Eh, Silence Is Overrated (10/30/02)

Super-Fun Well-Known Jobsian Personality Quirk #54: Uncle Steve hates fans. By all accounts, the very notion of using a computer spitting out any unnecessary white noise drives the man into a frenzy. Indeed, even if you're not personally privy to Steve's frothing-at-the-mouth tantrums when faced with extraneous computer fan noise, you could probably deduce this particular mania just by looking at Apple's product history during the First and Second Jobs Dynasties. The original Mac was engineered to run smoothly sans fan. When Apple had the chance to yank the fan out of its redesigned CRT iMac, Steve never looked back. And don't forget the ultimate incarnation of Jobsy computer fetishism, the fanless Cube.

All of that flashed through our mind about a year ago when we first powered up our brand-spankin'-new dual 800 MHz Power Mac G4-- which, we discovered, throws off so much fan noise that OSHA regulations probably require us to wear ear protection when working within 100 feet of the thing. To this day we can't sit down at it without quoting Troy McClure and Dr. Nick Riviera: "ARE YOU SURE IT'S ON?!! IT'S WHISPER QUIET!!!"

But guess what? As loud as our dual-800 MHz system is, reports from the field are that it's probably nothing next to the latest Power Macs, which Apple refers to as the "Mirrored Drive Door" models, and which the rest of the planet calls the "G4 Windtunnel" systems. We can only surmise that Steve's love of fanless computing silence has been eclipsed by his love of the Gulfstream Jet he received as a gift from Apple's board of directors a few years back, because we're told that the current crop of Power Macs sound like large aircraft gearing up for takeoff. It's bad enough that some owners are so batty after a constant assault of white noise that they've taken to voiding their warranties and soldering stuff to their motherboards in order to keep the fans under control.

But is it all just due to a bug? It's recently come to light over at MacFixIt that Apple has now determined that "loud G4 fan noise is due to a motherboard problem" which causes the Power Mac's variable speed fan to spin at the setting tagged in the manufacturer's documentation as "Deafen Me With Your Whirling Blades Of Colossal Cooling Power," whether or not the processors in the system are actually warm enough to need that kind of action. So if you're suffering from hearing loss because your G4 Windtunnel seems a little overzealous with the whole spinning thing, you might want to consider contacting Apple about a motherboard replacement while you're still under warranty.

Interestingly enough, though, most people seem to be reporting that the truly obnoxious fan noise only occurs under Mac OS 9, and not when running Mac OS X; moreover, a MacInTouch reader recently confirmed that Apple tech support considers loud fan noise "normal behavior" under Mac OS 9 because that operating system "does not have 'drivers' to control the fans." Hmmmm, so if you boot into Mac OS X the problem mostly goes away? Why are we sensing that this while stunt is just Apple's diabolical plot to coax holdout pro users into switching to Mac OS X? Pretty sneaky, sis...

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The above scene was taken from the 10/30/02 episode:

October 30, 2002: Is excessive fan noise in the latest Power Macs due to a motherboard flaw, or is it just Apple's way of getting pro users to switch to Mac OS X? Meanwhile, CNET practically gushes over Dell for making tentative steps towards a floppy-free future, and AtAT's resident intern and goddess-in-training hits a six-month milestone...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 3808: Been There, Done That (10/30/02)   Okay, we know, we should be used to this by now, but we just can't help it: it still really chaps our hinders when we see articles that make it look like Dell is doing anything the least bit innovative outside of its great strides in the field of Dumb-As-A-Post But Inexplicably Effective Pitchmen research...

  • 3809: Six Months And Counting (10/30/02)   Seeing as absolutely nothing at all is happening in Macville right now (no, seriously-- NOTHING IS HAPPENING. There are tumbleweeds rolling through the streets. It's actually kinda eerie), we may as well take this opportunity to announce to the world that Anya, AtAT's resident intern and goddess-in-training, has been with us for exactly six months today...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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