Luke Melia


February 15, 2005

Big Honkin New Computer

I recently bought a new Mac. Dual processor G5 1.8 GHz. It’s about 25% taller than my old G4 and 150% more aluminum-y. If you’re interested in my experience with it so far, read on. If not, I promise it won’t be insulted.

I bought it off Amazon to get the best deal I could find. $150 rebate, no tax, low shipping… worked out pretty well. Except.

Except it came with 256MB of RAM. Obviously, that’s pitiful and had to be rectified immediately. So, after ordering the computer, I ordered 2GB worth of memory from the cheapest place I could find. Amazon delivered in no time despite only promising their super-saver timeframe (what an amazing operation they run!) while the memory had all sorts of trouble getting here, mainly thanks to FedEx’s issues with our building. I finally installed the DIMMs after a late night skate up to the FedEx facility in lovely west Midtown. The difference between 256MB and 2GB is at least 8 times. Obviously. But seriously, in practical terms, it makes the machine 40 times more usable. Except.

Except things started crashing. Unpredictably. And I ran the hardware tests and found that one of my four new 512MB DIMMs was bad. Now I’m back down to 1.25GB (they have to be installed in pairs) and have to mail the chip back to California. Anyway… I won’t buy memory on price alone anymore.

Other than that, the machine’s been pretty great. It really shines running Virtual PC. I installed Windows Server 2003 with Visual Studio.NET and a VPN client to connect to the office, and the dang setup is very usable. Amazing.

I had some trouble playing the latest episode of The West Wing tonight (I’m eager to see the Larry Lessig character!) and had to do some digging with my Google shovel. What I found may be useful to other VLC users getting crashing and/or garbled audio:

In order to prevent the Audio Source from switching to “Digital” and to eliminate CoreAudio “buffer error” here is what you do: Launch VLC/open Preferences/under the Audio subsection select “CoreAudio output” as Audio output module/click “Use the S/PDIF audio output when available”/Expand the “Modules” subsection/expand the “audio output”/click on “coreaudio”/change the “0” to “1” as the Audio Device/hit the save button/quit VLC/launch VLC/ DONE!
Since I got my G5 dual 1.8 – I have not been able to use VLC for VOB playback…Since I did what is outlined above, VLC works perfectly now!
VLC is an amazing piece of software! Keep up the super work… Thank you for keeping it free! [From VersionTracker]

Aside from the stunning Virtual PC performance, I can’t say I notice a huge speed difference in day-to-day work between the new G5 and my previous G4 (dual 1.25). Jeanhee’s favorite thing about the new computer, though, is that it is far quieter than the old one. The new one can make a ruckus if you really push it and it gets all of it its fans going, but that doesn’t happen much.

Other migration notes: the startup process on OS X on a new computer asks if you already have a Mac and has you FireWire them together so it can transfer all your apps and documents and preferences. I’m normally wary of such processes, but I was curious enough to give it a try. It was amazingly successful. It was actually a little anticlimatic, because after it was done, it was exactly as if I was using a slightly snappier version of my old computer. This effect was compounded by the fact that I kept my old LCD and trackball. Pretty cool.

Not cool, however, was upgrading to iPhoto 5.01. Damn thing screwed up half of my albums. I felt like someone had shaken my photo albums all over the street and left me to pick them up. With my toes. I ended up having to reimport a bunch of images from the old iPhoto Library’s directory tree. Which caused a lot of duplicates. Argh. So I found some references to interacting with iPhoto via AppleScript via the Mac::Glue perl module. I used CPAN to install the module, and then built the glue for iPhoto and then ran the following script to clean up my duplicates:

use Digest::MD5;
use Mac::Glue;

my $iphoto  = Mac::Glue->new( "iPhoto" );
my $library = $iphoto->prop( "photo library album" );
my $count   = $library->prop( "photos" )->count;
print "My count is $countn";

my $md5     = Digest::MD5->new();
my %digests = ();

PHOTO: for( my $index = $count; $index > 0; $index-- )
	my $photo  = $library->obj( photo => $index );
	my $path   = $photo->prop( "image_path" )->get;
	next unless defined $path;
	open my($fh), $path or do { warn "$path: $!\n"; next PHOTO };
	$md5->addfile( $fh );
	my $digest = $md5->hexdigest;
	if (exists $digests{ $digest } )
		print "$digests{ $digest }\n  -->$path\n";
		print "$index->$path: $digest\n";
		$digests{ $digest } = $path;

I no longer have the source of that script. Apologies!

Anyway, that’s been the computer drama of late. Hope documenting these misadventures can help someone out…

Back to your regularly scheduled silence.

Seriously, though, I think I’ll post some more soon.

3 Responses to “Big Honkin New Computer”

  1. Anthony chimed in:

    Sweeeet… I recently got me a Dual 1 GHz G4.. I successfully restrained myself from getting a G5 for the time being. Holding out for the G6.

    I’m surprised you’re having such a good time with VPC.. My Dual 1.8 G5 at work runs it okay, but it’s still generally too painfully slow to be all that usable.

    Otherwise, I’m happy to say that I sold one Windows machine, and the other one hasn’t been turned on in weeks. A pleasure..

  2. Rykyard chimed in:

    What would you guess the percentage of software on your box is even using SMP?

  3. mike melia chimed in:

    dude — write more often — even if it is just to say you didn’t play volleyball or eat sushi w/yr family or whatever . . . we miss when you don’t write …. love to all

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