Monday, 5 October 2015

Well... that was a less than satisfactory day.

So, having a free day off today I decided to start gaining access to the buried portion of my Stack and in the process, found some unexpected old friends I had not been aboe to find as hey were in a far from expected place... these being my G3/266DT, 7300/200 and WGS7350/180. In addition, I also dragged from more expected places, my couple of PowerComputing PowerCenter clones, my 6100/66 DOS Compatible (which is by way of a daughtercard containing a full seperate 486 processor and it's own RAM banks and all), a IIsi, and my old 7600/200 video pig from many years back, as well as my Compaq Prolinea 486/33s ( I also maintain a small collection of early, pre-pentium Compaqs), my other IIvx, a bunch of floppies containing documents from my early teenage years i didnt realise I had backups of after my HDD crashed on my Colour Classic quite some  years ago, my boxed copies of Macwrite and Macpaint as well as some user guides for Macs and other Apple programs, a boxed Macsense Ethernet LC PDS card, the "Idiots Guide to The Mac" from the System 7 era, and the MS-DOS oem users manual.... all some great stuff hear!

... Well so I thought, until I discovered a stuffed battery that had cataclysmically leaked all over the G3 logic board, random corrosion from absolutely nowhere identifiable in a strangely located area on one of the clones, a couple of batteries hat were probably a few days away from causing mass harm. Add to that, half the files encounter read error on the diskettes full of old Clarisworks files, couldnt find the display adaptor for the 6100, then upon plugging the Workgroup Server in it didnt bong and instead lit the power LED and stayed silent until it it powered off and wouldnt power back on. After that, finally came  the coupe de grace, the failure to end all failure...the moment the 7600 was plugged in for 1 second then promptly had the PSU blow up with a loud bang and a rather unpleasant flame that was too close to my face and my Yikes G4,s white case sides. This thing was such a great workhorse and then I plug it in after 8 years and it nearly blows my soul-patch right off my chin! What even is going on here???

I think I give up for this morning... might have better luck after I wake up. Here's hoping the 7300 doesnt try and singe my eyebrows too!


Friday, 2 October 2015

Suddenly, a wild Powermac appeared... and a bunch of stuff happened.

Well, it's been quite some time since I updated this blog due to a busy schedule of work, an interstate trip to pick up my latest classic car, a '67 Mercedes 250, which I drove 1300km from country Victoria after two years of dormancy, a bunch of assorted comitments, and a re-entry into the world of theatre after 10 years, as part of the cast of Grease, and also a funeral under the least pleasant of circumstances... whatever spare time I have had has been spent attempting to sleep or playing with cars and old Macs, whilst also casually keeping abreast of the Mac community. Now, throughout he course of doing that last bit, I managed to procure myself a couple of of new OldMacs, which will be the first topic I muse upon in this entry.

In a nutshell, after having in the past 12 months gotten quite active on 68kmla forums once again, and also discovered and joined the ThinkClassic community (check it out if you havent already... some familiar names and a nice atmoshpere, being rather more relaxed than some), I had taken to keeping a watch on the Trading sections of each community. Not expecting a whole lot to be of geopgraphical relevance, given the considerably small percentage of Australian enthusiasts on the forums, imagine my delight at seeing an advertisement on 68k for some items being sold cheaply and given away in the nation's capital, Canberra. More importantly, the nature of the items meant they were of particular interest to me, as one of them in particular was an OldMac I have yearned to own since it was still relevant equipment... a machine that even just LOOKS like a no-holds-barred powerhouse! What is this machine you ask? 

The Power Macintosh 9600/200MP is the one we are talking about here. In 1997, this was about the most insane Mac money could buy. The 9600 just about had it all... Whilst it lacked the AV subsystem of the similar 8600 which was marketted abreast of it, it was a behemoth by OldMac standards, and is even impressive to this day in just how much it packed into that awsomely designed imposing hunk of tower. It had 12 RAM slots which, using RAM available since it's original specs were released,  give it a total RAM capacity of 1.5Gb. To put that in perspective, this is more than any G3-based Mac that succeeded it, more than the first G4 model, and on par with the Quicksilver G4. It also contained six PCI slots, a pair of additional drive bays which could accomodate various 5.25' or 3.5" removable media drives or hard drives on easily removable sleds. It had two fast SCSI buses, and video was on a TwinTurbo 128 4MB (or 8MB on some models) PCI graphics card that occupied one slot rather than wasting time with the restrictions and wasted space of onboard graphics, and of course, the powerful PowerPC 604e processor at 200MHz, also easily removable for upgrade like the 8xxx and 7xxx series that were produced alongside it by way of it being installed on an inline socketted daughtercard. This was the base 9600/200. Now, I've always specifically wanted the 200MP... why? because the MP stands for "multiprocessor". The 9600/200MP was one of the few old-world Macs produced in standard trim with dual CPU's, having not one but two 604e's at 200MHz each on the daughtercard. Now, it is worth noting that it isnt exactly the multiprocessing capability we know today. Under normal run of the mill operation, you would not notice much in the way of a performance difference, as most programmess simply were not coded to make any use of a second processor. However there are a handful of programmes which WERE coded to utilise the 2nd proccessor to speed up complex rendering tasks such as those performed in certain graphics and multimedia applications. Realistically, it wasnt until OSX that multiprocessing was fully integrated into everyday computing, however for it to be implemented at all in a desktop computer was quite cutting edge. Also, the openness of the machines architecture meant it was wildly upgradeable and served may professionals well for years and years by way of expansion and upgrades. It had room to customise it for whatever task you wanted to use it for, whether it be in a sound studio, a graphic design lab, postproduction of video... You had the expansion room to burn. I'd always wanted this machine right from the earliest days because it was powerful and looked great, and at the time when I first began to get into Macs for the long haul, it was THE ultimate Mac. Obviously, in those days there was no way my parents were spending the horrendous amount of money Apple charged for their high end machines so I just had to sit and dream, and longingy gaze at the ads in the pages of whatever Mac mag I happened to be reading at the time. Well, years went by, and I eventually got a G3 tower when they were still fairly current, and that served me well for years and became the first of 4 PowerMac towers ending with the G5 I type this on... however I never did get that 9600/200MP. Now, another point I should make is the MP was produced only for about 8 months of total 9600 production and was a very expensive machine purchased only by those with a specific purpose for it, As the dual-processor setup was not particularly useful in regards to boosting everyday performance, the model was replaced by the 9600/350 when the 9600 line was speedbumped. This makes the 200MP a fairly rare machine, particularly in AUstralia where vintage Macs scarcely enter the market anymore and when they do, clowns want drug money for them. Whatever the case, I was always certain I would own one.

Well, fast forward back to earlier this year, and as mentioned, a 200MP happened to come up for sale in Canberra on MLA. Being that I used to live in Canberra and am always looking for an excuse to be there for the sake of catching up with friends and reliving my wasted early 20's as a trashy clubber, I immediately planned my trip before I even got a reply back to verify the machine was still available. it was actually being given away  in a half-working state, with a very tidy, working and reasonably priced IIvx... another machine Ive always been fond of... and a IIsi with a suspected bad PSU. The only catch was, all three machines had to go together as a lot because the seller was running out of space. Well, I hopped into the Calais at my earliest convenience and headed to Canberra, and after having a little trouble finding my way around the new rabbit-warrens of Gunghalin, I found myself in the apartment of possibly the only other young (well, if my age is to be considered young) Mac collector ive ever met who takes his hobby as seriously as I do. Long story cut short, I ended up there for a good 2 hours or more exchanging anecdote and playing with old Macs.  I unexpextedly left with not only the IIvx, 9600 and IIsi, but a Targa2000 AV card still boxed with software and the original supplied antistatic strap, a spare almost new logic board, a Sonnet Crescendo G3/400-1M CPU upgrade, 2 128MB RAM modules and a disc full of software all for the 9600, as well as a copy of Leopard to replace my damaged copy and a few other knicknacks, and not only that, I left
having made not only a valuable contact but it turns out a great friend whom has actually helped me through some very troubling emotional times recently after some very dismal life events.

Anyway, I had been told that the 9600 had some flakiness with booting, hence why there was also a spare logic board available. When I got the machine home, I noticed it had an Ultra SCSI card installed, Firewire and USB cards, as well as a 64Mb Radeon7000 Mac Edition graphics card, an 8x CD-Recorder and a pair of sizeable USCSI hard drives in addition to the stock one. After a quick parouse, I turned the machine on and it didnt do much. At best it would switch my VGA CRT on for a second and then off without displaying a picture. Sometimes it would chime, sometimes not... No matter what I did, I couldnt get it to throw a raster. At that point I just assumed the logic board was dead and set about putting the new one in as an easy fix. Too easy, or so I thought... that was until I turned the machine on and it still would not boot. I tried it with both the R7000 and a perfectly functioning rage128 from my G4 but no dice. I tried different RAM configurations, removing selected or all PCI cards... still no luck. I ended up pulling that board and sticking the old one back in which seemed to more consistently chime, then I repeated the whole process. I worked out that seating the graphics card a certain way made it consistently chime... easy fix there. However I still had no display. The machine left me scratching my head for a couple of weeks until... and I have no clue what was going through my head but I'm glad it did... I decided to pull the faulty Rage128 out of my B+W G3 (the G4 and G3 actually have each others cards swapped, with the Rev 2 card being in the G3 and the Rev 1 card being in the G4) which is semi-usable but started displaying terrible artefacts a few years back, and put it into the 9600 to see what happened. Well, to my shock, I got a raster... then a happy Mac when a boot drive was detected on the PCI SCSI card... then a 9.2 open screen through the jailbar like artefacts. It booted to desktop and turned out to already have 256Mb of RAM installed, a whole bunch of good programmes and interesting utilities and seemed to function fine... not just once, but consistently it booted. I even seated the card differently and it still seemed to want to work fine. SUCCESS!!! Well... sort of. I still had no answer to the other cards not working... truth be told, at this point I still have not worked it out. I have been thrown a couple of theories I am yet to test, but I will cover those in another post. It is worth noting at this point that I have since discovered there appears to be either wear or corrosion on the fingers of the "good" Rage card, so it is possible that this explains why it will not function and the other almost identical card will. This does not however explain why it functions in the G4, or why the R7000 will not work.

Anyway, having gotten the 9600 at least limping, I loaded in the other 256Mb of RAM and set about playing with the IIvx. Thankfully, it turned out to be absolutely bliss... started right up and booted swiftly into OS7.5.6. Unlike the loaded 9600, this was a very bare bones hard drive... just a basic, simple OS install. It did start to glitch some time later, refusing to power on. This turned out to be due to some new cap leakage causing a short between the legs of an IC or two. I used the old toothbrush trick to rectify the situation temporarily, however this development will mean a recap is on the cards in the near future, along with a mounting pile of other machines. Seeing the potential to be a very useful machine (as my other IIvx is also), I decided that an ethernet card was required for max fun and to explore some ideas that will be covered in a later post here. I made a phonecall to my friend in Canberra and, having seen the teething issues I was having with the 9600, he not only sent in the mail a NuBus ethernet card for the IIvx, but also the original Twinturbo128 full-length PCI graphics card he had acquired for it. When these arrived I began to have quite a bit of fun with the IIvx, and for the first time ever since I bought it, managed to get a perfect display on the 9600 using it's native graphics card. From that moment it has been a fantastic machine and I have found myself using it very regularly even just to browse the web, which it does very competently by way of the Classilla browser for OS9,  play music from the shared iTunes libraries of my G5 when I feel like the simplicity of a little mono speaker listening to Hansen, and also it has become a very important bridge machine between OSX and my classic machines, as well as being used as somewhat of a repository for various OS7 bits and bobs, applications, images etc and a useful tool to burn off data  CD's to be read by old CD-ROM drives, and a convenient handler of floppies. In adition to all this, It still has a full suite of professional level multimedia software by Adobe and many others including Premiere, Photoshop, Freehand, SonicWORX etc... Given this was designed a a pro-level multimedia-capable machine, I intend to flex it's muscles soon by embarking upon some projects using solely the 9600 to process them. 

It is worth adding that I have installed the Targa2000 video capture and display output card since getting the video issue sorted out. It is a monstrous piece of equipment, being a full length PCI card with a full length piggyback board that is also populated to half it's length, and has  full stereo RCA AV input and output via a breakout  harness, as well as the card having a fully functional display controller with VGA output that supports full dual screen or mirrored configuration and a resolution up to 1152x870 @75Hz in millions of colours. These were worth a hefty sum of money when they were new and are still somewhat sought after even now in their relative obsolescence. I intend to procure myself a Hi8 camcorder or something along those lines  to have a play round with the capabilities of the machine. I am no stranger to digital video editing the old way with RCA cables and capture hardware/software, however  the last experience I had doing so was with a far inferior  rig, in the form of a PowerMac 7600/200 with a fairly modest 256Mb of RAM, a pair of 4Gb HDD's and the stock single 604e at 200MHz, a single display and the onboard AV input subsystem. All told, it was a pretty ordinary experience... with the RAM pilfered from that old video rig of mine chucked into the 9600 on top of the 512 it already has, the G3 upgrade, a real capture card and some decent software, it should be a much more enjoyable experience than it was with the old 7600. Anyway.... as you can see from the photo here, it's pretty packed full of goodies inside there. The Targa really is huge. One thing I discovered incidentally, whilst trying to diagnose an apparant conflict caused by the Targa card which caused some really wierd unexpected things to happen was that it MUST specifically be installed in the 2nd slot from the bottom to work correctly. It is apparantly mentioned in the packaging, however the piece of literature that has this instruction is missing from mine. Either that or I am blind. So if you ever end up with one of these cards yourself, this is a thing to keep in mind. It really sent my machine off the rails until I discovered the issue and rectified it!

Anyway, now that the IIvx and 9600 are working sterlingly, they are sharing a desk beside the G5 as permanant fixtures. With luck, I should have located a CD bezel and for the 9600 and these possibly could also have a working G3MT as part of that deal to go with my collection of other towers... all depends on some things working out with regards to collecting the gear. Stay tuned for more tales of shenanigans afoot, and until then, I shall leave you with this scene of vintage splendour to the left!      OMT

Monday, 2 March 2015

Never underestimate the effects of 10 years of dust on an OldMac.

So, the reason I write this entry is that approximately half an hour ago, my late-2005 G5 sat partially dismembered on my desk in an effort to get to the bottom of an irritating noise which sounded not unlike that annoying chattering sound of an older hard disk read/write operation but it went on all the time... well, most of the time. At first I thought it  was some unknown application doing something in the background but a glance at activity monitor did not support this, and after a bit of a listen with the case side off I worked out it definitely was not actually a hard drive but one of the machine's 7 fans chattering away, either one of the CPU tunnel intake fans, or the expansion slot fan beneath the DVD burner.

having pulled the suspects out, i deduced the slot fan was the culprit, and considered simply swapping it with the one from the June-2004 model G5 that is quiet as a mouse and runs cool as cucumbers... when it actually wants to boot up and not just hang and go full-retard with all 7 fans on full-tilt. Unfortunately however, even though both fan/speaker modules are identical, the early one has a shorter cable to the logic board as the connectors are located in different places, and I didnt want to cut and shut wiring for the sake of a noise, so figured I would just wait till the appropriate G5 part surfaced on eBay.

In any case, whilst I had the machine apart, I figured a bit of routine maintenance was in order, having noticed the offending fan was rather dusty as was the surrounding area and a further inspection revealed the whole machine could use a clean out. so I removed the fans and CPU cover and set about carefully dusting every electrical component, fan, connector, slot and heatsink with a pastry brush to remove what turned out to be a sizeable quantity of dust from the unit, figuring if nothing else it might run cooler and lower the chance of failure... at this point i should point out that Ive never been entirely comfortable with the nominal core temps of my dual-core G5, which would get into the high 60's or mid-70's, whilst fully loaded up to 100% usage on full-performance setting, my DP would struggle to reach 68 degrees celcius.

Anyway, having put the machine back together, and had it running for some time now, the first thing I notice is that the chatter from the fan has actually ceased... the fans still idle a little louder than the DP but it is just the normal whir and G5's were not known for being quiet. However the thing that makes me even happier is this...

Check out those core temps now... well below 60 degrees, in fact in this screenshot core A was just shy of 50, and even now after running for a bit and doing some things, both cores are in the league of around 53-55 degrees. This brings it pretty well into line with the temps I get from the dual-processor machine and I gotta say this makes me a lot happier... the machine even seems like it performs a little better given a cleanout, which I guess makes sense.

Anyway, with that done and dusted (groan), I am going to go off to do something else productive momentarily. But on that I shall say, if you own any computer that seems to run a little flakey, hot, noisey, or even freezes a lot, it doeesnt hurt to take it apart and see just how much  dust has accumulated over the years, as this is an area where many computers get neglected, and in particular, OldMac's due to the difficulty involved in taking some of them apart, particularly the AIO unit's. The Mac towers are actually fairly simple with a few old-world exceptions, as are the 7xxx-series desktops, but even so most people do not bother. Realistically if I spent $5000 on a G5 tower when they were new, I would probably be a little cautious about taking them apart too... but now they are all out of warranty by many years, there is no harm in getting your hands dirty. It could realistically be the difference between your toys lasting another 5 years or so before you need to look at replacing componentry, and having the PSU blow up in a years time from overheating, and it could even be the cure you need for that freezing or kernel-panicking Powermac. :)


Friday, 20 February 2015

The fall of Apple's legacy support page... but all is not lost!

So, anybody who has been a collector of 'Old World' Macintosh paraphernalia for some time would probably be familiar with or at least know about Apple's download page for  legacy software dating back to the 68k era... as far back even as to include a complete set of downloadable gsOS System 6 disks for the last Apple II, the abruptly aborted //gs.

What you may not know, however, is that the page which browses to the FTP site has been taken down now for a number of years... in fact I did not even realise this until recently. Whilst this is unfortunate, and realistically a bit of a dick move, at the end of the day, Apple probably do not actually care about their heritage or those who like to sit back and enjoy a simpler time, as it does not make them any money doing so. So from a corporate standpoint, it makes a tiny degree of sense, although I admit I do struggle to see how they gain anything substancial even in terms of hosting cost, by removing a few gig of material. That's right... the contents of the entire Apple legacy FTP library take up 7.4 gig when compressed. Not only that, as it stands some of the files remain intact and hosted off the original server anyway, in dribs and drabs, so it's not like they have even done the job properly.

I can hear you ask now, "Oh yeh and how the bloody hell do you know that the library is only 7.4Gb smartarse??"... Well, friends, the answer to that is because, as I type this, I have the entire Apple legacy FTP site downloading onto my G5's secondary hard drive as a .zip file.

Yep... that's right. How you ask? Well... some anonymous smart cookie somewhere in 2012 had the forethought to get hold of the entire site and then reupload it to an archive site, which technically isnt really illegal. Anyway, that link is here...

You can choose to browse through the files individually at this page, or you may download the entire collection of site files if you wish, as I currently am, as a ZIP file.

Another option is this link, which is yet another dump of the entire library being hosted abroad and independantly by a fellow 68kmla member...

And this one here for something a little different... 

Some links for System 6 and 7 software I beleive specific to Mac Plus?

And finally, a page to download the OS9 updates...

Whilst the actual pages are sort of still up as a directory structure, the site is largely now an empty shell full of broken links and dead ends, so as such I have not even bothered to include a link.

Anyway, I may at some stage also decide to upload and host my own mirror at some point in time, and when and if this happens, I shall fill everybody in. Anyway, Feel free to download away from wherever, as the more copies of this old software that exist, the stronger the chance that it will still be readily available in say 10 years time.


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Featured Mac: The Sonnet-enhanced "Yikes" G4.

So, as of this day, I am going to be periodically blogging a writeup with pics where possible on a different Mac or piece of Apple-hardware from my decidedly large collection. Given this is some semblance of an old Mac blog, this seems like something worth doing. 

As it is arguably one of my favourite Powermacs of the New World era, and has well and truly stood the test of 15 years, it seems fitting that the first featured machine should be my trusty, only recently retired Powermac G4 (PCI graphics), a machine known to most aficionados for many years now simply by it's internal Apple codename, "Yikes!" and the first of a long line of Apple pro-towers  to use the well-proven PPC 7400 CPU, which still had derivitives in use on Powerbooks and the Mac Mini right up into the mid-2000's, long after the monster 64-bit G5 took pride of place as the company flagship for the pro-est of pro-users.

The "Yikes" G4 was modelled very closely after the "Yosemite" (Blue and white) G3 Powermac tower which came onto the market in 1999 as the first high-end Macintosh to use the "New World" architecture and conform to the new "look" Apple had pioneered with the iMac... More on the G3 will come in another post at a later date, but suffice to say when I say the Yikes was modelled closely on this machine, I mean they are very nearly identical, right down to logic board design, such that I have always referred to the Yikes item as being essentially Rev. 3 of the Yosemite G3 logic board. The only physical difference is that the G4 board has all ADB componentry and the ADB port itself deleted (but all the blank pads are still there), and the Firmware has code to allow the machine to recognise and work with the G4 processor, which fits into the exact same Zero Insertion Force (ZIF) Socket as the G3's used in previous PPC 750-based desktop machines. And this is piled into the exact same "El-Kapitan" style case as the Yosemite G3, except that with the advent of the G4, came the start of the "graphite era" where the rather loud blueberry and white colour scheme and kind of cheesy but cool "G3" label under the translucent white side plastics was toned down on 3 generations of G4 tower by a far more clean-cut, professional looking scheme with a graphite front, top amd rear bezel, graphite side logo's and clear transparent handles, feet, and sides, but with the sides being painted white on their inner surfaces, all of which made it look like the powerful machine it was...

 Not bad to look at, huh? I thought not either!

The only major drawback of the new G4 was that, as it was rushed into production on the existing "Yosemite" platform, it lacked an AGP port which by that point in time was getting to be common-place on most mid-level and higher end IBM-compatible mainboards. Whilst, the 66mhz PCI-slot was adequate, it was still a decidedly unfavoured limitation by virtue of it's comparitively slow speed as compared to AGP, and simply because AGP was seen as the way forard, meaning that  as the years went on, the development of PCI graphics controllers rapidly came to a halt as the bus became obsolete for this purpose. Nonetheless, the ATI Rage128 with 16Mb of VRAM, whilst no speed demon, was a capable enough controller for the time. All the same, the Yikes gained a stigma as "the slow G4" and has never been particularly revelled among the Mac community, as it really was just a borderline obsolete machine with a cutting-edge CPU slapped in it... It didnt even have an onboard Airport card slot, whilst the low-end of the product line, the iMac even had one (unless you bought the really cheap and nasty 350mhz model without firewire), and the Powermac also had no support for booting off Firewire devices. The real celebrating happened not even a year later when the "real" G4, the Sawtooth, entered the market. It did so sporting faster CPU options, and now had AGP, Airport-connectivity, target-disk mode, firewire-booting, a doubled RAM-ceiling, and later on even a dual-CPU option... the moment it was on the shelves the Yikes became an important but slightly embarrasing piece of Apple history.

Anyway... here is my particular setup. Has been decluttered a little since this 2013 photo.

I originally procured this machine a fair few years ago as a G4/350, with 128Mb of RAM, the original 10Gb HDD still in place, CD-ROM drive, stock video controller... pretty uninspiring, all told. These days it is running a 500mhz Sonnet Encore CPU, which is the fastest CPU these boards will support off the shelf, maxxed out at 1Gb of RAM, and  running 2x now quite aging 40Gb drives which were carried over from the G3 which this replaced.  There is now also a DVD burner which is actually an OEM Superdrive removed from an eMac that I picked up specifically to scavenge parts from. In the internal pic you will see a third hard drive in the very front mounting bay, which is a backup of the main drive that and normally left unplugged unless being backed up to or restored from. It has both 10.3.6 and 10.4.2 installed but I usually run it on Panther only as its fast on these machines and simple, whereas Tiger contains a lot of bloatware that really does knock the comfortable usability around. I also used to have a PCI SCSI controller in this G4 but I turfed it out and put it in my G3 as having it installed actually slowed it down... that and I never used it anyway. The monitor is a gargantuan Apple Studio Display 17" which uses a beautifully crisp, sharp, and nearly flat Mitsubishi Diamondtron CRT tube, itself based on the Sony Trinitron technology. These are a fantastic looking display when functioning, but unfortunately, they do tend towards eventually failing due to faulty flyback transformers... this begins as an audible snap and flicker every so often... sometimes only once every few hours. But eventually the screen will just give up and display no picture, which is a shame. They really are one of the nicest looking CRT displays produce in any case. This monitor was at one point run off an ATI Radeon 7000 Mac Edition 32Mb  graphics controller however this unfortunately burnt out and I no longer have a need for such a fancy card, so I simply reinstalled the stock 16Mb Rage128 unit.

Some things to note about the Yikes are the following:

> It has a maximum RAM capacity of 1Gb of PC-100 or faster SDRAM. At this, I will also say, do NOT use the 168-pin DRAM from an Oldworld Mac, or it will blow up. Also, don't bother trying to use PC-66 SD-RAM as it is simply not fast enough for the  system bus.

> the Yikes can recognise a maximum of 120Gb per hard drive, and will support TWO hard  drives on the internal primary IDE bus. There is also the ability to address a slave drive on the secondary IDE bus, and a drive bay underneath the optical-drive  which will accomodate a hard drive... DO NOT DO THIS HOWEVER, as it is designed specifically for a ZIP drive which was a factory option. This secondary IDE channel is only ATA-66 so will be slower in any case than the primary channel. Furthermore, the buildup of heat generated by a hard drive operating in the ZIP bay constantly can drastically reduce the life of both the hard disc and optical drive. The other issue is that most Mac's of this era can only boot from a CD-ROM drive that is set as a master device on any bus. Why is this a problem you ask? why not just have it set as a master then?... Well... the reason is that if you have the CD-ROM drive set as a the master device on the secondary ATA bus, and have a hard drive as a slave, the Mac will not search for and detect a slave drive UNLESS it finds an actual volume in the CD-drive first at boot-up. If there is no CD in the drive, then the machine will skip Slave detection and the hard drive will be unmountable. Conversely, if you set the CD-ROM to slave, this problem is alleviated, however your CD drive cannot be used as a bootable device.

> Yikes uses most of the same case plastics as the Sawtooth, with the exception of the rear panel. The chassis of the Yikes tower is close enough to identical to the Yosemite to be interchangable, all case plastics are interchangable between Yikes and Yosemite  as are PSU, and with a Sonnet Firmware flash, a Yosemite logic board can also be used with a G4 in a Yikes in the rare event of board failure.

> The Yikes and Yosemite boards use jumpers in a plastic block (under the WARRANTY VOID sticker in the internal photo above) to set the CPU multiplier in increments of .5 from 3-5 times the 100mhz system bus speed. This makes overclocking theoretically possible, and at some point I will dedicate an entry to this topic. Some CPU cores will respond more successfully to overclocking than others... some will simply not overclock stabley. As a general rule of thumb +50Mhz is about the stable limit if any, and most *stock* CPU's will not run stable or at all on 500mhz setting. The Sonnet Encore however, uses a core rated to at least 500mhz. Please do not touch this jumper block if you do not have a sound knowledge of what you are doing, as you could render your machine inoperative.

> You will find under certain circumstances that a Yosemite/Yikes machine will refuse to turn on or boot after having RAM changed, CPU swapped, PCI cards added, drives... hell, you can sometimes sneeze and it will decide its not going to boot up. This is often mistaken for a critical failure, but usually isnt. Simply reset the cuda using the button on the logic board, that should fire it up, if in an attempt to boot, it shows no display, or turns on but does not bong on startup or do anything, hold in the interrupt button beside the reset button whilst you power up the G3/4 until you here a long, low beep. Reset the system immediately to a PRAM reset (Opt+Cmd+P+R)... reset it twice then boot to open firmware (Opt+Cmd+O+F held in straight after powerup). WHen you get th white OF screen with a commandline prompt, type the following commands in order with each followed by pressing Return.


The machine should usually boot normally after this procedure.

> Finally, if you intend on using Firewire regularly, I would highly recommend sourcing a compatible PCI Firewire card and using that, rather than the inbuilt ports, as the ports are rather fragile and break in some machines, and the controller itself can be rather flakey after some use.

Anyway... That's me done for this morning! I will definitely be doing a writeup on more Yosemite/Yikes stuff soon, namely overclocking. Watch this space!


Sunday, 15 February 2015

A new forum for the Old New World... But are forums still a thing??

At this point in time, I figure it is pertinent to point out the existence of my latest hairbrain endeavour... a forum specifically for the users, collectors, and afficionado's of "New World" PowerPC systems, whether it be the original Bondi Blue iMac, or the ultimate incarnation of the PowerPC line, the monster Quad-Core PowerMac G5.

There are a lot of forums dealing with the 68k and pre-Mac side of Apple computing for the diehard enthusiasts, and there is at least one for PPC that seems far more focussed upon the earlier "Old World" 60x and G3 incarnations, as well as the usual mainstream ones which have little in the way of relevance to the vintage Mac community at all. What I havent found however, is a specific community of enthusiasts who collect, preserve , restore or modify the later post-beige era G3, G4 and G5 machines. Instead, we seem to just hang around in various other places, sometimes as outcasts, and hope to be accepted and helped out. OK, so that may have been a tad melodramatic, however the gist still stands... the late PowerPC Macs are a now-prominent niche and an important part of Apple history set among Mac collectors that arent as yet terribly well recognised or catered for.

Anyway, I do not know if forums are even really a thing anymore... I know the last Mac forum I ran, MacInYourEye, accrued a decent member base until the hosting company went bust, however that was over 10 years ago, before Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, were even a thing. At that time, forums had supplanted BBS and mailing list groups as the new streamlined,  way of bringing together those with a common interest from across the globe as an online community. These days, I notice a lot of once bustling forums I used to frequent (car and computer forums primarily), have a lot less traffic than they once did, and a few (including the original MacAddict/Maclife Forums) have just shut down altogether, taking with them a wealth of knowledge gathered over many years. On the other hand, Facebook groups thrive... I myself have more active members on a particular car group I run than a related forum now has members at all. But I digress... 

For as long as forum software exists, forums will exist, and as it stands, I guess computer enthusiasts are more likely to continue embracing the format than some other groups. With this said, if you happen to still like forums as a medium, and you are an afficionado of New World Mac tech, then here is your forum...

New World Powermac Forums 

I have made it as intuitive in it's layout as possible, and tried to keep redundancy to a minimum. In any case, feedback is welcome and encouraged. This forum may go nowhere but hey, at least the option is now there!


Friday, 6 February 2015

Now brought to you under G5 Power...

Damn!!! If this blog had any thicker a layer of dust coating it, then there is a good chance I would be sneezing hard enough to blow this here 20-something inch Studio Display clean off the desk! But I digress...

It's now 2015 and after an absolute rollercoaster ride, I am now back in a position where I may pick up where I left off and resume this here blog, and more importantly, the Mac hobby that sort of is the reason it exists. :) A bit has happened in the meatspace in that time, much of which is not really relevant to the subject matter but does nonetheless explain my sudden drop away into oblivion.

The above being said, there have been a few changes made which are VERY relevant to the primary subject matter of this blog, the most exciting, at least for me, being that I now type these words under 64-bit power. Yep, a G5 has entered my life! :) And I have to say, it is every bit as awsome as I imagined it to be a bit over 10 years ago when the first multiple thousand dollar lumps of anodised aluminium and raw power cam onto the market. Unfortunately however, it was not without succumbing to some issues that showed themselves very early in the life of these machines...

Pretty much as it stands, not long after my last blog post, the old faithful Pentium 4 2.8Ghz I had been gaming on and computing with semi-daily since 2003 finally refused to boot one day. For what it's worth I put it entirely down to malware due to my oldest younger brothers disturbing high-school porn habit... But that being said, I simply cannot find the motivation to deal with it. I simply unplugged the machine and havent switched it on since. At least that way I can't break anymore data. This seemed fine to me... the only reason I used it was because it was somewhat faster and more fluid than the old trusty Yikes G4 tower. Unfortunately however, Porsche-syndrome had well and truly set in and I must concede to feeling pretty hard done by as I sat back and waited for Firefox or Camino to load what remaining supported content was on my usual assortment of web-pages. It seemed to me the time had finally come to retire the strung out, loaded up, maxxed out old graphite boat-anchor that had provided so many years of computing pleasure to menial jukebox duties... It was just no longer practical for even simple web-browsing after 14 years, which I must admit is a great service life nonetheless!

Well, at a very opportune point in time shortly after, a Powermac G5 entered my life. At a friends house one day, I was asked if I had any use for their glitchy 2.0DP, which had gone to the dogs after a RAM upgrade and been replaced with an iMac G5... Being the enterprising Powermac afficionado and Mac collector I am, and being at a point where buying a newer Mac was now a definite must, I needless to say was more than willing to take it off their hands. I set it and it's 20" Studio Display up on my glass topped desk and was immediately confronted with.... a desktop picture and the MacOS interface. Brilliant! However it was when i opened up About this Mac to do the routine scan of the system profiler to ascertain specifics, I noted it was registering only a single CPU... at that it was also painfully slow. At that point i wasted no time in opening it up and discovered the cause immediately... all the ram was stacked in one bank rather than paired in top and bottom banks. By rights it shouldnt have actually worked at all, but it did. After rectifying this, I got a much faster boot and it now registered both CPU's... I was onto a winner it seemed until that kernel panic. I reset it and then next came a freeze during boot. Off came the side again, and after much swapping and experimenting I ascertained not one but 2 of the RAM's were bad... maybe not even bad but simply not of a quality or specification that a G5 will reliably run. They are a fickle beast when it comes to such things. After removing the bad DDR400's it booted, ran brilliantly, and was a great daily until a little while ago it started sporadically freezing. The freezes got more frequent, then became KP's... swapping RAM into different slots sometimes helped, but the problems came back every time. Then the fan's started going nuts...

That there fan development was the telltale sign that I was no longer chasing cheap RAM problems, but a more serious logic board failure, common particularly in earlier G5's. They came to be in the world at a time when a few new developments were being implemented in consumer electronics and computing... the Ball-Grid Array method of microprocessor interfacing, and low-lead solder. Whilst there are benefits to both of these developments both from a functional and manufacturing standpoint, they are not without their flaws, and these showed themselves very early in the Powermac G5's life. the BGA interface in the G5 is prone to cracking of the less compliant and less conductive low-lead solder joints on the ball-grid due to thermal expansion, which resulted in the kind of instability I found myself facing. This can be rectified by reflowing the affected joints, however I opted to go with the simpler option of purchasing another G5. Finding a decent one for a good price that was not too far to pick up however was a slightly long-winded excercise however, and in the meantime, I took my wireless LAN card out of the crippled G5, stuck it in the Yikes, and then set about beating it into submission at least to allow internettage whilst I bided my time... TenFourFox was not at all stable, Safari was useless in this time and place, so I found myself settling upon an old forgotten install of Camino which is actually still fairly functional and fast. All the same... after running a dual 2.0GHz G5 Powermac, the little 500mhz Yikes really was still painful.

Anyway, come last Saturday I had purchased a replacement G5 finally... a 2006ish 2.0GHz Dual-Core purchased for a very respectable $150 on eBay from a fellow who was 45 minutes leisurely drive away, complete with a poxy 15" LCD display. These have been considered to be a far more reliable machine than the early dual-processor models, with the only real endemic issue being failure of power supplies... That being said, the relatively large analogue componentry in a PSU is far easier to repair on a component level than the microsoldered circuitry of a logic-board. The Dual-Core is also a significantly faster machine on paper than the early Dual-processor, using 533mhz RAM and having PCI-E, all of which I must admit is a bit of a bummer as I cannot use my old G5's RAM, wireless card (which isnt a major concern as luckily my router is 2m away and wired Gigabit ethernet is much faster that 802.11G), or even my Studio Display for that matter until I buy an expensive adaptor, as the graphics card in the later G5's ditched the proprietry ADC video port (which my Studio Display utilises) for an industry standard DVI port. So as such that poxy Compaq LCD I got thrown in free was quite handy...

The compatibility issues aside though, the Dual-Core feels like a much faster machine than the DP, with far more fluidity in it's rendering of graphics, quick load and access-times, and also would seem to run a fair bit cooler, with the fans rarely even breaking a sweat. As a result, it is also far quieter than the DP which would sound like it was about to take off when you loaded up the CPU's. My only real complaint is the lack of built-in Airport... not that it is particularly concerning, as it is useless without an Apple base-station, but nonetheless I feel as though Apple cheated their pro users a bit when they deleted inbuilt Airport from the later towers. Also, the lack of ADC is a blessing and a curse... It is the industry standard, this is true. However it's rather a pain in the ass when you don't happen to have a large DVI display and yet you have a sexy Studio Display that you cant use until you order a crappy adaptor for 70 bucks from Hong Kong. Ah well... first world problems really.

So, anyway... Now that I've ranted long-windedly about a lot of everything and nothing to bring you up to date with really bugger-all, I should also point out that for my next New World Mac build-project, I will be purchasing a new logic-board for the old Dual-Processor which is currently part dismantled, and reviving it as... Well... I really don't have a clue. I'll find a use for it, I am sure of it! This however will be a blog entry for another day. I also may attempt a reflow of the faulty board and possibly purchase yet another dead machine for cheap and see what I can make happen, but this is yet another blog entry for yet another time.