// 28.Jan.2010

Introducing the A4 Microprocessor, Apple’s First CPU

Apple’s launch of the iPad didn’t really rock my world. But, within the iPad present­a­tion, there was a little some­thing that got my spine tingling: Apple revealed that the iPad is powered by a here­to­fore unknown CPU — the A4.

To me this is much bigger news than the iPad itself. This is an Apple-developed CPU, which I think is a first for the company. Apple describe the A4 as a “1GHz custom-designed, high-performance, low-power system-on-a-chip.” Early hands-on reports of the iPad seem to sup­port this. One thing that is now well doc­u­mented is that the iPad is very fast. Apple also claim run times of up to 10 hours and a standby time of up to 1 month for the iPad, so it’s clear that the A4 is very power-efficient.

So what do we know or can reas­on­ably assume about the A4?

We know it runs at 1GHz which, in the case of the iPad, res­ults in a respect­able per­form­ance. We know that, as a “system on a chip,” it con­tains both a CPU (ini­tial sus­pect is an ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore) and a GPU (pos­sibly a PowerVR SGX series 5). So it’s multi-core cap­able and has a high-performance FPU. It’s also OpenGL capable.

It’s prob­ably reas­on­able to anti­cipate that this chip, or its deriv­at­ives, will pop up in future iPods, iPhones and per­haps the Apple TV — along with any fur­ther mobile devices that Apple con­ceives — as well as the iPad and its future revisions.

I don’t think that the pro­cessor, at least in this form, will appear in Apple’s desktops or laptops — and it’s not needed there either.

What’s really exciting about the A4 is that it’s a first attempt — yet it com­petes very favour­ably with the estab­lished mobile CPUs from the likes of Qualcomm, et al.

I’ll bet the launch of the iPad has caused con­cern in the board­rooms of quite a few companies. It’s going to be very inter­esting to see how this plays out.

// 27.Jan.2010

Apple iPad: First Thoughts

Apple have finally unveiled a tablet com­puter, the iPad. The anti­cip­a­tion leading up to this launch and the spec­u­la­tion sur­rounding it has been truly stag­gering. Yet I find myself strangely under­whelmed by the device.

Continue Reading…

// 25.Jan.2010

Retro Apple.com Home Pages

When a web-site has been run­ning since 19961 you would expect it to have enjoyed some evol­u­tion, with the odd redesign thrown in along the way. The web-site at apple.com is one such site. Flickr user Kernel Panic main­tains a gal­lery of screen cap­tures of Apple’s home page and it rep­res­ents an inter­esting journey through the his­tory of the com­pany. It’s amazing to me that the basic design of apple.com as it stands today is the same as it was in 1998 — how’s that for consistency?

But what would Apple’s home page have looked like in the years prior to 1996? Sadly we never got to see an apple.com home page for the launch of the Apple I, Apple II, Lisa, Macintosh or MessagePad… until today! Dave Lawrence of Newton Poetry fame posted a couple of mock-up apple.com home pages for the Lisa and MessagePad machines on his weblog and Matt Pearce answered Lawrence’s call for others to add to the meme. Between them, they’ve come up with a few beau­ti­fully crafted and clever images of the home pages that might have been.
Continue Reading…

  1. Did the first apple.com web­site appear in 1996? The domain Was registered in 1987. What did the domain point to in the interim?

// 13.Jan.2010

AppZapper: Cute, But Pointless UI

Photo Credit: Trash Your Gifts by Euphoriefetzen

Everyone’s favourite unin­staller for OS X, AppZapper, recently gen­er­ated a bit of a buzz as it meta­morph­osed into ver­sion 2 and acquired a slick new inter­face. AppZapper also seems to have grown beyond being a simple unin­staller, sev­eral pun­dits are now describing it as an “applic­a­tion manager.”

As an applic­a­tion man­ager one can view one’s applic­a­tions in a pretty inter­face, sort them with various fil­ters and even store their license codes within AppZapper. I have to say that license code man­age­ment seems to me to be an odd addi­tion to an unin­staller. There’s no syn­ergy between the tasks of unin­stalling applic­a­tions that are no longer required and retrieving licensing details for those that are.

But that’s not my biggest issue with AppZapper. To me, whilst the applic­a­tion itself is extremely useful, the inter­face is com­pletely redundant and, pretty as it is, it shouldn’t be there at all.

Continue Reading…

// 10.Jan.2010

The Lives of Others

I don’t often write about movies on the Urban Mainframe. That’s odd in itself because I watch a lot of them and con­sider myself to be some­thing of a movie buff. Having said that, my movie col­lec­tion, I sus­pect, is that of a typ­ical bloke. There’s lots of war, action, sci-fi and adven­ture films. There’s not a lot of drama. There’s only one or two “chick flicks” (oh come on, who doesn’t love Ghost?)

My col­lec­tion is that of someone who doesn’t demand too much, intel­lec­tu­ally, from his enter­tain­ment. I watch films to escape for an hour and a half — to be James Bond, Neo or Luke Skywalker. I don’t want to have to think too much when I watch a movie, I just want my ima­gin­a­tion stim­u­lated and the day-to-day tedium of life to be replaced with beau­tiful women, fast cars and lots and lots of explo­sions and gunfire.

You can prob­ably appre­ciate then that, on being given for Christmas a sub-titled film with a dia­logue spoken entirely in German, I wasn’t exactly filled with delight and anti­cip­a­tion. However, and to my great sur­prise, The Lives of Others turned out to be one of those rarest of films — one that cap­tures the viewer’s atten­tion from the moment it starts and holds it in a vice-like grip until the final credits roll.

Continue Reading…

// 29.Dec.2009

Mockup or Markup: Designer vs. Coder

In an art­icle on the web-design advent cal­endar, 24 Ways, Meagan Fisher advoc­ates set­ting aside Photoshop and building design comps dir­ectly in our pre­ferred fla­vour of HTML.

That’s how I always work anyway. Only once have I ever built a design in Photoshop before writing the code and that was for the front page of this web­site — it took ages and felt totally un-natural and counter-intuitive to me. I did it because I under­stood that that’s how all designers work. I wanted to try it out to see if it made the pro­cess any easier for me, it didn’t, at all.

Even so, I think Meagan has over­looked a quite important point: not all web-designers are writers of code.

Continue Reading…

// 29.Dec.2009

DWotW #14

Desktop Wallpaper of the Week: I love this image. It was cre­ated by “h16” and is posted on devi­antART. The mono­chrome to vivid-colour trans­ition between the two girls is extremely well done and the hand-painted effect is simply gor­geous. I can’t decide if the girl on the right is holding a “fantasy” lover, or the ghost of a dead friend or rel­ative per­haps? One of the com­ments on the devi­antArt site sug­gested that this image rep­res­ents good meeting evil — but I’m not con­vinced — there seems to be me to be too much pas­sion between the two girls for this to be a meeting of such polar opposites.

Either way, it’s a gor­geous piece of art and makes a fant­astic desktop wallpaper.

You can down­load the full-size wall­paper from the devi­antART web­site. You should also check out the rest of h16’s work.

// 30.Nov.2009

DWotW #13

Desktop Wallpaper of the Week: This cool HDR photo of a Mini in an under­ground parking garage makes a great desktop wall­paper. The vibrant red car really stands out in this grungy urban set­ting and the camera tilt adds a dynamism that would oth­er­wise be missing. I love how the pho­to­grapher has posi­tioned the car behind the arrow — sug­gesting that she’s poised and ready to surge forward.

This pho­to­graph, taken by Travel Man, is avail­able in a variety of res­ol­u­tions on Flickr.

// 25.Nov.2009

Tyler Durden

I’ve just found out that I’ve won this great poster from Travis Neilson. How cool is that? I’m thrilled.

// 22.Nov.2009

Accelerating My WordPress Installation (Redux)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… oh sorry, wrong script. I’ll start over. In the dim and dis­tant past, I wrote about my efforts to eke a little bit more per­form­ance out of the WordPress install­a­tion that this glor­ious web­site runs upon. What I’d done was fairly basic: con­tent com­pres­sion, reduced page weights, data­base tuning… the usual stuff.

I also described how I’d failed to get WP Super Cache working and wrote that I was invest­ig­ating PHP accel­er­ators. Yet, des­pite my endeav­ours, the website’s per­form­ance con­tinued to be, well, pitiful. Some time later I man­aged to get WP Super Cache working and things improved, but were still dis­ap­pointing to me.

I come from a mod_perl back­ground and one of mod_perl’s strengths is the speed at which it can run its applic­a­tions. The PHP app’s that I now find myself working with just can’t com­pete. I believed that I’d just have to accept that the per­form­ance goals I was aiming for weren’t achievable.

However, I was recently forced to recon­sider my pos­i­tion when I was con­tracted to build a web­site on top of the Zend Framework — because, des­pite being written entirely in PHP, nursesstore.co.uk turned out to be very fast.

Suddenly, I knew that it was pos­sible to build fast PHP applic­a­tions. So I turned my atten­tion, once again, to the speed-deficient Urban Mainframe with the fire of the true zealot burning in my eyes.

Continue Reading…