WD Raptor + Mac Mini Intel = external 10k rpm SATA madness

Alright, I had this crazy idea last week: Let’s see if I can somehow route the internal SATA interface of the Mac Mini to the outside of the case so I could attach a bigger and faster external (e)SATA drive. Well, guess I wasn’t the only person with such ideas:
Perle over at 123Macmini.com already has brief instructions on how he did the internal to external mod.
I’ve made some refinements to his process which I will post shortly – along with a few pictures and links where to get the parts. Update: It’s here.

So, after doing the science (finding the right adapters and cables etc.) and tearing apart the Mac Mini with a pizza cutter (yes, you read right!), I finally have my fast drive (Wester Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150 GB @ 10k rpm) and the Mac Mini is still as energy efficient as previously – mostly due to the fact that another FireWire drive is now in standby mode most of the time.

That should make me the first person with a WD Raptor in use on a Mac Mini. W00t! ;)

Obligatory XBench results that mean absolutely nothing:
Comparison with modded 7200 rpm Mac Mini

I’m using the Pleiades Super S-Combo external enclosure with the WD Raptor. The enclosure is made of aluminium. No cheap plastic parts here. It’s pretty solid and the aluminium functions as passive heatsink. That way, even under load the Raptor won’t cross the upper 55°C specification limit. My initial thought was that given the S-Combos universal FW400/FW800/USB2.0/eSATA-bridge it may perform worse than when connecting the cable directly to the drive. This is not the case. Actually, some benchmarks performed slightly better. I can only assume this being due to some sort of caching going on inside the bridge.
Also, if you think the drive is loud with its 10000 rpms, I can assure you it isn’t. Actually, in idle mode it is very much on par with the latest Seagate Barracuda drives which have a reputation for being very silent. The only thing that’s loud are the access noises, but in my opinion it’s not annoying.

Ogg Vorbis Encoding Script for iTunes

Update: This has been renamed to iTunes Alternative Encoders. Get the new version here.

Lately I’ve been looking for a good way to re-encode my iTunes music files for use in my Zaurus. Since I don’t need to have 256 kbit/s MP3s or Apple Lossless files with those el cheapo headphones, the best way to go is with Vorbis and its excellent properties at 96 kbit/s. Compared with other formats, the quality is pretty nice.
There are already several attempts at creating iTunes scripts to re-encode to Ogg Vorbis or Lame. One of them is Lincoln Ramsay’sEncode with oggenc” iTunes script. It’s pretty neat already. However, it didn’t fully satisfy my special requirements. ;)

Continue reading “Ogg Vorbis Encoding Script for iTunes”

duplicity 0.4.2 on Cygwin

Ben Escoto has released version 0.4.2 of duplicity. My previous patch for version 0.4.1 already included most of the changes in 0.4.2.
For the sake of completeness, here is my updated patch bundle which adds Cygwin / Windows support and fixes some problems in the FTP backend:


To install it you’ll need the same prerequisites as for rdiff-backup, most notably librsync. Please refer to these instructions on how to install it.
Additionally you should install the Utils/gnupg package in order to get the encryption working.
Here is how to compile and install duplicity:

Continue reading “duplicity 0.4.2 on Cygwin”

Workaround for broken Windows Sharing on Intel OS X

So, it seems Apple broke Windows Filesharing / Samba with the 10.4.5 update on Intel-based systems. Windows clients are unable to connect to OS X shares, because the server refuses the password.
There are several threads describing the issue in detail:

Here is a temporary workaround for the problem:
You’ll have to change the authentification settings on your XP/2k box and here is how to do that:

Start -> Run “secpol.msc”
In the tree open and click Security Settings -> Local Policy -> Security Options
Scroll the left pane down to ‘Network Security: LAN manager authentication level’
Change this to ‘Send NTLMv2 response only’

It works for me. Please let me know, if it works for you too…

Update: Apple has released OS X update 10.4.6 which resolves this problem.

Mac Mini

So, it’s been almost 2 weeks since I got my Mac Mini Core Duo. All I can say is, I don’t regret having replaced my beloved Cube with this mean little machine @ 30 Watt. It’s definitely faster than the Cube and for most stuff it’s almost faster than my Windows development workbeast Athlon MP 2600 which runs at roughly 300 Watt. Quite impressive. The faster FSB, bigger cache and faster memory definitely play a big role here.
And yes, I tried Windows on my Mini. It’s nice and all, but there is still a lot left to finish for the guys over at onmac.net. Suspending doesn’t really work and shutting down the machine crashes it hard. I can only assume this being due to the incomplete BIOS implementation.
Anyway, I couldn’t resist benchmarking the machine against my Athlon, so here are the results from SiSoftware Sandra 2005 SR2:

Machine		Dual Athlon MP 2600+ 	Mac Mini Core Duo
Clock			2.13 GHz		1.66 GHz

Arithmetics 		17248			15147
(higher is better)	 6657			 6085

Multimedia		39921			31699
(higher is better)	42412			35177

Memory Bandwidth MB/s	 1449			 3588
(higher is better)	 1481			 3559

Power consumption	 295-302 Watts		 28-30 Watts

If you keep in mind, that I’m comparing an upgraded year 2001 workstation with a new system running a mobile CPU, those results are still quite impressive.
However, what I’m missing on the Mini is dual monitor support and a decent graphics card. Also there is one major point keeping me from getting rid of that power-sucking box under my desk: hard drive performance. I don’t think we’ll be seeing 15k rpm U320 drives in a Mac mini compatible form factor any time soon. ;)


I am lazy – very lazy. ;)
That’s also why I can’t stand the default Windows ways of starting applications, ie. Start -> Programs or Quicklaunch bar. Either too many clicks or extreme cluttering.

Having said that, I’ve been a long time user of Y’z Dock, an abandoned implementation of an OS X-like Dock for Windows. Of all the Windows Dock’s out there it came closest in terms of imitating the original behaviour. I guess that’s also the reason why Apple pulled it via DMCA/C’n’D. ;)
Anyway, since Y’z Dock is no longer maintained and there are still some bugs in that software, I was looking for alternatives. Here is what I found: MobyDock, ObjectDock, RK Launcher and RocketDock. There is also AquaDock, but that’s just a repack of Y’z Dock.

RK Launcher has some potential to it, but also way too many bugs. I wasn’t able to access the website, so perhaps the program is pulled, too.

I’ve tried both MobyDock and ObjectDock several times in the past and didn’t like them at that time. This hasn’t changed and I won’t go into detail as to why. It’s really way too subjetive and I don’t want to start a flame war. ;)

So, finally, I’ve settled with RocketDock. It’s faaast and provides instant access to my program shortcuts even under heavy load. That’s what I missed in Y’z Dock. When Y’z Dock was autohidden, it also reduced the process working set size via a nice trick. This is a good thing in low memory conditions since this tells the virtual memory manager it can swap out most parts of the app. However, it can also impose serious delays in feedback. And instant feedback is what I was looking for.
RocketDock offers this, but at the price of higher memory utilization – ~10 MB in my case. I think this is still acceptable for the performance and my Subjective Productivity Boost TM, therefore.
So, now what was left to do was to migrate the dock items from Y’z Dock to RocketDock. Sadly, there is no way to import the itemlist.ini into RocketDock – at least I didn’t see it. ;)

So, being lazy and not wanting to recreate each and every icon manually on several boxes (repitition is harmful TM), I had to come up with a better solution.

And here it is: YzDock2RocketDock (binary and Delphi sourcecode included)

Simply extract the binary to a new folder and copy your itemlist.ini file from your Y’z Dock program directory into that same folder. Make sure to quit RocketDock and backup the registry key \HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\RocketDock-v0.9.4 before.
Now, running the binary should import the contents of itemlist.ini into the registry. It will not overwrite any existing items. Instead it does append the imported ones to the existing items.
Finally, make sure to copy all icons over to your RocketDock program directory. Put them into the subdirectory “Icons”. That’s it. Enjoy! :)


Update 1: I’ve posted updated instructions for version 0.4.2 of duplicity here.

As a follow up to my previous article on rdiff-backup, I’ve patched duplicity to work correctly on Cygwin.
To install it you’ll need the same prerequisites as for rdiff-backup. Additionally you should install the Utils/gnupg package in order to get the encryption working.
Here is how to compile and install duplicity:

Continue reading “Duplicity”

OS X 10.4.3 Update available

So, with 10.4.3 now finally being available, I had to do a quick’n’dirty benchmark in Xbench before and after the update.
The test was run on a freshly booted system in a clean user profile with no background processes running. Four iterations for each OS version.
The test system was my rather slow 1.2 GHz 7455 Cube equipped with a Radeon 8500.

Overall 10.4.2: 34.99 (min) / 35.95 (max) / 35.65 (avg)
Overall 10.4.3: 37.37 (min) / 38.77 (max) / 38.08 (avg) ~7% gain

Here are three sub-scores that differed most:

Memory Test 10.4.2: 16.55 (min) / 17.31 (max) / 16.95 (avg)
Memory Test 10.4.3: 18.11 (min) / 18.52 (max) / 18.28 (avg) ~8% gain

Quartz Graphics Test 10.4.2: 45.47 (min) / 46.17 (max) / 45.85 (avg)
Quartz Graphics Test 10.4.3: 49.69 (min) / 51.67 (max) / 51.06 (avg) ~11% gain

User Interface Test 10.4.2: 30.52 (min) / 32.08 (max) / 31.25 (avg)
User Interface Test 10.4.3: 34.92 (min) / 36.63 (max) / 35.66 (avg) ~14% gain