Category Archives: Mac OSX

27″ iMac – slow performance when using Flash? B.S.

There appears to be a ton of hubbub on the internet regarding the 27″ iMac, Snow Leopard, and terrible performance when using Flash.   As with most reports, this has begun to spin out of control and it seems like the blogs of the world like gizmodo and macrumors are jumping on the story.

Well…  one thing the “informed” reader would notice is that NOT everyone is having this problem.  Being a software developer, the computer geek that I am, and also the skeptic that i am, I don’t believe in one-off issues.  Usually, there is a repeatable pattern that leads to widespread issues – if everyone isn’t having the problem, it’s more unlikely that it’s the hardware causing the issue (barring manufacturing defects).

So… I decided to test this issue.  Guess what – at first I thought I had a problem…  In fact, I noticed that typing in any application could be downright slow, and sometimes would lag many characters behind what I had typed.  Looking at my handy dandy iStat monitor – I saw that the finder was spiking up and down in processor usage… as low as 0.2%, as high as 104%

So then I think to myself… what the hell could be causing this?  Being the pragmatic fellow that I sometimes am – I decided to start disabling some of the handy dandy utilities that I had running in my menu bar, and anything else that I have installed that might be running in the background.

One by one I shut off utilities – smcFanControl, my DropBox menu bar icon, etc.. etc… But performance still suffered.  So then i did it – I shut off and uninstalled iStat.  Guess what, shortly after shutting off iStat – my computer seemed to speed up.  I popped up a terminal window, ran “top” and sure enough – finder usage returned to normal (less than 1%).

The moral of the story… if you’re having problems with your new 27″ iMac – look at the software you have installed and running.  Chances are you’re using something that might have worked fine in Leopard, but is not ideal for Snow Leopard.  Now… I was using the latest version (2.0) of iStat – which says it works for Snow Leopard – but…. something tells me this is not the case.

I am assuming that for many, this is the same case.  Many people are saying “Well, my 20″ iMac works Great” – but chances are their 20″ iMac ran Leopard, and they installed all of their leopard tools on their new Snow Leopard based iMac….  which is not a 1:1 so far as compatibility is concerned. 

Until they can prove to me otherwise, my beloved iStat is not installed on my iMac – and everything is running wonderfully.

The moral of the story here – If you are suffering from performance issues on new hardware, test again on a bare environment before you go blaming the hardware.  I’m not saying that there definately are no problems with the new iMac – but I do believe there is enough “different” about it’s config and it’s O/S that perhaps something you are doing is causing the issue….   Unless everything is constant, “It always worked on my old machine” is not a valid statement.

 

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Using your 27″ iMac as a display – a Follow up.

So I’ve added a couple more scenarios to my testing from my previous blog post on this topic and wanted to take a second to post the results.

 

  •  iMac running and booted into Snow Leopard, MacBook Pro connected via display port and powered off.  Turning the MacBook Pro on seemed promising, as the boot screen breifly flashed the iMac into display mode.  Once the MacBook pro began booting, however, the iMac switched back to internal video and the MacBook pro was unaware of it’s presence.
  • iMac shut down, MacBook Pro connected, running, and booted into Leopard.  Turning the iMac on at first seemed to be uneventful.  Once Snow Leopard began running, however, the iMac quickly switched to display mode and the MacBook pro recognized it.  DING DING DING – we have a winner.
The moral of the story:  If you are going to leave your iMac connected to be used as a display to another machine – make sure you boot the primary machine completely into it’s operating system first.  Once boot is complete, flip on the iMac – it will boot into Snow Leopard, but then will instantly switch into display mode.
Another item – as I’ve discussed in my previous post – and contrary to what the geeks at the Apple store told me – the iMac does *NOT* go to sleep when it’s operating as a display.  A couple of you have asked me if it is possible to remote desktop into the iMac while it’s operating as a display.  The short answer is …. YES.  I have verified that you can remote into it and use it as a display simultaneously.
Another question that came down the pipe was whether there was a way, in software, to switch to display mode.  As far as I know, this is not (yet) possible.  The only way I have found other than what I mentioned above is to unplug/replug the cable to get it to switch.
UPDATE! Apparently there is an undocumented feature that allows you to hot-switch the iMac between internal and external display mode by pressing COMMAND-F2 on the iMac’s keyboard.  Thanks, Apple – could have saved me tons of wasted time by simply including that in the frickin’ user manual!
Happy 27″ iMac-ing 🙂

 

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Getting Windows 7 Installed (and past the blank screen) on a new 27″ Core2 iMac

So – I decided that i wanted to install Windows 7 ultimate on my beautiful new 27″ iMac – partly because Windows runs great on Apple hardware, and partly because I know that somewhere out there, there is an Apple die hard that just choked reading this ;).  If you’ve read my blog before – you’ve seen some pretty crazy configurations (My Mac Pro, for example, is a 4 O/S beast that runs beautifully – and I did everything gracefully, and without any of the bullcrap that the so called “Mac Geniuses” say you will run into….  Macs wont run 64-bit this, you have to update EFI tables that….  it’s all horseshit (pardon my french).  Macs are pretty much plain vanilla PC’s when it comes to their innards – and with a little greasing, things usually install nicely – if you know what you are doing.  Unfortunately, it seems that most people who use Macs – including the majority of the “geniuses” at the apple stores, and the “top posters” on the apple forums, blindly lead people down un-necessarily difficult paths because they simply don’t know what they’re doing.

Enter my blog….  I’ve already given you a path to create your own quad booting Mac Pro behemoth…..  and now I’ll do the same for the new iMac.  Let’s install Windows 7.  I’m not going step by step – I will assume that you have seen boot camp before and I will just cover the issues you will run into because a) I like quick, concise blog posts and b) it should still give you the information you need to be successful.

So, anyways, much to my dismay, I start by using the Boot Camp utility to partition off a 300GB Windows partition, and let it reboot into the Windows Installer.  I go through the W7 intro screens and pick the new installation pathway through the installer.  The first thing I notice is that W7 says that it cannot install on the boot camp partition because it’s not formatted NTFS.  No biggie, click the boot camp drive, click advanced, and then click format.  Presto!  the error goes away so I happily click next and start the install process.

The copy process took about 15-20 minutes it seemed – but I was not watching the clock so I might be a little off there, but it didn’t seem to take very long.  Before you know it – you will see a message saying that your computer will reboot, or, if you’re not paying attention – you’ll be blown out of your chair by the apple startup sound which, thanks to an excellent speaker setup in the new 27″ iMac, is more annoying than ever (might I suggest you click here if you find the sound annoying too?).  Once the computer restarts, you’ll see the installer load back up, finish adding a few more drivers here and there, and copy some more files, and then it will reboot again.

Uh-Oh…. here is where the trouble starts.  When you reboot – you’ll see the “Starting Windows” screen with the interesting new microsoft animation, and then your screen goes blank.  What?  What happened?  Do i wait.  Well – you can, but let me tell you – I was doing some other things so I just let the iMac sit – and 45 minutes later, the screen was still blank… so… something is “effed-up”.   So – what to do now?

I won’t go into details of how i discovered this, because most people just want the solution – so here it is.  Once your computer craps out at the black screen, shut it off by holding down the power button until you hear it click off.  Wait a few seconds, then boot it back up.  You should still have your windows CD in the drive, and when the EFI bootloader launches Windows, you should see a screen that says “press any key to boot from CD/DVD” – do it.  The little wireless keyboard sometimes goes to sleep – so hit enter a few times until you see the plain “Windows is loading files…” message with the ugly ASCII text progress bar.  If you see the “Starting Windows” animation with the windows logo – you missed it…. reboot and try again.

This will basically take you back into the Windows installer.  This time, you’re not installing, however – you want to get into Repair mode.  Follow the prompts and click through to Repair mode until you are prompted with a screen that has several options.  One of these options is “Command Prompt”, pick that.

This will drop you to a good ol’ DOS command prompt – I cannot remember the path it defaults to – but you’ll see a line that looks something like “X:\Folder1\Folder2>” where X is the drive letter and Folder1/Folder2 is your current location on that drive.  Without the quotes, type “C:” and press enter.  This will take you to your C: drive – the drive which Windows is installed upon.  Now, type (again, without the quotes) “del c:\windows\system32\drivers\atikmdag.sys” and press enter.  It should say “1 file(s) deleted”.  Peachy.  Type “exit” and press enter to exit the command prompt, and then click restart.

Now, your computer will go to the “starting windows” screen, and will advance to another graphic that says your computer is being prepared to be run for the first time – congrats – you’ve gotten past the black-screen-o-death.  Basically, what is happening is that Windows is detecting ATI graphics hardware in your shiny new 27″ iMac, but it’s installing an older ATI driver that is not compatible.  Once you get to the part where it tries to initialize the display – it hangs up.  When you delete this driver, you default it back to the standard plain vanilla VGA driver and things will progress smoothly.

Once you get logged in, insert the Mac OSX Install Disk into the DVD drive and wait for it to be recognized.  Click the start button, then my computer.  Double click the D: drive (it will say “WindowsSupport”) and allow boot camp to install all of the drivers for your machine.  You will most likely get a couple of times where the install will stop and ask you if you want to allow the software to make changes to your machine – of course, confirm this action.

When Boot Camp is done, your machine will need to be restarted.  Go ahead and restart, and then immediately run Windows Update by clicking it from the start menu.  This will install the CORRECT ATI drivers for your video card, and then your display will be available in it’s full glory.

Enjoy!

UPDATE 11/21/2010 – Some time ago, Apple has also created a support article regarding this issue – their solution is slighly simpler – http://support.apple.com/kb/TS3173

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