Mac News Review

Mac mini CPU Transplant, Core Solo mini Not So Good?, How Good Is New Graphics Hardware?, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2006.03.10

This week's top Mac story has got to be the ability to upgrade an Intel-based Mac mini to 2.16 GHz by dropping in a new CPU - that costs as much as the computer! The first Mac mini Core Solo reviews are seeing how it compares with the older G4 model and whether it's a good "switcher" machine.

There's a much-debated article that claims Macs have half the total cost of ownership (TCO) of Windows computers, and WINE, the Windows API for *nix that is not an emulator, reaches version 0.9.9 this week and is available for OS X.

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.

Mac mini Core News

News & Opinion

Tips

Products

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

Mac mini Core News

Intel Mac mini CPU Upgradable

paulstamatiou.com reports:

"Today was the day that just about everyone that ordered a mini on the 28th received it via FedEx. Tons of pictures of the Intel Mac Mini's internals flooded the Internet this morning. Shots of the double-layered DDR2 200pin SO-DIMMs slots, the IR port next to the optical drive responsible for the Front Row remote control feature, the new Serial-ATA hard drive interface and more surfaced. However, one thing that caught my attention was the use of a socket for the CPU rather than a soldered-on, unreplaceable processor. The big connotation with this is that you can buy a cheaper Mac Mini such as the 1.5 GHz Core Solo (assuming the motherboard and software is identical between Core Solo and Core Duo versions) and upgrade it to something like, say a 2.0 GHz Core Duo. I still have to sift through some whitepapers and find exact heat specifications for the 1.83, 2.0 and 2.16 GHz Core Duos to see if the Mac Mini's heat sink and fan combination would be up to the task.

"Similar to the overclocking craze with the old Mac Mini, of which I became victim, I think that we will start to see a hardcore modding scene revolve around putting aftermarket processors in their cheap minis and adapting various cooling solutions to fit them. I already have plans to create a copper cooler, with the help of a friend with access to a CNC, for a new mini which I hope to purchase soon."

Link: Intel Mac Mini Is Upgradable

Mac mini Core Solo Not a Good Switcher Machine

TUAW's C.K. Sample, III reports:

"I'm getting a lot of comments on last night's review of the Mac mini Core Solo, and a lot of Mac faithful are saying that the review is too harsh, that I'm being too negative, and that the majority of the problems would appear to be software glitches, not hardware. They wonder why I am currently panning the device in my review.

"Allow me to offer a very simple rebuttal that I think justifies my negative review. The Mac mini, since its introduction, has been the machine most clearly aimed at switchers. It's a small, supposedly inexpensive computer, sans keyboard, mouse, and screen, that any Windows user can buy as their starter Mac. Now, let's overlook for a moment that in Windows land, $600 for a 1.5 GHz processor and a 80 GB hard drive is by no means a steal. If you were a first time Mac user, who had long heard the marvels of Mac, the stability of OS X, and had finally gone to purchase one, hearing from all your friends that it would be a paradise of no crashes, no bugs, that it would just work compared to your crashtastic Windows machine, wouldn't you be inclined to return it if you encountered all the little glitches I've encountered over the past 24 hours?

"I honestly think that if a substantial number of other Mac mini users are encountering the same problems that I have been encountering, that releasing the machine at this price point and with these problems could in the long run prove to be a huge marketing mistake on Apple's part."

Link: Mac mini Core Solo: Not a Good Switcher Machine

Single-core Mac mini Reviewed, Compared with G4 Version

Ars Technica's Clint Ecker reports:

"Up until Apple's 'fun' announcement on the last day of February, there was really no indication of how Apple's low-end Intel offerings would be presented. Now that Apple has disclosed the specification and price points for their entry-level machines, we can get a better idea of where Apple is trying to take their product line. For those people who might be unaware, two new Mac Mini models were released and by most accounts, the products have been well received aside from a few quibbles over specifications.

"The biggest topic of discussion and opinion slinging online is Apple's decision to go with an Intel integrated graphics chipset. That has reportedly caused a lot of people to postpone their purchases. There are a number of reasons for the outcry, and rest assured we'll touch on them throughout this review. Most importantly, we'll try our best to determine how much that decision will hurt the Mini's performance and possible future sales.

"I am actually an owner of a first-generation Mac mini with a 1.25 GHz G4 processor. I'll be using that machine to highlight that changes to the model throughout this review."

Link: Mac mini (Core Solo)

Intel mini Great for High Definition Video, Graphics Hardware 'a Step Up'

maconintel.com reports:

"Many have been examining the specs of the new Intel-based Mac mini since it was introduced by Steve Jobs at last week's Apple event. Of the changes from the previous G4-based mini, the one item that has raised the most eyebrows is the move from ATI Radeon 9200-based graphics to the Intel GMA 950 chipset. The prime concern? Intel's graphics chipset does not use its own dedicated graphics memory, but uses part of the mini's main memory in a sharing arrangement. 'Shared graphics memory' and 'high performance' are not two phrases people are accustomed to associating with one another.

"It turns out, it's not something to fret about."

Link: Intel mini Is Great for HD Video and Its Graphics Hardware Is a Step Up

Putting the New Mac mini in Perspective

Gene Steinberg, the Mac Night Owl, says:

"Although I've had a fair amount of experience with the first generation Mac mini, and I find it a pleasing product, I don't know if I'm going to review the MacIntel version, although I expect many close encounters with it within the next few weeks. However, the real point of today's exercise is to consider just where it fits in."

Link: Putting the New Mac mini in Perspective

Installing Memory in the Intel Mac mini

A new MacFixIt tutorial says:

"Installing memory Installing RAM and other components in the Mac mini requires lifting off the top housing with a putty knife. However, the putty knife requires modification - Apple says 'Using sandpaper (150 grit), file down the end of the putty knife (on one side) until it's slightly beveled.'

"Memory installation: The only tool required for this procedure (after the top-housing is removed) is a Jeweler's Phillips #0 screwdriver.

"RAM type: The Intel Mac mini uses PC2-5300, unbuffered nonparity, 200-pin, 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM."

Link: Intel Mac mini (#3): Installing RAM, Resetting the SMC, More

Intel Mac mini Take-apart

nak.journalspace.com reports:

"I got a Mac mini today, and took it apart. Here are the juicy photos. Click on any one of them to view the entire gallery....

"The machine is packed very tight, much more so than the PPC Mini. There doesn't seem to be enough room on the motherboard for discrete video. The audio and bluetooth are on a separate boards.

"There are two ram [sic] slots, but they are much harder to get to than in the PPC Mini."

Link: Intel Mac mini Take-apart

News & Opinion

Mac TCO Half That of Windows

Network World,'s Winn Schwartau, president of Interpac, "On Security" and columnist. Discuss MacTel says:

"In April 2005, Apple introduced the OS X 10.4, also known as Tiger. In January, it announced MacTel computing. And now imagine desktop and laptop computers that don't crash for months at a time. Imagine PCs that are close to immune to the endless train wrecks caused by viruses and worms. Imagine increasing the performance of a secure computing environment by as much as 400% overnight. Imagine an engineering company that builds and delivers properly integrated hardware, properly configured security default conditions - almost plug and play. Imagine a computing environment in which the endpoint is not a viable target for the bad guys. And imagine that the total cost of ownership for these benefits is lower than what you are paying.

"No, I am not a converted Mac bigot. My company still uses WinTel machines for many things, but not those daily mission-critical tasks for which availability is the paramount security issue. My concerns are not that different from that of the typical small to midsize business or global enterprise. I want my computer to: work every time; be 100% compatible with my enterprise and applications; and have a high degree of immunity to the prevailing threats out of the box.

"Corporations tend to ignore anything but WinTel machines, partly out of habit and partly because the Dell/HP/Network Associates/Symantec representatives are in their faces every day with next-day promises. Consider this the endless cycle of the heroin sale in IT. Macs also get ignored partly because they're so different, partly because they weren't quite ready for prime-time enterprise play and partly because they are more expensive then WinTel machines.

"I chose to test this last thesis because price is a leading consideration in all aspects of IT operations and a fairly simple exercise. I designed a total cost of ownership (TCO) tool to see whether Apple's higher prices were justifiable. The criteria that go into a TCO go beyond per-box cost, per-seat operating system and Office licenses, and shipping....

"The TCO tool considers reliability costs, downtime per user per year, productivity losses/gains, reboots and system maintenance. The enterprise also needs to consider the help desk and other support time/costs per user per PC....

"The results of this TCO astounded me. For my small enterprise, owning a WinTel box for three years costs twice as much as owning a MacTel. When I talked with several of our clients, I found that the burdened cost of ownership per PC - just for support - ranged from $1,300 to $4,000 per year."

Link: Going Above and Beyond

Tips

Setting Up a Modem for Faxing in Mac OS X 10.4

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says:

"To make your internal Apple modem or external Apple USB modem available for faxing, just send a fax from any application.

"You can follow these simple steps:

  1. If you're setting up an external Apple USB modem, make sure that it is directly connected to your Mac.
  2. Open any document.
  3. Choose Print from the File menu.
  4. Select 'Fax PDF' from the PDF popup menu.
  5. Verify that the expected modem is selected in the Modem popup menu, such as 'External Modem' for the Apple USB modem.

"If you want to receive faxes, set up your Mac to receive faxes. The modem will answer calls (if the computer is turn on and awake) even if the modem does not appear in the Fax List.

"If you are using a third-party modem, contact the manufacturer for assistance if these steps do not help."

Link: Setting Up a Modem for Faxing in Mac OS X 10.4

Products

Mac mini with miniStack the Hub of a Modern Home Media Center

PR: In a live unveiling at Apple Computer Inc.'s headquarters in Cupertino, California, on Tuesday, February 28, Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs announced the immediate availability of the Intel-based Mac mini equipped with Front Row software so that the processor can be hooked to a television and function as an entertainment center access point for the modern living room.

According to Jobs, the newly Intel-equipped Mac mini media center computers are two to five times faster than prior non-Intel models and come equipped with a remote control for easy navigation to play music or videos and to view pictures.

Apple's announcement of the entertainment center focused version of the Mac mini comes on the heels of the retail release of the miniStack V2 by Newer Technology Inc. (NewerTech).

Named the Mac mini "Accessory of the Year" by 123Macmini.com, the miniStack dramatically expands the hard drive capacity and the number of FireWire and USB ports of the Mac mini.

"The combination of the new miniStack V2 and the new Intel Mac mini creates the ideal media center for any home," said Jennifer Soule, sales manager for NewerTech.

The new Intel-based Mac mini is available in two configurations, one incorporating Intel's Core Solo chip and a 60 gigabyte ( GB) hard drive and the other equipped with the faster Core Duo chip and an 80 GB hard drive.

The miniStack V2 from NewerTech expands the hard drive capacity up to 500 GB.

When paired with the Mac mini, the NewerTech miniStack V2 allows ergonomic USB and FireWire port access on the side of the media center. This allows extremely easy access to download photos, music, and video. As a stand alone, the Mac mini does not allow side access.

"Apple's Mac mini and NewerTech's miniStack serve the same purpose: to bring the latest and greatest technology to the home at an appealing price. Paired together the Mac mini and the miniStack make the perfect home entertainment center. The mini provides the operation and the miniStack provides the muscle," said Larry O'Connor, president of NewerTech.

Fitting the same physical footprint and specifically designed to be aesthetically matched, the Mac mini and NewerTech miniStack V2 make a visually appealing, yet unobtrusive combination as a media center.

Link: NewerTech miniStack

MiniView KVM Helps Turn Mac mini into Home Entertainment Center

PR: Consumers can now convert the new Mac mini into an advanced home multimedia center with IOGear's new low-cost, 4-port MiniView USB KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) Switch (model# GCS634U).

IOGear's new product enables consumers to share their favorite music and video files among desktops and laptops. The switch turns any home computer into an entertainment hub and connects to HD TV (High Definition Television) with VGA (Video Graphics Array) input. By linking a USB wireless keyboard and mouse to the KVM switch, users can watch home videos, play their favorite CDs, surf the Internet and control computers' desktop functions from the comfort of their couch.

"With the launch of the 4-port MiniView KVM Switch, IOGear continues to turn existing computer systems into home entertainment centers," said Miranda Su, vice president of sales and marketing at IOGear, Inc. "As KVM switches emerge from the enterprise to the mainstream market, our goal is to enhance the digital living room with these affordable, cutting-edge devices. IOGear continues to introduce innovative new products that are compatible with today's most established brands, including Apple."

The compact KVM switch stacks directly under the mini, reducing home or office clutter. The KVM fully supports multiple operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Sun and Linux. It comes equipped with two built-in cables for simple Plug-n-Play use, featuring two extra ports and two additional detachable cables. The device comes with a unique USB 'Sniffing Technology' that reduces the delay typically experienced when switching computers, and allows multiple computers to be booted simultaneously. The 4-port MiniView USB KVM Switch supports Plug-n-Play monitors and most wheel mice. IOGear's patented Video Signal Enhancement Technology (VSE) provides rich, 32-bit color at resolutions up to 2048 x 1536.

Features

  • Control up to 4 computers from a single video, USB keyboard and USB mouse
  • Expandable & extendable: two 6' molded-in cables, two detachable cables
  • Full support for Mac, PC & Sun systems
  • Supports Mac & Sun special keys
  • Connect speakers to enjoy audio from any connected system
  • Select system by tapping Hot Keys on keyboard
  • Instant, error-free bootup
  • Plug-n-Play
  • 2048 x 1536 video resolution support
  • Requires no software
  • Requires no external power

System requirements:

  • Computers with a USB connection and VGA connection
  • Windows 98, 98SE, ME, 2000, XP
  • Mac OS 8.6 or greater
  • Sun Solaris work station
  • Linux, UNIX and other USB supported systems*
      *Additional drivers and support may be needed
  • Audio: Requires powered speakers systems

The KVM switch features a set of 'hot keys,' IOGear's breakthrough KVM technology. When using a PC keyboard, hot keys are designed to emulate the special keys on all Mac machines.

The self-powered 4-port MiniView USB KVM Switch is priced at $129.95 (MSRP) and is available immediately from all major catalog resellers, online resellers and selected retail outlets. It comes with IOGear's standard three-year warranty.

Link: IOGear Transforms New Mac mini into Home Entertainment Center

Granite Digital Introduces New SATA Aluminum Drive Technology

PR: Granite Digital, Inc. has released a new line of Aluminum SATA storage systems designed from the ground up by Granite engineers which feature less moving parts while still providing the quality and performance users expect from storage-related products produced by the 26-year-old company.

Aluminum SATA storage systems"These new SATA Aluminum RAID and Backup Drive Systems are faster, cooler, better designed, more reliable and affordable than any storage system on the market," said Frank Gabrielli, President of Granite. "We have been innovating storage designs and technology for over 25 years and will continue to create designs that improve and support data storage."

The SATA Aluminum storage systems range from single-drive hot-swap units to 16-drive hot-swap systems capable of storing over 8 Terabytes of data with transfer rates of over 600 MB/s. The unique all-Aluminum design provides cool operation without the use of cooling fans. The cases act as large heat sinks actively dissipating unwanted heat keeping drive temperatures well below industry standard for proper operation.

Granite provided additional engineering design into the hot-swap system of the drives allowing for easy removal and insertion of drive mechanisms making the systems perfect for backup, graphics and prepress, DV, AV and enterprise storage applications.

"We did our homework with these new storage enclosures," said Gabrielli. "We have eliminated many of the common points of failure with storage subsystems and believe we have designed a product that will stand the test of time."

More information on Granite's entire line SATA Aluminum and FireWire storage products can be found on Granite's web page, www.granitedigital.com , or by calling 510-471-6442.

Granite is a leading manufacturer of FireWire (IEEE 1394) and Serial-ATA (SATA) storage solutions for the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows platforms

Granite is a privately held manufacturer of high-quality storage products for the consumer, enterprise and forensic markets. Founded in 1979, Granite is located in Union City, CA. Granite Digital is a trademark of Relax Technology, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective holders.

Link: Granite Digital Introduces New SATA Aluminum Drive Technology

Software

WINE Approaching Version 1.0

The Darwine project intends to port and develop WINE [WINE runs Windows APIs on *nix; it is not a Windows emulator. ed] as well as other supporting tools that will allow Darwin and Mac OS X users to run Windows Applications, and to provide a Win32 API compatibility at application source code level.

A new Darwine release is out, based upon the wine-0.9.9 release.

Corresponding universal Darwine SDK version has been released.

The majority of changes for this release can be viewed here in wine.git/ChangeLog

It is being released as a DEVELOPER PREVIEW so USE AT YOUR OWN RISK! It is not yet suited for mass distribution or general user use.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.3 or later

System support: PPC/Intel

Free

Link: Darwine

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