Sonnet Speeds up 7200s

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Forget the faster laptops unveiled here in Paris. If you've got a Power Mac 7200, you'd be happy just to bring its PowerPC processor up to speed.

That's easier said than done. The processor that comes with the 7200 is soldered onto the logic board, notes Joy Hsu, spokeswoman for processor upgrade card maker Sonnet Technologies (949/587-3500, ). Normally, you would try putting the upgrade in the computer's cache slot. That won't work on the 7200, Hsu says...the 7200's cache slot doesn't carry the necessary signals.

So that leaves a PCI slot. And that's exactly what Sonnet has done.

Sonnet picked the Apple Expo in Paris to debut the first product in its new Crescendo line: a 400MHz G3 processor upgrade card aimed at Power Mac 7200s, 7215s, and 8200s. The card, which fits in a PCI slot, also works on Workgroup Server 7250s.

Sonnet claims the card will boost performance up to eight times as fast as the original system. How? The company placed local RAM on the upgrade card in the form of three DIMM sockets that match the ones on the 7200 motherboard, says marketing director Karl Seppala. One DIMM remains in its original place to handle the initial start-up of the computer. And users can opt for additional DIMMs on the upgrade card if they want.

Sonnet also boosted the bus speed of the card to take advantage of the G3 processor. The company used design elements from its Fortissimo bus-doubling technology to create an independent bus for the processor card that runs at 66MHZ.

Sonnet's upgrade card will sell for $500 when it ships in the fourth quarter.

In other Apple Expo news...

  • The Mac OS X beta is out, but there's a catch: many peripherals won't work on the operating system until their manufacturers come out with OS X-compatible driver software. That's bad news for developers who want to rewrite their applications so that the programs can access serial ports in OS X.

    Keyspan (510/222-0131, ) is coming to their rescue. The connectivity devices manufacturer plans to make a beta OS X driver for its USB Twin Serial adapter available to Mac developers. Keyspan announced plans at Apple Expo to offer the beta driver free to developers of applications that use serial ports.

    OS X is completely different internally from Mac OS 9. The new operating system no longer uses the Comm Toolbox or Resource Manager; as a result, applications need an updated way to access serial ports. The Keyspan beta driver supports an API called POSIX. Keyspan also plans to support other serial API as the need arises, a company spokesman said.

    While the beta driver isn't intended for consumers, Keyspan has committed to developing for OS X. It plans to release OS X-savvy drivers as Apple releases a finished version of the operating system.

  • Don't make any firm plans just yet, but it looks like Microsoft (425/882-8080, ) has a release date for upgrade to the Mac version of Office. The software giant says it will shop Office 2001 in early October, with a target date of October 11.

    "Target date" is industry-speak for "We hope to have it out by this date, but don't send out a search party if it's a couple of days later."

    The Office upgrade, which includes several new Mac-centric tools as well as the Entourage personal information manager (PIM) application, will sell for $499. Existing Office users can upgrade for $299.

    Microsoft found itself at the center of a minor brouhaha at Apple Expo during Steve Job's keynote address, in which Kevin Browne of Microsoft was the only developer to share stage time with the Apple CEO. The presence of Microsoft on the agenda didn't sit well with the European crowd who share U.S. Mac users' disdain for Apple's perceived rival; they hooted and whistled when Jobs talked about Office 2001.

    Browne, the business manager of Microsoft's Mac unit, did his part to win over the crowd, by emphasizing the new tools in the Office suite and stressing that many of the additions are Mac-only features. By the end of his presentation, Browne received a strong round of applause from the pro-Mac audience.

    Besides Entourage, Office 2001 adds customizable document templates, centralized formatting tools on a single palette, and built-in tools for importing graphics into Office documents and converting PowerPoint files into QuickTime movies.

  • Anyone who goes to a trade show expects the occasional mishap. Maybe a PowerPoint presentation isn't polished off until the last second. Maybe a product demo you were supposed to have in your both got sent to the wrong address.

    Or maybe the floor of the exhibition hall gets flooded when the sprinkler system goes off unexpectedly.

    That was the scene at Apple Expo in Paris. The sprinklers suddenly went off Tuesday evening, and by the time workers were able to shut them off, some parts of the floor had more than an inch of standing water.

    "Well, something had to leak," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs, repeating one of two flooding-related jokes he had heard to his keynote address audience. The other: "What do you expect when you release a product called Aqua?"

    We know who won't be replacing Dennis Miller in the Monday Night Football booth.

    Clean-up crews were still at work Wednesday as the crowd streamed on to the show floor. The area around Apple's booth in particular was a mixture of cleaning foam and soggy carpeting. Even on Thursday, certain patches of carpet around the Apple booth still made a distinct squishing as you strolled by.

    Apple wasn't the only exhibitor to feel a little damp. "We weren't here, but when we came back (Wednesday), our carpet was a different color," said Sonnet Technologies' spokeswoman Joy Hsu. Water bubbles formed under the plastic floor mat in Sonnet's booth and the bottoms of boxes were noticeably damp, Hsu added.

    In an especially cruel twist, the booth for software reseller Computer Bench featured a waterfall...the man-made sort and the not the kind that occurs after horrific plumbing disasters. No word on whether jittery Apple Expo exhibitors demanded that the waterfall be turned off. They had seen enough flooding for one day, thank you.

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