Would upgrading to Leopard allow my computer to better stream video?
December 10, 2007 3:08 PM   Subscribe

I run a 12 inch Powerbook G4 1.33 with 1.25GB of RAM (Tiger) with 64MB dedicated video card. Anytime I play anything video (ABC, NBC, YouTube, CBS, Fox, AOL Video, etc. etc.), the fans come on full blast (more so than I ever remember, and I've had the computer for almost 42 months now). So I have a couple of questions related to this. First, did something happen online that causes intense pressure on the CPU and causes the fans to blast out? Doesn't my seemingly good video card counteract that, or shouldn't it? And the money question: I've heard rumors that Leopard is much better at handling video compared to Tiger. Would upgrading cause less strain on my CPU, allowing the fans to be a little quieter? Would the video be smoother and allow me to maximize the video screen, instead of always having to keep the screen small (3"x4")?
posted by SeizeTheDay to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well whatever you do, know that Leaopard only really makes Intel macs more efficient. Expect things to run even slower on your G4 if you make the upgrade.

Have you tried doing a clean install of Tiger? You can pin down if this is hardware related if you can recreate this after wiping everything out.
posted by evanm at 3:15 PM on December 10, 2007

As a data point, I have the EXACT same computer (PB 12", 1.33, 1.25GB, 64mb card) and also experience this problem (full-blast fan) when playing almost all online videos.

Even though I've had it for three years, I honestly can't remember whether it has always done this - but I think it has. I always assumed the CPU requirements have just gone up and left us behind.
posted by vacapinta at 3:21 PM on December 10, 2007

Are you sure it's anything video that's the culprit? Or is it anything Flash-based video that's making the fans go bonkers?
Flash has always been a thorn in the side of OSX (and Safari) How does the system act when you are, say, playing a downloaded mpeg from your hard drive? Do the fans roar then?
posted by Thorzdad at 3:22 PM on December 10, 2007

Thorzdad, I think you're right. I've downloaded plenty of movies and never had this problem. Even when I play DVDs it isn't this bad. So is there anything I can do to fix this? Use Opera? Switch back to PC? (Just kidding.)
posted by SeizeTheDay at 3:28 PM on December 10, 2007

It's the Flash plugin. I've read that this has been a known issue for awhile now. I have an Intel Macbook with 2GB RAM and my system starts whirring when playing Flash stuff, too.
posted by gramcracker at 3:45 PM on December 10, 2007

I'm backing up vacapinta -- my experience from work on multiple PowerBooks of similar vintage is that they're just not capable of handling streaming flash video in an elegant manner. Keep in mind that those 1.33Ghz G4 processors were introduced in 2003, and are around 5 years old -- Apple was in an embarrassing position with the pokey speed of their laptops a couple of years ago, necessitating the switch to the Intel processors.

You may want to download the latest Flash Player, however. Adobe just posted an update that allows it to support H.264 video, which provides better quality at lower data rates (and theoretically may provide better performance for older machines... if the other site supports it).
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 3:53 PM on December 10, 2007

I have a 6 month old Powerbook 15", Tiger, 2GB RAM, and get the same thing. It's Flash (possibly Flash video in particular): sometimes happens just as a result on Flash-based ads on the page. Doesn't happen with Quicktime video.

I only use Firefox; dunno if Safari has the same issue. I have MenuMeters installed, on which I can see the both CPUs shoot up from around 10% to around 80% at the same time.

No solutions to offer, sorry.
posted by snarfois at 4:20 PM on December 10, 2007

The dangers of dust to computers are largely overstated, but one thing that dust accumulation definitely does is make your fans run less efficiently. It wouldn't hurt to take some compressed air to the vents, or -- if you're really daring -- open it up and blow the gunk off the fan directly. Be warned that those 12" PowerBooks can be hell to disassemble and reassemble.

It won't solve the problem, but it may help the fans run slightly slower and slightly less often.

Even faster macs choke on fullscreen flash video. What I always do instead is run the video at normal (small) size and zoom the screen on the video. This makes it fill the screen without putting more strain on the video card/processor.
posted by churl at 4:24 PM on December 10, 2007

I get the same thing on my G4 15" with anything flash based. The fan doesn't kick in.. but things definitely get really sow.

I don't think H.264 is going to help this particular issue... it will likely make it worse.

H.264 offers great compression and therefore less bandwidth, or better quality for the same bandwdith, but it's at the expense of CPU cycles. H.264 is harder to play back than mpeg.
posted by TravellingDen at 4:26 PM on December 10, 2007

In addition to all the software stuff above and the dust issue, you should also keep in mind that fan bearings don't last forever. The usual effect is they get louder and the character of the fan noise changes (from "wirrrrr" to "screeeeee"). Since you are talking about an older machine this may also be a factor.
posted by chairface at 4:52 PM on December 10, 2007

I've heard rumors that Leopard is much better at handling video compared to Tiger.

I have a relatively new macbook with leopard installed and the fans go crazy with anything flash, so I don't think that's the answer.
posted by justgary at 6:17 PM on December 10, 2007

I would bet that Flash doesn't take advantage of hardware acceleration when playing flash videos, so your super duper fancy display chip is completely irrelevant.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:36 PM on December 10, 2007

to those of you with intel-based macbooks

boot into windows

no, i'm not kidding

you'll get far, far better flash performance
posted by Oktober at 7:21 PM on December 10, 2007

All previous comments blaming Flash are correct.

And Oktober's spot on. I've got a santa-rosa macbook and watching Flash video in a windows virtual machine is faster than native Safari or Firefox.

I blame Adobe for writing (and not fixing) a horrible OSX flash implementation.
posted by whycurious at 8:51 PM on December 10, 2007

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