The Low End Mac Mailbag

Preparing a Beige G3 for SimCity 4, DVD Screen Shots in OS X, Road Apples, and More

Dan Knight - 2003.05.22 - Tip Jar

More on Mac OS X, SCSI, and the Beige G3

Continuing our discussion in Mac OS X, SCSI, and the Beige G3, Dan Yarberry writes:

Thanks for your reply. Further re this subject, I just received the June issue of Macworld today. The feedback column has a letter from a Jay Curtis, who has a couple of interesting things to say about using OS X on his Beige G3 MT. His experience is positive, but his letter is contradicting a previous letter from someone else describing "serious problems."

Curtis says, "The problems of using OS X with SCSI drives on beige systems have been well documented online - although Apple issued firmware patches to fix Jaguar's incompatibility with SCSI, most knowledgeable beige upgraders will avoid the temptation to improve storage by adding a drive to the SCSI bus." I recall the Apple admonition to check for firmware updates before installing OS X; as best I remember I didn't have to perform one.

Maybe your mention of SCSI problems is well founded after all. Maybe it's motherboard revision-dependent; maybe because I have one of the last beige models released that I have seen no problems.

However, also interesting to me is that Curtis further says, "...Jaguar does not recognize the RS232 serial ports . . . There really are no other options [besides USB and FireWire] for people who want to use external dialup modems, standalone printers, external CD-RW drives, scanners, and Jaguar." In addition to the peripherals I noted previously, I have a Global Village external 56K modem connected to the modem port and functioning happily under OS X.

By the way, I do not have the system configured to start up Classic at bootup, so there isn't any chance of some sort of hidden Classic-resident mechanism going on, if that were possible. Unless RS232 support disappeared in one of the Jaguar updates (I haven't installed any updates since the initial 10.2 release), looks like another odd user experience discrepancy.

Go figure.

Back in the early days of OS X, support for third-party SCSI PCI cards - including some Apple had included as build-to-order options - was pretty much nonexistent. Things have improved since then, and today SCSI is very well supported by OS X.

Apple's serial ports have always been RS422, not RS232, but 422 is a superset of 232, so pretty much any RS232 device can connect to the Mac. (RS422 is what allowed Apple to use their serial ports for LocalTalk networking.) Jaguar may not support the serial ports - it doesn't support the floppy drive - but third party drivers may be all it takes to let your GV modem work with your beige G3 and OS X.

As for Classic, it does its input and output through OS X, so even if it were running, it would have to use X resources to talk to your modem.

SurfDoubler and OS X

Alvin wonders:

Thanks for your time. I'd like to ask if Classic in Jaguar is perfectly compatible with the OS 9 only apps I have, like SurfDoubler (DSL client app), and if I run SurfDoubler under Classic just to connect to the Internet then came back to Jaguar, will I still be connected to DSL and still share (with one PC only)? Will SurfDoubler run in the background while I use Jaguar apps like Safari?

Should we wait for Panther for those who haven't switched?

If you have Jaguar, you don't need SurfDoubler. Internet sharing is a standard feature of the OS. All you have to do is establish an Internet connection (via phone modem, DSL, cable modem, AirPort, whatever) and then select the Sharing icon in System Preferences. Click the Internet tab and then turn on Internet Sharing. Voilà, you can share your connection with any computer (Macs, Windows PCs, Linux - whatever) on your network.

See Internet Sharing a Breeze in OS X for more on this topic.

SimCity 4 Questions

I've been reading the Low End Mac site on & off during the past years, but I've been reading as much as I can in the past days coz' I want to upgrade. I hope you'll indulge me. The reason: Sim City 4. :-)

The specs for that game are:

  1. Mac OS X, version 10.2 or later
  2. Power Mac G3/G4
  3. 500 MHz or faster
  4. 256 MB RAM
  5. 1 GB of free hard disk space available
  6. Hardware 3D acceleration required: ATI Radeon or Nvidia GeForce card (32 MB VRAM or better)

[A] I love OS X. (using all the latest versions). I only need to convert 1 more classic app to be free of OS 9.

[B+C] I've a Beige G3/333 Stock with a Rev. 3: $77D.45F2 ROM and a CD-ROM that is set to master, as I'm able to install & boot OS X from it.

I'm planning to upgrade via Sonnet Encore/ZIF: (1) 1 GHz, 1 MB, 250 MHz, $600 or (2) 500 MHz, 1 MB, 250 MHz, $300.

LEM's past articles states, "When buying a G4 upgrade for the beige G3, make sure it is compatible with this model's 66 MHz bus. Pulled G4s from Apple's 'Yikes!' G4 and some OEM G4s are specifically designed for a 100 MHz bus and will not work properly in the beige G3" and "The present IDE Controller is 16.6 MB/sec. That said, because it is a decent performer in OS X and can be improved with a fast hard drive, if you want to really unleash their performance, consider a faster IDE/UltraATA controller that fits in one of the G3's PCI slots." and "Some PCI IDE controllers, such as the Acard Ahard and Sonnet Tempo, not only support faster protocols (ATA66 and ATA133) but also allow booting OS X from large drives without the need to partition them."

Q: Am I looking correctly at the "ACARD ATA-133 --- AEC-6280M PCI Ultra ATA-133 IDE Adapter for PowerMac (OWC $75): True Mac OS X support OS X, OS 9 all on same firmware Designed for G4, G3, 9x00, 8x00 and 7x00\ Supports Ultra 133/100/66/33 hard drives and ATAPI CD-writer" ?

Q: Would I need to consider the bus speed to 100/133 MHz if I've an external FW-USB enclosure Maxtor 80 GB IDE-HDD that I might want to convert later internally to either a master or slave drive?

Which leads to ...

D. I've the 128 MB/66 MHz stock, a 64 MB/100 MHz, and a 256 MB/133 MHz RAM. The 2 companies I bought from recommended & supplied accordingly. I could add another stick if needed.

F. Lastly, LEM's past articles recommends "Go for the best PCI video card available, the Radeon 7000".

Q: Would I be able to use the ATI Radeon 8500 if I upgrade my previous 2 Q's (I couldn't find the answer on the site)?

Please forgive my quoting LEM's past articles and appeared understanding (if I got it correct) as my Q's would be major upgrades that I normally don't do. I've read your article on CoreBox, besides looking at eBay. Somehow, somewhere, I must have gotten information overload, and I'm a little bit unclear now. I did reread, still not sure. :-/

I would appreciate any help you might offer. :-)

I still love playing SimCity 2000, and I spent a lot of time on the original Mac SimCity (b&w on my Plus and color on Centris 610) before that. It's a great family of games.

As far as I can tell, there is no reason that you would have to be OS 9 free to run SimCity 4 or any other OS X program. As long as you're running Jaguar and have adequate hardware, SC4 should work.

Sonnet upgrades have a great reputation, and the 1 MB level 2 cache will help you get the most out of the faster processor, and these are designed to work with the beige G3.

Unless you need to run a drive larger than 128 MB, there's not much reason to invest in an ATA133 card. Most of today's hard drives can't saturate a 66 MB/sec. bus, and the ATA66 version of the Acard Ahard sells for about $20 less. It's the card we use in our beige G3, and it works very nicely under both OS 9 and X.

It looks like you've got plenty of memory, but to get the most out of OS X, it wouldn't hurt to replace the 64 MB DIMM with a 256 MB one.

Whether the Radeon 7000 is the best PCI video card for the Mac is a matter of value. The Radeon Mac Edition is a better card, but it sells for about twice as much. Considering the difference in price, the Radeon 7000 is probably the better value. According to benchmarks on Bare Feats, the "Radeon PCI" is about 50% faster. Whether it's work the price is your call.

The Radeon 8500 simply isn't an option for you. You can't use any AGP video card in a computer without an AGP slot.

Best Use for Road Apple x200s in School

Stephen writes:

Hi there, I need a few ideas.

I'm an IT tech for a large school in the UK. Once upon a time we had a 26 Performa 5260s in one computer room, and that was it. It was 1996 and our flagship room. As it is a school, we ran At Ease for Workgroups.

Now we have a Citrix Metaframe system, which lets every computer run a Windows 2000 session at the click of an icon. Now, with 200+ computers available, as you would expect, everyone uses Windows. I have just upgraded the Mac room to run Macintosh Manager (with the server, a recently donated 9600/350 with 256 MB, running ASIP 6.3) and the only application the kids use is Citrix.

I know that the Performas are horribly slow, but they are being wasted just being Citrix clients, and the server is only servicing "guest" logons. We have 26 5260/100s and 10 6200s with 24-40 MB RAM and OS 8.1, with about four 5500s with 32 MB and OS 8.6, and a 9500/233.

Even though I am just a tech, I would like to keep a Mac presence in the school.

How can these machines be used more effectively? Any ideas? A perfect question for LEM!

(To be honest, I am an ex-student of the school, and they asked to employ me when I finished my exams. I have only been messing with Macs for about a year, but I now administer and maintain all Macs at the school, and own an iMac DVSE and have an iBook from work. I think that makes a switcher!)

Hope you can help!

The x200 series, including the Performa 5260, earned the Road Apple label for a truly bizarre hardware architecture that is at its absolute worst when connected to other computers, either via a modem or ethernet. I have a 5200 at home, and it's a very decent freestanding computer. But do any work over the network, and the poor thing shows its inadequacies.

One of the reasons I was glad to leave my IS job is that the head of marketing had convinced management that switching to Windows was the only way they could function in the real world, despite the simple fact that the company had done very nicely with Macs since the late 1980s. Today that company has a Citrix setup. Not only is using a central application server slow and inefficient, but it turns the entire paradigm of personal computing on its head.

The personal computer liberated users from centralized IT control; Citrix brings it back. I don't get it. Far better, in my opinion, to have each user working on their own computer than to subject everyone in the company to one or more central computers that are accessed over a network - and subject to Windows viruses on top of it.

I'd recommend you start with ClarisWorks, which was always bundled with the Performas. It's a great integrated program that nicely matches the capabilities of these older Macs. And it's much less bloated than Microsoft Office, which is probably being used on the Citrix server.

An additional benefit is that if these users don't need to connect to the Citrix server, they aren't bogging down the resources shared among 200+ users.

Flashing a PC Radeon

After reading Flashing a Radeon 7000 AGP, Jacob M. Roufa writes:

I have the necessary tools for doing this tricky job. I have never flashed a Radeon card, however, I have flashed a Rage 128 and Voodoo5, neither of which work properly. I have yet to reflash the Voodoo5 from my PC, the first tool I used was for OS 9.

If I am successful in my Voodoo escapades, I will most certainly write in - as Charles Moore said in today's Miscellaneous Ramblings, "Interesting. I'm always glad to hear of thing that work even when they're not supposed to. ;-)".

If any of your readers are interested in learning about this unsupported, warranty-voiding activity, I must first warn them that it is potentially hazardous to the card and must not be taken lightly. There is always a chance that it will not work. And secondly, email me at jacobroufa@insightbb.com for details and tools. I will be happy to send out any information and/or utilities I have.

I wish all readers and responses the best of luck. I hope to hear from someone in the near future, as I am always interested in learning more or hearing of successful experiences (more than mine anyway).

Screen Captures from DVDs

Scott writes:

I have another (maybe better, it's free, for one thing) DVD screen cap thing for you:

http://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html

I actually tried this one on my Pismo, and it worked really well. I then loaded the caps into Photoshop and turned them into desktop pics for use in OS 9.

This utility only works in X, as it is Unix-based.

Thanks for the great site!

Screen Captures from DVD

And Michael Samarin writes:

Concerning "Screen Captures from DVD" article... There is great DVD/VCD multiplatform open source player:

http://www.videolan.org/vlc/

I have been using it's Mac OS X version for over year now. You can make still images from DVD in full-screen mode just by pressing standard shift-apple-3. It has also very nice de-interlace filters that improve picture quality from pure encoded DVDs. And of course ability to play VCDs under Mac OS X is very welcome feature. Well, at least for me.

As the above screen capture from The Matrix demonstrates, VLC does work. I'll have to experiment with the different settings. Thanks for the tip!

Beige G3 (Rev. A) No Road Apple

Joel Woznicki writes:

Let me start out by saying how much I appreciate your site. The information LEM provides has been invaluable.

That being said, I strongly disagree with you when you give the Revision A beige g3 road apple status. To put this machine in the same league as the 5260 just because it won't boot from a slave drive is too extreme. If this is the only drawback to the revision A ROM, it is a minor inconvenience at the worst.

Please don't publish my email address and thanks again for a great site.

We never publish email addresses here unless the author wants us to.

As for the Road Apple label, those range in level from not really bad (•) to compromised (••) to fairly compromised (•••) to avoid at all costs (••••). So far only the x200 models have earned the worst rating.

The beige G3 is in good company. Many otherwise excellent Macs that have one or two serious drawbacks have earned the "not really bad" rating, including the Power Mac 7200, PowerBook 150 and 1400, Cube, and Power Mac G4 (Yikes!).

In general, we consider the beige G3 a best buy despite extremely outdated video and a slow IDE bus, especially with prices sometimes well below US$200. However, we feel that anyone buying a beige G3 should be aware of the Rev. A limitations and choose to buy or avoid that model with their eyes wide open.

As we stress time and again, Road Apples aren't necessarily bad computers. They are mostly machines that shouldn't have been so limited based on the technology of the day.

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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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