News Archive for: Tuesday, Feb. 28th, 2006 (later posted items first)
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Intel page on Graphics Media Accelerator 950 used in new Mini
Chris Stoess sent a link to Intel's info on the Graphics Media Accelerator 950 used in the new Mac Mini.
FYI - Jason and Richard replied there are comments on this chip's gaming performance at the bottom of a page at Sharky's that mentions games like Doom3 bring it to its knees as expected. (But the Mini wouldn't be a gamer's first choice anyway.) Some have complained the price for the high end Mini model with 1GB of RAM option (since the GPU ram is shared, and paired for dual channel which reportedly the chipset supports) is only a few hundred less than the base Intel iMac model with faster CPU, built-in display, better graphics, built-in iSight, 2x larger base drive size, included keyboard, etc.
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Apple announces New Intel CPU Mac Mini's, iPod Hi-Fi
(Updated w/notes on hard drives.)
As expected, Apple announced new products today. (The Apple Store is now back online with them.)
The new Mac Mini has an Intel CPU - Single and Dual Core models (see below). The linked page has Garageband 3, Safari, QT, Pages, iMovie HD performance comparisons to PowerPC Mac Mini 1.42GHz.

" Mac mini At a Glance
  • 1.5GHz Intel Core Solo or 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo processor
  • Apple Remote with Front Row
  • Up to 2GB memory
  • Intel GMA950 graphics processor (64MB shared memory)
  • DVI connector, VGA adapter
  • Slot-loading optical drive
  • Up to 120GB hard drive
  • Built-in gigabit Ethernet
  • Analog and digital audio
  • Expansion via USB (4 USB 2.0 ports) and FireWire (1 FW400 port) "
  • Here's the 2 base configurations at the Apple store:

      1.5GHz Core Solo Model - $599.00
      Ships: Within 24 hours
      1.5GHz Intel Core Solo processor
      2MB L2 Cache
      667MHz Frontside Bus
      512MB memory (667MHz DDR2 SDRAM)
      60GB Serial ATA hard drive
      Combo drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW)
      Built-in AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth 2.0
      Apple Remote

      1.66GHz Core Duo Model - $799.00
      Ships: Within 24 hours
      1.66GHz Intel Core Duo processor
      2MB L2 Cache
      667MHz Frontside Bus
      512MB memory (667MHz DDR2 SDRAM)
      80GB Serial ATA hard drive
      Double-layer SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
      Built-in AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth 2.0
      Apple Remote

    One reader thought the new Mini's Serial ATA drives were 3.5in (desktop types) instead of 2.5in (notebook types) and mentioned the "learn more" page on the Mini's drives at the Apple store said they were 7200rpm models. However as of this afternoon, the Mini Tech Specs page said they're 5400rpm. If they were 3.5in drives, I'd have expected larger capacity options also. Even if they could squeeze a desktop drive inside with all the other components, a 3.5in drive is typically significantly heavier than a 2.5in model, so I checked the new Mini system's weight - 2.9Lbs, the same as the previous Mini. (There's been errors and typos in first postings of new product pages before and I'm not sure which is correct - but my guess is the drives are 5400rpm but time will tell as I'm sure they'll correct one of the pages to match soon.)
    The other question was if the CPU was soldered-in like the MacBook Pro or socketed like the iMac. Hopefully someone will get one soon and take a look inside.
    BTW - Reportedly the chipset in the Intel Macs support dual-channel memory access if running a pair of same size modules.

    Apple also announced the iPod Hi-Fi ($349)

    " Just slide your iPod into the built-in Universal Dock to turn on and tune in to digital music as you*ve never heard it before. From pumping bass to bright treble, iPod Hi-Fi delivers natural, room-filling sound. Close your eyes and you*d think you were listening to a huge stack of speakers. But iPod Hi-Fi measures just 17.0" x 6.6" x 6.9."
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    More info from ReadyNAS 600 user on SqueezeBox/iTunes Libary use
    Yesterday's news had a copy of a drive db report from a G5/Tiger user on ReadyNAS 600 NAS (w/4 SATA Drives) where a reader (Chad) mentioned using it to store AIFF format iTunes files. Several readers asked for more info from Chad on this and here's his reply:

    " Let me clarify a bit. My main system is a G5. For quality I choose to keep all my iTunes files as lossless. For data integrity I wanted to keep these files on some type of RAID. (He mentioned support for RAID 1 and 5 modes in the original report.-Mike) Backup is not so much of a concern as I have the CDs for all my songs. I also wanted to be able to play my library through my home stereo. Initially, I had my library in Apple Lossless on my G5 and used a very long SPDI/F cable. This was not an ideal solution as the computer needed to be running to play music and there was not a suitable remote control system. I stumbled across the ReadyNAS when looking for a backup solution when DLT Tapes were just too slow and didn't hold enough to fit my needs. The ReadyNAS had the added feature of using the SlimServer. After reading up on the SlimServer and its implementation on the ReadyNAS, I converted my library to AIFF (The ReadyNAS and slimserver could not transcode the apple lossless files) and moved it to the NAS.
    I did this by going to the iTuned prefs and selecting the NAS as the location for the library. (With the Slimserver on the ReadyNAS, there is a share called media with folder on it called music, this is the location the slimserver will look for music.) Then under the advanced menu in iTunes select consolidate library. This should move all the tracks to new location.
    Note: The Slimserver as implemented on the ReadyNAS cannot transcode between music formats, so only those formats that play natively on a SqueezeBox can be played. This means NO Apple Lossless or AAC files (protected or not) will play.

    Now as far as sharing the library among itunes. The simple answer is I've not tried it. I live in a small apartment, so I don't have a need to share music between my G5 and my Powerbook. As far as iTunes is concerned, I consider the system I have now to be like simply storing my library on an external HDD. Now, I suppose I could go on my powerbook, mount the ReadyNAS share with the music files and add them to the PowerBook's iTunes library with the prefs set to NOT copy the files. I'm not sure what value something like this would provide, especially on a mobile computer that, more offten than not, would not be able to connect to the NAS. I'm not sure what would happen if one tried to set the location of the Powerbook's itunes library to be the NAS in same was as the G5. I don't know if multiple instances of itunes can manage the same set of files without corrupting each other.

    Now, if I were to open iTunes on the G5 and, in its prefs, setup sharing, then the library appears and is playable on another computer on my LAN that is set to look for shared iTunes libraries. Again, in my sutation this is a little pointless on a couple of levels.

    If one is committed to using the SlimServer as I have setup, there is another alternative to sharing the library. There is a software implementation of the SqueezeBox called SoftSqueeze. This works just as it sounds. Run the application and it will detect if there is a SlimServer on the LAN and connect with it. The application runs on Windows and OS X. I tired this once on my Powerbook to basically see how far I could go on my wireless network. Playing AIFF files takes a bit of bandwidth so I could see how far away I could maintain a usable signal.
    SoftSqueeze can be found at:
    I hope this answers some questions. If there are more, please let me know.
    -Chad "

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    More MacBook Pro owner reports on OOB Problems (rare overall)
    Until yesterday I'd not had anyone report a real problem with their new MacBook Pro (most raved about them), but yesterday I received 2 reader mails on problems (one battery related, the other no video at startup) and asked if anyone else had a problem with theirs. Most replies to the post didn't note any problems although a few did. (IIRC the industry standard for defects is around 3%.)

    " After about a month and a half of waiting, I finally recieved my Macbook Pro 1.83 dual-core machine today. It is a beautiful machine, but unfortunately has given me quite the headache.

    First of all, the Superdrive is not detected by OSX. Either it's not correctly connected to the motherboard, or the motherboard is faulty. Big disappointment, plus I now have my FCP install disc stuck inside the machine.

    Additionally, there are some very strange graphical glitches happening on the system. When certain applications in the iLife family are launched, the onscreen graphics sometimes scramble, resembling something akin to the faulty load screens on old NES systems. At this point, the computer seems to lock up, but I was still able to take a screen snapshot of the glitch.

    Needless to say, I am very disappointed so far. I love Macs, and am getting this one taken care of as soon as I can, but we live in New Orleans and have no Apple Store around closer than Texas, so we'll just have to ship it back.

    I hope other stories are better than this one. Happy Mardi Gras!
    -Justin M."

    " I don't know if this counts or not, but my MacBook Pro (2.0Ghz 120 Meg HD) lasted long enough to get through the Migration Assistant. After about 2-3 hours of transferring my data from the old system to the MacBook Pro (and teasing me by giving me about 10 minutes to play with it) it shut down completely. It was like somebody cut power to it, no screen, fans, hard disk activity, nothing. Sent it in for repair the day after I received it. Apple says it is repaired and on it's way back. It will be interesting to see what they replaced.

    I was offered the choice of having them send me a replacement, or fixing it. I choose to fix it since they said a replacement would take 6-8 weeks. There was also the possibility they wouldn't have replacement parts, but it was fixed within a day. I hope it doesn't turn out to be a lemon, but I guess I have a years worth of warrantee. I'll be pushing it pretty hard to make sure it's trustworthy.
    -Steve "

    "MBPRO 15/2.0 CTO
    With the following configuration:
    Processor 0656458 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo/256MB
    Memory 0656107 2GB 667 DDR2 2x1GB SODIMMs
    Hard Drive 0656105 120GB Serial ATA Drive@5400rpm
    Optical Drive 0656096 SuperDrive (DVDRW/CDRW)
    Modem 0656279 Apple USB Modem
    Apple Software Solutions 0656200 None
    Keyboard/Mac OS Language 0656461 BkLit Keyboard/Mac OS
    Country Kit/AEX 0656102 Airport Extreme Card and BT

    OOB less than 2 hrs:
    Inserted the 2nd disk (looking for Xcode) - optical drive wasn't recognized. Did all the usual troubleshooting (power-up with this or that key, terminal, reset PRAM) to no avail.

    1st call to tech support netted me an individual who said, "I'm not familiar with the MacBook Pro." Instead of handing me off to someone who did - he proceeded to read out loud from his manual and interrupt me each time I tried to ask for someone with more experience, all the while chewing his gum in my ear. I informed him he was an idiot.

    2nd call netted a pleasant tech who had to hand me off to someone when he realized the CTO aspect. Second tier tech said she would "escalate" my case # to the engineering department despite my insistence that I was not interested in repair. Said to email her if I hadn't heard from her by MON.

    The next day (FRI) I called tech support again and spoke to another second tier tech who insinuated that the advantage to going through the Engineering department was replacement (new computer NOT repair) turn-around (3-6 days as opposed to 3-4 weeks). He said to call him on TUES if I hadn't heard anything.

    MON produced several heated rounds with tech support (turns out a phone call to engineering could have occurred on the 1st day with an RMA assigned) before ending up with Customer Service. Got the RMA, drove to FedEx drop-off center and called Apple (to confirm drop off) only to learn the last tech had ordered a 2.0GHz replacement instead of the 2.16GHz. The tech corrected the order and listened to what I was thinking about Apple and their customer/tech support.

    Once home - the estimated delivery of the replacement computer is 3 April. I called Apple back to vent some more to no avail. My replacement computer supposedly has "front of the line" status but it will not get here for my birthday tomorrow (my 50th - so it is kind of special).

    Probably more than you wanted to here - but it is the tale of another OOB DOA MacBook Pro with an sad commentary on the current state of Apple customer support.

    Like anything, you're more likely to hear about problems than from those with none, and most mails from MacBook Pro owners were similar to this one:

    " You asked. :)
    No problems to report. Ordered mine on 2/14, arrived on 2/21. I bought the 2Ghz model, only CTO option was a 7200rpm HD, and I added a Crucial 1GB DIMM to bring it up to 2GB.
    I hear the quiet modulating hum from the upper left of the case that others have reported, but it's minor and not an inconvenience.
    Absolutely loving this thing to death (moved up from an iBook G3/800, which didn't have little things like USB 2.0, 802.11g, or Bluetooth).
    - Joshua O. "

    If anyone else has just gotten a new MacBook Pro, let me know if you've seen any OOB problems or not. (Over the weekend when I can get some free time, I'll post a page with all MacBook Pro owner reports so far - the vast majority of which are positive.)

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    Notes on Front Row Photo Slideshow/Folders Limitation
    (From a reader mail yesterday - posting as a FYI that this is a known limitation in case anyone else missed that Apple info.)

    " Got my MacBook Pro 2GHz (1GB RAM, 120GB hard disk) last Wednesday (Feb. 22). No hardware problems to report. System is working perfectly from a hardware perspective. Screen is bright and flawless, battery life is pretty good (3.75 to 4 hours under light load with ethernet networking, brightness at 40% and wireless off).

    I did have a software problem with FrontRow however. FrontRow's photo slideshows don't display the correct photos. I've spent a lot of time troubleshooting this. I'll select a specific photo album using the remote control, and FrontRow will either start displaying photos from the beginning of the iPhoto library, or photos from the currently selected iPhoto album (if iPhoto is running). None of the following helped:

  • Rebuilding the iPhoto Library database.
  • Deleting FrontRow preferences.
  • Rebooted.
  • Repaired disk permissions.
  • Renaming any albums or folders with strange characters (accents, symbols, etc.)
  • Reducing the number of albums and folder levels.
  • Switching to a secondary iPhoto Library and back (solved the problem temporarily, but the problem returned after reboot)
  • Format hard drive and clean install OS and apps.

    ... (he later wrote)
    OK, found out what was causing the problem with FrontRow, and it's definitely a bug. Would be interested to hear if anyone else has seen this. It turns out that FrontRow doesn't deal with folders in your iPhoto library very well. Any photo album that is nested within a folder will not display the correct photos when click on them in FrontRow. Clicking on the "All" album that appears within the folder will play correctly, but clicking individual albums will not.

    So the workaround is to remove all folders from your iPhoto Library so all albums and smart albums reside at the top level. From my experiments, albums residing at the top level will play correctly in FrontRow if folders exist in your library So as an alternative, you can keep your folder structure and simply move any albums you wish to display in FrontRow to the top level and they will play correctly, then move them back into the folder structure, but that seems less convenient.

    Another related side effect of the FrontRow iPhoto folder bug is that after playing a slideshow in FrontRow that displays the wrong pictures and exiting FrontRow, you will no longer be able to drag and drop anything in iPhoto (photos, folders, albums). Quitting and relaunching iPhoto restores drag and drop functionality.

    A look in revealed the following errors, multiple times each:
    2006-02-27 21:29:31.067 iPhoto[15468] CoreDragCreate error: -4960
    Feb 27 21:30:06 MacBook-Pro FrontRow[9410]: AppleScript Communication Error = -1712

    So I've done away with folders in my iPhoto Library until Apple fixes this nasty bug. Please post this and ask if anyone else can confirm the problem is not limited to a) my computer or b) the MacBook Pro.
    Thanks, Andy "

  • I was going to write to Andy to suggest searching Apple's knowledge base docs for info on this - but just did so myself and found this doc on the (known) issue:

    " Front Row: Photos will not play if nested in another folder or album

    If photos are nested (in a folder within another folder) in folders or albums, you may see a "communication error" or other odd behavior when you try to display them with Front Row.

    To successfully view photos with Front Row, make sure that your images are contained within an album available in the iPhoto Source window. You can't view images within folders or albums that are inside of other folders or albums?those that aren't available in the Source window?unless you expand the folders in the Source window so the nested folders are visible."

    Just a reminder in case anyone else missed this.

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    Drive Genius reports page updated
    I've updated the page of user reports on Drive Genius again (another user report on w/Defrag OK using v1.2 and follow-up added to one report yesterday on defrag problems.)
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    Other Net News/Misc Software Updates
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    CDRW/DVD/Hard Drive/Storage Compatibility Database Update Listing
    The Drive Compatibility Database had 3 new reports added this morning. (Entries later today are added the next newsday morning.) The database includes reports on CDRWs, Combo DVD-CDRW, DVD-ROM, DVD Burners, Hard Drives and Removables (tape drive, ORB, ZIP, MO drives, NAS, CF/Smartmedia readers, etc.) in all interface types (IDE, IDE RAID cards, SATA, Firewire, SCSI, USB, adapters). Current total - 15,610 reports. (searching by drive type/brand, mac model etc. listed below will show the full reports, most recent first - does not include updates to previous reports) iApps burn support mentioned in reports unless otherwise noted.

    You can find full owner reports (latest shown first) by searching the database by drive/brand/interface/mac models (the latest reports are shown first in searches). For guides to installing CD/CDRW/DVD drives or Hard drives in many mac models, see the IDE Articles page. The Firewire articles page also has guides on case kits, installing drives, etc.
    If you've added a IDE, SCSI, Firewire or USB hard drive, CDRW, tape drive, etc. make sure you add a report to the database. (If you post an updated entry - make sure you use the same name, etc. as you did before so I can find your past entry. Thanks.)
    (Incomplete entries are deleted. Do not post questions in the database, it's for drive reports not questions on what drive to buy - for that try searching the database for reports from owners of your mac model on the drive type/brand/interface, etc. you're interested in.)

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    Rate Your CPU Upgrade Reports Database Updated
    The Rate Your CPU Upgrade database has been updated with 2 new reports (entries later today are added the next newsday morning). Total to date: 10,205. Here's a summary of the reports added (search by brand/mac model for full reports - latest reports always shown first):

    • Other World Computing G4/1.5GHz (new model) in (Gigabit Ethernet) G4/AGP (rated 10)
    • Other World Computing G4/1.33GHz in (Digital Audio) G4/AGP (rated 10)

      (Full reviews of G4 and G3 upgrades compared to stock CPUs, including real world apps/game tests, install info, etc. are linked at the CPU upgrades page. OC/CPU module articles are on the Systems page.)

    You can find the full reports by searching the database selecting the indicated Mac model and upgrade card brand/type. If you've upgraded the CPU on your Mac, please post an entry in the database. Search the database for entries from most every upgradable Mac model *before* you buy. (Searchable by mac model/upgrade brand).

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    Recent Reviews and Articles:
    Listing/links to recent articles and reviews you may have missed.
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