1998 – DH writes: I need some help in convincing my firm to provide me with a new G3 rather than provide me with more memory. If you could help me develop an answer, I would greatly appreciate it.
I have a Power Mac 6100 with 24 MB of memory. It says I have only 14 MB available on the hard drive. The largest unused block on my computer is 8,189 KB. I use my computer for 95% of my work, and I work with several different programs at the same time.
If I open the Internet, I must shut down all my programs, even Stickies, before the browser will open. I think am also hooked up to the mainframe with a program called AT Access.
I want to get a new computer, because mine keeps crashing. I use FileMaker Pro, ClarisWorks, and a variety of other programs constantly. The person who approves whether I get anything or not has said that I have 40 MB of memory now. He said he could put two 32 MB SIMMs into my machine and increase memory to 72 MB. However, I don’t believe this will resolve my dilemma, and I can’t provide justification in technical terms.
Mac Daniel writes: Unless you’re using Netscape 2, your browser probably wants about 10 MB all to itself – and more if you have a lot of plugins. Where I work, our typical System 7.5.5 installation on a 6100 uses roughly 7.5 MB of memory (up to 600 KB of that is used for video). I’ll assume yours is similar to that.
Thus, between the system and browser, you’ve used about 18 MB of the 24 MB installed in your 6100. And, as I noted, plugins can easily boost that to the point where you may not have enough free memory to print.
Three things have a positive impact on productivity: a faster computer, enough memory to run all your applications without constantly quitting and relaunching, and a large monitor that can let you work on documents side-by-side, which is much more efficient than using overlapping windows.
The 6100 only supports screen resolutions to 832 x 624, which isn’t enough to do much for increasing productivity. It is better than 640 x 480, but it is not a big improvement, especially since a good deal of the screen will be redrawn when you switch applications.
More memory will let you run FileMaker, ClarisWorks, AT Access, your browser, and more programs all at the same time. The efficiency you gain by jumping to 40 MB or 72 MB of RAM comes from no longer needing to quit and relaunch applications. Again, it’ll be better than what you have now, but it won’t make a really big difference unless you’re constantly quitting everything to use the browser, then relaunching all your applications.
You could gain program workspace by using Virtual Memory, but that would make your computer slower. It is not a good long term solution – and not even a possibility if your hard drive only has 14 MB of free space.
A faster computer will provide faster redraws when you switch applications. It will do faster searches and sorts in FileMaker. And most of the newer Macs will also support larger screens than the 6100.
At an absolute minimum, you need a computer with 32 MB of memory. I’d suggest twice that if you can get it.
All of the applications you’ve mentioned are decent performers on a 6100. You can see a real boost in performance by installing a 1 MB Level 2 cache in the 6100 (that’s because a 1 MB cache is large enough to buffer the entire display). Cost is around US$100 for about a 50% gain in performance.
Still, the 6100 is hampered by a 30 MHz or 33 MHz motherboard and RAM-based video. You would see a significant improvement (at least 3x faster) by moving to a 604-based Power Mac – and a lot more than that by going G3. In addition to CPU speed, you’ll have faster video, faster and larger hard drives, and the ability to upgrade the CPU in the future.
If you can’t get that, push for 64 MB additional memory, a larger hard drive (drives in the 1 GB range are often available for about US$100), a 1 MB level 2 cache or a G3 accelerator, and Mac OS 8.5.1 for the 6100 (the newer OS has a lot more PowerPC native code, greatly improved Open Transport drivers, and other features that will improve productivity). It won’t be the same as a real Power Mac G3, but for a total investment of roughly US$800, you’ll have about 6x your current CPU speed, much perkier video (thanks to the L2 cache), a more responsive network/Internet connection, and lots of drive space.
Of course, you’re approaching the price of the few remaining Power Mac G3/233 machines still on the market. These would give you everything you need for roughly US$1,200 – and have upgrade options for the coming years, something an accelerated 6100 can’t offer.
In terms of investing for the future, the Power Mac G3 is a much better value than doing all the upgrades your 6100 needs.
KAP writes: After reading this column, I cannot help but mention that to keep using the Power Mac 6100, the user’s greatest need is replacing the hard drive. The drive that shipped with the 6100 is not only small, but very slow. Simply upgrading to a larger hard drive will not only improve the performance, but will also permit a clean system install and, hopefully, a fresh install of the user’s software.
The minimal free hard drive space is the probable cause of a lot of crashes. Ideally, you should not fill your hard drive over 80% of the drive.
Still, replacing the 6100 with a G3 is a no-brainer. Not only do you obtain the latest technology and large hard drive, but you insure yourself of one of the fastest systems available and future upgradability, especially with the Mac OS and various software packages.
MG writes: Hi. I’m writing to offer a correction to your column, in which you suggested that a Power Mac 6100 would benefit from a G3 processor and a 1 MB L2 cache card. I believe that you are mistaken. The G3 card will have its own backside cache, which will trump the L2 cache on the 6100 motherboard.
In fact, removal of L2 cache cards is recommended by many of the G3 upgrade manufacturers.
I enjoy your column and think that it provides a valuable service. Just wanted to help out.
- Mac Daniel writes: Oops. It should have said 1 MB cache or G3 accelerator. And, ideally, a G3 with a 1 MB backside cache. Thanks for pointing out my error.
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