News Archive for: Wednesday, September 27th, 2006 (later posted items first)
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iTunes store problems today
I mentioned earlier today in the post on iTunes 7.0.1 that I'd had very slow/sluggish iTunes store response. Tonight I noticed another problem - some movies listed there (like "O Brother where Art Thou") can't be bought - you get a "no longer available" message when trying to buy using the shopping cart option. I tried repeatedly - it showed in the cart, but when trying to buy, I'd get the not available message, then it would be removed.
I wrote a friend (Matthew) about this (the ONE movie I'd consider buying can't be bought LOL) and he checked and said he's seen the same thing tonight on several movies (but not all). I searched Apple's kbase docs, iTunes/store support, itunes/store forum etc. for any info on this but didn't find anything. I quit iTunes/relaunched it, tried again - same thing. I then changed iTunes prefs to use the 1-click buy option (vs cart) and when trying to buy O Brother (and on some other movie titles) a similar message appears:

" The item you tried to buy is no longer available. The availability of the item changed while you were using the store. The same item may be available with a different price or elsewhere on the store."

After rebooting my machine and trying again, when I add movies like "O Brother" to the shopping cart, it accepts it, but the cart is now blank (no line items) although the total at the bottom of the page is correct (although the 'buy now' button is dimmed/disabled). I only tried 2 movie titles, but Matthew said he tried about 10 and appx 1/2 of them gave the same 'unavailable' message. Hopefully this is something that Apple will have corrected soon (unless they're removing those titles from the listing, but they were still there as I'm typing this). I'll try again tomorrow I guess. We were both using iTunes 7.0.1 (my system had 10.3.9, his 10.4.7.)
(Update As of 5AM Thursday, the 'not available' problem was no longer seen, at least for the "O Brother" movie...)

Another reader mentioned he'd seen some quirks after the iTunes 7.0.1 update.

" ... iTunes 7.0 was okay on my PowerBook G4 550. iTunes 7.0.1 has some display issues for me, to say the least. When cycling through the view options in the upper right for covers, the iTunes window kind of half redraws, leaving me with a mess. I can minimize the iTunes window to the dock and bring it back to visually clear it up, but the scroll bar sliders (all- for both songs and playlists) are "frozen" although if I use psychic powers (i.e. click around until I catch the "invisible" one) I can slide it. The arrow keys still work, but I am encountering a serious display issue with redraws and updates. The music seems to playback just fine though, but controlling it is now more difficult than it was this morning under 7.0.
I'm using 10.4.7 and all updates are applied. I repaired permissions and rebooted but the problem remained.
Cheers, Marty "

I didn't see a problem in 7.0.1 with the (very limited) album covers I have (I didn't select the option to download missing covers however). Matthew replied to Marty's post saying he'd not seen this problem:

" no display problems like Marty, but I have a 1GHz iBook (w/1GB ram), not a speed demon to be sure, and a huge amount of album covers, for what it's worth.
However, note the following on iTunes 7 page for additional video especially..
    Additional Video Requirements
  • Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later
  • 1 GHz G4 processor or better
  • QuickTime 7.1.3 or later
  • 16MB video RAM

-Matthew"

Granted Marty's PB G4/550 doesn't meet the "video requirements" but the Album cover art is not video (basically a Jpeg image) and he said he didn't see the problem with iTunes 7.0.0.

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Apple Logic Pro/Logic Express 7.2.3 Updates
Apple has released Logic Express Update 7.2.3 and Logic Pro Update 7.2.3 today. Both had literally identical change notes:

" Logic (Pro/Express) 7.2.3 addresses performance issues when Logic (Pro/Express) 7 is used on Mac Pro and G5 Quad computers. Logic (Pro/Express) 7.2.3 is recommended for all Mac Pro and G5 Quad users. An existing Logic (Express/Pro 7.2.1) or Logic (Express/Pro) 7.2.2 installation is required for this update.

Note: Logic (Express/Pro) 7.2.3 is optimized for PowerPC G4, G5 and Intel based Macs with up to 2 dual-core processors "

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iTunes 7.0.1 Update released
Matthew sent a heads-up that an iTunes 7.0.1 update is available via software update. Here's the Apple download page for those that prefer to update that way.

" iTunes 7.0.1 addresses stability and performance issues with Cover Flow, CD importing, iPod syncing, and more."

Matt also suggested running Repair Permissions after the update saying it showed an iTunes InternetUtilities.bundle correction although I didn't see that on the 10.3.9 system I updated. (Some that are extermely cautious reboot and run RP, then update, then RP again. Rebooting/RP helped some that had the odd (uncommon) DVD playback problem after the previous QT 7.1.3/iTunes 7.00 update, although it didn't for one reader that finally had to do a restore from backup/reinstall of the updates to fix that.)
I didn't have any problems with the 7.0 update (on my PB G4 w/10.3.9), although some readers did. If this update helps with problems you had previously (other than corrupted iPods or lost libs), let me know. Thanks.
(I don't know if it's my net connection or traffic at the iTunes store, but it's been very slow/sluggish today, sometimes previews not playing, etc.)

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iMac 2GHz Core 2 Duo FPS w/Quake4 and Tweaks
(Corrected)

"Quake4 timedemo results
Just tested Quake 4 (v1.2) on the following:
iMac 2GHz Core 2 Duo 17", 1GB ram, ATI x1600 128MB

    id_demo001 - medium settings, 640x480
  • smp 0 : 46 fps
  • smp 1 : 56 fps

    800x600
  • smp 0 : 46 fps
  • smp 1 : 52 fps

    1024x768
  • smp 0 : 27 fps
  • smp 1 : 27 fps

These first smp 0 results didn't seem heaps better than my poor pc's (amd2700/512MB/nv fx5600 128MB), so I got quite scared at first. Thankfully, it gets much faster with a few tweaks.

    + r_shadows 0, g_muzzleflash 0 (the latter's only a ~1 fps gain)
    640x480
  • smp 0 : 59 fps
  • smp 1 : 85.4 fps

    800x600
  • smp 0 : 57.7 fps
  • smp 1 : 70.7 fps

    1024x768
  • smp 0 : 49.4 fps
  • smp 1 : 49.7 fps

Now that's better. But we can get better performance out of this Core 2 Duo when 1.3 comes out on OS X.

In Quake 4 1.3, r_forceambient replaces all lights with a single, fast ambient light source when set above 0 : ugly but the best performance tweak there is in Q4, as lighting and shadow volumes completely own the cpu and graphics card in D3/Q4.

Therefore, in order to try and mimick 1.3 point release w/ r_forceambient 0.x, I first tested with r_lightdetaillevel 11 - which will take all the lights out.

    + r_lightdetaillevel 11
    640x480
  • smp 0 : 92.2 fps
  • smp 1 : 142.8 fps

    800x600
  • smp 0 : 92 fps
  • smp 1 : 142 fps

    1024x768
  • smp 0 : 92 fps
  • smp 1 : 140.3 fps

Seems quite cpu bound there. :)
This is not surprising, as that kind of setting pretty much evens out lousy graphics performance - it wouldn't make much difference whether we had a low end or a high end card.

I then figured out which light on the test map is the ambient light, and thus tested with r_singlelight 47 instead of changing lightdetaillevel.
This is the closest thing to r_forceambient 0.x performance in Quake 4 1.3, and as I expected, isn't too far off the previous test :

  • 640x480, smp1 : 132 fps.
  • + g_decals 0 for good measure, 640*480, smp1 : 155 fps.

g_decals "0" can add an extra ~10 fps to the scores in many cases. It's not so much their render cost that makes the difference, but the game code that handles them - which is pretty poor in vanilla Q4.

Hopefully Aspyr will release an OS X build of the 1.3 pointrelease soon - there can be pretty significant performance gains. id is currently working on 1.4, and I somehow suspect Aspyr may wait for this update to get the Mac version back in sync with the rest of the world.

When we get Q4Max to build for OS X, I will certainly try to sneak on the iMac with my mouse and keyboard to play my TDM clanwars. ;)
-hemostick
www.q4max.com"

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Feedback on SRS iWOW Plugin for iTunes
(Regarding the iTunes SRS iWOW plugin released last week)
" iWOW comes to Macs. I already bought 2 licenses. Fabulous is the word! I tried iWOW with my hifi via AirTunes, on my Al PowerBook (tiny speakers) and even on the mac mini (VERY tiny speaker), and in all three instances, the difference is noticable, mostly so on the laptop - I would even say "overwhelming"! Worth every penny, and makes iTunes' equaliser really superfluous...
Best regards, Sebastian
(reader who did a recent Core2 Duo CPU Swap in Mac Mini) "

They have a free trial available, but IMHO the $19.99 price seemed steep. Many years ago I bought a (cheaply made, primarily for gaming IIRC) external SRS device for not much more than that.
Update: On Monday (Oct. 2nd) A different reader later sent a note about CPU usage from the iWoW plugin:

" Hi Mike, I noticed a residual 20% CPU usage on my Mac Pro this morning when nothing was really running. The WindowServer task was the culprit, although I eventually pinned it down to SRS's iWoW plugin for iTunes that you mentioned last week. (above post)
Closing the iWoW window calmed WindowServer down. Opening it back up again sent it right back to the 20% usage level again. This hit happens *without* any music playing.
I got a kick out of the plugin, but with the price and this hit, I had to uninstall it.
-Matt "

Another reader replied:

" concerning SRS iWOW: to lower the CPU usage (even with music playing) from 15 - 20 % to a normal 5 - 10 % simply minimize the plugin window to the dock. Hope this can help unsatisfied users; i'm testing it in demo mode.
Ciao, Sam "

Update - I've created a separate page for reader comments on the SRS iWOW Plugin for iTunes, which has later feedback on it including more detailed CPU usage tests.

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More Core2 iMac Owner comments on Hard Drive Noise (or lack of)
(latest replies to Core2 Duo iMac owner comments on Seagate Drive Noise, although not every owner with a Seagate (7200.9) drive had a complaint.)

" Just received my 24" iMac today (with 250GB Western Digital WD2500JS-40TGB0 hard drive) and it's NOT noisy at all. I can (just) hear the hard drive when it's working, but it's quieter than my (quietly ticking) clock across the other side of the room. And compared to the drive in my Dual 2.3 G5, it's as quiet as a mouse. Really not a problem. I'm in a relatively quiet environment too, so in most situations it wouldn't be heard at all.
Regards, Chris "

" Machine virtually silent , no hard drive noise - hard drive (Western Digital) WDC WD2500JS-40TGB0
Not exactly relevant, but I have a new Core2 iMac 20", and it goes to the startup manager (as if I had pressed option) on every boot, it did not do this for the first couple of days... This is very annoying, I might have to call Apple support when I get a chance...
-Neil "

" New Core 2 Duo 17" with 160 gig drive. (I asked for model info - Apple system profiler will show that-Mike) No noise complaints at all. The Mac rocks!
-Eric "

" I've got a 24" iMac with a Seagate ST3500641AS (7200.9 SATA 500GB) drive. It is absolutely dead silent. I have to put my ear up to the back of the Mac to hear it at all.

OTOH, I also have an (External) 500 GB Western Digital WD5000KS which according to silentpcreview is supposed to be an extremely quiet drive. However, it is significantly louder than the Seagate when seeking (although the external case may have something to do with it).

It is possible there is variation in drive noise due to manufacturing tolerances. However, I would suggest the OP complain to Apple. Part of the appeal of an iMac is its quiet (and having owned a Quicksilver G4 dual-1Ghz and a first-generation G5 dual-2Ghz, I am finally at peace).
-Jay "

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Other Net News/Misc. Software Updates
(later added items first)

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