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MacBook vs. MacBookPro

Does CPU speed matter for gaming on a Mac Laptop?

The difference between, for example, 2.4 Ghz and 2.6 Ghz will be negligible when running the games. What will contribute to the smoothness and quality of the games the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and to an extent bus speed, CPU cache and RAM.

When it comes to RAM, the more the merrier – to avoid the Hard Drive being used to swap applications when your memory is full. Get as much RAM as you can afford.

Consider the current models of a MacBook vs. a MacBookPro – they both have similar specifications on the CPUS.

  • The 13″ MacBook has 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 3MB on-chip shared L2 cache
  • The 13″ MacBookPro has a 2.4GHz or 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 3MB on-chip shared L2 cache
  • The 15″ MacBookPros have 2.4GHz, 2.53GHz or 2.66GHz Intel Core i5/i7 processors with 3MB and 4MB shared L3 cache respectively.

The i5 and i7 CPUs are the next in an architectural line of mobile CPUs from Intel, so it’s not the “Ghz” that’s going to improve your gaming – it’s having the later generation CPUs. In the CPU arena, the 13″ Pro/Non-Pro models are the same – but the 15″ Pro models are clearly in front.

Now consider the Graphics Processor, the real workhorse in modern 3D gaming. The current models as shown:

  • The 13″ MacBook has NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics processor with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM ***shared with main memory***
  • The 13″ MacBookPro has NVIDIA GeForce 320M with 256MB DDR3 SDRAM ***shared with main memory***
  • The 15″ MacBookPro has TWO GPU devices: Intel HD Graphics with 256MB DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory, and NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics processor with 256MB GDDR3 memory and automatic graphics switching

In all cases, there is a GPU sharing Main Memory. These are much faster than the Graphics of yesteryear, but sharing the main memory means using some of your 2GB or 4GB of RAM. Games will play and look acceptable, but the framerate wont be the best you can get.

Where the laptop will shine, is with the dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GT chips. They have dedicated DDR3 memory allocated to them, designed to do one thing only – fast 3D.

My recommendation:
If you are on a budget – a MacBook or a 13″ MacBookPro will have to do.
However if you can afford it, and want to game – a 15″ MacBookPro with a dedicated GPU will play your games as smooth as any current generation laptop can. You can’t go wrong with the larger screen either.

Mantra: backup backup backup backup

Someone sent me an email which asked what to do since:

one of my external hard drives, the one with EVERYTHING I REALLY, REALLY WANT on it has died

Snow Leopard: WWAN using Merlin XU870 ExpressCard

This is the same issue I’ve posted on a couple of forums. It’s seemed detailed enough to be a blog post, so here it is. Under 10.5.8 (Leopard) I was successfully using my Merlin XU870 ExpressCard (supplied by ISP) with Three Broadband (3) in Australia. I did not use the 3 drivers, but used the Leopard WWAN built-in to connect. There was never an issue as Leopard detected the card as a “Novatel Wireless HSDPA Modem”, and I configured the Network Advanced settings for 3 postpaid services as:

  • Vendor: Novatel Wireless Inc.
  • Model: GSM
  • APN: 3netaccess
  • CID: 1

I installed Snow Leopard as an Upgrade (not a fresh install) after having a CCC backup and a Time machine backup in place.

When I plugged in my 3 expresscard, 10.6 detects the card, initialises and populates the WWAN icon with “Telstra 3G: Not Configured”.
Screenshot 1
It detects the card as a “Novatel Wireless HSDPA Modem”, and automatically configures the Network Advanced settings of the card, as shown:
Screenshot 2
The question is: Why is the APN telstra.datapack setup as default?

I am able to change the APN to 3netaccess, which results in a successful connection to 3:
Wed Sep 2 15:38:25 2009 : Initializing phone: ATE0V1&F&D2&C1S0=0
Wed Sep 2 15:38:25 2009 : Initializing PDP context: AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","3netaccess"
Wed Sep 2 15:38:25 2009 : Initializing with secondary command: AT$NWPDN=0
Wed Sep 2 15:38:25 2009 : Dialing: ATD*99***1#
Wed Sep 2 15:38:25 2009 : Waiting for connection
Wed Sep 2 15:38:25 2009 : Connection established
Wed Sep 2 15:38:28 2009 : Serial connection established.
Wed Sep 2 15:38:28 2009 : Using interface ppp0
Wed Sep 2 15:38:28 2009 : Connect: ppp0 <--> /dev/cu.wwan
Wed Sep 2 15:38:32 2009 : Could not determine remote IP address: defaulting to 10.64.***.***
Wed Sep 2 15:38:32 2009 : local IP address 115.130.***.***
Wed Sep 2 15:38:32 2009 : remote IP address 10.64.***.***
Wed Sep 2 15:38:32 2009 : primary DNS address
Wed Sep 2 15:38:32 2009 : secondary DNS address

The annoying thing is the WWAN menu still shows Telstra when connected.
Screenshot 3

Looking at the WWAN system file:
cd /System/Library/Extensions/IOSerialFamily.kext/\
less countryCodes.plist

it has only Telstra, Optus and Vodafone carriers listed. I think this could be the cause of the default APN being populated in the Advanced settings. I can’t find where the “Telstra 3G” in the WWAN menu item is coming from though.

I’d appreciate if anyone can give their thoughts on how to fix this.

Philips VOIP321 no longer works with Skype or later

I’ve been having a conversation on a Skype bug reporting forum, and it came to a conclusion that the Philips VOIP321 Skype Phone is just not worth purchasing. I’m an owner of a Philips VOIP321 phone, and until December 2008 it worked fine. However the latest Skype update has put an end to product useability.

Since Skype Version (Release date: November 19, 2008) and all later versions (including Skype 4 Betas as at Jan. 2009) the software Philips supply no longer works with Skype and the VOIP321 phone.

The latest VOIP321 driver from their website suffers the same issue, even though it states “The VOIP321 USB Phone Driver V 3.8.3 which can be downloaded from Philips web site is compatible with Skype software version from V2.0.0.x until V3.8.0.x”. This is plainly no longer correct with the latest stable release of Skype, V3.8.0.188.

Skype developers are unable to do anything about it as they see it being a Philips driver problem. Phillips wont update their driver (Quoting support staff “… no more development/fixes are being incorporated into the VOIP321.EXE file”).

The solution to getting this beast working again:

  • Uninstall Skype (or later non-working version)
  • Visit the Old Apps website where you can (without support from Skype) download a previous version and use it.
  • I found that Skype worked fine for me with the VOIP321 hardware under Windows XP
  • Reinstall the older version.
  • Launch the newly installed older version of Skype
  • Remove the VOIP321.exe application from the Skype menu: Tools > Options > Advanced > Advanced Settings > Manage other programs Access to Skype
  • Reboot your Windows Computer

If you don’t own one of these yet, don’t waste your time on Philips Skype phone devices. Their driver support is lacking when Skype is updated and they EOL their product too soon. You buy a product for a few hundred dollars and it becomes useless 12 months later. Phillips would probably rather sell you a newer bit of hardware.

Should they update their driver at this point I will be the first to commend them. I forgot to mention: Phillips Skype phones (where your PC is required) are Windows Only. No Mac or Linux support or drivers are offered.

My next purchase will be a wifi or wired ethernet Skype phone, and not Philips.

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