Category: Mac

Mountain Lion - back to the past

21/02/12 | by admin [mail] | Categories: Software, Mac, OSX

I must say that the naming of 10.8 struck me as a little odd in the context of past names.

Mountain Lions are in fact the same species as Pumas (and arguably Panthers). This requires a closer look.

10.0 - Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)
10.1 - Puma (Puma concolor)
10.2 - Jaguar (Panthera onca)
10.3 - Panther (Puma concolor OR Panthera pardus)
10.4 - Tiger (Panthera tigris)
10.5 - Leopard (Panthera pardus)
10.6 - Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia or Uncia uncia)
10.7 - Lion (Panthera leo)
10.8 - Mountain Lion (Puma concolor)

So, a cynic might say that superficially 10.8 is an improvement on 10.7 but is really 5 (or 7) steps back.


Macs I have owned

15/02/11 | by admin [mail] | Categories: Hardware, Mac

For a while (about 6 years) I was buying and selling on eBay to earn a little cash, and indulge my interests in hardware. As a result, I managed to own, for periods of time, a variety of Macs.

It's just a list. And I must admit, I feel a little like this guy.

Interesting, is that I've only ever owned 1 68k Mac (I have a long standing project on the backburner to get MacOS 8.1 running on a 68060 Amiga).

Centris 610

Quite a few nubus Macs. At one point I was going to build a Beowulf cluster of 6100s, inspired by this guy. But discoved that only 2 of the 5 I had acquired worked, so not much of a cluster. I upgraded one of them to a G4, making it one of the slowest G4 macs in the world (I think 300Mhz, on a 66MHz 6100), and scored some 128Mb SIMMs to upgrade it to 264Mb. There are rumours of 256Mb SIMMs, but I've never seen one.

Power Macintosh 6100
Power Macintosh 7100

I had a quite a few PCI Power Macintoshes, and various bits and pieces for them, including a ZIF carrier card and a few G3 accelerators. I had one with the AV card, and used it a few times for live video capture. I wouldn't mind getting a 9600 (or maybe a 7500), and upgrading it a bit to get OSX running on it. I think, theoretically, you can get 10.5 running on one.

Power Macintosh 7300
Power Macintosh 7500
Power Macintosh 7600
Power Macintosh 8500
Power Macintosh 8600
Power Macintosh 9600

And quite a few beige G3's, which were good back when G4s were still too much. The Beiges allowed you to use IDE drives, the CPU was on a ZIF and easily replaceable/overclockable, had built in everything plus 3 PCI slots. I had one running a Voodoo5 at one point, as well as Radeon 7000, firewire and USB2.

Power Macintosh G3 desktop
Power Macintosh G3 minitower

PowerBook G3s. I managed to get a near mint PowerBook G3 Pismo back in 2004. I still think it's the best laptop Apple made. The case design is far more beautiful (sensuous even) than anything else they've made, had most of what you'd want in a laptop for its time (and quite a few years after, too), and could be relatively easily upgraded. It had a cool feature which allowed you to swap out the optical drive for another drive (floppy, zip, hard drive) or second battery. And had a CardBus slot for expansion.
I upgraded it to 768MB RAM, 500MHz G3, 80GB hard drive, and a CardBus Airport compatible 802.11g card.
I sold it to pay for an overseas trip, and regret it still.

PowerBook G3 Wallstreet
PowerBook G3 Pismo

Very briefly had a 5 flavours iMac G3 tray loader. The only G3 iMac I've owned, and only one of two iMacs I've owned.

iMac G3 tray loader

Nearly every PowerMac G4 they made, except the later Mirror Door and Firewire 800 models which never seemed to be good value for money. The PowerMac G4s were the computers I started the transition to Mac from Windows on. I bought an AGP, which I upgraded and sold, then bought a Digital Audio, which I upgraded and sold, and then ended up with 933MHz Quicksilver, which I kept until I got my G5. I managed to upgrade from the AGP to the G5 without ever spending more than I sold the old computer for.

The Digital Audio was what I kept the longest. I had a 733MHz model, which was the top end in its day. The DA had a few advantages, basically the same as the QS (QS 2002 supported drives larger than 128GB), cheaper, a 133MHz bus, gigabit ethernet and a 4x AGP slot which meant more upgrades possible for the Video card. The only downside was the 3 RAM slots, although in its day 1.5GB was more than enough. I got around the 128GB drive limit by using a SATA card, with SATA drives.

There were quite a few upgrades along the way, flashed and modified G5 Radeons, SATA cards, PCI airport compatible cards, USB 2 cards, CPU upgrades, dual screens. I think I ended up with dual 21" screens. I still have a couple that have I got free or very cheap. Currently, I am upgrading a Gigabit with dual 7447a CPUs.

PowerMac G4 PCI
PowerMac G4 AGP
PowerMac G4 Gigabit
PowerMac G4 Digital Audio
PowerMac G4 Quicksilver
PowerMac G4 Quicksilver 2002

PowerMac G4 Mirror Drive Door (bought dead for parts, and never worked)

1 eMac, briefly. At the time I bought it I had a G4 with a 21 inch screen, so 17inch was not so impressive.

eMac 1GHz

Another bargain. All it needed was a new power adaptor. Kept this for some time, until I got a cheap, slightly faulty, white MacBook.

PowerBook G4 1.5GHz 15"

Mac Mini's are good a 2nd and 3rd computers. The G4 had a couple of flaws, some of which persist, firewire 400 and one 10/100 NIC. I think the Mac Mini's could benefit from dual NICs and maybe eSATA, although USB3 might do the trick on both counts, particularly in the server version.

Mac Mini G4 1.42GHz

Very cheap Xserves. I still have the G4 Dual, but had to scavenge the PowerSupply to repair another Xserve G4.

Xserve 1.33 G4 Dual

The dual 2GHz G5 was my first G5, and I had it from late 06 to late 07. No major upgrades apart from a 9800Pro, 4GB RAM, airport/bluetooth, and several hard drive upgrades. It was bought faulty, and repaired. I sold it anticipating the rev B Mac Pro was imminent, but ended up buying a very cheap 1.6 a month or two later to use until the 2008 Mac Pro arrived.

PowerMac G5 1.6GHz
PowerMac G5 2GHz dual


Xserve discontinued.

20/01/11 | by admin [mail] | Categories: Hardware, Mac

Apple has decided to discontinue the Xserve. They say because it was a money losing product. They are offering Mac Pros with OS X Server and Mac Minis with OS X Server as alternatives.

I'm not sure what to make of the decision to discontinue the Xserve. The Xserve was a real server product, with a 1U form factor and redundant components, built for the enterprise and datacentre. If you are looking for a Mac Server for uptime critical applications, there is no alternative. If you need 1U formfactor computers for collocation, then you can try the Mac Mini and hope they don't fail too often.

Certainly, for smaller workgroups (design departments within enterprises, or small to medium business), the Mac Mini or Mac Pro are real alternatives.

The Mac Pro is more expandable, and can be connected to a Promise RAID, SAN or other Fibre Channel or eSATA devices, but it is a whopping 7U of space. If you are paying by RU (as is usual in most collocations) then this will cost considerably more. If you are interested in HPC or clusters, then you might need a little more room (although the Mac Pro does have superior cooling, so you might save some space there).

The Mac Mini Server is good for smaller tasks, we have installed them in offices of 10 users, and as single service devices (mail services). However, with their lack of expansion and Core 2 Duo processors, they aren't much use where you need lots of storage or lots of power. They aren't too good for running virtual machines, for instance.

Neither the Mac Mini nor the Mac Pro offer redundant power supplies. You can use a UPS, but the power supply in the computer will still be a single point of failure. This means downtime.

Neither the Mac Mini nor the Mac Pro offer hot swappable storage. This means downtime.

Apart from the technical, the other thing dropping the Xserve does is send a message that Apple is no longer interested in the enterprise, indeed is not interested in the clusters used for video production and CGI. The question remains whether Apple will continue to ship its server software and XSAN. If Apple is moving away from the enterprise, should the enterprise be moving away from Apple?


Mac OS X 10.6.6

10/01/11 | by admin [mail] | Categories: Hardware, Software, Mac, OSX

So Apple decided to release 10.6.6 the day after I installed my CalDigit USB 3 card. This is an issue because USB 3 is very new, and the drivers (kexts) are still not completely solid. CalDigit released an updated version of their driver for 10.6.5 (and make you jump through some hoops to get it), since the driver broke with the 10.6.5 update. Their current (10 Jan) recommendation is not to update to 10.6.6 until they have done their tests (and probably released a new driver). Update: a new driver is available.

So, the Mac Pro is on 10.6.5 for the meantime, but the Mac Mini is on 10.6.6. I've tried out the app store on the Mac Mini and downloaded an app. The nice thing is it is a little easier to search and find stuff than The downside is that it requires 10.6.6, many of the apps cost money (interestingly the AUD prices are STILL much higher than the USD equivalents despite the exchange rates). And the fact that Apple can now easily track what you download and where you install based on your AppStore account.

The good news is that you can copy some apps from the Mac where they were downloaded to another Mac without issues. So, set up a Mac with the account, and then copy the apps (many ways to do this) to however many other Macs you like.


A typical weekend

10/01/11 | by admin [mail] | Categories: Hardware, Software, Networking, Mac, OSX

So, this weekend I did the usual housework, eating, sleeping, watching TV etc, that people the world over do of a weekend. The other thing I did was install Debian on a mini-ITX system, and Mac OS X Leopard on a PowerMac G4 Cube.

The Cube is a little upgraded, having an 80GB hard drive, 1.5GB RAM (a Friday night upgrade after ordering 2x 512MB sticks from OWC), Airport, nVidia 6200, and a Sonnet 1.2GHz G4. Since the CPU is upgraded, Leopard will install without issues (it has a 867MHz G4 minimum requirement, although trivial to get around). I did the install using Netboot from a virtualized 10.5 server (another weekend project). I created the boot image from a 10.5.4 ISO image, which was mounted to the VM (Fusion) using the virtual optical drive device.

Boot over the network from the image, and then upgrade the installed 10.4.11 Server (this Cube was set up briefly as a server). There were, needless to say, a couple of hitches. I could not remember the original password for the admin account (I had to reset it last time, as well), so I needed to reset the password using the install disk, which did not work. So, retry to make sure I had clicked all the right buttons etc, and still no go, so a boot to single user mode to edit the local directory using dscl.

Dscl showed that the user accounts had not been imported. The home folders were there, but no account entries in the local node. So, reset the root password, reboot, login and then re-created the account. dsenableroot is a nice trick,

The other, small, issue was that the Airport card could not connect to my draft N WiFi (airport express). Not a big deal since 10/100 Ethernet is working, and I can always plugin in an older basestation (WAP) if needed.

Next trick is to get an SSD drive to saturate that slow 66mbyte ATA bus :)


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Current Hardware Projects

This is all about my on going fumblings with hardware. Regular entries should provide an indication of the depths of my obsession.

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