Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Future Is Bright

I have considered many options as to where to go with this new design.  This 20" design is identical to the original iMac.  Using the same LCD, monitor casing, and containing all components except for the power bricks within the base.  Some things I have considered doing with this:

1) Adding a touchscreen - this may or may not be possible.  I believe if I use the apple cinema displays native LCD and remove the grey housing - this may give me the few extra mm I need to fit the touchscreen within the monitor housing.  I would also need to fit 5 extra wires with in the neck, this may be tough, but I believe some of the LCD wires I'm currently using may not be needed.  If I could re-purpose
 even 2 or 3 of these, this may be enough.

2) Passive cooling - Although there is only 1 small fan, it is audible.  I may see what temperatures are like with only the heatsink or a larger passive heatsink on top of this one to make this pc silent.

3) Snow Leopard to Lion (10.7) - At this point it seems that not only would I want to make this hackintoshable with snow leopard but I'd want to do so - so that I'd be able to upgrade to Lion.  I have thought about just putting snow leopard on but without graphics hardware acceleration it feels like it somewhat defeats the purpose of upgrading the machine.  As I have previously described there are two problems with this board in terms of hackintoshability
 A) The Compact Flash Card - a nice feature of this board is its ability to use compact flash as its primary hard drive.  However, Snow Leopard does not seem able to recognize it.  Thus, I would need a very small solid state option.  While I was at first reluctant - I found a very good deal on a 1.8" SSD and I am amazed at just how small they are.  I'm not sure if the picture does it justice.  Even with the mini SATA plug, the thing is tiny and near flat.  I am not worried about this fitting anymore.  In addition, I can always keep the Compact Flash card to allow a nice easy dual booting option to Windows or Linux if I choose.

B) The On-Board Intel GMA4500HD - There appears to have been little progress on this front and although resolution can be forced - I don't find having marginally functional graphics a viable alternative.  This board does have a PCI-Ex4 slot so looking through my own stock I have a few options. To the right you can see a few video card options.  On top is a PCIEx1 Ion graphics card.  I could hook this up using the PCIEx1 riser cable seen attached.  Or below this is a silent ASUS 5340 this is a x16 card but I could use a x4 to x16 adapter and some combination of a x16riser or x4 riser (pictured) to connect to the ECX board.  So which is better a 5340 @ x4 or an Ion @ x1.  I'd probably have to try both to see.  This may also require a power supply with more wattage, but more importantly the extra room for the card would likely mean I would need to sacrifice the blu ray drive.  I do not believe this can fit any other way.

4) Modern hardware and upgradability - When I began this blog several years ago, my goal was to update the iMac G4 not just as a proof of concept but so I myself could use the iMac G4 again.  I am currently getting a lot of use out of the Apple Cinema Display/iMac Hybrid mod.  The reason is for one it has a touchscreen, which is fun to use, but mostly because it is hooked up to a mac mini.  The mac mini has snow leopard which is I prefer to use.  Also I know that new mac minis are on the horizon and I'll be able soon to hook this machine up a new (hopefully) Sandy Bridge mac mini running OS10.7.  So I began wondering if there was really much use in pursuing this as an all in one.  Perhaps I should just put a DVI or display port on the back and use it with an external mini. (The new Mini's designs make it impossible to fit the motherboards into the G4's enclosure).  An Intel Core 2 Duo (mobile processor) is certainly not as "modern" as it was when I began this project.  But then I saw this:
Courtesy of Quanmax Inc.
I have spoken to a Quanmax representative who indicated these will be available at the end of July.  There is no reason this board should not be hackintoshable and this is likely to be the same specs of the next generation mini (though nothing is guaranteed).  I was worried about the future of the ECX board and was not sure if I would see anything other than Atom/Fusion or other low power chipsets.  I am delighted that quanmax seems to be pushing forward with the latest technology.  However, this board is likely to be quite expensive even without the processor and if it comes down to this or a next generation mac mini - I would favor the mini.

Personally, the all-in-one was a proof-of-concept for me.  I have never minded having the small footprint mini external.  This makes upgrading a snap and increases the usability of the iMac for me (I can also connect it to my macbook for more screen real estate).  What I am probably going to do is switch the bases of my last two 20" mods.  Thus, making the touchscreen/apple cinema display mod the all-in-one and the native appearing mod hook up to the external mini.  I will also likely put the bluray into the native mod that connects to the external mini.  This will allow me to add the hard drive and graphics card to make the apple cinema display/touchscreen a hackintosh/windows dual boot (the touchscreen will likely be more useful with windows).  The reason really comes down to the fact that while I think hackintoshes are good for enthusiasts - I personally don't feel secure in using them as a primary computer.  I also hope that the addition of multitouch gestures in Lion makes up for the loss of the touchscreen.  While a nice addition, the touchscreen does detract from the overall quality of the image and leaves the monitor covered in fingerprints.  I have also been working on a conversion of a broken iMac G5 to a display only.  My goal would be to have a native appearing iMac G4 and G5 as dual monitors hooked up a new mini running Lion as an homage to my favorite computer designs of all time.  So lets go apple - lets see some hardware refreshes soon.