The FX4500 & Your G5

Peter, one of the intelligent readers of this blog, wrote in with a nice money saving workaround to upgrade your video card to the best available option.

He suggests flashing a compatible FX4500.

In most benchmarks that I’ve seen, the FX4500 does edge the 7800GT in some tests. It was really designed to be more of a workstation card as opposed to a general usage or gaming card. You will probably see more benefits if you are rendering video or something of that nature, but as prices have fallen, it is cheaper to max out your G5 by grabbing one from eBay. Mac compatible ones, which may be just flashed cards, run around $100, but PC versions are available for $40-50.

Here’s an alternate route – get a PC version of this card and flash it. Peter tells us how:

It is trivial to flash a PC version of the NVIDIA Quadro FX4500 with the Mac firmware. These cards can be obtained on eBay for ~$30 and are much cheaper than the “Mac” versions, that typically cost around $100+. The only important thing is to make sure that the card you get has RAM on both sides of the card. Newest versions of the card only have RAM on one side of the card (the fan & cooler side) and will not work with the G5 (but they will work on the Mac Pro with the correct firmware).

This card has RAM on the back side of the board and is good for flashing with the G5 firmware:

This card does not have RAM on the back side and will not work with the G5 firmware:

You can find the ROM and utilities over at the Mac Elite wiki site.

This info has me tempted to try it on my own.

— Nathan

SSDs That Work #CrowdSourcing

‘m thankful for emails from some regular readers, especially in response to my trial and error adventures with new SSDs. So, it’s time for us to try to put a list together of the top 5-6 recommended drives that work with our G5s.

Please use the comments below. I’ll also be posting a thread in the MacRumors PowerPC forum to generate some responses as well.

Drives That Work

  • OWC drives obviously work. These are the safest options, although they are rarely on sale like other drives. You can likely save money going elsewhere, but if you want a guarantee that they will work in your Mac, these are a solid choice.
  • The Intel SSD 320 works perfectly in various configurations.
  • The Samsung 840 EVO works fine but only in the lower drive bay.
  • Corsair F60GB2 (and likely its larger capacity siblings) work fine. It is an SATA II model.

Drives That Do Not Work

  • Intel 520 SSDs do not work. (I will admit that I’ve had one reader who has had success using them in Linux, so it could be a Mac OS X thing not necessarily a G5 thing. I was not able to get them working in Mac OS X.)
  • Intel 530 SSDs also do not work.
  • The PNY Optima SSD with Silicon Motion controller does not work in any configuration.

I’ll be updating this with more information and notes as I get other suggestions.

It sounds like there are several troubleshooting options when trying to get your SSD to work in a G5. First, remove any other drives, and try it solo. Put the drive in either bay – upper or lower – to see if you get different results. Second, if you are trying to use two drives in the G5, experiment with the other drive being SATA I. You may only be able to have one SATA III or II drive at a time in your G5 configuration, although it appears this varies based on the different chipsets and manufacturers of the drives. Third, pay attention to the version of Leopard that you are installing from. Later versions may be better able to see and partition your SSD.

Stay tuned for more info to come.

— Nathan

The Beginning or the End?

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Today, Dropbox blasted emails out to Leopard and Tiger users to let them know that as of May 18, they will be dropping support for these older operating systems.

This is a huge bummer. For one thing, it might mean that I move completely away from Dropbox. I loved having a sync option that worked on all of my computers, from Windows to iOS to new and older Macs. But if my G5 can’t use it (except through its rather less useful web interface), then I may have to look at rolling my own.

I’ll have to do some fresh exploring of this in future blog updates. If you didn’t get the update, here’s the info below.

Hi Nathan,

We noticed that you’re running the Dropbox desktop application (client) on an older operating system (OS X Tiger 10.4 or OS X Leopard 10.5). We’re writing to let you know that as of May 18th, Dropbox will no longer support these older versions of OS X.

Don’t worry – your files and photos aren’t going anywhere! But you’ll need to update your computer to OS X Snow Leopard 10.6 or later to access them through the Dropbox desktop application. Apple’s instructions on how to update your operating system can be found here.

If you don’t want to update your operating system, your files will still be available through the Dropbox website. However, on May 18th you’ll be signed out of your Dropbox account on your computer and the Dropbox desktop application will no longer be accessible.

We apologize for the inconvenience. For more information, please check out our Help Center.

– The Dropbox Team

Not happy, Dropbox. Not happy at all.

Here are some followup links to add your voice:

Maritn Kukac posted an open letter to Dropbox on his blog.

Many PPC users are posting on the Dropbox forums with their feedback to this decision. Add your voice.

— Nathan

A Mac Mini G4 Tangent

Icon credit to Kyo-Tux via the Creative Commons license 4.0

I’ve always wanted a Mac Mini G4.

I grabbed a cheap one off of eBay sometime ago, and I’ve had it sitting around waiting for the right stretch of free time to open it up and go to work. It’s turned out to be kind of a pain to work on, in truth. It is awfully tight once you pop off that top case and start trying to tinker around.

In general, I would only pay money for a 1.42 Ghz or 1.5 Ghz version. If you can, get the latest version since it has a bit more kick and a little more VRAM. The entry level versions though are only worth it if you can get them free. Once updated and refreshed, they don’t run TenFourFox too bad and make nice writing machines in particular.

On my 1.42 Ghz Mac Mini, I decided to repurpose my old Corsair 60GB SSD with a $4 IDE-to-SATA adapter. (It took forever for that tiny adapter to arrive via mail from China.) I used Corsair tools on my Windows machine to refresh the Corsair back to its stock speed with a secure erase. I also maxed out the ram for $20, though it was probably workable to stay with 512 MB if you aren’t going to do much browsing. Installing these upgrades was, again, a pain. The SSD is really just hanging in there, although there seems to be enough pressures from the sides of the plastic enclosure to keep it steady. Taking it apart also meant dealing with its fickle bluetooth cable. I don’t think I put it back together in quite the exact way it came, but it fits.

On the first try, the Mac Mini would not boot from my DVD nor would it eject my DVD! I had noticed that there was a little jumper on the IDE-to-SATA adapter, and that it would work fine in that state. After various troubleshooting techniques, I had to pull apart the thing again, pull off that jumper, and try to make it fit securely. This time, the Leopard DVD booted right up, even though the built-in speaker stopped working. It’s probably disconnected, but that’s not critical.

I went to work installing Leopard, updating the machine, and putting on the few programs I am going to keep on there. Part of this included doing a few cosmetic changes to the system, including the Mountain Leopard theme, for instance. In an attempt to install a special dock, though, I accidentally put a version of SIMBL that started causing the G4 to freak out, hang, and act like it was seriously messed up. Deleting SIMBL restored the G4 to solid operation.

As it is now, the G4 runs pretty well. The SSD definitely helps, although it seems like the motherboard is more of a bottleneck than the drive. WriteRoom serves as a perfect beautiful text editor/writer. I have future plans for the machine as a file server as well, but that will come another day.

Sorry for the tangent – we’ll get back to some crucial G5 info soon.

— Nathan

The Saga of the SSD

My New Year’s resolution has been to get a larger SSD working in my Power Mac G5. It did not start out well.

I’ve detailed elsewhere about my first bad experience with a PNY Optima at a steal of a price. Darn, I wished that thing worked.

Next up was a 120 GB Intel 520 SSD at a nice sale price from Amazon for around $60. I noted on my own hardware page on this site that it should be a good and solid drive to use. Some G5 owners seemed to have gotten it to work. When the package arrived in the mail, I went to work, dropping it into my G5 and hoping that I would not see the same symptoms that I saw with the PNY.

And then, the drive didn’t show up.

It was like a ghost. My machine booted without trouble. It acted like nothing was wrong. The drive would not make an appearance in Disk Utility at all via the app or command line.

So, once again, troubled but undeterred, I sent it back. This time, I ordered a OWC drive that was guaranteed to work in my G5. I paid $10 more than the Intel, but at least my journey would come to an end.

OWC Mercury SSD

And then, this drive didn’t show up in Disk Utility either.

Now, I was confused. I tried my troubleshooting steps. I put it into a different bay, which can be a problem with some configurations on Power Mac G5s. (This really needs more exploration.) I made sure it was correctly plugged in. I put it into a USB drive to make sure it was operational – it was! At this point, even though my old SSD worked just as normal when slotted back in its place, I was beginning to think I was having serious motherboard issues.

Now, let me offer the twist – all along, I had removed my original SSD in place of this new SSD. My plan was to reinstall Leopard from a Time Machine backup that resided on the other internal hard drive I have in the G5. To do this, I planned to use my Leopard DVD (10.5.2) to boot, but whenever I went into Disk Utility from that install DVD, the SSD never appeared – not for the Intel 520 nor the OWC.

On a whim, I put my G5 into Firewire target disk mode and connected it to my Mac Mini G4. Upon boot, I was greeted with Finder’s familiar and suddenly very friendly warning that I had inserted an uninitialized disk. “Would I like to initialize it?” Of course! From this G4 running 10.5.8, Disk Utility saw the SSD and was gladly willing to partition and format it for me. Once again though, the Leopard DVD refused to see this now initialized drive, so I ended up using Carbon Copy Cloner, that external USB drive, and my G4 to clone the hard drives, bless them, and begin my new adventure with my OWC SSD. Wow.

Here is what we know:

  • The PNY Optima drive, especially the version with the Silicon Motion controller, does not work in a G5 in any configuration.
  • The Intel 520 SSD probably does not work, although I don’t believe I tried putting it into Firewire target disk mode and connecting it to the G4.
  • OWC SSDs do work.
  • If your Leopard install DVD is at 10.5.2 or below, it may not have the appropriate drivers, kernel extensions, or something else to see newer drives. I don’t know what different versions of Leopard install DVDs exist, so if anyone else has some clarity, I’d love to include it on the website.

Using old Macs like these G5s is always an adventure. I’m just glad in my case there was a happy ending.

BTW, we now have search on the left side of this page.