Do things really end?

Two years ago, in my last post on this very blog, I said, that my brief PC journey ends and I'm back on PowerMac. How did it end up?

Okay, I tell you the bad news right now: I'm publishing this from a Core i5 based HP EliteBook, which is at the moment my main computer. The G5 wasn't used to do anything useful at least for six months, in fact it's collecting dust in a shelf.  But don't stop reading here, let's  go back to January 2017 for an explanation...

Back then I really moved back to PowerMac G5. I sold the HP desktop I had since December 2015, moved all data created on it to the G5 and simply started to use it daily as if I never left.

As I mentioned in previous post, even before the move back to the G5, I replaced the failing Radeon 9800 (flashed PC version) with perfectly good Radeon 9650 (Mac version).  The 9800 served me well for over eight years, but one day it displayed only weird artiefacts on the screen and it was over. Problem was probably caused just by leaky capacitors, but I've got the 9650 for free, it had two DVI ports and more video RAM, so I just swapped cards and went on.

After I moved back, I also had to replace my iPhone 5s with an Android phone, because iOS 9 wasn't really working well with the old Mac OS X 10.5.8,  every single time I tried to import photos made with iOS camera, it made the iPhoto crash. The geolocation information was in different format, than iPhoto expected and all the crashes even corrupted my iPhoto library at one point. 

PowerMac_G5dual-2017_08_21.jpg

Soon everything was running smoothly and I was quite happy with the state of things. I even discovered, that the good old G5 is the only computer in our household, that allows me to buy and update maps for my car navigation.

What went wrong, you ask?

The machine became more and more noisy, week from week, month from month. Since I bought it in 2009 and discovered the problem with funny chirps in the sound output when running on automatic power management, I used the G5 in the low-power mode, switching it manually to high-performance only when necessary.  That means, it's underclocked from 2.0 GHz to 1.3 GHz, consumes a bit less power, but what's more important it consumes the power more constantly, so the power supply doesn't have to sing its sad song directly to my speakers. But it also means, that the machine is more under load, because CPUs are running slower than they could, so fans run on more RPM than on automatic.  And as all those fans are from somewhere between 2003 and 2005, they started to tell me, they want their retirement.

If I wanted to use the G5 daily any longer, it would mean to disassemble it again after 5 years, replace all the fans (special, not available in generic next-door PC store, nearly impossible to find in a new or at  least good condition), solve somehow the old problem with thermal difference between CPU0 and CPU1 and probably replace both hard drives as they are as old as the G5 is. So I needed to replace or repair half of the machine just to keep it going in a way it could be used by a person sitting in the same room. As much as I love PowerPC architecture, I'm still partially sane, so somewhere around September 2017 it was decided to look for something else and retire the machine after something else is found.

My first try was a 1st/2nd generation MacPro, but it simply didn't happen. I wasn't willing to pay the amount of money sellers blinded by Apple logo wanted. In the end it's just an old PC, even though it has a familiar shape. 

My second try was a 1st gen MacBook, which I've got for free in October 2017. After I convinced it to run on full CPU speed even without battery, I decided to keep it for a while as my main machine, save money to buy a new MacBook Air and retired the PM G5 on 2017/12/31.

But then two things happened:
  1. Rumors about Apple future transition to ARM appeared.
  2. Raptor CS announced and then delivered Talos II.
The first made me scrap my plans for the Air acquisition, change my primary OS from Mac OS X  back to Linux after almost 11 years and buy an older EliteBook for one third price of MBAir, but with the same computing power and even better port/slot equipment. The main reason I stayed on Mac OS X was iPhoto - I have all my photos since 2003 in iPhoto Library and there is no iPhoto on ARM and never will be as iPhoto is a dead product. So I would have to either change the software for photo management or emulate an Intel or PowerPC Mac to run iPhoto - I can do both on a generic PC laptop, just much cheaper way.

The second thing made me believe, that POWER/PowerPC is maybe not as dead as I thought. Before Talos there were just two groups of PowerPC users:
  1. Mac users - some of them still on Mac OS X, some of them already running Linux.
  2. Amiga users - Amiga OS 4, Morph OS - they all run on PowerPC machines, even on some Mac models, but their predominant user base is not that from first group.
Both groups are more or less stagnating as there hasn't been any new hardware in the first group since Apple left PowerPC in 2006 and all the new hardware in the second group is not even on par with last generation of PowerMacintoshes, even though it's usually pretty expensive.

But Talos II (and Blackbird in the future) changed this. The hardware is not exactly inexpensive, but it offers computing power far beyond everything people from mentioned two groups ever had. And it's open sourced, well documented and made from workstation-grade components that are right now in production so i can attract (and it does!) new people, not just those who are trying to replace their failing PowerMac.

And that's why I decided to keep my EliteBook as my primary machine for now and save money to buy BlackBird at some point in 2019/2020. As I have family and don't want to spend money from my primary income on this, I save just the side money I have from publishing on local IT servers and $1275 (just for board+CPU+heatsink; add to that 20% local tax and the price of all other components) will probably take some time. Therefore I put a G4 Mini on my desk as a secondary machine and now I'm trying to catch up what happened in PowerPC Linux/BSD world during my absence.

So yes. Some things end, some other things start. Then they end as well. And again, there is a fresh start. Isn't it nice?
Written by Logout | Wednesday, January 16, 2019 | Permanent link | Comments: 1

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: 4

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: 0

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: 10