Macintosh Repository – A Great “New” Mac OS Archive

I love serendipity. Today I was searching for a copy of Power Windows, a great Mac OS system control panel that provides a number of goodies such as full window dragging, translucent menus and more. Much to my surprise, the first entry that showed up in my Google search results was a file in a new (to me anyway) site called “Macintosh Repository” (www.macintoshrepository.org). In all of my travels through Mac Classic space, I have never encountered this site before.

macintosh-repository

A quick check around the site made it clear that this is a serious repository of Mac OS abandonware, one with an enormous collection of software titles, many of which I have never seen before anywhere else. I have added this site to the Recommended Links list here at Happy Macs, and would encourage you to surf on over to the Macintosh Repository and have a look if you are on the hunt for a particular piece of software you are having difficulty locating.

I did NOT find Apple’s Firewire 2.0, something for which the search continues, but I am still delighted to have stumbled upon the Macintosh Repository. This will not be the last time I visit. As for Firewire 2.0, I suspect that it will be found on one of the many Mac OS install disks I have – it will turn up sooner or later.

A final note – Power Windows IS a great addition to any Mac OS installation with sufficient CPU horsepower to drive the effects, and will be the topic of an upcoming post. Until then, happy hunting at the Macintosh Repository!

The Power Mac G3 All-In-One (Molar Mac)

One of the rarer Macintosh models these days is the Power Macintosh G3 All-In-One (AIO). Challenged in the beauty department, the G3 AIO is an odd looking duck, whose overall shape, when viewed head on, is not dissimilar to a human tooth, leading to its “popular” moniker of “the Molar Mac”.

power-mac-g3-all-in-one

These machines ARE fairly rare these days. Introduced on April 3rd, 1998 (and discontinued less than a year later on January 1st, 1999), the G3 AIO was very quickly succeeded in the market by the wildly popular iMac, which itself was introduced only two months after the launch of the AIO, on May 6th, 1998. This all by itself probably doomed the AIO to relative obscurity, but the effect was magnified by the fact that the G3 AIO was only sold into the educational market, severely limiting available all these years later.

The relative rarity of the Molar Mac is reflected in the price it commands on eBay. One sees these machines show up from time to time, typically priced in multiples of thousands. This is a true collector’s item. Consequently, when a new listing for a G3 AIO appeared on eBay a few weeks ago with a starting price that was relatively modest by AIO standards, I couldn’t help but jump in, fully expecting however to be outbid in moments. I am sure that the low starting price was just the seller’s effort to get the bidding started, but the higher bids simply never materialized. A week later, still the only bidder, I won the auction at the original starting price. I was dumbfounded!   … really pleased, but dumbfounded nonetheless.

My “new” G3 AIO was delivered last week, and immediately reminded me that it was the heaviest Mac that had ever been made to that time, weighing in at a hefty 59.5 lbs. I have read that it is the heaviest Mac ever made, but I have not been able to verify that fact.

molar-mac

The Molar Mac really is an “all-in-one”. Setting it up was a breeze. Connect power, keyboard/mouse and internet and turn it on. It was that easy. Everything else that would typically need wiring is included in the package.

I turned it on, not really knowing what to expect, given the odd form factor and the limited intended market. The first thing I noticed was that it is FAST… really fast. It slices through Mac OS 9.2 like a hot knife through butter. I have a 7300/200 that I have upgraded with a Sonnet 500 MHz G3 card, but it is the new G3 AIO, equipped with only a 266 MHz G3, that feels “twice as fast”.

The G3 AIO is not just fast, it is loaded as well… really! Unlike its successor, the iMac, the AIO features three PCI expansion slots, upgradeable video, an ADB port, an external SCSI port, two external headphone jacks AND an integrated microphone and finally, an optional integrated Zip drive. Both USB and Firewire can be added via the available PCI slots, and both can be used with any version of Mac OS from 8.6 upwards. I have read that Mac OS 8.5.1 may be able to support both as well, but have not yet been able to confirm the USB portion of that – Mac OS 8.5.1 definitely supports Firewire, via Firewire Enabler 2.0.

For those interested in “just the facts”, here are some key G3 AIO specs:

  • CPU: 233/266 MHz PPC 750
  • Bus: 66 MHz
  • RAM: 32 MB, expandable up to 768MB
  • VRAM: 2 MB SGRAM, expandable to 6 MB
  • Video: supports resolutions to 1024 x 768, uses ATI 2D/3D 64-bit accelerated chip set
  • Hard drive: 4 GB EIDE drive standard. Maximum IDE drive size is 128 GB without third-party support.
  • CD-ROM: 24x maximum throughput
  • 3 PCI slots
  • Microphone: standard 3.5mm mini-jack, compatible with line-level input including Apple’s PlainTalk microphone
  • ADB: 1 port for keyboard and mouse
  • Serial: 2 DIN-8 GeoPorts on back of computer
  • SCSI: DB-25 connector on back of computer
  • 10Base-T Ethernet connectors on back of computer
  • Supported Mac OS Versions

I am delighted to have this new addition to the HappyMacs Lab and am looking forward to a modicum of modification to the unit I received. For one, the optional Zip drive (internal, SCSI) is not equipped, and so I have ordered one on eBay. For another, at 4 GB, the original hard drive is a bit limiting, and so I have ordered a new, larger one. Finally, I plan to equip two of the three PCI slots with USB and Firewire cards, respectively. The resulting machine will be an incredibly fast, powerful, connected and very definitely unique addition to the lineup of Macs hosted in the lab.

I will report on progress as time and opportunity allows!

Yellowing, Retr0bright and Sally Beauty Supply

Those of us who enjoy tinkering in the world of vintage Macs often have to deal with an unfortunate consequence of the passage of time that leads a Mac to be called “vintage” – the yellowing (and even browning) of part or all of the Mac’s case, monitor or keyboard/mouse. At times, this can be minor, at times major, but it is always an unfortunate blemish on a fine piece of older technology.

A little Google’ing around will reveal that the yellowing is the consequence of UV light (usually from prolonged exposure to sunlight) interacting with a fire retardant compound integrated into the plastic of the case – usually bromine and like chemicals.

Happily for vintage computing enthusiasts, the yellowing need not be permanent. The good folks at the Retr0bright project (www.retr0bright.com) have come up with a solution that they have named eponymously “Retr0bright”, which can be used to reverse the yellowing. Fundamentally, Retr0bright is a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and an “Oxy” type laundry booster, often coupled with one or more additional ingredients such as Xanthan gum or arrowroot to make the mixture a paintable gel. The result is painted onto yellowed plastic, which is then exposed to UV light for several hours (typically simple sunlight), and the reported results have been quite spectacular.

So, where can you buy Retr0bright? The quick answer is “nowhere”. If you do find it for sale, which you may, you should not buy it. Why is this? Again the good folks at Retr0bright have the answer, and I have reproduced it below:

“Hydrogen Peroxide is classified as a hazardous substance and, as such, is not accepted by many postal services and couriers without declarations and special handling procedures. It also has other uses besides hair bleaching and Retr0bright, so we strongly advise caution on where and how much of this you buy.

This site’s founders and authors do not sell Retr0bright for these very reasons and do not endorse or recommend any resale of premixed Retr0bright. If you see it for sale, it is not with our blessing or consent and we strongly advise caution: if you order some for delivery and it leaks in transit, you and the supplier could have some interesting questions asked of you.”

As a result, you will find lots of DIY Retr0bright “recipes” floating around the web, but not a lot of places that will actually sell you the finished product. To be safe about this, you pretty much have to mix up your Retr0bright yourself.

I was about to try just that when one day I stumbled upon an article somewhere out there on the web (regrettably I have lost the link now) that suggested that Sally Beauty Supply (www.sallybeauty.com) had a hair product (40 Volume Creme) whose composition was so similar to Retr0bright that it could be used quite effectively for the same purpose.

sally-beauty-supply-40-volume-creme

Google Maps revealed the location of a local Sally Beauty Supply outlet and armed with this knowledge, I navigated to the store and picked up a bottle of this hopefully magical elixir. If you live in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico or the UK, you too should be able to find a local Sally Beauty Supply store – if not, you may be able to order their products online.

This being my first experience with Retr0bright, or any similar product, I decided to try it out on a “disposable” piece of discolored vintage Mac hardware – an old, and very yellowed, keyboard. I did this just in case the 40 Volume Creme Retr0bright stand-in failed miserably and further discolored, or even worse, damaged, the target plastic. This is what the keyboard looked like at the start of this experiment.

01-keyboard-at-start

I laid the keyboard out on my back deck on a nicely sunny weekend afternoon and with a simple low cost paintbrush, I applied a light coating of the 40 Volume Creme to just over one half of the keyboard, and also to the area that had the brightly multi colored Apple logo (to see if it would impact the colors in any way). I wasn’t particularly careful as I painted – some of the creme got in between the keys and I did my best to brush it out, but the job was anything but perfect.

I left the keyboard out in the sun and busied myself with other matters. About an hour and half later, I went back out to check on it. Wow! There was clear and dramatic reduction in the yellowing in the painted areas. The results were so gratifying that I got the 40 Volume Creme out again and painted the remaining parts of the keyboard. Again, I left the keyboard out in the afternoon sun and returned to my prior task.

Two hours or so later, as the sun was starting to wane in the late afternoon sky, I went back out on the deck again and was amazed to see a keyboard that looked almost new. Except for the edges, where I had forgotten to apply the creme, the yellowing was pretty much completely gone. There were some very minor yellow streaks, where the paint brush had not provided complete coverage (I will try a foam applicator next time), but the result can only be described as amazing. Here is the “after” picture:

05-keyboard-at-end

I donned rubber gloves (Hydrogen Peroxide is nasty stuff, and getting it on your skin is not recommended; hence the gloves), got some paper towel, and brushed down the keyboard to remove the residue of the creme. I was left with a totally transformed keyboard! What had earlier in that day been only a “disposable” bit of kit was now a clean and valuable vintage keyboard. Of course I will take a few more runs at this particular keyboard, to get all the edges as well, but the result was simply stunning. Here are the “before” and “after” pictures, side by side:

before-and-after

So there you have it. If you have a valuable but yellowed piece of vintage computing equipment that you would like to clean up, I can wholeheartedly recommend Sally Beauty Supply 40 Volume Creme as a wonderfully effective “get the yellow out” solution. Happy painting and Good Luck!

Rarely Seen in the Wild, ColorSync 850AV Rides Again

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had acquired a very rare Apple AppleVision 850AV 21” monitor. Debuting in 1997, the 850AV was a high end, nearly 80 lb. bruiser of a display with a hefty $2,000 price point. The 850AV could be run at resolutions all the way up to 1600×1200 with a 75Hz vertical refresh rate, and featured integrated speakers and microphone. It was nearly the highest of high end in its day.

ColorSync 850AV

In March of 1998, Apple rebranded the AppleVision 850AV to “ColorSync 850AV”, saying that this new branding “more effectively communicates the advantages of the systems’ color calibration capabilities to customers”. Later that year, in November, Apple discontinued the ColorSync 850AV. Given its short market run and its high price point, I am guessing that the 850AV was not a strong seller – I have only ever seen one on eBay in years and years of watching. Happily, I was fortunate enough to win it and am thus able to pen this article about it, many years after its heyday.

The AppleVision/ColorSync 850AV had one particularly interesting characteristic – it could only be configured via the Mac OS Monitors control panel. Absent that control panel, this massive display defaulted to using only a limited percentage of the available physical screen real estate, and could not be further adjusted. It pretty much defeats the purpose of using a physically expansive 21” display when only a limited portion in the center of the display is in actual use!

I know this because even though I acquired this display as part of a system that included a Power Macintosh G3 tower (upgraded with a 450 MHz G4 CPU accelerator) for whatever reason, this system simply refused to execute the Monitors control panel successfully. Efforts to do so usually caused the Mac to freeze, and required a subsequent reset to restore order. SO… I had acquired an incredible display, but I had no idea if it would actually perform, since it steadfastly refused to take advantage of the full available screen real estate when run.

Taking advantage of our recent move and the progressive unpacking that is occurring, I was able to pair this display with a different system – my Power Macintosh 7300/200, itself upgraded with a 500 MHz G3 processor – in hopes that the Monitors control panel might prove to be more cooperative in a different environment.

Power Macintosh 7300 w ColorSync 850AV

I connected it up, booted the 7300, crossed my fingers and held my breath, and selected the Monitors control panel. I was delighted when it executed without crashing! Now as you will all know, the Monitors control panel is normally the place you go to adjust the color depth and the resolution of your display. In fact, what you are really controlling this way is the settings of the video controller on your Mac, not the display itself. However, the inverse is at least partially true when a monitor like the 850AV is connected to the Mac.

The word “connected” needs a little exploration in this context. In a typical Mac system, there is a single video cable connecting the monitor to the video output port on the Mac and that is that. Monitors like the 850AV extend this by including a second connection from the monitor to the Mac, this being an Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) cable. Widely used on almost all Macs from the Apple II GS in 1986 all the way through the “Yosemite” Power Macintosh G3 in 1999, ADB is a low speed serial bus supporting daisy chained devices. ADB is reputed to have been invented by none other than Steve Wozniak himself. ADB was largely used for keyboards, mice, joysticks and the like, but the 850AV put it a new use – monitor control.

When a monitor like the 850AV is connected via ADB to a Mac OS Macintosh, the Monitors control panel sprouts several new capabilities that are not otherwise present, all related to the adjustment of the monitor itself. Here is what a “standard” Monitors control panel looks like:

Normal Monitors Control Panel

By contrast, here is what appears when the 850AV is connected:

01. 850AV Monitor

You can see key new additions of Contrast, Brightness, Geometry and Monitor Sound selections, each of which allows you to directly control the indicated aspect of the 850AV’s behavior.

The Geometry selection is truly key with the 850AV, as it is the sole way of adjusting the screen display so that it fills the physical display surface from edge-to-edge, something which is highly desirable in any monitor, but especially desirable when you have paid a LOT extra to get the larger screen real estate of the 850AV.

02. 850AV Geometry

However, in addition to this, a full set of other geometry related controls is provided. These include actual screen geometry (Height/Width, Position), Pincushion adjustment, display image rotation within the physical display area, keystone adjustment and finally, parallelogram adjustments. A Degauss control is also presented. You certainly won’t use that function every day, but on occasion it can be useful. If you are reading this and don’t recognize the purpose of some of the controls mentioned above, you are lucky enough to have not had to deal with some of the older, more finicky CRT monitors!

Moving from left to right on the Monitors control panel, the Color control set is next. This lets the user undertake a lot of the usual color adjustments needed to ensure accurate color reproduction on screen.

03. 850AV Color

Controls are included for White Point, Gamma and Ambient Light level. A Recalibrate control is also included, which will guide you through a manual color calibration process. This is a fairly rudimentary approach to color calibration, and while it may get you into the right neighborhood, it will not dial in perfect color reproduction. To do that you need a hardware color calibrator accessory. I have acquired two of these for Mac OS at this time, and will post a future article on them and their use.

Finally, there is the Sound set of controls.

04. 850AV Sound

These controls support adjustments to the Volume, Bass and Treble of the 850AV’s built in speakers. The 850AV also sports a separate headphone jack, and its volume can also be controlled independently of the speaker volume – a nice touch. Finally, the Sound controls also allow the user to enable/disable the built in microphone on the 850AV and control its input volume/gain.

That completes a quick tour of the Monitors controls that are unique to monitors like the 850AV, which sport an extra ADB connection back to the host Macintosh.

As I mentioned above, I have the 850AV connected to my Power Macintosh 7300, and have it set for a resolution of 1280×1024. I am loving the extra display space, but I have to admit that due to the added height of the speakers at the bottom of the monitor, the display area itself sits up a little higher than I find comfortable. By the nature of the Mac OS GUI layout, with the menu bar along the top edge of the screen, the user is forced to interact with the very top of the display space quite often. I find myself having to crane my neck up to do this, and that becomes uncomfortable after any extended use. I either need a lower surface on which to place the 850AV, or I need to lay hands on its lesser sibling, the AppleVision/ColorSync 850, which is fundamentally the same display technology but without the speakers. I am on the hunt for an AppleVision/ColorSync 850 now, and will report on it here at HappyMacs if I should acquire one.

Until then however, I would absolutely recommend the 850AV as a great addition to your vintage Mac setup. The extra display space is more than worth any other considerations. Keep an eye on eBay if you are looking. They don’t come up often, but they do come up. Happy Hunting!

 

Life Amidst the Boxes

Just a quick update. The Happy Macs lab (and us with it!) has finally successfully relocated to new quarters, and we are slowly digging through the mountains of boxes. Over the next several weeks, I hope to work through the lengthy process of unpacking and establishing my computer lab again.

Right now, the Happy Macs lab is a sea of  boxes, equipment and unassembled furniture. Have a look…

2016-07-02.1506, The New Happy Macs Lab (1280x720)

The row of Apple CRT monitors makes me think that this is what an Apple Store shelf might have looked like back in the late 1990s, had Apple Stores existed at that time, which they did not (the first store opened on May 19th 2001).

The first two monitors at the front of the row are Apple MultiScan 20″ Monitors (M1823), purchased only very recently from the daughter-in-law of a gentleman who had acquired them new for use at his graphic design business. When he moved on to more modern equipment, these monitors were idled and stored. He recently asked his daughter-in-law to sell them for him, and I was lucky enough to see the advertisement and make the purchase. Along with the monitors came a heavily upgraded Power Macintosh G3, directly behind the first monitor in the row, and an equally  upgraded Power Macintosh 7600/120, which is not visible in this photo. I am looking forward to working with these new machines and will of course post about them over time.

In the meantime, thanks for your ongoing comments and readership. This blog should be “back on the air” in the not too distant future!

 

Living Life the G5/Tiger Way

Regular readers may have noticed that the pace of postings here at the Happy Macs blog has slowed down quite a bit. There is a reason for that. In January, I started a new job, and moved halfway across the country in the process. The Happy Macs lab was completely dismantled and packed up, and remains largely in that state. We have moved into an apartment for the short term, while we decide where in our new location we would like to buy a home.

I have a small “computer corner” in the new apartment and that is all. I brought two prized computers with me to the apartment and set them up in the computer corner: my Power Mac G5 Quad and my Power Macintosh 7300. Everything else is in storage until we buy and move into a new home (with the exception of an incredible Power Macintosh G3 and its accompanying AppleVision 850AV monitor that I picked up a short while ago, and have yet to begin work on – that will be another post at another time).

Power Mac G3 and AppleVision 850AV

Which brings me to the topic of this post. Note that I did not mention any current day computers. My “daily driver” up until the move was my 2012 27” iMac, a 3.4 GHz Intel machine. An excellent computer, but packed away in a box at this point I’m afraid. Before the move, I backed up all the contents onto an external hard drive and brought that with me. When I set up the computer corner, I restored that backup onto my Power Mac G5 Quad, and for the next six months or so, it will be my daily driver. This post is being composed on it right now.

G5 Quad

So, for the next many months, I will be living life the G5/Tiger way. It is almost like stepping back in time to 2006 when these machines were the shiny new state of the art. Back in 2006, the Power Mac G5 Quad was a kick ass machine. Know what? It still is. Granted, I have accelerated this machine a bit. The boot volume is an SSD, and the main disk is a fairly modern high speed 7200 RPM drive with a whopping 64MB of onboard cache. The computer itself is equipped with 8 GB of RAM, and sports the top end video card of the day in 2006, the nVidia Quadro FX 4500, itself equipped with 512 MB of video RAM.

nVidia Logo

So, the machine packs a punch, but it is still a 2.5 GHz PowerPC G5. By today’s standards, it would be considered pretty low powered I am sure. However, in daily use, I can honestly say that I don’t really notice that. In fact, the opposite is true. The machine feels crisp and fast and I can do everything on it that I was doing on the iMac before (with the exception of managing my most recent iPod, the 160 GB iPod Classic, which I purchased just before Apple discontinued them). As I have often opined, “older” does not equal “obsolete”. This machine is fully up to the challenges of the day, and I am thoroughly enjoying working on it once again.

In the meantime, as we get fully settled in, and I get fully up to speed on my new job, the pace of posting should start to pick up here again. There is lots to do! I am finally in a position to load up my Gopher based vintage Mac software repository and of course there is the Power Mac G3 and AppleVision 850AV to work on … All of this and more will be tracked here in the Happy Macs blog. Stay tuned!

Pimp My Ride – Upgrading a Power Macintosh 7300 – Series Wrap Up

Pimp My Ride 10

Welcome to the summation of our “pimp my ride” series. In this series, we have looked at upgrading a Power Macintosh 7300/200. We have upgraded the video card, the CPU and both the hard drive itself and the hard drive interface (from SCSI to IDE). Reviewing the full set of results we have achieved, one upgrade really stands out from the rest: the CPU. Our results clearly demonstrate that to get the biggest “bang for your upgrade buck”, you should upgrade the CPU. This is the highest impact single step you can take. No other single upgrade delivers such dramatic across-the-board improvements.

PowerPC G3

What about the other upgrades? The other upgrades we undertook helped, but none to the extent of the CPU upgrade. Upgrading the video card was nice, but it did not produce that much observable impact in day-to-day use of the computer (unless you are a gamer). Upgrading the hard drive from SCSI to IDE delivered modest improvements in boot time, and also delivered somewhere between 1.5X and 2X reduction in program launch time, definitely making it a good second upgrade step to take. However, in the final analysis, only the CPU upgrade made significant, observable, day-to-day improvements across the board: boot time, program launch time, general responsiveness and so on.

So there you have it. In this series, we started with a stock Power Macintosh 7300/200 and step-by-step, upgraded the video card, the CPU and the hard drive. Of these upgrades, the single largest bang for the buck is the CPU upgrade.

Want to speed up your Power Macintosh? Hit eBay and start searching for Sonnet G3 and Sonnet G4 CPU upgrade cards. Find a good one, install it, and strap on your goggles and driving gloves – you are in for a high speed computing experience!

Goggles and Gloves