The Low End Mac Mailbag

Intel Mac mini Value, Best YouTube Browser in Tiger, Additional Pismo Resolutions, and More

Dan Knight - 2008.03.19 - Tip Jar

Intel Mac mini Value

From James Pearson:

Hi Dan,

I have a painting and modest recording studio 40 miles from Nashville based around a Mac mini G4 with an external 7200 rpm drive. I love the small form factor, ultra-quiet operation, and a la cart cost. Unfortunately, my mini's lone FireWire port was damaged in an electrical storm last year, compromising my external 24-bit audio/midi interface. This, in combination with higher system demands for new sessions forced me to put together a budget shopping list.

I narrowed my search to the G5 iMac, Intel iMac and mini. My total budget was $750 including shipping.

The G5s were very attractive and priced right, but reliability reports scared me off. I saw limited opportunities to buy an Intel Core Duo within my budget - finding only one 1.83 iMac for $699 and waving it off after realizing it was one of the stripped down education models. Most of the Intel iMacs start in the $850 range for the combo drive model. The market for used and refurbished mini's is limited, but some excellent values can be found. I narrowly missed an Apple Store special for a Core Duo 1.83 SD at $497.

Ultimately, I bought a mini Core 2 Duo with SuperDrive and a gig of RAM from Mac of All Trades for $595. I upgraded the RAM to 2 gigs from OWC and purchased an additional 17" LCD from eBay coming in way under my budget. In the future, I can upgrade the monitor up to 1900 pixels wide. If I'm real ambitious, I can even upgrade the CPU.

It's hard to argue with the continued value of the mini format. I was shocked to see the Primate Labs overall performance scores double from my G4 1.25 (727) to the Intel Core Solo (1459) and triple to the Core Duo 1.66 (2157)! By comparison, the same money would only buy a G5 iMac with a performance in the 1100 range. My new 1.83 Core 2 Mini has a score of 2473. For the money, I'm convinced the mini is the smarter choice.

Take care,
James Pearson

James,

Although it has a lot of limitations, there's no denying the power and value of the Intel-based Mac mini in comparison to the PowerPC hardware of the past. Core 2 allows for plenty of RAM, and an external hard drive can sidestep the pedestrian performance of the built-in notebook hard drive. For anyone who does a fair bit of video work on a PowerPC Mac, the Intel mini can be a much better option than any CPU upgrade.

Dan

Best Browser for YouTube with Tiger

From Derrick Streng:

Dan,

After trying a variety of browsers on my iMac G3 DV Special Edition 400 MHz running Mac OS X Tiger, I found that Firefox 3 Beta 4 plays YouTube videos the best. Letting the video load in its entirety before playing yields the best performance. Some have suggested using VLC for playback; I have VLC, and I love it, but I am lazy, so I prefer to both find and watch videos from my web browser. If you are lazy like me, then I suggest installing Firefox 3 Beta 4; It can't be beat.

Thanks,
Derrick Streng

Derrick,

Thanks for sharing your findings. Have you tried Safari 3.1 yet? I tried it on my 400 MHz iMac yesterday, and it did quite nicely as well.

Dan

More Pismo Resolutions with an External Monitor

From Gerald Wilson:

Dear Dan,

I have just souped-up my trusty Pismo: It now has 1 GB RAM and a new, quiet, efficient 100 GB HDD. You can hardly hear the background murmur.

Still running Panther 10.3.9 + all patches.

Decided to try Pismo with Dell 2007WFP widescreen. Not really expecting much other than external 1280 x 1024 stretched. Stunned to find Pismo can drive numerous external resolutions (both 4:3 stretched and widescreen anti-aliased) including the Dell's native resolution of 1680x1050.

Stonking result.

List of working resolutions: 640 x 480, 800 x 500, 800 x 600, 856 x 480, 1024 x 640, 1024 x 768, 1152 x 864, 1280 x 800, 1280 x 960, 1280 x 1024, 1360 x 768.

1600 x 1000, although listed, didn't work for me.

When first detected, both displays went fuzzy. I rebooted and explored carefully via the System Prefs, working my way up the resolution table.

The native res of 1680 x 1050 elected to work at 59.9 Hz; lesser resolutions at 60.0 Hz and above. This small difference may have been causing the fuzzy appearance at the start.

YMMV. Hope this info helpful. Later, I hope to try this out on a Lombard.

rgds
Gerald W Wilson

Gerald,

Thanks for sharing your findings. I had no idea Pismo could support so many resolutions, and I'll update our profile to reflect the settings you've verified. Of course, they are dependent on the attached monitor, which might be why a native 1680 x 1050 display won't do 1600 x 1000.

Dan

iSub Problems with Leopard

From Michael:

  • What Type of Mac: Power Mac G4 DA
  • RAM: 1.5 GB
  • CPU(S) Dual G4 533 MHz
  • Video Card: Nvidia GeForce 2 MX Stock
  • Firmware: 4.2.8
  • Add on cards: Belkin USB 2.0 PCI card
  • Install Method: The open firmware hack

Thing that work: Time Machine, Front Row to my shock does work, DVD Player works good, as fast or faster than Tiger to me.

iSubThing that drives me nuts: I get a error message that the speakers in the Apple Pro jack are unknown and to unplug them and replug them back in. That pops up it seem a least once a week, but my Apple Pro Speakers work just fine.

After I got Mac OS X 10.5 installed, it would crash after 10-20 minutes of being on. I asked my buddy that works with Linux at his work place to help me figure out the issue. To our shock the kernel was leaking memory 100 MB every 1/2 sec. and then would eat the VM to point the computer would lock up and die. Let's just say 9 hours later and tons of lost hair due to pulling it out we found out the memory leak was cause by the iSub.

All and all it runs great, now it's time to turn this eye candy off! Oh how I miss the days of Mac OS 9.1 and my iSub!

Michael,

Thanks for sharing your findings. We've learning a fair bit about the iSub this year: It generally worked well with PowerPC Macs under Tiger, but Apple dropped iSub support for Intel Macs. The workaround for that was to have another USB audio device, which generally let the iSub work. And with Leopard, Apple dropped iSub support. Thanks to your report, now we know what happens when you try to use an iSub with Leopard.

Dan

Leopard on 3 Unsupported Power Macs

From Noah Clayton:

Hi Dan-

Here is my report on getting Leopard installed on some G4's. I followed the format from lowendmac but I posted more details on my blog at www.muchomac.blogspot.com

What unsupported Mac(s) have you installed it on?

  • G4 Gigabit Dual 500 MHz
  • G4 Digital Audio 533 MHz
  • G4 Digital Audio w/ Quicksilver 733 MHz processor

How much RAM? 1 GB on Gigabit, 768 MB on Digital Audio

How fast a CPU, and what brand, if it's an upgrade? PowerPC G4 Dual 500 MHz, 533 MHz, 733 MHz

What video card does your Mac have? Nvidia GeForce MX2, Nvidia GeForce MX4

Which installation method did you use, a modified installer or installing from a supported Mac? Modified open firmware to see an 867 MHz processor

What doesn't work? Especially check out Time Machine (which requires a second hard drive at least as big as your main one), DVD Player, Front Row, and VLC. So far everything works, haven't tried Time Machine

How does performance compare with Tiger subjectively and objectively? Things are slightly slower but not much. The Gigabit does better since it has more RAM.

If you have a chance, run Xbench and Geekbench (before and after would be nice) and let us know the results.

  • Gigabit 500 MHz Dual Processor (1 GB RAM)
    • Xbench Tiger - 34.66
    • Xbench Leopard - 24.74
    • Geekbench Tiger - 504
    • Geekbench Leopard - 455
  • Digital Audio 533 MHz (Single) (768 MB RAM)
    • Xbench Tiger - 28.95
    • Xbench Leopard - 16.33
    • Geekbench Tiger - 368
    • Geekbench Leopard - 317
  • Digital Audio w/733 MHz Quicksilver (768 MB RAM)
    • Xbench Tiger - 26.63
    • Xbench Leopard - 16.42, 20.97 w/fan
    • Geekbench Tiger - 414
    • Geekbench Leopard - 357, 380 w/fan

Noah,

Thanks for the info. I'm still impressed at how powerful the dual-processor machines are compared to faster single CPU models. That dual 500 outperforms the two generation newer 733 quite handily.

Dan

PC Cards Compatible with Macs

Dear Dan,

Too much to do, too little time, I know.

The info available about the compatibility of PCMCIA/PC-card/CardBus devices with older Macs is very patchy; especially for WiFi.

I know you'd do a better job of collating this at lowendmac.

Don't know if you have such a project in mind.

rgds,
Gerald W Wilson

Gerald,

I don't have a modern Mac (nothing newer than a PB 1400) to do any testing on. I'd be happy to publish the information, but don't have the time or resources to research it.

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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