I’m writing this piece on my “new” refurbished 20 inch Intel-powered iMac. I have to say up front that getting it up and running—and that includes Windows XP in a dual boot configuration using Boot Camp—has been less hassle than expected. On Intel based Mac OS X using Rosetta, my Adobe applications all run without crashing and are usable to the point where I’m not unhappy with them, though I will replace them with Universal Binary versions once they’re released. I’ve only noticed one application that doesn’t perform well enough under Rosetta to make it worth keeping, and that was MT-Newswatcher, my Usenet newsgroup reader. While I’ve taken a look at replacing it with a tool named “Unison” which is a Universal app, I’m just using Entourage’s less-than-optimum newsreading capability to avoid paying Unison’s $25 fee for now. I’ve had to fork out bucks for a copy of XP Pro and Norton Antivirus 2006 to run Windows on the iMac, so I’m trying to put off any more software expenditures until I get over the financial hump of buying this machine.
I did have to reload my Logitech Control Center software, even though the version transferred over from my G5 iMac was supposed to be Universal. That said, my Logitech S530 wireless keyboard and mouse are working great with the iMac under both OS X and Windows XP Pro, though I don’t have all features under the latter due to lack of drivers. I’ve thought about loading up a set of Logitech drivers for a different keyboard under XP just to see if I might get some of the extra functionality back, but it’s not something worth the risk of tackling. I’ve also had to reload my printer and scanner drivers with Universal versions, and they’re all working like they’re supposed to. Thanks be to Epson for updating most of their stuff.
Transferring activation and deauthorizing iTunes on the G5 before using Apple’s Migration Assistant to transfer applications and data to the Intel iMac did avoid problems. I did discover one bug during that process. I walked out of the room during the transfer and the Intel iMac went to sleep, hanging the process and causing me to start over. Sleep functions are controlled through System Preferences/Energy Saver functions you cannot access during this part of the evolution, so I wound up sitting at the machine and moving the mouse every minute or so (and especially when I would see the screen dim which would occur before the hard disk was put to sleep) to keep the transfer going. That worked but kept me tied to the machines the whole time.
Other than that, the only other problem I experienced occurred right after the transfer had stopped. Once I got through the rest of the set-up process and was back at my desktop, I could not mount any compressed files and several applications seemed unresponsive. A reboot cleared up all that, and I then used updates stored on CD or DVD and Apple’s Software Update to bring all my software up to the latest specs.
That done, I unplugged the system, laid it face-down on a towel, located the small plate that hides the system’s memory on the bottom, and removed it. There were two slots for the SODIMM modules visible; the system came loaded with one 512MB SODIMM. Two plastic, white levers help leverage memory out of their slots, but putting new memory in consists of just aligning the slot in the SODIMM with the slot in the iMac. I loaded in a 1GB PC-5300 DDR2 SODIMM bought from Crucial (for around $150) to give the machine a 1.5 GB total. Later, I plan on kicking the total memory up to 2GB; and I’ll keep the 512 to use in my wife’s Intel iMac. She isn’t saying she wants one right now, but I would not be surprised if she wants or gets one by the end of the year.
I’ve only done a little bit of testing of my Adobe applications, but they seemed to work better than I expected, even though benchmarks around the web are showing me I’m going to take about a 50% speed hit when I start tasking them. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about how they really work as time goes on. To hedge against bigger performance hits than I’ve seen so far, I do have older versions of Illustrator and Go Live and a trial version of Photoshop CS2 loaded up on the XP side of the machine not to mention CS and CS2 versions loaded up on my dual processor G5 PowerMac.
Speaking of running XP Pro, I have to say that the Intel powered iMac is one of the best XP machines I’ve ever seen. Set-up running Boot Camp was easy and flawless. I especially liked being able to set the XP partition size up graphically in true Apple fashion. It formatted a 50GB partition in NTFS, which implied I would not be able to see it from my OS X partition. That is not true. Ironically, I can see everything on the XP partition but can see nothing on the OS X partition from the XP side even though I am running MacDrive 5 on XP.
So far, I’ve loaded up all the applications I currently want to run and three flight simulators on the XP side, though I haven’t tried hooking up any game controllers yet. I’ve got a CH Pro USB yoke and pedal set to try and will be also getting a CH Pro Flightstick. I’m looking forward to trying them all out, though it will probably be at least a week or so before I can get there.
One thing that is a downer is I have no way of modifying the XP partition. Boot Camp is not set up to modify a partition once it’s set. That clears the room for either a Mac or PC based company to invent a software tool to do it, and it would be really cool if I could move my OS X and XP partitions around as needed, though I understand that the process will never be risk-free. Still, my only current option is to find some way to back up my XP partition and start from scratch if I need to expand or contract it. Stay tuned.
To say a bit more about the iMac itself, I’m happy to report that this machine has no defects I have found. The screen has no scratches, nicks, or dead or latched-on pixels and is bright. It is very quiet compared to the G5 iMac I just gave up. I can barely hear any noise at all from the fans, and I’ve only heard them rev up once. The experience is almost identical to that of being on a G5 iMac except there’s less noise. Apple final seems to have gotten the “quiet factor” right with these machines. This one has also re-established my faith in buying refurbished machines from Apple. I saved $300 by buying it refurbished, and used that money to cover a memory upgrade and the cost of XP Pro.
The other thing, too, about the design of these machines is the slimmer profile really makes these things not quite the monsters the original G5 iMac’s were. When I had a 20 inch model in my office before, I’d walk in feeling like the thing was somehow out of place. Not so with these new machines. I’m really enjoying being on the larger 20 inch screen again.
That’s not to say I’m not taking small hits because of the change, and mainly due to lack of Universal Binary software in some areas. I’m running Safari under Rosetta so that it works with FlipforMac and I maintain the same seamless access to video I had on the G5. This works so well that in some cases, I’m using Safari to open Windows Media (.wmv) files that I would normally open in Windows Media Player or QuickTime (equipped with FlipforMac). I’m awaiting a Universal Binary update to Pocket Mac for Phone and figure if I really need to update the data in my Samsung i600, I’ll do it using Windows based tools and catch up the Mac side later (or manually).
Guess that’s all for now. We’re planning on dropping by the Apple Store today and taking a look at the MacBooks.