iTunes an unusual use


iTunes, more than a media player

iTunes must rate as the Apple product I use the most. iTunes is in use from the time I start-up the box in iTunes logothe morning, to I shut down much later. Music, I cannot work or live without it.

However, iTunes has proven much more than a media player over the years. It has done double duty in a role which I am quite certain Apple never anticipated, as a PC tester.

iTunes for testing PC’s

No, I am not joking. I have used this app regularly over the years to stress test new PC builds. iTunes uses a CPU at 100% duty cycle to convert CD or AIFF files to MP3. Where a PC might have heat related problems, this is one sure-fire way of testing the ‘box’ to discover if there are any overheating problems.

Give iTunes 30 minutes of continuous conversion work to do, and any possible overheating which might cause stability problems and the famous windows blue screen of death (BSOD) will certainly be found.

PC test kitThis test became a standard procedure during the days of Intel’s hot and toasty Northwood P4 processors.

I had a work box back then that had an annoying habit of shutting itself down during video capture. I just happened to notice that when iTunes rips music, it runs a high CPU duty cycle (100%), and decided to see what would happen if  I tried to convert more than a single CD of audio to MP3. Sure enough, after 15 minutes, the box shut itself down….

A few days later, and a massive aftermarket cooler attached to this (P4 2.8G Northwood) CPU, and the box was rock stable, no matter what could be thrown at it. From then on, every PC build that went out of my workshop (I was building gaming platforms mostly in those days) had been stress tested by iTunes for at least 60 consecutive minutes (all were kept running for a minimum of 24 hours before delivery).

Even the most demanding games do not utilise CPU cycles to this extent, and if the box will run iTunes for 60 minutes, then rest assured no game will cause the system to fall over, at least not from heat related concerns.

Yes, there are other tools available for this purpose, however, the free downloads (at least back then) are rubbish, and create more problems than they resolve. And commercial tools would have to be removed anyway prior to delivery.

So, if you have a problem with a PC shutting itself down when you are using it for more than surfing the net, try the iTunes test, before calling on your PC support guy (or gal). If it misbehaves while converting music, the problem is very likely to be heat related. At least when you tell the tech what happened, and what you did to test it, you are giving him a first area to investigate – refer him to this article, and should save him time and you money.

Also worked for Mac

The same method was used to establish that the company’s Apple Mac G4 Cube was also subject to overheating problems. This machine (Mac OS9!!!) was horribly unstable. Although the instability issues were only fully resolved once OSX was installed (What an outstanding operating system), once it was Mac G4 Cubeconfirmed that at least some of the time the Mac was mis-behaving was due to overheating, and a small fan salvaged from a hard drive cooler was attached to drive more air through the chassis, at least one annoyingly frequent crash symptom was cured.

The heat cure was so effective, that eventually, once the business had obtained a G5 for dtp production, the Cube (with OSX.3) was placed in the entrance at the reception desk, where it was never turned off unless due to a power failure, for more than a year.

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About Mike

Web Developer and Techno-geek Saltwater fishing nut Blogger

Posted on August 26, 2011, in TECH NOTES and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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