The Alpha Xenon Development Kit 

When Microsoft was developing the Xbox 360, it turned to the PowerPC processor to power the console. To allow developers to work on software before the exact chip Microsoft wanted was ready, it turned to the Power Mac G5. The company used the original dual 2 GHz model, as well as the updated 2004 variant of the tower, and wrote a bunch of custom software for it, including a complete operating system.

Pierre Dandumont has written a lot more about this topic:

Then, Microsoft buys many Power Mac G5 and installs a dedicated operating system on it for the devs. Before the arrival of the real console, the brand provides two variants to the developers: the Alpha 1 and the Alpha 2 kits. As we will see, they differ essentially by the graphics card used. The development kits are used during a few years, at least until the E3 2005: the demonstrations of the Xbox 360 at the time are on Mac. Then, Microsoft downgraded the machines, which were eventually sold to employees for $ 300, with obviously a completely erased hard drive. From time to time, those machines reappear on eBay or at private homes – I have one – but obviously without the Microsoft OS (and with Mac OS X).

Turns out, this software recently showed up online:

The software can be downloaded from this webpage, which links to a wiki dedicated to this odd machine.

Connected #231: Dozens of Invisible Footnotes »

This week on Connected:

The boys dive into a sea of rumors after Federico explores San Jose’s municipal websites, Myke gives everyone a gift and Stephen returns from a journey.

So. Many. Rumors.

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Using a Mac mini G4 in 2019 »

Ernie Smith recently embarked on quite the nerd adventure:

Last week, I sent a piece extolling the joys of the Hackintosh, a concept that is very much a response to the demise of “the good old days” of Apple. But as I was working out the details on that piece, I had a not-so-secret hobby that was taking up quite a bit of my time. I was trying to figure out if I could revive a Genuine Apple Product™ that had seen better days. My acquisition of this product was a total impulse buy: After reading up on the Mac Mini G4 and remembering that it was the first computer I ever owned that I had not purchased refurbished or used (though not my first Mac), I decided to relive those days by buying a new one. I gave myself some parameters, however: It had to be as cheap as possible, and if it was broken, I had to fix it. After some research and some careful bidding on eBay, I bought a damaged one—for $10, plus shipping. And I got it to work.

On Glitchy Mac Audio »

An article about audio glitches on the Mac on CDM by Peter Kirn has been going around. Here’s the crux of it:

The problem is, it appears that this new chip has introduced glitches on a wide variety of external audio hardware from across the pro audio industry, thanks to a bug in Apple’s software. Issues with the way the new chip synchronizes timing causes dropouts and glitches in the audio stream. (It seems basically all USB 2.0 audio interfaces will be impacted. This of course unfortunately leads users to blame their interface manufacturer, but the fault lies with Apple.)

Switching off “Set date and time automatically” in System Preferences will reduce, but not resolve the issue.


To clarify: all T2-based Macs, that is all Mac models from the 2018 generation, are evidently unusable with USB 2.0 audio interfaces, irrespective of vendor. Audio interfaces using FireWire or Thunderbolt are reportedly unaffected by this particular bug, but USB 2.0 is for the moment the most popular bus for audio devices, so nearly all owners of the new machines are encountering the issue.

I have no doubt that some users of T2-equipped Macs are seeing serious audio bugs, because USB audio has been buggy on the Mac for years, long before the T2 showed up. Even using a high-end USB interface, I get frequent pops, drop-outs and glitches when recording. Thankfully, these don’t usually end up in my recorded files, but it is annoying to hear these things while recording. And again, these problems have been present for years, making Kirn’s advice of keeping old Macs around or switching to Windows to avoid these issues just silly.

It does seem that some users are experiencing more serious issues, and clearly Apple needs to address USB audio issues on the Mac, but as a professional in the field, I can tell you, this isn’t a universal problem that makes all T2 Macs “unusable.”

Kbase Article of the Week: Macintosh Quadra: Support for 16-Bit Color »

Apple Support:

The Quadra 700 and 900 don’t support 16-bit color (thousands of colors). This was a feature added to the Quadra 950. A different chip containing a CLUT (Color Lookup Table) that could support 16-bit color was included in the redesign of the Quadra 950.

The ability to support this many colors isn’t dependent on the size of the screen, but it influences the amount of VRAM you must have installed.

Ming-Chi Kuo: 16.5-inch MacBook Pro in the Works »

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

Tonight, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo released a research note looking at Apple’s releases in 2019. MacRumors has obtained a copy of the report and perhaps the most exciting prediction for Mac users is the revelation that Apple is working on a 16″-16.5″ MacBook Pro. Unfortunately the report provides few details beyond that it is an “all-new” design, suggesting Apple is revamping their current MacBook Pro design.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is one for me, but I am very interested to see where this may lead, both in terms of what an “all-new design” may bring.

I’m sure the fans of the long-gone 17-inch MacBook Pro are excited. They better start saving up now.

MPU #470: From Computing to Sheep Farming, with Oogie McGuire »

This week on Mac Power Users:

Programmer and sheep farmer Oogie McGuire talks about LambTracker, her application for managing flocks and the hardware that goes along with it, as well as her on-going project of digitizing historical photos.

This interview was really interesting, and I think you’ll be surprised to hear how much tech is used in an industry you probably haven’t thought about too much.

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Goodnight, Opportunity »

Today marks the end of Opportunity’s mission. One of two identical Martian rovers, Opportunity landed on the Red Planet just over 15 years ago to start what was supposed to last 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards.

It covered 28 miles before a dust storm coated its solar panels last year, leaving the rover unable to charge it batteries.

Here’s a bit from NASA:

“For more than a decade, Opportunity has been an icon in the field of planetary exploration, teaching us about Mars’ ancient past as a wet, potentially habitable planet, and revealing uncharted Martian landscapes,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Whatever loss we feel now must be tempered with the knowledge that the legacy of Opportunity continues – both on the surface of Mars with the Curiosity rover and InSight lander – and in the clean rooms of JPL, where the upcoming Mars 2020 rover is taking shape.”

Eric Berger has more on the pair’s mission:

The rover’s primary task on Mars was to help better understand the planet’s geology and understand the history of water there. It succeeded. In one discovery, for example, it found evidence of ancient hydrothermal vents that would have existed beneath a warm, shallow lake.

As does Loren Grush:

During its time on Mars, Opportunity did some incredible work. It traversed more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) of Martian terrain — the farthest of any surface robot — exploring multiple craters on the planet. It even survived another dust storm in 2007, though that one was much less intense than the one in June. Both Opportunity and Spirit have helped uncover clues about what Mars’ climate used to be like billions of years ago, revealing that the Red Planet once hosted oceans of liquid water on its surface. This ancient wet climate may have made it possible for alien life, like tiny microbes, to survive on Mars long ago.

What an amazing machine.