Saturday, March 12, 2005

Everything Apple's CHUD story on Slashdot, CHUD 4.1 tools pulled

Our Quad Mac & dual-core G5 970MP story from March 10th is now on Slashdot. Everything Apple is honoured. :)

Meanwhile, in addition to a new clue from the CHUD tools we reported yesterday, Macbidouille has added one of their own.

Also, Think Secret reports that Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger will be officially announced on April 1st. This is somewhat surprising since many developers are claiming that Tiger is still a bit rough around the edges. However, Think Secret claims that there is required support of Tiger for a new application to be released at NAB 2005, and that Tiger will ship with new iMacs and eMacs in April as well. (Some readers may note that April 1st is April Fool's Day, but April 1 is actually a very special day for Apple.) This rumoured April Tiger ship date does make one wonder if this could be another hint to imminent new dual-core and quad Mac releases, but Think Secret makes no mention of this.

Lastly, version 4.1.0 of Apple's CHUD tools have been pulled. However, it's not clear if it has been pulled because of all of this dual-core/quad Mac hoopla or if it's for bug fixes. Some online forum posts suggest it may be the latter, with CHUD 4.1.1 to come out soon.

[Update 2005-03-12]

The /. effect:

[Update 2005-03-14]

Thanks to Dave for pointing out that there is indeed confirmation of a major bug in CHUD 4.1.0, necessitating a quick 4.1.1 update. From the Apple PerfOptimization-dev mailing list:
To prevent a slew of bug reports and customer pain, let me pre-announce the release of CHUD 4.1.1. :)

We discovered shortly after 4.1 went live that Shark 4.1 can't open saved sessions. Have no fear -- a bug fix is in place, and we'll post a new package as soon as possible.

However, the message goes on to say:
In the meantime, feel free to download the current CHUD 4.1 package and give it a test drive.

It will be interesting to see if the new update still contains references to the 970MP and quad Macs.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Further clues for a Quad Mac

Yesterday I posted an article describing some clues in the CHUD tools for a quadruple-core Mac. Well, there are even more clues there. :)

With the CHUD tools installed, typing grep -binary Quad in the /System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras directory reveals:

Single CPUDual CPUQuad CPU

I'm surprised Apple left so many clues behind. The optimist in me might think it means the dual-core 970MP based machines are coming sooner than some might have thought. WWDC 2005 in June seems like the logical venue, but that's still three months away. Perhaps we'll see the new dual-core Macs with OS X 10.3.9, and that's likely coming long before WWDC.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

CHUD tools reveal Apple's 970MP Quad Power Mac

Apple's newest CHUD 4.1.0 toolset includes an updated This updated version includes clues for a new Apple Quad G5 Power Mac, which would utilize two dual-core 970MP chips.

The above picture shows the older version of on the left and the new version on the right. Note the added capability for up to 4 processors (or cores). Also, if one searches the new MONster application, one can find a reference to "970MP". Typing grep -binary 970MP reveals:

MONster.nib/keyedobjects.nib:879:71755:YPPC 970MP

Quad (dual dual-core) Power Macs (and Xserves) are coming. It's now just a matter of when. Hopefully they will be here by WWDC 2005.

[Update 2005-03-10]

The Processor pane in the Mac OS X System Preferences has also changed. With version 4.0.1 of the CHUD tools (top), the pane shows only the existing processors, and lists a "Clock Speed". With version 4.1.0 (bottom), the pane has changed to include 4 lines for (up to at least) 4 processor cores, and now lists a "Core Freq". (Note that the clock speed/core frequency is zero for my Cube, since its 1.42@1.7 GHz G4 7447A is not properly recognized.)

Xbox 2 Xenon's CPU core = Cell's PPE core

Gamespy claims to have the scoop on the specifications of the next generation Xbox (codename Xenon). As previously suspected (see block diagram below), the CPU is a triple-core highly clocked PowerPC part, although the speed has now dropped from 3.5 GHz to 3.0 GHz.

Click on picture for complete diagram.

Each core is described as being capable of issuing two instructions per clock, and from the diagram we know that it has a vector unit (which likely supports VMX/Altivec). Thus, it seems that Xenon's CPU cores are very similar to the PPE unit in Cell.

Also of interest is Gamespy's claim that current developer kits have machines with two cores instead of three. In my previous Cell article, I stated that if Apple were to use a chip related to Cell, it would lose the XDR controller and likely all the SPE units as well. A highly clocked dual-core PPE-based chip would be the most appropriate, and this is very similar to what Gamespy is describing for the current developer kits. (That is assuming of course that the developer kits are not in fact still dual single-core machines like the dual G5 Power Macs, which were rumoured to be in the initial developer kits.)

However, I still believe that Apple's next chip will be an extension of the G5 series, either the dual-core 970MP or the single-core 970GX or both.

Linux creator uses a Mac

Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, now uses a Mac as his main machine.

It's interesting to see the Linux guru (who cut his teeth on x86) succumb to the Cult of Mac. :)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Agent 18 mini shield review

Until recently I used to own a third generation 15 GB iPod. The iPod was nice, but with the case that came with the unit, it was too large for my tastes and I could not view the screen or access the buttons when the unit was inside. I could have bought a new case, but I eventually made the decision to buy the 6 GB mini when it came out, since I didn't really need all that storage space. Four GB was enough for me in terms of music, since with my encoding rates of 192-256 kbps, I can fit over 500 songs into 4 GB. However, I need about 2 GB for data backup, so the existing 4 GB iPod mini was a little anemic for my purposes. A 6 GB unit would be perfect. Knowing the 6 GB 1" hard drives would be out soon, at the end of 2004 I sold my 15 GB iPod and waited for the 6 GB iPod mini. It was finally released in late February.

Two of the best features about the iPod mini are its clip-on belt clip (included) and its clip-on arm band (optional accessory). No case is required at all to strap the unit onto your belt or arm. However, this leaves the front of the iPod mini exposed to the elements. Fortunately, there are several cases now available that offer compatibility with Apple's belt clip and armband, such as the Agent 18 mini shield (CAD$25, US$20) and mini shock (CAD$35, US$25). These hard cases protect the iPod mini's screen and finish, yet still leave the click wheel accessible. I wasn't sure which of the two to get, so I ordered both.

The first to arrive was the mini shock. It's a nice looking case composed of a two-piece white case with a transparent front window. It also has rubberized portions on the top and bottom and inside to help protect the mini from, as you guessed it, shock. However, because of the extra protection, the case itself adds a fair amount of bulk to the iPod mini, making it nearly as large as a regular iPod. Since overall size was an issue for me, back it went. However, it would be an excellent case for other people.

The second to arrive was the mini shield. This case is simply a transparent... well... shield, which is composed of two pieces of plastic approximately 2 mm thick. The back portion can be removed when the iPod mini is to be used with the belt clip or arm band.

The above picture is the naked back of my iPod mini. The Agent 18 mini shield has not yet been attached.

This is the back of the iPod mini with the mini shield attached. (Apple's white belt clip is sitting beside it.) As you can see, the engraving* is still quite visible with the back shield installed.

While most of the case has a frosted appearance, the window over the iPod mini's screen is completely clear. There is also a cut-out for the click wheel. The white belt clip is again there for comparison, this time propping up the iPod mini, demonstrating the delineation between the front and back shields. You can also easily see why the belt clip is compatible with the front shield (once the back shield is removed).

One key point about the shield is that it is about the same thickness on the sides as the belt clip. This means there is no increase in the width of the unit beyond what the belt clip adds. However, there is a slight lip at the top and bottom of the case. You can see the top lip in the middle opposite the belt clip if you look closely at the picture. These plastic lips are only a little over 1 mm in height, and do leave most of the top and bottom open for easy access for other iPod mini accessories. However, the lips would pose problems for accessories such as the Griffin iTrip mini, so the mini shield case would have to be removed to fit the iTrip mini on the iPod mini properly. The same would be true for use of the iPod mini dock. I do not use either the iTrip mini or the dock, but for those who do, fortunately the front shield can be relatively easily removed, even though it provides a nice solid and snug fit when installed.

As you can see from this picture, the belt clip fits perfectly with the front shield attached. Note the white edges of the belt clip on either side of the iPod mini. (The removed back shield is at the top left.)

By the way, at the top right of this picture is my Firewire Brando Workshop Retractable SyncCharger Cable (US$17). The iPod mini now only comes with a USB 2 cable, and my Macs do not support USB 2. I got my Brando Workshop cable from the US, but in Canada it is available from large retailers under the Cicero brand (CAD$10). The oversized clickwheel in this picture and the iPod mini logo in the first picture are from my iPod mini T-shirt. :)

Conclusion: The Agent 18 mini shield is an excellent inexpensive case that is compatible with Apple's clip-on accessories.

Compatible with Apple belt-clip and Apple armband
Looks great
Does not increase size of iPod mini significantly

Case has to be removed to before using the iPod mini with a dock and some other accessories.

Overall rating: 4.5 / 5

* - In case you're wondering, the engraving is part of a famous (albeit somewhat odd) medical quote:

"Failure to examine the throat is a glaring sin of omission, especially in children. One finger in the throat and one in the rectum makes a good diagnostician." - Sir William Osler

Monday, March 07, 2005

Article at IBM mentions the G5 970GX

We have discussed in previous articles the unconfirmed IBM 970GX chip, which is rumoured to be a faster-clocked version of the G5 with double the L2 cache.

On the IBM developerWorks site there is now also mention of this chip in an introduction article about Altivec:
The only processors currently supporting AltiVec are the G4 and G5. The G4 (including model numbers 7400 and 7410) and G4+ (7450 and 7455) processors are made by Motorola. (There are more models than just the ones listed here, but these are the most widely discussed.) The G5 chips include the IBM 970, 970FX, and 970GX; these are essentially POWER4™ cores with an AltiVec unit bolted on. So far, only PowerPC® processors have had AltiVec support, not the POWER™ line. If you want to buy "a computer with AltiVec," Apple's Mac line is your most likely option. For evaluation boards and custom designs, however, you can go with any of the many vendors who do development kits based on either the G4 or G5.

Since this article is written by an independent freelance author and not by IBM itself, we cannot assume all the content in the article is completely accurate. However, we should remember than IBM has already confirmed a new chip is coming soon. It is not clear this is the same thing as the 970GX, but we do know it is a next generation chip to arrive in 2005. IBM's VP Karl Freund states that the new chip is "pretty late in the design cycle now" and that Apple will be using it.

To make a long story short, we can be pretty sure a new chip for Apple this year is a done deal. I would expect a new generation G5 in the Power Macs soon, and hopefully these will have the 3 GHz 970GX and would be announced by early June at the latest (at WWDC). Hopefully we will see an announcement of a G5 PowerBook around that time too, possibly also sporting a 970GX, at 1.8 GHz.

[Update 2005/05/08]

The reference to the 970GX has been quietly removed from the article.