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Typical Mac Setup 07/2002

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The menu !

The machine
The operating system
Apple annex

Different Apple computers on june, 15th 2002

Apple make desktop and laptop machines. Each category is divided into up and down-market products.

Practically, we have :

  • iBook and PowerBook for laptops.
  • eMac, iMac and PowerMac for desktops.

Summary table of Apple's offer.

  eMac iMac PowerMac iBook PowerBook
CPU G4 G4 1 or 2 G4's G3 G4
MHz 700 700 and 800 800 and 1000 600 and 700 667 up to 800
RAM in Mb 128 up to 1000 128 up to 1000 256 up to 1500 128 up to 640 256 up to 1000
Prices in Euros 1500 to 1800 2000 to 2800 2200 to 5700 1600 to 2600 3500 to 5400

A good thing to know is that eMacs, iMacs, iBooks and PowerBooks are fairly exclusive machines and that they don't allow many expansion and modification possibilities.

In concrete terms, the size of the internal hard disk drive can't be increased, except by replacing it, and, if you can increase the amount of RAM, you can add only one module on iBooks, two on eMacs and Powerbooks, against four modules on PowerMacs.

On top of that, it is not possible to add any internal soundcard, therefore you'll have to choose USB or Firewire devices.

Moreover, laptops are significantly more expensive than desktops. Therefore, they shall be chosen only if transportability is an important issue.

On the other hand, we can notice that the G4 PowerBook almost competes with its desktop couterpart, providing you add an external Firewire HDD. This way, you get a high-end workstation.

Mac components

The processor

The main feature is its speed, indicated in Mhz or Ghz, but its type also matters, particularly for the use of Cubase or other digital audio programs in general.

G3 or G4 ?

Apple sell two different CPU makes : G3's and G4's.
The main difference is the addition, on G4's, of routines called AltiVec, allowing to speed up some computations (which are done on 128 bits instead of 32 or 64).

As a matter of fact, Cubase is AltiVec-optimized (particularly on EQ's and some plug-ins), so one ought to use a G4.

This type of CPU can be found in eMacs, the new iMacs, PowerBooks and desktop G4's (you'd guess !).

Speeds range from 700 Mhz to 1 Ghz. It's easily understandable that choosing the highest possible speed will be in your interest.

(According to some gossip, a 1.4-Ghz double G4, with DDR memory, is scheduled this summer).

The case of mutiprocessor G4's : some desktop machines have two G4's, not only one.

The advantage of this setup is that the computation load can be shared between two units instead of one.

Under MacOS 9 and prior versions, only programs that were written especially to take the most of these processors can do it, but with MacOS X, the whole system takes advantage of it.

Cubase can deal with two CPU's. Moreover, Cubase performs better with a dual CPU than with a single one with a higher frequency. For instance, a dual 800 performs better than a single 867.

In Cubase, CPU-management options are :

  • Monoprocessor : all computations are done by one processor
  • Multiprocessor : the computation load is shared between both processors and you save 15 to 20% ressources
  • Advanced multiprocessor : the above option is optimized, allowing you to save 30 to 40% ressources

See our page about Cubase and dual-CPU.

Therefore, the ideal machine will have two G4 CPU's clocked at the highest possible speed (1 Ghz at the moment).

The memory

Cubase deals with audio chanels by allocating them a certain amount of RAM, specified in the Audio Setup menu. That is to say that if you want to use more chanels in Cubase you'll need more available RAM. Cubase feels quite good with 128 Mb or more.

Moreover, some plug-ins, like virtual samplers (Battery, HALion, VSampler...), store samples in the RAM.

Lastly, the system itself uses more than 50 Mb.

It's therefore advisable to add memory modules in order to have at least 512 Mb in the machine.

Recent Macs use SDRAM DIMM modules with 128, 256 and 512 Mb.

The hard disk drive

Historically, Apple used to install SCSI disks in their machines. Since the Blue & White G3's, we find IDE Ultra ATA-66 or 100 disks. Those have the advantage of being cheaper with approaching performance.

The disks avalaible in recent machines are :

  • PowerMac G4 : from 40 to 2 x 80 Gb
  • PowerBook G4 : from 30 to 60 Gb (size 2“1/2)
  • iMac G4 : 40 and 60 Gb
  • iBook : 20 and 30 Gb (size 2“1/2)
  • eMac : 40 Gb

In order to reach great performance, it is possible to choose an SCSI Ultra 160 interface with disks running at 10 000 RPM. Then, you'll have to add an SCSI card in the machine (which, as a consequence, will inevitably be a PowerMac). The price per Megabyte is twice as high as IDE.

Ideally, our machine will have two hard drives :

  • one for the system and programs
  • the other for audio files (Cubase songs, presets, sound files...)

If you have only one disk, you'll have to partition it into several units with adapted hard drive tools.

Internal expansions

G4 PowerMacs are built to be able to receive internal expansion cards.

It is possible to add two other IDE disks in addition to the one already in the machine, and two SCSI disks (if you have installed an SCSI card).

PCI slots will allow you to add :

  • an SCSI card in order to install one or two SCSI hard disks inside the machine, and up to 12 outside
  • one or several extra video cards allowing you to connect as many monitors
  • a video capture card
  • one or several audio cards


Nowadays, all Macs have an Ethernet port available, as well as 2 to 4 USB ports and one or two Firewire ports.

  • Ethernet : Fast Ethernet Port allowing you to connect the machine to a network or a cable/DSL modem.
  • USB : allowing you to connect numerous external devices (keyboard, mouse, slow HDD's, printers, graphical pads, CD burners, audio devices...). USB 2.0 is not on the agenda yet. You can nevertheless install a PCI card but only with OS X.
  • Firewire : very fast connection port allowing to digitize videos from a digital camcorder, to connect fast HDD's, CD burners, audio devices... Firewire 2 is not here yet...shame...

USB being, by far, slower than Firewire, the latter will be prefered for the use of fast peripherals such as HDD's, CD burners, audio capture devices, etc, requiring important transfer rates.

The old Macs case

Which machine ?

Even if old Macs will never compete with a recent machine in terms of performance, using them remains possible with Cubase nevertheless. Especially since some of them can have their CPU replaced by a G3 or a G4. Yet, they will not reach the same performance because communication-bus speed is slower, and so are the memory, the HDD's...

These machines are second and third generation PowerPC's (essentially 7/8/9500 and 7/8/9600).

This way, a 9600 upgraded to a 500 Mhz G4 and equiped with a 7500-RPM SCSI HDD will give excellent results.

Which Cubase version ?

Accepatable versions of Cubase are v2.5 (No audio), then VST 3.5r2, 4.1r2 and 5.1r1.

We know that MIDI functions will work on any machine, even the most humble one, so Cubase 2.5 is conceivable on a Mac SE 30 with 8 Mb of RAM and a 20-Mb HDD.

How to combine the machine, the system and Cubase ?

MIDI only :

  • Non PowerPC Mac(SE, Quadra, IIc, LC...)
  • Mac OS 6.0.7 or 7.6.1
  • Cubase 2.5 or 3.5r2

Midi and a bit of audio :

  • PowerPC 601 to 604 (6/7/8100, Performa…)
  • Mac OS 7.6.1 or 8.6
  • Cubase 3.5r2 or 4.1r2

Here, it will be possible to run a few audio tracks and some effects. Not only will the use of VST instruments be limited but also restricted to a few plug-ins, as some of them can only be run in Cubase VST 5.

Midi and audio :

  • PowerPC 7/8/9600, possibly upgraded to G3 or G4
  • MacOS 8.6 or 9.1
  • Cubase 4.1r2 or 5.1r1

Here, we'll have access to all Cubase functions and plug-ins (for Cubase 5.1r1). Moreover, if the machine has been upgraded into a G3 or a G4, then fairly good performance will be possible (but don't have too great expectations !).

To sum it up, we can use the table below as a reference :

Machine System Cubase Use
68xxx processor (SE, Quadra, IIc, LC...) 6.0.7, 7.5.3, 7.6.1 2.5 Midi only
PowerPC 601 to 603 (6/7/8100, Performa...) 7.6.1, 8.6 3.5r2 Midi and a bit of Audio
PowerPC 604 and grey G3 (7/8/9600 et G3 266) 8.6 4.1r2 Midi and Audio
G3 and G4 (G3 B&W, G4 and Quicksilver 9.1, 9.2.2 5.1r1 Everything

The system

MacOS 6, 7, 8 and 9

Mac OS system is always changing, so do machines, and a Mac will not work with any version of the system.

The most stable versions of Mac OS are 6.0.7, 7.6.1, 8.6 and 9.1.

The default system, installed on machines nowadays is MacOS 9.2.2. It is a fairly stable version.

Mac OS X

The new version of MacOS is MacOS X. It will work on G3's and G4's only.

But, beware ! It needs a lot of RAM, CPU power, and above all, video ressources : you'll need at least 16 Mb of video RAM and even, best, 32 Mb to be really comfortable with this OS. It's a pity, even more because it's only for cosmetic reasons, but that's the way it goes...

At the moment, only a few major audio apps will run under MacOS X (Peak, Spark, Live), but the choice will get larger with the release of MacOS X 10.1.2 (Jaguar) and, in particular, Cubase SX .

Midiman have already released MacOS X compatible drivers for their audio and MIDI devices. As for MOTU, they have released drivers for the Fastlane USB interface.

Rummaging about in the twists and turns of system X folders, I discovered one named "Plug-ins", with two subfolders : Digidesign and VST.

as one can read in Annex 1, MIDI will be integrated in the very basic functions of the OS, as opposed to prior OS's which had (unfortunately) to go through the use of OMS. And audio functions will be handled by the lowest layers of the system.

When we have a look at Steinberg's and Apple's websites, we can see that Cubase SX, the new version of Cubase, already available for the PC, and working under MacOS X only, shouldn't be too long to arrive now.

To be continued...

Maintenance and tweaking

File extensions

It is perfectly possible to have a "do-it-all" machine : connect to the Internet, play gammes, do office work...

Yet, you'll be facing some problems, especially if you're a beginner or don't want to bother with technical stuff.

File extensions and instruments panels, event if they bring functionalities to the computer, are indeed a potential source of system crashes. The good handling of these tools is essential. It is therefore important that you only load what is needed for good operation.

You should above all ban all the programs working in the background and using a part of the machine's ressources. They're, in particular, screen savers and anti-virus programs.

If you have a dedicated machine, all the ressources will be given to Cubase which'll feel all the more comfortable.

[see annex document « extension manager » for MacOS 9.2.2]

Regular checkings and maintenance

It is generally considered that a HDD's performance gets bad when more than half of its capacity is full of data (fragmentation).

On the other hand, a system can go bad with time (corrupted preference settings....).

Some regular checkings and maintenance will thus be done.

Once a week :

  • Disk checking with S.O.S Disk, Disk Doctor, TechTool...

Once a month :

  • desktop reconstruction
  • disks optimization (Speed Disk, TechTool, DiskWarrior)
  • PRAM zapping

Once every six months :

  • System reinstallation

Once a year :

  • Full reinstallation of the machine : HDD's low level formating (with HDD's tools), then a full system and apps reinstallation.

Useful keyboard shortcuts (MacOS 8 and 9)

If the system crashes :

  • Quit a faulty app : Alt-Apple-Esc
  • Restart : Ctrl-Apple-Start or reste button (G4)

On boot-up :

  • Boot without extensions : Shift
  • Boot on CD : C
  • Boot on another volume : Apple-Alt-Shift-Del
  • Choose the boot volume : Alt
  • PRAM zapping : Apple-Alt-P-R

Miscellaneous :

  • Desktop reconstruction : Apple-Alt when the Finder shows up
  • Stop running process : Apple
  • Screen capture : Apple-Shift-3

Annex 1 - Apple document about MacOS X and Audio/MIDI apps.

Follow this link to Apple document

Arnaud MELESE helpded by Hervé Coulombier COULOMBIER, on the 15-07-2002

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