All things must come to an end

And so does my more-than-year-long PowerPC hiatus. Last week I sold the HP 7300 desktop (Core-i5 based), I bought back in September 2015 to be my main desktop in the new flat (to which we moved after the birth of our son) and put the PowerMac G5 where it's supposed to be - on my desk.

PowerMac_G5dual-2016_02_07.jpg

Last thing I did on my G5 (February 2016), was replacing faulty Radeon 9800 Pro, which died after six years of duty, being reflashed from PC version and overclocked in January 2010. My current graphics is a Radeon 9650, which is probably not as fast in 3D as the previous one, but has passive cooling only and is in fact a Mac edition, so there is no need for additional powering as before.

The G5 still works like a charm, now I have a lot work to do. I haven't processed my digital photos since December 2015, as I never found it to be exactly a pleasure on the PC. That will take me more than a couple of days. Aside from this, there is some stuff that needs to be done:

  1. I want to upgrade RAM from 4 GB to 8 GB. Not that 4 GB is not enough, for sure it is for me, but I'd like to start using a RAM drive to speed things a bit.
  2. The machine still has the same pair of 320 GB drives as it did in 2009, I should replace them with something newer, there is no sign of decay, but nothing lasts forever - I'd better be prepared.
  3. Something needs to be done with the fans. I have no problem spending money on silent, non-original, but compatible ones. Will I find any?
  4. I'm thinking about removing the internal DVD drive and putting a 16GB mSATA in mSATA<->IDE adapter instead of it. It should be enough for Tiger (maybe even Leopard) with TenFourFox and TenFourBird and it will enable me to keep both SATA bays populated with big SATA drives for my data.
  5. Dropbox is dead on PowerPC. That needs to be solved, I can't possibly exist with all my devices in sync.
  6. I have to install Gentoo on my second drive. All other distros are either gone or infected with systemd. What a pitty that my favorite Slackware is out of question.

It seems to be a long run, but I have time. I'm back on PowerPC and not going anywhere 'till the end of time (or at least the time until all my PowerPC hardware dies).

Written by Logout | Monday, January 30, 2017 | Permanent link | Comments: 5

Freescale Semiconductor is no more

Freescale Semiconductor was bought by NXP Semiconductors. The deal was announced in March 2015 and completed on December 7th, Freescale shareholders received $6.25 in cash and 0.3521 of an NXP share per share. Together with Freescale’s debt, the total purchase price is about $16.7 billion. The freescale.com URL is now just a redirect to NXP website.

This is a sad news for all PowerPC and 68k fans, as Freescale (formerly Motorola) was the company behind our beloved CPUs. They were the makers of  68000, 68020, 68040 used in Macintoshes, Amigas and Atari ST computers in the 80's, first four generations of PowerPC and DragonBall chips in Palm handhelds.

At this very point I don't know, whether NXP plans to continue with the Freescale product line as it is, but there is at least one PowerPC computer in development, which would be affected badly with any changes or cancellations - the Amiga One X5000.

All of you, who use computers with G4 CPU (or any other, but the fourth generation of PowerPC chips was solely in the production of Freescale/Motorola), remember the company who created it, it is no more.
Written by Logout | Thursday, December 17, 2015 | Permanent link | Comments: 2

New address

This is just a quick info: domain vivapowerpc.tk is not anymore, please update your bookmarks to the new URL: vivapowerpc.eu

Previous domain was lost for reasons beyond my comprehension - one day free .tk domain was transferred to paid mode and as I wasn't willing to pay for obscure top-level domain, I bought a fresh new one. If you visit just vivaPowerPC blog on vivapowerpc.blogspot.com, there is no change for you, but if you use PowerPC blog aggregator (WORLD in top menu), this change will affect you.

PS: I promise to add soon some real content to the front page after three long years. I promise.
Written by Logout | Saturday, March 07, 2015 | Permanent link | Comments: 1

An open letter to the Dropbox team

Today, I received an e-mail from the Dropbox team announcing that on May 18th support for both Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5 will end, I will be signed out of my Dropbox account on my computer and the Dropbox desktop application will no longer be accessible. I know, I'm probably tilting at windmills, but I have to try reverse this decision. So here is my open letter to the Dropbox team:

Dear members of Dropbox team,

today I received your e-mail about ending support for Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5. and I want to say something about that.

I am member of small but not-dead-yet worldwide community of users of Mac computers equipped with PowerPC microprocessors. Since 2005, when Apple announced switch to Intel CPUs, support for our computers vanished from almost all kinds of applications. Dropbox was one of the last still supporting us and I want to thank you for that effort. Let me just ask you not to cut us off.

You advise us to upgrade to OS X 10.6, which will still be supported after May 18th. This makes little sense to me, since there are just seven Mac models from 2006, for which 10.6 is the final version, all newer can upgrade to 10.7. On the other hand, Mac OS X 10.4 or 10.5 is the final version for much more computers, all Apple computers from summer 2000 to the end of 2005 to be exact. There are even some 1999 Mac models that can run 10.4 and many older can be upgraded to do so - with proper CPU upgrade it's possible to use Dropbox from Mac made in 1995. So with this one step you will cut off the whole decade of computers, but you will still support seven models from 2006, some of which have less CPU power than final PowerPC models from 2005.

I started with Dropbox five years ago on my on PowerMac G5 and now I still use it on that very same PowerMac G5 with OS X 10.5 as well as on PowerBook G4 with OS X 10.4, Lenovo T400 with Linux, HP desktop with Windows 7, iPad and BlackBerry Z10. You can probably say, that removing two computers from this list will do a little harm, but the opposite is true: I have Dropbox installed on all my computers to get my data to the PowerMac G5 on which I do all my typing, programming, photo editing, etc. Two months ago I even bought Samsung camera with Dropbox support to get pictures to this desktop without wires, now my complete ecosystem will be broken with demise of its central element.

Without my PowerMac, it has no sense for me to use Dropbox on other machines and devices. Even after you stop supporting 10.4/10.5 there will probably be some ways how to sync on these systems, like installing qemu (or other x86 PC emulator) with Linux and sync Dropbox via shared folder from this emulation. But I don't want to do things this ridiculous just to have my favorite cloud service on my favorite computer. So please, reconsider support for 10.4/10.5, you still support Windows XP (2001) and our systems are no older than this one.

Thank you.

Martin Kukač, Dropbox AND PowerMac user
Written by Logout | Wednesday, January 21, 2015 | Permanent link | Comments: 11

Getting my G5 ready for another decade

My PowerMac G5 is in quite a good shape, particularly when considering its rich history. I bought it in december 2009 from a freelance photographer, who was using it about four years. Sticker on the inside says, that this machine is a Apple Reconditioned Product, so it probably had some other owner(s) before it was reborn on 05/05/05. CPUs are PowerPC 970 (2.2), which is a pre-FX version, used in the first generation G5 Macs from late 2003. Motherboard however indentifies itself as PowerMac7,3 - a model which didn't use pre-FX CPUs, Apple just mixed during reconditioning whatever components available.
During my five years with G5, I had only one hardware problem: faulty power supply unit. I bought couple of replacement PSUs on eBay and since then everything is OK. But after reading Cameron's Long life computing, I decided to do something similar for my PowerMac.

My to-do list for G5 cleaning was following:
  • Remove as much dust as possible with canned air.
  • Apply new thermal paste on both CPU's.
  • Buy new heatsink for Radeon 9800Pro
It took me one evening to do the first two points and one sunday afternoon to do the last.

My PowerMac G5 with fans removed

Dismantling the PowerMac and removing CPUs is the easy part. I know, because I had to remove both CPUs, when I was swapping my PSU for a new one four years ago. You can find very good photo guides on iFixit.

CPU cooling system

The only part, which can be called "tricky" is unscrewing screws holding CPUs on the system board. PowerPC 970FX has TDP 48W for 2GHz clock at 65°C. FX CPUs are manufactured with 90nm process, my pre-FX CPUs are manufactured with 130nm process and they have no problem to double that consumption at the same temperature, when under heavy load. Heatsinks are big, maybe even a bit bigger than necessary and that means you need long phillips and torx screwdrivers.

CPU with heatsink

After you have both CPUs removed from the computer, it is a good idea to mark which one is CPU1 and which is CPU2. According to my previous screenshots, CPU2 was producing more heat than CPU1, after the surgery it's the CPU1 which has higher temperature. As as it seems that most of the time CPU1 is doing more work than CPU2, temperature difference is even bigger than before. I even consider to do all the work again and swap CPUs back.
CPU board

If removing CPUs from the computer or removing heatsinks from CPUs was easy, removing old thermal paste was a hell on earth. CPU itself is completely covered with some kind of transparent plastic, only the core is uncovered. Old degraded paste was everywhere under the plastic, so there was no other way how to clean the CPU than remove plastic with sharp knife and then give it a bath in isopropyl alcohol.

Checking whether CPU is fixed back in main board

After applying new non-metalic thermal paste to CPU cores and removing as much of the dust from the inside as possible, you have to do every previous step in the opposite way to get your Mac assembled. Just before tightening screws, that are holding CPUs with heatsinks on the system board, it is good to check, whether CPUs are sitting in sockets. The best way is to put your smartphone close to the system board and take a photo with flashlight on. Nothing can kill your Mac better than misplaced CPU.
Actic Accelero L2 PLUS
My Mac-flashed PC version of Radeon 9800 Pro had DIY cooler, I made from two broken PC VGA cards after original fan stopped working. What was supposed to be a hotfix for couple of days, was there almost two years. I bought Arctic Accelero L2 PLUS, because it has really broad support for various cards. Unfortunately 9800 Pro is too old even for this cooler, so I had to drill another pair of holes to fix it with screws and hex nuts to the card.
As fan connector on the card is different than all connectors included with the cooler, I had to solder solder yet another molex connector to the CD/DVD power branch. It already powers DVD drive, VGA card (PC version of 9800 requires aditional power, Mac version doesn't, why?) and now the fan, I hope it can stand it in the long term.

And that's it. I hope that I made my G5 ready for another decade of service. I will however watch CPU temperatures to see the difference between CPU1 and CPU2. Ten degrees should still be OK, but better safe than sorry.
Written by Logout | Thursday, October 02, 2014 | Permanent link | Comments: 10