Oct 31, 2003

Welcome to the Machine

Hello. I would like to discuss a neat little command line utility included in Mac OS X that doesn't get enough attention in my humble opinion. Living in /usr/bin/, this simple Open Source tool is something that I just can not live without. What is this wondrous textual utility that I'm talking about? It's none other than machine!

Included since 1991 with the 4.4BSD platform, machine gives you the processor name that your system is based on. I don't know if it works for Intel or any other architectures since when I opened up the binary in TextEdit.app and couldn't find any processor name strings. Here's an incomplete list of machine output that I do know of to help illustrate what I mean:

  • ppc603
  • ppc604
  • ppc620
  • ppc750
  • ppc970

The cleverest aspect of machine is bringing up its manual page. I wonder who was clever enough to invent this little pun, but it makes me LOL every time I do it. Sometimes I do it just to laugh, even if I don't want to learn about machine at the moment. In case you can't guess, here is the command to bring up the manual:

man machine

omfg rorlolf

I have been accessing this program since OpenStep 4.2, then in Rhapsody DR2 and continue to use it today under Mac OS X v10.3. Kudos to NeXT and now Apple for including this Wunderwerkzeug for almost 10 years. It sure makes my Power Mac a joy to use. Check it out!

Oct 24, 2003

QNX Doesn't Scale!

Hi, I've been using QNX for the last few weeks on my 1 GHz Penium III system, and I'm quite baffled by the performance — or lack thereof — that I've been seeing.

I downloaded the QNX 6.2.1 ISO, burnt a CD, and installed onto my hard drive. This was after erasing an old Windows 2000/Linux dual-boot install. Things went smoothly, and I was easily able to connect to the Internet for updates to various packages. I was really impressed at this point.

After a couple days of playing with it, however, I was boggled at how much like Windows the system acted. Here I was with a 1 GHz processor (the minimum required is 600 MHz) and 1 gigabyte of RAM and Photon, the GUI, was lagging. If I have a few programs open and an MP3 playing in the background, I can watch widgets redraw. Tweaking some options helped a little, but this is not in line with what I have read about QNX performance.

Isn't this supposed to be a hard realtime operating system that runs on medical devices meant to save peoples' lives? How is it that it runs on 33 MHz processors with 128k of RAM in an IV drip yet skips MP3s on a system 100x beefier in every way imagineable? Do they release a different version for free that doesn't try for realtime performance or what?

After less than a full month I've grown dissatisfied with something I'd hoped I could replace my Windows and Linux installs with for leisure and hobbyist purposes. My main system is a dual 3 GHz Pentium4 box with 4 gigs of RAM, but that's a DV workstation and I can't use it just to see how QNX scales with more robust hardware and a dual processor configuration. Something tells me it might not, though.

Can anyone offer me any insights? I realize that this is a free operating system and that I have little room to bitch, but I want to make sure there's nothing I'm missing before I discount QNX altogether and go back to Windows or Linux, which while performing slugglishly are more familiar to me.

Thank you.

Oct 23, 2003

iBook G4 Lacks Velocity Engine?

It appears that Apple's new iBook G4 lacks a Velocity Engine, and may not be using what we've known as a G4 processor at all. The iBook G4 tech specs fail to mention the Velocity Engine at all in stark contrast to all of Apple's other G4-class products. This comes to the chagrin of many users who expect a G4-labeled system, using what Apple calls a G4 processor, to include AltiVec technology.

Oct 7, 2003

Sovereign Semiconductor

In the best decision out of Motorola in years — now that Chris Galvin has resigned — the Motorola Semiconductor Product Sector will be spun off into its own independent corporation. After years of mismanagement and dwindling mindshare, setting SPS free could spark the rebirth of the sleepy chipzilla, but sadly for Apple and Mac users the move has come too late to benefit Macintosh.