The Low End Mac Mailbag

Menu Bar Opacity and Translucency in Leopard, Better Rage Video in Leopard, and More

Dan Knight - 2008.01.02 - Tip Jar

Translucent Finder Menu Bar and CPU Speed

From John Muir:

Hi Dan,

Interesting discovery there by Brian Deuel.

Here's something a little strange from my own experience too. I have Leopard installed on my 867 MHz PowerBook G4 12", and it naturally has an opaque menu bar. However, I have the desktop background image set to change on a regular basis (one of my long-standing favourite features in OS X), and during the one second or so long transition when one image fades into the next my menu bar flashes and is visibly torn.

I wondered what was going on when I first saw it, so I set the background picture to keep changing every few seconds, and sure enough there's a graphic glitch up there. My menu bar is simultaneously opaque and translucent when the picture is changed. I'm used to the translucent menu bar from my Intel Mac mini and can clearly make out that there is some sort of filter going on up there . . . albeit badly!

As it's a glitch, I don't know any way to capture it apart from maybe hitting Shift+Command+3 at just the right moment. I may try that when I'm next on the machine.

Things are not quite as they seem when it comes to the Leopard menu bar, it seems.

John

John,

That is unexpected behavior, especially for an opaque menu bar.

Dan

Attempts to take screen shots have all just yielded the full opaque bar, as though nothing was wrong. Looking closely while the machine is doing background transitions it seems to tear between the full opaque bar and the background image beneath (instead of a proper graphical filter): bearing in mind that image is actually a fast sequence of merged frames between the two "real" images before and after.

Trying it again just now also shows that the tearing is reduced, compared to what I saw when I first installed Leopard. It looks wrong on maybe 1 transition in 4. Since I usually have the background to change every hour, it's not really an issue in practice. Most users of course leave it on the default and would never see this at all.

Good new year to you, Dan.

John

Translucent Finder Menu on 450 MHz Power Mac G4

From Casey:

Good afternoon Dan,

I was reading the article regarding the translucent menu bar in Leopard being tied to the speed of the processor itself. I don't believe the processor totally controls whether the menu bar appears translucent or not. I am currently running 10.5.1 on a Power Mac G4 that is stock other than the upgraded GeForce 6200 video card, larger hard drive, and dual-layer burner. The processor is rated at 450 MHz, and I only have 384 MB of RAM installed. I have had the translucent menu bar from day one of 10.5 install.

translucent menubar in Leopard

With that being said, I believe that there is more to it than just what processor is currently installed.

Casey

Casey,

At this point, we have one G4/450 user (you) with a GeForce 6200 with the translucent menu bar and one G4/500 dual with the same video card and an opaque menu - but translucent when a 1.8 GHz upgrade is installed. I am at a loss to explain this.

Dan

Translucent Menu Bar Reports

From Matthew Wright:

Dan,

Merry Christmas amigo! Those are my field reports:

  • 1.8 GHz G5 with 256 MB ATI 9600: yes
  • 2.16 GHz Core Duo MacBook Pro with 256 MB ATI X1600: yes
  • 1 GHz G4 12" PowerBook with 32 MB GeForce: no

Going to install Leopard on a 1.2 GHz G4 iBook this week and will let you know.

Best,
-matthew

Matthew,

Thanks for the reports. With enough reports, maybe we'll figure this out.

Dan

Translucency Ties to More than CPU Speed

From Peter Brockie:

Hello Dan,

I just thought I'd let you know my findings on your recent article. I have had Leopard running on my G4/1.25 GHz MDD since its release. I have not had the transparent menu bar, as my stock Radeon 9000 Pro does not support Core Image.

My wife's PowerBook G4 with the same 1.25 GHz G4 processor does have the transparent menu, as hers is equipped with a Radeon Mobility 9600 (Core Image supported).

Yesterday I replaced the stock Radeon 9000 Pro of my MDD with a Radeon 9800 Pro - Core Image supported, obviously - which I bought on eBay and flashed to a Mac card. Immediately after reboot the transparent menu was enabled, however, the 1.25 GHz processor speed remained.

It is possible the transparent menu is based on more than one factor (Core Image video card or processor of x GHz or faster perhaps).

Peter,

That's what I'm beginning to suspect. However, I also have one report of a Sawtooth G4/450 MHz with a GeForce 6200 that has a translucent menu bar and another report of a 500 MHz dual G4 with the same video card where the menu bar is opaque.

Dan

That's bizarre.

It's one of those things that although good to know, isn't really worth the trouble to find out with real testing.

There are a number of factors that could create these seemingly conflicting results. I'm thinking:

  • Video card installation order. Was the card installed before or after Leopard?
  • Driver differences (these should actually be the same, since they're installed along with Leopard).
  • Are they the exact same models of card? It's possible one is clocked slower, different memory, etc. All these factors could be checked by Leopard to determine if the system can handle the added workload.
  • GeForce cards have many different variations in ROMs (I researched quite a bit before getting my 9800 to flash), and it's possible these may cause it to be enabled or not.
  • Combination of several factors (installed RAM, Core Image support, processors speed, and GPU).

Although it would be interesting to see if System Profiler shows them as being Core Image: Hardware Accelerated or Software. For the record, my Radeon 9800 Pro 128 MB (PC flashed) is shown as Hardware Accelerated (transparent menu) and my Radeon 9000 Pro 64 MB was reported as Software (opaque menu).

Peter,

Yes, bizarre is a good word for it. We'll continue gathering information.

Dan

GeForce 5200 and the Mac

From Adam Fothergill:

Hi Dan

With regards to Joseph Burke's comments on the GeForce 5200 card and Leopard, he seems to be using the PC version to comment on Mac performance. Whilst it's true that the 5200 is hardly a powerful card, its Leopard performance is snappy and a pleasure to use. I'm typing this on my 12" PowerBook G4 with a 5200, and I'm happily running Leopard. The only issue I've had with this card is that it won't show the menu bar as translucent, whereas the ATI X1600 in my Intel iMac does, but that is it (and seems to be the case with all users of this card).

Time Machine runs fine, as do all the screen savers. As for the Direct X9 observations, again this is hardly relevant for Mac users as we use OpenGL, not DX. Unreal Tournament runs great on the 5200 with the graphics levels turned down a little, and that is a very resource hungry game. DFS could happily run Leopard on a 5200 if he wished, and I think the moral of the story here is that a cards performance under Windows is a poor indicator of the performance under Leopard and vice versa.

Happy New Year

Adam

Adam,

Thanks for sharing your experience with the GeForce 5200. It's this kind of real world experience that trumps armchair speculation any day of the week.

Dan

No problem Dan, thanks for responding. Your site is an absolute must for those of us who don't need to live on the absolute cutting edge. Keep up the excellent work, and I wish you all the best for 2008.

Adam

Better ATI Rage Support in Leopard

From Mick Bramley:

Hi Dan

I say your article about installing Leopard on a Pismo. I've done it tonight and am surprised by the results.

My Pismo has a Wegener Media G4 550, 7k60 7200 rpm hard disk, Wegener slot-loading SuperDrive, and 768 MB RAM. It was using Tiger 10.4.11 prior to the install. I backed this up and installed 10.5 anew. Things went okay. DVD Player does not work, as mentioned by other people. No ATI Rage working, windows dragging quite slow etc.

I did the Open Firmware hack to fool the installer about the CPU speed. I am pleasantly surprised to find the Pismo not bad.

I've updated to 10.5.1 and noted the Tigers DVD Player would not work, saying it is not compatible with this version of OS X. The latest VLC gave me about 10 fps on a test DVD.

Rage driversI then enabled root. Logged in as root, put all the Rage 128 kexts I could find from the Tiger install I had backed up as well as some Rage Pro ones and an ATI TVout kext. I repaired permissions, restarted, and VLC Player plays DVDs perfect @ 1024x768. DVD Player nearly works but borks. Window dragging seems more responsive, as does scrolling in a web page. As far as I can tell, the Rage 128 in my Pismo appears to be working under Leopard using the Tiger 10.4.11 kexts.

I did quite a bit of Googling and found a couple of people had tried on TiBooks using OS X 10.2.8 kexts, thinking they'd be very old I decided to use the 10.4.11 and seems I have success.

I get an odd bit of distortion during boot, not sure if it's a one off or not but it clears before the desktop.

Attached it a screen shot of the kexts as they are installed.

Thanks

Regards
Mick Bramley

Mick,

Thanks for sharing your discoveries. Perhaps this will help others with Pismos and other Macs with Rage video who want to get better performance from Leopard.

Dan

Hacking Leopard for Better Video on a 400 MHz TiBook

From Thomas:

Hi Dan,

I read the article on unsupported installation of Leopard at Low End Mac. I install it with Leopard assist on my iMac G4/700 with 512 MB of RAM and 120 MB 7200 rpm hard drive, and it appear to run well.

But the object of my mail is to run Leopard on TiBook 400 MHz; it has also a 768 MB of RAM.

I already read the Ryan result, and I start to try install the ATIRage128 driver of Tiger.

I follow this step put my iMac on target disk mode, on TiBook take the files on folder System/Library/Extension:

  • ATIRage128GA.kext
  • ATIRage128.kext
  • ATIRageProGA.kext
  • ATIRage128DVDDriver.bundle
  • ATIRagePro.kext
  • ATIRage128GLDriver.bundle

I install them on my iMac in the Leopard System/Library/Extension/, I run terminal and type :

bash$ sudo chown -Rh root:wheel ATIRage*
bash$ sudo chmod -R a+rX,u+w,go-w ATIRage*

for correct the permissions.

In Startup disk I select the iMac Disk and reboot.

After the reboot I stop the index search of Spotlight, the driver is load and active, but the system remains slow.

Cover Flow is sluggish, the Finder is slow and take the 100% of CPU frequently, I don't know if is because I run the System through FireWire or for the poor performance of graphics card.

System profiles report that Core Image is software, Quartz Extreme disable.

I also send you a screen shots of the system profile driver load.

Thank you for your articles on old Mac, that for determinate task still useful, and sorry for my bad English, but I am an Italian user.

I hope I have help someone with this attempt.

Bye
Thomas

Thomas,

Thanks for writing. I just received email from a Pismo owner who copies the ATIRage128 kext files from Mac OS X 10.4.11 to Leopard and reports a big improvement in video performance. Watch for it in our next mailbag column.

Dan

USB Webcams Work with iChat Since OS X 10.4.9

From Björn Steiner:

Dan,

You wrote to James: "iChat only supports FireWire webcams."

This is no longer true since 10.4.9, as there are now drivers built into Mac OS X for UVC (USB Video Class) devices.

Ecamm does state a notice specifically for Logitech cams not in need for ichatusbcam:

Logitech Compatibility Information

The following Logitech QuickCams are currently available in two versions. Only the newer version is Mac-compatible (UVC compliant) (Unless otherwise noted.).

  • QuickCam for Notebooks PRO
  • QuickCam Orbit MP/Sphere
  • QuickCam PRO 5000
  • QuickCam Ultra Vision
  • QuickCam Fusion

Identifying the newer revision cameras:

  • The new models are labeled with the "Works with Windows Vista" logo, and also feature "RightLight 2" as one of the features.
  • Part Number (P/N): The compatible model/part numbers are listed on our camera guide. Unfortunately, the part number can only be found by opening the box.

Logitech provides the following table showing the new vs. old camera models. The cameras marked as "UVC Supt" are Mac-compatible.

In most cases USB video cameras labelled as Windows Vista ready are found to work without any drivers.

best
Björn

Björn,

Thanks for the information. I'll pass it on to James.

Dan

Moving to a Different Mac

From Matt:

Dan,

I know you guys will not be publishing for the next week or so, but there's no rush on this. If you can help me find a solution/answer to either or both of these, it'd be much appreciated.

I'll be traveling for a somewhat extended period during the early part of next year, and will be taking advantage of this to move my primary Mac from my iMac to a new MacBook Pro. I have a young family, and we'll be using the video connection in iChat to stay in touch while I'm away.

I do not want to transfer all the settings from the iMac to the new MBP - the iMac will still be in service as the family PC, and I love the process of setting up a new computer from scratch. However, there are two things that I do want to move to the MBP, and I'm not sure how to go about either.

First, I am running Vista on a Boot Camp partition. I'd like to uninstall Vista on the iMac and move the setup to the MBP, but don't want to run afoul of MS licensing. Can't seem to find anything clear about how to uninstall the existing version, then reinstall it on the MBP and stay within the rules of one OS, one computer.

Second, I have a particular favorite widget installed on the iMac that, alas, is no longer available and will not be available again, barring the unexpected. I'd like to make a copy of that widget for the MBP, but again, can't seem to find anything that shows how to do this.

I should say for the record that I am a longtime Mac user in my personal life (my company provides a ThinkPad for work), having made the switch permanently with the G4 cube and never looked back, but I am hardly an expert on Mac systems or software - I just use the computer as I did my PCs before, with pretty much the same programs and workflow. It's that fact more than any other, I think, that has convinced several friends and family members to make the switch: I don't do anything different than what they needed to do; I just enjoy it more. - But in a way, being a Mac user has made it too easy: back in the DOS and Win 3.1 days, it took a bit of know-how to be the family computer guy. Not the same in the Mac world; only the PC users call anymore.

Thanks and Happy Holidays.

Matt

Matt,

Widgets are stored in Library > Widgets, and I don't know of any reason you shouldn't be able to simply copy it to your new Mac.

As for Boot Camp and Vista, I can't say for sure, but I believe Microsoft allows you to have the same licensed copy of Windows on two computers, such as a desktop and a notebook. I don't know if that still applies with Vista, but it's worth looking into. If so, it could be as easy as copying the Vista partition to your new Mac.

As I don't use Dashboard widgets or Boot Camp, I can't speak with any more authority than that.

Dan

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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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