The Computer Blog

Monday, August 29, 2005

Crummy G5 Interior

When I opened up my dual 2Ghz G5 PowerMac to install a video card, I found its shiny silver interior was a smudged up white and silver mess. This is a common problem with the G5 PowerMac. The white markings are corrosion induced by my touching of the case while installing hard drives, memory, and video cards.

I had to hunt a little bit before I found a metal polish that would safely remove the corrosion. Make sure you use a polish that specifically states it works on aluminum, or you can wind up doing more damage than good. I sparingly used a product named “MAAS Metal Polishing Creme” I bought at Wal-Mart, applying it, rubbing it in, and removing it using paper towels that came away stained black. Afterwards, I used some soft cloths to polish up. Today, my PowerMac interior looks almost new. But Apple needs to take a strong look at their manufacturing and finishing processes. This was a problem Apple could have designed out.

While I’m talking about the PowerMac, one of the things I’ve learned the hard way is to ensure that I put the PowerMac down on its back (in a horizontal position) when changing out video cards or anything in the PCI slots. If I leave the PowerMac standing vertically and then drop a screw, it tends to lodge in the rear fan assembly. It’s usually easily retrieved from there; but if you dislodge the fan assembly for better access to the crew, you now run the risk of dropping the screw into the case. I did exactly that but somehow managed to get the screw to roll into the very bottom which eventually let me tip the case forward and roll the screw into the very forward bottom of the case. There’s just enough room between the front end of the aluminum floor on which the forward fan sits and the front of the case to fish around and retrieve the screw. But I could have just as easily wound up with a screw I couldn’t retrieve. A loose screw inside a case is an invitation to play Russian roulette; maybe you short something out and fry the machine, and maybe you don’t.

One Good Thing about Apple's Switch to Intel

When I was thinking about what my forward plans were for playing along with Apple’s switch to Intel, I realized that ultimately it could result in me needing to maintain one less computer. Once the first Intel powered iMac’s and PowerMac’s start showing up, I’ll take a look at which one would work best, follow along with how well they are working as dual-boot (Mac OS X/Windows) platforms, and then purchase one. Essentially, I can see one of these machines eliminating my need to keep a separate PC; and that would free up more space in my office and, over the long run, decrease my expenses.

ATI Radeon 9800 Pro for Mac (OEM) 128MB Version

Other World Computing recently put on sale an OEM 128MB version of the card for $179. I sprang for it so I can improve rendering in Motion 2 (which I have yet to buy).

Recent ATI video cards have been noisy, and this card is no exception. Its fan has an irritating whine that is very noticeable when running my dual 2GHz G5 PowerMac. There are two solutions on the market to deal with it; an Artic Cooler ATI Silencer and a replacement fan from Verax. I’m currently leaning toward the latter, even though it is grossly overpriced. The fan costs $79, almost half the cost of the card.

Accelerate Your Mac is a good website to find information on this kind of thing. They have instructions for using the cheaper Artic Cooler VGA Silencer to cool this card. But one has to mod a bracket to get it to work, and that was something I did not want to do. I saw an ATI Silencer at MicroCenter this weekend, but I am not sure whether this specialized version of the VGA Cooler would be easier to install that the original. I haven’t been able to find anything on the web about installing this new card.

I think I ran Cinebench with the new card and did see an improvement, though I’m not sure what I did with that data. If I can find it, I’ll post it and data from runs that used my older Radeon 9600 Pro card. For the moment, since I haven’t bought Motion 2 yet and still have to get the Verax fan, I pulled the card out of my dual G5 PowerMac and am running using the original 9600. I’d rather have a quiet machine if I really don’t need the extra performance; by the time I do, I hope to have the quieter Verax fan installed.

Apple's Not So Mighty Mouse

My wife recently presented me with one of the new Mighty Mouses from Apple. I used it for a few days, hoping I would like it. And while I did like some things about it, a Mighty Mouse it is not; I have reverted back to my Logitech MX510 series optical mouse that has much better ergonomics.

If you like Apple’s single-button mouse but still want a bit more functionality or just must have a horizontal scrolling feature, then the Mighty Mouse might be for you. If you’re happy with your current multi-function mouse, then taking a look at the Mighty Mouse will more than likely just waste your time. In any case, Apple’s price of $49.99 is too high. I’ll be posting a review of the mouse shortly.

Problems with Keynote

My wife went out of town for a university conference, and she called me to discuss a problem with Keynote 2.0. She was trying to link to a Word document and but couldn’t. After I took a few minutes to research the problem, I knew that Keynote only lets one link to other iWork documents but not Microsoft Office documents. Needless to say, I was not impressed.

The owner’s manual stated she could link out to a web page, but Keynote would not open the Word document even after it was saved as an .htm file. I asked her to reset her web browser preferences (in Safari) to Internet Explorer, but Keynote would not open the file using IE. It would only use Safari. So, this “so much like Microsoft” proprietary behavior kept running us into an impass. Sometimes, the behavior of the two companies are just not that far apart.

I solved the problem by having her right-click on the .htm file, selecting “Get Info”, and having her tell the Get Info box to use Safari to open the file. AS soon as we did that, the big blue “e” on the file itself changed to the Safari icon. After changing her web browser preferences back to Safari, we were successful at getting the webpage linking to work correctly with Keynote.

My wife likes Keynote because it creates some pretty nice looking slides and “it’s different”. But we’ve had other problems in the past when working with the program and expecting it to handle tasks that PowerPoint takes in stride. If Apple is serious about making Keynote a contender, then it has to make the program both more capable and more interoperable with other programs, documents, and files. Otherwise, Keynote simply will never take off.

I’m recommending to my wife she not use Keynote unless she is generating all the material within the program or the other files she intends to use with it are simple and compatible graphics formats. As for me, I have yet to use Keynote for anything. I can’t afford the time I could be lose due to incompatibilities with PowerPoint; and I run a copy of PowerPoint 2004 on my Macs anyway. No matter how much I may dislike Microsoft, I’ll go with what works.

Where I've Been...

There have been a couple of reasons why the Computer Blog hasn’t been updated lately. I knew when we purchased our airplane it would eat up some of the time I used to keep these going, and it has. Couple that with my working of the STS-114 mission in the MER and the Grand Canyon river running trip we just returned from, and time spent with our new mechanical, winged baby (a 1976 Cheetah), and I’ve been having a hard time finding time to write. I’ll try to do better…