Categories
Technology

Is the Mac Mini’s firmware broken?

I’ve just bought a new (2GHz Core2 Duo 😉 ) Mac Mini to run as a Media Centre hooked up to my (720p) projector.

One problem I’ve encountered here is that the Mac tries to determine the optimal resolution for the connected display (via I2C/DDC for VGA, DVI, and HDMI connections), and uses this in preference to all else the the initial login screen. And this is usually fine. The projector, however, can accept 1080p input – it just scales it to 720p (the native resolution) for display. The Mac partially sees this, and sets it’s resolution to 1920×1080 – which makes it a pain to log in as the mouse sensitivity isn’t adjusted to match the enormous resolution (so moving around takes too long) and at this size, the integrated Intel graphics really seem to suffer.

This, however, is only Apple’s fault insomuch as Mac OS gives very little control over the login screen, and doesn’t allow the resolution to be manually specified.

The problems, though, really show up when trying to install Vista via Bootcamp…

Hooked up to the projector, I can use Bootcamp to install Windows – which reboots the machine, and the projector loses the signal. No problems – reboot… and the same happens. I have a Gyration RF-wireless keyboard and mouse (main problem: only one device can be active at once, so it’s not possible to control-click, for example – either the control-press or the click is lost) which connects via a single USB port… and with this, the Mini didn’t see any presses of Option to select the boot drive. Eventually I had to plug in another USB keyboard (an SGI one!) in order to boot from the Mac OS installation CD, in order to specify a new boot volume.

Assuming that the projector was at fault, I unhooked the Mini and took it in to work to try again against one of my Dell 2007FP monitors (native resolution: 1600×1200). I initially connected by VGA, since my Octane uses the DVI input… and exactly the happens! refit shows the Windows logo, then the monitor loses it’s signal.

Convinced that it wasn’t going to work, I finally tried with the DVI input – and could then see the display. I have no idea why DVI would work but HDMI wouldn’t (they’re the same protocol, just a different physical form-factor)… but with VGA, I’m wondering if the Mac or Intel firmwares (or Windows itself? I’ve not heard of that elsewhere) are disabling analog output.

However, all is not rosy – after two reboots and completing the Vista installation process (and with the Mini still attached by DVI), the Mini reboots to what should be the Vista desktop… but instead the monitor displays:

               Out of range signal.
          Cannot display this video mode,
change computer display input to 1600x1200 @ 60Hz

Could this be that Vista isn’t recognising the integrated graphics in the latest Mini, or that it’s just chosen a silly video mode? Is the Mini’s graphics announcing incorrect DDC data to the OS?

Why is this all so difficult??

(All of this just in order to see whether Windows Media Centre can compete with Apple Front Row/Back Row… <sigh>)

One reply on “Is the Mac Mini’s firmware broken?”

That’s weird… the solution to the “blank screen on reboot” problem seems to be to let the display go to sleep from inactivity, then hammer the keyboard to wake it up – and lo-and-behold the picture is visible!

Now is this a graphics firmware bug or a Vista problem?

Leave a Reply