Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

iMac 27″ screen repair complete

November 25, 2010 7 comments

Intel iMac 27"

The new iMac 27" with LCD backlit screen.


My iMac 27″ came back from Apple after it developed dark patches on the screen and has had its screen repaired. It is now as good as new (well, technically better because I only actually bought a 24″ iMac, and this one was a replacement).

In any case, the machine is back and has been restored to its former glory.

My real worry is that, since it took 8 months for the patches manifest and suddenly, over the course of a month, spread to cover the whole screen, will I be in for another replacement in nine month’s time? I hope not because my guarantee runs out in March of 2011…. I think I’m going to have to get Apple Care, Again!

Fingers crossed.

Firewire vs. USB

September 10, 2009 2 comments

The battle between Firewire (A.K.A. IEEE 1394, iLink) and USB rages on.

i switch

It’s well known that although USB 2.0 shows a higher speed on paper (480Mbps vs. 400Mbps) than Firewire, due to inefficiencies in USB protocol and the fact that USB requires the host to manage the transfer of data, Firewire is in actual fact faster on the whole.

The reason is cited as being not just the efficient, real-time, streaming oriented protocol but the Firewire controller itself, which manages much of the dirty work when it comes to data transfer, offloading the stress of controlling real-time, high speed data from the motherboard/CPU onto the device.

This offers two main benefits:

  1. The host CPU or controller has less work to do and can focus on other, more important stuff, meaning the attached host will feel more responsive and less stressed under heavy load.
  2. Because major data flow control is performed on the device itself, wasteful, detailed control data does not have to flow back and forth between the device and the host, leading to less wastage and latency.

…and two main drawbacks:

  1. The controller is relatively complex and thus expensive.
  2. The controller’s complexity can lead to difficult to diagnose compatibility issues.

Which leads to my main issue.

My Logitec MA-16FU2/WM external firewire and USB dvd burner regularly fails to mount disks on my Mac, while connected by Firewire but performs flawlessly with USB.

Basically, no disks inserted will mount at all under Snow Leopard.

Indeed “about this mac/more info…” shows no sign of any volume in this drive, whether it’s directly connected to the mini or via the firewire hub of the Princeton PHD-MM160IUH.

Moreover a second firewire / USB device will often fail to remount over firewire if I shut it down or disconnect it. Again, it works flawlessly over USB. Moreover, it even works with Firewire when connected to my Windows PC!

Go figure!

I’ve tried:

sudo kextunload


sudo kextload /System/Library/Extensions/IOFireWireFamily.kext/Contents/PlugIns/AppleFWOHCI.kext/

but the external drives just shut down and restart, still without mounting the volumes.

No joy.

It’s really ironic that the Mac has worse support for firewire than Windows, especially since Apple were one of the founders of the specification.

basically, despite the ‘so-called’ superiority Firewire, I can only get my job done reliably with USB… sigh.

So long and thanks for all the fish – aka Good by free home page hosting.

May 7, 2009 1 comment

I just spotted this post saying good bye to free web hosting and felt obliged to respond.

I often lamented the move to blogging, which seems to make it difficult to keep track of where and how data is stored. After all, we are 3D beings, but blogging tends to be 1D in nature (time based). It’s a real step back in structure and organisation.

With .MAC (now mobile me) closing its own online web hosting door, I think that he has spotted something I’d missed, and that is the death of the personal home page. Web 2.0 is here to stay, so good bye then Web 1.0 You were fun while you lasted.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.


Windows 7 not much faster than Windows Vista – My first impressions of Windows 7

I wrote this in response to an article I saw regarding the relative speeds of Windows 7 and Vista.

I have a venerable 2.8GHz P4 with Intel RAID on 2x160GB HDD and a gig of RAM which I bought in 2003 or something… I only upgraded it once to a 256MB NVIDIA 7600 as I was running it as a Tiger Hackintosh for a couple of years. It really flew on Tiger, but I had a real Mac (albeit a G4) which was slower but much less flakey and so went back to the trouble free XP.
I then made the mistake of BUYING A BOX COPY (sheesh) of Vista Ultimate. My first ever Box OS purchase. My poor machine really felt its age since it would no longer play back HD videos smoothly, so the box went back to XP again and served as my main Playback device for my Projector for a couple of years.

On hearing all the Windows 7 brouhaha I decided to retry Vista with SP1 and about 75 incremental upgrades and put office 2003 and Zend Studio back on.

To be frank, It wasn’t as slow as I remembered it. It was as if the patches were just enough to allow my old faithful to climb back on to its feet.
And Aero’s 3D surfaces for each application actually meant the interface was MORE responsive and Mac Like since each app didn’t have to redraw when brought to the front. With the RAID disks, even 1Gb of RAM was usable (although multitasking slowed it much sooner than in XP).

I found myself honestly enjoyin using Vista for the last month or two and not missing XP, even when I had to really struggle to find any of the randomly shuffled functions.

Last month, I forced myself to make what I promised is the last upgrade to this machine and got 2GB RAM. My old faithful suddenly sprang to life… After a couple of days of heavy use, the memory was full, but it appeared to be about 1.5GB of cache! Office opened instantly (once I turned off min/maxing animations) ! I mean that literally. It was definitely faster than XP in general use and although 1080P HD Vid playback still stutters, my Leopard C2D Intel iMac w/ 4GB of DDR2 can’t match it for general interface response speed!!

So, to cut a long story medium, I installed the Windows 7 RC on the 2nd of May(!!!) expecting wonderful things… Firstly, the interface and colours remind me of a certain open source OS. Light, simple, breathy. Everything is simpler. I haven’t scratched my head as much as I got accustomed to with Vista, for sure.

However, I NOTICED NO SPEED INCREASE for my particular workload of Zend, Office and a Trial install of Illustrator CS4, indeed Office felt marginally slower which corroborates what was mentioned in the article. Instantaneous was replaced with a slightly annoying Almost Instantaneous, but not quite sort of feeling.

Still, benchmarks aside W7 is definitely less offensive to use than Vista.

In conclusion, then, I think it’s all about expectations. I was expecting molasses for Vista and got syrup – It felt good. i was expecting water for W7 and got slightly warmed syrup – I felt cheated and actually missed Vista’s moody dark interface.

Windows 7 is not much faster than Windows Vista but of course, YMMV.

Disclosure: I’m a “slider” rather than switcher, finding my Windows use fading out since 2005 on the release of the Mac Mini. My SOHO now consists of 6 Macs and only 3 PCs (one of which is a netbook). I now basically use Windows for Office 2003 compatibility and a label printer that refuses to talk Mac.

BTW, Vista Boot Camp on an Aluminium Mac 24″ w/ 4GB of RAM is THE FASTEST Office 2003 machine I have ever used. It’s shockingly instantaneous! If I had time, I’d install W7 on it, but I can’t be bothered.

Safari 4 and Hotmail Problem – Can’t Open Mail

March 27, 2009 2 comments

Although you can log in to Hotmail with Safari 4, you may find that you can’t actually read messages: They won’t open when you click on them.

If this is the case, there is a simple solution.

  1. Restart Safari to clear your hotmail session.
  2. Open Safari >> Preferences menu
  3. Click on Advanced
  4. Enable the “Develop” menu by clicking the check box and close the settings box.
  5. Select Develop >> User Agent >> Opera 9.63 Mac
  6. Browse to or whatever you use.

You should now be able to access Hotmail Normally.

>> Remember to change your User Agent Back to Safari when you leave Hotmail if you are a fan of Browser statistics.

Apple release Mac OS X 10.5.5 Update – Nothing to report

September 17, 2008 2 comments

We have a nice selection of Macs all now updated to 10.5.5 without fanfare.
Each machine is quite different and has a very different selection of software installed and hardware connected.

  • Mac Mini (Intel 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo) – Mac OS 10.5 Server
    • Server version of Mac OS X
    • External Firewire storage
    • USB Memory Card Reader
  • iMac 24″ (Intel 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo)
    • Vista under Boot Camp
    • Various large video and graphical editing packages.
    • MS Office
    • Firewire 800 RAID storage
    • USB Card Reader
    • Firewire Scanner
    • Graphical Pen Tablet 
  • 12″ Powerbook (PPC 1.5GHz)
    • MS Office
  • Power Mac G4 Cube (PPC 1.4GHz) 
    • MS Office
    • Zend Studio for Eclipse
    • Entropy PHP on Apache Package
    • Scanner
    • Printer
    • Graphical Tablet
  • iMac 15″ (PPC 700MHz, dome shaped effort)
    • MS Office
I have upgraded all to Mac OS X 10.5.5 from 10.5.4 without a hitch, directly from Apple Software Update.
Now, there are some seriously arcane steps recommended by MacFixIt Macintouch and a few other sites,
such as booting into Safe Mode, disconnecting everything but the mouse and keyboard, standing up and turning around thrice before touching your nose with a rose scented towel, etc.
But I’ve never, once bothered with them. If I ever encounter a problem, or I suspect that a problem has occurred I just run the complete Combo Update from Apple Downloads.
p.s. 10.5.5 Combo is about 700MB in size.
Anyway… the reboot process took longer than usual, with a what might once have been disconcerting restart half way through.
All came back to normal, fine. No apparent differences in day to day operations. Goodness knows what the “extensive graphical updates” were. Probably just bug/stability fixes.
Will see if crashes get less of a problem with this OS…
Just thought you might want to know, since everything you tend to read on line is about problems people are having. Well, luckily for me, this time (touch wood) there were no problems.
Categories: Mac, Technology Tags: , , , ,

Difficulties installing Boot Camp 2.1

September 17, 2008 2 comments

I have an iMac 24″ running Vista under the Boot Camp that came with Leopard (v 2.0)

The next software update after installing Vista advised me that Boot Camp 2.1 was available, so I downloaded it but I couldn’t install it because an error appeared:

Error applying transforms. 
Verify that the specified transform paths are valid

The problem in my case was that I was using a localised version of Vista.

The Boot Camp software is stupidly American only. It expects to find a key in the (Windows) registry with the value 1033 (American English).

Instead, it found 1041 (Japanese) and the installer stalled!

The solution is simple:

<Now for the patronising bit>

First. Back up your Windows Registry.

Read through this post entirely before starting. If any of the terms are unfamiliar, write a comment asking for assistance.

If you don’t know how to backup your Windows Registry, or don’t know what a Registry is… or heaven forbid, what a backup is, you should stop reading this post right now, do a bit of googling and come back.

<OK, end of disclaimery patronising bittage>

  • To open the Registry editor click the start button and type regedit into the search field.
  • Select Edit and Find from the regedit menu and type “Boot Camp Services” then press enter.

Note that Services may be localised to the language of your system. In my case, it was

Boot Camp サービス

since I’m using Japanese Windows. You can search just for Boot Camp” if you’re not sure, but it may throw up lots of hits.

Edit the Language D-Word entry and change it to 409 in hexadecimal (should be 1033 decimal)
Re-run the installer.
Now you should be able to successfully installthe Boot Camp update.

My Intel ‘Aluminium’ iMac 24″ roasting with dark spots on screen

August 12, 2008 37 comments

My gorgeous iMac 24″ has started getting VERY HOT over the summer, with my room reaching just over 30C in the day time, this can lead to the thing reaching 80 degrees or more internally.

I’ve installed a fan controller to boost fan speed and this has helped reduce the temperature down to the low/mid 60’s

More worrying, the screen has started developing dark patches here and there. At first, there was just one or two, down the left hand side, towards the bottom of the screen about two-thirds of the way down, but now they have multiplied to about ten and a new patch has sprung up on the right hand side.

I hope it’s nothing to do with the heat.

Luckily, I have my three year Apple Care, otherwise I’d have been panicking, since the one year guarantee is almost up (I bought the thing in September, last year).

Anyway, here’s a couple of photos I took: I won’t insult your intelligence by circling the black patches with red or pointing at them with flashing arrows. Instead, I’ll leave it to your keep observation to see if you can make out what I’m talking about.


I fixed the focus about 1cm in front of the screen to try to minimise the moire effect.


Here’s a slightly darker one, with regular focus. The strange banding is moire, due to the camera and the screen pixels interfering.


What’s important in the above pictures are the two clusters of round, blackened circles appearing and the general blotchiness of the screen. Not to mention the fact that the left is brighter than the right and strange, colour shifts occure in patches here and there.

Makes me glad I splashed out on the Apple Care.

Come on Apple, you can do better than this!

Categories: Mac Tags: , , , ,

Installing a fan in the G4 Cube

April 18, 2008 2 comments

Many Mac purists out there will shake their heads and disagree vehemently, but with spares for the remaing cubes starting to thin out, a fan is essential in keeping your cube healthy, and I heartily recommend one to anyone who uses their cube for more than a couple of hours a day.

The Mac G4 Cube was designed to hold a fan. Even though in it’s original incarnations (450MHz and 500MHz varieties), there was no fan installed, the case itself has a place to hold an 80mm fan of about 20mm thickness and with a little effort, one can crowbar a 25mm thick fan in for more effective cooling.

Be careful when selecting the fan. The one I bought was a silent, solidly built one which had supporting tubes around the corner mounting holes. It seemed like a good idea at the time. However, these turn out to make installing the fan without disassembling the whole case impossible. A lighter fan without supports on the corners would have been much easier to install. In any case, I used a hacksaw and cut two adjacent supports along the edge which eventually ended up towards the back of the Cube.

Three common types of fans

I bought myself a nice, quiet 80mm x 25mm 1900 RPM fan. They tend to be about 3~6db quieter than 20mm fans which push the same amount of air. It came with 3 wires, red, black and yellow

Replacing the fan is actually a little more time consuming than replacing the hard disk, but not really much more difficult.

You’ll need a set of Torx drivers for the star shaped “security” screws. Sizes T8, T10 and T12 should do the trick. You will also need a medium sized pair of pliers for some minor and painless case modifications.

Opening the case:

      First make sure you have the fan, the torx drivers and enough room to work on,  i.e. a flat, clear surface within easy reaching distance.

  • Unplug the Cube and invert it. Take care not to scratch the machine’s plastic case. I inverted mine onto a pillow.
  • Push the rectangular, inset bar located on the upturned base in firmly, until you hear it click. Now release it. The handle should pop out.
  • Use the handle to lift the chassis out of the upturned case. If this is the first time it has been removed, it might take a little teasing to get things moving.
  • Lift the chassis out vertically, taking care not to scratch the insides of the case with the metal corners of the chassis. The chassis has no sharp corners so this is not a serious issue. Still, it would be a shame to scratch it.
  • Now place the chassis down on a flat, clear surface. Take care not to damage the sensor on the top of the unit (probably facing downwards since it’s the side opposite the handle).
  • Push the handle in all the way and let go. It should stay in place.
  • Turn the case, so that the sensor is now facing upwards.
G4 Cube and Fan

Opening the chassis

In order to put a new fan in without a complete disassembly, it is necessary to remove the optical drive.

  • Remove the top plate by taking out the four corner bolts and two bolts on either side.
Remove these eight bolts
  • Lift off the top, slowly and remove the small cable which connects the power sensor to the chassis.
  • Place the top panel somewhere level, avoid touching the sensor.
  • Now slide the plate with the orange spot on it slowly up and out, revealing the optical drive.
Removing the optical drive cover
You should now see the drive exposed as the picture below shows. 
  • On either side of the drive, there are some screws, holding it in place. Remove these screws on the sides of the optical drive to release it.
  • Slide the drive upwards and remove the power and ATA cables from the connectors.
Removing the optical drive
  • The drive can now be removed, revealing the gap at the bottom of the case for the 80mm fan.
Space for the fan
Installing the Fan
  • In order to slide the 25mm fan into the case without disassembling the whole thing, we need to bend the fan supports out to the sides until they allow the fan to slide in.
Bend the fan supports
  • Note that there are two further holders at the rear of the case which may prevent your fan from fitting.
  • If your fan has corner posts around the holding bolts, remove two of them to allow the fan to slide into place. 
Three common types of fans
  • Bend the supports back around the fan to ensure a snug fit, as shown in this example picture below.
Fan support bent around to hold the fan
  • After playing around with the supports for a bit, I taped around the fan with duck tape after breaking the two back posts. This also helps reduce vibration noise, but this is not necessary.
Connecting the fan to the power

It’s now time to connect the fan to the power supply. We will use the optical drive’s power supply which we have at hand since we removed the optical drive.

  • Remove the little cover from the back of the optical drive’s power connector.
  • You should see four cables leading into the connector.
Connector Closeup - after removing cap

This big connector has the ability to generate 3 different voltages, 5v (slowest), 7v and 12v (fastest). Depending on your noise tolerance and the power and voltage rating of your fan, you may find any one of these three voltages suitable. This I will leave for you to experiment with.

Note, if your fan has three wires, one of them is unnecessary for this modification. You will have to determine which two wires (usually red and black) are the power wires and which one connects to the sensor.

The table below shows how to harness any of three voltages from the optical drive’s chunky 4 pin power connector. 


Fan Wire 1 (Black)

Fan Wire 2 (Red or Yellow)

Fan at 5V

Molex Ground (Black)

Molex +5V (Red)

Fan at 7V

Molex +5V

Molex +12V (Yellow)

Fan at 12V

Molex Ground (Black)

Molex +12V (Yellow)

For example, to run the fan at 7V, connect the fan’s black wire to the +5V (Red) connection and the fan’s red/yellow wire to the +12V (Yellow) connection. You can connect the fan’s RPM wire directly up to the motherboard. Unfortunately, on the Mac, the wires are all black! Check the photo to confirm the voltages.

Connector Voltages

  • Cut the power cables of the fan to a decent length, you won’t need the connector. You can discard the sensor wire on a three wire fan.
  • Use a knife or other tool to push the cables strongly into the drive’s connector without damaging the metal “blades”. These blades should cut through the rubber insulation on the cable and create a connection with the copper wire itself.
  • If the cable comes out, your fan will stop. This will be very difficult to spot later, unless you install a fan with an LED or other indicator, so confirm that the cable is tightly held before reassembling the computer. 
Closeup of a connector with fan connected.
  • Don’t forget to replace the plastic cover.

Putting things back together

  • First the optical drive’s data and power cables.
  • The optical drive’s holding screws.
  • The power button’s wire connecting the top plate to the chassis.
  • The chassis top plate with its 8 screws.
  • Upturn the chassis carefully and pop out the handle
  • Carefully return the chassis to the case, making sure not to catch anything, and push the handle in all the way until it clicks.
  • Turn the computer over, connect it up and restart.
  • Confirm the fan visually, by listening or by holding your hand over the top vent.

Congratulations, your Mac G4 Cube just got even cooler!

Categories: Mac, mods, Technology Tags: , , , ,