The Computer Blog

Monday, September 29, 2003

Adobe and Apple wars...NOT!

Today, Adobe announced the release of their Creative Suite package in both a standard and professional version. These are definitely business level packages. The Standard package will cost $999 and the Professional level package will cost $1299. The standard package includes “CS” versions of the Adobe mainstays in the graphics and desktop publishing world, i.e., Photoshop, Illustrator, and In Design along with a new application called “Version Cue” which is essentially a file manager that can be used inside any of the other applications. The professional package also includes Go Live and Acrobat 6.0 Professional. An Upgrade from Photoshop to the Creative Suite will run $549 for the standard version and $749 for the professional version.

Frankly, after giving laid out a bunch of cash for Apple’s Final Cut Pro 4.0 and DVD Studio Pro 2.0, the piggybank is kind of busted for any kind of a large upgrade, even if I wanted one. Photoshop 7.0 is powerful enough for me; but if I do decide to upgrade my Adobe applications, I would more than likely do it one application at a time. $169 a pop is a less bitter pill to swallow than either $550 or $750 all at once.

When the announcement was first made, I traveled over to the Adobe website to see what upgrades would cost. The only posted upgrades were for Windows! Was Adobe lying when it had said that Apple was still a viable part of its market even though they had released Final Cut Pro, undercutting part of the market for Premiere? Well, it appears not. Later in the day, the online Adobe Store, the only place where you could actually see the upgrade availability for individual applications, went down; and when it came up again, it did show I could pre-order either a Windows or Mac version.

I saw a note on a forum stating that the Windows versions were going to have product activation technology and the Mac versions would not. Personally, I hope that’s true. If not, I’ve bough my last Adobe product for either platform.

CompUSA USB2.0/Firewire Combo 3.5” Adapter

I saw this little device (SKU# 296202) at my local CompUSA store and decided to buy it and install it in my Windows computer to avoid having to crawl around it to plug in extra USB and Firewire devices. The computer has a MSI motherboard with USB 2.0 ports and I had Firewire via a PCI card. The little adapter would install in a spare 3.5 inch bay and I had an open spot (actually, I could create one) just below the machine’s 3.5 inch floppy drive. The device’s system requirements stated only “Windows 98SE/2000/XP” and “Available Exposed 3.5 inch Drive Bay”. I had both of those and it only cost $20, so I bought it.

Not so fast! The connecting chords were built to hook to a motherboard, a fact I couldn’t easily discern until I had opened the package. The USB chord ends in a straightforward, multi-prong connector (10 pins with one blocked) but the Firewire chord ends in 9 individual pins. While the instruction sheet was clear about which pin was which (and they are lettered), the set up won’t work with a Firewire card. All the ones I own have internal ports that work with a standard 6 pin Firewire connector, the same type you’ll find on external hard drives.

I’m thinking seriously about slowly putting moving my Windows desktop to an Athlon64 CPU. Knowing I’m probably going to do that at some point, I’m storing the device for now. When I buy a new motherboard for the Athlon64, I’ll get one that has both Firewire and USB ports. Then, I’ll try installing my front port adapter again. In the meantime, if you’re looking to put both Firewire and USB 2.0 ports on your PC, be sure and do your homework and check out what kind of connectors the adapter uses.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Knock, knock, knocking on Apple’s door…

Every now and then something comes along that doesn’t bother some people but drives you nuts. That’s the way it is with the fan noise from my Mirrored Door Drive PowerMac. Most of the time, the machine is fairly quiet, much better than the first models of the MDD that were released. But there is a certain mid-range of rpm’s where the fan in my machine starts knocking, sounding like the muffled walk of an old horse sauntering down the street or the sound of loose rails as a train rolls over. It is a subtle knock a knock a knock; and it steals my attention like a college girl flashing her breasts. No matter how much I try to ignore it, I can’t.

I talked to Apple Care about it the other day. In true Apple fashion, the first thing the tech did was to ask me if I had the optional Apple Care coverage even though the machine was still under warranty. I told him I wasn’t interested in that right now. I described the problem to him and mentioned it was making the noise right then, so he asked me to hold the phone down so he could hear it. I thought that was probably pretty useless; and it turned out to be just that, not only because of poor audio on the phone but also because the fan shifted rpm just enough to shift it out of the range where it makes the noise. The tech told me I was going to have to take the computer to a repair station and let them listen to the noise before he could do anything. Kind of ridiculous if you ask me. I would much have preferred to have paid for a new fan and been done with it. Buying a fan was never offered as an option. Sure he wasn’t willing to do anything about this problem, I thanked him and hung up.

That made me “one for two” with Apple Tech Support. I took the fan out and examined it but could find nothing obvious. In the hope the noise might be from the fan hitting the case, I put some sound absorbing material underneath the fan and behind it, but had to remove the material behind the fan because it made normal operation louder. At first I thought that bottom material might have done the trick; but after running for about ten minutes, the knock returned. I don’t mind the smooth wind-tunnel sound of the fans in my Quicksilver PowerMac as much as the knock in the MDD. Now, I’m in a quandary about what to do about it.

If this was a PC, I’d simply study the fans out there (and that is something I’ve done) and then replace the fan with a better one. But, in true Apple fashion, the Mac uses two pin connectors when PC fans use 3 or 4. I may try a 4 pin fan I believe would work, anyway. Other people have successfully replaced their fans (See G4noise.com and XLR8yourmac.), so I know you can get it to work.

Apple’s living up to the terms of their tech support, but they did nothing to make me feel better about their sometimes amazing lack of quality control (first MDD fans, OS 10.2.8 update). Nor did they really help my relationship with them. It’s kind of ridiculous not to send me a fan since it’s on the list of “customer installable parts” to avoid the downtime at a shop and the expense the shop would bill Apple for. I haven’t bought a PowerMac yet that didn’t have some kind of problem, even if it was minor. That’s one of the reasons why, unless I have just have money to burn, I won’t chunk down $3000 for a top of the line model again. If I know I’m going to have something to fix anyway, it makes sense to wait until the prices fall.

The Hunter Becomes the Hunted...

Today, Kazaa turned the tables on RIAA by suing them for copyright violations. It appears that RIAA used a hacked version of Kazza Lite to track down music downloaders and that violates the user agreement for the software. I'm not surprised. I've felt for quite a while that RIAA would break the law to protect their pocketbooks, and that is exactly what they've done. Anyone who thinks this whole situation is not out of control simply doesn't understand what's going on. (Read the full MacCentral article.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Ulterior Motives…

Microsoft announced today that they are terminating MSN Chat services in Europe and parts of Asia while leaving services in North America virtually intact. Their rationale states they are taking this action because of pedophilia and concerns over children’s safety. But is that their real motive? Is the risk of children encountering a pedophile in a chat room any less because the child lives in the US? Canada? Japan? My bet is it is not. Isn’t it too big a happy coincidence that Microsoft is still being investigated for monopolistic practices in Europe, that parts of the German government have defected to Linux, that parts of Asian business communities have also defected to Linux, and that China has developed its own operating system in an effort to boot Windows out of the country; and those appear to be the some of the target areas for the MSN chat shutdown? MSN stated they will allow paid subscribers in the US, Canada, and Japan unsupervised access to chat. All in all, my bet is that this has more to do with money than with child security. It’s Microsoft being their typical selves.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

AMD Athlon 64...The Other 64 bit CPU

AMD released its Athlon 64 CPU today, and it looks like an interesting chip to watch. Performance tests show it will be the chip to beat if you’re interested in gaming and overall workplace performance, but the Intel P4 still seems to hold the video processing crown in the PC world, at least from the performance test I saw at AnandTech.com. That test actually used the Opetron, though I’m sure that performance tests using real Athlon64 CPU’s will be hitting the web pretty soon--if they haven’t already. PC World tests of the Athlon 64 were impressive. I had a fleeting thought I might upgrade my XP machine to this chip until I visited one of my favorite retailers, Mwave.com. Right now, as one would expect, the Athlon64 3200+ carries a $453 price tag. That’s bit rich for my blood at the moment. Instead, I might go ahead and creep the system up to an AthlonXP 2400+. It’s only $85 and will run on my current motherboard. In another year or whenever Athlon64 CPU’s hit the $100-$200 price range and I can get a 64 bit version of Windows XP (the beta was released today), I’ll take another look.

Mac OS 10.2.8 Update

Mac OS X has stepped up to a 10.2.8 version update, one that is meant only for us G4 and below owners. Using the Software Update feature, I updated all the Macs in the house to this version without problems. Lots of folks are reporting they are losing Ethernet connections (and therefore Internet connections), some folks are reporting loss of USB 2.0 or other third party PCI cards, and some people are reporting video problems. There’s plenty of traffic about this subject at XLR8Yourmac , MacNN, MacInTouch, and MacFixIt websites. One of the things one can do if he/she is having problems with an OS update is to download the stand-alone update and apply that. Even though I’m not having problems, I like to download both standalone and combo operating system updates so I can burn them to CD or DVD in case I have to completely reload a system. (Well, it does happen, even though it’s usually because I’m changing out hard disks or otherwise screwing with one of my systems.) I just went to the Apple website a few minutes ago, tried to do that, and got “not found” messages from their servers. Apple appears to have yanked the packages but it's unclear if it's because of the reported problems or some other reason.

Monday, September 22, 2003

About G5 Fever…

I added a section to the ComputerZone entitled “G5 Fever”. I want to make the section a one stop shopping place for G5 information as we watch it evolve. I will provide commentary and links to other websites and G5 performance tests as I dig them up (with proper credit for where I found them) or run them myself. The story of the G5 is just beginning to be told.

While I’m on that subject, if you haven’t seen it already, PC Magazine ran a review of the G5. The performance numbers were pretty good, even if they didn’t back up Jobs claim that the G5 is the fastest personal computer around today. The reviewer and I agree that the G5 is on par (call that “competitive”) with the fastest PC’s. That said, Mike over at AccelerateYourMac wondered if the magazine used the G5’s automatic or best performance energy saver settings. My money is that it was in auto, the default, either purposefully or because they didn’t know that an energy saver setting could actually affect the machine’s performance. That’s behavior you might expect out of a laptop but not a desktop unless you knew it was there. It’s also something I don’t know I’d expect a PC magazine to be aware of unless they’ve been following the G5 from day one.

Nostalgia...

I started feeling nostalgic this weekend and pulled my chair into the guest bedroom where my Windows computer sits so I could do some work on it. I booted it into Windows 98 to use a PaperPort scanner and also pulled up my ATI Multimedia Center to watch TV. My nostalgia promptly disappeared when I got reminded again one of the reasons why I had moved off Windows in the first place. The ATI application crashed. I had to reinstall it a couple of times to get it working. Once I did, I scanned in the papers I needed to and worked in Word 2000 for only a few minutes before I shuffled back into my office and cranked up my iMac. I finished the “Drive 10” review using it and the dual 1Ghz Power Mac sitting beside it.

To this day, the clarity of the fonts and the brightness of my 17 inch Samsung 760V TFT LCD running Windows XP are excellent. They are honestly better than my flat panel iMac or my Dual 1 GHz Power Mac running a 17 inch Apple Studio LCD. My dual 1.25 MDD Power Mac with its 20 inch Apple Cinema Display is on par with the XP machine, but I don’t use the MDD for anything but video. So, I hunger sometimes to work on the XP machine (Win 98’s fonts are the worst of the bunch). But I remember that during my divorce from my first marriage I’d start rationalizing it wasn’t that bad and would want to go back…until cold reality reminded me of why I left in the first place. It’s the same with my Windows machine. I think I’ll leave it in the guest room where its major purpose in life is to watch TV and play games.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Singing the Website Blues…

If you’re reading this, all my website problems have been resolved. They started on Wednesday, Sept 19, the day after I had begun moving my website to another hosting service. Ironically, my website host’s (ApolloHosting) entire operation cratered all day from what I could tell, taking my website with it, of course, and convincing me I needed to hurry the transition to my new hosting service. Boy was that right! Unfortunately, I rushed one piece of it a little too much; and that helped knock me off the air for a few days until the DNS change got implemented.

As you may or may not have known, I had been hosting the site for the past few months at ApolloHosting. While their service was pretty good, their prices seemed high and they seemed best for small to medium websites with little to moderate traffic. While that describes my site most of the time, I am rapidly expanding it and did have a huge traffic increase last month when I posted the “G4, G5, and AMD Shootout” article in the ComputerZone. That required me to pay extra for transfer and made me take a look at what I was getting for my money from both a space and transfer perspective. After all, I didn’t know when I might hit paydirt again and wanted to be able to. (I’ve been telling my wife we need to get a dual 2Ghz G5 in here for testing, but so far, she’s not buying…) I wanted the capability to expand the site without it costing a fortune, and Apollo Hosting just did not fit that bill.

After doing a bit of research, I decided to give Lunarpages a try. I get twice the space and transfer for the same amount of money I was paying at Apollo Hosting, and I can reduce costs further by renewing for a year, something I’m not yet ready to do. But, you know what they say about getting what you pay for. My first impressions with Lunarpages have been--they are good but not great. I suffered through tons of “FTP errors” when uploading large files to the new website. Also, some file name capitalizations got changed in the transfer, and that caused me a lot of manual labor on the server side to keep things straight. (I think that was the fault of Adobe Go Live, but that’s something I’m still checking out.) The down time on Sept 18 and after was not their fault, though. It happened because Apollo Hosting requires that you submit a cancellation at least 5 days before your billing period ends or they will automatically renew your account. My account period was up the 24th, so I dropped the cancellation notice today. They reacted immediately and killed my site, knocking me off-line and making no effort to refund any remaining monies. That certainly didn’t leave me with a good taste in my mouth about them. I felt trapped by their requirement and knocked off the air for no good reason. I asked for the DNS change from Network Solutions yesterday, but it hasn’t happened yet. If you’re reading this, it finally kicked in.

The new site is being hosted at Lunarpages. If this works out, I’ll probably stay with them a while. We’ll see how it goes.

Monday, September 15, 2003

MacAddict’s Dual G5 Benchmarks

Mac Addict published some very interesting benchmarks using PSBench 7 on a dual 2 Ghz G5. The dual G5 was compared to a 1.8Ghz G5 and to dual 1.42Ghz and 1.25 Ghz G4’s. While the dual G5 was faster, using 512MB RAM, it was not that much faster than the single 1.8. For instance, the best case was in the “Convert from RGB to CMYK” test where the dual G5 performed the test in approximately 15 seconds and the 1.8 G5 performed it in 21. However, in the “Rotate 90 Degrees” test the dual G5 took 24 seconds while the single 1.8 took 25. In several other tests, the results were or almost were on the same scale.

Not until they loaded the dual G5 with 2GB of RAM, that is! The G5 had been shipped from Apple with 2 GB of RAM they removed to match the systems up at 512MB. When they loaded 2GB of RAM back in, the dual G5 performed the “rotate 90” test in 2.15 seconds! The “Convert from RGB to CMYK” test was performed in approximately 7. They not only prove that the PSBench test and Photoshop love memory but also show that the strength of the G5 lies in its memory and bus architecture. Applications that can take advantage of those will scream on the dual 2GHz G5's and the future, even faster processors to come.

Site Move…

I’m coming up to the end of my contract period with my current website host. The G5 “shootout” article got so much interest that, for the first time since I opened this site, I had to upgrade the amount of transfer; and I’ve already used 82% of my website space. While my time with my current provider has been pretty good, I need to find a cheaper and more generous webhost. So, sometime during the next week, I’m going to be transferring my website to another host. If this goes smoothly, you won’t notice it. If there is an interruption in service, then something went wrong; check back. I’ll get the website up and running as soon as I can.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Chasing a Corrupt Stack…

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been getting kernel panics on my MDD PowerMac during disk optimization runs using both Norton SpeedDoctor and Drive 10. This weekend, for some reason (must be because I really don’t have a life!), I decided to troubleshoot the problem to see if I could eliminate it.

I had discussed the problem with tech support at Micromat, and they thought something was wrong with hard drive. All the hardware checks in Drive 10 were passing, but I had not done a surface scan. So, I ran that; and Drive10 found no problems.

Next, to eliminate a bad RAM chip as the culprit, I pulled two of the three memory sticks (DDR) out of the machine, leaving in only the 256MB Samsung stick that came from Apple, and ran the Drive 10’s Optimization routine. The machine crashed at the end of the optimization routine (“Finishing” was displayed on the screen.). I then removed the 256MB stick and replaced it with one of my 512MB sticks bought from Crucial.com. I got the same result. That told me that the problem was not due to bad RAM. I also had used different RAM slots for these tests, eliminating a bad RAM slot on the motherboard as a cause.

To rule out a hardware defect on the disk that Apple’s Hardware Test wasn’t catching, I went out to Best Buy and bought another 160GB hard disk (Maxtor L01P160). (They had a great price on it and it was the same model as the one in my machine.) I brought it home, installed it, and configured it as the only hard drive on that IDE, bypassing the original by leaving it completely unhooked. I then ran the Software Restore Disk that came with the PowerMac to install Mac OS 10.2.3 to it. Once I booted up on the new hard disk and made sure it was working, I then rebooted and ran Drive 10’s Optimization routine. It ran like a champ. There were no crashes.

I then installed the Mac OS 10.2.6 Combo Updater (from a file archived on DVD). After rebooting, I rebooted again from Drive 10’s CD and ran its Optimization routine. It crashed again (kernel panic-corrupt stack).

Suspecting that the 10.2.6 updater might have overwritten or corrupted something in the PRAM, I reset the PRAM (Command-Option-P-R keys held down during reboot until I hear the system chime, and I listen for a second chime before releasing the keys.) and booted to the Drive 10 CD and ran the Optimization routine. No crash. I reinstalled the old 160GB hard disk and ran the Optimization routine. No crash. So, I put the two 160GB Maxtors on the primary IDE and two 120GB Maxtors on the secondary hard disk IDE and rebooted into 10.2.6. Then, I rebooted on the Drive 10 CD and ran Optimization. No crash.

That was at about 1:40 a.m. I went to bed and got up the next morning and tried it again. It did crash, but it did not crash during any part of the optimization routine. It crashed as Drive 10 was moving back to its main menu (“Scanning Volumes” was shown on the window). I also ran the Optimization on one of the 120GB hard drives and got the same result. At least, the Optimization routines are running now. That’s farther along than I have ever been since I’ve owned this machine.

Obviously, it’s somewhat suspicious that the machine is crashing once the version of the OS on the computer is newer than the version of the OS on the boot CD. Both Norton and Drive 10 use OS 10.2.3. I am not seeing any kernel panics during normal use so far. I may shoot a note over to Micromat later in the week. I also may talk to Apple care this week. The lower fan sounds like a horse walking down a road sometimes, which leaves me wondering if it’s on the way to failure. I want a quieter machine anyway.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

How RIAA's Shooting Itself in the Foot without Really Trying…

Every day on the news, we read about the music industry, in the form of RIAA, trapping and jailing another kid or another grandparent. While I don’t condone copyright violations, I have felt from the beginning that this battle against online piracy was a deflection, the creating of scapegoats for the music industry’s problems. Now, as sales statistics are rolling in while the online piracy war is raging, the opposite seems to be true. CD sales are not increasing but continuing to decline and at a faster rate than before.

Now, as this is going on and customers are getting an even worse taste in their mouth about the music industries, they are releasing copy protected CD’s that won’t play or will allow only limited play on PC’s. Well, for all you music industry executives out there who aren’t listening, let me say that if I can’t play CD’s on my PC, uh, Mac anymore, I have no real use for buying any CD. Most of my music machines are Mac’s. I seldom listen to CD’s in my car, and my household is usually too busy to shut down the TV’s or Mac's or PC’s in the rest of the house to listen to our only regular CD player in the living room.

Have I bought any music CD’s lately? You bet! This past weekend I had the wonderful privilege of seeing and listening live to one of my favorite groups, Brulé, as they played at the Indian Summer Festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My wife and I bought 3 of their CD’s and did so almost without thinking because I KNEW they weren’t copy protected and I could play them wherever I wanted. If the CD's had been copy protected, would I have bought them? No. I’m not going to spend money on a product I can’t use in the manner I want to and that is within the law.

I will shy away from any mainstream music CD’s that incorporate copy protection. The debacle of a CD screwing up one of my computers or an arbitrary restriction on where I can listen to my music is not something I’m going to endure. I'm not going to spend any time trtying to figure out which ones I can play and which I can't. I suspect a lot of people will feel that way; and, in the end, RIAA and the music industry will discover they were trying to control the uncontrollable and that more time spent innovating and producing better product would have benefited them a hell of a lot more.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Awaiting Dual 2Ghz G5 Cinebench Results and About G5 Bus Slewing

I’ve seen some dual 2Ghz G5 Cinebench 2003 benchmarks at a couple of places, but I have not seen a complete data set, meaning I’d like to get data on each of the Cinebench sub-tests as well as the official benchmarks. When I do and am sure the data is valid, I’ll update the shootout section and look for Cinebench numbers on an AMD chip that yields the closest performance. I will also update that section if and when Cinebench gets its G5 optimizations.

I may have to wait until I can get my hands on a dual G5 since most folks only post the benchmarks. If you’re interested in only the latter, drop by Barefeats.com. They’ve got those benchmarks and several others that pit the dual G5 against other Apple and Intel powered systems. There is also a set of Cinebench benchmarks comparing a dual G5 to various other Macs at MacInTouch.

One interesting point concerning the G5 that is just now surfacing is about “bus slewing”. Depending upon the setting in OS X’s Energy Saver preference, the G5 manipulates its bus speed to control CPU temperature. Here’s a quote from Apple’s Developer Documentation explaining it: (Thanks to Xlr8yourmac.com for providing the link.)

Processor and Bus Slewing

To lower power consumption, heat generation, and fan noise, the Power Mac G5 computer incorporates an automatic power management technique called bus slewing. Bus slewing is designed to run at high processor and bus speeds and high voltage when the demand on the processor is high, and to run at low processor and bus speeds and low voltage when the demand on the processor is low. Switching between different processor/bus speeds and voltages is achieved by a gradual transition that does not impact system or application performance and operates seamlessly to the user. In slewing, the bus runs at half the speed of the processor.

The ranges of the slewed processor speeds are listed below:


Configuration
Processor range

1.6 GHz
1.3 GHz to 1.6 GHz

1.8 GHz
1.3 GHz to 1.8 GHz

2.0 GHz
1.3 GHz to 2.0 GHz


In addition, the Power Mac G5 computer allows the user to control bus slewing mode. The options for specifying either high, reduced, or automatic processor and bus speeds are located at System Preferences>Energy Saver>Options; then select Automatic, Highest, or Reduced.

If the Power Mac G5 computer detects a system temperature that is too high, due to high ambient temperatures or other factors, it will automatically enter bus slewing mode regardless of the selected setting.”

My bet is that the machine comes set at “Automatic”. The question then becomes how many of the benchmark results we’ve been seeing have been influenced by this setting. If I get a chance to re-run my benchmarking tests with the G5’s set at Highest, I’ll add a section to the ComputerZone showing the results

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Used and abused: About DRM…

Both news articles and forum-talk on various spots in the Web are focusing on Microsoft Office 2003 and its use of Digital Rights Management technology, also known as DRM. Users who make Office 2003 documents will have the ability to restrict who opens any file made by the software. While at first blush this may seem like a good thing, there is also the potential for Microsoft, in its usual fashion, to use its monopoly and this new technology to gain a bigger stranglehold on the computer industry.

Currently, software companies can compete with MS Office, at least on some basis, because they can engineer document filters that make their own formats and those of Microsoft’s interchangeable. But some folks already playing with Office 2003 are reporting they cannot open even unguarded documents with anything than Office 2003. Error messages are stating that they must have a “DRM” client to open the files. The only current DRM client software is in Office 2003. Effectively, this means that document interchangeability with anything other than Office may become a thing of the past. Through this door, Microsoft can effectively shut out competition until the competition collapses. And it is likely that Microsoft will do just that given the weak pursuit of them by our current Department of Justice. Indeed the Department of Homeland Security’s choice of Microsoft as their software provider will bolster their case as paranoid as American are right now about anything even purported to pertain to national security.

DRM and product activation technologies have the potential to plunge the computer industry into the darkest days they’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s up to us consumers to take them there. I’m not going to spend money on anything that makes my life harder or takes away from me capability I had before. I urge everyone to inform themselves about how these new technologies are being utilized and boycott those companies who are putting the consumer’s interests behind their own.

Monday, September 01, 2003

About Testing the G5…

My wife and I made it up to the Apple store yesterday and got to play around with the G5. They had a 1. 6GHZ machine and a 1.8Ghz side by side, which made it easy to run tests and get a feel for a comparison between the two. I ran Cinebench 2003 on both machines and took some video of the 1.8 running Cinebench. I also re-ran tests on my other two PowerMacs and the AMD machine mainly for data consistency and to get the “formal” benchmarks, and some went up so ever very slightly and some went down. I’m in the process of updating the “shootout” article with the results. Additionally, I shot video of my dual 1.25 G4 and my AMD 2000+ running Cinebench and hope to have all the video posted on the site in the next few days. They will be clips about 30 seconds long and won’t show the entire Cinebench rendering tests but will include enough for you to see some visually evident differences.

I didn’t know if I’d really like the design of the G5, even though I had seen pictures of it. Having Firewire and USB ports on the front of the machine is especially nice. Admittedly, the store environment is not very quiet; but I put my ear up to the front grille of the G5 and could still barely hear it. Overall, we had a favorable impression of the design.

My wife did lament the machine’s capacity for only a single optical drive, which was kind of funny, because she’s a bigger Mac fan than I am and has lived that way for years. I reminded her that my Quicksilver held only one optical drive and my MDD Power Mac was an exception with two. I am more concerned with the G5’s ability to only hold two internal hard drives. That’s not a huge issue, but it does come into play when I’m looking at a machine to work video on. Yes, I can use Firewire 800 drives for additional storage; but that’s not the same as having extra hard drive carriers in the machine. Not only are internal hard drives still generally faster, but they don’t cost me an extra $100 per disk (or more) for an external drive case.

Is there a G5 in my future? At some point. Right now, paying off the debt I’ve already incurred switching to or equipping the household with Macs over the last couple of years takes priority. As I tell my wife, I never hurt myself by waiting, as much as Apple’s marketing department might not like to hear me say that. Sometimes there are opportunities you lose if you don’t seize them, and sometimes there are opportunities you can afford to pass up to wait for something better. This seems like one of the latter. I’m going to wait for the dual 2Ghz machine to come down in price or for Apple’s single processor 3Ghz model. Sooner or later, they or something like them will happen.

About Panther and DVD+R/RW…

MacFixIt (http://www.macfixit.com) is reporting that Panther may include DVD+R/RW support. Assuming I could then put a Pioneer or Sony dual format in my dual 1.25 G4 and get it work using both disk formats, this would drive me to Panther even if I would not otherwise go there. I, for one, hope this is true. I’d like the choice of being to work in either format.

A few words about GenieSoft and Micromat…

I’ve had a couple of reasons to correspond with two software companies I’ve never bought from before, i.e., Micromat and GenieSoft. I wrote Micromat about the kernel panic problems I’ve been having with Drive 10 right at the end of an optimization of my 160MB hard drive. Their technical support folks responded in about a day with some helpful hints for troubleshooting the problem. True, I had already done everything they suggested, but the conversational tone of the note was really nice and the response fast. They think the problem is the drive. I think the problem could be the drive but is more likely the combination of this drive and my MDD Power Mac. Frankly, the optimization seems to be completing, I have not found disk errors on the drive after it has crashed during that process, and I’m not having kernel panics during normal operations. I'm not going to spend a lot of time chasing it. Why do I not think it is Drive 10? Because Norton Speed Disk also crashes on that drive, and it doesn’t get but halfway through the optimization when it does.

My wife and I stopped by Micro Center yesterday and picked up a copy of GenieSoft’s ScoreWriter 2. When I tried to install it on her iMac, I discovered that the CD inside the box held an upgrade to patch Score Writer 2.0 to ScoreWriter 2.5 but no ScoreWriter 2. From where I live, it’s a one hour drive back to the store one way and under moderate to light traffic; and not knowing whether I’d find the same problem if I went back to the store and swapped it, I contacted GenieSoft via e-mail and explained the problem. They answered me back in a couple of hours, stating that if I would fax or e-mail them a copy of my receipt, they would send me a copy of ScoreWriter 2 at no charge. Well, I did and they did. Not only did the package leave the next day (today) but they shipped it UPS 2 Day Air! This was for a $35 product!

I only have five words for both companies: “Now, THAT’S customer service!”