Kinda Sorta Supported (12/21/01)

Before now, we've never really bothered to address the issue of Mac OS X's lack of support for a whole slew of ATI graphics chipsets found in several "supported" Macs. For those of you who aren't aware, as of yet, while Mac OS X as a whole will run on Macs with those unsupported chips (such as tray-loading iMacs and "Lombard" G3 PowerBooks), graphics speed on those systems reportedly leaves a lot to be desired; QuickTime performance is abysmal compared to that under Mac OS 9 on the same hardware, and OpenGL on those Macs apparently lacks any sort of hardware acceleration whatsoever, so 3D applications limp along like a drunk sloth with three sketchy ankles.

The reason why we've never bothered to get indignant about this before is because we've always given Apple the benefit of the doubt; we had reason to believe that support for those chipsets was coming, though it'd be a little late. That only made sense, after all-- Apple needs to prioritize its development to support the Macs it sells right now first and foremost, since Mac OS X is shipping preloaded on those systems' hard drives. It wouldn't look good, for instance, if a brand new Power Mac shipped to a reviewer at a major newspaper with 3D, QuickTime, and even Aqua performance so poor it'd have said reviewer clawing his or her eyes out in frustration while owners of two-year-old Macs were happily noodling away, awash in a frenzy of high-res trailer downloads. But we'd always assumed (and yes, we had at least a teensy shred of evidence upon which to base our assumptions) that support for those older ATI chipsets would be filled in over time as the updates and upgrades kept rolling along.

Unfortunately, it seems we were wrong, wrong, wrong; as of yesterday, Apple has officially stated that "further Mac OS X support" for the ATI RAGE II+, IIc, Pro, Pro Turbo, LT Pro, and Mobility chipsets "is not planned." It doesn't get much blunter than that. And while it's not exactly a Greek tragedy or anything, we have to admit we're a little disappointed with Apple for taking that stance. After all, Apple clearly lists OpenGL and QuickTime as two key components of its "fundamental" media layer; at the same time, it also has plenty of Macs on its list of Mac OS X "supported hardware" that shipped with the above-listed graphics chips. In other words, lots of "supported" Mac hardware isn't supported when it comes to graphics acceleration-- and apparently never will be.

It strikes us as "not right" that Apple has absolutely no intention of providing the same level of graphics support for an 18-month-old iBook that was (and is) listed as a fully-supported machine under Mac OS X as it does for later systems. If you agree, you might consider signing this petition; generally speaking, we suspect that online petitions are about as effective a method of facilitating change as yelling in French at a casaba melon, but we doubt it could hurt. We should also note that Apple has shown its willingness to incorporate feature requests made by its customers in the past, so you might also want to stop by the Mac OS X feedback page and formally request graphics hardware acceleration for your semi-supported Mac if such a thing is important to you. If enough people want it, we've no doubt that Apple will take some form of action-- even if that action is just the removal of all those Macs from the list of supported hardware. D'oh!!

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The above scene was taken from the 12/21/01 episode:

December 21, 2001: Did we say Mac OS X 10.1.2 wasn't out yet? Apple proves us wrong. Meanwhile, the mothership makes it abundantly clear that some Macs that are only fifteen months old have graphics chips that Mac OS X will never fully support, and Mac OS Rumors floats the remote possibility that Uncle Steve's playing around with some seriously wacky enclosures for the G5...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 3468: Not The End Of The World (12/21/01)   Wouldn't you know it? Less than half an hour after we broadcast a scene yesterday about how Mac OS X 10.1.2 wasn't out yet, faithful viewer Michael Dunne wrote in to let us know that it had suddenly shown up in Software Update...

  • 3470: What, No Icosahedron? (12/21/01)   Lastly, what better way to kick off the weekend than with a rumor so goofy, even Mac OS Rumors classifies it as "far-out"? Yes, as faithful viewer Echo Geometer Smythe informed us, that venerable clearing-house of Apple-flavored dirt is back-- and not just "back" like last Monday's "the server's alive but the content is lacking" back...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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