Archive for February, 2006

Intel Mac Mini’s GPU (Video Chipset)

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

Update (Post-Ars): Arstechnica has done a thorough review of the Intel Mac Mini with the Core Solo processor; the entry level machine.. As usual, their analysis includes lots and lots and benchmarks (starting on page 4 of the review).

Update #3: I’m sticking this up at the top. A cup of has cinebench benchmarks comparing the G4 Mac Mini with an Intel Core Solo based mini. Significantly faster across the boards, save for the Hard GL metric, which is about 20% slower. However, the Soft GL metric is slightly more than twice as fast (and faster than the G4’s Hard GL).

For the obvious impaired: This update does not claim that the Mini is a smokin’ fast graphics engine. Not at all. It is a significant upgrade over the prior G4 based model. That combined with the interesting graphics capabilities of the GMA950 make for a lot of interesting potential.

And, before anyone asks, I have no idea as to how Mac OS X leverages the GMA950, nor the details of how the chipset is wired into the system.

After this morning’s announcement of a new Mac Mini sporting an Intel CPU, I had a look at the machine’s specifications.

I was a bit surprised to see the video chip listed as Intel GMA950 graphics processor with 64MB of DDR2 SDRAM shared with main memory with a footnote indicating that the GPU will potentially consume more main memory as graphics demands are increased.

Wait. On-board video? That seems kind of lame.

So, I had a look at Intel’s GMA950 chipset overview.

OK. Not so lame. Clearly, the Mac Mini is not intended to deliver 3D gaming performance comparable to the iMac or MacBook Pro.

It is, however, designed to deliver absolutely smokin’ video playback to displays more traditionally found in the home; TVs, home theaters, etc…

The marketing materials have a relatively lengthy session devoted to connecting the Mac Mini to various kinds of TVs. It also implies that the whole thing can take a bit of futzing to get right.

The chipset includes support for regular and HD playback, with the ability to up/down scale video content, as necessary. And it isn’t limited to a single stream of HD as it can simultaneously decode and display two streams. It can also handle pretty much any standard HD resolution in both interlaced and progressive scan mode (including 1080p) and it also natively supports both 16:9 and 16:10 aspect ratio displays.

Neat. I really hope the DVD player on my entertainment center finally stops playing discs soon as the mac mini would now make a perfect replacement.

Minor update: Let me restate a couple of obvious points. (1) I know that the chipset is not well suited for rippin’ 3D gaming action. (2) The features I describe are in the chipset that the mac mini uses. The potential is there, I have no idea to exactly what degree Tiger and/or the Mini leverages said features. (3) Yes, it is on-board video. It uses system resources. It is all about the cost proposition!

Update: KCD was kind enough to chime in with some very specific details about the system’s GPU capabilities in the comments. Read it — I learned quite a bit from it!

Crabtacular III & New Puppy

Monday, February 27th, 2006
New Puppy

On Saturday, we held Crabtacular III. I cooked 150 lbs of crab for lots and lots of guests (not sure how many). Lots of folks brought all kinds of yummy treats and made awesome crabtastic recipes.

Cooked Dungeness Crab

Highlights included a Thai Coconut Crab Soup, really yummy Jambalaya, and — my favorite — broiled crab wrapped in bacon. And, of course, boiled crab. Lots and lots of boiled crab. I threw salt, whole allspice, old bay seasonings, a couple of dried scotch bonnet peppers, and a couple of whole limes into the boil. Boil the crabs for 12 to 14 minutes then dunk them in cold water for 3 or 4 minutes. From there, rip the top shell off, peel out the guts and gils, crank ’em in half and dunk the halves to wash away the last of the guts. Serve.

Now THAT is a grilling station!

To handle the cooking load, I set up two turkey fryers to boil the crab, put together the Big Green Egg my wife gave me, had a couple of other grills on standby, and a Coleman camp stove in case we ran out of room in the kitchen. Ph33r my 1337 grillin’ setup. Speaking of the kitchen, the new stove/range and dishwasher performed well. Installation was quite the adventure. I have an ID related rant on that subject.

On Sunday, Roger, Janis, and I took a three hour road trip to just south of Yosemite to pick up Ruby, a 9 week old border collie mix puppy that Christine found via Craig’s List. The drive was beautiful; miles and miles of apricot trees in full bloom with the snow covered mountains of Yosemite in the background.

Ruby White Paw is her full name and she is quite the precocious little pup. She likes to sit and contemplate, then dive into the fray head first at full speed. And regardless of how yummy the crab was, any post that mentions a puppy has to start with a picture of said puppy.

1 Billion Served: Congratulations!

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

At about 9:35pm PST, the iTunes Music Store served up the 1,000,000,000 (1 Billionth) purchased song.

Congratulations to the entire team. It has been a lot of hard work to get here and I know this is only the beginning…


John K. Needs You!

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

John Kricfalusi is looking for indication that the world needs more Spumco cartoons. And the world does need more Spumco cartoons!

Spumco — John — is the mastermind behind the original Ren & Stimpy, one of the most brilliant cartoons to have hit the small screen. Emphasis on original. John left the employ of Nickelodeon over creative differences. Nickelodeon continued to produce utter crap versions of R&S.

John K recently started a weblog and has been sharing new art and story ideas. Apparently, the traffic is strong enough that it is starting to catch the attention of potential backers.

So, if you dig John’s work, go leave a nice comment. If he gets 400 unique comments, more work will be posted.

Recovering Disk Images with DiskWarrior

Monday, February 20th, 2006

I did a dumb thing. I was playing around as root, investigating a potentially cool hack, and discovered a reproducible kernel panic instead.

The dumb part was that I was logged into my FileVault enabled home account at the time. Whenever the machine crashes catastrophically, there is always a chance of file corruption. The same holds true for disk images.

Upon reboot, I could no longer access my home account. Yay. I have a corrupted, encrypted, disk image containing all of my data on it…

(Fortunately, I back up everything 2 or 3 times a week. But restoring from a backup sucks.)

DiskWarrior generally does a great job of recovering disks. I don’t know how it compares to Tech Tool Pro (or others).

And DiskWarrior can recover corrupted disk images. It just isn’t very straightforward, in some cases.

The steps that have worked for me:

– If the corrupted disk image resides upon the same volume as your boot partition, you must boot from some other partition. Use FireWire target mode if you have to. Just don’t boot from the partition with the corrupted image because it may cause further damage as the physical volume might well be corrupt, too.

– Once booted, run DiskWarrior and repair the volume upon which the corrupted disk image resides.

– Double-click the corrupted disk image. Enter the image’s password, if necessary. If recovering a FileVault user disk image, you will find said image in the normal Users directory. Look for shortusername.sparseimage.

– If you are lucky, the image will mount and be detected by DiskWarrior. Repair away.

If you aren’t so lucky (I wasn’t)…

Read the rest of this entry »

Nature Photography

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006
Pelican Detail

Heading in to our recent trip to Baja with Lindblad, I was a complete nature photography novice. As I have only had an SLR for six months or so, I’m pretty much a novice photographer.

After the trip, I’m still a novice, but I feel that my skills have vastly improved. Fortunately, this was not entirely through trial and error! In the full story, I’ll offer a few bullet points of what I have learned with full knowledge that there is a probably a better way.

Read the rest of this entry »

Software: Google Maps Plugin for Address Book

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006

Brian Toth came up with a cool plugin for Address Book that adds “Google Directions” and “Google Map” to any addresses’ context menu in Address Book.

Software: Bloglight

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006

T-Squared Software recently released BlogLight.

It is a neat little application that aggregates the results of searches against various weblog search engines, providing a by-relevance or by-date summary of the results.

I plugged in a few things I’m interested in and it immediately coughed up some interesting results that I would never have otherwise found.


Baja Day 8: Departure

Monday, February 13th, 2006

This is the events of our last day of the vacation, a travel day. All photos from this day can be found here..


Over night, the Sea Bird docked in La Paz. We left the ship after breakfast to climb aboard busses to head to a serpenteria in La Paz.

Hooded Oriole

Odd, but very neat, place. Apparently, the professor started collecting various snakes, lizards, and other dessert creepy crawlies over 15 years ago with the intention of making such creatures less scary and more approachable by the general population.

The place is located in a side neighborhood of La Paz, down several dirt roads. It otherwise looks like a nicely fenced in yard until you enter and realize that all of the beautiful gardens are actually habitats for iguanas, snakes, turtles and the like.

Read the rest of this entry »

Baja Day 7: Bay of La Paz

Sunday, February 12th, 2006

This is the events of our sixth full day of the expedition. All photos from this day can be found here. The daily expedition report is also available.

Mother and Nursing Baby Sea Lion

This morning, we awoke in the Bay of La Paz. We spent the morning looking for whale sharks. A couple of local folks showed up with extra boats and a spotter plane to help us find the whale sharks.

We came within a few feet of a 12 to 15 foot whale shark. It swam directly under our boat and we could see the huge fish in detail, including being able to see the spots and the exact shape of the tail fin.

Whale Shark

Whale sharks area really quite magnificent creatures. Unfortunately, they are impossible to photograph without an underwater camera or happening upon them at the rare time when they decide to feed right at the surface. Fortunately, the ship’s videographer happened to be on the zodiac where the whale shark did exactly that!

In the afternoon, we went for a cruise off the shore of an island where sea lions breed. Noisy creatures. Very noisy. It is as if they really want to live by themselves, but can’t stand the solitude so they pile on top of each other and complain — very very loudly — about any perceived infraction of personal space.

Read the rest of this entry »