The Mac Set

Archive 6

Buying a Graphics Card

1 December 2000.

The current Tip of the Day from MacWorld is an interesting one for those wanting to buy a new Graphics card.

Today's Tip: No Deep Sleep

Tip level: Intermediate

If you've purchased your Power Mac G4 from the Apple Store and configured it with the optional ATI Rage 128 PCI card, you'll notice that the Mac's fan stays on even when you've put the Mac to sleep. The reason for this is that the ATI card is incapable of entering a state termed "low-power mode."

If the sound of this fan is driving you crazy, your only option is to shut the Mac down rather than put it to sleep.

Moral: If buying a new graphics card, you may want to check out the presence of this feature first.

PS. I've since found that Final Cut Pro will also prevent a Mac from going into "deep" sleep.

MWSF 2001 Predictions

8 January 2001.

Depending on who on the internet you want to listen to, here are the latest predictions for the G4 desktop models expected to be announced at Mac World San Francisco this week.

450MHz single G4, or 500MHz and 600MHz double G4s, all with 100MHz motherboard (still UMA1). UMA2 expected February at the earliest, when OS X will be released.

Alternatively, here's another possible list:

466MHz, 666MHz, 733MHz, all single processor, but with 133MHz motherboard and RAM (UMA2).

Quite apart from the marketing suicide a move like regressing to single CPUs would be, considering the problems Motorola has had (and is still having) producing reasonable quantities of fast G4s for Apple, I don't believe the second list. Also, remember that pessimists are never disappointed. One other thing to consider, in a comment on the second list:

Ummm... 666MHz version unlikely.

No amount of marketing could make up for the fact of Apple releasing a 666MHz version, due to the biblical references to that number. More likely it would be 667MHz or 650MHz.

Dilbert Made On Mac

9 February 2001.

The Making of Dilbert by Scott Adams:

People always ask me, "What's your work day like?" Most people assume I scribble a dozen cartoons while I'm shaving and then go play tennis for the rest of the week. But no, my friends, cartooning is dangerous and difficult work.

This is my command central. It's a Power Macintosh 8100/80AV. I spend about 5 hours a day at the computer doing cartoon-related things, including e-mail, faxes, storyboards for licensing, archiving, art approval by modem and you name it. That's where I am now, writing this.

- Scott Adams

Eco Challenge 2001

24 November 2001.

God has blessed New Zealand with incredible natural beauty. A taste:

Tim Wimborne edits during a break between teams.

That is one nice photo. Read all about it with Rob Galbraith's write-up. Their equipment list (including Apple Mac Powerbooks and iBooks, and external Firewire hard drives) is interesting, too.

And don't forget that New Zealand is also where the three The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed.

QuickTime 10 Years Old

24 November 2001.

From Robert X Cringely's filing of The Pulpit this week:

Those interested in slightly more recent computer history might want to know about next week's celebration of the first 10 years of QuickTime, Apple's extensible multimedia technology. The amazing thing about Quicktime is that there was nothing like it before, and everything has been like it since. Look at the guts of Real Player or Windows Media Player, and you'll see structural copies of QuickTime. It is very hard to be an original, to be the first, and to still survive a decade later, but Quicktime does all that. And it might even get the last laugh. Apple is rumored to be preparing an MPEG-4 player for Quicktime (the Quicktime file format is already used by MPEG-4), which ought to give the system perpetual legs and a real advantage against more proprietary solutions from Real and Microsoft.

Back in 1990 when Apple first conceived of QuickTime, the world of "multimedia" was one of laserdiscs. A multimedia application was a Hypercard stack connected by a serial cable to a Macintosh. The stack let you navigate to a particular clip. The video was then played on a TV screen. In 1991, the big step forward was to display that video on the computer screen... but you still needed the laserdisc. And when Apple management announced QuickTime in 1990, the idea was very much about perpetuating and supporting that model. The QuickTime team subverted that whole system by saying that every PC (Mac!) should be able to play video on its own... no special hardware. So they developed software only video and audio that scaled itself to match the users machine. Constrast this to the PC industry which in 1992 was obsessed with multimedia PC, which was basically just a sound card plugged into a stock PC. Miles apart. The QuickTime work put in the foundation for ground breaking titles like MYST and Peter Gabriel's XPLORA 1, and set the model that was later followed for MPEG-4 and DVD.

Work on QuickTime 1.0 was completed on December 2, 1991, with a product launch at the San Francisco MacWorld show in January 1992. There will be a party, of course, held on December 1st in San Francisco to celebrate the anniversary. Proceeds are earmarked to raise funds for a permanent QuickTime museum exhibit. And all this is because a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization called Friends of Time is determined to secure the place of QuickTime in technology history.

G5 Rumours

29 November 2001.

According to unsubstantiated rumours, G5 manufacture is well on its way to a January G5 desktop Mac release at Macworld Expo San Francisco. Until very recently the G5 has only been made in pre-release trial batches in order to work through bugs, but has now been OKed for production runs.

The aim is to have three speeds, namely 1.2GHz, 1.4GHz and 1.6GHz. However, if Motorola cannot manufacture enough of the 1.6GHz chips the three models will feature 1.0GHz, 1.2GHz and 1.4GHz CPUs. Either way it's a big step up from the highest present G4 clock speed of 867MHz.

The G5 Macs are rumoured to ship with DDR SDRAM memory, a "much faster" frontside bus, and Gigawire, which is probably a faster version of Firewire. (Apple applied for the name as a registered trademark on 5 September.) The official 1394b spec, finalised last May, provides for 800Mbps data throughput, rising to 1.6Gbps and even 3.2Gbps with optical cabling.

Previous reports from the source have claimed the frontside bus is 400MHz and the chip contains 512KB of on-die L2 cache. I guess we'll see come early January 2002.

G5 Update

7 December 2001.

OK, don't hold your breath for a G5 release at Mac World San Francisco 2002. The latest info to hand is that there probably won't be G5 Macs there. Part of the confusion apparently came from Apple CEO Steve Jobs saying that he wanted the new G4 machine (with an updated G4 CPU) called a G5. The idea was to help sales. However, considering that many Mac users are pretty well informed about what's in their Mac (they're professional graphics users), Apple seems to have figured out the plan might backfire, so they've given up on the idea.

According to Peter Glaskowsky (a senior analyst and senior editor of the San Jose, California-based Microprocessor Report) the current G4 processors have more pipeline stages and "a better core" than previous versions; this change, he said, was more significant than the change between Intel's Pentium II and Pentium III processors. The Pentium III offered no microarchitectural changes yet rated a name upgrade.

Also, Motorola has just released an updated G5 roadmap with the lowest speed G5 now just 800MHz, down from the previous initial speed of 2+GHz. So when Apple does release G5 Macs, it looks like they'll be at speeds of 800MHz, 1GHz, and 1.2GHz. I'm happy to be proved wrong, though - some people are speculating the 800MHz G5 represents a power-saving version for laptops.

On the brighter side, though, the frontside bus for the G5 Macs is rumoured to be 400MHz, a massive jump from the present 133MHz for the G4s. It's attributed to something called RapidIO Interconnect Architecture, one of the additions to the G5 roadmap. Another welcome addition is symmetric multiprocessing, meaning that multiprocessing will be possible, although at present initial release multiprocessing G5 Macs look unlikely.