A Refreshed Look for “Quadras, Cubes and G5s”

You probably did a bit of a double take when you landed on the “Quadras, Cubes and G5s” blog today. Whoa! What has happened? Has the blog moved? What is this new page?

No worries, the blog has not moved, nor has the blog’s address been taken over by nefarious interlopers from another planet. I just decided, after two years or so of the original template, that it was time to refresh the look and feel of “Quadras, Cubes and G5s”. After much trial and error, I have settled on the new look that the site now sports. I find the colors a little more soothing and I really enjoy the new header image, which neatly ties together the “Happy Macs” based URL and the specific Mac models named in the blog’s title.

Don’t worry – there are no other seismic changes planned here at the Happy Macs lab. The same style and substance will carry on… which may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your point of view(!) … and the same varying range of vintage Mac topics will continue to form the core of the blog’s content.

I hope that you are enjoying the blog and I thank you for visiting today!

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The Christmas Spirit Comes to your (Tiger/Leopard) Mac Desktop

The Christmas Spirit Comes to your (Tiger/Leopard) Mac Desktop

Over at the blog of kindred spirit PPCLuddite (http://ppcluddite.blogspot.com), the below post provides full details on how to “deck the halls” for Christmas on your PPC Tiger or Leopard desktop. There are apps for decorating the edges of your desktop with Christmas lights and for adding gently falling snow onto your screen. There is even a falling snow screen saver.

Check it all out at http://ppcluddite.blogspot.com/2013/11/putting-christmas-spirit-on-your-mac.html

Thanks PPCLuddite, for bringing this to our attention, and Happy Holidays to one and all!

Christmas Comes Early to HappyMacs

Christmas Comes Early to HappyMacs

Christmas came early to HappyMacs today! A nearly mint condition Power Mac G4 Sawtooth showed up on my desk this morning. A colleague of mine here at work wanted to find a new home for his much loved, but now idled, G4 Sawtooth. Being quite aware of my passion for vintage Macs, and wanting his G4 to go somewhere where it would be appreciated, he asked if I would like to have it. After some consideration of the diminishing amount of free space at home, I said “sure” and he brought it in this morning. He is pleased that it is going to a good home, and I am thrilled to have it. It has been heavily upgraded over the years, now sporting an upgraded processor, max’d RAM, a high end video card and no fewer than three hard drives. For its day, it smoked!

For the history buffs among you, the PowerMac G4 Sawtooth was introduced in 1999. It initially featured either a 400 MHz, 450 MHz or 500 MHz PowerPC G4 CPU, an AGP 2X graphics card and up to 2 GB of RAM. It shipped natively with Mac OS 8.6, but with appropriate upgrades, it can now run all the way up through Mac OS X 10.5.8 Leopard. I suspect that my new acquisition is running Leopard, but I am not sure yet.

Once I get it home and fire it up, I will post more about this machine as appropriate, but in the meantime, Merry (early) Christmas! 🙂

Adventures with Nu Technology

Adventures with Nu Technology

Well, it is official. After much poking, prodding and testing, I am sad to say that something about the motherboard audio circuitry on my Quadra 840AV is irretrievably broken. Do I drop the “A”, rename it to “Quadra 840V” and move on? 🙂

Perhaps someday, but not yet. Never one to accept defeat easily, I began looking for a sound card for the Quadra 840AV – after all, it has several Nubus expansion slots available. In short order, I have found a DigiDesign AudioMedia II card on eBay, and the drivers for it from the DigiDesign support archive (http://archive.digidesign.com/download/sndrvr/). Kudos to DigiDesign for keeping this venerable software available after all this time.

So, I have a Nubus sound card on order, and the software needed to drive it (hopefully, anyway). When the card arrives, I will make my first attempt at expanding a Quadra via its Nubus expansion slots. I am sure it will be eventful. Hopefully, it will result in glorious sound emanating from the Quadra 840AV once more. I’ll keep you posted!

Expand Your G4 Cube’s Hard Drive

Expand Your G4 Cube Hard Drive

When the G4 Cube was introduced in 2000, Apple released it with either a 20GB or a 30 GB hard drive. Consistent with these sizes, the machine’s ROM generously supported booting from up to 128GB of disk – plenty for the time. Since then however, the machine has become a cult favourite and is often heavily upgraded. Cubes are frequently seen on eBay with 160GB hard drives, and I recently saw one with a 750GB hard drive! Given the 128 GB hard drive limitation, what is going on here?

The quick answer is that the 128GB barrier is a firmware limitation, and so as long as the operating systems you wish to boot reside completely below the 128GB line, you can boot them successfully. In my case, with a roomy 320GB hard drive freshly installed into my Cube, I chose to install all of Mac OS 9.2.2, Mac OS X 10.4.11 and Mac OS X 10.5.8.

Respecting the “all boot partitions below 128GB” rule, I partitioned the first 128 GB into three boot partitions of 14GB, 24GB and 24GB (for Mac OS 9.2.2, Mac OS X 10.4.11 and Mac OS X 10.5.8 respectively), plus one 68GB data partition. That left something less than 192 GB of available disk space that none of the OS on the Cube could “see”. Therein lies the challenge – how can a Cube OS be equipped such that it CAN see all of this extra space? The answers vary by OS and by your pocketbook. Lets look at each one of the OS I equipped on my Cube.

Mac OS 9.2 Logo.png

Mac OS 9.2.2: Mac OS 9.2.2 is an amazingly productive environment and feels crisp and responsive on my Cube. If only there were a modern web browser for it… sigh. Classilla is good, but not good enough. Anyway, I digress. You would think that something as old as Mac OS 9.2.2 would be a lost cause for seeing above the 128GB barrier, but this was not the case, and the fix was amazingly simple. Advised by the very helpful denizens of the forums at http://www.cubeowner.com, I hunted through my Cube’s Mac OS 9.2.2 System Folder, and replaced the “Mac OS ROM” file there with the newer one from the System Folder of the Classic installation on my PowerMac G5 running Mac OS X 10.4.11. With the newer “Mac OS ROM” file in place in my Cube’s Mac OS 9.2.2 System Folder, I restarted and was immediately able to “see” and use the entire 320GB of the hard drive. This is actually pretty interesting, given that my Classic installation was for a G5, and I was now dumping a file from it into the System Folder of a G4 machine, but happily it all worked! Of course, if you don’t have a PowerMac G5 Classic install to pull from, this solution becomes a bit problematic, but if this is the case, please leave me a message and I can make the right file available for you.

Mac OS X Tiger Logo

Mac OS X 10.4.11 (Tiger): To this day, Mac OS X Tiger is my favourite OS X release of all time. It is simply beautiful to look at, bright and colourful, and there is almost nothing it cannot do. As I have posted previously, new and very capable web browsers and email clients exist for it, and I even managed to get the majority of my iTunes library imported into Tiger’s iTunes. It is a marvelous and very productive environment. Alas, it could not see across the 128GB divide on my Cube. Now for a bit of serendipity. Back in 2006 when I got my first Mac, a PowerMac G5 Dual 2.3 GHz, I bought Intech Disk SpeedTools for it, so I just happened to have their ATA Hi-Cap Driver, and their ATA Drive Extender program available at hand. I installed the Hi-Cap driver into Tiger and restarted, and it was then able to see the full 320 GB of the drive. I followed this up with use of the Intech ATA Drive Extender, to modify the partition table and add one final partition that covered the remainder of the disk. This went from the 128 GB line to the end of the disk (in this case about 170 GB) and after a restart, was fully visible and useful from Tiger.

SpeedTools Image

So what do you do if you do not have Intech SpeedTools available? Well happily, even after all this time, you can still buy them! Visit http://http://www.speedtools2.com/shop.html if you are interested. At about $US 60, they ARE a bit “dear”, and this was the basis of my “vary by pocketbook” comment above, but they are still very good. For the record, I am not associated with Intech in any way – just a satisfied customer.

There is reportedly a free alternative, which I tried but was not able to get to work. Visit http://http://4thcode.blogspot.fr/2007/12/using-128-gib-or-larger-ata-hard-drives.html for all the details. It involves manually inserting a small script into the OS X startup routine. While it sounded simple, I was not successful with it, and so I moved on to the SpeedTools solution, since I had it available.

Mac OS X Leopard Logo 2

Mac OS X 10.5.8 (Leopard): No need to belabour this one. The story here is identical to 104.11 EXCEPT that there is a separate, Leopard-specific version of the Intech Hi-Cap driver. Be sure to use that one, and not the Tiger version, which did not work at all with Leopard (I tried it!).

So there you go – hard drives of pretty much any size you might wish on your G4 Cube!

Multi Mac Backup? Go for Their G-Spot!

Multi Mac Backup? Go for Their G-Spot!

Backing up in Style with the G-Drive Q!

Wow, that sounds a bit racy for a blog about vintage Mac technology, doesn’t it? Well, actually, it is the Q-Spot I am talking about anyway, but that doesn’t sound NEARLY as interesting, and anyway, I just couldn’t resist the title! After that title of course, the topic of this post will seem pretty tame – backing up multiple different generations of Macs using only one hard drive, and potentially using that same drive to move data around any or all of these Macs – but still of interest.

As a collector of vintage Macs, perhaps I have a unique problem, but lets consider the problem for a moment anyway. My current generation iMac is equipped with Thunderbolt, Firewire 800 and USB 2.0 ports. At the other end of the scale, my Quadra 660AV offers only SCSI! In between, my G4 Cube supports Firewire 400 and USB 2.0 and my PowerMac G5s supports Firewire 400, Firewire 800 and USB 2.0. Thanks to some aggressive upgrading, my PowerMac 7500 has USB 1.1, in addition to it’s native SCSI (I have purchased a Firewire 400 PCI card for it, with which I hope to upgrade it to Firewire as well). With this wide variety of access technologies, how do I routinely back up all of these machines without a multitude of different backup drives?

Clearly, to use one drive to back up all of these machines, that drive would need to support SCSI, USB 2.0, Firewire 400, Firewire 800 and Thunderbolt. If you should ever find a drive that does all this, please let me know! I haven’t found one yet. The closest I have come, and the inspiration for the title of this post, is G-Technology’s G-Drive Q. It sports the “Q” moniker because it supports 4 different interfaces: USB2.0, Firewire 400, Firewire 800 and eSata. On top of that, the G-Tech Drives are still the coolest, most fashionable looking drives out there. Originally styled to match the look of the PowerMac G5 (and then Mac Pro) aluminium case, they still look fabulous today. Regrettably, they are no longer actively sold by G-Technology and you will need to troll around on eBay to get one.

Even with all those ports, the G-Drive Q still doesn’t solve all of my backup problems, but it does solve most of them. I use my home network to back up my Quadras and my PowerMac 7500 to my PowerMac G5. Then I can directly connect the G-Drive Q to the PowerMac G5 (Firewire 800), the G4 Cube (Firewire 400) and my current generation iMac (Firewire 800). I can then use this G-Drive Q based back up to move files around to just about everything else, even to the PowerMac 7500, since its USB 1.1, while slow, can be used to access the G-Drive Q as well.

Need to backup or move files amongst a family of Mac technologies? Go for the G-Spot!

[For the record, I have no affiliation with G-Technology – this is simply the rambling of a happy customer]

Sounds Like Trouble … And More Trouble

Sounds Like Trouble ... And More Trouble

What do you do when an Audio Visual (AV) computer like the Quadra 840AV looses its Audio? Sounds like trouble to me. Ever since I got my current Quadra 840AV on eBay, I have had trouble with erratic startups. Sometimes I get the startup chime and other times I do not, and the machine just sits there and will not boot (you can hear the hard drive spinning and the power supply fans running, but no boot). I suspect that the power supply is behind all of this, but I have not managed to find a replacement yet, and so when this happens, I just (im)patiently restart the machine repeatedly. Usually, after two or three restart attempts, the chime sounds and the machine boots. Annoying, but not mission critical.

So today, when I went to boot the Quadra 840AV and I did not get the start-up chime I was not worried. I applied my usual restart cure, but after 6 or so unsuccessful restart attempts I started to get worried. Since I suspect that a marginal power supply is behind all of this, I decided to just leave it running (but unbooted) for a time, to ensure that all the power supply and logic board capacitors were fully charged, which should reduce the current draw on the power supply somewhat on the next restart. Imagine my surprise then when 60s or so later, the Quadra suddenly sprang to life and started to boot. How could this be?

It IS worth noting that for both the Quadra 660AV and the Quadra 840AV, start up time is a function of the amount of RAM in the machine. At start-up, if you have not disabled this function, the machine runs a RAM test, the duration of which is pretty much directly proportional to the amount of RAM you have installed. In the case of the Quadra 840AV, I have maxed it out at 128MB, and so the start-up RAM test does take somewhere in the 30s to 60s range to complete. During this period of time, there is ZERO user feedback. You hear the start-up chime and then to all outward appearances, the machine just sits there doing nothing. At the end of the test, the monitor suddenly springs to life and the boot begins, but if you did not know better, you would assume that something was wrong with the machine.

In my case, I did NOT hear the start-up chime, and yet a minute or so later, the machine began its boot. Deducing that perhaps the speaker had failed (it had been making “popping” noises in the last day), and that is why I didn’t hear the chime, I restarted the machine. No chime, but again, after a disconcertingly long RAM test delay it booted and ran. I pulled up the Monitors and Sound control panel and tested the sound function – nothing. OK, so the speaker HAD probably failed. I plugged in a pair of external speakers. Still nothing. What am I to conclude? It definitely sounds like trouble to me … or rather it does not sound at all, which definitely IS trouble. I will have to dig into this and try to sort out what has happened. This IS how failures happen. All of a sudden, one day something just doesn’t work any more.

Meantime, as the title suggests, I have more trouble with sound on this machine… the power supply makes a fairly loud, high pitched and oscillating sort of noise that just burrows into my brain after a while and gives me a headache. I already suspected that the power supply needed help. Now I know for sure. At a minimum, I will need to extract it from the machine and rebuild it with a new, silent fan. I did this to my PowerMac 7500 and the result was glorious silence. You can barely tell that the machine is running. So, I am keeping my eye on eBay for a Quadra 840AV compatible power supply. When I find one, I will pick it up, strip it down, replace the fans and generally rebuild it. Hopefully something close to silence will reign supreme after it is installed into the Quadra.