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MacEdition Pro News : October 23, 2002, Numbers big or small; we got stuff to crunch ’em all

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When one computer won’t do

If you thought Apple’s new Rendezvous technology is about hooking PDAs, cellphones and other such gadgets to your Mac, then just give your head a shake.

Dauger Research Inc. has started shipping Pooch 1.3, a cluster management software built on Rendezvous to allow programmers to hook up a number of multiprocessor Macs in a cluster using just one API (application programming interface).

Pooch (Parallel OperatiOn and Control Heuristic application) uses Rendezvous as a complimentary network protocol to SLP (Service Location Protocol) to allow the cluster manager a faster way to locate, register and resolve cluster nodes over local networks and the Internet. As the company’s press release says:

Pooch, given the newest “most innovative” award by IEEE Cluster, is designed to combine powerful, numerically-intensive parallel-computing clusters with the famed ease-of-use of the Macintosh. It provides the user interface for the latest incarnation of AppleSeed, a project begun by physics researchers at UCLA in 1998. For the last four years, their software has been used worldwide to transform Macintoshes into easy-to-use, numerically-intensive parallel computers. Pooch’s combination of flexibility, simplicity and capability remains unique throughout the industry.

The latest version can now launch multiple parallel-computing tasks per node, automatically taking advantage of multiprocessor Macs and OS X’s preemptive multitasking. Applications can therefore take advantage of parallel computing both across nodes and inside nodes simultaneously using only one API: Message-Passing Interface. Parallel applications already written using MPI need no modification to utilize multiprocessor Macs; the extra processor merely appears to be another node. With MPI and Pooch, applications can both use multiprocessing and get “outside the box”.

Pooch costs US$175 for the first node and $125 per node thereafter. Academic pricing is also available from the company’s Web site.

A package that packs a punch

OpenOSX — a company which specializes in bringing Unix packages to Mac OS X — is now shipping GRASS 5, a GIS (geographical information system) package used to map numerically intensive data.

Grass (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System) has been developed as an open-source project on a variety of Unix platforms over the last twenty years. The new OpenOSX version ships with a full set of libraries and 350 geospatial models, according to the company’s press release.

This is the first stable version of Grass available for Mac OS X, and it now includes a native Mac OS X Aqua interface on the Carbon port of the Tcl/Tk interface. Grass and all required and optional libraries have been compiled using gcc 3.1 for at least a 20% performance gain over previous builds.

The OpenOSX Grass GIS 5.0.0 CD will transform a Macintosh running Mac OS 10.2.x into a full-fledged GIS workstation in minutes. The OpenOSX CD offers Mac OS 10.2.x compatibility (including dual-processor support), additional modules, along with numerous bug fixes.

Grass GIS offers state of the art three-dimensional dynamic spatial analysis and visualization. In combination with the Geospatial Data Abstraction Library, (GDAL) Grass can import more then forty popular GIS file formats including: GeoTiff, Tiff, DXF, SDTS, DEM, Shape, ELAS, PNG, ARC, MIF, Tiger, Garmin, ASCII.

Some of Grass’ popular features include: ortho-rectification, Digital Elevation Model creation and editing, projection and re-projection capabilities, raster & vector data support in more then 120 projections, shaded relief with 16-bit precision, geostatistics and spatial data analysis, statistical analysis, 3D visualization and simulation modeling capabilities.

Grass 5 costs US$50 and a six-month update subscription runs another US$120. There is also a bundle deal available with a manual on the company’s Web site. OpenOSX counts among its users NASA, the US Geological Survey and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Keeping disaster at bay

If you’re like most Mac users, you probably look for wheels under your computer when somebody tells you to back up your machine. But the ugly truth is that the longer you use a computer, the closer you are to that dreaded day when the old scorched-earth recovery method (reformat, restore and ransack your software tub) will be the only way to revive your dead Mac.

If you’re not the type to whimsically wave bye-bye to your files as they race toward data heaven, then maybe you want to check out a new hardware/software data backup offering from CMS Peripherals.

The company recently released ABSplus for OS X, a bootable external hard drive that can restore your data with a single keystroke. According to the company’s press release, the system is the first OS X-native backup solution on the market.

“Making backup easy, ABSplus is the only complete backup solution on Mac OS X,” said Ken Burke, president of CMS Peripherals. “Since files are archived in native file format you can access your entire system immediately, or elegantly recover from any disaster in a single keystroke booting straight into Mac OS X. The ABSplus now offers more built in ease-of-use features and Jaguar compatibility.”

ABSplus provides a native file format backup allowing the user to boot straight into an exact copy of the system on Mac OS X v10.2 in a single keystroke. Mac OS X machines with multiple users can now be automatically backed up easier than ever, including folder/file ownership and permissions. ABSplus can now execute an incremental backup via AppleScript, without interruption from dialog boxes, using preset ABSSettings. The new AppleScript support enables a wide variety of possibilities from single-machine scheduled backup to server backup when processes must be started and stopped around backup activity.

The hardware/software kits come in varieties suitable for laptops and desktops with prices starting at US$299. The hardware comes with the user’s choice of FireWire or USB 2.0 and drive sizes range from 20GB to 60GB for laptop models and from 40GB to 160GB for desktops. The information on the backup system can be found on the company’s site.

Integers are numbers, right?

MacTech Magazine — the closest thing there is to a monthly Mac programming bible — is bringing back the all-time high priest of Mac programming to the pages of the magazine. The publication announced it will publish Dave Mark’s Getting Started column in the magazine beginning with the November edition.

For those new to the Mac, Mark’s books — Learn C on the Macintosh and Macintosh C Programming Primer — probably launched more programmers on the platform than the rest of the Mac programming manuals put together. His Getting Started column was a staple of MacTech for seven years before Mark moved on to assume the post of Vice President of Academic and Discover Products at Metrowerks.

“Dave not only has an incredible grasp of what it takes to create a Getting Started column, but he understands the approach to take that make the column interesting even for those at a higher level.” says Neil Ticktin, Publisher of MacTech Magazine. “An icon in the community, a long time supporter of the magazine, and a man with an insight on how to explain things — we welcome Dave and the Getting Started column back with open arms.”

“I am very excited to be returning to the fold here at MacTech”, said Mark. “We’ve put together what I think is a pretty good roadmap for the Getting Started column. The first issue will lay the groundwork for folks, and shouldn’t be missed.”

Mark’s columns will focus on introducing novice programmers to Objective-C, Cocoa programming and Mac OS X.

Counting out the pennies

In these tight times nothing succeeds like a sound financial plan — so long as you’re able to stick to your budget.

If you’re one of those people who always find they’ve got too much month left at the end of the money, Ron Hooper and Kyle Hammond, a couple of American shareware developers, invite you to check out their newly released Budget 3.2 for Mac OS X.

The US$24.95 program uses a method that allows users to allocate their funds before paying their bills rather than record where they spent their money. The two developers say in their press release that the “envelope” method gives users better control over the distribution of money.

“Other programs feature the checkbook register and have budgeting as a side issue. With Budget the focus is in the correct place for planning and sticking to a budget,” said Ron Hooper, lead programmer for Budget. “Budget allows the user to pre-allocate where funds are needed to pay their bills. This gives the user a much better insight into where there money goes. Put simply, Budget is proactive rather than reactive.”

Some of Budget’s other features are:

  • Define Pay Source(s) - Set up your regular income to automatically distribute funds to various “envelopes.”
  • User Defined Accounts - Set up your account structure (envelopes) according to your needs. For example, group your home utility accounts together to see total statistics for all utilities.
  • Checkbook Management - Write checks, enter deposits, and balance your checkbook - no need for a “register”.
  • Print Checks - Print personal or business checks, including an image of your signature, on any printer.
  • Reports and Statistics - See how well you are keeping within your budget.
  • Powerful Search Capability - Find any transaction using a combination of different criteria.
  • Savings and Investments - Manage your savings accounts and track your investment portfolio.
  • Reminders - Repeating transactions, such as monthly bills, can be set up as reminders.

Anybody interested in checking out the program can download a trial version from the developer’s Web site.

Looking for old ProNews segments? Check out our index at http://old.macedition.com/news/. Do you have news releases or tidbits of interest to the Macintosh professional? Send them to pronewsnotes@macedition.com.

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