Saturday, November 26, 2005

Aperture compatibility, and it's shipping?

According to the Apple Store front page, Aperture is now shipping. However, when you attempt to purchase it, it says it's shipping in one week. Furthermore, Amazon has a November 30 release date, and there have not yet been any reports of end users receiving their copies.

In addition, reports have been coming in about hardware compatibility with Aperture as determined by Apple's Aperture Compatibility Checker. Some confirm my observation that 2005 iBooks are listed as supported, but it seems the iBooks are the only big surprise. As expected from the minimum requirements, prelimary reports indicate that these Macs are NOT supported:

1) Any 12" PowerBook
2) Any G4 iMac
3) Any G4 Power Mac
4) G5 iMacs with GeForce FX 5200 Ultra (August 2004)
5) G5 Power Macs with GeForce FX 5200 Ultra (2003 & 2004)

I can understand Apple's decision not to support 12" PowerBooks or other Macs with GeForce 5200 series GPUs. Also, the G5 Power Macs are not a issue, since one can easily upgrade the GPU. However, given Apple's decision to support G4 PowerBooks, I do not understand their decision to exclude all G4 Power Macs, including duals. Perhaps Apple might have a change of heart later on and allow support of Power Macs with fast G4s and appropriate GPUs like the Radeon 9600 Pro or better, but I wouldn't count on it.

[Update 2005-11-26]

Aperture is now shipping. Emails went out today to some end users indicating their orders shipped today, with expected delivery beginning early next week.

[Update 2005-11-27]

I almost forgot... While I don't have end user confirmation of this yet, Aperture will not likely run on any 1.6 GHz Power Mac either, regardless of the video card. The 1.6 GHz G5 does not meet Apple's minimum CPU speed specification.

Intel iBook for January?

Several websites are reporting that Apple is preparing for a release of an Intel iBook in January. If it is only the iBook that is updated in January with an x86 chip, then this would be an interesting situation for Apple. According to Intel's mobile CPU roadmap January will see the release of a single-core and a dual-core Yonah CPU, both with 2 MB L2 cache. The iBook will undoubtedly get a single-core CPU, but I would have expected it to get the cheaper single-core Yonah with 1 MB L2. However that chip isn't scheduled for release until Q2 2006. One of several things could be true: 1) There is no January iBook, or 2) The iBook will get a souped up 2 MB L2 single-core Yonah, or 3) The roadmap is wrong. A souped up Yonah single-core would not be extremely cheap. One would hope that Intel in the iBook doesn't mean increased prices over what current iBooks cost. Perhaps there is a fourth option: Maybe the Intel machine for January isn't an iBook at all. Besides the possible Intel Mac mini, it could be that Apple will introduce a replacement to the 12" PowerBook. This would make sense, since at the last PowerBook update the 12" saw no significant upgrades.

The other interesting part about this iBook prediction is the fact that there is no mention of any upgrade to the PowerBook line. If the iBook (or smallest PowerBook) did get the single-core Yonah with 2 MB L2 in January, it'd be at 1.66 GHz. Such a chip would be faster than the G4 in any current PowerBook in existence (at least with software that runs natively on x86). For this reason one would expect that after such an update, it wouldn't be too long before the (larger) PowerBooks got upgraded too. However, I will admit that one problem with this reasoning is the spectre of software compatibility. PowerBook users often need pro Mac software, and an early PowerBook Intel migration would mean that some pro software may not work on these machines. However, if the Altivec'd Rosetta rumours are true, then this pro software issue could be somewhat less significant.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Rosetta now supports Altivec?

The OS X 86 Project is reporting that Rosetta now supports Altivec in Mac OS X 10.4.3 for x86. Previously, Rosetta could only emulate the G3, and thus any PowerPC-only application that required the G4's Altivec instructions to run would not run at all through Rosetta on OS X for x86. If Rosetta has now gained the ability to dynamically translate Altivec, that would be a huge benefit during the transition period. While Altivec translation is bound to be slow, slow functionality is better than no functionality. This claim of Altivec support is unconfirmed however, and Apple's developer site still states that Altivec is not supported. (Note that such support is not required at all for the iApps. All the iApps, including iTunes, now apparently have universal binaries with native support for x86.)

The same article also states that ATI video cards for PCs are now also supported, in the latest seeds of OS X x86. If true, this would reduce the need for dedicated Mac video cards. People could simply go out and buy the latest and greatest PC video cards at the local video store, and plug them right into their Power Macs. Presumably any such support would be best on video cards utilizing reference designs, but the selection of PC video cards based off reference designs is still bigger than the selection of Mac video cards. However, this claim of PC video card support is also unsubstantiated.

We may find out the truth in a few short months though, as x86 Macs are (hopefully) coming relatively soon.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Install Front Row on any Mac with Front Row Enabler

Apple's newest iMac G5 with built-in iSight and remote control comes with a new media centre application called Front Row. This application has not been released for any other Mac. However, Apple has recently released a free Front Row 1.0.1 update which can be installed on any Mac using Pacifist and Front Row Enabler.

Above is a picture of Front Row running on an older G5 iMac. While Front Row can be controlled with the keyboard, it's not all that useful without the remote control. However, it at least gives us an idea what Front Row is like without the need to find a new iSight iMac to test.

Aperture supports the iBook

Apple has now posted a Compatibility Checker on its website, which checks your system's specifications and determines if Apple's new flagship photography application Aperture will run on your system.

Much to my surprise, my (July 2005) iBook is supported:

Aperture supports the iBook.

Although this iBook's 1.33 GHz G4 meets the minimum CPU speed requirements and its Radeon 9550 does include the hardware (Core Image) video features necessary for Aperture, this GPU is not listed as supported on Apple's Aperture tech specs page. Furthermore, the page states that only 15" and 17" PowerBooks are supported. That G4 PowerBook (or G5 desktop) requirement is echoed by the Compatibility Checker when run on unsupported machines (like my 1.7 GHz G4 Cube with GeForce2 MX):

Aperture doesn't like G4 Power Macs.

Assuming the Compatibility Checker is correct and Aperture will run on the iBook, the small 1024x768 screen resolution, the relatively slow 1.33 GHz CPU, the slow Radeon 9550 GPU, and the anemic 32 MB GPU RAM will surely make Aperture on the iBook a less than ideal experience. Still, I am pleased. Being able to run it slowly is better than not being able to run it at all.

One wonders if 12" PowerBooks with the GeForce FX Go5200 or G5 iMacs (and G5 Power Macs) with the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra are also supported. The GPUs in these machines are also compatible with the hardware video features required by Aperture, although they are not listed on the Aperture tech specs page either, and they are even slower than the Radeon 9550. I also wonder if some G4 Power Macs are supported. The more recent G4 Power Macs have fast enough CPUs and some may be running reasonably fast Core Image compatible GPUs as well, but Apple makes no mention whatsoever of supporting G4 Power Macs with Aperture.