Mac News Review

Dell Down, Apple Up; Dim Mac mini Video; Radeon Updater; New Driver for Mighty Mouse; and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2005.08.19

PowerBook, iBook, iPod, and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review. News about Apple's transition to Intel CPUs and other Intel developments is covered in The Macintel Report. iPod news is covered in The iNews Review.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Advice

Reviews

Products and Services

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Dell Falls, Apple Gains in Customer Satisfaction

Bloomberg News reports:

"Dell Inc.'s customer satisfaction fell this year as consumers complained of long-wait times for help and trouble getting questions answered.

"Customer satisfaction at Dell, the world's largest personal-computer maker, declined 6.3 percent, based on the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index. Dell fell further behind Apple Computer Inc., which grabbed the top spot in 2004.

"Dell's 'dramatic' decline may be a sign the company is poised to lose sales, said Claes Fornell, marketing professor and head of the university's National Quality Research Center. Apple's customer satisfaction rating was unchanged at 81; Dell's declined to 74 from 79 last year..."

Some Mac mini Owners Report Dim Analog Video

Accelerate Your Mac reports:

"If you've used a mini with a VGA (analog) display, let me know if you've noticed dim video or not. (Include info on your display brand/model as some VGA/Analog displays seem to show this more than others.) Also note if you're using a KVM switch (if so try a direct connect although most noted this didn't help). Thankfully not every owner saw the problem with their specific VGA display. (If you have another Mac or PC system - try comparing the VGA display brightness/contrast to the Mac mini. Some monitors apparently don't show the problem. Note: Apple has posted a kbase doc on the issue with some general things to check first.)"

ATI Radeon ROM Update - Aug 2005

Supported ATI Graphics Cards

Mac OS X

  • Radeon PCI Mac Edition
  • Radeon AGP Mac Edition
  • Radeon 7000 Mac Edition
  • Radeon 8500 Mac Edition
  • Radeon 9000 Mac Edition
  • Radeon 9200 Mac Edition
  • Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Edition
  • Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition
  • Radeon X800 XT Mac Edition

Note: The firmware update will replace any previous versions of the Radeon graphic card's firmware. When you launch the update application and click the install button, it will identify which Mac Edition Radeon card(s) you have installed and proceed only if necessary. If no update is needed, or if no Radeon card is found, nothing will be flashed and the application will prompt you to quit. It is safe to leave other PCI or AGP cards in the system when flashing the Radeon cards. This update will only flash Built-by-ATI Retail Radeon Mac Edition products.

Configuration Requirements

  • Bootable Mac OS X 10.3.6 or newer system
  • Retail Radeon Mac Edition graphics card (installed in AGP and/or PCI slot)
  • Firmware Update application file
  • The computer MUST NOT be interrupted (shut down or power failure) during firmware update

New in this version:

This update brings the retail Radeon board firmware up to date with the latest enhancements and bug fixes

Radeon PCI

  • Fixed a bug where Formac panels would hang on boot
  • Fixed possible blank screen on bootup with some non-ddc displays
  • Fixed a hang when reporting AAPL, VRAM-memory property
  • Fixed a cursor hang when selecting Detect Displays from System Preferences
  • Fixed a bug where some non-ddc displays were incorrectly identified
  • Fixed a bug where ADVANCED settings were not saved to NVRAM on beige G3 (and earlier systems)
  • Fixed a bug where a dead cursor may appear after Detect Displays
  • Monochrome modes are no longer supported

Radeon AGP

  • Fixed a bug where Formac panels would hang on boot
  • Fixed possible blank screen on bootup with some non-ddc displays
  • Fixed a cursor hang when selecting Detect Displays from System Preferences
  • Fixed a bug where some non-ddc displays were incorrectly identified
  • Fixed a bug where a dead cursor may appear after detect displays
  • Monochrome modes are no longer supported

Radeon 7000

  • Added Advanced display controls - requires ATI Displays 4.4.x
  • Fixed black screen display for ratiometric modes
  • Fixed a bug with SONY DVI HDTV going black when switching modes
  • Fixed a bug where Formac panels would hang on boot
  • Fixed possible blank screen on bootup with some non-ddc displays
  • Fixed a cursor hang when selecting Detect Displays from System Preferences
  • Fixed a bug where some non-ddc displays were incorrectly identified
  • Fixed a bug where ADVANCED settings not saved to NVRAM on beige G3 (and earlier systems)
  • Fixed a bug where a dead cursor may appear after Detect Displays
  • Fixed a bug where only native mode appears on some panels
  • Fixed a bug where enabling GTF timings would provide less modes on bootup than if GTF was off
  • Monochrome modes are no longer supported

Radeon 8500

  • Added Advanced display controls - requires ATI Displays 4.4.x
  • Added VERSAVISION display rotation - requires ATI Displays 4.4.x
  • Fixed infinite hang when TV was connected
  • Fixed second display falsely detected during hot plugging
  • Fixed non-DDC monitors only showing one display mode in display mode list
  • Fixed display shutdown when TV connected using ATI Displays
  • Fixed a bug with SONY DVI HDTV going black when switching modes
  • Fixed a bug where Formac panels would hang on boot
  • Fixed a bug where TV was not always being sensed on bootup
  • Fixed possible blank screen on bootup with some non-ddc displays
  • Fixed wrong cursor movement when rotated 270 degrees
  • Fixed a cursor hang when selecting Detect Displays from System Preferences
  • Fixed possible blank screen on boot, or wake from sleep
  • Fixed a bug where a dead cursor may appear after Detect Displays
  • Enabled DDCCi support and added higher refresh rates
  • Support NDRV replacement in OS 9
  • Fixed a bug where only 1 mode is available after rotation
  • ATI ROM Extender required for complete feature support (included with installation)
  • Monochrome modes are no longer supported

Radeon 9000 Pro

  • Custom ROM to restore clock speeds back to original settings on 64 MB version
  • Added Advanced display controls - requires ATI Displays 4.4.x
  • Added VERSAVISION display rotation - requires ATI Displays 4.4.x
  • Updated memory detection and support
  • Fixed mirroring/unmirroring bug with two panels
  • Fixed hotplug bug with 20", 23", and 30" DVI Apple Cinema Displays
  • Fixed a bug with SONY DVI HDTV going black when switching modes
  • Fixed a bug where Formac panels would hang on boot
  • Fixed possible blank screen on bootup with some non-ddc displays
  • Fixed wrong cursor movement when rotated 270 degrees
  • Fixed a cursor hang when selecting Detect Displays from System Preferences
  • Fixed possible blank screen on boot, or wake from sleep
  • Fixed a bug where a dead cursor may appear after Detect Displays
  • Fixed a bug where only 1 mode is available after rotation
  • Monochrome modes are no longer supported

Radeon 9200

  • Fixed a bug where possible desktop corruption may occur
  • Fixed a bug where Formac panels would hang on boot
  • Improved second display detection
  • Fixed a bug where a dead cursor may appear after Detect Displays

Radeon 9800 Pro

  • Improved TV detection.
  • Fixed a bug where Formac panels would hang on boot
  • Fixed a rotation bug where the OS believes the display is mirrored
  • Fixed hotplug bug with 20", 23", and 30" DVI Apple Cinema Displays
  • Fixed a hang when running Photoshop and Quake 3
  • Fixed a bug where a dead cursor may appear after Detect Displays
  • Fixed a bug where only 1 mode is available after rotation
  • Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition
  • Fixed a bug where Formac panels would hang on boot
  • Fixed a rotation bug where the OS believes the display is mirrored
  • Fixed hotplug bug with 20", 23", and 30" DVI Apple Cinema Displays
  • Fixed a hang when running Photoshop and Quake 3
  • Fixed a bug where a dead cursor may appear after Detect Displays
  • Fixed a bug where only 1 mode is available after rotation

Radeon X800 XT Special Edition

  • Fixed a rare occurrence of corruption or hang for a few specific instances involving certain games using FSAA
  • Fixed fan control to be implemented within the card's firmware to maintain full fan control with or without the presence of the ATI ROM Xtender file

CAUTION: All Macintosh graphics cards require a valid and complete firmware (also known as ROM-Image or BIOS) to boot. Do not turn off your computer while the firmware update is being applied.

OS X 10.4.x Tiger: Safe Boot is required to use this ROM Update. Hold shift during boot to Safe Boot.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.3.6 or later

Advice

Turn Your Old Mac into a Backup Server

Dedicated server makes life easier, data safer

Macworld's Joe Kissell says:

"If your home, like mine, has more than a couple of Macs, backing up each one individually can be quite a chore. You can make your life easier - and keep your data safer - by setting up an old Mac or a Mac mini as a dedicated backup server. It'll do all the heavy lifting of backing up every computer regularly, without requiring your constant assistance.

"....For this project, you'll need a Mac with FireWire or USB 2.0 ports, at least 256 MB of RAM, and OS X 10.1.5 or later. This Mac (and the other machines) will need a network connection. An AirPort network will work, but for faster backups, connect the computers to a wired Ethernet switch or hub."

Add Still Images to Your Media Player

IBM DeveloperWorks says:

"The Mac mini offers a viable platform for embedded multimedia development. In this article, Lewin Edwards shows how to make efficient, direct use of the framebuffer to display JPEG files and discusses the issues involved in deciding between direct framebuffer access and using the X server as a graphics driver.

"In the previous article, you gathered together and installed all the pieces required to develop your Mac-mini-hosted multimedia application. This article shows you how to build the first stage of the media player software. It will still handle JPEG images only, but will be easily extensible to handle other media types."

Reviews

More Ports for the Mac mini

PC World's Tracey Capen says:

"I love my Mac mini, but it has one really dumb design flaw - it has just two USB ports. My solution was a cheap four-port USB hub, but I am not happy with having yet another small box sitting on my desk. Which is why I was really pleased when Belkin - a company that has many interesting computer accessories - sent me its new (take a breath) Hi-Speed USB 2.0 and FireWire 6-Port Hub for the Mac mini (four ports are USB 2.0; two are FireWire). What makes this $59 hub better than most is its shape: It has the same footprint as the Mac mini, and being only three-quarters of an inch high, tucks nicely underneath the Mac. This really seems like a no-brainer buy for Mac mini owners."

Mighty Mouse: I Love It

Washington Times' Mark Kellner says:

"It seems doubtful there will be much of a middle ground among those who try, and use, Apple Computer's $49 Mighty Mouse, recently introduced to Mac lovers, but also usable on a Windows PC.

"You'll either love it or hate it, I suspect. And, if you're not using the latest version of Apple's Mac OS X, dubbed Tiger, some features won't be available.

"Having Tiger installed helps put me in the 'love it' category for now. As I play with the mouse, and understand a bit more of the design philosophy, it's quite impressive. This is one of the fastest mice - in terms of scrolling - that I've ever used. The scroll feature isn't a wheel, as found on many mice, but a small button that can scroll in many directions. Getting through Web sites or spreadsheets can be a breeze."

Mighty Mouse More Pixar than Terrytoons

PowerPage's Bob Snow says:

"Apple's new Mighty Mouse while long overdue, is unique and better in a number of ways than my current favorite, the Logitech MX510. Aesthetically minimalist, it loses the transparent outer shell of the old optical mouse gaining side buttons and a tiny track ball. Functionally it has some unique strengths and quirks.

"The trackball or trackpea, as it has been called, is a tremendous feature and is especially slick when using Apple programs. It seems a bit small, kind of a Dinky Duck, and requires a delicate touch. It takes getting used to and this is usually a sign that it could have been done better. I find the tactile feedback very well done...."

Products and Services

Stylish Stand for Mac mini

123macmini.com reports:

"Princeton of Japan has introduced the Stylish Stand for Mac mini. The Stylish Stand is an acrylic enclosure designed to protect and hold the Mac mini either vertically or horizontally. The stand is made out of 3/8" thick flame polished acrylic and stands (W) 7-3/8" x (H) 8-11/16" x (D) 2-15/16". Open slots on the front of the Stylish Stand provide ventilation and access to the Mac mini's optical drive whichever side it is turned on...."

Free 3-Way Shipping with Daystar iMac G4/1.35 GHz Upgrade

[PR] Daystar Technology has announced an introductory special promotion on its newly announced 1.35 GHz iMac Flat Panel Upgrades - the XLR8 1350 MAChSpeed G4 iMFP.

The introductory special provides free shipping (up to three ways, including the custom box) for US customers. International customers are allowed to send their logic boards, for upgrading. They then receive free international return shipping. Users that already upgraded are entitled to a shipping refund, and can request to have a check sent via mail.

This is a limited time offer, expiring September 15, 2005.

The iMac MAChSpeed G4 upgrade uses the fastest 7457 CPU available. With a double size cache (512K) and double CPU speed (1350 MHz), the upgrade provides over 2x performance for iMac 700 and 800 MHz systems.

Like the MAChSpeed G4 Pismo and Lombard upgrades, the iMac Flat Panel upgrade is a full system upgrade. The user orders on line, then sends their system to Daystar via Daystar's custom shipping container.

The Total Cost of the Upgrade is $ 548 - All US shipping included, until September 15th.

"While we've already completed a substantial number of iMac upgrades . . . the industry demanded a lower price," said Gary Dailey, president of Daystar. "We can't compromise on the top-of-the-line, expensive components, but we can cut the shipping . . . so we did!"

Additional information on Daystar Technology and XLR8 can be found via the Daystar website.

Single and Dual PowerForce G4/1.6 GHz Upgrade Cards

[PR] PowerLogix has immediately available 1.6 GHz Single and Dual Processor PowerForce G4 7447A processor upgrade cards.

The cards utilize the latest Freescale PowerPC 7447A and include 512K of onboard L2 cache. They are available now from Other World Computing, master distributor for PowerLogix, for the following prices:

  • Single CPU 1.6 GHz - $299
  • Dual CPU 1.6 GHz - $499

"These cards are high-performance, cool-running, low power-consuming and one-of-a-kind," said Larry O'Connor, president of OWC. "These provide a great speed bump for an incredible value."

As with all PowerForce G4 7447A cards, the new models feature an onboard thermal sensor and real-time thermal monitoring, and support Dynamic Frequency Switching (DFS). PowerLogix is the only manufacturer to offer all these features in one high-quality package.

CPU Director, PowerLogix's proprietary software utility, ships with all 7447A card upgrades. This software provides the user real-time graphical temperature data.

The 1.6 GHz Single and Dual PowerForce G4 7447A cards are available for Power Mac G4 AGP Graphics (Sawtooth), Gigabit Ethernet, Digital Audio, Quicksilver and Quicksilver 2002 models.

The cards are compatible with Mac OS 9.x and Mac OS X 10.3.5 and higher (Mac OS X 10.3.9 or higher is required for thermal monitoring and DFS features).

OWC also has available a 7447A 1.8 GHz and 2.0 GHz for $339 and $399. Dual 7447A cards in speeds of 1.2 to 1.8 GHz also are available from $419.

PowerLogix products are available immediately through Other World Computing via its website.

Combo FireWire/USB 2.0 PCI Card

[PR] U2FWEIDE02 is a USB 2.0 & FireWire (IEEE 1394a) to IDE (ATA/ATAPI bridge board. It is ideally suitable for tailgating removable-media devices such as CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-ROM, DVD-RAM, tape drive, and hard disk drive. It allows IDE drive (master or slave) to connect to USB 2.0 serial bus in a plug-and-play fashion.

Both ATA and ATAPI devices are supported with the same firmware.

USB: USB 2.0 to ATA Native Bridge Controller

  • USB 2.0 interface: one USB B-Type connector
  • USB bus transfer rate: high speed (480 Mbit) or full speed (12 Mbit)
  • USB bus power: self-powered mode operation
  • Complies with T13's ATA/ATAPI-6 draft specification
    • PIO Mode 0, 3, 4
    • Ultra DMA mode 2, 4

FireWire (IEEE 1394a): FireWire (IEEE 1394a) to ATA Native Bridge Controller

  • Number of Ports: external x2 (FW-6pin)
  • 1394a PHY: Ti's TSB41AB2 1394a-2000 400Mbps PHY
  • 1394 Bus Transfer Rate: 100/200/400 Mbps
  • Complies with T13's ATA/ATAPI-6 draft specification
    • DMA Mode 0 - 2
    • Ultra DMA Mode 2, 4, 5

Self-Access

  • Connect U2FWEIDE02 to the resident PC's USB or FireWire port through either a USB or FireWire cable.

Price: $99.99

New Maxtor FireWire 800 Drive

Storage Pipeline reports:

"IT professionals who rely on Apple Macintosh for any of their storage, backup or recovery got a few new options this week to improve speed and management.

"Maxtor Corp.'s newly unveiled OneTouch II drive has a FireWire 800 interface that delivers up to 800 megabits per second of data transfer. Users can can connect the drive to their systems using the FireWire 800, FireWire 400 or USB 2.0 interface to quickly transfer and store high-resolution graphics, digital audio and video and dense multimedia files....

"The new Televaulting software will be available in the fourth quarter; pricing starts at $11,250."

Software

SteerMouse Driver for Mighty Mouse, Other USB Mice

[PR] This is a useful mouse driver. It supports Tilt Wheel and Multi Button Mouse.

You can customize buttons, wheels and cursor speed freely.

SteerMouse supports the Mighty Mouse.

SteerMouse has convenient and unique functions that Apple's driver doesn't have. SteerMouse makes best use of the Mighty Mouse.

  • You can assign various functions, such as a shortcut key input, a cursor movement for the default button, etc.
  • You can customize the scroll ball.
  • You can adjust the cursor speed and the cursor acceleration. (Apple's driver allows you to adjust only the cursor acceleration)
  • You can customize the Mighty Mouse in each application.

All functions can be used on Tiger and Panther. Please experience true ability of the Mighty Mouse. Apple's driver doesn't provide it .

SteerMouse supports the USB Mouse of all manufacturers.

SteerMouse can support not only the Mighty Mouse but also the USB Mouse of all manufacturers. Of course, SteerMouse doesn't ask for the USB Mouse for Win and Mac.

SteerMouse supports the Tilt Wheel.

You can assign a horizontal scroll, a vertical scroll or a shortcut key input. In addition, You can adjust the scroll speed.

SteerMouse supports buttons up to 8.

You can make the best use of the wheel, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th button.

SteerMouse allows adjusting the cursor speed and acceleration.

You can adjust the cursor speed and acceleration. (Apple's driver allows you to adjust only the cursor acceleration) You can make the sense of your hand of a cursor movement.

SteerMouse moves the cursor automatically.

When a window is displayed, SteerMouse moves the cursor to the target, such as OK button, close button, etc... You never lose the cursor, because the cursor performs animated movement.

SteerMouse has a lot of convenient and unique functions, and customizes your mouse greatly.

  • Assign a shortcut key. It is possible to allocate a shortcut key to the rotation of the scroll ball and the wheel.
  • Moves the cursor to the target, such as OK button, close button, etc. You never lose the cursor, because the cursor performs animated movement.
  • Scroll vertically or horizontally. You can adjust the scroll speed.
  • Assign click, double-click, modifiers+click etc.
  • Display the process window for switching the application.

SteerMouse is customizable in each application.

You can customize your Mouse in each application. Please find best settings for you!

You can easily uninstall SteerMouse from the help menu.

Feel free to try!

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later. (We plan to support Intel Mac)

SteerMouse doesn't work on the Bluetooth Mouse.

If you've installed the third-party mouse driver, you must uninstall it before installing SteerMouse. You don't have to uninstall Apple's mouse driver.

SteerMouse is $20 shareware.

Desktop Mac Deals

Low End Mac updates the following price trackers every two weeks:

For deals on laptops, see our Week's Best PowerBook G4 Deals, Week's Best iBook G4 Deals, and Week's Best iBook G3 Deals. For deals on iPods, see our Best iPod Deals.

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