibility baggage dating back to the IBM PC, whereas the PowerPC platform is free of such constraints. Though perhaps, because of Intel's far greater market share, enough was invested in getting around this.
Jobs also revealed that MacOS X had been built internally for Intel platforms for the past five years (which is plausible, given that NeXTSTEP, on which it is based, was sold for Intel machines). Which goes some way towards explaining the somewhat backward choice of architectures: i.e., it's inertia.
Of course, this does not make it any less of a missed opportunity to provide a computing platform on a new, unencumbered architecture. Especially given the PowerPC-like nature of the Sony/IBM Cell CPU, which would (if reports are correct) have been an immensely desirable platform for a new era. (Who knows; perhaps whoever owns the Amiga can resurrect it as a Cell workstation?) And as far as x86 chips go, AMD would have probably been a better choice than Intel. Unless, of course, it's the DRM issue again, and Jobs needs to have a black iron prison in place that the MPAA will sign off on.
And so, the last major bastion of diversity in the world of computers falls to the x86 monoculture, and Apple becomes just another PC manufacturer, albeit one with its own OS. Perhaps in five years' time they'll give up on that as well and switch to providing a Cocoa layer over Windows too? After all, it'd save them a lot of hassle.
Meanwhile, Sky TV (the Australian satellite TV company, jointly owned by Murdoch's BSkyB and two other Australian media oligarchs, Kerry Packer and Kerry Stokes) is lobbying to take over the ABC's Asia Pacific television service. The contract comes up for renewal next year, and the government hasn't said which way it'll lean. Who knows; perhaps some Evangelical Christian group will come out of nowhere and snatch the contract or something?
Everybody, it seems, is now saying that Apple are about to dump the PowerPC architecture, and move to Intel. I'm hoping that it doesn't happen; technically, the main advantage of the Intel architecture (which includes AMD and other third-party processors) is backward compatibility with MS-DOS and Windows; for this, the CPUs pay a price in extra transistor count, power consumption and performance, which other platforms (such as, say, the PowerPC) do not incur. Given that Apple machines don't run Windows, there would be little point to doing this, unless to take advantage of these chips being cheaper due to their being manufactured in larger volumes. Given that Sony's PowerPC-based Cell architecture is on the horizon and promises to revolutionise computing, Apple jumping to Intel boxes sounds like a dead end.
Meanwhile, Alec Muffett speculates that the "Intel architecture" Apple might adopt may not be IA64 but rather the XScale, an unrelated architecture based on the ARM, and used in power-efficient devices such as Palm handhelds and Nintendo DSs. On one hand, it would be cool to see a Mac mini (or even a Mac Micro) based on an ARM chipset, drawing about as much current as a nightlight and offering a usable Macintosh-flavoured web-browsing/word-processing/communications/media-playing machine. OTOH, does the ARM architecture actually scale up to the higher ends of the performance spectrum? Would an ARM-compiled version of Photoshop or ProTools be able to run efficiently on tomorrow's high-end Macs?
And WIRED reckons that Apple's switch to Intel will be in order to add Intel's DRM technology to their hardware; i.e., doubly crippling their platform to please Big Copyright.