Hard News by Russell Brown

The Sweetest Thing

Hope to be taking home a new iMac G5 before Christmas? Don't leave the shop without a Firewire cable - not if you're a current MacOS X user anyway. I uplifted my machine from Magnum Mac's first shipment of 17 (yes, being a journalist helps) on Friday afternoon with the expectation that my first ever MacOS X migration would be a gradual and fiddly process.

Quite the contrary. I took the new Mac out of its box, plugged in power, Ethernet and keyboard cables, and powered up. False start: the power lead fell out because I hadn't put it in properly. With power supply integrity established (there's a disc on the lead that needs to be pushed firmly in place to hold the lead in) I tried again, and brought up the welcome screen.

To my surprise, the third screen in asked me if I wanted to copy my "information" over from an existing Mac. Um, yes please. This was obviously Apple's "system migration" feature, which turned up mid-year on new professional G5 Power Macs and is an advertised feature of the forthcoming MacOS X 10.4, but doesn't seem to have been included on the first few iMac G5s out the door - it was news to Magnum Mac when I called them about it.

Trouble was, it required a Firewire cable, and the only one of those in the house appeared to have migrated itself to school, necessitating an emergency call to the rest of the family, who were out expressing consumer confidence at St Lukes. Miraculously, they found a Dick Smith sales assistant who knew what he was talking about ("For a Mac? That'll be a six-pin Firewire cable.") and brought home the goods.

What happened next was one of the sweetest things I have ever seen happen on a computer. I connected the machines, restarted my G4 in Firewire target disk mode and, after checking that I wanted everything brought over, the G5 sucked my home directory, my applications folder and all other files and folders across and put them in the right places. At 400Mbit/s Firewire speed, it took about 40 minutes.

The G5 blotted its copybook a bit by bluescreening after it announced the job was done, but on restart everything worked. Passwords, cookies, network settings, applications, printer - everything. It was almost anti-climactic. I thought I'd have the old and new computers sharing a desk for most of the weekend, but it was just plain over for the old G4. I unplugged it and broke it down; I'll clean up the disk later.

And the new machine? With the possible exception of a foray into bad decoration late in the original CRT iMac line, Apple has mastered the knack of making each new iMac seem sexier than the one before, as this one does. But I'm wondering if it's a bit more than that. With its entire works - including a DVD-burning Superdrive, 74GB HDD, mini-VGA out, audio in, etc - squeezed into a 5cm thick flat screen, it feels different. And it's fast.

The best Mac, for its time, that I have hitherto owned was an LC575, a lovely little all-in-one with a Trinitron screen that was one of the last models Apple released before its mid-90s quality control spiral began (I sold it to Chris Bourke to buy a Performa 5300, which was a miserable piece of crap). I think the iMac G5 is better than that. I'm really happy about it.

(BTW: if you're interested in buying a 466MHz G4 tower with a 17" CRT Apple Studio Monitor for $800, by all means get in touch.)

Following up on yesterday's post, Stephen Walker directed me to this fascinating entry on the libertarian-run blog antiwar.com, which, as he points out, "throws a whole new light on the goings on among so-called libertarians and objectivists and the people at Reason magazine. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the American Empire is in full crash-and-burn mode when things have got to this level."

Craig Marshall had his own analysis on the same topic:

It is a great source of puzzlement to liberal thinkers that rationality seems to play so small a part in most peoples' decision making. Your article about the inconsistencies in the position of supporters of George Bush illustrates this point once again. There is nothing new in this position: Marcus Aurelius commented on it nearly 2000 years ago and it is something that exercised Greek philosophers before that. It is interesting to wonder why rational thought seems to be so unimportant in making decisions.

It is easy to over-analyse a decision, but why such little analysis should be so common among those making decisions is hard to understand. We are probably more used to making decisions based on our emotional reactions rather than our thoughts. Most people have had the experience of instinctively making what turned out to be the right decision only to have talked ourselves out of it after subsequent analysis.

Perhaps we conflate two kinds of judgements: whether we like someone, which is rather an imponderable, with logical decisions such as "is the invasion of Iraq a good idea?". Election campaigns often seem to encourage this conflation and George Bush's team is better than most at this. After all, based on his record, I find it hard to believe that anyone could approve of his actions. However, if you can persuade people that Bush is to be better trusted than John Kerry, then such minor details as what Bush has actually done over the last 4 years become largely unimportant. A failure to recognize this distinction is something very common among those who count themselves as rational. This failure to comprehend this distinction could itself be thought of as somewhat irrational. Hardly a comforting thought but not as surprising a phenomenon as your email seems to suggest.

Christian Science Monitor rounds up

perceptions of the missing explosives story


A couple of tributes; the first to New Zealand cricket captain Stephen Fleming, who yesterday scored his eighth test century,

became New Zealand's highest run-scorer in tests

, became our most capped test player, and overtook Brian Lara as the player to score the most test runs as captain. It has been Fleming's ability to flatter to deceive - to play beautifully then get himself out at 30, 40 or 70 - that has helped obscure the fact that the best New Zealand batsman has played in our time. I admire Fleming's skill and intelligence and, particularly, his achievement in conquering his own demons and blossoming as a player in the last three years - in which time he has scored six test centuries against the two he managed in his first eight years of international cricket. I hope we get at least another five years from him.

And, finally, I was briefly set adrift this morning when I heard the sad news that John Peel had died of a heart attack in Peru, at the age of 65. He was a mythical figure when we were teenagers, hanging on every three-month-old NME and checking the record shops for new punk rock imports, although we barely knew what he sounded like.

I listened to his BBC Radio 1 show for five years when I lived in London. And I was fortunate enough to spend time with him and his wife Sheila when they came to New Zealand several years ago. The same things that made him such a great radio presence made him a good interview and a lovely bloke to share a pint with. Sheila was a sweetie, and his guide through the hurly-burly of meeting-and-greeting.

BBC Online has

a comprehensive array of tributes to the man and his work

. I admire his taste and his purpose and his stock of yarns (most especially his account of being in Dallas when Kennedy was shot). But most of all I admire - and would hope to emulate - his achievement of reaching the age of 65 without ever quite growing up.