News Archive for: Tuesday, September 19th, 2006 (later posted items first)
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Mac Pro owner feedback on Firmware Updates
(In reply to the Mac Pro EFI and SMC firmware updates mentioned earlier today.)

" I just wanted to report that the Mac Pro firmware updates resulted in a much faster Windows XP installation and that the UDMA-mode of the SATA controllers is in fact enabled and working, even before installing the Apple BootCamp Drivers CD! (I asked if he had previously slipstreamed a CD using different drivers, which was the previous fix for the onboard SATA (slow) PIO mode issue-Mike)
No, I installed XP from scratch after the firmware updates and I used a standard XP Pro CD with integrated SP2 without any extra drivers or changes.
Also, thankfully the SMC update didn't make the fans any louder!
Greetings, Alex. "

" Mike, I have updated my MacPro with the new firmware. Initially, I tried updating it off my Apple Disk Utility dual RAID boot drive, but the firmware did not update. (another reader mentioned this also-Mike) I restarted onto my cloned single-drive backup and went through the steps noted by the updater and it worked. I guess this is not surprising since Apple does not support booting from a RAID. (on Intel CPU based Macs-Mike) Also as a side note, Firewire target disk mode does not support the RAID either.

I can confirm that this firmware does appear to fix the PIO mode issue. My Windows XP Boot Camp installation now shows Ultra DMA Mode 5 in the advanced tab for the Primary IDE interface in the Device Manager. This was installed with a slipstreamed CD with a working Multi-Word DMA 2 setting. So, the mode changed from Multi-Word DMA to Ultra DMA 5 with the new firmware. I'm not going to install Windows XP once again from scratch to see if the PIO mode is fixed without a slipstreamed CD. =)

Also, the firmware update does not fix the boot display issues with the Radeon X1900XT. It doesn't harm it either... I can still boot into Windows XP but get a black screen until the boot process goes out of the lower resolution mode as before. (However those with only a 23in Cinema display and X1900 XT said they could not even install Windows XP with that combo, as they never got any video when booting from the XP Install CD.-Mike)

(he later wrote)
To supplement my previous email: the firmware update has fixed the hardware virtualization problem with Parallels on my Mac Pro as well. I no longer need to use the workaround of putting the MacPro to sleep for Parallels to work with VT-x support.
-Andy "

" Might want to mention that the EFI 1.0 update cannot be run from RAID (stripped, mirror, or mirror-stripe which seems to be popular with some Mac Pro owners).
-Gregory "

I assume the same is true of the SMC firmware update (don't own a Mac Pro personally.) If you've updated your Mac Pro and see any pros/cons from these (after applying -both- the EFI and SMC updates), let me know. Thanks.
(Update - I've created a separate page for Feedback on Mac Pro EFI/SMC Firmware Updates.)

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Mac Pro EFI and SMC Firmware Updates released, Firmware Restoration CD v1.1
Matthew called with a heads-up on firmware updates from Apple for the Mac Pro. (They should appear in software update, but here's the links from apple's support/downloads page. Note a reader said the EFI update appeared first, then after applying it and checking again the SMC update appeared.)

FYI - 2 Mac Pro owners mentioned you cannot run these updates from RAIDed drives. There's also a Firmware Restoration CD 1.1 available.
If you update your Mac Pro and see any pros/cons from these updates, let me know. (i.e. Does it help with things like the onboard SATA PIO mode with BootCamp/WinXP (unless using other drivers than bootcamp's) and the XP no video at boot with 23in Cinema Displays that X1900 users reported recently.)
Update - see above for the first reader feedback.

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Parallels Desktop for Mac v2.2.1898 Update and Question/Answers (Tips)
(Update with initial reader feedback below)
Parallels' Blog has notes on the latest Mac Desktop release candidate update (v2.2.1898):

" Just a few minutes ago our developers posted a new build (1898) for Desktop for Mac that substantially improves Mac Pro and 64-bit iMac performance and eliminates kernel panics and major bugs.

For those users who have Mac Pros and 64-bit iMacs with more than 2GB of RAM, you've had to manually limit your RAM via the instructions I layed out in my "Q&A about the Update RC" post. In this build, we've included a tool that will help you take this action without any command line coding. With a single click you can limit your RAM and make your Mac Pro fully compatible with this build. You can easily revert your memory back at any time to the full configuration with the same tool.

Its very important to note that limiting your RAM configuration to run Parallels Desktop will NOT prevent you from running any other OS X application (although they may run slightly slower). It simply helps our hypervisor "play nice" with the Mac Pro.

This build also adds support for Windows Vista RC1 as a guest OS, and adds an improved Parallels Tools package for all of the Vista builds that improves mouse movement, and video resolutions, and beefs up networking. I highly recommend you install it if you're running Vista!

Originally, I told you that we'd have full PAE support by year's end. Now, I'm pleased to let you know that we are working on a new RC version that will be compatible with ANY Mac with ANY amount of RAM, and will have it much sooner than originally anticipated. The engineering team tells me that this build should be available in a week or two.

Thank you again to all of our loyal Desktop users and beta testers. Everyone here appreciates your feedback and your patience. "

Although the previous RC update mentioned support for Mac Pros with up to 3.5GB of RAM, some readers reported problems (and workarounds) using it.
For those that had problems with the previous release, let me know if this update helps. (Include system info. Thanks)
A couple of readers quickly replied:

" Mike, I can confirm that the latest Parallels build fixes the kernel panic on virtual machine start on my MacPro 2.66 3.5 GB RAM with Radeon X1900XT. There is still the error that requires you to put your computer to sleep and then wake it up to enable the hardware virtualization. (Workaround mentioned in the Sept. 8th news - however the Mac Pro firmware updates today fix that a reader said. See above news items.-Mike)

This is my first successful use of the product. Installed Windows XP from scratch without any problems. The install was relatively fast and overall the speed appears to be very good. As noted, Parallels requires you to set Mac OS X to only use 2 GB RAM, so the actual use of this for now is limited for me as I would have to restart to either make use of all the installed RAM or be able to use Parallels. Otherwise, it's looking very good.
Thanks, Andy "

This reader confirmed the previously mentioned problem running Vista release candidate (build 5600) has been fixed:

" Hey Mike! I am glad to report that you can now easily install Windows Vista RC1 b. 5600 using the new Paralells build! It works very stable. I have not checked any other (Vista) version btw. ;) Great site!
Samo from Slovenia "

Scott mentioned in the Sept. 8th news page he was able to run a Vista beta 2 OK with the previous Desktop v2.1884 update, but not the RC1 version.

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Latest report on Core2 Duo CPU Swap in Mac Mini
" Hello Mike, I just wanted to tell you that I transplanted a T7400 Core 2 Duo into my "new" (late 2006) Mini 1.66GHz/Combo Drive/2GB today, using Arctic Silver Ceramique as thermal paste.
The Mini recognizes the new CPU correctly as a Core 2 Duo 2.17 GHz.

The system has been absolutely stable so far (couple of hours). This is one fast devil now.
Even graphics are sped up - NoLimits (rollercoaster simulator) tracks still look odd (no vertex shading with GM950 GPU), but I noticed approx. 50 percent higher minimum frame rates (max fps are 95-100 as before). The system seems much more responsive overall, too. Just for fun , I also put a Pioneer DVR-K06 "super multi" in the mini. The drive is officially supported by Apple, and was immediately recognised by the mac.
(I asked him what price he paid, as in the past the cost of the CPU was about as much as the Mini)
Here in Denmark, I paid 462.29 (Euros), including 25 % Danish VAT. Assuming 1 Euro equals roughly US$ 1.20, and leaving out VAT, that would be 444 US dollars, 555 with VAT added. I know, this is economically insensible to put a killer CPU into a basis machine, and I'm not overly wealthy. But it's fun.
Best, Sebastian "

Here's some previous news page posts on Intel CPU swaps in Mac Minis:

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Updates to Hardware Monitor, Temperature Monitor (for new Core2 iMacs, more)
Marcel Bresink has updated his utilities to add support for the new iMac Core2 models and added support for temperature sensors in some old hard drives which are not fully compliant with today's implementation of the S.M.A.R.T. standard as well as other changes. (See "What's new in this version?" on each product page for full details)

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Anyone using these Fiber Optic Ethernet cards in a Mac?
A reader that owns a (PCI-e) G5 tower and older G4 Tower (PCI slots) asked if any readers had used a Fiber NIC card in similar Macs. If you have let me know.
(I searched our OS X/Ethernet card reports page and found an note/link from Aug. 2004 on Smalltree's PCI/PC-X Multiport Fiber Optic Ethernet cards for Macs (and PCs) and that page now links to a PCI-Express version, but no reader has reported on them to date.)
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Rate Your CPU Upgrade Reports Database Updated
The Rate Your CPU Upgrade database has been updated with 1 new report this morning. Total to date: 10,274. Here's a summary of the latest additions (search by brand/mac model for full reports - latest reports always shown first):

  • Newer Tech G4 Dual 1.8GHz (7447A) in (Quicksilver) G4/AGP
    (noted the upgrade's fans hit the back end of the DVR-103 Superdrive. Older model drives are longer than the later models.)

    (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.)

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, send a review with your experience and rating (1= worst to 10=best). Search the database for entries from most every upgradable Mac model *before* you buy. (Searchable by mac model/upgrade brand).

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Other Net News/Misc. Software Updates

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Recent Reviews and Articles:
Listing/links to recent articles and reviews you may have missed.
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