News Archive for: Wednesday, Feb. 8th, 2006 (light today due to illness)
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Intel Core Duo iMac report on Univ. Binary World of Warcraft Performance
Yesterday's news had a note on the Universal Binary update to WoW and I asked for Intel CPU iMac owner feedback on it. Here's the first report:

" Hi Mike, WoW 1.9.3 on an iMac Core Duo is fantastic, outclassing previous Mac versions on any PPC Mac shipped to date.
I have run this game on everything from a Dual G5 (6800 Ultra) to an Athlon X2 running at 2.6GHz with a Geforce 7800 GTX 512MB card, and this is the first time the Mac version is just as enjoyable for me as the PC version.

My settings have been as follows:
Everything in-game at maximum except for Fullscreen glow (off) and Anisotropic filtering (off), with Antialiasing set to 2X, Multisampling, VSync off, and resolution set to the native 20" display of 1680x1050.

FPS generally ranges from 40-100 FPS, with ~50 being typical even with the demanding settings I have chosen. Crowded areas drop to rates similar to what I experienced on the AMD setup. This is a massive improvement.

There are still some hitches: Turning is still sometimes not as smooth as on the PC, especially if there are NPC dwellings around. (see report below for PowerPC mac user report on this also-Mike) There are a couple of areas (just outside the Mystic Temple area in Ironforge for example) where there is clearly some sort of limit being hit, and framerates plunge from ~60 down to the low teens or below until moving from the spot. This could be a CPU or VRAM limit being hit -- I'll know more when I can visit the same area on my (coming-soon) 256MB VRAM iMac. (He has a 2GHz model with std 128MB VRAM - the 256MB VRAM is a $75 BTO option. I'd spring for it if I were ordering one.-Mike)

All in all it's a terrific accomplishment by Blizzard, Apple, ATI and Intel, and at the same time a blistering indictment of previous G5- based gaming performance. There is just no comparison.
here is a link to some screenshots showing framerates and in-game settings:
http://web.mac.com/ciparis/iWeb/Wow/intel.html
cheers, Michael F. "

I've added Michael's comments to the previous page of Mac World of Warcraft Performance reports. If you have an Intel CPU Mac and this update, let me know what you think of the performance and FPS rates seen (use CTRL-r for FPS rate display). Thanks
(See the post below for a report on problems with this update from a PowerPC Mac user, although a PowerBook G4 user didn't note any problems.)

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PowerPC Mac user reports on WoW 1.9.3 Update
(Updated with more reports/comments)
A reader with a PowerPC Mac wrote regarding problems he's seen with the latest WoW update:

" "Dear Mike, While I do not have an Intel Mac, this update to the universal binary has made a very noticeable difference in playability on the PPC side: As in almost UNplayable.

The problem lies in the mouselook/camera turning. (the first Intel iMac owner report above also mentioned this-Mike) When I'm running, I'm fine, though FPS in general took a hit with this newfangled (and apparently very poorly optimized) universal binary. But as soon as I use the mouse to look, or I turn my character, the FPS drops to a dismal 2-3, and any precision turning is impossible.

Zones with lots of trees (Duskwood, Stonetalon Mountains) or an already overkilled polygon count (Booty Bay, anybody?) are worse when turning around/mouselooking. It's got me to the point where I have to wonder if anybody even bothered to QA this.

My mac's specs are below, but up until now this game has very easily been playable for me, except for very large raids. Now, even with only ME in the area, it bogs down on the simple turns. My account expires in one more day, and I'm sorely tempted to just let it go, as the service from Blizzard of late has been horrendous. This unplayabiliy affects the PPC side (I tested on three other PPC macs at friends' houses, and there is another user on the WoW forums with a Quad 2.5 Ghz G5 that has the same exact issues), yet the x86 side isn't seeing this problem. Go Go Blizzard QA! (I won't even get into the major disenchanting bug with cloth items that somehow made it through live either).

Needless to say, this new update bites. I currently run 10.4.2, and tried both 10.4.3 and 10.4.4 to no avail (thank goodness for Carbon Copy Cloner, which let me revert easily after seeing 10.4.3/10.4.4 didn't help any). The problem stays the same, putting the new client at fault. And to top it off, Blizzard refuses to acknowledge it in either their General or Bug Report forums.

PowerMac G4 Sawtooth
1.4 Ghz GigaDesigns CPU (Rated at 1.4GHz, non-OC'd)
2 GB PC133 RAM (4x512MB)
2x 120GB WD HD (8 MB Cache)
Radeon 9800 Pro
M-Audio Audiophile 2496 (Determined not to be a factor as it was removed for testing)
Mac OS X 10.4.2 (10.4.3 is problematic with OpenGL, even on ATI cards, and 10.4.4 provided no benefit in speedup)
- Eric R. (Chibi) "

I don't play WoW but asked him if the old tip on deleting caches after an update helped - he later said tried that but it didn't help. (The WoW feedback page here mentioned that in the past as a performance tip after an update.)

A PowerBook G4 user wrote:

" A couple notes of interest on the WoW 1.9.3 update.
First of I am running this on a Powerbook G4 17" 1.33 GHz in Mac OS X 10.4.3.
I see very little to no difference between this version and the previous one, including no degradation of turning. Interestingly enough looking at the WoW application, it still lists it as 1.9.2 and PowerPC architecture, even though the 1.9.3 patch has been applied and there are a number of data and other updates within the folder. I looks like the WoW updater ONLY updated the application itself on Intel Macs.
-Harold "

Another PowerBook G4 owner wrote he's also noticed no problems with the 1.9.3 update and I asked him about the version of the App - he said the startup screen showed 1.9.3. (I received several more reports from PowerPC users on this update - many said they'd seen no problems but some had. I'll be posting their comments tomorrow.)
Another reader mentioned a compiler change for this version:

" I think one of the main reasons for the poor performance of WoW on the PPC after the universal binary update is that it is being replaced with a binary compiled with GCC 4.0 (hence the reason 10.3.9 is now the min version of OS X it will run on). GCC is a horrible compiler for the PPC. The previous versions of WoW was compiled with the Metrowerks CodeWarrior compiler, which produces much better PPC code and does it in far less time.
-Rosyna "

If any other readers have applied the WoW 1.9.3 update, let me know what you think (include system and OS details in reports - thanks.)

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Xara LX (vector drawing app) OS X Project
" Hi Mike, Just wanted to let you know about this very interesting project which is getting underway, and might interest a lot of Mac users out there who are a little worried about the demise of Freehand and the monopoly of Adobe on Mac graphics software at the moment.

There's a company called Xara who have written a vector graphics package known as Xara Xtreme, which is now being made open source as Xara LX. I've used this software in various incarnations since it first appeared as ArtWorks back in the 90's (some people may remember a version known as Corel Xara) and it's the only reason I still have a PC at all. Development of a Linux version is well underway, but the Mac version is currently flagging slightly due to a lack of developers with enough time...
If anyone out there is interested in supporting development getting this onto the Mac I know there are an awful lot of designers who would be only too ready to throw away their PCs when an OS X version crops up. The Mac desperately needs a decent vector app, and something to go up against Adobe's offerings, so I hope this might steer people into giving their support.

If anyone's interested (or even knows some C++!) you can take a look here: http://www.xaraxtreme.org/
I'm not in any way affiliated with the company - just a long term user who would love to kick the PC by my left foot... :o)
All the best, Andy. "

BTW - Thursday's news has notes on Inkscape Vector drawing app for OS X but requires Apple's (free) X11 to be installed.

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Rate Your CPU Upgrade Reports Database Updated
The Rate Your CPU Upgrade database has been updated with new reports (entries later today are added the next newsday morning). Total to date: 10,181. Here's a summary of the reports added (search by brand/mac model for full reports - latest reports always shown first):

  • Giga Designs Dual G4 1.4GHz (7457) in (Gigabit Ethernet) G4/AGP (rated 2)
    (noted cache failure and problems getting warranty honored)
  • Sonnet G4/500 in B&W G3 (rated 9)

    (Full reviews of G4 and G3 upgrades compared to stock CPUs, including real world apps/game tests, install info, etc. are linked at the CPU upgrades page. OC/CPU module articles are on the Systems page.)

(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).

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CDRW/DVD/Hard Drive/Storage Compatibility Database Update Listing
The Drive Compatibility Database had new reports added this morning. (Entries later today are added the next newsday morning.) The database includes reports on CDRWs, Combo DVD-CDRW, DVD-ROM, DVD Burners, Hard Drives and Removables (tape drive, ORB, ZIP, MO drives, NAS, CF/Smartmedia readers, etc.) in all interface types (IDE, IDE RAID cards, SATA, Firewire, SCSI, USB, adapters). Current total - 15,542 reports. (searching by drive type/brand, mac model etc. listed below will show the full reports, most recent first - does not include updates to previous reports) iApps burn support mentioned in reports unless otherwise noted.

    DVD+R/RW + DVD-R/RW Drives:
  • IDE Pioneer DVR-110D in eMac (OS X 10.4)
    (FAQ's iMac section has a download of an eMac superdrive install guide.)

    Hard Drives:
  • IDE Western Digital WD2500JB 250GB in eMac (OS X 10.4)

You can find full owner reports (latest shown first) 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.)
(Incomplete entries are deleted. Do not post questions in the database, it's for drive reports not questions on what drive to buy - for that try searching the database for reports from owners of your mac model on the drive type/brand/interface, etc. you're interested in.)

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Listing/links to recent articles and reviews you may have missed.
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