Home > Mac > Installed Leopard on Power Mac G4 Cube

Installed Leopard on Power Mac G4 Cube

I bit another bullet yesterday and installed Leopard on my newly updated G4 Cube.

To recap, my Cube has:

  • PowerLogix 7447A 1.5GHz CPU
  • 1.25GB 133 MHz 2-2-2 RAM
  • 160Gb Single Platter Hitachi HDD


I booted with CMD+OPT+O+F and ran the NVRAM Open Firmware hack to enable the >128Gb LBA48 in the firmware. Detailed here: http://lloydie.homeip.net/blog/?p=182

After a Reboot, Leopard installed straight onto the Cube without need for the CPU hack, seamlessly recognizing the 7447A as a PowerPC 60? (1.1)

I was given the option of installing to either my first 128Gb partition or the small partition at the end of the disk, so I’m presuming that that the Open Firmware hack was successful.

Before I knew of the hack, I was unable to see the last part of the disk with any OS installer CD.

I ran an Archive and Install. This is the first time I’ve ever done that, since I usually just delete and install. But this machine is being used at work, so speed was of the essence.

I’ve been using it for about five hours now, so this is a really short first impression.

Applications and User Data

Most user applications seem to be intact. Interestingly, even the dock’s position has been maintained and is on the right, just where I left it. It has identical icons plus a few special Leopard ones.

System Applications were gone, of course but preference panes were still there.

There was no PHP or MySQL which I had to set up again. That took some time, since the http://entropy.ch Marc Liyanage PPC build of PHP 5.2.4 is bugged and cannot authenticate via mysql or mysqli extensions and I had to backtrack, at first thinking my MySQL 5.1 Beta was at fault.


Fine. Nothing to report yet. Had a crash the first time the system booted with my Wacom Pen Driver, but that crash never reoccurred.


Now to the section that everyone’s been waiting for, the Performance.

Performance is a mixed bag. Generally OK but as suspected, the poor 16MB ATI Rage Pro is definitely struggling mightily.

  • UI intensive tasks are noticeably slower. Window dragging is jerkier than it was under Tiger. Resizes and scrolls require serious CPU power and more time than under Tiger.
  • Screen refreshes are occuring munch more slowly, in fact, I get the impression that they are about 10~15 frames per second. Quite poor, especially noticable when dragging or moving large chunks of screen real estate around.
  • Finder and Spotlight are eye openers. They are both significantly faster than under Tiger. This mitigates the speed issues somewhat, and so I’d say it’s just south of a draw.

Boot and Login is noticably slower. I get the impression that application first launches are also slower, but once the apps are up and running, everything is sweet.

Other stuff, such as network, application launch times, response speed and so on don’t seem to have been much affected.

DVD player is no longer available and nor is VLC or iTunes coverflow. I haven’t tried Time Machine but know it doesn’t work so there’s no point. Remote Desktop (VNC) from the Cube over the internet to my Mac at home suffers from the graphics issues, just like everything else. The screen updates are blocky and irregular.

I’m running a my Cube with a PHP 5 and a MySQL install as an Intranet Wikki Server with Web Based Group Task Management software. This has not been affected. Apple’s built in PHP build is rock solid and except for lack of GD and MCRYPT, seems fine.

Still, I do get the impression that the poor machine is nearing its limit for terminal use. It feels tired and there is a small element of frustration in using it. Overall, the system is definitely less snappy than it was under Tiger.

For example, under Tiger with the 1.5GHz CPU I really had the impression of a perfectly usable computer, but with Leopard, the computer feels its age. The UI is a drag when doing anything other than using Word or Excel. I can live with it, but I miss Tiger already.

To be honest, it’s not surprising when you remember that the Power Mac G4 Cube originally shipped with OS9, that’s seven generations of OS on a single machine! Way to go Apple!

Bear in mind that many mainstream PC’s that used XP have failed to run but a single update to their OS and cannot run Vista!

So, in a nutshell…

How is the performance?

As a server? Peachy. The built in PHP5 is solid.
As a terminal? Not so good. I’m frankly a bit disappointed with the graphics performance which impacs UI and hence day to day usability.

Can I recommend Leopard on the G4 Cube?

I do feel that Leopard with a 1.5GHz CPU is more usable than Tiger with a stock 450MHz CPU, but not by much. I’d stick with Tiger unless you have a need to use Leopard’s latest features for application compaitibity or otherwise.

As soon as I have the X Bench scores and the application launch benchmarks, I’ll let you all know, but I feel that UI things have about halved in speed.

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  1. December 29, 2009 at 4:15 am

    Would a video card upgrade (256 MB) improve speeds for me?

    • nanchatte
      December 29, 2009 at 2:54 pm

      It would be the best and only remaining upgrade you could do. (assuming you’ve already upgraded the CPU, maxed out the RAM and added a decent HDD or SSD).
      Where you would find a card to fit in the cube’s casing is another matter entirely.

      Also, I would keep an eye on your VRM. If it’s the original one that came with the cube, I’d get it changed to (the now discontinued, IINM) Giga Designs VRM or other.

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