- August 31st, 2007
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This last week, I got an iMac. One of my comps (my server) had hardware in it from about 2001 (it had the very first Athlon XP in it right when they just released, when the chips were branded with the string “Mobile Athlon 4″ before they were officially named Athlon XP) and the hardware was starting to give errors and crash and show its age. So I got an iMac as a new desktop, made the old desktop my server, and retired the 6 year old server.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a hardcore Linux geek, and is probably astonished. Well, the intel imacs can triple boot OSX, Linux, and Windows, so your point is moot. Macs are essentially PC’s in pretty cases now.
However, I did decide to switch to OSX as my operating system. I will deal with that aspect in another post; this post is specifically for the hardware aspect of the iMac.
This is one of the new Aluminum/Glass iMacs that was released earlier August. In fact, I specifically waited for the refresh before buying. It’s a 24″, 2.8 core 2 duo, 4Gb ram, 750Gb hard drive (because I definitely need that to store all the stuff I had on the 3 320Gb hard drives in the old desktop).
It is a triple boot system – OSX, Vista, Linux. Well, it will be; I have it partitioned to support all three, but I only had the time to install Vista alongside OSX. Getting Linux working on the intel mac hardware is not 100% straightforward, so I decided to save that for when I had more time (i.e. not packing at the same time). Most people don’t like Vista (myself included), but I don’t have any more valid keys for XP, and I don’t really want to have to reinstall if/when vista becomes standard and XP is obsolete. Besides, I only use it for games anyway.
The form factor is nice, for a 24″ computer. It’s cool that there isn’t a separate tower, but that doesn’t really make a 24″ screen any easier to carry around.
The 24″ screen has a native resolution of 1920×1200, which means it supports 1080p. I’ve only seen very minimal stutter on certain 1080p anime rips, and none on others. For example, a 1080p rip of an episode of Moetan (a magical girl anime) doesn’t stutter at all because it’s only 2d animation. A 1080p blu-ray rip of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (which has tons of detailed 3d graphics) skipped a little bit during the really detailed 3d parts. Then again, there are other factors involved there, such as cpu power for decoding the h.264 encodes, video card power, etc.
It’s really quiet, which is a far cry from all my other computers, which sound like turbines. However, with so few fans, it makes me wonder about the lifetime of the computer, or, more specifically, the lifetime of the hard drive. The thing runs fairly hot, because there’s not much cooling (fans, airflow, etc). And, as most overclockers know, heat is a computer’s worst enemy. It will cause CPUs to miscalculate and cause kernel panics, damage hard drive platters and eat data and cause bad blocks. I can put my hand on certain spots of the computer and have to take it away after a few seconds because it’s so hot. I can feel the ambient heat of the machine when I put my hand a foot away from it. And this makes me uncomfortable because the hard drive is dead smack in the center of everything. CPUs can survive some heat, you just let it cool down again. But once a hard drive develops bad blocks, they never go away. I have learned my lesson from failed laptop drives, though, and have backup scripts that keep copies of my data on my server, so it’s not as big of a worry as it would have been without. However, I haven’t played any games yet. I will eventually, but I’m afraid of how the load will bake the internals of the computer.
The video card: All of the new imacs besides the lowest model come with the ATI Radeon HD 2600. Mine has 256Mb VRAM; I think most of them have that. Unfortunately, this is the budget $99 ATI Radeon that gets half the benchmarks of the equivalent line of NVidia Geforces. They don’t allow any video card upgrades in the imacs. I don’t play that many games, and when I do, they’re usually not the top-of-the-line games, but still, it would have been nice to have been able to get a more powerful card. Then again, it goes back to my concerns of baking the internals with heat; more powerful video card means more heat.
The remote: useless, as far as I’m concerned. I’m rarely ever not at the computer, or doing anything in the room but away from the computer that would necessitate a remote.
The camera: also useless, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not so self-obsessed that I would take pictures of myself, and I don’t video chat with anyone (and don’t really want to), and I’m not an online webcam whore, so I don’t use it for anything.
The disc drive: it’s a dvd burner, but I do everything by network, so I don’t use discs at all. The slot loader is kind of cool though, and saves space.
The keyboard: this is the flat laptop-like silver and white keyboard. I got my keyboard and mouse wired because I wasn’t entirely sure if Linux could support bluetooth peripherals (especially during install, you can’t exactly install without a keyboard). Plus, the wireless version of a keyboard doesn’t come with a numpad, which is just stupid. It’s not a freaking laptop keyboard, it’s a wireless desktop keyboard. I’d also be afraid of knocking the mouse off of the desk and losing it under the couch or something if it wasn’t connected to anything.
I like the way the keys feel like a laptop’s. I’ve been using laptop keyboards and ultra slim laptop-like desktop keyboards for a long time, so I’m right at home with it. I’m a bit afraid of popping the keys off and rearranging them into dvorak as usual because I’m afraid I’d break them, though.
The mouse: I hate this thing (the Mighty Mouse) and want it to die a painful death. I’m using it because it’s new and it came with the computer, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it sucks. For anyone who doesn’t know what a mighty mouse is, it’s a mouse with one mouse button that pretends to have more buttons (more on that below) and a scroll ball in it to scroll in any direction.
Pros: The scroll ball is cool. First mouse I’ve had with vertical and horizontal scrolling. Though sometimes it feels like you’re rubbing a nipple.
Cons: It’s a one-button mouse. Now, here’s the thing – Apple couldn’t abandon their one button mouse ways, but wanted to support right and left click. So instead of the obvious way of making two mouse buttons, what do they do? Have a touch sensitive system that detects whether you’re pushing the right or left side and reacts accordingly. What the fuck is this shit? Now, if it was actually clicking the left side or the right side and reacting accordingly, I could even believe that. But when you press the button, it detects whether your left finger is touching the mouse – if the right finger is touching the button but the left finger is not, it’s a right click. Otherwise, it’s a left click. Now, here’s the problem – when you have both fingers on the mouse, and you right click, you have to lift your left finger up while you press your right finger down to click. How counterintuitive is that? And when you want to middle click, you also have to lift left finger off the mouse and push the middle (scroll ball). Sometimes I feel like my grandfather, whom I just taught how to use a mouse for the first time a couple years ago, who lifts his entire hand off the mouse and pokes the button when he wants to click. Congrats Apple, you’ve created the bastard love child of a one and a three button mouse. And the touch sensitive technology is probably several times more expensive than three buttons.
There are also two side buttons (which are actually buttons and not a part of the main mouse button amalgamation), for activating Expose. The one on the right is not reachable by me, and is obviously symmetrical for left-handers. The left, on the other hand, is not really under my thumb. So I kind of have to reach up a little awkwardly to reach it. My hands are not really big, but they’re not really small either. (If I had to describe them, I’d describe them as slightly larger than average, and slightly chubby) But the other problem (which will hopefully fade with time) is the fact that the side buttons require a fair amount of pressure to activate. Now, when you’re clicking them, you need to put pressure on the other side of the mouse to keep the mouse from sliding. So, due to the asymmetrical nature of your 4 fingers vs your thumb, where does the rest of your hand logically put pressure? On the right mouse button (or where the right mouse button would be). So when you try and push the thumb button, sometimes you accidentally right click. I learned this one the hard way: I was filling out a form in Safari, and tried to activate expose by the thumb button. I accidentally right clicked. When there are no pages to go back to in the current window, the top menu option is “Reload”, which is what was accidentally selected. It reloaded the page, and wiped all the form data I was in the middle of typing.
But other than the mouse sucking my balls, and the video card being kind of weak, the machine is pretty cool.