Charles Moore's Mailbag

2011 MacBook Pro Benchmarks, Lion Beta Won't Boot 2006 Mac mini, Remembering At Ease, and More

Charles Moore - 2011.03.10 - Tip Jar

MacBook Pro Gaming Benchmarks

From Dan:


I read up on the gaming benchmarks for the new 2011 MBP and must say that I wholeheartedly agree that a dedicated GPU is a must, even with the new integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics. The best source for GPU gaming test results on a Mac are available at the always reliable Bare Feats.

Also, the value equation for 2010/2011 MBP units is a great comparison between models, and although the closeouts are very appealing, I would be hard pressed not to jump on the Thunderbolt bandwagon given the bandwidth it allows compared to USB 3.0 and Firewire 800. According to the Intel tech releases, Thunderbolt seems to have the ability to be cross-compatible with Firewire and eSATA, so I would not be surprised to see Apple eventually ditch the Firewire ports, allowing continued use through adapters, making way for another Thunderbolt port or another connection of sorts, further increasing versatility.

In addition, I foresee a new generation of our cherished Firewire Target Disk mode becoming available between two Thunderbolt devices for ultra-fast transferring of data through the daisy chaining nature of the connection (very similar to Firewire). Imagine cloning an entire 500 GB hard drive at 60-80% capacity to another Thunderbolt device in a matter of minutes! If the two storage devices on the linked units are SSD, imagine how much faster that could be!

Overall, the 2011 MacBook Pro is very tempting to me, but the only thing that continues to hold me back (aside from the $ factor) on upgrading to one, yet alone any other Intel 'Book (as I type on my 2005 12" 1.5 GHz PowerBook G4), goes back to some of those DRM issues between Intel and Apple. The last two generations of 15" MacBook Pro, and every 17" MacBook Pro since 2008, has shipped with a screen that can easily handle 1080p HD video. With that said, why no Blu-ray drive and Blu-ray playback still? It's 2011 for crying out loud! Apple and Intel need to get over it and end the power struggle. Blu-ray is now over 5 years old and is the HD standard for commercial optical media whether or not those at Apple want to admit it. Apple just needs to cave in and make their devices compliant with HDCP in OS X, then add the Blu-ray playback support in Quicktime/DVD Player (then they could call it Blu-ray Player).

I hate to get on a soap box here, but optical media (or at least physical media) in my honest opinion will never die. iTunes downloads (even in full HD) will never replace a physical disc or memory card I can touch and hold, knowing that my drive will play it back again and again. People want to have something they can always be in control of, that they can resell or purchase on the used market.

Look at how bad the PSP Go tanked. Sony took away UMD, went to download only, and charged the same price for the games and videos. The masses cried foul, and the PSP Go is almost nowhere to be found in retail outlets.

Sony learned their lesson the hard way, and the successor to the PSP (currently code named NGP - or Next Generation Portable) will use a proprietary form of flash memory. Sony's still in control, while the gamers have something they can hold, along with something they can buy and sell used. It's a win-win-win for Sony, the consumer, and the resale outlets.

In that same light, there's the choice between physical and streaming/download media on the Mac. While the latter is a nice supplement, it will never serve as a replacement. Let's hope Apple and Intel get things straightened out in time for Mac OS X 10.7 so that Apple can finally bring us Blu-ray playback support. It would be a great time for a slight refresh of this new line of portables just released, along with every other Mac platform by finally offering a Blu-ray drive option. The dual-layer Superdrive is just so 2005!

On the other hand, a fresh new MacBook with dedicated graphics and Blu-ray drive shipped with OS X 10.7 for $999 sounds very appealing. Use my streaming Netflix in HD, while picking up a Blu-ray or two on the go for sleek playback using BD Live over Wifi. I'm game! Maybe the next generation can even add a 4D display as an option that can display 3D content without glasses (similar to Nintendo's 3DS). Imagine what that would do for Apple's gaming reputation?

- Dan

PS: Sorry for the rant, but it's rather frustrating that such a simple problem has yet to be resolved with an obvious and simple solution.

Hi Dan,

No need to apologize. It's a perfectly good rant on some interesting topics.

I agree with you that I would not be inclined to buy an earlier model MacBook Pro without Thunderbolt at this stage of the game. Personally I'm not a gamer, so based on what I've been reading, I think I could get on quite happily with just the Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics chipset. It's probably faster than the Nvidia GeForce 9400M IGPU in my Late 2008 Unibody MacBook, and I'm still quite satisfied with the performance I'm getting from that. And, of course, if one needs the faster graphics, it's there in the 15" and 17" MacBook Pro.

Regarding optical drives in general, I think we will see internal units phased out of Apple laptops in the not too distant future, with the MacBook Air style workaround of an optional extra-cost external optical drive for those who still want one, hopefully with a Thunderbolt interface rather than pokey USB. For the amount I still use optical drives, that would be a perfectly acceptable solution, but I would be sorry to see the optical drive gone entirely and don't anticipate that happening for quite some time yet. I do think that it's looking like Apple is going to phase out shrinkwrap software in favor of Mac App Store downloads.

I'm also skeptical that we will ever see OEM Blu-ray support on the Mac. As you say, they've held it off for five years, and there doesn't seem to be any reason why they would change that policy. Steve Jobs famously dislikes Blu-ray, having called it "a big bag of hurt" a few years back. I doubt that he's changed his mind.

However, you can retrofit Blu-ray to a fairly wide variety of Macs - even Pismos and G4 iBooks - with kits from FastMac. No Unibody MacBook Pros though, and for movie playback you'll need to be running Windows in Boot Camp.

For machines that are not supported by their internal Blu-ray drive upgrades, and for that matter Macs that are, FastMac offers a freestanding Blu-ray drive for $109.95 (BD-ROM), $199.95 (1x BD-R), $299.95 (4x BD-R), and $349.95 (6x BD-R). Here are some details:

Rhythm and BluCutting edge. Massive storage. High quality. And it all fits in the palm of your hand. The next generation DVD is here. FastMac's Blu-ray Drive takes optical burning further than it's ever gone before. Write up to 50GBs of storage. That's 60 days worth of music. Two months non-stop, no repeats. One disk.

FastMac's Blu-ray Drive is compatible with all DVD and CD recordable media including DVD±R/RW + Dual/Double Layer, DVD-RAM, and CD-R and CD-RW. A bundle containing the award-winning Toast 8 Titanium and one 25GB Blu-ray rewritable disc is available so you can get started right away. And with Toast's new Dynamic Writing feature, you can use Blu-ray like a hard disk drive. Just drag and drop directly onto the icon to add or remove files. Keep projects separate and organized. Protect sensitive data.This is the future of entertainment and storage. And it's here today.


Lion Beta Won't Boot a 2006 Mac mini

From John:

Good evening gents,

I ran the 10.7 beta installer on my Core 2 Duo upgraded 2006 vintage Mac mini. Lion installed, but it doesn't boot.

Core Duo Mac mini will not boot Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Beta
Error message trying to boot Lion on a 2006 Mac mini.

Frustrating, as the installer created a system restore partition with the same functionality as you'll find when booting from generations of Mac OS X install discs; and that limited environment works perfectly, fancy Lion look and all.

I must try with a Core 2 Duo native Mac mini sometime (I know someone who runs one at home). My mini was originally an unsupported Core Duo, and I'm wondering if its motherboard is being refused simply because of that heritage, or if there really are missing drivers.

- John

Thanks for the report, John. I also suspect that the problem is with the mini's motherboard being unrecognized because the machine was originally a Core Duo unit.


Alternative Access to Files

From Greg after reading Some System 7/OS X 10.7 Parallels:

In your 3/3 Mailbag, a reader reminisced about an alternative file/app launcher:

"Also, System 7 had something kinda like LaunchPad. Not the Launcher, though that was there too. But I remember there was some application (maybe it was third party?) that was a Finder alternative, wherein your screen was covered by one giant folder with a grid of buttons that went across the screen. There were two tabs on the screen - when you clicked the brown one, the buttons showed your applications. The blue one made the buttons show your saved files. I don't know its name, but I know that it existed. I just think it's funny how something like that existed so ahead of its time."

Apple's At Ease launcher for System 7
Apple's At Ease launcher for System 7.

It wasn't third-party. It was Apple's own At Ease.


Response to Some System 7/OS X 10.7 Parallels

From Charles K:

Hi there:

I just wanted to let you know that the giant folder with buttons software mentioned in the article was Apple's At Ease. It was often used in classrooms so that children would not have access to the machine's settings and other software that the administrator did not want them to have access to.


Bypassing At Ease

From Greg:


Here is a link to the software Kyle was talking about, the application was called At Ease. It was meant as a parental control type system that was included on early Macs and was actually first party software. It came on my family's first Mac in 1994, Performa 638CD. I remember it frustrating me to no end that I could not have full access to the system (I was 8 at the time). This was when I learned to RTFM - ahhh, Shift at boot to bypass, the fondest of childhood memories. Little did I know that bypassing that app is probably what directed me down the path of Mac IT/Support.

Anywhoo, thought Kyle might enjoy the link and you might enjoy the story.


At Ease File Launcher

From Matt:

Hi Charles,

Thought I would chime in on your last mailbag article regarding the System 7/OS X 10.7 parallels letter. The "Finder alternative" that Kyle was referring to definitely sounds to me like Apple's At Ease program. It was very popular in education (my grade school used it for a while on the first Macs they ever got) and on kiosks, providing a very directed and secured interface. At one point it was added to the system software provided on Performa models to give parents a way to provide parental controls, and eventually At Ease for Workgroups debuted to provide IT infrastructures the first multi-user Mac OS paradigm. A long and distant memory, indeed....


Hi Greg, Charles, Greg, and Matt,

Ah, now I recall with you guys having jogged my memory. I thought At Ease was aesthetically homely and clunky back in the day and never used it.


Tabbed Finder for System 7

From Zed:


Simple Finder in Mac OS X

In your most recent mailbag Kyle asked about the Tabbed Finder in System 7. I think he is referring to the Simple Finder, which I think was aimed at the education market. Indeed it was just two tabs on the screen. One for applications and one for documents. It also had a bad habit of getting stuck in that mode.


Hi Zed,

I think I remember the Simple Finder vaguely. What distinguished it from the alternate At Ease environment?


Note: Answering my own question, it looks like Simple Finder is a much less ugly OS X retake of At Ease. More info at these links:

KVM Switch Instead of Virtual Screen Software?

From David:


For Robert, who was looking for virtual screen software:

If your main objective is to share a monitor between a Mac and a PC without plugging and unplugging, why not try a Keyboard-Video-Mouse (KVM) switch? If you're using a VGA monitor connection, KVM switches with USB keyboard/mouse ports can be had for under US$20 on eBay. You can then just switch back and forth between the two computers as needed.

If you really need screen zooming or simultaneous operation of the two machines on a single monitor, this probably won't help.


Thanks David.

Info forwarded to Robert.


Citroënistas of the World Unite

From Tim:

Citroën DS

Took these shots a few months ago (publisher's note - not included with this article); the locale is just around the corner from The Travel Bookshop of that film and just a block away from Portobello Road and just near my flat.

Heck, I remember the first DS I saw as a kid in the mid-50s in Johannesburg. Sixty years on, and it is still an extremely elegant timeless design.

Now FIAT have gone mad: They want to launch the Lancia Thema in the UK as a Chrysler Thema. Will someone shoot that Canadian!

Best wishes -

Hi Tim,

Thanks muchly for the great shots. What a cool looking car! I have never actually seen a DS convertible in the live sheet metal. There are some in the US, but it would be an understatement to say that Citroëns were never a big seller here in Atlantic Canada.

We are on the same page about the DS convert. Not so much I guess on the Lancia Thema and my fellow Canadian citizen Mr. Marchionne. The thing is, the Lancia Thema "is" a Chrysler. Specifically, a mildly badge-engineered Chrysler 300C with a Lancia nameplate. This isn't really a revolutionary departure for FIAT. The original Thema produced by Lancia between 1984 and 1994 was on a platform shared with the SAAB 9000, the Alfa Romeo 164, and the Fiat Croma.

The 300C is a pretty good car. The original series that was introduced as a concept car at the 2003 New York Auto Show, with US and Canadian sales commencing in the spring of 2004, incorporated previous generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class suspension bits and was available with the legendary revived Chrysler Hemi V-8. Based on early reports, the refreshed 2011 300C that will be released later this year (and of which the new Lancia Thema is a variant) is even better - especially the interior styling and finish and suspension tuning refinement, improvements I think we can attribute to Sergio Marchionne's stewardship.


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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at and a columnist at If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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