The Low End Mac Mailbag

Leopard on a Cube, G4 CPU Swap Limitations, Power Mac G5 a Good Choice?, and More

Dan Knight - 2008.03.06 - Tip Jar

Upgrading Sawtooth and Leopard on a Cube

From Chris Kilner

Dan:

Please let Steve Gier [see Upgrading a G4/500 Sawtooth] know that the Sawtooth can really only accept processors from other 100 MHz bus G4s (another AGP or Gigabit Ethernet) or from third party upgrades. The 133 MHz bus processors from Digital Audio and Quicksilver Macs will run slower (on the 100 MHz bus), will need their original heatsink and block the motherboard IDE connector due to the different footprint, will not have access to the processor cache, and require a 12V lead to one of the mounting posts in order to use them in a Sawtooth in other words - it requires quite a bit of hacking!

As for Melany putting Leopard on a Cube [see Leopard on a G4 Cube?], it should install fine without any hacks as long as the processor speed is recognized by the Leopard installer disk (make sure all firmware upgrades are done first), and your advice on the video card was pretty much spot on &endash; I really like my fanned 6200 (and put up with the long startup delay in order to use the GPU temperature sensor). While Leopard ran okay with a 32 MB Nvidia GeForce 2 MX, the increased strain on the GPU from Leopard's graphics seemed to heat the GPU up too much for its passive heatsink. If she elects to go with a Radeon 7500 or GeForce 2 MX, she should probably look into adding a fanned heatsink to the card (which narrows the price difference to more powerful cards). Radeon 9200s (a few of which will fit in Cubes) are supposed to run cool enough with a passive heat sink, but for a few more dollars, the 6200's are much better deals, and many Cube owners report running passively-cooled 6200s just fine (tell Melany about www.cubeowner.com).

Chris Kilner

Chris,

Thanks for the info. I've forwarded it to Steve and Melany.

Dan

Restrictions in Swapping Power Mac G4 CPUs

From Tom Tubman :

Hi Dan,

Just a comment about replacing processors in G4 AGP Macs. There are significant limitations to installing Apple processors from different generation AGP G4s, especially if they have different bus speeds. The processor interoperability falls into 4 (usually) non-overlapping groups: - Tip Jar

I may be wrong about the dual 867 processor not being interoperable with the rest of the MDD motherboards, but I haven't tested that one yet. I've switched processors from all the other G4 categories around (paying attention to the Uni-7 limitation of the early Sawtooths, which you mentioned) with no problems, and things work fine.

You can electrically modify G4 DA and G4 QS processor daughtercards to run in the 100 MHz bus Sawtooths, but I've never done this as it hasn't been worth the trouble yet. Yet...

The 3rd party processor companies have circuitry in them to adapt to the differences in Mboards between the (non-MDD) AGP G4s so these don't have the above installation restrictions, but the Apple processors have these limitations.

- Tom

Tom,

Thanks for writing. I've only had two G4 Power Macs (a dual 450 MHz Mystic and my workhorse, a dual 1 GHz MDD). I know that most third-party CPUs are designed to work on both 100 MHz and 133 MHz bus systems, and only a couple (both from Sonnet) work with the 167 MHz bus Mirror Drive Door Power Macs (all 1.25 GHz and 1.42 GHz models and the non-FireWire 800 dual 1 GHz).

We'll be sure to note these issues in our G4 profiles. Thanks again for the info!

Dan

Expansion Slots and Low Cost Macs

From Robert Blanton in response to Expansion Slots and Low End Macs:

Well you are right about one thing, Apple has been on an upward trend since 2001. In sales.

I don't see how you can say that you "made no claim that the IIci was a low-end computer".

It is true that you did not use those exact words, but the gist of your response to Trevor Howard was that Apple doesn't sell low-end Macs with expansion slots anymore. The gist of my letter was "So what? You never liked their low-end computers anyway, so why should Apple try to sell them now?"

Yes, Apple used to sell cheaper Macs with expandability, but you didn't wax poetic about those low-end computers, only the top-end computers rated a mention. You didn't talk about the fun you used to have trying to get you new video card to work in your old LC (a Low End Mac Road Apple), but you did sing the praises of the IIci, a very definite Top End Mac, the Mac Pro of its day. If Apple tried to sell the computer you have been asking for, they would get whacked with the same whiny stick people have hit them with over the MacBook Air. " Only two expansion slots??? What are they thinking???" "How do they expect me to survive with only two hard drives?!?!?!" "It's not fast enough, it only has room for one optical drive?? Oh the humanity!" "Crippled, Crippled Crippled!!!" Maybe Apple is right to stay away from that market after all.

One more thing . . . you mention at the end of your reply to Mr. Howard that you almost always buy used or refurbished Macs. Might I suggest a used or refurbished Mac Pro? I know it's not the computer of your dreams, but that's because you don't own one. Yet.

Thanks again, Robert

Robert,

Send me $2,000, and I'll buy a used or refurbished Mac Pro. I don't have that kind of money, and it's not the computer of my dreams for one simple reason: It doesn't have Classic Mode (and none of the Mac emulators work like Classic Mode).

Apple has had expansion slots in low-end Mac since 1987, when the SE was introduced alongside the Mac II. The entire LC series had expansion slots. Definitely low-end, even if Apple did cripple their design in some ways. The consumer Power Mac 5500 and 6500 had PCI expansion slots, and they were the low-end models of their day (1997/98).

Steve Jobs has been on the warpath in his belief that only "pro" users need expansion, whether that's the expansion slot in PowerBook and MacBook Pro notebooks or the PCI and PCI Express slots found in Power Mac and Mac Pro models. All of the new consumer models designed after the Second Coming of Steve Jobs have no expansion slots - not the iMacs, not the iBooks, not the eMacs, not the Mac minis, not the MacBooks. (For the record, no Mac released during Jobs' first era at Apple had expansion slots either.)

Funny thing is, expansion slots were the key to the Apple II's success way back in the 1970s. Need a serial port? A parallel port? A Z-80 card? A floppy controller? Plug one into one of the Apple's slots. It's something IBM made sure it copied with the original PC, and expansion slots have been standard on DOS/Windows PCs ever since.

You can buy a $200 Linux-based PC with expansion slots, but it costs over 10x as much to buy the cheapest current configuration of the Mac Pro, Apple's only desktop model with expansion slots. Apple is forcing Jobs' view that only those with $2,000 or more to spend on a computer want or need expansion slots. The company refuses to give the market the opportunity to decide whether it wants a sub-$2,000 Mac with expansion slots.

Apple has the opportunity to grow even faster and make more money by offering an affordable desktop Mac with expansion slots and drive bays, but the company is wed to one man's vision of the market. It's made Apple very profitable, but it has neglected a huge segment of the market: those who need or believe they need expansion slots and can't justify spending over $2,000 on a computer.

Give the market a midrange Mac with integrated video (to keep the price low), three drive bays (optical, 3.5" hard drive, and one for either), two expansion slots (for a better video card and who knows what - exactly the reason the Apple II had slots), and a realistic price tag and watch Apple steal even more market share from Dell and HP.

With $15 billion in the bank, Apple has little to lose and much to gain by pursuing the mass market.

Dan

Power Mac G5 a Good Choice?

From Ben Szymanski:

Dan:

I'm in need of an opinion from a much more experienced Mac enthusiast. Since I visit LEM a few times a week, I figured this would be the place to go to get an outside opinion. So here it goes:

I'm a high-school student who has a 12" iBook G4 [running at 1.07 GHz]. I'm pretty into using most of the iApps, Photoshop Elements, Corel Painter, and various other graphics applications. I've pretty much upgraded this iBook as much as I can: maxed on RAM, upgraded the HD, added AirPort Ex. Card, got a cheap external display, and used Screen-Spanning Doctor to enable clamshell mode. This thing is as loaded as I think I can possibly make it, and it's still way too slow to the point that it can be extremely frustrating to do the simplest thing. Even just highlighting text on a webpage can lag.

I'm compelled to write because I had just read your response to another person who was in a similar situation with their 1.5 GHz PowerBook G4 in the most recent LEM Mailbag. You suggested that they should look to a Mac mini, and later changed that recommendation to an Intel Core 2 Duo iMac. I should point out that I can work with the system, but it takes way more patience than I think should be normal. And don't even get me started about my HandBrake experiences... : )

Now, I should note that I only have two Dashboard widgets open at any one time [if I've actually launched Dashboard], my desktop is as tidy as can be [with nothing other than the HD icon], I usually only have iTunes and Safari running on top of whatever application I'm using, and I restart daily. I don't even use a photo as my desktop picture: I use one of the aqua blue desktops because I feel it might make my system that .001% faster. And I just did a clean install of Leopard within the last few months. I also run OnyX scripts biweekly; have removed language localizations and other excess files. I don't know what else I can really do.

But here's the main scoop: I want to get something faster [and for cheap] that can hold me over so that I can keep my sanity while waiting to buy a new Mac when I leave for college. I was thinking low-end, cheap Power Mac G5 [via the Swap List, maybe?]. But then I look at Apple's current lineup and realize that the only system that would probably be best for me [in the future] would be a Mac Pro. Now I know a lot can change in just 1.5 years, but even the most modest Mac Pro configuration has not so modest price tag, so I don't want to spend a lot now. And I'm anything but thrilled with the rest of Apple's lineup: glossy screens, integrated graphics chips, and lack of future expandability have infected all of their systems but the Mac Pro.

So, to sort of tie all of this information into something relevant and more importantly, a question: Would it actually be worth my time to try and find a cheap and slower 'interim' PowerMac G5, or should I just stick with my iBook and wait until I go to college to get a new Mac [Pro]? Being a high-school student, I'm sure you realize that funds are tight and what I do have money-wise I'd like to keep as opposed to go and spend like crazy on a Mac[s]. Even if my dream-budget G5 is missing some components, like RAM, or a hard drive, or a optical drive, that would be fine with me because I love fixing up Macs like that, and it wouldn't be too expensive to do [although I'm not up for a dead logic-board/PSU system]. This last spring I completely restored a broken and spray-painted B&W Power Mac G3 for cheap that had a flaky ATA controller - without the use of a PCI card - and it works perfectly. I'm already considering trying to sell that to get funds for a G5.

I know the PPC G5 platform probably feels more and more defunct to it's remaining users every day, as does my G4 to me, but moving up to a older Power Mac G5 would probably still feel as astounding as it did for people who moved up from a G4 to a G5 in 2003 or whenever. I've been extremely indecisive about this issue for a while, and any insights might have may help me figure out the best way to go about this matter.

Well, I think I've written enough - anymore and I wouldn't be surprised if you stopped reading this e-mail!

Thanks,
-Ben

Ben,

You're precisely the kind of user Apple is ignoring with its product line: someone who needs some expandability but can't justify $2,000+ for a Mac Pro. It's why we keep hoping that someday Apple will decide it wants to be a big player in the personal computer market and make a somewhat expandable model that fits between the Mac Pro and the Mac mini.

If you're looking for the most bang for the buck and the most expansion options, you're looking in the right place with the Power Mac G5. Used dual-processor 2.0 GHz G5s start at a bit over $1,000 right now, and it will give you plenty of room for PCI cards and hard drives. That will give you roughly 4x the processing power of your G4 iBook, room for several hard drives, support for up to 4 GB of RAM, and the possibility of going to a better graphics card. And expansion slots.

Best of all, the typical configuration (1 GB of RAM, 160 GB hard drive) is going to make you happy, so you won't need to upgrade until you feel the need.

Still, it's a shame Apple doesn't have a new computer to sell you in the same price range.

Dan

Looking for a Scanner that Works with Panther

From Patrick O'Reilly:

Greetings, I'm sorry to be a bother but I had a question that I thought you might be uniquely qualified to answer. If I recall correctly besides being knowing a fair share about Macs, you also know a fair amount about photography.

Well my problem is this. I have rare use for a scanner, and when I do I simply borrow my father's. His current setup is an old G4 450 (Sawtooth) running Panther, and I think he got his scanner around the same time he got the machine. So it's a little long in the tooth. I've been meaning to try and scan a bunch of old photos, but I have gone through this process before for the odd photo with his scanner, and it's not difficult, but it tends to be rather time consuming.

I don't really follow the world of scanner based technology news, and I wasn't sure if my dad's scanner not only had some possible connivence problems for me, but also if the resolution of today's scanners is appreciably better now too. I wasn't sure if they made a scanner that had something to help automize the process of photo scanning (in addition to a flatbed). I know there are scanner/printer combos, but that is not really a big deal for my dad. I guess a color printer would be nice, but he has a B&W laser printer, which is fine for him.

And lastly, if you do know of such a product, would it work in Panther? It's not a huge issue, as perhaps if I got him a scanner he would finally get around to getting a Mac that is a little more modern.

Thanks for your time, and keep up the good work. I first started reading Low End Mac in 1997 or 98 on my 6100 (with a G3 upgrade), and after a few years away from the Mac (it was 2001, I desperately needed a new machine, didn't really have the money for a new Mac, OS X seemed not ready yet, and I was intrigued by BeOS), I got 1.66 GHz Core Due mini as soon as they were announced. I love my mini, but the lack of a video card and the 2.5" drive are a bit annoying. But what are you going to do?

Patrick

Patrick,

Yes, I know quite a bit about Macs, and long before that, I got into photography. I think it was about 8th grade when my Dad took me to a photo show downtown sponsored by a local camera store. I was intrigued, grabbed every brochure I could lay my hands on, and learned all I could so I would make the right decision when I had the chance to get my own camera.

That was over 35 years ago, and I've been a Mac user for over 20 years now. In all that time, I've only owned one flatbed scanner, and then only because it was being sold at a close-out price of $149 including a full copy of Photoshop 4.0, if I recall correctly. I've never really used that SCSI scanner, although one of my sons did, and I'm anything but an expert on scanners.

That said, the situation is about to change here at Low End Mac headquarters. I have a Brother all-in-one laser printer, copier, and color scanner (MFC-7420) en route. I was tempted by a Canon, but my research indicated that it didn't support scanning on Macs. Anyhow, it has an optical resolution of 600 x 2400 dpi and an automatic document feeder.

I don't know if the document feeder will be suitable for snapshots, but I'll give it a try. I have hundreds (perhaps thousands) of old photos I'd like to scan and burn to CD for my sons. Since I doubt any of these will ever be printed bigger than 8x10, 600 dpi is going to be more than enough resolution to do them justice.

The only scanner I know of that's designed for photos is the Fujitsu SnapScan S510M, which retails for US$495 (Fujitsu also has a $50 mail-in rebate through the end of March). It's currently available from Amazon.com for US$405. Users rave over it, saying it has taken the agony out of scanning - and it's even compatible with Mac OS X 10.2.8.

It's not cheap, but if I could justify the cost, it would be my hands-down choice.

But I don't expect to do that much scanning. We do need a copier, which is our justification for this purchase, and I've been very happy with my Brother HL-5250DL, which has served me well for 1-1/2 years. (I prefer laser printers to inkjet, as they're not only faster but much cheaper to use in the long term.)

I'll know a lot more about scanners and scanning software soon. I do know that some programs let you scan a whole flatbed full of photos at once and save them as separate images, but I haven't researched any further than that.

Dan

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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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