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Tilted Tech Support

Discussion in 'Tilted Gear' started by martian, Sep 10, 2013.

  1. martian

    martian Server Monkey Staff Member

    This is a thread that exists for those one-off questions that crop up from time to time and probably aren't worth threads of their own. Need to know how to get pictures off your digital camera? Think you might have a virus? Need advice on what you should buy? Post it here!

    I've got one to start. For the Windows dudes out there:

    I recently decided to play with boot camp on my Macbook Pro because, well, why not? I've got spare Windows DVDs and I've got free hard drive space. Anyway.

    This marks a new event for me since this is actually the first time I've ever had a computer running Windows with two displays. And I'm a bit stuck.

    In OS X I have a set of Calvin and Hobbes wallpapers that I cycle through. I've had no problem with copying them over and setting it up to rotate through them, but what I can't figure out is how to set a different wallpaper for each display. They both use the same one, which is okay I guess, but a bit boring.

    So, to sum it all up in a succinct question: how do I get the screens on my dual-display setup to each show a different wallpaper?
  2. Spiritsoar

    Spiritsoar Slightly Tilted

    New York
    Martian I had this problem with Windows 7 and it bothered the heck out of me. I ended up stitching the two beside each other into one perfectly sized image that stretched across both screens. There's probably a program out there to do it more efficiently, but I was on a work computer and couldn't install anything, so made do with Paint.
  3. Baraka_Guru

    Baraka_Guru Möderätor Staff Member

    It's killing me deciding whether I should replace my late-2007 iMac with another iMac or a Mac mini.

    Priced out the way I'd want them, the iMac would cost about $200 more but would have better performance.

    The Mac mini, on the other hand, allows me to stick with the 22" monitor I currently have for the time being, which would save me another $200 or so (so $400).

    Dual screen is a luxury, but it's not really going to give me a huge productivity boost. Heck, I might even just go with a single 24" monitor when I need to replace the one I have. It would be a reasonable workspace that would save space on my desk.

    On the other hand, going to a dual-monitor 22" x 2 would be fanfuckingtastic.

    In terms of performance, I'll give a reference point. The one benchmark I've seen gauged the machines as follows:

    Late-2007 iMac: 82
    Current Mac mini: 164
    Current iMac: 194

    I can't remember the method/benchmark, but I'm not going to split hairs over it. I'm not a power user. The heaviest load I tend to have is running the following programs, many often at once but not usually all at once:

    • Mail
    • Word
    • Excel
    • Firefox
    • iTunes
    • Adobe Acrobat
    • Photoshop
    • Dreamweaver

    The latter two I don't tend to run as much, and I don't need to multitask to the other programs while I use them, but I do tend to use them together.

    I'm not really working with many ultra-high-res photos. I don't do video processing or anything. My stuff is pretty basic business.

    I guess the big questions are 1) Does the iMac give me performance at a value worth paying for over the Mac mini? and 2) Do I even need that performance above the Mac mini?
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2013
  4. martian

    martian Server Monkey Staff Member

    I'm going to assume you're looking at the 21.5 inch iMac. A couple of guys I work with are on the 27 inch models and it's like something Arthur C. Clarke would write about, but it takes up a lot of space and if you're paying for it yourself it's a lot of money to spend for unnecessary opulence. That Apple premium is a lot easier to swallow when you're spending someone else's money.

    I wouldn't discount the advantages of a dual-screen setup. Personally I can't imagine doing any serious amount of work without it -- it's become such an ingrained part of my workflow that I feel like I'd be lost without a second monitor to throw stuff on. A big part of the iMac's advantage is that it does come with that monitor built-in so you've got everything you need for a dual screen setup already (less maybe an adapter). Another thing to consider is that with the advent of bootcamp Macs can run Windows natively as well. It's been an option for a while but it's not often put to use. In your case, though, it could mean that an iMac could replace that aging Windows desktop you're using. The Mac Mini can also run bootcamp but it has much less horsepower so it might not be as attractive in that capacity.

    Having said all that, the Mac Minis do make fantastic workstations. Where I work we use them for exactly this and it's hard to think of anything they'd be better suited to. You're not going to get stellar graphics performance out of that Intel HD chipset but if you don't need it then that's not much of an issue.

    Personally, I'd pay the extra $200 for the iMac -- that's not a huge premium to pay for significantly better performance. But if you honestly feel like you just aren't going to use the extra power (or extra screen), the Mac Mini will work in the role you're describing.

    And of course what I'd also do is check out the refurbished Macs on Apple's website before spending any money to see if any of those suit my needs. They're warrantied and you can put AppleCare on them. My Macbook Pro is a refurb, I've had it for two years now and going strong.
  5. Baraka_Guru

    Baraka_Guru Möderätor Staff Member

    Yeah, the Mac mini would totally work for my needs, but you're right, $200 isn't a heck of a lot when you look at the long-term usage vs. cost.

    I don't think I'll do much, if any, gaming on this new Mac. It's for business (yay, tax write-offs!). However, having that as an option makes the decision on an iMac that much easier. I've been thinking of ridding myself of the PC regardless, and having an iMac would make it easier for a few reasons. (I've been divesting PC gaming from my life, and this may well be the last nail in that coffin.)

    I worked with a dual-screen setup for more than one production season, and it was nice and comfortable. I think I'll ultimately go that way anyway, so there won't likely be any savings the Mac mini route that way. I'm kinda leaning towards a ~22" dual-screen environment, which would be a nice step up from my previous 13" x 17", 13" x 22", and 20" x 22" environments.

    There's a good likelihood I'll go refurb. At the moment, I was interested in looking at a level playing field with new units before making a decision on model.

    Also, while I have your attention: Fusion Drive—worth the $250? The 5,400 rpm HD is actually a step down from my current 7,200 rpm HD. Will the Fusion Drive give me a noticeable difference? A $250 difference? Is it a no-brainer?

    I'm half hoping that the inevitable iMac and Mac mini updates (possibly October) will come with faster HDs, but I'm not holding my breath.
  6. martian

    martian Server Monkey Staff Member

    Well, just for the record, that same Macbook Pro mentioned above has a 5400 RPM hard drive and I'm perfectly happy with it. I've always been of the opinion that the whole push towards solid state is a bit overdone -- yeah, it's faster, but in most applications the extra speed will be wasted anyway, because most of your computer use is not constrained by disk speed. Slow hard drives are why we developed RAM in the first place, and why modern computers come with so damn much of the stuff. I've got a solid state drive in my stupid expensive gaming computer and honestly? It doesn't make a huge difference. The machine boots faster, but it's rarely turned off entirely anyway so that doesn't mean a hell of a lot. It doesn't affect gaming performance substantially -- if I put the games on there they load a little faster, but it's too small to hold more than a couple. Actual gameplay is the same after the loading screen goes away.

    I like solid state drives for a lot of reasons, but I don't feel like the price has come down far enough to make them completely practical in the consumer space -- the price/performance ratio is still a little out of whack there, which is why these goofy hybrid solutions come up. In enterprise? Yeah, they're fantastic on my database server that needs that huge IOPS but for home use... eh.

    I should note that this is one of those areas where my opinion seems to be contrary to the mainstream. Usually in those cases I re-examine my position, but having experienced solid state for myself, I just can't help but feel like it's not worth the hype. Caching in solid state isn't even going to give you the performance of an actual solid state drive, either -- it'll be faster, but not $250 fast. At least not in my opinion.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Baraka_Guru

    Baraka_Guru Möderätor Staff Member

    Yeah, I've read some articles, where people were all like, "I wish my Mac had the Fusion Drive on it," or, "Just get it; it's worth it." But in looking at the specs, the benchmarks, etc., factoring in for the Fusion Drive, it didn't seem to give a huge advantage in practice for applications that I'd use. In other words, I don't mind waiting an extra 2 or 3 seconds to load eight high-res jpegs in Photoshop. You know, that one time I'll actually do that in a given production season.

    However, I wasn't sure if day-to-day use of that hybrid drive would mean a smoother experience that I don't have to think about (above and beyond the standard HD). Not really, eh?

    I don't mind saving that $250. I'll put it towards Apple Care and that Time Capsule I'm thinking of getting to replace my aging one.

    Oh, and 8 GB RAM is cool, right? Is 16 GB overkill?
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2013
  8. martian

    martian Server Monkey Staff Member

    8 GB is plenty for the stuff you're doing. You don't really need more than that right now unless you're in the habit of working with a lot of high res multimedia, or you're doing crazy things with virtualization. I wouldn't do less than 8, but I don't see much need for more in your usage scenario either.
  9. Baraka_Guru

    Baraka_Guru Möderätor Staff Member

    Apparently, due to the slim design of the 21.5" iMac, upgrading the RAM requires a technician. That is, unless you're good with tech wizardry yourself and have the tools.

    This is why I asked. I hate bringing computers in for servicing, especially for something as simple as RAM.

    Maybe the next update for the 21.5" iMac will abandon the slim design unnecessary for a desktop machine. Who knows?
  10. MSD

    MSD Very Tilted

    I tried to figure this out several times. The only way to get different backgrounds on multiple monitors without third party software is to turn the images into Active Desktop Objects and manually scale them to each screen. Two screens isn't so bad for one picture, but with the 6 I have at work it's pretty obnoxious.
  11. We have a couple of those new 'super slim' iMacs in one of the school districts I work for. The screen pops right off and you can get to all of the guts that way. That being said, we always call for a technician to come to the school because... well, they paid for AppleCare, they might as well get their money's worth out of it.

    Apple's going smaller and smaller and smaller with things these days. Have you checked out the new Mac Pro yet? It's kinda comical how tiny that thing is.

    Anyways, while we're on the topic of "grilling Martian for Apple advice," here's one for you.

    Every one in a while, I get bit by the "sell all the PC's and buy a used Mac" bug. I really, really like the interface, I like that it's Unix-based, I really like the multi-gesture trackpad, I like that my audio production software is also Mac-compatible so I don't have to keep rebooting into Windows in order to satisfy a recording itch.
    This has been exacerbated by the fact that I now have a Powerbook G4 that I pound the life out of, and it just keeps coming back for more. But it'd be nice to have something with a processor that can handle newer applications (IE, x86/amd64 and not PPC) and that would run a bit more snappily.

    There's no way that I'm going to have it in my budget to buy new, or even refurbished; I could sell every computer I own and mayyyybe afford a refurb Macbook Air, which I have no interest in. So, my question is mostly geared towards stuff that's already out on the market that I could find through avenues like eBay.

    The other issue is that my current laptop is a Sandy Bridge i5 with 6GB of RAM and I'm hesitant to spend the same amount of money to get less power. I know that this is kind of going to be 'the way of the world' when it comes to Apple produces but that doesn't mean I have to like it :p Though, to be honest, if I'm not going to notice a performance decrease then I suppose it's not such a big deal as long as the difference in performance is 'on paper.'

    So, I guess my primary question comes down to whether or not stepping back a generation and going with a Core2Duo at a higher clock rate with a decent amount of slower RAM (read: 8GB) is going to affect my performance at all. Primary uses for this machine include the typical multimedia and internet consumption stuff, plus virtualization, audio production, and a bit of gaming thrown in there whenever it tickles my fancy (this is rare, and there's always Boot Camp if I decide that I want to do that).

    I know what the answer *should* be (lower specs=NO), but I don't know how stepping back a generation is going to affect my usability of the actual OS because I've never really had the chance to use the OS with "modern" hardware. Thoughts?
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Baraka_Guru

    Baraka_Guru Möderätor Staff Member

    Something else for Martian (buddy, you may have opened a can of worms with this thread):

    Being that I'm not really keen on PC gaming anymore (I don't think I'm going to buy a PC for gaming over a console) and that my current PC hardware is aging, I don't see any reason to upgrade anymore. However, I want to squeeze the damn life out of this machine.

    I find that the Vista OS is really sluggish. It takes over five minutes to boot before I can launch Firefox. It can still run some older games well, but my concern is in having an OS that's both stable and efficient. I'm not very enthusiastic about wiping and reinstalling Vista. It'd be like saying, "I'm going to wipe the bloat before putting it back on."

    I was toying with the idea of abandoning Vista and going to an Ubuntu install. The machine would be setup for Web browsing, maybe some word processing, and watching streaming video (e.g., Netflix).

    I'm also kinda curious to tool around in a Linux environment. (Back in the day, I had considered getting into computers as a career—fuck, I really should have.)

    Is it worth it? Can you sell me on the current Ubuntu release over Vista? I'm thinking long-term here too. Like, using this machine until it dies.
  13. I can take a bit of this one. :)

    As is no secret on this board, I'm a Linux fanboy, but I'm trying to keep my bias out of it.

    In my experience, on the same hardware, Linux tends to outperform Windows. There's a reason why Linux is used in servers, on workstations, and even on supercomputers (Ever shudder to think about a Cray supercomputer using Windows and BSOD'ing?), and I'd like to think that it's for reasons other than money/licensing, even though that definitely does play a part.

    I will say this, though. If you decide to go the Linux route, Netflix in particular is going to be a challenge. Netflix, at the moment, relies on Microsoft's recently abandoned Silverlight plugin, which at the moment is flat-out not available on Linux. There's an open source version, but not only have there been mostly poor reviews, but with Microsoft abandoning it chances are development on the open source version is going to cease as well.
    I can say from experience that Amazon Prime, YouTube, etc etc all work fine under Linux, but Netflix is not going to work for you until they decide to adopt another method of doing things.

    You'll also have to get used to the whole "not using name-brand software" thing. That's usually not an issue, for the most part you can be just as productive in a Linux setting as you can in a Windows setting if you know what you're doing.

    That aside, I'd definitely say that your old machine could benefit from an Ubuntu install. I'd definitely keep the Vista OS discs in case you decide it's not your cup of tea (hey, a bloated OS is better than no OS, most of the time), but there's no hurt in trying it out and seeing what you think.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. Baraka_Guru

    Baraka_Guru Möderätor Staff Member

    Ugh, I just realized the benchmark here is for the entry-level Mac mini, not the one I'd get for $200 more.

    This means that I can get a Mac mini for under $1,000 that outperforms the iMac I'd get by a whopping 30%...for $400 less. (The main difference is that the iMac uses an i5 processor, whereas the Mac mini has an i7 in this case.)

    In other words, unless I really want the graphics chip and the screen, it's not going to be worth it to go with the iMac.

    I've been eying the Mac mini for months. I should probably just go for that.

    My choice has gotten a whole lot easier. Well, unless I'm thrown for a loop with hardware updates this fall.
  15. martian

    martian Server Monkey Staff Member

    Whoops, this one got popular. Let's see how fast I can bang these out:

    I believe they're soldering in the memory chips these days. That's why I said no less than 8. By the time 8 isn't enough I'm anticipating the rest of the machine will be aging to the point where a replacement is in order, though that's admittedly an educated guess on my part.

    The rumour mill says that Apple's going this route because nobody was buying their $200 RAM upgrades when they could get the exact same results with $30 and ten minutes of their time. Whether you believe that depends on how paranoid you are I guess.

    A generation back from where you are would be Nehalem, not Core2. Macs tend to age pretty well but they haven't been putting Core2 processors in them since 2010. So let me throw that back at you; how much life would you expect to get out of a three year old PC?

    There's nothing inherently wrong with buying used if you've settled on a Mac as your next purchase, but I'd suggest going with something from 2011 at least.

    The only problem you're going to have with the usage case you've described is Netflix. If you can live with streaming on your PS3 and your shiny new iMac/Mac Mini (for the record, I'd still go with the iMac, but that's just me) then you'll do fine with Ubuntu. I'm actually not super familiar with the state of desktop Linux today, but it was perfectly usable the last time I was there, and in my past experience tends to outperform Windows pretty substantially on equivalent hardware.

    Those Intel HD chipsets are pretty atrocious for anything more than basic use, and I'd lay odds that you're not going to be regularly stressing the processor on these regardless of which one you choose. In other words, the Mac Mini might look better on paper but the iMac will be a better user experience, so I'd still say go with the iMac. That said, I'm pretty confident you'll be perfectly happy with either (they're both a pretty substantial step up from where you are) so there's not really a wrong answer here.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2013
  16. Baraka_Guru

    Baraka_Guru Möderätor Staff Member

    All I know on Mac are:
    • ATI Rage 128 (Power Mac G4)—for about 3 years
    • Intel GMA 950 (Macbook2,1)—for over 5 years
    • ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO (iMac7,1)—less than 1 year
    When I went from the Macbook to the iMac, I didn't notice a difference. If anything, my Macbook ran faster overall. I find this iMac sluggish in comparison, which constantly reminds me that I need to replace it soon.

    That said, do you think the difference in the graphics card will make or break my experience? My most-used programs production-wise is, by far, Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat. Sure, I use Photoshop and Dreamweaver on occasion, but these are pretty low-maintenance jobs in terms of design. I'm mostly resizing or cropping in Photoshop, and using templates in Dreamweaver.

    What better "user experience" are you talking about exactly? And would you say the Intel HD 4000 is a significant step up from the Intel GMA 950?

    The current (2012) iMac's GeForce GT 640M benchmarks (PassMark - G3D Mark) at 1,036, while the Intel HD 4000 (in the current Mac mini) is 465. I'm currently using the "best graphics card I've used in a Mac yet" (the ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO). It benchmarks at 224. What do you make of that?

    None of these are really spectacular, right? I mean, I've used the GMA 950 for half a decade.

    For reference, my PC has the Radeon HD 6850, which benchmarks at 2,230. But I use that for 3D gaming, even if I can only play the older games with it.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2013
  17. martian

    martian Server Monkey Staff Member

    There's very little that isn't an improvement over a GMA 950. The 640m substantially outperforms both that and the HD 4000. I suspect you'll hit the performance ceiling on that graphics chipset sooner and/or more frequently then you will on an i5; there's no more or less to it than that.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. Yup, assumed as such. For the record, I said "back a generation" when I meant "back a few generations." I know that Core2 machines can still perform well enough; my ESXi box has an E8400 in it and runs 4-7 VMs with little trouble.
    That said, what you said makes sense; 3 years is a *long* time in computer terms. That puts that idea to rest, thanks for that :)

    Also, about the GMA950, it's pretty terrible. It was pretty barebones when it came out, I remember having that chipset in a netbook that I bought in 2008 and it always ran crappily, even in Linux (the Poulsbo drivers left much to be desired).
  19. Baraka_Guru

    Baraka_Guru Möderätor Staff Member

    I completely understand your point, but I can't imagine it would be an issue unless I was using it for gaming. I think the HD 4000 will be a significant jump from the GMA 950 that I'm all too familiar with. Heck, it's a significant jump from the dedicated GPU I'm using now.

    I'm still undecided. I'll have to think about whether it's worth the extra $400 or $600 for the peace of mind of having a better GPU. A part of me wants to avoid it so I don't get the temptation to use it for gaming.... :D

    Ultimately, I'm deciding between a machine that will do everything I need it to (word processing/PDF production/social media/email/web browsing) vs. a machine that can be used for stuff I don't need (entertainment/multimedia/gaming).

    I have to remember that I'm writing this shit off, so I shouldn't get too caught up on the overall cost.

    Either way, I hope my current hardware will hold out until the next updates from Apple. I'm holding out for a Haswell machine preloaded with Mavericks. :D
  20. Lindy

    Lindy Moderator Staff Member

    I just want to bring up an alternative to the whole desktop iMac vs. Mac Mini idea.

    I currently use a black MacBook (4,1) from early 2008, 2.4GHz, 4GB, 500GB drive. I upgraded the drive and memory myself, with helpful video instructions from OWC. Doing the upgrade on that model is as easy as pi to two decimals.
    This machine still works fine for me, and I use mostly the same software as Baraka_Guru, minus Photoshop, but additionally, I work with some fairly large FileMaker Pro databases.
    Oh, and I hardly do games at all.

    My Core2Duo laptop is, I know, relatively slow and way out of date, but hey, IT SERVES MY NEEDS WELL. The computer still spends much more tim waiting for me than I do waiting for it. But the machine specs aren't really the point here so much as the idea of buying and using a docked laptop instead of a desktop computer.

    My MacBook spends most of its life docked to a 22" Dell Ultrasharp monitor, along with a keyboard and mouse, and plugged in (ethernet) to a Time Capsule router, which is only about five feet away, so why use wireless, right?

    I can have a dual monitor setup if I care to by opening the lid of the laptop. The laptop screen is only 13" but I only use the second screen for file management, if I use it at all, so 13" is plenty for those kind of tasks.

    If I go on the road (I only fly under duress) or want a computer somewhere else in the house, away from my desk, I just undock, and voila, I have a laptop that can go with me anywhere.
    So I'm going to suggest that you spend your thousand bucks or so on something like this

    Refurbished 13.3-inch MacBook Pro 2.5GHz Dual-core Intel i5 - Apple Store (U.S.)

    and dock with the monitor and keyboard setup that you already have.

    But again, this isn't about specs so much as about the versatility of a docking environment and a laptop instead of a desktop.