Charles Moore's Mailbag

Speed Up Your Mac, Eliminating Sidebars in the Finder, Radeon 9200 and Core Image Redux, and More

Charles Moore - 2005.09.27 - Tip Jar

How to Make Your Mac Run Faster

From John

Hi,

My name is John, and I was wondering what the best program utilities there are to make your Mac run faster. If you have any idea's or suggestions for me I would be very glad to hear them.

Thanks John

Hi John,

I would need to know of more about your computer and the context in which you want to make it run faster in order to be very specific.

Running disk maintenance utilities ( of which there are many, some of them free) in OS X can result in small speed increases. One that I find especially convenient MainMenu (freeware), which operates from a menu bar menulet from which you can select from more than three dozen different Mac OS X maintenance, cleaning and optimization tasks, including Repair Permissions and the daily, weekly, and monthly cron maintenance scripts.

http://www.santasw.com/products.html

Another good free tool for performing these tasks is OnyX:

http://www.titanium.free.fr/pgs/english.html

Running a disk optimization utility like Alsoft Disk Warrior can deliver bigger dividends, especially if your disk is bad fragmented.

In general, the best way to get the most speed out of any Mac is to make sure that you have plenty of RAM installed, especially if you're running OS X.

If sluggish performance is a big problem with respect to the sort of use you're putting the computer to, in many cases the most efficient and cost effective way to improve performance is to buy a faster Mac.

Charles

New ToyViewer Download Link

From Sam Hurlbert

I have tried several times over the past three days to download ToyViewer 4.76 for Mac Tiger and continue to get this message:

Gateway Timeout

The following error occurred:

[code=GATEWAY_TIMEOUT] A gateway timeout occurred. The server is unreachable. Retry the request. Please contact the administrator.

Where can I go to download it?

Hi Sam,

The site has moved.

http://www.betaversion.org/~pier/2005/08/toyviewer-download.html

Here is the new download URL:

http://www7a.biglobe.ne.jp/~ogihara/software/OSX/index.html

Charles

High Prices at Mac Support Store

From: Ronald Buckner

Dear Mr. Moore

I clicked the link for the Mac support store and found that it is a nice site with a wide selection of parts for just about any Mac you could think of. The only thing is, I am a little surprised at the price of some of the items. A logic board for a Power Mac 9500 for $600+?

That seems a little high. I am just curious if these are new parts that were never distributed? I will do a little more research on the site, I just wanted share this information with you.

Thank you.

Scott Buckner

Thanks Scott,

That certainly is an astronomical price for a 9500 motherboard, about 12 times what the whole computer should sell for used in good condition.

New part, old stock, and old price list I would guess.

Charles

Looking Up Your Mac's Serial Number

From John Ko

Hi,

Was reading your article on the iMac G5 Repair Extension Program and noticed that you advised readers to look under their iMacs for the serial number. There's a much easier way to get that info:

Click on the Apple menu > About this Mac > More Info . . .

This gets you to System Profiler (which you could have opened directly from the Utilities folder).

Click on Hardware in the left pane. At the bottom of the info pane on the right is the machine's serial number.

- John Ko

P.S. Great site, by the way.

Thanks for the tip and the compliment, John.

Charles

Getting Rid of the Sidebar in Finder Windows

From Andrew Main

"One other question: Is there a systemwide means of having files open in OS X without all the folderol of multiple panes on the left showing applications and so forth, or must it be done window by window?"

I too would like to find a way to turn the Sidebar off systemwide; seems like a great idea for some clever programmer to do a hack. In the meantime, here's what I do: Go to Finder Preferences: Sidebar, "Show these items in the Sidebar:" and uncheck everything. Close all Finder windows, then open one window; I don't know if it matters, but I start with the "Computer" window, which is the topmost level of hierarchy. If anything is left in the Sidebar in this Finder window, drag it out and it will *poof*. Now I have an empty Sidebar. Disappear the Sidebar by dragging the grey divider to the left. Then select "Hide Toolbar" from the View menu (or opt-cmd-T, or click the lozenge in the upper right corner of the window). Now I have a plain window without Sidebar or Toolbar. From that point on, windows opened from within that window, as I recall, will be the same plain style. I've never investigated it systematically, but after doing opt-cmd-T for a while on any window that appears with Sidebar, I don't seem to get many anymore; I usually have a dozen or more windows open, both icon and list views, without Sidebars. I do seem to get the Sidebar/Toolbar any time I open a window via another route, such as Go menu: Recent Folders, or cmd-R to find the original of an alias, or cmd-R to find something in a list generated by the Find utility (in 10.3.x). But the windows I keep open most of the time are plain style.

Thanks for the tutorial Andrew. It would be great if there was some sort of way to do this globally. I would much prefer plain windows. Perhaps an AppleScript project for somebody.

Charles

Questions about PowerBooks and iBooks

From JD

Hi Charles,

Thanks a lot for all your help and answers. I looked at PowerBooks and iBooks over the weekend. I think I'm leaning towards PowerBooks, specifically the 12" SuperDrive. A few questions came to my mind, I was wondering if you can help me find answers to them through your experience and expertise:

  1. Is it safe to leave a PowerBook on (and charged) all day and night for like a few days?
  2. I've noticed some differences between the wireless of the 12" and 15/17" ones, 10/100 and 10/1000 is there a huge difference? Also is there any huge advantages to iBook has over the current 1.5 GHz 12" PowerBook in terms of the small things like wireless power and RAM, etc.?
  3. How long do you think a PowerBook could last me. Currently I'm using a desktop (1.0 GHz, ATI Rage 32 MB vid card, 384 MB of RAM), I've had the computer for about 4-5 years now. Besides reliability and its starting to slow down, I'm pretty satisfied. Do you think the PowerBook will last me 4-6 years down the line and I would be pretty satisfied?
  4. Do you think the 12" PowerBook, would be able to replace the functionability (able to do all what a desktop computer normally does) of a desktop?
  5. Is it a good time to buy a PowerBook right now? I'm a student so I could get the 12" PowerBook for $1,499 and get a free iPod mini ($179) and possibly a printer as well, and also $100 off AppleCare (do you think it is recommended?). Or do you think I should wait for a better deal, for a new OS to come out, and the next line of PowerBooks to come out (any clue on when would those will come out)?

Thanks so much again,
JD

Hi JD,

  1. That should cause no problems, so long as you are plugged in. The battery will only give you five or six hours. I almost never shut my books off. I just put them to sleep.
  2. I think you may be getting Ethernet and wireless confused. The higher specification will be faster, but in practical terms it's likely not a big deal for most of us. The iBook will give you substantially longer wireless range because its plastic case doesn't interfere with radio frequencies as much as the PowerBooks metal case. The iBook can also be upgraded to 1.5 GB of RAM thanks to having 512 MB soldered to the motherboard.
  3. The PowerBook should last for five years if you take decent care of it. Whether you will still be satisfied with its performance for that long is something you would have to determine. Any computer that old is going to feel pretty sluggish compared to current machinery. On the other hand, my WallStreet PowerBook is about to commence its eighth year of service, and I still use it every day, getting satisfactory performance for basic text editing and web surfing, email, etc. Note however that Apple will be switching from PowerPC to Intel chips the in June, 2006. PowerPC machines will continue to be supported for several years to come, but you will probably begin to encounter software backwards compatibility issues by 2008.
  4. I can really answer that specifically, because I don't know what you do with computers. I have been using Apple laptops as my main workhorse computers since 1996, am a bit of a power user, and I have never really wished that I was back on a desktop machine during the nine years. I feel restricted using a desktop. I consider laptops to be the premium of computer experience. That said, if you really have requirements for extensive expandability, or ultimate processor power, the desktop will always outperform the laptop in pure power terms, for less money. My observation would be that desktops are hobbled by their requirement to be plugged in, and in most instances by their size and weight. They can't really replace the functionality of a laptop in many context that are important to me.
  5. The eternal question. Yes, I think so. while I have no hard knowledge I and doubtful that there will be any really significant updates to the PowerBooks before the Intel based machines are released in the middle of 2006. There could be minor speed bumps and feature enhancements but nothing in my estimation is likely that would cause you buyer remorse within that time frame. I would be very surprised if there is a new versions of the Mac OS (10.5) released before sometime in 2007.

Charles

Radeon 9200 and Core Image Redux

From Ben

Charles,

You do a super job on LEM (where I read about this), Applelinks, MacOpinion, and any other site you write for. :)

You probably got a big pile of letters regarding programmability and the Radeon 9200.

To help understand what's going on here, we have to look at the level of programmability of the Radeon 9200 vs. the level of programmability of Core Image-capable cards.

The Radeon 9200 (on down to the 9100, 9000, and 8500) are all based on the same core and the same feature set, though the big difference is the 8500/9100 have four pixel rendering lines with two texture mapping units a piece vs. the 9200 and the 9000 supporting four/one. Beyond that, the feature set is remarkably similar to the GeForce 4Ti series (again, not to be confused with MX). They are marginally programmable GPUs, but they are missing a couple of items that Core Image-capable GPUs possess:

  1. a floating-point format for colors
  2. longer pixel shader (or, in OpenGL, fragment shader) program lengths 3.) additional supported instructions

Those three items are what make Core Image-capable GPUs, well, Core Image-capable.

The PC world makes this much easier, because the feature set happens to correspond with DirectX revision numbers:

  • DX6 - RAGE 128, Nvidia RIVA TNT series, Radeon 7000/LE
  • DX7 - Original Radeon, Radeon 7500, GeForce, GeForce 2 series, GeForce 4MX
  • DX8 - Radeon 8500/9000/9100/9200, GeForce 3 series, GeForce 4 Ti series
  • DX9 - Radeon 9500+, Radeon x800 series, GeForce FX series, GeForce 6x00 series

The last set supports (at minimum) enough instructions, settings, and program length to do what Core Image can do. This is far from extensive, but to help out you and your readers, check out these PC-centric articles:

Hope this helps. I apologize for the PC-centric nature, but the hardware features and applications apply to OpenGL as much as they do to DirectX, and therefore OS X. I feel this discussion is relevant.

Thanks,
Ben

Hi Ben,

Thanks for the clarification.

As a practical consideration for Mac users, Apple specifies:

When a programmable GPU is present, Core Image utilizes the graphics card for image processing operations, freeing the CPU for other tasks. And if you have a high-performance card with increased video memory (VRAM), you'll find real-time responsiveness across a wide variety of operations.

Core Image-capable graphics cards include:

  • ATI Mobility Radeon 9700
  • ATI Radeon 9550, 9650, 9600, 9600 XT, 9800 XT, X800 XT
  • Nvidia GeForce FX Go 5200
  • Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra
  • Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL, 6800 GT DDL

For more information, visit:

http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/coreimage/

Best,
Charles

More on Core Image Support

From Dylan McDermond

You wrote:

However, according to Apple's Core Image information page, I'm correct that the 9200 does not support Core Image.

It states:

Core Image-capable graphics cards include:

  • ATI Mobility Radeon 9700
  • ATI Radeon 9550, 9650, 9600, 9600 XT, 9800 XT, X800 XT
  • Nvidia GeForce FX Go 5200
  • Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra
  • Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL, 6800 GT DDL

But, I have a 15" 1.25 GHz G4 PowerBook with the 64 MB Mobility Radeon 9600, and it supports Core Graphics. Although the mini is the same graphics chipset as the iBook, which we know does not support Core Graphics, I wanted to illustrate that the Apple site still is not all-inclusive with regard to Core Image capable cards.

Dylan McDermond

Dylan,

The Mobility Radeon 9600 is listed by Apple as Core Image compatible, but the 9600 has never been used in any Mac mini or iBook. The latest iBook has a 9550, and the mini still a 9200.

Charles

Donating a Power Mac 5300

From Yoram Gerchman

Greetings

Regarding the Power Mac 5300 I would suggest try looking for the local Freecycle group <www.freecycle.org>. I just donated an old PB 520C this way, and the person seems very happy with it.

Yoram

Thanks for the suggestion and link, Yoram.

Charles

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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