Chicken Soup For The DIMMs (4/6/01)

Were you one of the unfortunate multitude who blithely installed Apple's new firmware update a couple of weeks ago, only to discover that some or all of your third-party RAM evaporated into thin air? If so, we feel for you-- but if history has taught us anything, it's that firmware updates from Apple are best left to breathe for a few days while the less wary jump in and install with reckless abandon. Yes, Apple's latest firmware update disables some third-party RAM that it deems unworthy of participation in the Glory of Macdom. No, Apple has no plans to provide a way for afflicted customers to downgrade their firmware and get their RAM back. And if any of this was a total surprise to you, you obviously missed the whole "Blue Blocker" scandal in which an Apple firmware update rendered blue and white Power Mac G3 systems unbootable if a G4 upgrade was installed. Study your history, kids!

But don't despair. That "non-compliant" third-party RAM isn't really gone; your Mac is now just too picky to use it. In the interests of improving system stability, the firmware update includes much more rigorous RAM-checking, and any DIMMs that don't pass are simply ignored, even if they seemed to work fine before the firmware update. Here's the thing, though: it seems that a lot of the rejected RAM is really just fine, except for low self-esteem. No joke! Many DIMMs have been told that they're not good enough for Macs, and they've come to believe it. But with a few kind words, a bit of therapy, and a mere reprogramming of their flash memory, these DIMMs can learn to love themselves again.

See, according to an article in The Register, Macs require memory with a latency rating of CL3, and DIMMs that are rejected by the firmware update are being blocked because they're claiming they're only CL2. However, most of those DIMMs are in fact CL3-compliant, and just need a healthy dose of self-affirmation. You know, as in "I'm good enough, I'm fast enough, and Macs like me." Programmer and up-and-coming chip therapist Glenn Anderson, who discovered this whole CL3 deal, states that he has successfully transformed his frightened and self-deprecating false-CL2 DIMMs into confident and self-actualized CL3 units through and through. These proud new DIMMs are now performing an active and useful role in his firmware-upgraded Mac.

Glenn has also written a teensy little personality test called DIMMCheck, which, when administered to a pre-firmware-updated Mac, asks its installed RAM how it feels about its latency. That way you can check to see if any of your third-party RAM is suffering from low self esteem that might prevent it from working with the new firmware. (We're happy to report that the RAM in AtAT's own beloved PowerBook "checks out OK"; evidently we are empowering, nurturing parents.) As of yet, we haven't heard of any way for average users to "fix" their own afflicted DIMMs, but perhaps Dr. Anderson will refine his treatment methods and release a self-help book with a twelve-step program sometime soon.

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The above scene was taken from the 4/6/01 episode:

April 6, 2001: Hey, lookee-- Mike Dell's predicting Apple's imminent demise again. Meanwhile, the RAM disabled by Apple's latest firmware update isn't bad, it's just misunderstood, and the "Mac in Space" project is still a go, slated for a launch this October...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 2973: Some Things Never Change (4/6/01)   Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please! AtAT is pleased to offer this vivid illustration of "Progress in the Wonderful World of Michael Dell's Brain." The old-timers among you will recall that way back in 1997, Mr. Dell publicly voiced his opinion that Steve Jobs should shut Apple down and give the money back to the stockholders, because the company was beyond saving...

  • 2975: T Minus 6 Months & Counting (4/6/01)   Remember SkyCorp, the company that's planning on deploying a constellation of low earth orbit satellites housing Macs as web servers? The last we'd heard, the first test system was going to be launched sometime this year, boldly going where no web server has gone before...

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