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News Archive for: 2/15/2002 Friday's NewsReturn to Accelerate Your Mac!

Top stories of Feb. 15th, 2002:

More Comments on Aqua Interface/Themes and OS X Performance Tips
More reader comments on 'themes' for OS X.

    "Hi Mike,
    I use a different theme called "Grey Aqua" from http://homepage.mac.com/c__c/, installed using a program called "Duality3" from http://conundrumsoft.com/, which is analogous to the Appearance Manager in Mac OS9.

    Grey Aqua turns down the excessively white window details in Aqua - making it more pleasant to use on the eyes. But the most important thing Grey Aqua does is to turn off transparency in the Aqua interface. Transparency slows down the drawing of menus and windows significantly.
    It also clutters up the screen. It is more difficult to pick out menu items when the menu is transparent and overlaps text below it.

    My main computer is a Pismo G3 Powerbook with 640 MB of RAM and a 48 GB IBM hard drive, in a dual monitor setup with a 21-inch Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2040u monitor, external Microsoft split-key Internet Pro Keyboard and Explorer Trackball.

    I've found other performance tuning techniques which have greatly improved the enjoyment and usefulness of Mac OS X 10.1.2 on my PowerPC G3 laptop. With these tweeks, I have been able to completely switch to using Mac OS X full-time on the job. The speedup is significant enough that I can wait until Apple introduces the dual-G5 processor macs before I will purchase a new desktop machine. The current dual 1 GHZ G4 machines do not give a large enough jump in speed when doing database work since they are only about twice as fast as a 500 MHz processor G3. [I disagree with this comment - even without Altivec support, a dual G4 1GHz in OS X should be more than twice as fast as a G3/500 for even a CPU bound application. And databases are often affected by disk performance - the desktop hard drives have better performance than 2.5" notebook drives. With far faster CPUs, hard drives and graphics cards - a dual G4/1GHz should be far more responsive (and productive) than a PB G3/500.-Mike.]
    For graphics work, they are great. But for work on a database, such as Filemaker, I think single processor clock speed is the most important determinant of database performance. [I use Filemaker 4.x, which is single threaded and I think even FM 5.0 was still single-threaded. I don't know if the latest version is now multi-threaded, but otherwise that's a real bottleneck for using it in web applications for instance. -Mike.] The following is an article I've written that lists the performance tuning techniques:"

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Impressive Quake3 Models: Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) and Alien
This may be old news to many readers but while taking a break today I surfed over to PlanetQuake's models page and downloaded two impressive (IMHO) models for Quake3. Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft and Alien are both very detailed and have animations and sound. The linked pages have pictures of the models and download links. (Copy the model file into your baseQ3 folder and it will appear in the player models selection.) There's also a Ripley model, but it's not nearly as well done as Lara or the Alien. For lots of other models (for Quake2, Quake3, Team Arena and UT) see Polycount.
(The Alien model doesn't have Bot support, but the Laura model does. I ran a local server and added all of the Laura models as Bots to get a good look at the animations, sounds, etc..)
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MacOS Error Code Utility Updated
(from the press release today)
    "Bleu Rose Ltd. is pleased to announce version 5.0 of Black & Bleu(tm)/Std and Black & Bleu(tm)/Pro which are available immediately from our web site at http://www.bleurose.com Black & Bleu(tm) is an application that provides the most comprehensive collection of Macintosh OS error codes available anywhere (almost 6,000). More importantly, the database includes a detailed explanation and suggestions for dealing with many of these errors. In addition, over 500 Sad Mac error codes and all 30 PostScript error codes are included. Each comes with a detailed explanation.

    The Pro form of the product offers the same features as the Std version but differs in one important way. Pro allows you to export detailed explanations to a file. This feature allows Technical Professionals to pass the information on to others - something not permitted by the terms of the Std version license. Version 5 offers the following enhancements from the previous version:
    - 531 more error codes have been added (for a total of 5,883 error codes)
    - More detailed explanations have been added or enhanced. The database now has well over 1,000 detailed explanations in it.
    - 24 more error groups have been added (for a total of 216 groups)
    - An "Error Phrase" window has been added. This option allows you to look an error up when no number or name is included in the error text. Detailed explanations for all phrases listed are included.
    - Explanation statistics are now available detailing [details clipped for brevity here-Mike]
    - The contents of the "Examine File" window can now be exported as a tab-delimited file (Pro version only)
    - The Numerically sorted Mac OS error list may be displayed in ascending or descending order
    - The ability to play the individual Sad Mac sounds have been added

    In addition to these enhancements, several visual changes have been made and some bugs were fixed. These items are documented thoroughly in the file titled "Version History" which accompanies Black & Bleu(tm).

    There is one change that is significant enough to detail here. Support for Mac OS X has been withdrawn. A complete explanation for this decision can be found in the file "Mac OS X Advisory" which is included in the collection of files that accompany Black & Bleu(tm)."

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More Lexmark X83 Owner Comments
(From reader emails in reply to today's earlier post from a reader regarding problems with the X83/drivers)

    " I also have had the same/similar problem with my Lexmark X83, as a reader of your site posted about, I was getting the same error in trying to shut down. However this would usually happen when my computer was already started and I was not connected to the X83 via usb, I have a 2001 ibook, with the version 5.81firmware X83 and driver version 1.1.0, so it would make sense for me to be connected all the time. Anyway after hours with lexmark tech support, we got no where, and I decided to delete the lexmark monitor program, (the monitor program is only a key monitor for the printer so if you press the scan to PC button the printer, it will automatically come up with the scan program in the mac, so I figured this is a minor thing to loose, especially if it uses system resources.) So I have been shutting down fine now in OS 9, and if I want to scan I just open the scan program manually on the computer, I also updated my X83 with newer firmware available here
    http://drivers.lexmark.com/drivers.nsf/SelectPrinter?OpenForm&Lexmark+X83

    Don't know if the firmware helped anything, but standalone copying seems faster. The only other issue I have is the issue of speed, it seems like it could print much faster, as it does while copying something, but it's slow printing, maybe the USB can't send that fast?? Even on low quality it should be able to however, the only time it speeds up printing is at the very finish of the job when the computer is finished sending info to it and it's just printing from the buffer memory of the printer. One more tid-bit, I have not been able to figure out how to get the X83 to print in black and white only in OS 9, when I choose this option under the print options it says that I must install a black cartage, (however one is already installed), But I am allowed to print in black and white only under OSX with the os x driver.
    Marcus P."

Another X83 owner wrote commenting on PCI USB card issues (the original report below was from a Beige G3 owner with a PCI USB card.)

    " Hi, I am sorry but I have very bad news for sportbiz ...
    I have install 3 lexmark's x83 on three differents Beige G3 (with os 8.6 and 9.1) I have the same problems :

    - "the computer would not shut down on restart. I got a message saying a program did not stop running, and to shut that program down."
    - the system froze or is Very slow after print
    - etc...

    I am sorry to say that because Lexmark have generaly good product but there X83 driver is "COMPLETELY" unusable with Beige G3 (and I suppose every mac with USB PCI card) !
    I think this is a incompatibility with the USB PCI card. (Problem arrived when the printer goes in power saving mode)

    when I phoned Lexmark they said that is an Apple bug and Apple said that this is a Lexmark one.

    They (Lexmark) made a firmware update for that but problems aren't gone !

    If you have a Mac with PCI USB card just don't buy X83 !!!!!!
    PS: Sorry for my poor english (FR :-) and no, I'm not arbiter in ice skating !"
    Uman

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More Comments on Plextor 40x CDRW Drive's 24x Audio CD Burn Rate Limit
In reply to an earlier post below, the owner that first posted a report on the 40x Plextor drive sent comments on the 24x burn rate limits.

    " Hey Mike...about the Plextor 40x CDRW....it is true that it will only burn Audio CDs at 24x. Plextor does this to cut down on errors and to achieve better sounding CDs. The CD that I burnt in Toast did burn at 40x. I'm not positive, but I believe that the Plextor also limits the Audio extraction speed (once again to cut down on errors). There are full performance write-ups on this drive at:
    www.cdr-info.com and www.cdrlabs.com.
    Later,
    Tim"

CDR-info is one of the sites I remember reading about the problems with 40x audio CD extraction rates. Both great sites for CDRW drive reviews. (Although tested on PCs.)

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Notes on Plextor 40x12x40x CDRW Drive Audio CD Burn Speed Limits
Yesterday's news had a link to a modified iTunes (OS X) device support file for the Plextor 40/12/40 CDRW drive. (I've added this link/info to the FAQ's CDROM/CDR section) from a reader that recently posted a Drive Compatibility Database report on the drive in a Firewire case with his Dual G4 system. A reader replied with info on limits to Audio CD burning with the 40x drive:

    " To brand a new drive as a 40X capable and to really be offering a 24X drive (for audio CDs at least) seems a tad misleading. The owner of a new dual G4 who told you he only had one 40X CD on hand to test with Toast must have been burning a data CD to achieve 40X speeds. (And it would appear his hack of iTunes for the Plextor will only net him a 24X burn at best.) At least, this is the picture I got after checking out Plextor's site.

    The claims Plextor makes about its new drive are detailed on that site, from which I quote several attributes of the new product:

    • 120ms Average Random Access
    • 4 MB Buffer
    • Records highest quality audio CDs (audio recording speed limited to 24X)

    That last caveat is an important one for anyone (like me) who thought they'd be burning audio CDs at anything approaching 40X speeds. It would also appear media rated for 40X burns is necessary only when data CDs are required in a flash.
    Bill K."

The Plextor product page for the 40/12/40 drive which notes this is here. I don't know if this is related to the fact very high speed CDRW drives have variable write speeds across the CD (zones) but have written Plextor tech support for their comments.
While on the subject, last year at several CDRW (PC) review sites (I think cdrinfo.com was one) I also read about problems with ripping audio at 40x rates with some drives. (The outer tracks reach 40x rip speeds on some drive models.) I think Plextor was one of the few brands that addressed this issue (but too overloaded in work and mail to go dig up the URLs to the articles on this, however Plextor notes that you can rip at 40x speeds. That's without any compression of course and can vary depending on the system used.)

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Another Quicksilver Owner Comments on Sonnet ATA/100 Beta Firmware Update
Yesterday's news had the first Quicksilver owner comment on the beta firmware update for Sonnet's ATA/100 card noted in Tuesday's news page. (To address the issues noted here previously from Quicksilver G4 owners using the card.) Here's the 2nd reader report I've had from a Quicksilver owner on the beta firmware update:

    " Mike
    Thanks for your info. I have been sent the beta firmware and have applied it to my card and it appears to work OK (i.e. it boots from OS9) but have not tested it under 10.1.2. I would expect it to work after a comment by [Malcom] on your page for 2/14/02. I have not confirmed the sleep issue but I do have a Kensington IR Cordless mouse and I can never put my Mac to sleep without the mouse waking it up! I also have a Apple/Adaptec SCSI card which may or may not affect sleep on my Mac. Will send you my results for that (as requested on the website) on Monday. Thanks for your correspondence on this.
    Ian M. "

As a FYI, I've received several emails to my request for G4/AGP system owner reports on PCI cards and deep sleep but have not had time yet to post a page with those comments. (If you're using a PCI card in a G4/AGP tower, let me know if it supports deep sleep mode in OS X and OS 9. (If you have more than one PCI card installed, note all cards installed in the report as well as system/OS details. Also include the firmware version of the card - use Apple System profiler to check the card revision, which is the firmware version. ) Thanks.

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Lexmark X83 Owner Notes Performance Drop from Monitor Software
(See above for other X83 owner reports sent in reply to this post)
    " Mike:
    I think I've uncovered a glitch in the Lexmark X83 all-in-one printer-scanner-copier software as it relates to upgraded Beige G3 DT Powermacs (mine has a Sonnet G4/400 ZIF installed).

    After I installed the software and ran the scanner, my system became very sluggish. Memory performance as measured by Gauge Pro dropped from about 95 MB/sec to about 63, and I got a delayed mouse response. Also, the computer would not shut down on restart. I got a message saying a program did not stop running, and to shut that program down. But when I went into Finder, I could find no program running.

    Suspecting the Lexmark X83, since it was the only thing that changed, I surveyed my extensions manager and found that the install CD placed a "Lexmark X83 monitor" extension in my startup items folder.
    I moved that file to the disabled startup items folder by unclicking it in the extensions manager, rebooted, and then tried the scanner. It worked. But this time, when I shut down the scanner and moved to other business, the system's memory performance stayed fast and true.... for a short while.

    But then the system froze. When I hit "control-alt-delete", I got a message asking me if I wanted to force quit "Lexmark X83 monitor"! So once again that software was causing a problem. I force quit and the system seems okay again.
    Should I give up on the Lexmark X83 and its erratic software -- or am I missing something here? I'd like to hear from other Beige owners running the Lexmark X83. Thanks.
    Anyone else experience this?
    -- sportbiz
    He later wrote
    Lexmark just released a firmware update which I installed yesterday. Helps somewhat. But right after I scan with the thing the entire system slows somewhat, and it's a real pain."

There may also be another extension for monitoring active. I asked for more info (OS version, etc.) and if he had contacted Lexmark on this issue (and checked for any updates there). Some USB devices may be 'polled' which can affect performance. (Years ago there were notes on game FPS performance drops when using some USB controllers/software for instance.)
If any other X83/OS 9 owners have seen issues or have a tip for this reader, let me know.

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Comments on Sosumi Aqua Replacement Theme for OS X
A post in the forums noted an Aqua replacement for OS X called Sosumi. I've not tried it personally (too buried in work and mails) but one reader said he's been using it for a month and loves it. Here's some feedback from readers today that have tried Sosumi:

    " Hi Mike
    When I heard of Sosumi I thought who needs this???
    But as soon as it was installed I knew I need it! AND I LOVE IT! It really is worth the try! Its a bit faster than Aqua on my beige g3 500!

    One more thing:
    My Keyboard stoped working (USB) I will uninstall it and try if it is Sosumi's fault
    Alexander T. "

(I asked Alexander to check his USB cables since of course a theme should not affect USB.) Another reader had a less positive opinion:

    "i run a 400MHz iMac with 512 megs of ram, and I used Sosumi for a little while. Its speed was equal to Aqua's, since Sosumi relies on Quartz the same way Aqua does. From the screenshots I was thinking I might get a permanent replacement for Aqua, but after just 5 minutes of use I was terribly annoyed. It's like an ugly Kaleidescope scheme: the gradients are used way too much, color and contrast are poorly thought out, and most of the icons are blah. I'm fine with Aqua, but if I find something better I'd gladly use it. Sosumi, from my perspective, is the first full-blown OS X theme (hooray!), but nowhere near a usable replacement.
    -mike"

I thought from the looks of it that it may not use as much shadowing/effects, which might make it more responsive perhaps. (Disabling effects and shadowing has been noted many times as helping responsiveness from owners of slower machines/systems with slower graphics chips, etc.) Here's another comment on Sosumi:

    " I own a blue and white G3 350, 640MB RAM and the standard rage 128 and Mac OS X 10.1.2 (Build #5P48). I installed the sosumi theme, while i don't like some aspects of the appearance, it's definitely faster then Aqua and i like [sosumi] more than aqua. the only problem i have run into is that for me, in the get info box for songs in iTunes is a little screwed up. the buttons are unresponsive. but that has it tied to his "sosumi" itunes hack and not the the theme itself. where can i find other "themes? thanks for your site.
    Jim "

I sent Jim the 'let1kwindowsbloom' benchmark to test on his system with Aqua vs Sosumi. (It opens/closes 1000 windows and reports the time it took. I used it in a recent GeForce4MX vs Radeon 7500 comparison in a dual 1GHz G4.)
Here's Jim's times for the 1000 window open/close test running Aqua vs Sosumi.

    " i ran the tests you wanted me to run. with the Sosumi theme the test came out to 115 seconds and with the apple's aqua theme it came out to 129 seconds. i guess aqua is only a little bit slower.
    Jim "

Actually that's not an insignificant difference in my opinion.

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IBM Announces New Series GNX of 5400 RPM, Thinner Notebook Drives
Previously IBM's notebook (Travelstar) 5400 rpm models were limited to the 12.5mm high versions (32GB, 46GB and 60GB models). However IBM recently posted a press release on a new series of 9.5mm high 5400 rpm Travelstar drive series. (9.5mm is the max drive height allowed in iBooks for instance.) Here's the text from the press release:

    " New hard disk drive for notebooks improves speed, performance
    IBM introduced the new hard disk drive 'X' factor for notebook users -- the Travelstar GNX -- with the "X" representing being extra fast and extra smart.

    IBM is now extending its industry-leading 5400 RPM performance to the broad market of notebook users for greater speed in a slimmer and lighter notebook. İThe 5400 RPM performance will provide end-users with noticeable improvement in start-up and data access time and in running data-rich applications such as graphics, spreadsheets or audio and video files.

    With GNX, IBM brings three generations of high-performance mobile hard drive expertise to a smaller footprint, increasing performance by more than 25-percent. İThe "X-factor" performance comes from five primary sources -- higher RPM, increased data rate, advanced cache management software, larger cache size and a faster hard disk drive microprocessor unit.

    Performance at 5400 RPM was an IBM-exclusive, top-of-the-line feature for mobile power users -- which also required a thicker (12.5 mm) hard drive and, thus, heavier notebook. İBut growing trends in storage-intensive applications and the "need for speed" are driving mainstream and even entry-level users to look for a performance boost without adding bulk.

    The Travelstar GNX offers users accelerated performance in a thinner (9.5 mm) hard disk drive. İTraditionally, 9.5 mm hard drives offer performance at 4200 RPM and are used in the vast majority of notebooks on the market."

I believe all recently made Travelstar drives also have fluid bearings (introduced with the 48GB model, but also standard on smaller capacity drives I believe since about last summer/fall.)
For install guides (PowerBook G3 wallstreet, Pismo (2000/Firewire model) and Powerbook G4, see the Systems page (Powerbook section) or IDE articles page. The Firweire articles page also has build guides for portable Firewire drive case kits that use 2.5" notebook drives.

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CDRW/CD/DVD/Hard Drive /Cardreader Compatibility Database Updates
The Drive Compatibility searchable database had 28 new reports added today. The database includes reports on Combo DVD-CDRW, CDROMs, DVD-ROM, DVD-RAM, DVD-R, CDRW, Hard Drives and Removables (tape drive, ORB, ZIP, MO drives, CF/Smartmedia readers, etc.) in all interface types (IDE, IDE RAID cards, Firewire, SCSI, adapters). Current total 6,553 reports.

    Multi-Format Card Reader
  • USB Antec "PhotoChute 3" used w/PB G3 lombard (OS X)
    (Antec listed under 'other' brands. Noted driver source in comments)

    Sony MemoryStick Reader
  • USB Dazzle Memory Stick Reader used w/G4 AGP (OS X)
    (also noted working w/OS 9. Dazzle listed under "other" brands)

    SmartMedia Reader
  • USB SmartDisk SMUSB Reader used w/PB G3 2000 (OS X)

    DVD-R DVD Recorder Drive Reports
  • IDE Pioneer DVR-A03 in B&W G3 (OS X)
    (includes comments on using iDVD2)
  • IDE Pioneer DVR-A03 in G4/AGP (OS 9.1)
    (problems noted - updated report)
  • IDE Pioneer DVR-A03 in G4/AGP (OS X)

    Combo DVD+CDRW Drive Reports
  • IDE LG GCC-4120B (12x8x32x + 8x DVD) in PowerTower Pro using IDE PCI Card (OS X)
    (LG listed under "other" brands)
  • IDE LG GCC-4120B (12x8x32x + 8x DVD) in G4/AGP (OS 9.2)
    (LG listed under "other" brands)
  • IDE Toshiba SD-R1002 (4x4 CDR/CDRW + 8X DVD ROM) in G4 no AGP [Yikes] (OS X)
    (no iTunes support for this model. DVD problems noted in his comments.)

    DVD ROM Drive Reports
  • IDE Pioneer DVD-A06s / 106 16x/40x (slotted) in G4/AGP 2001 (OS 9.1)
    [modified to mount under existing CDRW drive]

    IDE CDRW Drive Reports
  • Lite-On 24102B (24x/10x/40x) in G4/AGP OS 9.1)
  • Lite-On 24102B (24x/10x/40x) in 7600 w/IDE PCI card (OS 9.1)
    (Noted Acard ATA/100+ card did not work with the drive)

    Firewire CDRW Drive Reports
  • Freecom Portable 8x4x32 used w/G4 AGP 2001 (OS X)
    (Freecom listed under 'other' brands)
  • LaCie CDRW 241040i (24x10x40x) used w/B&W G3 (OS X)
  • Que 32/10/40 (Sanyo CRD-BP1600P) used w/Powerbook G4 (OS X)
  • Sony CRX1600L/A2 12x8x32 used w/iMac slot loading (OS X)
  • W542E 24x10x32 in ADS Pyro FW case used w/Powerbook G4 (OS X)

    SCSI CDRW Drive Reports
  • Yamaha CRW2100S-VK 16/10/40 in Beige G3 (OS 9.2)

    IDE Hard Drive Reports
  • IBM 120GXP 80GB in B&W G3 using IDE PCI Card (OS X)
    (noted 10.0 OS X CD would not install to the IDE card's drive)
  • IBM 75GXP 30GB in G4/AGP (OS 9.2)
    (noted drive problems - see past article here on 75GXP's)
  • Quantum Fireball 30GB in 6400 (OS 9)
  • Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (ST340016A) 40GB in 7600 w/IDE PCI card (OS 9.1)
  • Toshiba TOSMK2018GAP 20GB in iBook (OS X)
  • Toshiba MK4018GAP 40GB in iBook 2001 (OS X)
  • Western Digital WD1200JB 120GB in 85/8600 w/IDE PCI Card (OS 8.6)

    Firewire Hard Drive Reports
  • Fujitsu 10GB in FW Case used w/Dual G4 (OS 9.1)

    SCSI Hard Drive Reports
  • Seagate SX1917WC 9.1GB in 7600 (OS X)

    Removable Media Drive Reports
  • Firewire Fujitsu DynaMO 1300FE 1.3GB used w/9600 (OS 9.1)

You can find full owner reports by searching the database by drive/brand/interface/mac models (the latest reports are shown first in searches).
For guides to installing CD/CDRW/DVD drives or Hard drives in many mac models, see the IDE Articles page. The Firewire articles page also has guides on case kits, installing drives, etc.
If you've added a IDE, SCSI, Firewire or USB hard drive, CDRW, tape drive, etc. make sure you add a report to the database. [If you post an updated entry - make sure you use the same name, etc. as you did before so I can find your past entry. Thanks.]

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CPU Upgrades Owner Reports Database Updated:
The Rate Your CPU Upgrade database has been updated with 3 new reports this morning. (total to date: 6,761). [Entries made after midnight last night are posted the next newsday morning.]

  • Powerlogix BlueChip G3/466 in PowerBook G3 Wallstreet2 (rated 10)
  • Powerlogix BlueChip G4/500 in PowerBook G3 Lombard (rated 9)
  • Sonnet Harmoni G3/500 (w/Firewire) in iMac (rated 8)

(Warning - Overclocking may not be reliable and could lead to hardware failure or corrupted data.) You can find the full reports by searching the database selecting the indicated Mac model and upgrade card brand/type. If you've upgraded the CPU on your Mac, please post an entry in the database. Search the database for entries from most every upgradable Mac model *before* you buy. (Searchable by mac model/upgrade brand). For detailed reviews with performance tests and install tips, see the CPU Upgrades page.)

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Reader Game Reviews Database Updated:
Today's Reader's Rate their Mac Games database updates included more reviews of Space Tripper, Alice, Myth III and Unreal Tournament. Total Reviews (all titles): 823. To read game reviews use the search page.
If you've not already done so - Enter a Game review. (If your game title is not in the long listing, select "other game" and note the title in the comments)
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Software Updates, Apple TILs and Other Net News Links

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News pages from 1, 2 and 3 years ago:
(Sometimes these old pages are a bit embarrassing - and in many cases the offsite links may not work and comments there were accurate only on the date posted regarding upgrade availability, etc.)

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