The Low End Mac Mailbag

Virtual PC Works with Leopard, Intel vs. PowerPC Performance, Beyond the Mac mini, and More

Dan Knight - 2008.05.20 - Tip Jar

Virtual PC Works with Leopard

From Brian G. Reilly in response to Leopard Is Not the Way to Go on G4 Macs:

Hey Dan,

I've been reading Low End Mac for years now, and I've always wanted to chime in and now I think I'll start too. I'm a huge fan of using older Apple equipment.

Anyway, I was reading LEM today and I believe Mr. Davis is in error. VPC works wonderfully in Leopard on my 1.8 GHz DP G5. The only thing "broken" in Leopard is the DVD/CD-ROM support, which can actually be remedied - by installing Apple's Boot Camp Windows drivers. I've been using this for months, and I can verify this works.

There is one last thing I've wanted to make the Mac Community (mainly PowerPC users) aware of concerning VPC. Even with all the overhead of converting Intel code into something the PowerPC registers can understand, Word 2007 launches faster in Windows XP on my Power Mac than Word 2008 does in OS X. I think this goes to show that the PowerPC isn't as underpowered as people think, it's just (sadly) not as optimized anymore.

Sincerely,
Brian G. Reilly

Brian,

Thanks for the good news about VirtualPC and G5 Macs.

I've got Office 2004 on my dual 1 GHz Power Mac G4, and I am appalled at how long it takes Word to launch. I have a feeling the Microsoft does nothing to optimize performance on Macs. Just one more reason to consider buying a copy of Pages.

Dan

How Fast Are Intel Macs?

From Dave:

Hi Dan,

I run a home based video shop transferring VHS home movies to DVDs. At this point in time I run two 466 G4s and one gigahertz G4 heavily upgraded along with a Miglia FireWire converter box. I run all the video in on one machine, then transfer to the others for encoding. I average usually about 6 hours of video a day, but it takes about 12 hours a day to get this much done. My question to you is how much faster would an Intel Mac encode the DVDs over my current set up? Because I would love to get a lot more done in a lot less time if it's at all possible. It seems all the sites I've found in comparing Macs never show how much faster they encode DVDs. So if you have any info on this, I would be greatly thankful.

By the way I just want to thank you for a great site. I know over the years your site has helped me out a lot. Have a great day.

Dave,

It took some digging, but I found a comparison using the universal binary version of iDVD 6 on a 2.0 GHz Core Duo iMac against as dual 2.0 GHz Power Mac G5. Encoding video, Bare Feats found that the Power Mac outperformed the Intel iMac: 410 seconds vs. 477. That was two years ago, and we've gone to Intel Core 2 Duo and faster clock speeds since then.

Assuming your 1 GHz G4 has one-third the power of the 2.0 GHz G5 (based on Geekbench numbers) and that Core 2 Duo is 7% more efficient than Core Duo, I'd expect today's 2.0 GHz Mac mini to do the conversion work in 1/3 the time your 1 GHz G4 requires.

That said, burning the DVD itself after all of that work may not be any faster.

Dan

Aluminum iMac CPU Upgrades

From Bradley S. Smith:

Dan, I have been navigating to your site for years and think it's great. Recently I came to your site to look at the profile page of the iMac I am currently using; it's a first generation Aluminum iMac with a 2.4 Core 2 Duo processor and the HD2600 Radeon graphics card. I wanted to know what processor upgrades are available for my machine. I was disappointed to see your profile page says "none at present". I believe this information is probably incorrect. I have a couple of questions I hope you can answer:

  1. What socket does my Aluminum iMac processor use?
  2. If iMac processors can be upgraded, why is there so little information available on the Web?

I think your site is great and hope you will print your response on Low End Mac.

Thanks,
Bradley S. Smith

Bradley,

Nobody markets upgrades for Intel Macs for the simple reason that the models that have the CPU in a socket can be upgraded with nothing more than a CPU. Unlike the old days, there's no longer a need for special cards and drivers. There are numerous stories of people putting faster CPUs in their Intel Macs.

To the best of my knowledge, the CPUs in all desktop Intel-based Macs are in sockets, so upgrading is a definite possibility. The Mac mini uses Socket M, and I've heard that the iMac also uses it, but I have no confirmation of this. This would be useful information to post on our profiles, but Apple doesn't publish it.

Dan

Compact Flash in a PowerBook 2400

From Joseph Sis, following up on CF in PowerBooks via Adapter:

Thanks for the feedback.

What about this scenario?

I just finished testing the same dual CF adapter in my PowerBook 2400. I was happy to find that the 'extra' pin is not a problem as the 2400 connector does not have that pin blocked out. However, the 2400 connector is hard mounted to the motherboard, so the CF adapter really only fits in one way. It does not work that way, I did manage to get it wedged in there flipped over (the other way) and it worked somewhat. Flipped over, of course, I would not be able to close the PowerBook, as the CF adapter is in at an odd angle. Also, the PB only recognizes 1 of the 2 CF cards. I did several tests to confirm this all with the same results.

Any suggestions? Perhaps someone makes a flexible connector that could go between the MB and the CF.

Also, any ideas on why the PB only sees one of the CF cards? Is Master/Slave on issue on this particular IDE bus in the 2400?

I guess if I can't get it to work in the 2400, I will pull the pin as you suggest and install it in the 2300, the 5 GB Seagate Type II card I have would be a great replacement for the 1.13 GB hard drive in there.

Thanks,
joe

Joe,

The IDE bus isn't reversible, so putting the adapter in the wrong way should mean it won't recognize the device - which appears to be what's happening in your case. You'll probably need to get a short cable, such as the 5" 44-pin IDE Laptop Hard Drive Extension Cable from Cables Online.

I don't know a lot about the PowerBook 2400c, but I'm guessing that it may have a single IDE/ATA bus, the hard drive and CD-ROM being the two supported devices. If that's the case, it would explain why you can't see a second card - IDE doesn't support more than two devices on a single bus.

Dan

Dan,

Thanks, that cable looks perfect. I was on that site last night but did not come across the correct cable.

Ah, but the 2400 does not have a CD-ROM. Perhaps it simply can't do 2 IDE items, much like the early Beige G3 towers, probably likely since this is a PPC machine to start. Bummer.

I noticed the Addonics site does not mention any caveat for their 2 CF adapter regarding the IDE bus on older PowerBooks. Oh well, once I get the cable I will be happy with a single CF in there. Now I just need to be able to afford a larger CF card, I had been planning on two 5 GB Seagate cards (secretly hoping they would format as a single 10 GB partition).

Thanks again for the info and especially the cable reference.

Keep up the quality work.

joe

Joe,

I don't think Addonics has old Macs to test things in. They design their adapters to work, but they just don't have access to every old computer to try them in - which is why it's nice when we can report what works here on Low End Mac.

Dan

We Need Internal Optical Drives

From Dwain Elliott:

You asked, "Do you think the Mac mini would become an even better seller if Apple left out the optical drive?"

I think it would be madness to do that. I haven't heard anyone complain that the Mini is too big! The changes I suggest are 3.5" drives (instead of the current 2.5" ones) to reduce the cost and improve (relative) performance, and (at least) the Intel X310 graphics processor as you said. Removing the SuperDrive would be another compromise that would add to the problem instead of solving one.

The "prosumer Mac" that you wrote about earlier is definitely a much-needed model, and the goal for the Mac mini is for it to be the best (and most complete) entry-level Mac it can be, at the lowest possible cost.

Dwain,

With the MacBook Air, Apple demonstrated that there is a market for a thin-and-light MacBook without an optical drive. With the iMac - way back in 1998 - Apple demonstrated that there was a market for a computer without a floppy drive. Between Remote Disc and being able to buy music and video content from the iTunes Store, Apple may soon decide that optical drives are no long a necessary standard feature. The "almost a Mac" Apple TV already sells without one.

As for 3.5" drives, there just isn't room for one in the current Mac mini. I'd far rather have seen Apple make the mini 1/2" larger and used less costly, generally faster 3.5" drives, but it wasn't to be.

Dan

Death to Optical Drives!

From Scott Cook:

Dan,

Apple should eliminate the optical drive(s) in all their computers or come up with some way to eject a disc that failed to mount. I sin profusely every time I have to reboot my otherwise rock solid reliable Mac just to eject a CD or DVD. I read about people who keep their Macs running for months without rebooting. They must never use CDs or DVDs? The only way to get the disc out of the drive is to kill the whole computer and all the applications and projects you're currently working on and hold the mouse down while your Mac reboots. It happens to me so often, and it's sooo infuriating!

Windows is way ahead in this area. I can press the button on the CD drive of my Windows beige box, and out comes my CD. The best solution I've found is using an external optical drive with my Mac. If the disc fails to mount or otherwise won't come out, I can reboot my external optical drive only and press the eject button before my Mac tries to mount the disc again. The disc comes right out in a matter of seconds. I know I'm not the only person to have this problem. It's a real pain....

Sorry to go off on a rant! (laugh)

Scott Cook

Scott,

You've run into one place where the Mac's smarts actually work against it. Ever since the first Macintosh shipped, the Mac OS has always mounted every available volume - floppy disk, hard drive, optical disk, flash drive, etc. This is the direct opposite of how DOS and early versions of Windows operated: you could pop in a floppy, a flash drive, or an optical disc, and the computer wouldn't even know it was there until you told it to access it.

That's why Windows PCs have no problem with you ejecting a disk - even if there might be open files. Macs are designed to prevent that kind of behavior and will warn you if you try to unmount a disk with active files.

Dan

My external CD/DVD drive gives me the ability to eject a messed up disc without rebooting my Mac. I think Apple should drop the internal CD/DVD drives altogether if they insist on letting the Mac OS handle discs the way it does currently. All the Mac mini really needs is a 3.5" hard drive (or two) and perhaps a PCI expansion slot to be a useful computer for someone like me. External FireWire CD/DVD drives are definitely the way to go for any Mac. I wouldn't miss the internal CD/DVD drive at all.

Scott Cook

A Bigger and Better Mac mini

From Jason Packer:

You know I was leaning in the other direction on this. Instead of going small, grab those people who want a little expansion room and instead make the Mac mini into a double-height unit and just call it the Mac. 6.5" x 6.5" x 4" is plenty of room. You get rid of the 2.5" drive and repurpose that space, plus the additional overhead room, into a single 3.5" drive and a single PCIe x16 slot. Upgrade the rest of the internals much as you suggested. Add the necessary cooling to support those new features.

Now you've got a machine that'll go to 4 GB of RAM, hold a 1 TB hard drive (or more as they grow), and when you're getting ready for some gaming, throw in an 8800 GT video card and you're ready to rock.

It's not quite a minitower, and it's not exactly got room for several 5.25" drives or even a second hard drive, but it'll bring them in by the car-full to have a Mac that has the option to grow some but still fits neatly on your window sill or in your entertainment center.

Jason,

As I was writing that column, I remembered one of the most unexpected third-party Mac accessories ever - the MicroMac LC Power WorkStation, and expansion chassis for the Mac LC and LC II that included a 32 MHz 68030 upgrade, two available LC Processor Direct Slots, drive bays for a second hard drive and an optical drive, and even an optional extra power supply for those extra drives you could add.

Anyhow, that got me to wondering, what if something similar existed for the next generation Mac mini? Well, Apple would have to include room for a PCIe slot or a riser card - and it went on from there.

I don't think size is nearly as big an issue as Steve Jobs thinks - the 7.7" Apple TV/Time Capsule footprint is just as attractive as the 6.5" Mac mini footprint.

Dan

Beyond Beyond the Mac mini

From Julian Skidmore:

Hi Dan,

Your "Beyond the Mac mini" article reminded me of my 7-year-old ultra-cut down iMac concept called iBase. So I did a blog on it.

http://oneweekwonder.blogspot.com/2008/05/think-ahead-think-ibase.html

In terms of your article the iBase is equivalent to such a machine slotted into a small screen. Stick it on a wall in a kitchen; a child's desk or a small coffee table and away you go.

Anyway, I liked your article,

-cheers from Julz @P

Julz,

I like your "out of the box" thinking. I sometimes wonder if we might no see a return to the old days when the computer was the keyboard - think back to the Commodore VIC-20 and 64, the Atari ST series, and a few others that packed the computer beneath the keyboard, and you have another picture of what a wireless computer without an optical drive could be. Just be sure to include a trackpad or "eraserhead" pointer.

Dan

Mac mini on Steroids

From Scott Birdwell:

Hey, Dan!

I've been a LEM reader for years now and get a number of the Digests. I also own two Mac mini's, and they are my fastest, most modern Macs. I read your article about the Mac mini with interest. I agree with your points:

"The Mac mini is Apple's most out-of-date computer, the only one still using a 667 MHz system bus, the only one still using Intel GMA 950 graphics, the only one with 802.11g wireless. It's due for an overhaul to the 800 MHz system bus, the Santa Rosa chipset, the Penryn CPU, 802.11n WiFi, and the less than exciting Intel X3100 graphics processor (at least it's better than GMA 950).

"Maybe run the CPUs as 2.0 GHz on the low end and 2.4 GHz at the top. Include 2 GB of RAM with support for up to 4 GB (this is still an entry-level system). Redesign it so at least one of the USB 2.0 ports is accessible from the front, perhaps one on each side toward the front for flash drives, iPods, and other devices you take from computer to computer."

Personally, the direction I would like to see Apple go with the mini is not toward an even smaller footprint with no optical drive (a la Air), but, rather, I would replace the optical drive with a non-notebook drive and the hard drive with a 3.5" "regular" SATA drive. These changes would enhance performance, though necessitate a larger footprint (but not that much larger than the present one). I think it would easily allow the upgrades you suggested, specifically the graphics card upgrade (the Intel GMA X3100 graphics processor would be an improvement, but let's get away from the shared memory/integrated graphics cards. How about a 128 meg nonintegrated card?) and the USB 2.0 port in front. You could incorporate one or two of the small profile expansion ports. Apparently Apple wants to avoid a mid-price expandable tower for reasons known only to them. However, this Mac "Micro" would still be very distinctively different than the generic PC minitowers on the market. It might be an inch wider and taller than the mini, but it would scream, and I suspect that it would have to cost much, if any, more than the mini. I would welcome your thoughts.

Scott Birdwell

Scott,

Apple has a new form factor, the 7.7" footprint share by Apple TV and Time Capsule. This would be the perfect size for a more expandable version of the Mac mini, something a bit more expandable that would cut into Mac Pro sales in the least.

I have no idea why Apple is avoiding the middle of the market. Even the iMac has finally gained an expansion slot, although only the 24" model - and only for a better graphics card.

Dan

A 7.7" footprint would be just perfect for the Mac "Micro!" If they would make the changes we suggested, I bet it could sell for maybe $999.99 and go like hot cakes for all the Vista/Windoze weary folks. The time is ripe for something like this.

Scott

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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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