Back for 2017

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Hello dear reader! Did you miss us?

BMV is back for another year and I have a lot of fun articles I’d like to cover and maybe we can fit in a few interviews this year from people active in the community. I’m sorry the blog has been a bit quiet but I was away busily tinkering, working on my Atari Lynx video conversion, making an AmigaPi 1200 and several more USB tank mice for friends who wouldn’t stop pestering me for one after seeing the one I’d built I’ve also been playing with a Powerbook 180 and discovering the pitfalls of LCD tunnelling which the entire 100 series seems to suffer from.

Blasting away from 2016 is my Picade build which I finished just before Christmas, now in 2017 I put the finishing touches to the cabinet with some retro electric 80s art. Keep your eyes peeled as I’ll be offering up free cabinet decal art for anyone looking to deck out their Picade in proper 80s style!


Two weeks running with 550mhz and I’m still not mad!

WallstreetIIGoing on holiday, you always face the invertible question of what tech to take along, well I do. Being the geek that I am, the question can ultimately prove a tough one to answer. Last year when I visited Scotland, I took my G4 iBook along with me for the ride. The laptop’s 1.33Ghz processor is still pretty snappy and does everything I needed it to. So this time around, I decided to take the Pismo, with a 550Mhz G4, it’s more than half the speed of the iBook. So I was curious how it would fare and whether I’d be going nuts before the end of the week.

Now anyone who knows me, will tell you, I’ve something of a soft spot for the 1999 Powerbook. It’s true, I really do love that little laptop, the shape, the design, even the white upside down Apple logo and most importantly the bronze keyboard!

‘I do have are a very particular set of skills.‘ – Taken 

While studying IT at college, I learned a lot of unnecessary things, such as how to type pretty quickly and how to format a word document. Office skills that a future computer engineer really doesn’t need. But as I get older, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits all those hours typing in MS Word 4 have given me. So when it comes to writing my blog, the Pismo is a machine I tend to fall back on for writing out long articles. It’s easy to use and very functional, typing on the Pismo is a lot easier than on any of my modern machines.

Retro Challenge

On the 68kMLA website and the Vintage Computer Forum, you will see threads about something called the “Retro Challenge”. The challenge is to try and get by for a month with only a vintage machine for doing your day to day tasks.  Essentially replacing your modern computer with a piece of 10-20 year old tech and seeing if you can get by. Now you might think that sounds easy, but it’s worth pointing out that using your phone is considering cheating! Personally, I think anyone using a computer or laptop that is 15 years old, should be given some slack. If it’s still useful to that person for a job, great! It’s certainly better then it sitting in a landfill. I love hearing about the things people use old tech for, it’s inspiring to see people not giving in to the “Throw away” mentality.

So for the past two weeks, maybe three, I’ve been using my Pismo for day to day jobs, going online, chatting to friends, emails, playing music and writing. Aside from Tenfourfox crashing when ever I hit a Flash heavy site or had too many tabs open, it performed surprisingly well, getting the jobs done, albeit a little slower then on my dual core HP DV7.

Heavy work

Thanks to the kind folks at Adobe, I have Photoshop CS2 on my Pismo free of charge, which means I can edit photos and work on art projects using my PPC laptops. Superseded by much newer versions, CS2 still remains an amazing piece of kit to anyone on a budget. But how does it run on a G4 550mhz? Can you still be productive with and outdated piece of software running on a 15 year old laptop? Well last Saturday I found myself on my own, as my partner was busy. So I decided to set myself an arts and crafts retro challenge, or as I like to call it ‘Crafty Retro Challenge!’

After going to see Jurassic World last week, the dino bug was once again stirring in my veins. Going online, I decided I might buy myself a t-shirt. But none of them really caught my eye, which is when I remembered the t-shirt I’d owned in the 90s, as a kid, back when the first movie came out. A quick search later and bingo, I’d found it. Now I recall this shirt pretty well, because  I wore it until I physically grew to big for it. Whether it was the velociraptor’s head that sold it or the mocking text I don’t know. To this day, I’m not sure how anyone can have ‘a nice day’, while a dino is chewing their leg.
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So I’d found the shirt, except would you believe it, the darn thing was too small, 20 years later and I’m still to damn big for it! Not one to be deterred, I didn’t give up hope that I might actually get myself one of these original Jurassic Park shirts. But if it was going to happy, it would have to involve rolling up my sleeves and some DIY. I loaded up Photoshop on my Pismo, which by the way, came out six years after the original movie premiered. There was something a little poetic about doing 90s artwork on a late 90s laptop. For the most part, photoshop ran without issue on the Pismo and much to my surprise, when I installed the Jurassic Park fonts, I discovered I didn’t have to close and reload photoshop for the fonts to appear inside the app. This is something I’ve always had to do in Windows, but this 15 year old machine didn’t have a problem with it. After a couple of hours I ended up with something I was pretty proud of and might actually considering getting printed. So long as I can afford to have it done, yay I could be 13 again!! 10981913_10153485229729419_7726113671979753570_n

And here we have it, a side by side comparison of the shirt and the image I created on the Powerbook. The Jurassic park logo has since been changed to red, to match the shirt. But over all, I’m pretty darn pleased with how it all turned out. The only problem I had with making this on the laptop, was finding a USB mouse as using the trackpad would have been a nightmare.

So can you design nice things on a 15 year old computer? Yes. Will it handle Facebook, probably not. Do I care much about the latter? Nope! Facebook like Myspace, is rapidly feeling like one of those fads, which thanks to my Pismo’s limitations, I’m able to avoid.

 

Till next time, keep on geeking!

 


Is your G4 iBook getting hot under the collar?

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It’s a good question and one that as an iBook owner I can answer with a definite yes. The chances are we have the late Steve Jobs to thank, his reputation for sacrificing good cooling for aesthetics’ is well documented. Anyone who owned a Macintosh in the 80’s will be aware of the hazards of passive heating. Eventually something has to give and usually it’s a component, stressed from excessive heat. The G3 and G4 iBook both share a common hereditary illness, GPU failure. The situation began in 2003, when a group of G3 owners banded together to file a class action suit against Apple. Who would initiate an “iBook Logic Board Repair Extension Program “ the following year.

The G4 also suffers from a similar issue, however some models appear more prone to failing then others. It is generally held that the 1.3Ghz & 1.4Ghz models the more reliable of the G4 range with less reports of screen failures

Symptoms

Signs that your iBook may have a video problem are if the screen freezes or if touching the screen causing it to flicker or if when powering on the laptop, the screen remains blank, but still outputs video from the external video port.

If you experience any of these issues, chances are that your white G3 iBook has suffered a GPU failure. The G4 suffers a similar ailment, but this is due to the Intersil ISL 6225CA power controller chip, which over time looses connection to the logic board. g3 extreme
The only way to fix the G3 iBook is by sending the logic board away for a reball / reflow, tho there are some extreme home brew alternatives. These hacks attempt to warm the solder beneath the GPU, enough to reflow the ball grid array (BGA) that connects the chip to the board. I would only suggest this if you have no other alternative. Given the price of the G3 iBook, it is understandable why some people choose the cheaper DIY route.

Reballing involves removal of the GPU chip, so it can be re-seated with new solder. However this fix is not permanent as the cause for the gpu to fail will still be present.

This is down to a fabrication flaw and compounded by poor ventilation. The temperatures for the iBook’s fan to kick in are set to high to be of any use. The G4’s can be revived, if the Intersil chip has it’s pins retouched with a soldering iron. However mileage varies at to how long this fix lasts. One thing for certain is that both models of white iBook suffer with excess heat issues.

The G3 GPU uses a ball grid array similar to this to connect to the motherboard.

The G3 GPU uses a ball grid array similar to this to connect to the motherboard.

Using an program called G4fancontrol via the OS X console, reveals the settings are set at 56 for the Northbridge, 75 for the CPU, and 85 for GPU. These settings are very high, possibly to avoid the fan kicking except for rare occasions. While this does keep your lovely iBook nice and silent, it also has a detrimental effect on components, which are being baked every time you use your machine. After your turn the machine off, the components will cool, until the next time you use your laptop. Anyone with an elementary understanding of metals, will know that exposing metal to heat, causes it to expand and cold causes it to contract. So the continuous cycle of hot and cold eventually causes fractures in the solder which link certain chips to the logic board. The fractures might be microscopic to the naked eye but the gaps are wide enough to disrupt the iBook’s video display, resulting in no picture.

Prevention

So if your still reading, I’ll assume you either have a working iBook or your have a faulty one and your thinking about the road to recovery. If you have found someone to reflow your logic board and now your wanting to fend off the GPU failing again, then read on, it might just save your machine.

To address the heat problem the first thing you need to do is lower the preset fan settings. 85 degrees is way to high for your GPU, it really isn’t a surprise it fails. You need to drop this down somehow to 65 degrees at least, tho I would recommend 55. Luckily there are ways to tell your iBook to engage the internal fan earlier.

G4FanControl

This application was once freeware but the developer has since decided to ask people to pay for it. I’m running version 0.5 which was the last freeware version before it became commercial. Earlier version of G4FanControl can be found online, should you prefer not to pay. However I should suggest buying the software, at the very least your supporting the developer as well as getting the most up to date version of the applications, with all the bug fixes since the freeware version.

Coming as a Terminal program and OS X application, G4FanControl allows you real time control over the presets that tell your laptop when it should engage the fan. I would recommend setting all three sliders to 55, my iBook G4 1.33 settles at around 44-46 during normal use, which is running Word and listening to iTunes. Watching movies and playing games are area’s where the temperatures a likely to raise rapidly.

Depending on your version, you should have a tick box at the bottom of the screen, which says something like “Remember and set at boot”. This means G4FanControl will remember your settings for every time your computer boots. You need to tick this for your alteration to be permanent.

While I can’t guarantee this will permanently prevent your iBook from failing, it will most certainly reduce the level of stress the logic board is normally subjected to. One thing I do know for certain is that the factory shipped temperature settings are set way to high to be of any use. If you like playing games or watching movies on your iBook, you’ll be use to the left palm rest being rather warm, enough to cook an egg on it. If it’s too warm to rest your hand on, then it surely must be too warm for the computer as well. After installing G4FanControl and adjusting my fan settings, the left palm rest still got warm but nowhere near as bad a before.

If you have a working white, you couldn’t go wrong installing G4FanControl on your laptop. As proven by the Danish Consumer Complaints Board, the G4 has an inherent design flaw, so it’s not a question of whether yours will suffer it, more a question of when. So if your still rocking a G3/G4 iBook in 2014, my guess is you would like to make it to 2015 problem free.

For further reading, please check out the following links:

G4Fancontrol

News Article regarding the Danish investigation

Lab Report highlighting the fault with the G4 iBook


PowerMac 8500 revival and OS 9 Boots Disc’s

Joys Of Old Computers

Recently while up in the loft, I dug out my trusty PowerMac 8500 with the intention of taking another crack at it. Over the last 18 months, I’ve had little success. However, unlike previous attempts, on this occasion I was armed with parts bought from a fellow 68kmla member. With video ram and a spare CPU card at the ready, I was able to get the machine working once more. Honestly, after such a long time it was a relief to hear the machine chime with the classic Apple “Boing”.

After getting the PowerMac running, I spent the next week and a half playing around with Mac OS 9.2, downloading various free apps to try out. Everything seemed to be going fine until a few days ago, the system froze. I’m the first the hold up my hands and say it was my own fault, trying to delete a gigabyte of data in my trashcan and presuming I could still run a game at the same time.
Rebooting the computer, I was greeted with the floppy disk icon, indicating the system was not going to boot from hard drive. This was not a good sign as I had files I wanted to keep on the drive. Using my OS System 9 CD, I was able to load Disk First Aid and scan the hard drive for faults.
The first scan reported an  “Invalid Extent File PEOF”. The PEOF or Physical End Of File is one of two file markers used by the system to log the allocated blocks for a file stored on hard disk. If either one of these markers becomes corrupt, bad things will start to happen. Neither Techtool nor Disk First Aid where able to fix the fault, which left me with DiskWarrior. The only problem being that my copy of Diskwarrior was designed to boot from an OS X compatible system and not a vintage like the 8500, which only supports up to 9.2.1.

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Luckily for me an older system 9 compatible version of DiskWarrior comes bundled on the DiskWarrior 3 CD. The only obstacle was how I could get the 8500 booted and the software running. DiskWarrior has one drawback in that it can’t perform repairs on the same partition it is installed on. Meaning I had to find a way to boot the system from CD and run DiskWarrior from somewhere other than internal hard drive. The only option I saw was to make a custom boot CD, something that is not made easy on Apple computers. So, after a lot of head scratching and cups of coffee, I finally figured out how to do it and had a working boot CD with a copy DiskWarrior preloaded.
On booting up I discovered all my efforts had been futile, DiskWarrior would not run from a read only drive such as a CD. Now close to pulling my hair out, I had one last idea, which I was surprised hadn’t come to me earlier. Why had I not tried using a floppy disk? All this messing with discs and hard drives, I had neglected the simplest option. The DiskWarrior application was only 1.3mb, small enough to squeeze on a 1.44mb floppy disk. So now I had DiskWarrior on a writeable media, the next step was to use a bootable CD to boot the Powermac, which brings us to the next half of this article.  For the next half of this article, I will guide you through how to build your own custom rescue disc.

Making A Custom OS 9 Boot CD

Some things you will need to perform this task:

Roxio Toast
1x Computer running OS X (10.3 preferably)
1x Original bootable OS 9 or 8.1 CD
1x Blank CD

For this next part, you will need to load up Roxio Toast, as well as insert your Original Mac OS CD.  It doesn’t really matter if you use OS 8 or 9, just so long as it is bootable.

Once Toast has loaded, you will see four tabs labelled “Data”, “Audio”, “Video”, and “Copy”. Select “Copy” and make sure toast is set to CD/DVD copy and not Image file. If it is set correctly, go to “File/Save as Disc Image” Roxio may give an error regarding un-mounting the CDrom, ignore this and try once more to save.

It will take Toast some time to save the image. When it has finished, you will need to mount the image, unless Toast has already done so. From the menu, select “Utilities/Mount Disc Image”. Navigate to where you saved the image and select it. Toast will mount the image on your desktop. As this is a copy of your Mac OS CD, it will be titled the same as the original.

*To avoid confusion you can re-title your custom boot disc to some something different, I choose to name mine “Rescue”. You can do this by double clicking the name of the icon on your disc.

At the moment all we have is a vanilla Mac OS boot disc, so let us begin by downloading something useful. For this guide, I chose Techtool lite 3.0.4, a freeware utility that can analyse hard drives, zap your PRAM and even clean your floppy drive heads. It is available for download from the Macintosh Garden website using the following address:
(http://macintoshgarden.org/apps/techtool-lite-304)

Once you have the archive downloaded, use StuffIt expander to extract the program file to your desktop and then drag it in to the drawer of your new custom boot disc. If you double click the icon for your boot disc, you should now see the contents of your original Mac OS CD, along with the Techtool icon (See fig).toasts11 Depending on how much space you have left, you can add more apps to your rescue disc. When you’re done, return to this guide and we will finish with how to burn our custom image to CD.

Burning Your Image

For this next step you will need to load Roxio Toast. Once it has loaded up, select the far right tab labelled “Copy”. Make sure Toast is set to “Image File” mode, you should see a screen similar to the one pictured.toasts Click “Select” and navigate to where you saved your image file, it will end with the extension “.toast”. Once selected, you can tell Toast to write the image to a blank CDR.

Hopefully once your disc has been written, you should be able to insert it into any Classic Apple computer with a CDrom and boot the computer up from your new Rescue disc.


Breaking News

ITS ALIVE!!!!

Dear readers, as some of you will be aware, I’m something of an avid fan of old Apple Macintosh Computers. My first Apple computer was non other then the might Power Macintosh 8500. A technical power house of it’s day, offering impressive video editing features.

Over the past 2 years, I have on and off been trying to bring back my 8500 from the dead, after it decided one day not to boot. I’ve bought parts, ram, CPU’s and still nothing would bring it back to life. Imagine my joy when today I finally got it to BOOT UP! Has the old Apple “Boing” ever sounded so sweet!

That is all for now, as i return back to working on this beloved computer and getting it back in full working condition!

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TenFourFox Developer Explains All

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Today ByteMyVdu Interviews Cameron Kaiser, the man behind the Apple browser TenFourFox or 10.4Fx, the web browser that breaths life back in to aging G3-G4 Apple Computers.

Where did the idea of TFF originate from and why?

I was, for many years, a very loyal Camino user even back to the days when it was Chimera, migrating there quickly from Mac IE. I’ve favoured Mozilla browsers because of the open way Mozilla conducts their affairs, even if I sometimes disagree with the decisions they make, but Firefox in those days was only somewhat Mac-like (a deficiency which still persists to some
degree owing to XUL’s cross-platform nature, making it a jack of almost any platform but a master of none), and Camino gave me a Gecko-class browser in a very pretty native widget wrapper. [For your readers who don’t know,
Gecko is the name for Firefox’s underlying layout engine that downloads,
processes and displays the page.]

However, the Intel transition had come and gone and by 2010, Mozilla announced they would drop both 10.4 and PowerPC for “Gecko 1.9.3” (what would become Firefox 4). This would almost certainly cause Camino to do the same for what was planned as Camino “2.2” and the Camino developers had already been talking on IRC about dropping it. Camino was hard to develop because of changes
Mozilla made internally which favoured Firefox, and it was getting harder, making any reduction in their workload welcome. It made the most sense at the time, then, to try and keep the Gecko platform alive. It might even be possible to graft it into an old shell Camino that still worked in 10.4, so I figured that I might be able to squeeze one more release out of Firefox. The timing was right, because Firefox 4 was shaping up to be a major update over Firefox 3.6 with lots of improvements to HTML5.

There wasn’t really anything altruistic about it then or now. I wanted a browser that was current, because my quad G5 was only four years old then and I had bought it not too much before Apple announced the Intel switchover, and it had to be for 10.4 because I still use Classic applications a lot. I had also learned from working on Classilla that trying to backport a browser long after the code has advanced is really, really, really hard, so I needed to make the jump as quickly as possible or the browser would fall behind and never catch up. The fact that it works well for many people is, admittedly, secondary — I’m glad lots of people find it useful, but *I*
needed it!

On November 8, 2010, I finished porting Firefox 4.0 beta 7 to PowerPC 10.4 and released that as TenFourFox, since it was already somewhat divergent internally from the regular Firefox Mozilla was shipping for Intel 10.5 (it’s a long story, but Firefox’s trademark requirements are very strict and I didn’t want to run afoul of them). At that time I didn’t even ship separate G4 and G5 builds; it was a G3 and an “AltiVec” build, which proved inadequate, and by beta 8 I shipped the standard set of four that we continue to offer to this day. Porting Firefox early instead of waiting for Camino to catch up turned out to be absolutely the right call. In 2011, Mozilla ended what they called “binary embedding” which was the major way Gecko was glued into the various native-widget browsers such as K-Meleon and, of course, Camino. There were a lot of reasons for this, some good and some less good, but it was detracting from their core work on Firefox and it had issues (as the Camino developers would attest). This was why Camino tried to move to WebKit first, since they would not be able to effectively embed Gecko anymore (or would be essentially just a skin on Firefox), and then eventually just gave up.

Did you face any challenges while developing TFF?

Porting 4 was a lot of work, but mostly tedious work rather than really hard work, which involved restoring much of the 10.4 code Mozilla had stripped out and figuring out how to get around the font problems since 10.4 has a very deficient “secret” CoreText and Mozilla no longer wanted to use ATSUI (for good reasons — ATSUI can be temperamental). They solved this latter problem mostly themselves, by the way, by embedding an OpenType font shaper called Harfbuzz and I just made it use that, which works for about 95% of the use cases. With these and other things fixed and code added back, it could be easily built with existing Xcode tools and using MacPorts for the gaps. In that timeframe I also wrote the first-ever PowerPC JavaScript just-in-time compiler using the partially written one Adobe had for the now defunct Tamarin project (learning about the G5 assembly language quirks Apple never documented the hard way), and started conversion of the WebM video module to AltiVec.

The first problems came when jumping to Firefox 5. Mozilla was moving to their new “rapid release” system which, while requiring me to adhere to their rigid schedule, was a relief in some ways because they couldn’t do a lot of damage between individual releases and the fixes could be laid in incrementally. So that was more a blessing than a curse, even though it looked really bad in the beginning, and I still have to keep to the upgrade treadmill even now.

The second Firefox 5 problem was more severe. Apple, of course, had not done anything with Xcode 2 after Tiger support ended. Mozilla wanted to merge everything into a superlibrary called “libxul” (on OS X, it’s called “XUL”) which took most of the individual dynamic libraries and allowed them to more effectively connect with each other. Fine, except the Xcode 2.5 linker crashed trying to create it because it was too large, I couldn’t get it small enough, and so I eventually figured we were dead and would live out
our lives with a Firefox 4 port. Fortunately, Tobias Netzel stepped in with his port of the Xcode 3 linker to 10.4, and we were in business again.

In Firefox 10, Mozilla ended TraceMonkey support, our first JavaScript compiler (or JIT). Writing a JIT from scratch, especially one with poor documentation, is real drudgery and I was very worried we would not make it on time. Again, another new contributor came to the rescue; Ben Stuhl got it to compile and we alternated back and forth to get it finished for the first Extended Support Release of Firefox, which became TenFourFox 10. This first JIT that we wrote ourselves became PowerPC JaegerMonkey, Mozilla’s code name for this more advanced JIT.

Between 10 and 17, more and more code required more and more complex and ugly workarounds for the aging compiler we were still using. Tobias had done some initial work with getting later compilers to build OS X PPC compatible code, but we encountered another major linker issue when trying to build 19 with the new compiler. This turned out to be a bug in the Xcode linker Apple never fixed that Tobias figured out, and we were able to jump to the new compiler for TenFourFox 19. As a side benefit, some other PowerPC-compatible software packages that were relying on our tool chain work could now build later versions too.

The biggest two challenges right now are finishing yet another JIT, and supporting Firefox’s new Australis interface. The first part is partially done and a baseline JIT is in TenFourFox 24 called PPCBC (PowerPC Baseline Compiler). It doesn’t generate code even as good as old TraceMonkey, but it does it considerably faster than even TraceMonkey did, so the browser becomes more responsive. The next step will be to finish IonMonkey, the secondary optimizing compiler, which still has several more months of work to go and it took nearly seven months of work to get it this far, but it’s starting to finally reap dividends. I just hope that Australis doesn’t break
us or require dependencies on features only in 10.6.

What is it about the older Apple hardware that drives you to write software to support it?

Simply, it’s because I still use it. I think Power Macs were built better, and I like that they are a bridge to the past: I have a big investment in Classic software, and I think that 10.4 is still Mac-like enough. I don’t like the direction Apple has taken, especially with 10.7 and later versions, to say nothing of my objections to Intel.

I also have a fondness for PowerPC because it descends from the old IBM POWER and RS/6000 machines, and I used to do a lot of work with them.


Apple made the transition to Intel in 2006, do you think there is a perceivable difference aesthetically, between PPC and Intel Apple Computers. E.G Do you think people will be writing browsers for their outdated Macbooks ten, twelve years from now?

I think it’s safe to say that the Power Macs are in some manner approaching their limits, with the possible exception of the very late G4s and G5s. My quad, for example, strains to surpass my Core 2 Duo mini from 2007. It can surpass it, of course, and on some things it runs rings around it, but it consumes a comparatively prodigious amount of power to do so and it won’t surpass a Mac Pro of the same generation. Today the quad is an eight-year-old design (they rolled out in 2005). You can’t make it perform as well as an i5 or an i7 anymore.

So, even if it becomes technically possible, it wouldn’t be a lot of fun to, say, use JavaScript MESS or anything on even the last and mightiest of the G5s. But I think people will still use them for certain particular tasks; they still run compatible versions of Photoshop just as well as they did, and they still run AppleWorks or iWork. And it will be convenient to have some sort of browser to have there with them. Myself, it still does almost everything that I bought it for, so I’m still using it, and a browser make them still feasible as a daily driver even today.

I don’t think the Intel machines will engender quite this level of loyalty, however. The PowerPC’s detractors have said that it was always more of a talisman or a promise of future performance Apple never delivered upon, or that it was more just a way for Apple to distinguish itself rather than a computing architecture they really believed in. I think that’s simplistic and, particularly during the days of the 604 and G3 when PowerPC stomped x86 chips of the same generation flat, completely wrong. But even in the later days of the architecture when Intel finally gained the upper hand, it really was something more special and elegant than everyone else was using
and allowed Macs to stand out, and because Power Macs can still run old software, people hang onto them “just in case” in a way they don’t really hang onto old Intel Macs (I’ll expand on this more in the next question).

And really, after the transition, lots of people have concluded that since the architecture is the same, Macs are merely just glorified PCs with nice design and some weird hardware features. Rather than make the effort to write something like a “TenSixFox,” just slap Windows or Linux on it and keep going. Apple certainly doesn’t keep any links to the past anymore, so why bother? There is much less love for something that is much less unique.


Carrying on from the last question, do you think the transition created two separate camps of Apple user, one PPC and the other Intel?

Yes, but for more complicated reasons. Jumping from 68K to PowerPC, Apple had a tremendously more powerful architecture to move to, and they made it painless with the built-in 68K emulator. There was no reason not to go PowerPC, and Apple even built 601 cards for the later 68K models, as you’ll recall. They ran almost everything you ran on your old Mac II’s and Quadra’s. You can still run 68K software in Classic, for crying out loud. It was a very natural evolution that left nearly no one behind.

When Apple was talking about the Intel transition, though, most people didn’t know that Core was right around the corner — instead, we were still dealing with the gluttonous Pentium 4, which did not have the clear and dramatic performance advantage over G5 that the PowerPC 601 did over the 68040, and those first Apple developer machines had NetBurst P4s in them. Even the first Core Solos were, in retrospect, underwhelming. The quad and late G5s could still beat them in a way the 68040 couldn’t top its successor.
Only by changing the playing field a bit did they show clear advantages.

And then there was Rosetta, which unlike the amazing 68K emulator which operated at such a low level that it was nearly magical, could not run G5 code, could not run Classic applications (even PowerPC ones, let alone 68K code), could not run Java within translated applications, could not run kernel extensions (yes, the 68K emulator could run CDEVs and INITs), … on and on. I suppose we should be thankful it could run Carbon apps, at least.

Rosetta’s quirks drove the first wedge in. If you wanted to have full compatibility, you needed to keep a Power Mac around. Apple removing Classic support from 10.5 made this even more clear to say nothing of removing Rosetta from 10.7. Even later PPC apps that were compatible with Rosetta may have no peer in 10.7 or may be insanely costly to re-buy. I don’t think I’m speaking just for myself when I say that this transition left a lot of people behind, and I think the same ones of us who cling to our Power Macs are the same people who eagerly left our 68K Macs behind in 1993. There was little cost to change then but there’s a big cost to change now,
particularly if you’re like me and have a large investment in Mac software going back decades.

I can’t blame Apple for the jump, even if I don’t like it. The gamble clearly handsomely paid off, despite its warts, and IBM was only too happy to get out of the desktop processor business for good. But the transitions have glaring differences between them and Apple apologists ignore them at their peril.

What is your most loved computer?

I’m assuming you mean a Mac here, and while it’s hard to pick, I’d have to say the 12″ iBook G4. I like my iMac G4, but it’s poky, even considering its age. I like my quad G5, but it can be loud and heat up a room. My iBook is tough and reasonably easy to work on, travels well in a small case, and I have spare batteries and parts to last it for years. With aggressive power management and screen dimming I can wring five to six hours out of the battery pack, and the 1.33GHz CPU is more than adequate for PowerPoint presentations, moderate browsing, music and DVDs.

Finally, what is your goal for TFF?

To keep it alive and reasonably current. At some point the wheels fall off and I can’t keep it moving forward with Firefox (possibly when Mozilla drops 10.6 support, which would be a lot of old-style legacy code), and it becomes like Classilla, a legacy browser that still gets some updates and patches even if it isn’t technologically cutting edge anymore. Ultimately I’d like to get at least 10 years life out of my quad as my primary computer and then take stock then. To do that given the current pace of web evolution, I’d need to keep TenFourFox current with Firefox until around 2014 or so. That should be eminently doable, and even after the wheels do fall off, there
will still be updates and security fixes. And hey, if we’re still keeping up in 2014, I don’t see any reason to stop.

When Cameron isn’t working on TenFourFox, he can be found maintaining http://www.floodgap.com, a website catering for retro computing with an impressive archive of information on Commodore’s range of 8 bit computers.

I’d like thank Cameron for his time and insight and highly recommend you check out his website via the link below

Links

TenFourFox

http://www.floodgap.com/software/tenfourfox/

Floodgap

http://www.floodgap.com


Sync Multiple Google Calendars With You iPad

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For the last few months I have had the pleasure of using my friends 3rd Gen iPad.

Originally the plan was to use the iPad for a month in preparation for a review for my blog. During this time, I faced an interesting challenge when it came to synchronising my Google calendars with my Apple tablet. On first glance, when you link your Google account with your iPad, everything seems fine. However I noticed all of the events from the calendar I share with my girlfriend, where not visible in the iOS calendar app.

Technically you have one Google calendar and any that are shared are classed as a separate calendar. Using the steps below will hopefully help you link your iPad to your additional calendars.
1. Assuming like me you have already linked your Google account with your iPad, go in to your settings and then ‘Mail, Contacts, Calendars’. Select ‘Gmail‘ and check ‘Calendars’ is enabled. If it is not, then go ahead and switch it on.

2. Now the next step is to select which calendars you want to sync with your iPad. For this we will need to open up a browser window and visit https://www.google.com/calendar/iphoneselect

3. Unless you are already signed in to your Google account, you will need to do so now. After which the above page should present you with a list of all the Google Calanders associated with your account, with a tick box beside them. Select which you wish to sync with your tablet and then click ‘Save’.

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Select the calendars you want to be synced

It may take a minute to update, but if you return to the Calendar app on the iPad, you should now see all of your events have synced to your tablet.

Keep on geeking!

– This article was written and uploaded using an upgraded G4 Apple Pismo