Mac News Review

Slow Mac mini Supercomputer Cluster, Mini-to-the-Max Upgrades, First 1.8 GHz G4 Upgrades, and More

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2005.02.17

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

PowerBook, iBook, iPod, and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review.

Mac mini Cluster Among World's Slowest Supercomputers

NEWS: reports:

"(Schio, Italy) After the great worldwide success of Virginia Tech's Big Mac, a new Macintosh cluster has took everybody in the Mac community by storm.

"A supercomputer formed of a cluster of 4 Macintosh Mini has not scored high in the list of the world's fastest clusters, but its performance could still improve, according to the system's architect.

"According to the latest performance figures the Mac mini cluster, nicknamed Quarter Pounder Mac mini Cluster, the system is computing at 1 teraflop. That puts it basically behind every supercomputer in the world, according to the figures posted in a report at the top 500 supercomputers list.

"The Quarter Pounder Mac mini Cluster is turning heads in the low-performance computing world because it has been built for just over 2.000 $, from off-the-shelf Mac mini, in about six hours. Top-ranked supercomputers traditionally cost hundreds of millions of pounds and can take years to construct, and we don't understand why."

FastMac Announces Take-Your-Mini-to-the-Max Upgrade Program

PR: FastMac announces the "Take-Your-Mini-to-the-Max" upgrade program available for all Apple Mac mini models. Packages start at $199.95 for an 8x Dual-Layer "SuperDrive." 1 GB of RAM and 100 GB hard drive can be added for $199.95 each. Pricing includes prepaid 3-way shipping, professional installation, free data transfer, and a 1-2 business day turnaround.

"For those who purchased the standard configuration and realize now that they need more, FastMac"s upgrade program allows you to get the max out of your mini," said Michael Lowdermilk, Business Development Manager for FastMac Performance Upgrades. "With our upgrades, the most affordable Mac just got even better."

FastMac's 8x DVD±RW drive adds DVD authoring and dual-layer media support to the Mac mini"s standard configuration, and is two times faster than Apple"s optional "SuperDrive," which offers no dual-layer support. FastMac"s 100 GB hard drive upgrade is the largest drive available for the mini, and adds 60 GB over Apple"s standard capacity. With the 1GB memory upgrade more programs can run simultaneously and overall performance is increased.


  • 8x Dual-Layer "SuperDrive" $199.95
  • 1 GB RAM $199.95
  • 100 GB Hard Drive $199.95

Pricing includes prepaid 3-way shipping, professional installation, free data transfer, and a 1-2 business day turnaround.

The Plasticsmith Unveils mini Skirt blue-glo

PR: The Plasticsmith announces the release of its newest model in their line of Mac mini accessories. The mini Skirt blue-glo raises the Mac mini 3/4" on a blue LED illuminated acrylic base, which plugs into any USB port with a convenient on-off switch. The soft glow of the stand highlights the Mac mini, giving it the attention it deserves. It sells for $29.95, sold exclusively through the Plasticsmith's online store.

The Plasticsmith was the first company to launch a line of accessories inspired by and built exclusively for Apple's Mac mini. The mini Tower is a flame-polished acrylic enclosure that securely holds the mini on its side saving valuable desk space. The mini Grandstand gives the mini a protective covering while supporting an LCD or CRT monitor and is available in clear acrylic or finished steel.

Giga Designs Announces 1.8 GHz Single and Dual Processor Upgrades

PR: Giga Designs, a manufacturer of high performance processor upgrades for Apple Macintosh computers, is now shipping the fastest (1.8 GHz) G4 single and dual processor upgrades available for Apple AGP equipped G4 Power Macs including the Power Mac Cube. The new G-celerator™ AGP 7A series upgrades use the latest G4 (7447A) processors available from Freescale™ (formerly Motorola). The new 7447A processors feature a 512 KB on chip L2 cache running at full processor speed.

The single processor AGP 7A series upgrades are available at 1.8 GHz for all "AGP (Sawtooth)" thru "Quicksilver 2002" PowerMacs including the "Cube". Dual processor AGP 7A series upgrades are available at 1.8 GHz for dual compatible "AGP (Sawtooth)" systems & all "Gigabit Ethernet" thru "Quicksilver 2002" machines, and 1.6 GHz for the for the Cube. The dual processor Cube upgrade includes Giga Designs Cube VRM.

All dual processor and Cube upgrades feature Giga Designs unique multi-voltage power sharing architecture. This feature allows the upgrades to draw both 5v and 12v power, leaving more 5v power for the addition of high performance graphics and other add-in cards. The single processor Cube upgrade can also operate at 1.6 GHz without the addition of a low speed fan, for Cube owners requiring "silent" performance. All of the G-celerator" AGP 7A series upgrades are proudly assembled in the US and carry a three year limited warranty. They include Giga Designs 47A Firmware Updater, and the GigaMeter OS X speed & processor ID extension.

Single Processor AGP 7A series upgrades are in stock, with retail pricing as follows:

  • Model Number: 7A-1418U: AGP 7A 1.42 GHz tested at 1.8 GHz. MSRP: $449
  • Model Number: 7A-1418C: Cube 7A 1.42 GHz tested at 1.8 GHz. MSRP: $449 (with jumper adjustments, this model may also operate at 1.6 GHz without the included fan)

Dual Processor AGP 7A series upgrades will ship in early March, with retail pricing as follows:

  • Model Number: 7AD-1418U: AGP 7A Dual 1.42 GHz tested at 1.8 GHz. MSRP: $699
  • Model Number: 7AD-1416C: Cube 7A Dual 1.42 GHz tested at 1.6 GHz. MSRP: $759 (this models includes a Cube VRM upgrade and a low speed fan kit)

Compatible Power Mac G4 models include:

G-celerator AGP 7A series upgrades require OS 10.3.5 or later. The upgrades are OS 9.2.2 and OS X dual boot configuration compatible. While these upgrades boot under OS 9, Giga Designs does not test, warrant, or support third party software operation under OS 9.

Contour Announces RollerMousePRO

PR: Contour Design has announced the immediate availability of its latest version of the "Classic" RollerMouse, the all-new RollerMousePRO. Designed to perpetuate the enhanced health and safety features and increased productivity capabilities of the original, the PRO has substantial added functionality!

First introduced publicly at NECE (National Ergonomics Conference & Expo) 2004, the RollerMousePRO was chosen as the #1 input device at the show. Last month, at Macworld in San Francisco, several people who used the demonstration unit exclaimed that Contour should have named it the "Oh! Wow! Mouse."

Key improvement features of the PRO include a lengthened rollerbar, two new function buttons located just below the left-hand side of the extended rollerbar, a repositioning of the scroll wheel and newly reshaped original three buttons, and selectable, hard-coded function options.

The PRO's rollerbar is 67% longer than the original version's bar. This was done in response to customer feedback that some larger-framed users felt they had to "scrunch" their hands together in order to manipulate the shorter bar. Extension of the bar to the right and away from the function buttons has been done at the request of many customers involved in Assistive Technology so as to give users with motor impairment freer access to the bar with minimal risk of inadvertent hitting a function button.

James Golden, CAE, and one of Contour's National Account Managers, says, "We take pride in listening to our customers and doing our utmost to incorporate their feedback into product improvements. We believe, and beta testing reports bear this out, that the RollerMousePRO is a distinctively better centralized pointing device than has ever been put onto the market."

The original, "classic" RollerMouse will continue to be offered, and, like that version, the PRO will be available on the 30-day free trial program.

Key Features:

  • Revolutionary rollerbar provides single finger point and click functionality
  • Adjustable click force on rollerbar (5 levels of tension) using simple knob under RollerMouse. (Rollerbar click function can be disabled using dip switch if user prefers using buttons)
  • Smooth sliding steel rollerbar coated with soft rubber for excellent feel and cursor control
  • Long Lasting - Optical sensor reads bar movement using the latest technology, nothing to wear out
  • 3 user definable buttons and a scroll wheel (5 buttons on PRO)
  • Buttons configurable for Click, Double-Click and Draglock via dip switches or software (depends on version)
  • PC and Mac compatible (USB device with PS2 adapter included)
  • Secondary PS2 port for connecting one additional input device (Classic model only)
  • Soft but firm Lycra wrist rest support. Removable for easy cleaning - Larger model (RollerWave) also available (see below)
  • 20-7/8" Wide x 11-3/8" Deep x 1-1/4" High (all measurements from maximum locations)
  • 2 year warranty

System Requirements:

  • Macintosh with available USB port only, no ADB support available
  • PC with available USB or PS2 port, serial ports are NOT supported
  • Recommended for use with 101 key "straight" style keyboards
  • Supported by virtually all operating systems with USB or PS2 support. (Some Operating Systems require driver to enable Scroll Wheel support.

RollerMouse PRO - Black - $199.99

Contour Classic RollerMouse Station Beige or Black - $189.99

Available in black, the RollerMousePRO is currently shipping in volume from Contour and from its cadre of ErgoVARs at an MSRP of $199.95.

RollerWave for RollerMouse

PR: The RollerWave is designed to replace the two removable foam pads that come standard with the RollerMouse. The replacement unit plugs into the slots on the RollerMouse's frame, providing a larger wrist-resting surface. Like the foam pads it replaces, the RollerWave is designed in a contour shape to maximize comfort, has an improved foam "gel", and is fully cleanable with mild soap and water.

The RollerWave is an accessory for the RollerMouse and does not include the RollerMouse which must be purchased separately.

This new RollerMouse accessory follows the basic design philosophy of the RollerMouse - that is to change the feat of mousing, one user at a time.

The RollerMouse, first popularized in Scandinavia is now in North America and the rest of Europe. This new RollerWave can only serve to improve what's already a top-of-the-line computer pointing device.


RollerWave - Beige or Black - $39.95


  • Weight: 1 lbs.
  • Product Max. Dimensions: 5" x 19.875" (Adds only 2" to depth of RollerMouse)
  • Requires RollerMouse product (purchased separately)

New Wacom 21.3" Cintiq LCD Tablet

PR: Wacom Technology Corporation announced its anticipated Cintiq 21UX interactive pen display that allows users to work with a pen directly on a 21.3" color-accurate LCD. The Cintiq 21UX offers "more" of everything that makes using a Wacom Cintiq such a natural way to work: more screen area, more pressure sensitivity, more pen control, more resolution, more comfort, more productivity. At a suggested retail price of $2,499 the Cintiq 21UX delivers more of everything with no price increase over the previous generation. The Cintiq 21UX will begin shipping in March, but customers can register at now to be at the head of the line for units.

Leading photographers, designers, and artists have enthusiastically transitioned to working on Cintiq interactive pen displays for some of the following reasons.

The Cintiq 21UX combines the advantages of a professional quality LCD display with the control, comfort, and productivity of Wacom's patented cordless, battery-free tablet technology. The 21.3" display features UXGA (1600x1200) resolution, a 170 degree viewing angle, antiglare and hard texture coatings, 24-bit color with ICC color profile, a 400:1 contrast ratio, and 250 cd/m2 brightness. The tablet technology provides 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, 5,080 lines-per-inch resolution, and pen tilt sensitivity. The unique Cintiq 21UX stand allows it to be rotated 180 degrees in either direction and tilted to any angle between 10(deg) and 65(deg). The Cintiq 21UX works on operating systems from Microsoft and Apple.

Many professional graphics software applications are specifically designed to be used with a Wacom pen. These applications include Adobe Photoshop (NASDAQ: ADBE) and Illustrator, Macromedia Flash (NASDAQ: MACR), Corel Painter, Discreet Combustion, Apple Motion, Alias Maya, SketchBook Pro, and StudioTools.

"Many creative professionals have told me that using a Cintiq has doubled their productivity," says Michael Marcum, Wacom Sr. Product Manager. "Recognizing the hourly value of creative professionals, I think it's easy to see how a Cintiq can pay for itself in less than six months. Perhaps even more importantly, time saved by using a Cintiq can let busy professionals get their lives back, which I think is priceless."

QuickerTek, Inc. Releases 27dB Transceiver for AirPort Base Station, Up to 1/2 Mile Range

PR: QuickerTek, Inc. has announced the availability of a new WiFi transceiver designed to dramatically increase the effective signal range of the AirPort and AirPort Extreme Base Stations. It will add up to 1/2 mile line-of-sight. This product works by not only transmitting a more powerful signal, but also using a LNA (low noise amplifier) to increase the receiver sensitivity.

If you have WiFi range issues, this is the solution for you . Plus, the user can add one of these to each end of the network if needed. The transceiver is also great for point-to-point systems, college dorms, distant AP's like house boats trying to connect to wireless access points etc. Typical installations would include classrooms or fixing range problems with your iTunes and AirPort Express by adding this to the PowerBook or Desktop.

The 27dB transceiver operates on all 2.4 GHz, WiFi systems. The transceiver is WiFi compliant, supporting both 802.11g and 802.11b. and works with both OS 9.x and OS X 10.x systems. This product is designed especially for Apple's AirPort Extreme wireless systems and allows the maximum power output allowed by the FCC. Apple wireless products have RF output of 30mW; our product is 500mW.

Rick Estes, President of QuickerTek said," Adding the 27dB transceiver to an AirPort Base Station configuration is a lot like adding 6 base stations to your system which will get the maximum WiFi performance."

This transceiver works on Apple Base Stations (Graphite, Snow, and both Extremes models). It comes with a 2.2Dbi antenna, but all other QuickerTek omni and directional Base Station antennas can be added.

The product can also be added to any Mac desktop that has Apple's AirPort and AirPort Extreme cards as well as the Base Stations. The Transceiver can also be bundled with a Buffalo Tech PC Card (or any PC Card with a external antenna port.)

The kit comes with mounting brackets, adapter cable, wall mounted power supply and utility software CD. The product does not require any installation software.

The 27dB Transceiver has a list price of $149 and is available from stock to one week.

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