The Low End Mac Mailbag

Flash Drive Reliability, Going Back to Tiger, Classic Emulation, and More

Dan Knight - 2007.12.19

CardBus Flash Drive Issues

From Leigh Morgan:

Hmm, thanks to both of you gentlemen for this insight.

In my endless quest for more speed and better battery life, it's looking like the CardBus idea is not likely to help. Especially if one of the inherently limiting factors is the read-write wear & tear on the CF card itself.

I wonder if this is the technological hurdle that explains why we haven't seen flash-booting CPUs from any manufacturer yet. Imagine the bad PR from sudden-death scenarios in the field....

I will be happy to let them figure it out.

Thank you so much for sharing your info and experiences. You have probably saved me much needless frustration, disappointment, and $$.

Leigh
Happy holidays! Ho ho ho

Leigh,

It's not that there aren't any flash-based portables, but most of them are handhelds. Fujitsu does make a few flash-based LifeBook models and Samsung sells solid state 2.5", 1.8", and 1.0" drives, so the problem of wear isn't insurmountable. Speed is good: Samsung's drives use NAND technology and are rated at 57 MB/sec. reads and 33 MB/sec. sequential writes (random writes are a slower 33 MB/sec.) Mean Time Before Failure is 2 million hours - 228.3 years. And cheap they ain't, starting at about $500 for a 32 GB flash drive.

Dan

After Leopard, Going Back to Tiger

From Derek A. Ryder:

I installed Leopard using Update onto a 1 GHz PPC 2004 iBook with 1 MB RAM and an upgraded 100 GB hard drive. Not sure the video card, but I didn't change it. Install was a breeze - stick in the DVD, wait 2 hours, done.

What doesn't work? Most things I use day to day. GarageBand from iLife 06, AppleWorks, GearBox (unsupported except in a Beta, according to Line6). iMovie unhappy and unstable. Office 2004 is okay, but runs like it's wading in peanut butter, as does Safari. My external hard drive does I/O slower, and there's constant communication to it (I suspect Time Machine). DVD Player almost unwatchable. I never use FrontRow. Dashboard slow to launch by a factor of 3. iTunes slow to respond to mouse clicks (will be 3-10 seconds behind). The list goes on, and I haven't tried everything yet.

What works better? Haven't found anything yet.

I'm actually so unhappy with it that I'm downgrading back to Tiger (a horrible task). I'm not sure why folks want to upgrade in the first place on a near low-end Mac. I went through the 300+ upgraded features and found about 3 I would use. Some, like the Dock changes, aren't helpful at all and are in fact counterintuitive. Some, like Time Machine, are just poor implementations of Retrospect, which ships with pretty much every external hard drive.

Leopard may be spectacular for some, but it's a RAM and CPU pig; performance will suffer on a low-end machine. Upgrading a near low-end Mac seems to be a waste of money to me given the cost of a new Mac that actually can run it properly. There had better be a darn good reason folks want to do this upgrade, rather than the generic "wow, a new system" reason. The cost benefit is miserable in my opinion.

I also upgraded on my 1.8 GHz Intel iMac. Far fewer issues, but the software ones (GarageBand, AppleWorks, GearBox) persist. Still, I haven't seen any of the 300 benefits, so I can't recommend it as yet.

Derek A. Ryder

Derek,

Different people have different expectations, and I have to admit to becoming increasingly unhappy with the performance of AppleWorks with each successive update to Tiger. It just gets slower and slower in responding to keystrokes. Makes me wonder if Apple is deliberately doing something to push people away from this great program and to iWork or Office. (I have Office and don't like it. I've worked with Pages and Number, and I don't consider it worth the expense and time to switch all of my work over.)

I'm not surprised that you're having issues with iLife 06; Apple produced iLife 08 to give us applications optimized for Leopard. Just one more way to get our money.

I haven't used Retrospect in years, but when I did, it was always something that took over the computer until backup was done. It's my understanding that Time Machine works transparently in the background. I'll know more when I get a copy of Leopard, but I'm in no hurry.

Tiger rocks. I'm still using it, as are a lot of others, and we're going to be as productive as we've ever been, even if we don't have all the cool Leopard eye candy and neato keen features.

Dan

Does GeForce FX 5200 Support Core Animation?

From James Gager:

Dan,

I have a Power Mac G5 dual 1.8 GHz with a GeForce FX 5200 64 MB graphics card installed, and I can not find if it is Core Animation compatible in Leopard. I am considering upgrading from Tiger, but I want to know if a different card will be necessary for all the "bells and whistles" to work in Leopard.

Thanks,
James Gager

James,

The 5200 has full Core Image and Core Animation support.

Dan

Video Card Advice for Older Macs and Leopard

From DFS:

I have Digital Audio G4/533 and Gigabit Ethernet G4/Dual 500. Both great machines, plenty of RAM, etc. but could use better video cards. What do you recommend? Any compatible with Leopard? Rather not have to draw off power supply.

Thanks,
DFS

DFS,

Core Image is supported by ATI Radeon 9550 and higher and also Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 and higher. The Radeon 9600 is the least costly supported card I know of, and it sell for over US$100. If all you need or want is Quartz Extreme support, any AGP Radeon or GeForce video card with at least 16 MB of memory will do the job. I'd look at an AGP Radeon 7500 Mac Edition, which sells for under $40 these days.

Dan

Classic Emulation

From Eric Halbert:

I read with interest your mailbag yesterday concerning somebody should make a Classic emulator, since it is no longer in Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard). I don't know if somebody has already mentioned it, but you may want to take a look at MacOnLinux. Currently the program allows Linux (on PowerPC) users to run Mac OS as a virtual machine, and it supports Classic Mac OS (up to 9.2.2) and OS X up to 10.4. However, if you look at the documentation and FAQs, you will see that the developers are working on a port for OS X and that it should be available in the near future. So this would be another option for Leopard users (the author of the documentation doesn't specifically mention 10.5, but I'm sure by the time the OS X version is released, it will work on 10.5) to run Classic Mac OS.

The downside is that there are no current plans to port the emulator to x86 (including Intel Macs) and they are still working on G5 support (from what I can tell), but perhaps this might be a viable option a few months from now.

Eric

Eric,

Thanks for pointing out another option. My biggest problem with emulators is that they emulate Mac hardware and thus run in a window. I'd love to see - and be willing to pay for - an emulator that gives us the same experience we've had with Classic Mode. I love the way OS X and Classic apps transparently work together in Tiger (and the versions that went before it). The lack of Classic Mode is my biggest obstacle to even trying out Leopard.

Dan

Unsupported Leopard

From Jack:

What unsupported Mac(s) have you installed it on? Quicksilver 2002

  • How much RAM? 1.5 GB
  • How fast a CPU, and what brand, if it's an upgrade? Dual 800 MHz (formerly single proc, salvaged the processor from another G4 w/ a bad power supply)
  • What video card does your Mac have? ATI Radeon 9000 Pro

Which installation method did you use, a modified installer or installing from a supported Mac? Target Disk Mode on one of my many redundant Backups

  • If so, what Mac did you use to run the installer? Power Mac Dual 2.5 GHz G5
  • Did you install to a second internal hard drive, an external FireWire hard drive, or using FireWire Target Disk Mode? external FireWire hard drive
  • If you used a FireWire drive, did you clone it to your Mac's internal hard drive? If so, what program did you use to do this? Opened the case and swapped drives (would have used CCC)

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. I don't get the translucent top bar, but everyone just complains about that so I lucked out I guess, Time Machine even works with a smaller internal disk, just selectively backing up working files and music.

How does performance compare with Tiger subjectively and objectively? Seems quicker on many system tasks, all and all about the same though

Jack

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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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