The Low End Mac Mailbag

Unsupported Leopard Installation and the Truth about Leopard DVD Player System Requirements

Dan Knight - 2007.10.25

Today's mailbag is 100% Leopard, including a link explaining how to hack the Leopard installer for unsupported hardware and a whole lot of letters explaining the DVD Player in Leopard only requires a 1.6 GHz CPU for improved deinterlacing, not just to play DVDs. dk

Leopard and Older Macs

Leopard DVD Player

Unsupported Leopard Installation

From Steffen:

Hello Dan,

I just thought I'd pass this on: <http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=371302>

Listed here is the methodology for installing Leopard on a machine that doesn't meet the "system requirements" needed; I've simply given a URL to be sure to point out the original author of the instructions.

The basic idea is that one simply edits a few values in the installation package in order to change the minimum processor class/speed in order for the installer to pass. Your mileage may vary, but it sounds quite promising - and technically logical. If the method does work for the mainstream, I think it actually makes a reasonably good way to allow users to install the OS; a very small amount of technical know-how is needed to set things up, but that acts as a nice check to make sure the user understands that the OS may not perform perfectly.

I can understand the frustration of an older user unable to upgrade a machine; this allows him/her to endeavor to do just that, but also highlights that it may not work out perfectly. An imperfect solution for those expecting super-widespread compatibility (I'm not even going to get into that argument, both sides have been voiced adequately already in this forum), but a solution, at least.

Finally, got to touch base on the logo . . . can't say I think it's an improvement. Besides, the favicon doesn't match (deliberately, I realize)! Just my two cents. Thanks for maintaining such a great site, and keep up the good work!

-Steffen

Steffen,

Thanks for sharing the link. I've hacked a few installers in the past, and for people who can follow directions carefully, it shouldn't be a problem.

One reader in that forum has Leopard running nicely on a dual processor 500 MHz G4, another has it on an 800 MHz iBook G4. We'd like to hear from anyone who gets an unsupported Mac running Leopard - and those who fail in the attempt.

Dan

More on Macs Left Behind

From Joseph Burke:

Firstly, in the post on 10/23, one reader mentions that Mac OS 8.5 left behind more Macs than Leopard, so we shouldn't be complaining now. To address that, although when you count all Performas, LCs, Quadras, Centrises, etc., it may come to more than 60, we have to remember that many of those models are identical except for the name. Many of the 68k machines used the same processors at the same clock rates; so did many of the early PPC machines. Models in the same case that use the same CPU at the same speed are the same machine. If the only difference is the amount of RAM or the inclusion of a monitor or a DOS card, that isn't enough to say it is a different machine. All Performa 63x or LC 5xx machines are the same machine; all PCI machines within a family are not.

Another big difference between Leopard and 8.5 is that Leopard is being compiled for the G4 processor. 8.5 was not compiled for the 680x0, so there was a legitimate reason why 8.5 wouldn't run on older Macs. There is no legitimate reason why Leopard shouldn't run on a 350 MHz G4.

Another reader also mentions that all G4s below 867 MHz lack L3 cache. While the entry level 733 and 800 Quicksilvers did lack the cache, the Digital Audio 667 and 733 both have 1 MB of level 3 cache.

Some also say all that processing power is required by the new eye candy in Leopard. For those, I say then why doesn't Apple allow us to turn off the eye candy? To take it a step further, if all it does is take up processing power without adding any real benefit, then why include it in the first place?

I would rather have an OS running on my machine that performs all the functions without anything unnecessary slowing things down. For years people have complained that Microsoft includes a lot of crap in their OSes that slows things down; now Apple is doing the same, and those same people are running to Apple's defense. If Apple would leave out the unnecessary eye candy, or at least allow users of slower machines to turn it off, then it would free up processing power and allow Leopard to run on slower machines and leave some processing power for the next revision of the OS and allow it to include even more functionality without raising the bar so much.

Another reader says that Apple would be sued for releasing Leopard on a machine that runs it slowly. I say no. Apple went ahead and released 7.5.5 with the Mac Plus as being officially supported, and that ran slow as molasses up a hill in January - and there were no lawsuits. Why should there be one this time? Apple would not be saying anything untruthful if they said Leopard ran on a slower G4, because it would run. Just because it runs slower than the user expects, is not Apple's fault. Now, if it frequently crashed, locked up, or lost data, then there would be grounds, but not just because it was slow. There is no reason why Leopard should not run on many of the machines Apple is leaving out, other than that they want you to buy a new(er) Mac.

Joseph,

I can't fault your reasoning. While Mac OS 8.5 left behind a lot of older Macs, the need to optimize for PowerPC and stop supporting all the old 680x0-based Macs made sense in 1998, 4-1/2 years after the first PowerPC Macs were introduced and four years after the last 68040-based Mac was introduced. Likewise, we've had G4 Macs with AltiVec since 1999, and as demanding as the user interface is in OS X, it makes sense to require a G4 for decent performance in Leopard. (It's also much better for Tiger.)

Leopard should reach users tomorrow, and we'll know a lot more about the installer after the weekend. I'm hoping that Apple won't wholesale prevent anyone from installing Leopard on G4 Macs (at least those with AGP graphics) running slower than 867 MHz, but we just don't know yet.

I agree that nobody would sue Apple if Leopard were supported on a 350 MHz AGP Power Mac yet ran slowly - that's the cost of older hardware.

Dan

Flying with Lead Weights

From Fred Goff:

Dan

You are wrong on a number of technical issues. System 7 was slow compared to System 6 because System 6 was pretty much entirely hand-coded Assembler.

System X was so slow because it was a PowerPC port of NeXTstep. Later versions of OS X were faster because the PPC port was optimized on each release.

As another writer to you mentioned, the Classic OS was able to support 10 years' of Macs because it was a dead, stagnant operating system.

Leopard will let developers do things no other operating system on the planet right now can. You can't fly with lead weights around your ankles.

But I am curious. Just what is Low End Mac about these days? It used to be getting the most out of older Mac hardware and operating systems. Today it seems to be a whinefest about not being able to run the latest operating systems on the oldest hardware possible.

Good day.

Fred,

System 7 was slower than System 6 even though huge parts of it remained in tweaked assembly code. System 7 was initially slower because it was able to run multiple applications concurrently; System 6 with MultiFinder did the same thing, but with about a 15% performance hit vs. running without MultiFinder. Add to that built-in support for TrueType fonts, which render quite slowly on 68000-based Mac, and the free Adobe Type Manager (ATM), which was even slower, and you have the primary cause of System 7 slowdown - smooth fonts (eye candy circa 1990).

Revisionists may consider the classic Mac OS to have been a dead, stagnant operating system, but it was functional, usable, fast, and productive. It may not have been "modern", but it certainly worked, and as long as you avoided adding a lot of third party extensions and control panels, it was remarkably stable. Never forget how much real work was done with Macs running System 6 through Mac OS 9.

There are a number of reasons OS X has improved performance over the years. Tiger was the first version without a significant increase, and Spotlight and the Dashboard made it slower on a lot of systems. Yet it supported a gorgeous user interface and ran on 350 MHz G3 systems.

While Leopard will do things no other OS does, most of that doesn't require 867 MHz of G4 power. It's the arced icons and cool but not really necessary animation that does that. Things like Time Machine would work on G3 hardware.

Low End Mac is about making the best use of your older Macs, and as our "Age of Leopard" series has often noted, the best OS for a lot of older Macs is Panther or Tiger, not Leopard. That said, we'd like to be able to make the choice ourselves whether Leopard is fast enough on a dual 450 MHz Power Mac or a 700 MHz iMac G4.

Dan

Lower Leopard System Requirements

From Yuhong Bao:

Dear Dan Knight:

I'd lower the Leopard system requirement to 800 MHz or 700 MHz. I wouldn't lower it further, because under that system requirement, almost all Macs 5 years or older should run Leopard, and those that can't are quite low-end.

Yuhong Bao

Yuhong Bao,

Apple produced a couple 667 MHz G4 PowerBooks and a 667 MHz Power Mac G4, which is why I'd like to see Leopard support that clock speed. That said, I think 700 MHz would be a better cutoff point than 867 MHz, perhaps along with support for the 533 MHz dual Power Mac G4.

Dan

DVD Player Requirements under Leopard

From Dan Palka:

Leopard DVD Player requirementsA note on the DVD player requirements. Leopard's built-in DVD playing software has been changed quite a bit from the previous DVD Player software in Tiger, and from reading the description, I would guesstimate the reason that it "requires" 1.6 GHz of processing power is the "Adaptive Video Analyzation" technology which "applies deinterlacing and inverse 3:2 pulldown on demand." Also possibly processor intense is the new, real-time scratched disc recovery system.

Either way, Leopard users will still be able to play their DVDs using VLC, even if their system doesn't support Apple's DVD software. And if we're lucky enough, we'll be able to run Apple's DVD player but without aforementioned features.

Dan Palka
system7today.com

Dan,

I guess it's too much to expect Apple to simply make a DVD Player with minimal overhead and without feature bloat. I'm beginning to think the marketers are running the show, not users or engineers. "What exciting new features can we add to show up Microsoft?" seems to be the question.

Sure, it's great to have deinterlacing and on-the-fly scratch recovery, but making DVD Player incompatible with supported 867 MHz to 1.5 GHz G4 Macs just doesn't make any sense at all. Let's hope those users will be able to run DVD Player with the demanding features disabled.

And, as you note, there's always VLC.

Dan

Leopard DVD Player Does Not Require 1.6 GHz

From Ed Hurtley:

To use an exact quote from Apple, with emphasis added by me:

DVD Player requires a 1.6 GHz processor or faster for improved de- interlacing.

It doesn't say "DVD Player requires a 1.6 GHz processor." It says it requires it "for improved de-interlacing."

Ed Hurtley

Ed,

The question is whether "improved de-interlacing" can be disabled for Macs running CPUs slower than 1.6 GHz. Online discussion indicates that (a) DVDs are already interlaced, but some other video sources are not, and (b) DVD Player for Leopard plays DVDs just fine on slower Macs, but the "improved de-interlacing" requires 1.6 GHz or better (leaving out almost all G4 Macs and the 1.5 GHz Core Solo Mac mini).

If Apple were to state this clearly, they would avoid this kind of confusion.

Dan

Leopard DVD Player Requirements

From Derik DeLong:

Dan,

You might want to revisit the page for Leopard's DVD Player requirements for a better understanding.

"DVD Player requires a 1.6 GHz processor or faster for improved de-interlacing."

I've highlighted the key part in bold. Please don't spread FUD.

-Derik

Derik,

The confusion is understandable. The page states that Time Machine requires an additional hard drive, Front Row requires a Mac with built-in IR and an Apple Remote, Boot Camp requires an Intel processor, Photo Booth requires a G5 or Intel processor, Screen Sharing requires a 128 Kbps Internet connection, and audio chat requires a microphone and 56 Kbps Internet connection. Along with that, it says that DVD Player requires a 1.6 GHz or faster CPU for improved de-interlacing, not explaining that this requirement applies only to improved de-interlacing and not to the entire DVD Player application.

Apple has only itself to blame for any confusion. One additional word would make all the difference: DVD Player requires a 1.6 GHz processor or faster only for improved de-interlacing.

Dan

DVD Player and Leopard

From Peter Hillman:

Dan

Per Apple's system requirements for Leopard, "DVD Player requires a 1.6 GHz processor or faster for improved de-interlacing."

One of the new features of DVD Player is "Video Quality Improvements: Enjoy even higher-quality video with Adaptive Video Analyzation technology that applies deinterlacing and inverse 3:2 pulldown on demand." Most likely, this key feature requires a faster processor. Slower processors will most likely play DVDs just as they do today with the current version. You probably won't be able to take advantage of the higher quality settings.

Re: Leopard DVD Player Requires 1.6 GHz CPU

From Peter Sadlon:

As someone who runs Apple DVD Player 4.6.1 on my Blueberry G3 iMac DV 400, I will confirm it does run on that low end of a Mac, but quality of playback has frankly been more than a little disappointing. I am consistently seeing artifacting and bad vertical interlacing lines. I agree 1.6 GHz seems a little on the high, but if it's that high without display issues, then frankly I'm not going to complain. If it's displaying with less quality than a cheap standalone DVD player, then I have issues with it, especially since they claim the hike is for better playback quality.

Thanks,
Peter Sadlon

Leopard DVD Player

From Connor Wakamo:

Hello,

I would like to point out that Leopard's DVD Player only requires a

1.6 GHz processor or faster for improved de-interlacing and not for playback. The Leopard site specifically says: "DVD Player requires a 1.6 GHz processor or faster for improved de-interlacing."

Connor

1.6 GHz Only Required for Improved Deinterlacing

From Daniel Decker:

Tech specs state the upped requirement is for improved de-interlacing. I suspect it will play on any supported install, you'll just get the 'old fashioned' de-interlacing, ;-)

Daniel Decker

Regarding 1.6 GHz for DVD Player in Leopard

From Isaiah Henni:

I'm sure you've heard this from someone else by now, but the 1.6 GHz for DVD player is for improved de-interlacing in the DVD program, not to play DVDs.

From Apple's Sys. Requirements for Leopard

DVD Player requires a 1.6 GHz processor or faster for improved de-interlacing.

I'm quite relieved about that, because I have a 1.2 GHz iBook G4 that will be upgraded next week....

Love the site (and the new logo), keep up the great reporting for the low-end's.

In Christ,
Isaiah Henni
Youth Minister
Christian Church of Riverton (Wyoming)

Leopard DVD Requirements

From Peter Brockie:

Hello Dan,

If your recent article you mention Leopard's DVD player's requirement of a 1.6 GHz G4 processor for playback. My understanding of this requirement is any computer system which runs Leopard can play back DVDs as usual. The 1.6 GHz requirement is for the new improved de-interlacing feature, not the whole application itself.

As listed on the Apple tech specs page:

DVD Player requires a 1.6 GHz processor or faster for improved de-interlacing.

Both myself and my wife's computers do not meet the 1.6 GHz, but run Leopard, so we will be able to confirm this in a couple days when Apple delivers our copy.

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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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