What to do with an old Mac Pro 1,1?

So, the story goes like this.

I ended up with a Mac Pro 1,1 in decent condition via a university surplus sale for less than $100.

With a firmware upgrade to make it act like a 2,1, more RAM, and a slightly better eight core Xeon processor, I had intended to turn it into a 24/7 file server to be accessible remotely. The Mac Pro, even the 1,1, for all of its warts has plenty of expansion space. Would I max it out internally? Add external hard drives? Make it less power hungry?

But, and there is always a but with these old machines, I ended up with an inexpensive dedicated NAS that sips power and does a lot more for less.

So, what to do with an old Mac Pro 1,1?

(And yes, I recognize that I am posting this on a G5 site.)

In the end, I am typing this blog post from Windows 10 installed on a second SSD (that I had pulled from another machine). On the other SSD, I’m running El Capitan, which is okay to do somethings especially within a browser like Firefox. The Mac Pro 1,1, despite its limitations on the Mac OS X side, makes a hell of a Windows machine. I’ve got an older but decent graphics card in here too (procured on the cheap). I can even game a bit.

Like all old Macs, the key question is why – why do you want to run them? Do you want to tinker? Do you want to learn? Do you want to scrounge around for old parts? Are you into nostalgia? Are you just curious? They are all good reasons. Especially if you can get access to these old Macs for next to nothing.

Older Intel Macs will become the beloved next generation of low end Macs precisely because they can dual boot in a lot of different configurations, from Linux to Windows. It makes them an intriguing option to keep around the house, even as their Mac OS X limitations creep in.

Our PowerPC Macs are only getting older and there is less speed and power to squeeze out of them as even Linux slowly leaves them behind.

Meanwhile, my wife’s old MacBook 1,1 is sitting below me. I’ve tinkered with it but found that its plastic case and roaring fans leave a lot to be desired. Still, it could run Windows. It could run numerous variants of Linux. It’s something to play with. But why? What do I want to do with it? Ultimately, that’s the question.

  • What is your next old Mac project?
  • Why do you work on old Macs?

Good news

We are back.

After looking at numerous options, I decided to switch to WordPress for g5center. I’m not a huge fan of WordPress, but it’s workable for now.

The good:

  • WordPress is much faster on PHP 7.3
  • Using a bootstrap theme is relatively harmless
  • The new WordPress editing system (blocks) is kind of helpful
  • Security is maintained decently

The bad:

  • WordPress themes almost universally stink
  • The site isn’t as clean as I would like
  • I don’t like the shortened articles on the main blogpage
  • Categories and tags are probably overkill
  • We lost all those wonderful old comments

For now, most of the content has been transferred over. I did remove a few entries on the Hardware, System, Office, etc pages, because they didn’t have links or just felt extraneous at this point. I may add those back. I do have a backup of the old site, so I will continue to move any information over. All of the articles have been moved over, and everything is searchable. So, go wild.

Stay tuned. SimpleMarkPPC news incoming.

Bad News

Hi, loyal readers.

When I started this website, I wanted it to gather some helpful links and wisdom from my own experiences with the Power Mac G5, and I think it has succeeded in that mission. My aim too was that the site would be simple and load quickly on our PowerPC machines, while still looking modern and good. Again, mission accomplished.

Unfortunately, my server is depreciating the version of PHP that the simple blog interface I am using relies upon. It’s probably not wise to try to fix it. Instead, I am going to look to move the site to something different which has its own quirks and possibilities. In the meanwhile, hold your breath. The site may go down and up. It may wheeze along. There is a chance that the move is not completed by October 1, and if so, this site may throw up errors. Be patient. I’ll do what I can.

— Nathan

Airport Extremes Are Still Useful

Ancient technology in the year 2019

Buried at the bottom of one of my bits and parts bins, I have a 5th generation AirPort Extreme. I used it for a few years as my main router, but as technology changes and devices have more processing power, the Extreme couldn’t keep up. It’s still usable, for sure, but newer routers, for far less money, do a better job of sustaining throughput and casting a powerful wifi signal.

I was reluctant to retire it because it just works, but it was time to let go.

Until this week…

I have used a Mac Mini G4 as a quasi-network share, but the G4 has only a 10/100 ethernet port. That gets saturated quickly, and the G4’s processor probably doesn’t help either. So, while it was set up and available, I didn’t use it much. On the other hand, the AirPort Extreme makes a very simple Mac friendly file server with a USB hard drive plugged in. Yes, there are much speedier options out there, but if you have one laying around, it’s kind of a cool way to repurpose some old tech. I can easily use it share files between my G5 and other Macs.

There are some downsides to this, of course. My internal network is gigabit, and my FIOS internet connection is gigabit too. Unfortunately, the AirPort Extreme, despite having gigabit ports, can’t handle that much speed. SmallNetBuilder did some benchmarking of the last Extreme released – it doesn’t fare that well.

I did find that some work had been done to potentially get ssh working on these Airport devices, opening up the possibility of doing more with them, but it looks like that work is incomplete or didn’t lead to anything useful: http://www.theairportwiki.com/index.php?title=Main_Page

Have you seen any other leads to expand the usage of this aging tech? Do you still use Airport Routers for other use cases (like Airplay 2)?

— Nathan

The Quadra 610 Lives

Quadra 610 Boot

Good news – the Quadra 610 lives. And boots. There are still some issues to work through, which I will get to eventually, but my blood, sweat, and broken pieces of plastic might be worth it.

Here are a few of my learnings:

  • The case plastic is brittle.
  • I thought I had both a dead cdrom and floppy drive, but after some stubborn attempts, I got the machine to boot off of a Disk Tools floppy. Turns out I needed a working floppy disk that wasn’t older than my kids.
  • Apparently, the cdrom drive is dead.
  • After a successful boot, I was happy to see the Quadra has 40MB of RAM.
  • I invested in a SCSI2SD (version 5b) during a sale on eBay. While it was a little tricky to get setup, don’t overthink it. Make sure you set the SCSI ID correct, a maximum of 2GB partitions, and don’t try to DD an image onto a partition unless you know exactly what you are doing. The Quadra was not booting at all for a while when I plugged in the SCSI interface in, because I had tried to put a Mac OS 7.6.1 cdrom on the first partition in a clumsy, ill-advised manner.
  • Your Power Mac G5 is a friend. After formatting the first partition using a handy Disk Tools floppy, the partition mounts on my G5. I was able to copy over the install files for System 7.6.1 at that point. And then I was able to install from that partition on to another partition. It was a juggling trick but it worked.
  • The thing boots pretty quickly off of the SCSI2SD interface. I updated a few pieces via the¬†System7Today¬†guides. Netscape Navigator 3.0.8 runs quickly. Turn off java and javascript.
  • Future updates: Cleaning memory slots, figuring out if I can revive the CDROM drive, and installing A/UX on to another partition.

Progress is good.

— Nathan