The Low End Mac Mailbag

Tiger on G3s, Leopard Won't Run on a Blue and White G3, iMac Video Devolution, and More

Dan Knight - 2007.09.17

Tiger Runs Well on a Blue & White G3

From Bill:

Oh Dan,

No, no no.

Ronald Lanham says not to Tigerize a 350 B&W G3. I believe this is very bad advice. Up here at the senior center, where nobody ever donates the latest and greatest, we received one of those baddy first generation 350 B&W G3s.

After the disappointment of discovering its chipset had the bad numbers, we said what the 'ell and put it to work anyway. We created our master Tiger software load on an external drive mounted to a Mac mini. We've also done this using an iMac G5. Then we clone this master over and over again sticking one in any variety of Mac with a G in its name or on its motherboard. We call them G-whiz Macs.

We installed one of our cloned drives into the 350 B&W G3. Works fine. Always has. Ours has 448 MB of RAM, if that matters. We use this this one and only 350 B&W intensely as our bench hack. We now clone most of our drives from it, test parts, try new softwares, try different software configurations, summons on-line tech support, trial new gadgets (currently both the USB and PCI wireless devices from Edimax reported on Low End Mac are being trialed), even do a little one on one teaching with it.

All of this is bad risky stuff. And our stock v1 350 B&W is working just fine running Tiger. I suspect Ron and others reporting problems have some other problem than Tiger or the B&W itself.

Bill

Bill,

Clever setup. It's a real plus if you can set up the OS X drive in another computer, in which case I've heard of amazing success. We're primarily addressing people who are setting up an older Mac and may not have an OS X Mac up and running that they can use. For those who can do what you're doing, which avoids a lot of install problems, it's a great solution.

Dan

Leopard Would Never Be a Good Choice for G3 Macs

From Andrew Main:

Dan,

So far as I'm concerned, 10.5 will change nothing for G3 Macs I work on, as I ordinarily install 10.3.9 on them. While it's true that most G3s can run 10.4, I've found the latter to strain their capabilities somewhat; rather than push computers to their limit by installing the very latest software they can run, I prefer to use software they can run comfortably and thereby optimize performance. This has always been my policy, in the classic Mac days as well (for instance, I'd leave a Mac Plus or SE at System 6, even though they can run 7 if maxed and pushed).

Similarly, though I know (most) G4 Macs will be able to run 10.5, I'll probably recommend staying with 10.4 on those models for best performance. (I suppose it's just coincidence that the numbers match: 10.3 for G3, 10.4 for G4; I've found that even < 500 MHz G4s seem to be happy with 10.4, while even 900 MHz G3s feel like they're straining a little to keep up with its demands.)

I'll probably put 10.5 on my 2 GHz MacBook Pro, but I'll be watching carefully to see how it performs, as Apple's software seems to be getting more bloated and power-hungry all the time. The Intel Macs are the first models that seem to run OS X comfortably, though even they still don't approach the snappy performance of my 500 MHz G3 'Pismo' PowerBook with OS 9.

Andrew Main

Andrew,

Thanks so much for writing and sharing your common sense approach to matching hardware and operating system. I've done the same balancing act myself, such as trying the System 7 beta (under NDA) on my Mac Plus, only to decide after a few days that it was too slow. Of course, once I got the Plus accelerated to 16 MHz, System 7 was just fine.

For me, OS X was sluggish until I got my current desktop, a dual 1 GHz G4 Power Mac. With lots of RAM and a big, fast hard drive, the operating system just flies most of the time - and I often have 15-20 apps open at once, including Classic Mode. I'm sure that's part of the reason the Intel transition has been so successful; a second core means nothing really bogs down the whole computer.

Even then, it doesn't compare to the snap of the Classic Mac OS.

I have to agree that in general, G3 Macs run best with OS X 10.3, G4s with 10.4. We'll know a lot more about 10.5 come October or November.

Dan

G3 Macs in the Age of Leopard

From Dave Maloney:

Dan and Co.

Hola, I have been a Low End Mac fan for years, but the G3 in the Age of Leopard Series have been among the best things Low End Mac have ever done. One of the great things about Macs is their longevity, and telling folks how to get the most out of old hardware is in many ways a great public service.

I am the proud owner of a 200 dollar iBook G3 600 MHz. I picked it up from the surplus sales department of my undergraduate alma mater, Northern Arizona University. It came with AirPort and 640 MB of RAM, so I haven't had to do a darn thing to it. It's a great little road warrior, running 10.4.10 at the moment. I honestly was shocked at how well it runs the very latest Mac OS update. I had no intention of updating the OS beyond 10.4.5, but an iTunes update forced me to do so. I've noticed a substantial speed increase over 10.4.5: windows snap open, Flash animations actually play rather than jerk across the screen. I am a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine by day, Mac user since 1987, and mostly use my iBook to stream internet radio while in surgery. It works a charm.

Thanks for keeping the low end such an important part of the Mac web scene. I honestly think most things people use computers for (other than video editing) can be accomplished just as well on older Mac hardware. I will stick to Tiger for the iBook after reading the articles, but encourage your G3 readers not to be too shy of Tiger. Max out your RAM, turn off Spotlight, and get rid of Dashboard, and its as snappy as Panther.

Dr. Dave Maloney, DVM

Dave,

Thanks for writing. I've run Tiger on G3s - a 366 MHz clashell iBook and a couple of 400-500 MHz iMacs - and have to say that performance is okay. Like you, I turn of Dashboard. I don't understand the fascination with Widgets. Regular searches suit me just fine, so I don't use Spotlight except on my production Mac and MacBook Pro. Once it's indexed, it's not such a performance hit, but still, I don't generally need it.

I really enjoyed writing the series and hope to turn my attention to G4 Macs in coming days. There it's not so much a question of can they run Leopard but can the run it well.

Thanks again for your kind words.

Dan

Has Apple Gone Insane?

From Joseph Burke:

OK, so we know all about the fact that Apple is planning to dump support for the G3 in Leopard, but now I find out they are also planning to drop support for all G4's slower than 867mhz. Are they out of their minds? Read the Wiki entry here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mac_OS_X_v10.5

This cuts out a lot more Mac owners than previously envisioned. I don't see how Apple expects to sell enough copies of Leopard when they are cutting so many potential buyers out of the loop. I certainly hope someone comes up with a way to bypass the installer when it goes to check for CPU speed.

Joseph,

First, remember that Wikipedia is not authoritative, and when you're dealing with something like hardware requirements for an unreleased operating system where even the developer hasn't give any public information, you have to take things with several grains of salt.

What you're looking at are system requirements for the Developer Edition, a beta of the forthcoming Mac OS X 10.5. That's been a moving target, with earlier versions saying 256 MB of RAM for PowerPC Macs and 800 MHz G4 or faster. Bear in mind that betas and Developer Editions often have additional code for error checking and reporting that won't be in the final release.

Things like CPU speed are especially arbitrary. What one user finds excruciatingly slow another might find adequately fast. If Apple draws the line at 800 MHz or 867 MHz for the release version of Leopard, which I hope they won't do, it may still be possible to run it on older, slower G4 Macs.

Dan

Leopard Runs on Some Older Macs

From SS:

Hi Dan,

This weekend I had the opportunity to play with a Developer's Edition of Leopard (I forget which build). The installer would not run on my stock G4 Cube, stating that the machine did not make minimum spec. An 867 MHz G4 is required.

I took a drive and hooked it to my wife's G5 iMac in a miniStack to try the installer. It took about 30 min to install without any extras (printer drivers, languages, etc). After installation, I hooked to my Cube, and the external booted no problem.

Finder response was okay. iTunes' new visualizers brought my Geforce to it's knees. I suspect that it's all related to Core Image. When I checked the profiler, all the CE stuff was rendered in software, though Quartz is still supported.

Appletalk still works, and the Cube found my Laserwriter and bridge without any problems.

The activity monitor shows high cpu use when Safari, iTunes, Azureus, and the Finder are all doing their thing. There's no real lag, though.

As a final test, I tried the HD as an internal in my upgraded Blue and White (G4 450MHz ZIF with 800+ megs of RAM). I got the white boot screen for a while, and then the circle and a slash symbol. No booting of Leopard on my B&W.

Just figured you'd like some information on this in light of the recent articles.

SS

S,

Thanks for sharing your findings. It's wonderful to know that Leopard (at least the current Developer Edition) can run on a Cube - and very likely other Macs built with a G4 CPU as well.

Dan

Leopard and G3 Macs

From a reader who wishes to remain anonymous.

Dear Mr. Knight,

I think you are jumping the gun as far as Leopard's lack of support of G3 Macs. In fact Apple has made no announcement regarding the minimum system specs. What is operational under Developer release is strictly nondisclosure, and Apple may offer optimizations at the last second that could include the G3 Mac. I think your article today on Low End Mac is jumping the gun. Unless you have an official Apple link stating otherwise, don't assume G3 Mac support is gone.

Anonymous,

Apple hasn't made made any public claims about hardware requirements for OS X. However, it's widely reported that the developer preview requires a G4, G5, or Intel CPU as well as a DVD drive, built-in FireWire, 256 MB of RAM (512 MB for Intel), and at least 6 GB of available disk space. Others are reporting that the CPU must be 800 MHz or faster.

Many are reporting that the new Finder is so dependent on Core Image support that it can't run without AltiVec, which rules out G3s.

Now system requirements are a bit flexible. Just because Apple says 800 MHz doesn't mean it won't work on a 733 MHz Power Mac G4 or a dual 533. It could even run on a 350 MHz G4, although I suspect it would seem very sluggish.

Much as I would love to see Leopard running on G3 Macs, the consensus is that it's not going to be supported - and it may not even be possible using hacked installers, as many have done with earlier versions of OS X using XPostFacto.

We're proceeding on the assumption that Leopard will not be directly installable on any G3 Mac that doesn't have a G4 upgrade, which very few accept. It may well be that Leopard cannot run on a G3 Mac, which would be a shame but is a very real possibility.

We're advising our readers to be prepared for a future where G3 Macs may not be able to run the current version of the Mac OS - and also that for many older Macs, even the current Tiger OS is pushing things.

Dan

iMac Video Devolution

From Bob Forsberg:

Dan

Thought you might want to know about this from Hard Mac

Friday September 14, 2007

- New iMac 24": Disappointing LCD Panel and GPU? - Eric - 19:34:20 - Comments

One of our readers, Joe B., sent us his comments after comparing the previous iMac 24" Nvidia GF and the new iMac 24" Alu:

We just compared these side-by-side:

  1. The new iMac is significantly LESS bright at maximum setting than the older model, contrary to what I have seen written on the Web.
  2. The ATI GPU in the new iMac is about 1/2 to 1/3 as fast as the Nvidia GPU in the old iMac for volume rendering (tested with a 3D data set in OsiriX).
  3. The glare from the new screen is a distraction for professionals in the medical and graphics industries. I sure looks handsome, though, and will likely attract PC converts.
  4. The 2.8 GHz processor speeds routine computing tasks by about 20%, as expected. We like this, but it does not make up for the shortcomings.
  5. Overall, I am quite disappointed in the new iMac for my intended use - medical imaging.

We decided to publish this news as it illustrates how the success of the iMac among Pro users can be a problem with Apple when Cupertino decides to use low-end components (such as LCD panel) in its customer-oriented hardware. Here, iMacs are being used in a Pro environment (medical imaging, MRI) including defined procedures, and not simply evaluated based the glare of the flashy display or he aluminum design. This information associated with the previous report about the low quality 20" LCD panel in the new iMac 20" make us suspecting that Apple is either having problems with some series or supply for components, or simply forgot that before being a nice device to watch, a computer is primary a working tool for most users.

We will keep following the story as it is still unknown if the new ATI drivers included in today's Mac Software Update 1.1 could significantly improve 3D rendering and GPU performance.

Bob,

Thanks for sharing that. We're not gamers here, so we haven't paid a lot of attention to GPUs found in modern Macs (except to note that the Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics are substandard for gaming). A quick visit to Bare Feats shows that the older 2.33 GHz 24" iMac outperforms the new top-end 2.8 GHz iMac in 3D gaming tests, with frame rates ranging from about 10% to nearly 150% higher. Even more interesting, the older Radeon X1600 beat the newer X2400 on most 3D gaming benchmarks.

It's sad to see Apple taking backward steps when it comes to graphics performance when its Intel-based Macs had the potential to take on the Windows world, especially considering how Macs are widely perceived as more expensive.

Fortunately the Mac has a whole lot more going for it that hardware performance. I guess most of us (hard core gamers excepted) would rather have the Mac experience than the highest benchmark scores.

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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