Apple Archive

Stepping Up from a Beige G3 to Blue and White

- 2004.02.16

I'd been using a 266 MHz beige G3 for the past year or so as my "non-work" machine (mainly for Internet, instant messaging, a bit of recording, and some basic photo editing). It got the job done fairly well. While it wasn't exactly speedy, it wasn't too slow, either. It did, however have several major shortcomings which preventing me doing some of the things I wanted.

First of all, the video card was a 2 MB card - not enough to show millions of colors at 1024 x 768. iTunes visualizations wouldn't display smoothly at all, although I was surprised that QuickTime movies seemed to display fine. The video card could be upgraded to 6 MB, but I felt that wasn't really enough. There was always the option of a newer PCI video card, but that runs into money.

The beige G3 didn't have USB or FireWire, which prevented me from using both my iPod and my USB webcam (which I couldn't even use on my 12" PowerBook, since the webcam doesn't support OS X, or my Dell, since it doesn't support Windows XP, either). I thought about adding a PCI FireWire/USB card, but they don't "officially" support the iPod, and I didn't feel like playing around to try to make it work.

It looked like what I needed was a machine of about the same speed with built in USB and FireWire, as well as a better video card. Everything seemed to point to a blue & white G3.

blue and white g3I managed to do a trade for a 350 MHz blue G3 tower with a Zip drive as well as a SCSI card installed. I had already upgraded the RAM in the beige G3 with a 256 MB module and the hard drive with a 40 GB Maxtor, so I moved both over to the blue G3 and started it up.

It hung on the startup screen, so I reseated the RAM. This time it hung just before the login screen. I left it for few minutes, and when I came back into the room the screen had shown up. I logged in, and everything seemed normal. I opened some applications, and then it hung again - for about 30 seconds or so.

I restarted, and it gave me a system error. Restarted again, logged in, and the second partition didn't show up on the desktop. After the next restart half my files were gone or had names like &@x~y3."

I knew the hard drive didn't have corruption problems on the beige G3, but I moved it back and booted that machine just to be sure. It worked fine. I opened the b&w G3 again and looked at how the drives were set up inside. Like the beige G3, the blue G3 has two hard drive controllers, one for up to two hard drives and the second for the CD-ROM and Zip drive.

"Why do I really need a Zip drive?" I thought, remembering that I had used the one in my beige G3 only once. I disconnected that, and, using a spare hard drive bracket, set up the hard drive in the space above the CD-ROM drive (Apple suggests not using the Zip drive bay for hard drives). I set the hard drive to master and the CD-ROM to slave and then connected everything up using a longer IDE cable from an old PC.

It booted and ran perfectly.

The Rev. 1 Problem

Of course, I was curious as to why my hard drive had given me problems with the other controller, so once I got the machine up and running, I went online to find out. Apparently, revision 1 b&w G3s have a hard drive corruption problem if you use certain drives with the built in controller. I guess my 40 GB Maxtor was one of those drives.

This reminded me of the problem I was having with my dad's 400 MHz b&w G3, where half the time the newly installed 80 GB drive wouldn't be recognized, data would disappear from it, or it would ask to be reformatted. I'll bet his is a revision 1 and the drive would work just fine if he connected it to the other controller.

In terms of performance, the blue G3 is definitely faster. Even QuickTime movies, which seemed to play fine on the beige G3, play more smoothly on the blue G3. I'm now able to use a standard VGA monitor without an adapter, and the video card supports high resolutions - so I chose to use the 19" CTX monitor from my PC. Startup time is about the same, but general responsiveness is quicker.

I don't plan on running OS X on it just yet - maybe at some point in the future, as it's nice to know that 10.3 is supported on this machine. Right now I've got everything just the way I like it in OS 9, so I think I'll keep it that way for now. After all, it's what about half of all Mac users are still using.

Good-bye to a Good Friend

Also, I'd like to mention my friend Matthew Hunt, who died last Wednesday at 18 years of age. He was a Mac user, a Web designer, a photography enthusiast, and just generally an awesome person to be friends with. I'll miss him greatly. Check out his site, The Lost Asylum: Fairfield Hills State Hospital, an unfinished documentary on the Fairfield Hills mental hospital in Newtown, CT. His girlfriend, Sable, and I plan to finish it in his memory.

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