Guess what? You can use iCloud Drive on a Power Mac G5

On the Office page here, I have a little section about iCloud compatibility, mentioning that basically Leopard and PowerPC Macs are left out in the cold.

But today, I realized that all is not lost.

First, I will update the iCloud information on the site just to make sure all the options are clear. You can use your iCloud email with, since it works pretty typical of email. You can use the iCloud website to access lots of goodies – it works great in TenFourFox. There is probably some way to use your iCloud calendar if you use a Google Calendar as a go between.

But here is the simple way to begin to access iCloud Drive files on your G5.

You will want to use symlinks with Dropbox (or another file syncing cloud software of choice).

In truth, this is a pretty simple solution, and I was kind of disappointed that I did not think about it earlier. To back up, here’s the challenge. I’ve been writing a lot lately using MarkDown, as previous posts indicate. My preferred client on my Macbook Pro is Byword, which integrates really well with iCloud Drive and syncs with my iPhone and its Byword app. I can save files outside of that drive, and so one option was to simply use Dropbox for all of my file syncing and ignore iCloud Drive. But, it was kind of late to do that, as I was already using iCloud Drive quite extensively. This is not a problem on a Windows machine, by the way, as you can setup iCloud Drive on it.

So, what do you do on a Power Mac G5?

Here’s the thing, you need to start with your newer Mac. (I suppose there might be a way on your Windows machine, but I haven’t explored symlink capabilities on it.) You can use an app like MacDropAny if you get nervous about tinkering with the command line, but in truth, it’s super simple. The terminal line is:

ln -s /link/to/original/file/or/folder /link/to/destination/folder

This page has a great diagram to show how this works in Mac OS X, if you are a little more of a visual learner.

The key is that you fill in the location of your Byword folder (or any other folder of choice) in the first part of that command and then point the other end to a folder or location in your Dropbox folder. Suddenly, your Dropbox folder will begin to sync those iCloud files in its magical way. Suddenly, even on your ancient Power Mac G5, you can edit and access iCloud files for fun and profit.

This is a huge and quite simple thing for me, as I will be able to spend more time writing on my G5 and MBP and iOS device, sharing files between them all. Cool stuff. And best of all, there really shouldn’t be any downsides to this option unless I fill up Dropbox.

Theoretically, you could use Dropbox in this way to sync your entire iCloud Drive, making every file there completely accessible to an older Mac or another computer. Just keep in mind the built-in Dropbox limits if you try this. Plus, you will likely encounter incompatibilities between some types of files – say older versus newer versions of Pages. But, hey, it’s a possible solution which is great for us G5 users.

By the way, if you want to do more symlinking, grab the SymbolicLinker plugin to use on your PowerPC computer of choice. It creates a contextual menu option in the Finder, so you can go crazy with it.

— Nathan

Minecraft on a G5

I use my tattered old Dell to play an occasional game, including hosting a simple Minecraft server.

It’s a fun game, probably one of the better games made in quite some time because of its open-ended, creative mix of gameplay. I always tell skeptical adults that it’s like “legos for your computer”. My youngsters love to watch me play it, asking me to build or make things, explore caverns, or just try out stuff. Unlike some other games, it really opens imaginative possibilities that many other games and types of games fail to do.

Believe it or not, it is possible to play Minecraft on a G5. You must stick to Minecraft 1.5.1, a much older version than the current release (which is around 1.8.1, I think). Some good people over at the MacRumors forum have even setup a server just for these older G5 users. It looks sweet.

Check out this thread for discussion on the server and directions to finding the right client and launcher to run the thing.

I have not tried this yet, and it seems like it requires a special cracked version of Minecraft, which I certainly don’t have. (And is probably not legal?)

Check out some of the Youtube videos linked in that thread – cute stuff.

— Nathan

Happy New Year & Adblock

Happy New Year, everyone!

I’ve got some new mini-projects for my G5 on the horizon, including a shiny new SSD with a Sandforce controller that should work quite well compared to the PNY Optima (with a Silicon Motion controller).

But in the meanwhile, I posted some comments over at the TenFourFox blog to this effect – do Ad Block options really make a difference memory/speed wise for our G5s? Since some of us do not have quad core machines, we need to worry about squeezing every little bit of performance. While ad block extensions for Firefox sure remove a lot of annoyances that the web offers, do they also slow down our browsing?

I tried with an eyeball test this morning, nothing scientific. With Ad Block Edge, which I have preferred in the past, my RAM usage was around 355 MB on average. From what I have heard, Edge maintains lists of urls of known ad servers to block images/content from, but they do this after the page has already loaded, going through the urls one by one. There is some overhead to this process.

Another option mentioned to me was Bluhell Firewall which takes some of the overhead out of it. In their not very satisfying words, they explain that:

How this is achieved is thanks to just seven hard-coded blocking rules covering about 8400 .com and .net domains, these were auto-generated from Easylist. That means, every time a certain resource wants to be loaded we will have to iterate through a list of seven compiled patterns, rather than for each entry from a common Easylist which contains hundreds of different items to check.

An eyeball test suggests that the memory hovers now around 250 MB in regular usage. That is probably not significant for someone with 2 GB or more of RAM, but for a Mac Mini or some other machine limited in RAM, it could be a helpful avenue to explore.

I want to stress that this was just a quick test, and there are likely other factors that influence RAM usage and the overall feel of the browser. I am switching over to Bluhell on my G5 for the time being. I can always jump back to Ad Block Edge if I feel it isn’t doing an adequate job.

Enjoy your day and year!

— Nathan