Retro Battestation: just received my 2002 Power Mac G4 Quicksilver

I just picked up a pretty good eBay deal on a 2002 Power Mac G4 Quicksilver. It was sold as working, and yes it does boot up and it did come with OS X 10.4.11 installed as advertised.

 

Inside, it looks almost new. When I recently took some old PC towers to the electronics recycling inside they looked like they’d accumulated 100 years worth of dust and god knows what. By comparison, for a 15 year old machine, this looks like it was kept sealed in a box for most of that time – it’s spotless with no dust in sight.

Clean!

It looks like it has 10.4.11 cleanly installed, but I also picked up a used OS X 10.4 Tiger DVD to do a clean install myself.

The DVD drive in the machine does not want to open. It whirs and clicks when you hold F12, but no go. I used the paper clip trick in the manual open hole on the front of the drive, it opens up and there’s nothing jammed in there, it just doesn’t want to open. I tried putting the DVD in there, manually closing the drive and then powering on, but it doesn’t spin up and read the disk.

By the way, on this Power Mac G4 Quicksilver, the DVD manual open hole is obscured by the front of the case, so the only way to get a paper clip in the hole is to physically remove the drive from the case to get access to the hole.

Given the issues with the DVD drive, I discovered that this machine will boot from a USB flash drive (there’s a discussion in this thread about all Intel Macs will boot from USB, but this feature apparently was supported on some G4 and G5 machines but apparently not all).

To install Mac OS 9 I copied the ISO from OS9Lives universal installer to a USB using Infrarecorder on a Windows 10 desktop, and holding down Option/Alt to get the boot menu, it shows the USB, and clicking on it starts to boot. I wasn’t sure about using the ‘Restore’ option on the OS9Lives universal installer, as it seems from the instructions that it wipes your partition.

 

 

Instead I’ve read in a few different forum posts if you just copy the ‘System Folder’ from an OS 9 image to the drive, along with ‘Applications’ (rename it ‘Applications (OS 9)’ if you’re dragging them to the same partition as OS X, if it’s a different partition then the name can stay as Applications).

 

Interesting that this just works – if you select the OS 9 System Folder as the Startup Disk in System Preferences, then when you reboot it just starts up.

To get a copy of the OS X 10.4 DVD onto a USB flash drive, I used Infrarecorder again to make an image, and then used ‘dd’ on my MacBook Pro to write the image to a flash drive.

I’m going to do a fresh install, but booting it up and looking around at what’s already on there, OS X 10.4 on a single PowerPC cpu machine, not a dual, and only 800Mhz with 512MB, performance is not bad, it’s pretty responsive. Both Tiger and OS 9 boot pretty quick (Tiger boots a few seconds faster which is surprising).

Quick observations:

  • Safari on OS X is terribly slow, practically unusable
  • Ten Four Fox on OS X is usable but sluggish on scrolling any page. Makes you appreciate how fast modern day machines are
  • Classilla on OS 9 is pretty snappy. Of the browsing options available, this is the better choice on this machine so far.

Next up I’ll be trying to boot from the image of the 10.4 DVD and doing a fresh install. More to come later.

Replacing a MacBook Pro optical drive with a SSD: stripped screws a-plenty

Older model MacBook Pros typically came with a rotational hard disk and an optical  disk. Some models had a 6Gbps SATA controller for the HDD and a 3Gbps controller on the optical drive bay. It’s worth checking in the System Information tool if the controller for the optical bay is not slower than the HDD bay. If it is then you might want to consider swapping out your HDD for the SDD. If both bays are 6Gbps on both sides, then it’s ok to put an SDD in the optical bay and not limit it’s throughput.

My mid-2012 MBP has 6Gbps on both bays:

HDD:

Optical bay:

 

I used an OWC drive doubler bracket to put my SSD into my optical bay. Here’s the patient open and ready to receive it’s new drive. Existing HDD at the top right, optical drive bay bottom right. The bag of tools comes with the OWC bracket:

 The OWC bracket is more pricey at $29 on Amazon, compared to the cheaper alternatives at < $10, but the difference in price seems to be you get everything you need in be box, including tools, replacement screws, and a manual. The manual is incredibly detailed and covers step by step with photos for each MBP model that the bracket fits. Find you model, follow the steps, done.

The replacement probably should take you less than an hour, but I ran into one of the soft black screws that wouldn’t budge and it stripped pretty much instantly. I tried the elastic band trick, I tried supergluing a screwdriver to the screw.., no good.

Drilling out a stripped screw is probably the last resort, unless you can reach it with a dremel and cut a slot into the top. This one was recessed, so did some reading around and a ‘Grabit’ seemed to be the way to go.

The screw in question for me was the larger one in step #8 in iFixit’s instructions here. The instructions even say:

Take care, as these screws are unusually easy to strip

Yep. I think that should actually say:

These screws are guaranteed to strip. Make sure you have tools at hand to remove them when stripped.

The Grabit Micro #1 and #2 did the job for me. The #1 seemed the one to use. Using the drill end, it took a while to drill a whole into the top of my stripped screw. Flipping the drill bit around to the extraction end, it didn’t catch like it was supposed to. At that point I thought my only option was to drill the screw out, so I swapped the next up size and started slowly drilling, but the drill bit end actually caught inside the hole. Since the drill and extractor ends both turn anticlockwise, it immediately started to remove the screw. Phew!

So hows the SSD? It’s awesome. Whereas before El Capitan seemed to take more than a minute (I hadn’t timed it, but roughly) to cold boot on my i7 2012 MacBook Pro, from a clean install on this SanDisk SSD, it boots to logon in around 6 to 7 seconds. Pretty damn incredible. It boots from cold it the same time it would take to come out of sleep from my HDD. And using OS X is incredibly damn fast and fluid. My 2012 MBP has a couple more years of life to go 🙂

OS X El Capitan trackpad 3-finger drag

Having just reinstalled OS X EL Capitan from fresh on a new SSD, I looked around for a while for the trackpad 3-finger drag. For whatever reason it’s no longer in the Trackpad settings, but it’s in Accessibility. Details here.

Creating an OS X El Capitan install flash drive

Format the USB Flash Drive using Disk Utils:

http://www.macworld.com/article/2990837/storage/how-to-format-a-startup-drive-in-el-capitan.html

The volume name in the next step is /Volumes/name-you-gave-the-volume-in-the-first-step.

Copy install files to the Flash Drive using createinstallmedia:

http://www.macworld.com/article/2981585/operating-systems/how-to-make-a-bootable-os-x-10-11-el-capitan-installer-drive.html

To boot from the flash drive, reboot your Mac holding down the Option key and the choose the icon for the flash drive.