I had for some time been eagerly awaiting Apple’s update to its MacBook line of computers having managed to resist the allure of a new machine for quite a few years. My 2.4 Ghz Core 2 Duo MacBook is still working well but it’s a looking a little sad what with the broken plastic at the edge of the right hand wrist rest (apparently quite a common failure), the self inflicted white spots on the LCD and the general misalignment of the lid following a couple of drops.
If these issues weren’t reason enough my wife has been using the MacBook for a while (invariably forgetting to charge it) and for her requirements, mainly web browsing and mail it’s still perfectly adequate. Quite frankly that’s the only green light I needed, so having attempted to justify my extravagance let’s talk about the Retina MacBook Pro.
Not cheap is it, especially here in the UK where the base model comes in at £1799 or roughly $2795 at today’s exchange rate. Still I suppose that’s what you get when you are, as Stephen Fry put it, ‘an early adopting sillyhead‘. I ordered my 2.3 GHz model with 8 GBs of RAM as soon as the UK Apple Store came back online following the WWDC Keynote. Months of pent-up desire for a new machine meant there was no hovering over the confirmation button as with previous purchases, my blood was up, resistance would have been futile.
My shipping notification duly arrived on the 13th of June and I watched with some bemusement over the following days as my MacBook winged its way to old Blighty via China, Korea, Kazakhstan, Poland, Germany and… Castle Donnington. The packaged arrived, earlier than estimated, on the 18th June. Having seen the subsequent shortage in supply it seems I was very lucky to receive it so quickly with some who ordered at similar times to myself still waiting.
Coming as I was from the aforementioned MacBook the first thing that struck me was just how thin and relatively light this new model is and yet it manages to avoid feeling flimsy or insubstantial, quite a trick to pull off. Of course the thing that demands your attention next is the screen, impossibly thin and extraordinarily clear, bright and sharp. Gorgeous blacks on pristine whites and vivid colours all rendered with superb accuracy.
In terms of performance, I’ve had experience of SSDs having upgraded my Mac Pro but there they are restricted by the ageing SATA II interface so it was pleasing to see them operating nearer their full potential in the MacBook. Blackmagic Disk Speed Test showed write speeds averaging around 390 MB/s with Read speeds at 435 MB/s. Both results based on 1 GB file sizes.
Geekbench returned a score of 11065, pretty impressive for such a light and compact machine. I decided to try a game which I had previously downloaded for the Mac Pro via the App Store, namely Dirt 2. It’s not the most up to date game but I have no desire to install Windows on the MacBook as I will not be doing a great deal of gaming on it. The game ran at 2880 x 1800, the native Retina resolution, although it was stuttering slightly. The fans did get noticeably louder as the unit heated up and the battery charge took a severe hit. All I suppose to be expected, dropping the resolution to 1440 x 900 resulted in silky smooth gameplay, video here.
With two Thunderbolt ports and an HDMI port it occurred to me I could try to hook up three external displays. I plugged my two 24″ Apple Cinema Displays into the Thunderbolt ports and a Samsung TV into the HDMI and everything worked without a hitch. Initially I only mirrored the displays although I will also create a single desktop across them and test performance, it would be interested to know what ATI’s Eyefinity under Windows would make of such a set up.
Returning to the Retina display, I have mostly run it at its native resolution where it performs best, although non Retina enabled apps do look quite blurry, particularly when seen alongside those which are Retina compatible. Clearly Apple is hoping to force the issue and rely on 3rd party developers to release compatible software ASAP, although to be fair even some Apple software is I believe still not Retina optimised.
I’ve also used the ’1680 x 1050 mode’ which I quite like. Retina enabled apps still look pin sharp plus you get a little more real estate which can be useful. In the course of creating this blog entry I’ve used Grab on the MacBook to take some screenshots and when you open these captured images on a non Retina machine it really brings home to you the resolution of simple dialogue boxes. Click on the image of the Display Properties Pane shown opposite to view it at full resolution.
Choosing non standard resolutions does come with a performance hit as the screens are actually rendered at much higher resolutions and then scaled to fit. A couple of other negative points to consider, firstly battery life. Apple claims typical life of around 7 hours with light use. In my experience my machine is not achieving this, I would suggest it’s somewhere between 5 – 6 hours, although to be fair that is only an estimate. Fortunately the battery seems to charge quite quickly.
The other major issue for me is the sharp edges to the palm rests which results in quite painful indentations in the sides of your hands after only 20 or so minutes use. I really wish Apple would address this issue, yes the clean lines look lovely but surely it’s not beyond the wit of the designers to soften the edge and maintain the clean aesthetic.
So overall I’m very pleased with the new Retina MacBook Pro, it’s light, thin and gorgeous to look at with plenty of power and just a few minor niggles. I’m fully expecting this thing to truly come alive with the release of Mountain Lion which I’m eagerly anticipating.
Following the previous upgrades to my 2006 Mac Pro I finally decided to take the plunge and swap out the original dual core Xeon CPU’s for some quad core ones. A matched pair of Xeon 5355′s came up on Ebay at a sensible price and from a reputable seller so I snapped them up. The seller actually had four pairs for sale and they were sold pretty quickly so there is clearly still some demand for 5355′s.
There are a multitude of videos available on Youtube detailing the relatively simple procedure of removing the old Xeons and replacing them. All you need are the new processors, some good thermal paste, a couple of Phillips screwdrivers and a 3mm Allen/Hex key which needs to ideally be at least 6″ long. You’ll also need something to clean the old thermal paste off of the heat sinks, isopropyl alcohol is ideal, anything else risks leaving residue which will negatively impact on the heat transfer between CPU and heat sink. Optional extras are a can of compressed air for cleaning out any dust build up and an anti-static wrist strap.
I won’t go into the full procedure here as others have already documented it well. A couple of points I would make are firstly many who have performed the upgrade refer to issues removing the memory cage screws, I had no such problems but did use a small jeweller’s screwdriver which allowed vertical orientation and full purchase with the screw head.
Secondly, I was surprised by how thick the factory application of thermal compound was when I removed the heat sinks, I had expected a thin veneer but it was definitely thicker than that. This rather threw me as to how much compound I should apply on re-installation.
In the end I decided to apply a thin line horizontally across the CPU’s with an additional smaller vertical line making a cross. I didn’t spread out the compound but instead allowed the pressure of re-attaching the heat sink to flatten it out.
Reassembly was straightforward, I even managed to complete the whole operation without dropping one screw. The machine promptly booted up and I ran Geekbench to assess what performance improvement the new Xeons were giving.
With the original Xeon 5150′s Geekbench would typical return a score in the low 5000′s. With the 5355′s the score has leapt to 9456, a very useful improvement in performance bringing my 2006 Mac Pro within touching distance of a 2012 iMac Core i7.
The only thing left to do now is monitor the CPU temperatures for a while to ensure the thermal compound is working well. There are a number of different apps out there that claim to give accurate read outs of the Pro’s thermal sensors, however in my experience they all seem to give different results. I’ve therefore decided to trust the software that I’m familiar with, namely Marcel Bresink’s aptly named ‘Temperature Monitor”.
This is showing the cores running at an average of about 40°C under light load* which is around 30% higher than the previous processors. Considering there are twice as many cores and that the thermal compound has not broken in yet this seems pretty reasonable to me. Also a considerable upswing in the ambient temperature that has coincided with the upgrade must be taken into account.
I decided to download SMC Fan Control and crank the systems fans up by a couple of hundred RPM just to be on the safe side, they are still whisper quiet. There is one last issue that needed resolving, when you perform this upgrade and click on About This Mac you’re likely to get a processor unknown reading although System Report will show the correct number of cores. There are a couple of solutions to this, you can try upgrading the 1,1 firmware to 2,1 using this utility. Or you can do what I did which was download the CPU injector Kext from here and install it with a kext utility, I used Kext Helper b7 here.
*After three months of running smoothly the CPU temperatures under light load are now averaging around 32°C so clearly the thermal compound has bedded in well and I’ve been able to leave the fans running at factory settings. I recently installed Windows 7 and have been enjoying a number of games, the machine remains stable and reliable.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it frustrating that when accessing an iTunes shared library from a second machine the only available view option appears to be the text list, with no way of viewing cover art. I’m equally sure I’m not the first one to discover this but never the less I found a way around this problem.
On the host machine whose library you are sharing simply create a playlist, I named mine AirPlay, and then add your entire music collection to it. Now on the second machine connect to your shared library, expand it if necessary by clicking on the triangle and scroll down to and select your newly created playlist.
The good news, grid and album list view are available when viewing shared playlists allowing you to finally see your cover art from your shared library, the bad news, Coverflow is still not available.
Easily the best computer I’ve ever owned, my 2006 Mac Pro (model 1,1) is still doing sterling work as my main machine. With two 2.66 GHz dual core Intel Xeon 5150 processors and 7 GBs of RAM it still happily chomps its way through most tasks that I throw at it and runs Lion without issue.
There is however one main area where it’s just starting to look a bit long in the tooth and that’s disk access speeds. Boot up time has become rather pedestrian and Lightroom is just starting to creak a little when handling my 10,000 plus library of mostly 21 megapixel RAW files. Then there’s Photoshop which takes about 30 seconds to launch.
I’m sorely tempted by a new 27″ iMac but I’m guessing there’s a refresh due at any time and have therefore set myself a budget of £200 plus VAT to ‘pimp’ my Mac Pro for the time being. Given my recent success with installing an SSD in my PowerMac Cube I decided my first purchase should be an SSD to replace the original system disk in the Pro.
I opted for a Kingston 120 GB V+200 SATA3 unit which came in at £121.32 and mounted it an Icy Dock converter box for £9.57. Currently in the Mac Pro I have the original 160 GB system disk, two 400 GB drives in a striped 800 GB RAID and an additional single 750 GB drive. For backup I have an external 2 TB MyBook connected via Firewire 800.
I decided I wanted a clean install of Lion on the new drive, not least because it’s quite difficult to copy the recovery partition that the existing Lion installation had created and because there was still detritus from my original PowerMac G5 which I’d copied over when I first bought the Mac Pro. Having already upgraded to Lion I no longer had the original installation files so using my MacBook which is still running Snow Leopard I grabbed the files via the App Store and created an install DVD using this guide.
I pulled out all my other drives and installed the SSD using the Icy Dock. I then booted from the installation DVD which, by the way, took so long that I was literally just about to give up and restart when it finally launched.
I formatted the SSD into one partition using Disk Utility and installed Lion, the process taking about 15 minutes. I decided against transferring any old files as I wanted to keep this install as clean as possible. I reinstalled Lightroom and Photoshop from DVD and a few other items from the App Store that I still use, replaced my other drives and tried the system out. The difference in speed is very noticeable, boot now takes about 10-15 seconds as opposed to the 1 minute plus it used to, Photoshop launches in less than 5 seconds and most other Apps launch instantaneously. It is certainly a very worthwhile upgrade.
I’d also quite like a faster way of connecting external drives than the existing Firewire 800. I can’t imagine Thunderbolt coming to the Mac Pro any time soon and my mind therefore turned to USB 3 and eSATA. The later option is a simple and relatively cheap upgrade given that the Mac Pro sports two free SATA ports on the mainboard. I ordered an upgrade kit from Sonnet for £22.49 which provides two eSATA ports via a faceplate which can be mounted in a spare PCIe bay.
Fitting the eSATA kit is a little bit fiddly and in order to gain access to the SATA ports on the motherboard requires the removal of the RAM riser card unit, the CPU heatsink cover and the CPU fan assembly. Fortunately the Sonnet kit contains very clear and precise instructions so whilst fiddly it was a relatively pain free upgrade.
Apple don’t currently support USB 3 with any of their products. You can however add it to the Mac Pro via the PCIe slots. LaCie make a card and supply drivers for free download. The LaCie card is a little on the expensive side compared to other manufacturers and I noticed that this card by StarTech looks identical and uses the same NEC chip. I therefore decided to take a gamble and order the StarTech card which cost £16.66 in the hope that it would work with the LaCie drivers.
Installation was of course straightforward, there is an optional Molex connector on the card which presumably provides additional power for any USB devices which aren’t self powered. I made an attempt to run an extender cable from the card to the spare Molex connector in the optical drive bay but couldn’t find a satisfactory way of routing it. As I will most likely be connecting an external drive I’m not overly fussed about the additional power option.
I opted for an Icy Box HDD enclosure with a USB 3.0 interface, specifically the IB-318StU3-B. It’s cheap but functional, installation of the HDD is a simple affair and the unit is supplied with a USB 3.0 cable. After testing its SATA speed I removed a 750 GB SATA II drive that was installed in one of the Mac Pro’s drive bays and installed it in the Icy Dock. I hooked the unit up to the USB 3.0 ports but the drive was not recognised. I then tried connecting to the Pro’s built in USB 2.0 ports and the drive mounted with no problems. After a quick search I was able to find some drivers that would work with non LaCie drives and after successfully installing the Kext rebooted and the drive mounted whilst connected to the USB 3.0 ports! I used Blackmagic Disk Speed Test which I downloaded from the App Store to test the drive and found the drive was quicker whilst mounted in the USB 3.0 enclosure than it had been when connected by SATA. In fact the Seagate HDD is pretty much operating at its quoted maximum sustained data tranfer rate, I shall have to try an SSD in the enclosure next. Full results are below.
I then connected the MyBook via eSATA and was somewhat surprised to find on testing that it was roughly twice as fast as my internal RAID. This didn’t really make any sense given that both were connected to the same bus. I ran a few more tests and confirmed the internal RAID was definitely under performing. I decided to repartition the drives and rebuild the array. I restored the data from Time Machine and tested again and found it was now much faster though still trailing the the MyBook. I’m assuming HDD’s in the MyBook are just faster drives.
Using Blackmagic again these are the average results I achieved showing the eSATA RAID achieving the fastest write speed and the SSD the fastest read speed:-
Drive/s Write MB/s Read MB/s
- SSD Write 103 Read 185
- SATA 750 GB Write 44 Read 55 (SATA II)
- USB 3.0 Write 78 Read 76 (Above SATA II HDD)
- SATA RAID Write 51 Read 67
- SATA RAID Write 78 Read 119 (Rebuilt)
- USB2 Write 35 Read 35 (MyBook via USB 3 Card)
- Firewire 800 Write 34 Read 14 (MyBook)
- eSATA RAID Write 116 Read 130 (MyBook)
- SATA RAID (New Drives) Write 310 Read 323 (See Update Below)
I’m not sure why the MyBook connected via Firewire 800 is proving slower than when connected via USB 2, a rather odd result. I’m pleased with the eSATA performance and as using this method connects directly to the onboard SATA the MyBook is sleeping and waking with the main machine. I hope shortly to have a USB 3 device to test, there seems to be a distinct lack of decent products available at the moment. So far then I’ve spent £170.04 + VAT. A USB 3 drive enclosure will probably take me over budget and one other upgrade I am tempted by, an ATI 5770 graphics card, will of course completely blow it.
(Update 19th April 2012)
After much mmming and ahhhing about whether to buy a new iMac or Mac Pro I’ve decided instead to further improve my current Mac Pro. Out goes the ATI X1900 graphics adapter and in comes an AMD 5770. A simple swap out although an additional mini display port to DVI adapter was required to hook up my two Cinema Displays. This has allowed me to download some games from the App Store to try, namely Dirt 2 and Bioshock which both look stunning in 1920 x 1200 resolution. The 5770 is also even quieter than the less than noisy itself X1900, which is a nice bonus.
Also on their way out the two 400 GB Seagate drives that formed my RAID. In their place, two Seagate Barracuda 2TB, 7200 RPM, 6 GBit/s drives with 64MB caches (ST2000DM001.) Seagate quotes average data transfer rates for these drives at 156 MB/s and a maximum sustained rate of 210 MB/s, this is a considerable improvement on the previous drives (ST3400620AS) which were rated at 78 MB/s maximum sustained data transfer rate. Once I’d swapped out the drives and built the striped RAID (0) via Disk Utility I again fired up Blackmagic Disk Speed Test and finally achieved some respectable results which I’ve added to the table above.
Since acquiring the G4 Cube I’ve added some more RAM, an Airport card, swapped out the original 20 GB Maxtor HDD for a faster spinning and quieter IBM model and more recently pulled out the ATI Rage 128 graphics card and slotted in a Radeon 7500 in its place, giving Quartz Extreme support. The latter draws a little more power and creates more heat than the Rage 128. From what I’ve read the stock Cube (no, not gravy) is a pretty finely balanced system when it comes to heat generated by the internal components, demonstrated by the fact that there is space provided for a system fan which whilst not included when the system was released suggests to me its exclusion was a touch and go decision for the Apple engineers.
I like quiet systems, whenever possible I like to avoid fans and it therefore occurred to me that the Cube would be an ideal candidate for an SSD (solid state drive) upgrade given that it would draw less power, be quiet in operation, generate less heat and leave more space for air to circulate within the cube. This is something that I’ve wanted to try for a long time and whilst prices remain high in comparison to standard mechanical drives they are becoming a little more reasonable. I initially looked at IDE drives given the Cube’s standard interface, however it worked out considerably cheaper to buy an SATA SSD with an SATA to IDE adapter.
I chose a Startech SATA adapter, purely because I’d had a good experience with the IDE to CF adapter that I’d used in my Wyse Terminal. The choice of SSD took a little longer given the myriad of options and prices available. In the end the best value drive I could find was a Kingston V+100 64 GB drive. There are all sorts of issue with SSD drives and TRIM support which I won’t pretend to fully understand, but I do know that OS-X does not support TRIM and according to Anandtech that these V+ drives from Kingston sport the same interface as used by the SSD’s that Apple fits to the MacBook Air. These incorporate built in, OS independent ‘garbage collection’ thus hopefully ensuring the drive speed does not degrade too quickly during use.
After backing up my existing drive to a Firewire unit I pulled out the IBM HDD and set about trying to fit the SSD and attached interface inside the Cube. As anyone who has messed about inside a Cube knows the tolerances are pretty tight, with very little give in the cabling. After much fiddling I was finally able to offer up the pins on the IDE side if the adapter to the IDE cable in the cube. However no matter how many which ways I tried I couldn’t marry things up whilst the SSD was mounted in its 2.5″ to 3.5″ adapter bracket. This is due to the offset caused by the SATA adapter. In the end the bracket was removed and tape was instead employed to hold the unit in place.
Now the moment of truth, would the combination of drive and adapter work with the Cube? I booted from the Firewire backup and launched Disk Utility and to my great delight the Kingston drive was listed. I partitioned it into two partitions, one for OS X and one for OS 9 which progressed without problems and then cloned the old installation back across onto the SSD. Fingers crossed I disconnected the Firewire drive and restarted and OS X duly booted without issue. I then also installed OS 9 on to the second partition with no problems.
Clearly the SATA drive is not operating at anywhere near its full speed capacity given the limitations of the IDE bus and no doubt some degradation from work being done by the adapter however boot times and application launches show a modest improvement and the system is completely quiet! I ran the drive testing element of Xbench out of curiosity and the score of 93.18 seems pretty reasonable, however I do wish I had also run it before swapping drives to give a proper comparison. However I’m thrilled with how easy the whole process was and will probably now look at adding an SSD to my MacPro.
I’m still fully acquainting myself with my recently acquired iMac G4, however my attention has now been momentarily redirected towards another machine that has come my way, a Power Mac G4 Cube. Gratefully received for a nominal fee from a friend of one of my employees the Cube is in very nice working condition and came with the original speakers, mouse, keyboard and a 15″ Studio Display. Like or loath them Cubes are difficult to ignore, from their styling to their rather ignominious past they are certainly a talking point.
Mine appears to have been a fairly early model equipped with a 450 mhz G4, 20 GB HDD and 128 MB of RAM. The previous owner had added another 576 MB of RAM, I managed to dig around and find a couple of PC 100 512 MB sticks and so pulled out and replaced two of the existing sticks maxing the Cube out at 1.5 GB. The original Maxtor drive was slow and noisy so I also pulled that out and replaced it with a somewhat quieter 40 GB IBM model.
I decided to install Leopard, interested to see how the 450 mhz G4 would cope. Using the same trick I’d employed for the iMac, I booted the Cube in target disk mode and ran the installation DVD from my G4 Mac Mini which was connected via Firewire. The installation process began and progressed quite happily before falling over after about 20 minutes.
It was at this point that I realised the Cube’s firmware had not been updated. The 4.1.9 update and instructions for its installation can be found here. Updating the firmware can only be done from OS 9 so the first step was to install this which went without a hitch. I duly followed the update firmware instructions and once successfully completed was able to install Leopard.
It seems to be running fine, I’ve had no major issues yet. I’ve already got into the habit of disabling Flash by default whether it be whilst running Safari or Firefox. I remain convinced that a combination of Flash and Leopard were responsible for killing my Power Mac G5 which had its first kernel panic whilst running some Flash content and never fully recovered. In my experience the PowerPC architecture and Flash don’t mix.
Being the first Cube that I’ve owned I’m starting to experience some of the foibles of the design, most irritating of which must be the power button which seems to have a life of its own. I’ve read reports of tape being used internally to cover the touch sensitive switch in order to reduce its sensitivity, I may try this.
My case is in very good condition but does suffer from some of the infamous hairline cracks and my Studio Display has a broken stand which appears to be a very common failing. Overall however I am absolutely thrilled to be a Cube owner at long last, especially for such a low outlay. Personally I absolutely love the design and am very impressed by the performance of the machine given its decade old specification.
I’m also pleasantly surprised by the fidelity of the speakers which at 10 watts per channel sound surprisingly good and produce good levels of bass for their diminutive size.
I shall attempt a repair of the display and may look at some other options for the HDD. I would like to fit an SSD or even have an attempt at installing the OS onto a compact flash card as I did with my Wyse Terminal although I’m not sure anyone has had any success with the later.
I’ve registered with the excellent Cube Owner forums having discovered a great deal of useful information there not least a very detailed guide to fixing the Studio Display stand.
The reasons for the Cube’s demise have been well documented but all of those reasons, valid or not, are irrelevant in the second hand market. Here we have a 10 year old machine that is still useful and remains drop dead gorgeous.
It is almost ten years since Apple released the original flat panel iMac, introduced back in 2002 I remember first seeing them in the John Lewis department store. At the time I was still hooked into the Wintel world but remember on seeing the iMac being seduced by the elegant simplicity of its design and its clear, crisp display.
At the time I could not justify the outlay and so when what seems like a very short period later (10 years but who’s counting) I noticed one going for silly money on Ebay it was time to dive in. The model I have is one of the earliest, a 700 mhz G4, 40 Gb HDD and 384 Mb of system memory. It’s in lovely condition with very few marks and in full working order.
For the £40 or so pounds that I spent on it, it seems like a whole load of engineering and design goodness and doesn’t to my eye look at all dated.
Somewhat foolishly the previous owner had not bothered to erase their files so I quickly set about securely erasing the drive and repartitioning it. This machine is one of the last that can boot into OS 9 as opposed to the running the Classic environment within OS X and I wanted to set it up as a dual boot machine as I need an OS 9 machine for some of my retro work.
Using the OS 9.2 install disk that came with the iMac I successfully installed the OS onto a 10 GB partition and then installed OS X on to the remaining 30GB’s. The OS X install disk that came with the machine was version 10.1.2 and to my surprise includes Internet Explorer 5. Having not previously owned Macs from this period (my first Mac was a G4 Mac Mini bought in 2005) I hadn’t realised that Safari had only surfaced a few years later.
I was soon on line via ethernet and took all the available updates for for both OS’s which downloaded and installed without a hitch.
The iMac feels pretty snappy in use, I’m tempted to replace the 128 MB stick of ram in the user slot with 512 MB and I have an Airport card on the way to slot in to the base.
The included mouse was non functional and the keyboard was horribly yellowed but I have plenty of spares so apart from those issues I am absolutely thrilled with to have such a lovely iMac, the plastics of the main unit and LCD are very well preserved.
I’m now going to have a play with OS 9, purely out of curiosity as I have no real experience of it and then try to decide where I can display this gorgeous machine in all its glory. I can’t imagine hiding it away it would seem too sad.
Ignoring all the prevailing advice I thought I’d have a crack at installing OS X Leopard on my newly acquired iMac G4. As it stands it falls some way short of the minimum specifications recommended by Apple and indeed when attempting to install the OS the process recognises this and refuses to continue. There are ways around this, including this method of fooling the installation software into believing the target machine meets the specs required. Please note the link to Leopardassist on that page appears to be broken, you can find it here.
Another method is to fire up the target machine in target disk mode (press and hold ‘T’ during boot) whilst connected by Firewire to another Mac that will run Leopard. You can then run the installation disk from this second machine and instruct it to install onto the original machine which will be recognised as a Firewire drive. I chose this later method as I have a Mac Mini G4 which I knew could run Leopard and given that it shares a G4 processor with the iMac would I believe offer the greatest chance of success.
The process went fairly smoothly, albeit slowly though the later was no surprise. The iMac has booted into Leopard quite happily and although it’s clearly running more slowly than a more modern Mac it’s quite useable. It’s my intention to upgrade the memory which I believe will make quite a difference, 384 MB is really not adequate, in the meantime I’ve turned off all of the dock animation effects and have ensured there are no background widgets running.
I thought it might be amusing to try Geekbench so I ran it in 32-bit mode on the iMac G4 and on my Macbook and MacPro just for comparison. the latter two machines ran the benchmark in a couple of seconds or so:-
MacPro 2 x 2.66 GHz Dual Core Xeon 5 GB Memory – 5538
MacBook 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo 2 GB Memory – 3354
iMac G4 700 MHz 384 MB Memory – DNF (45 minutes elapsed before I sympathetically terminated the process)
So I’ll see how the iMac gets on with some more memory and if it becomes obvious that Leopard is too taxing I shall revert to Tiger.
(Further Update)Have now swapped out memory in the user slot for a 512 MB stick giving a total of 768 MB.
Ran Geekbench again and it completed in roughly six minutes with a score of 345.
A frustrating few days on the Retrochallenge front. Still no luck in reviving the FDD in the Epson PX-16. I found some isopropyl alcohol and gave the heads a thoroughly good clean but still no joy. I ordered the parts I need to build a cable for the RS232 port but they haven’t arrived yet.
I then moved on to try and build a cable that would work with the modem that came installed in the PX-16. The modem has an RJ45 socket, all the modems that I have owned in the past have come with an RJ11 socket and despite my best attempts I was unable to make a cable for it that would work. After a considerable amount of time, cable twisting and no dialtone messages I gave up and moved onto something else I’d been meaning to do.
One thing that has struck me since becoming involved in retro computing is that whilst there’s plenty of hardware still out there to enjoy I really miss the more transient elements. As an example one of my fondest memories of my early computing experiences was using an acoustic coupler and a teletype and connecting for the first time to a remote machine.
Moving forward to the BBS scene and the excitement of dialing machines all over the world, (what my parents made of the phone bill I don’t know) it’s these such experiences that I really miss. There are of course plenty of BBS’s out there which you can connect to via the Internet but that doesn’t cut it for me from a retro viewpoint, nor are they of any use when it comes to most of my retro hardware. There are also some dial up systems out there but none that I can find within the UK.
I therefore decided I should try and set up a dial up BBS, if for no other reason than for testing and hopefully connecting some of my retro hardware. Initially I toyed with the idea of using a Mac Mini G4 that I have in storage, it has a built in modem and the ability to run OS 9. However I found it quite difficult to find suitable software and therefore turned to my Windows 98 system. I dug out a Diamond Supra Express PCI modem and installed it and went on the hunt for some BBS software.
I settled pretty quickly on the excellent Synchronet for which the author has also written dial up support. I installed it, connected the modem to a spare phone line that I have at work and after some tinkering had it up and running. I used my MacMini G4 to connect via another line with Zterm and it all worked very well. I now need to spend some time configuring things properly and see no reason why I can’t leave this thing running for others to use.
The phone number for now is 01582 600882 (+44 1582 600882) if you want to try it, there’s very little there at the moment but I hope to get some stuff added over the next few days. The ultimate goal would be to get the BBS running 24/7 on some retro hardware.
I might be fortunate enough to acquire an acoustic coupler for the Epson PX-8 before the end of the month, I already have a suitable retro phone that will fit the cups, so hopefully I might be able to connect the PX-8, now that would be a challenge!
Somewhat foolishly I wandered into the bathroom to show my wife something on my MacBook whilst she was in the middle of bathtime with the children. With a cry of ‘daddy watch this’ my son jumped and with the help of gravity, proceeded to displace a fairly large amount of water in my direction.
As it lapped over the screen and keyboard of my MacBook time seem to stop momentarily before I suddenly processed what had happened, powered the machine down and began frantically mopping it with tissue. A few hours later I gingerly turned it on and was relieved as it immediately began to boot. However I then noticed that about a third of the screen had a huge bright white splodge on it.
I powered it down again and searched online for ‘bright white splotch macbook screen’ and found this blog entry. I read through the author’s similar experience and set about stressing my MacBook with as many processes as I could think of. Soon the fans were whirring away and the unit was warming up nicely. I propped it up next to the radiator and left it for a couple of hours.
On return the splodge had definitely shrunk but I decided the give the unit a rest from its workout, I have been repeating the process and I’m pleased to say the screen has nearly fully recovered.
(Update) Another couple of days have passed and I’m now just left with a couple of dots which I’m sure will also disappear in due course. Phew!
I don’t often turn off my Power Mac G5, letting it sleep between use instead. However I had reason to restart it the other day and upon powering up the system wouldn’t boot, it simply sat at the blue screen, stuck and made no further progress.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had restarted the machine so it was difficult to pinpoint any changes I might have made that were causing the problem. After looking around on line and finding no answers that solved the issue it suddenly occurred to me I’d recently swapped out my USB 2 external drive that I had used for Time Machine for a Firewire version.
A quick flick of the power switch on the Maxtor One Touch drive to turn it off and hey presto the Power Mac immediately continued its boot process. I then tried some reboots with the external drive switched on and off and the problem repeated itself every time the drive was on.
Presumably the Power Mac is trying to boot from the Firewire drive which will obviously fail, why it’s trying to do that I don’t know, that’s the next problem to solve.