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Bunker mentality

May 6, 2002

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Burrow into The Gay Blade’s enclave. The Spork Boards

Free at last! Free at last! Mahatma Gandhi on hot, fresh naan, The Gay Blade is free at last.

Thanks to some Byzantine diplomatic maneuvers by MacEdition’s tireless foreign desk, Apple has grudgingly lifted its months-long military cordon around the burrow, affording its rumpled occupant sweet egress in time for this week’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose.

A grateful Blade – weary of a diet of canned haggis and warmed-over UPS drivers and desperate to connect with a live outlet for his personal massager – has agreed to some basic rules of engagement.

In exchange for surrendering a thick stack of Fritz the Cat blotter paper bearing the signature of a young Steve Jobs and remitting his leather-bound set of disaffected Apple marketing flaks to a group of international monitors for debriefing, the Blade will again be permitted to parade on Stevens Creek Blvd.’s DMZ between 280 and 85 and even begin limited mole-rat-for-recon exchanges in the parking lot outside the nearby Donut Wheel.

Ana bekhaur, al hamdu lilaah: That’ll put starch in your kaffiyeh!

Writing on the wall

Speaking of delicate diplomatic pas de deux, the Blade is pleased to learn of a new convergence between the technologies within Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Apple’s Mac OS X.

According to the Blade’s caftan-swathed phalanx of tactical advisors, the forthcoming Version 5.2 of Microsoft’s Mac browser taps enhancements in the soon-to-surface Mac OS X 10.1.5: specifically, a tweak that lets updated Carbon applications apply Quartz anti-aliasing to QuickDraw text.

The font-a-licious new browser is in late beta, these grizzled sources attest, and will be good to go shortly after the new Mac OS X ships this month.

Instant karma

And while he’s on the subject of deeply rooted historical conflicts, the Blade was recently regaled with a short history of Mac industrial design under the current Jobs administration.

According to a number of witnesses, dissension sown within the Apple industrial-design team during the creation of the original iBook ultimately produced a crop of design debacles great and small in subsequent Mac releases.

The Johnny Appleseed of employee dissatisfaction? No lesser light than Jobs himself, whose Ahab-size vision of Apple’s first-generation consumer notebook was translated into a roster of last-minute demands that (in classic Jobsian fashion) managed to enervate a talented, hard-working team without creating major improvements in the finished project (unveiled in July 1999).

The coup de grace: Dissatisfied by the designers’ dime-turning prowess, Jobs declined to pay out the traditional end-of-project bonus to the iBook team, a move that reportedly sent alienated engineers scurrying for the exits.

The plume of bad karma these staffers left in their wake succeeded in tainting the air around at least two other significant projects: the ill-starred Power Mac G4 Cube and the first-generation Titanium PowerBook G4, both of which shared key design staff with the iBook team.

Indeed, spectators report, the defections blew a fair-size hole right in the middle of the Cube-related materials-engineering effort – a gap that limited Apple’s ability to temper Jobs’ vision of a pristine injection-molded cube, ushering in the infamous “mold lines” in that model’s clear Lucite chassis and arguably helping to kill its chances in the market.

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