The most important part of this mailbag is the analysis of how to get the best performance from YouTube an an older Mac.
- YouTube Videos Run Poorly on Older Macs
- How Many Dead Pixels Are Too Many?
- Which iBook G4 Is the Better Deal?
- Increasing Safari Problems in Panther
- Quartz Extreme Support for PCI Video
- Can’t Hack Open Firmware on DVI PowerBook G4
- Booting the Mystic Power Mac in Classic
- Retail Mac OS 9.2.2 and Mirrored Drive Doors Power Macs
- Field Report: NewerTech 1.7 GHz G4 Upgrade
Love your stuff. I have an idea for an article, because it’s an issue that I have a hard time finding info. I love these older Macs, I have a Dual USB iBook G3, a Blue and White G3, and a couple of older Power Mac G4s. They all have trouble running video, like say YouTube. Is there hope for them? Hard drive speed? I just don’t know.
Thanks for reading,
I can’t say I have much experience with online video using older, slower Macs, but I happen to have a dual 450 MHz Power Mac G4 with 768 MB of RAM next to me at the moment with Mac OS X 10.2.8, 10.3.9, and 10.4.11 installed. I viewed my favorite video, Mac Beautiful, with each OS. Compared with my dual 1 GHz Power Mac G4, which is very smooth, the 450 MHz dual seems to be running at a lower frame rate under Tiger. If anything, it seems a bit smoother in 10.3 Panther, which makes sense, since Tiger uses more CPU cycles for system tasks. Things are a bit worse under 10.2 Jaguar and sometime a bit jerky, even worse than under Tiger.
Next up: Move the hard drive from the 450 MHz G4 to my 350 MHz Blue and White G3 with 384 MB of RAM and view the same video. Under Tiger, very low frame rate and jerky. Even the sound breaks up. Not good at all. On to Panther, which tends to have a lower CPU load. And yes, the video is smoother in Panther. It’s not good, but it is definitely better. Next test: Jaguar. Pretty bad, but not nearly as bad as Tiger was – at least the sound isn’t breaking up. I’m guessing that Tiger just draws too much CPU power for a G3 to handle these videos well.
Okay, time to set up the 400 MHz iMac G3 with 512 MB of RAM, the slowest iMac to support watching DVDs, with an external FireWire drive, which will let me boot the same three operating systems. Tiger: Slow frame rate, sound breaks up. Panther: slow frame rate, but better than Tiger. No problems with sound. Jaguar wouldn’t boot the iMac, and I’m not going to invest the time reinstalling it right now.
It occurs to me that YouTube videos are done using Flash, which may not be nearly as optimized for older PowerPC Macs as Apple’s own QuickTime codec. Off to iTunes, where I viewed the streaming trailer for Kung Fu Panda on the iMac at “full size” (press Cmd-1 to keep iTunes from scaling to full screen, which further taxes the CPU). The only version of the trailer to provide smooth animation under Tiger was the small one. Ditto under Panther, although the Medium and iPod versions were less bad than in Tiger.
I also viewed the Kung Fu Panda trailer on my dual 1 GHz Power Mac G4, and it handled everything up to 480 HD beautifully. The 720 HD version was acceptable, but I didn’t dare try the 1020 HD version.
There seem to be five factors involved here: CPU speed, G3 vs. G4, graphics processor, screen settings, and operating system. Hard drive speed and system memory don’t seem to be factors, and as long as you have broadband, that shouldn’t be an issue at YouTube resolution. On most Macs, it’s not possible to change the CPU, CPU speed, or graphics processor, so for the best video playback on older Macs, my recommendation is OS X 10.3.9 and dropping your screen resolution to 800 x 600 or even 640 x 480 (on a notebook, stick with the native screen resolution). Also try switching from millions of colors to thousands. Even with Safari, the 400 MHz iMac handles YouTube much better in Safari when set to 640 x 480 and thousands of colors.
From Christopher Beaver:
I’m sitting here looking at my couple-of-years old Samsung 920N LCD monitor with one pure white dead pixel right in the center of the screen. That’s how it came right out of the box after being purchased on the internet.
When I got the monitor, I was really sad. I have two NEC monitors that are perfect. I read in the Samsung manual that two or three dead pixels or something like that was not enough for Samsung to replace the monitor. I was busy with demanding projects and didn’t pursue the matter. But then . . . Macworld appeared in January and I realized I could discuss the issue with someone at the Samsung booth.
I asked two people at the Samsung booth the question I’m asking you. How would you buy a monitor or high-definition television for that matter without dead pixels?
The booth answer by the way was buy it from a retailer like Best Buy. If you find a dead pixel, then return the monitor to the store and tell them it doesn’t work right. Don’t explain, I was told, they’ll replace it.
I suggested, what about having them set up the actual prospective purchase in the store before taking it home and refusing to complete the purchase if there’s any dead pixels. The booth staff thought this was a good idea as well.
Do you or anyone else have any better ideas? What manufacturers and retailers have the best records for supplying non-dead pixel monitors or television sets?
As usual, many thanks in advance for any light you can shed on the topic.
I’ve had good luck. None of the PowerBooks or iBooks I’ve ever worked with have suffered from dead pixels, and my Dell display is also pixel perfect.
In the old days, it wasn’t uncommon for a display to have dead pixels, but they should be the exception rather than the rule by now. I would definitely say that a dead white pixel near the center of a screen is enough of a defect to have the display replaced under warranty.
BTW, we ran an article on dealing with dead pixels eight years ago, Dealing with Dead Pixels in TFT Displays by Charles W Moore. His advice was to turn on the PowerBook in the store before you pay for it to make sure it’s up to snuff. He also suggests that sometimes it’s possible to massage a dead pixel back to life.
From Brian Troisi:
At Beta Macs, there is a model for $399 with a 12″ screen, 1 GHz G4, 256 MB RAM, 30 GB hard drive, Combo drive, and AirPort Extreme. The battery is as is, so I may have to get a new battery there for $42. But there is a model for $499 with a 12″ screen, 1.2 GHz G4, 512 MB RAM, 40 GB hard drive, Combo drive, and AirPort Extreme. The battery is also as is.
Is it worth the extra $100 for the extra 10 GB hard drive space, 200 MHz extra CPU speed, and extra 256 MB RAM? Keep in mind the battery is still as is, so the battery may have reduced life (it would be a 4-year-old battery) or not even hold a charge at all! Do you think this is a good deal?
Thank you for your help!
You’re asking good questions. The 1.2 GHz model is a bit faster, has twice the RAM, and a slightly larger hard drive. Both have the same graphics processor, so no advantage there.
You might ask what 10 GB is worth, but the real question you should be asking is, “Will I have to replace the hard drive because it’s too small?” If the answer is yes in both instances, then it makes no difference which you choose. Either way you’ll probably be paying $60 and up for an 80 GB or bigger notebook hard drive.
Likewise, you’ll find running Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4) somewhat slower with only 256 MB of RAM. You’ll have a better experience with the 1.2 GHz model and its 512 MB of RAM. That said, if you’re going to expand RAM right away anyhow, it doesn’t matter which you choose.
If you’re looking for the best value and plan to upgrade, the $399 model gives you 90% of the processing power for 80% of the price, and the $100 you save could pay for a 512 MB memory upgrade (bringing you to 768 MB) and an 80 GB notebook hard drive.
If you’re pretty sure you can live with a 30 GB hard drive, the $399 model is also the better value, as you can boost RAM to 768 MB for under $20. For the small difference in performance, it’s the way to go.
From Steve in response to iCab 4: Try It, You Might Like It:
FYI, similar comment for on <http://lowendmac.com/deals/best-mac-os-x-prices.html>:
Version 10.3.9 includes Safari 10.3.2. Very solid, lots of software, best version of OS X for a lot of G3 Macs, especially older, slower ones.
Reason for my interest – I have an original iBook running OS 9.2.2 (with 32 + 256 MB memory) and was looking for improved browser support by installing 10.3.9, per your and others recommendations for older, slower Macs, as well as familiarity with 10.3.9 – it is the OS on my desktop system at work (PowerPC G5). However, I’ve noticed Safari 1.3.2 is crashing more and more on certain pages, and apparently I’m not the only one. From <http://www.macintouch.com/readerreports/safari/topic3651.html> there is the following
Sep. 19, 2007
The clamshell iBooks are just too beautiful to give up on….
Thanks for any thoughts on the subject.
Let me say up front that I’m not a big Safari user. I use it regularly, as I do Firefox and iCab, but my browser of choice these days is Camino. Version 1.5 and later requires OS X 10.3 and later, but Camino 1.0.6 is an excellent browser and is fully supported under 10.2. If you’re happy with your setup except for the Safari problems, ditch Safari rather than investing in a new version of the OS.
I was surfing and ran across your LEM site, which is a great resource. Can you give me the particulars? Can one join the list?
I’ve got a couple of questions about my own Mac (Power Mac G4 AGP Graphics with an updated processor . . . Sonnet 1.8 GHz) with regard to video cards. It has (which somebody added before I got it) an ATI Radeon 9200 PCI video card, which is installed in a PCI slot.
There’s also the original ATI Rage 128 Pro card installed in the AGP slot.
Anyway, I don’t think that the 9200 card is performing any better than the 128 card. When I open “about this Mac” and check the graphics info, it gives me this:
- Resolution: 832 x 624 @ 75 Hz
- Depth: 32-bit Color
- Core Image: Not Supported
- Main Display: Yes
- Mirror: Off
- Online: Yes
- Quartz Extreme: Not Supported
- Status: No display connected
Basically, I don’t know enough about graphics cards to know what that means. Unless the card is set up for a 2nd display, it seems confused (as do I).
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Thanks for writing. While the Radeon 9200 is a newer video card with a better graphics processor than the Rage 128 Pro, the fact that it’s a PCI video card in a PCI slot means that it’s crippled as far as Quartz Extreme is concerned – at least by Apple. That means that neither of your video cards supports it.
Quartz Extreme is not enabled on PCI because it’s a slow bus compared to AGP 2x, but clever programmers have found ways to enable it. PCI Extreme! 3.1 enables it on OS X 10.2 through 10.4.2, but it has been reported to make Macs running 10.4.3 and later unbootable.
From Ronnie Lam:
I have tried to install OS X 10.5 Leopard on a PowerBook G4 667 DVI. It seems the open firmware do not hold the higher 867 MHz info from either the command or Leopard Assist. The PowerBook can boot in the OS X installer but prompted the hardware is not supported. Do you know any users have successfully installed on such PowerBook? Is it related to firmware or I missed something. Appreciate your help.
This is the first report I’ve had of the open firmware hack not taking. I’ll post this to the mailbag. Maybe we’ll hear from someone else who has had the problem – or solved it.
From Gerald W Wilson:
Concerning booting G4 into classic OS:
Although the first Sawtooth G4s were shipped with 8.6 and can boot into 8.6, later models were shipped with 9.0.4 as a minimum.
I suspect, but don’t know for certain, that the difference is with the Uninorth bridge. I think the early models have Uninorth v3 (and can’t, BTW, use dual processors), and the later models have Uninorth v7 (which makes them dual-processor friendly).
As it happens, I have a Sawtooth of each kind near me, and I was thinking of doing some definitive tests.
Gerald W Wilson
You’re right. My data was wrong on the Mystic Power Mac: It can only boot Mac OS 9.0.4 and later. I’ve updated our profile to correct that.
A reader who wrote to me privately tells me that he’s had the same problems booting his Mirror Drive Door Power Mac G4 after a clean install of Mac OS 9.2.2 using the retail installer CD. Apparently there are some special extensions that are only available on the Restore CD that came with the computer. I’ll be contacting the person I bought my G4 from to see if he still had the disc.
I read with interest your article on the NewerTech 7448 G4 upgrade you put in your Mystic G4. I ordered a 1.7 GHz 7448 back in late November for our Digital Audio 533. We’ve really enjoyed the increased performance. I didn’t run all the tests you did, but I’m pasting in below the Xbench 1.3 results I got.
System specs: 133 MHz logic board, 1.25 GB RAM, 7200 RPM hard drive, ATI Radeon 9000 Pro AGP video card.
Xbench 1.3 results (note how it identifies the processor as a 7455):
Results 57.94 System Info Xbench Version 1.3 System Version 10.4.11 (8S165) Physical RAM 1280 MB Model PowerMac3,4 Processor PowerPC G4 @ 1.73 GHz Version 7455 (Apollo) v2.1 L1 Cache 16K (instruction), 16K (data) L2 Cache 1024K Bus Frequency 134 MHz Video Card ATY,RV250 Drive Type Maxtor 6Y080P0 CPU Test 81.48 GCD Loop 158.31 8.34 Mops/sec Floating Point Basic 45.26 1.08 Gflop/sec AltiVec Basic 276.95 11.04 Gflop/sec vecLib FFT 95.96 3.17 Gflop/sec Floating Point Library 52.86 9.20 Mops/sec Thread Test 76.68 Computation 74.18 1.50 Mops/sec, 4 threads Lock Contention 79.36 3.41 Mlocks/sec, 4 threads Memory Test 32.44 System 35.86 Allocate 162.45 596.58 Kalloc/sec Fill 94.58 4598.55 MB/sec Copy 14.94 308.58 MB/sec Stream 29.62 Copy 32.95 680.53 MB/sec [altivec] Scale 33.44 690.92 MB/sec [altivec] Add 27.20 579.33 MB/sec [altivec] Triad 26.30 562.66 MB/sec [altivec] Quartz Graphics Test 56.77 Line 40.87 2.72 Klines/sec [50% alpha] Rectangle 50.37 15.04 Krects/sec [50% alpha] Circle 53.58 4.37 Kcircles/sec [50% alpha] Bezier 65.28 1.65 Kbeziers/sec [50% alpha] Text 102.44 6.41 Kchars/sec OpenGL Graphics Test 76.99 Spinning Squares 76.99 97.67 frames/sec User Interface Test 64.28 Elements 64.28 295.01 refresh/sec Disk Test 53.99 Sequential 67.61 Uncached Write 62.56 38.41 MB/sec [4K blocks] Uncached Write 58.85 33.29 MB/sec [256K blocks] Uncached Read 84.64 24.77 MB/sec [4K blocks] Uncached Read 69.58 34.97 MB/sec [256K blocks] Random 44.94 Uncached Write 17.65 1.87 MB/sec [4K blocks] Uncached Write 95.28 30.50 MB/sec [256K blocks] Uncached Read 83.69 0.59 MB/sec [4K blocks] Uncached Read 100.95 18.73 MB/sec [256K blocks]
I always find good and helpful information on your site. Thanks for the work you put in.
Thanks for sharing your experience and your results. I was quite impressed at how fast my dual 400 MHz Power Mac became with a single 1.8 GHz CPU. With the right upgrade, there’s a lot of life in those old Macs!