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My Cheapest iMac Yet

March 28, 2009 Leave a comment

imacg4-leopard

Just bought an iMac for our school. It’s a second hand but pristine G4 iMac 15″ 700MHz machine, just like the one I bought last February. It still even had the wrapping on the vertical tube supporting the screen and the little pair of ball speakers.

The shop assistant told me that it would run for about 30 minutes before shutting down. Curious, I asked if I could plug it in. He left me to it and I switched it on. Immediately, I saw the problem. The fan was rotating so slowly the blades were visible.

I’ll buy it! I said and walked home with a ¥3,980 (A shade over 20 quid) iMac.

Not wanting to open my currently working iMac again, I decided to check on line for the required fan replacement. A quick check of http://www5.plala.or.jp/kdreview/imac_g4_17.html showed the fan to be a 92mm x 25mm Superred part.  I remembered it from the one I opened last year, so even though it’s not the same machine, I bought it with confidence, along with an old 512mb PC133 stick of RAM.

I opened her up, replaced the fan and RAM,put her back together (a thirty minute job) and an hour after switching on later, the machine is still running.

Nice. I’ll have something to run iTunes on in our café section, now.

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Installing old ATI Rage Pro 128 video drivers from Tiger into Leopard on G4 Cube

May 14, 2008 4 comments

Seeing the graphics benchmark results for Leopard being so slow, I got to wondering if it was the drivers which were affecting the performance. Perhaps the old ATI was unrecognised by Leopard.

First I checked the system profile on the Apple menu, but that showed that the graphics card was correctly recognised as ATI Rage Pro 128

Just in case, I checked the /System/Library/Extensions folder. There were no ATI Rage drivers there at all!

I hopped on over to OSX86 at Insanely Mac and read their forums, remembering my Hackintosh days of dragging drivers over and found that it was a trivial task.

Since I used Archive and Install so I had my whole Previous System folder available, I mosied on over to:

/Previous Systems/<somedate>/System/Library/Extensions

and grabbed all the ATIRage kexts bundles and plugins I could find.  I spotted the ATIcellerator, too so I brought that over to/System/Library/Extensions folder, also.

ATI Rage Pro 129 .kext files from Tiger.

I had to change the permissions of the files, delete the old extensions cache and reboot.

This needs to be done as root (using sudo) so be careful, a mistyped command will be executed without complaint by your computer, potentially hosing your entire system.

In terminal, type:

sudo -s

type your password at the prompt and you are now root. You can seriously shag your system up if you’re not careful. So be careful 🙂

chown -R root:wheel /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRage*.*
rm -rf /System/Library/Extensions.mkext
reboot

After the reboot I found that my system was much, and I mean that honestly, more responsive! The slow screen updates, windows resizes, dragging, Safari page scrolling, everything was much faster.

I imediately ran X Bench to see if the results reflected the performance differences I felt and here are the results:

 Leopard with generic v tiger driver

A convincing win for Leopard with the Tiger driver installed! It is a shame that OpenGL performance is not affected, however.

Just to remind us, let’s have a look at Leopard running with Tiger’s ATI driver versus Tiger itself.

Leopard with Tiger driver v Tiger itself

This is extremely interesting. It shows us surprisingly that far from having an overhead, Quartz graphics actually show a very slight increase in performance compared to Tiger (averaged over three runs)! Of course, X bench is fickle, so take this with a pinch of salt.

Unfortuantely, the OpenGL (spinning squares) test shows us that it not receiving any benefit from the new driver. That’s too bad.

Well, I can now reverse my original post with the following shout:

I CAN NOW HEARTILY RECOMMEND LEOPARD FOR ATI RAGE USERS WITH >1GB RAM AND A DECENT CPU!

Categories: Mac, Tech Tips Tags: , , , , ,

Leopard Benchmarks G4 Cube – It’s not pretty!

May 14, 2008 Leave a comment

I benchmarked my Leopard on G4 Cube installation this morning and the results are not pretty. As I mentioned yesterday, the system feels sluggish, especially the UI. Although many feel that X Bench is not very representive, I feel that the results bear out my experiences very well as you can see in the chart below:

Tiger versus Leopard

It’s basically a clean sweep for Tiger, with a couple of statistically irrelevant results in favour of Leopard.

Note the far left column is X Benche’s overall result which shows a 50% decline!!! This is in line with my impression that day to day use is about half as fast as it was under Tiger.

Key areas to note are the OpenGL and UI sections which have lost almost 70% of their performance while Quartz is about half the speed!

Leopard versus Tiger for Graphics

This clearly shows that Leopard users pay a heavy price in the graphics department with older hardware. It looks to me that the system is using generic drivers for the ATI card, since all other results vary by mostly insignificant margins.

Full benchmark results

Leopard v Tiger X Bench full results

The only major differences in benchmark scores other than graphics are Memory allocation speed which is doubled (tested repeatedly) and thread lock contention which is about 30% slower.

 

Categories: Mac Tags: , , , ,

Installed Leopard on Power Mac G4 Cube

May 13, 2008 2 comments

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

Procedure

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.

Stability

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

Performance

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.

Categories: Mac Tags: , , , ,

Powerlogix 1.5GHz 7447A CPU Upgrade for Cube benchmarked


I finally got around to benchmarking my G4 Cube with its new Powerlogix 1.5GHz 7447A processor. 

Here are the X Bench results, for what they’re worth. They are quite variable, but this is the average from about four or five runs.

X Bench Benchmark Results (Taller is better)

The results show Gains across the board, with, as expected the major gains shown in CPU and Thread performance.

Interestingly, since the graphics card is the basic ATI 16MB Rage Pro, the graphics are majorly CPU dependant and those too showed major gains.

In fact, as expected only memory and HDD showed no real gains.

These facts bare out well with the actual usage as shown here:

Boot Up time (Shorter is better)

The above chart shows the waiting time until the specified event occurs.

Up until the Apple logo appears, the two machines behave identically. From that point on, the 1.5GHz CPU pulls ahead significantly. If one starts timing from when the what Apple appears, the 1.5GHz Cube is approximately twice as quick.

Login Time (Shorter is better)

My login is packed with various applications and I think is a reasonably good test of overall system performance with a bias towards uncached disk access. The above chart appears to bare this out with an approximate 40% speed boost.

Application Launch Times (Shorter is better) 

 

Here you can see with application launch times that most launch speed is doubled. And, where there is a low dependancy on the hard disk (i.e. relaunching) then the speed advantage is treble in the case of Microsoft Word and Photoshop CS3.

One pontential issue is the temperature.

With the old 450MHz CPU, the Cube would show the internal HDD’S SMART temperature reading Idling around 37C in a temperature controlled 24C room.

Due to complete lack of any power saving facilities, even at full CPU load with moderate disk access, the active temperatures rarely rose above 39C.

Now, with the 7447A 1.5GHz CPU and NAP activated, it idles at 38C but quickly moves up to 42C or 43 when using iWork.

I’m concerned about the extra heat, so I may replace the currently silent fan with a more robust 12V 80mm effort!

So, overall this upgrade, an incremental investment of $250 half paid for by my employer has brought my computer forward one or two generations. It’s moved from a usable but ultimately frustrating computer to one which can be used heavily for numerous office and browser tasks without getting bogged down.

Categories: Mac, Technology Tags: , , , ,

Installing Powerlogix 1.5GHz 7447A CPU Upgrade for Power Mac G4 Cube

May 8, 2008 4 comments

I bit the bullet yesterday and upgraded my Power Mac G4 Cube from its original 450MHz processor to an overpriced 7447A Power CPU in the form of a Powerlogix CPU Upgrade.

First up, I had intended to purchase a chip with a VRM bypass but when it arrived, I found that I’d mis-ordered and got a vanilla version without.

I checked the website more closely and yes, indeed the version I had ordered did not have the VRM.

I would have sent it back, but unfortunately, I ordered it from OWC in the US, so that’s not going to happen.

Here are some extra hints if you want to replace your CPU with a Powerlogix one. These are not complete instructions in and of themselves.

Before you start, watch the video and print and read through the instructions. They are clear on most counts but I found a few areas lacking.

Here I’ll list a few of the difficulties I faced while also listing the outline of the instructions

Firmware Update
 
(in a nutshell) 

  • Insert the CD with the Cube powered up. Then shutdown the Cube
  • Now hold down the programmers button and keep it held until the power light flashes rapidly then press and hold C until the firmware screen appears.
  • At the menu
  • Press 4
  • Wait for the process to complete.
  • Press 5 if you use OS 9.

 Now this bit was a bit worrying, nothing was mentioned what to do after the above steps. 

  • Just press the option to shut down the Cube
  • Proceed with the disassembly.

Graphics Card and VRM

  • Ground yourself.
  • Remove all cabling.
  • Pop the chasis.
  • Remove the top plate.
  • Be careful with the power connector between the top and the chassis. It’s quite short.


    fig 1

    You do NOT need to disassemble the whole chassis in order to remove the CPU.

    • Just turn the cube on its side (GFX card up) and remove the two posts. Remember which way they go, they look very similar but won’t fit if you get them in the wrong place or the wrong way around!


      fig 2

      • On this side of the motherboard, you only need to remove three screws. 

         
        fig 3

        Removing the Video Card

        The first real challenge you will encounter is removing  the video card. The cube is tight and the card is connected to a riser from the motherboard rather than directly to the motherboard itself.

        • MAKE SURE YOU’VE REMOVED THE TWO SCREWS that hold the GFX card to the frame. They are located on the base of the Cube and flank the VGA and ADC connectors.
        • Remove the Video Card and Riser card together. It’s not possible to remove the card by itself.

          The main difficulty is that the ports are stuck through holes in the base, which prevents you from lifting the GFX card and riser vertically, you have to lift just the point shown below.

          Don’t worry, the connector is quite tough and the angle won’t break any pins or edge connectors if you are careful.

          Try not to lift the GFX card out too far at first and be careful of the wires connecting the GFX card to the motherboard.

          If you are having difficulties with the GFX card assembly, you might want to remove the VRM first, which is considerably easier to get out.


          fig 4

          The black connector shown below comes off easily. Just push down on the protruding part of the clip like a clothes peg and pull the clip out.


          fig 5

          Try as I might, I was unable to remove the brown connector shown in the picture above.

          Instead, I just pulled the GFX card from the riser and hung the riser over the side of the chassis, out of the way, making sure the light grey wire (shown towards the right of the above photo) was OK.

          Removing the VRM

          Once the GFX card is out of the way, it’s relatively easy to remove the VRM module (That’s the other riser on the right), opposite the RAM slots.

          Since I had some difficulties removing the GFX card, I removed the VRM first, to give me more space, but the principle is the same.

          There is a little grey catch toward the back of the unit, next to the VRM module.

          • Use a screwdriver to release it by sliding the catch to the left (if oriented as shown below). Note that there is very little feedback from the clip. Just push it back gently while pulling the VRM up and out, vertically.


            fig 6

            Extracting the motherboard

            In order to extract the motherboard, you need to ensure you have done all of the following:

            • Removed the GFX card.
            • Removed the VRM.
            • Unscrewed the two motherboard screws along the front edge of the board as shown in fig 3.
            • Removed the “unique screw” from near the VRM. (fig 7)
            • Removed the “long screw” from near the memory slots. (fig 7)


              fig 7

              • Unscrew the three, spring-loaded screws from around the large grey chip in the middle of the motherboard and pull them out vertically. Mine were quite stiff and required wiggling to get them out.


                fig 8

                Before you can extract the motherboard, it has to be released from the big central heatsink beneath it, which due to heat and time will have fused itself to the CPU’s heatspreader because of the thermal sheet between them.

                I found the method used to separate the two from each other very difficult. Perhaps because my screwdriver was too big. I couldn’t get it between them to start prying them apart.

                • I started from the corner by inserting my screwdriver and twisting gently. The heatsink came away easily enough.


                  fig 9

                  Once you’ve lifted the motherboard away slightly from the big heatsink, pull it towards you, away from the bottom of the case, with all the ports on it and parallel to the central heatsink.

                  Remember, there are two posts guiding the rear of the motherboard. If you lift the motherboard rather than pull it towards you, you risk the motherboard’s supporting corners being snapped.

                  Note that the ports on the bottom of the Cube are pushed through holes in the base. These holes are sealed with a kind of metallic springy foam, probably for shielding.

                  You will have to pull the motherboard away from the base with a little bit of force, since the springy foam may have got quite hard with time.

                  Replacing the CPU and heatsink

                  • Remove the old CPU carefully.
                  • Replace with new CPU.

                    This next part is optional, but I hightly recommend it

                    • Scrape off the old thermal compound from the back of the big black central heatsink.
                    • Apply a thinly spread layer of heatsink compound to the new CPU’s heatspreader.


                      fig 10

                      Install the base fan – DO NOT FORGET. THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL. Running the upgraded Cube without a fan will destroy it!

                      Now follow the instructions and put everything back together.

                      Once you hear the Apple Bong, CHECK THAT THE BASE FAN IS ROTATING AND BLOWING AIR UPWARDS. IF THE FAN FAILS, SO WILL YOUR CUBE.

                      Categories: Mac, mods, Technology Tags: , , ,

                      128Gb+ Large HDD (LBA48) support on the G4 Cube with Leopard, for free.

                      April 27, 2008 8 comments

                      It’s possible to access the entire space of any large hard disk without drivers, that means without the need for the $25 Speed Tools ATA Hi-Capacity Support Driver. This also means that Leopard will work, too.

                      With the magic of the Open Firmware, as with the Open Firmware fake CPU speed hack, it’s possible to hack the Open Firmware to enable large disk support, otherwise known as LBA48.

                      I have only tested this with Leopard and Tiger, so I can’t vouch for earlier OS-X builds. however, note that this DOES NOT WORK FOR OS9. For OS9, you will still need the speedtools driver available here:

                      This time, however, we need to write this to the non-volatile RAM so that the changes aren’t lost on reboot.

                      • Reboot or Power up your Cube
                      • Hold down Command + Option + O + F simultaneously as soon as the reboot starts.

                      You should now be at the Open Firmware prompt. Note that this is NOT the BASH prompt, so don’t try anything here.

                      • Type in the following, exactly. Please note that the Underscore “_” is used to indicate a space.
                      nvedit
                      dev_hd
                      dev_..
                      "_"_"_lba-48"_property
                      device-end
                      • Press Ctrl+C to exit from nvedit.
                      nvstore
                      setenv_use-nvramrc?_true
                      reset-all

                      That’s it. Now boot up and go to “About My Mac” to confirm the disk size.

                      If your disk was already formatted, it will have its original 128Gb partition and a region of inaccessible space at the end. It’s probably easiest to reformat the disk with a new partition scheme, unless you have some terminal disk utility or related tricks up your sleeve.

                      • This hack will last until you reset the NV RAM (P RAM).
                      • Similarly, if you hose your open firmware settings, use this fact to your advantage, perform a PRAM reset and start again.

                      If you do repartition the disk, it’s probably wise not to cross the 128Gb boundary with a partition, in case you ever have to reset the NV RAM, in which case you’ll only be able to access the first 128Gb of the the hard-disk. By splitting the disk at 128Gb, you’ll ensure that only whole partitions are visible and any partition after the 128Gb will be entirely invisible.

                      In my case, I made a front partition of 128Gb, and the remaining 30 something Gigs into an extra partition for temprorary files.

                      Thanks to the Cube Kaizou (Cube Mods) page on Studio Milehigh (!!!) homepage. Apparently his own Cube died at the end of April last year but he has left his legacy of Cube update experience online.

                      Categories: Mac, mods, Tech Tips, Technology Tags: , , ,