If you work as a Systems Administrator, MIS director, or are in some position of authority over a Macintosh network system in a higher education institution, business, or non-profit organization, then you will want to read this article very carefully.
On Tuesday, January 5th, Apple Computer, Inc. made history. Computing history. Apple unveiled three critical products to the long term success of any organization’s Macintosh network. The advantages of these products include: speed, stability, ease of administration, security, cost reduction, and substantial long-terms savings. These products are: The new iMac, the completely redesigned G3 Tower, and Mac OS X Server.
THE NEW iMacs
The new iMacs. Pretty, aren’t they? Well, don’t let their toy-ish exterior fool you. These are powerful self-contained workstations. Sure, they aren’t towers. Sure, they don’t have options for lots of drives or add-in cards. But make no mistake: they kick some serious butt. They come in the following flavors: Lime, Raspberry, Blueberry, Grape, and Tangerine. Well, okay they don’t taste like those flavors, they just look like them. However, they are built around the powerful PowerPC G3 (aka 750) 266MHz chip. They also have 32MB of RAM, 6 GB internal IDE hard drive, a 24X CD-ROM, an ATI RAGE PRO TURBO graphics chip with a whopping 6 MB of video memory, and support something called NetBoot. For full specifications, check out the following web page: http://www.apple.com/iMac/specs.html. Oh, and did I mention that all of this costs only $1,299?
THE NEW PowerMacintosh G3s
The next ingredient in this formula for success is the new, completely redesigned PowerMacintosh G3. Usually, beauty is but skin deep. However, the new PowerMacintosh G3’s beauty permeates every bit of its existence. Apart from its jaw-dropping industrial design, the PowerMacintosh G3 is an unbelievably powerful workstation. Based on a PowerPC G3 processor in 300MHz, 350MHz, and 400MHz flavors, this new line of G3’s are fast. However, unlike the previous line of G3’s, the processor is not the only outstanding component of the system.
If you thought the previous line of G3 cases were easy to get into, you ain’t seen nothin yet. With the twist of two tabs, the entire side of the G3’s case swings out, with the motherboard attached. You thus have access to your logic board, processor, PCI cards, RAM, and other components. Inside the still-standing case, you then have easy access to your drive bays and power supply. Even though it sound similar to the old, trust me. As a Macintosh tech, I know that this new system is a lot easier to get into.
Now, let’s talk speed. Sure, we already discussed the processor. However, a computer’s speed only partly depends on the processor. This machine sports a 100MHz system bus, 3 (64-bit) PCI cards, high-speed 8ns access RAM (a PowerMac 6100 uses 60ns), an UltraDMA drive, dual USB ports, dual FireWire ports (400 Mbps each), and a fourth 64-bit double-speed PCI slot that houses the ATI RAGE 128GL graphics card, which comes with 16MB of SGRAM standard and support two SVGA monitor outputs on that one card!
This machine was pitted against a 450MHz Pentium II machine in both benchmarks and real-world Photoshop tests. In the benchmarks, the machine scored 2.3 times as fast as the Pentium II system. No surprise there. However, in the real-world Photoshop tests, the machine scored 1.9 times as fast, validating the claim that G3 chips are twice as fast as Pentium chips! Once you bring up the subsystems to speed, the machine easily outperforms a superior MHz Pentium!
Now, let’s talk games. Sure, most of you won’t ever play games on these systems. However, games are the ultimate benchmark for system speed. So, three machines were compared in games performance. The machines were: a 300MHz G3 (series I) with on-board ATI RAGE Pro graphics chip, a Pentium II 450MHz machine with a Voodoo 2 card, and the new 400MHz G3 (series II) machine. The old G3 gave a respectable 36 frames per second (fps). The Pentium II 450 with Voodoo 2, the PC world’s best graphics card, gave an impressive 50 frames per second. However, the new G3 400MHz with the ATI RAGE 128GL gave an overwhelming 62 frames per second! Go Apple! Oh, and did I mention that this level of performance starts at only $1599 (G3 series II with 300MHz processor)?
Mac OS X Server
Now, for the third piece of the puzzle: Mac OS X Server. This is one heck of an OS. It’s built on top of a Mach microkernel, has full BSD UNIX support, and is based on NeXT, Inc.’s OpenSTEP operating system. It has all of the advanced features that Mac users have been wanting for years, including memory protection, preemptive multitasking, advanced virtual memory, and more. It has a transparent Mac OS compatibility layer dubbed the “Blue Box”, so that all of your existing Mac OS programs will run on it. It also comes with WebObjects, Apache Web Server, advanced File Management, and NetBoot functionality. With the total package of software worth over $3,000, it is a great buy at $999. Oh, and did I mention that it was fast?
At Macworld Expo, Steven Jobs demonstrated a G3 tower (400MHz, as shown above) running Mac OS X Server. It was connected to 50 drive-less iMacs (hard drives, not floppy drives). All 50 iMacs booted from one copy of Mac OS residing on the Mac OS X/G3 server! And it was fast! Then, Steve streamed live QuickTime video to all 50 iMacs simultaneously! Now that’s impressive!
So, what does this mean? This means that you can scrap your existing Mac network, get all iMacs for the end user stations, get a G3 tower for your server/admin desk, and network them together with either 100BaseT ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet. Which one you choose depends on cost and what size your network is. Then, you load Mac OS X Server on the G3 tower, set up the NetBoot account on the server with the OS of choice for your machines (8.5 comes preinstalled), and then all of the application programs that you want them to have access to. They can store their files on the built-in 6 GB hard drive without the danger of accidentally altering or harming their OS, as it is on the server. And with the Mac OS X advanced file management system, keeping applications from being pirated is easier than ever. Oh, did I mention that it doesn’t take a PhD to setup and administer it?
For those of you who have a less than perfect Mac network, you can see the value in such a system. No longer will you need an on-staff technician to go fix the Macs every time someone installs a quirky program or extension. No longer will network administration require going to each single machine to set it up to be restored. No longer will you have to mess with any of these machines in any way! Everything is done through the server. Just set it up, and get to work.
Let’s see a Windows NT machine try and do that…
Mark Anthony Collins