Booting from USB on a G4/G5

As usual, your mileage may vary, but this link gave me life the other night:

My Mac mini G4 is a cherished machine. I love the form factor. I love G4 processors. It is superbly limited which makes it not age so well, but nonetheless, it is beloved. After running OS9 on it, despite some sound limitations, I decided to push it in a new direction as a Linux box. Enter MacBuntu-Remix, available over on the MacRumors Forums.

BTW – a review is forthcoming.

But first, the Mac mini G4 is notorious for having an awful CD/DVD drive. This unit’s drive long ago bit the dust. I was using an external FireWire drive, but it too was whining every time I opened it up. It finally would not read a recently burnt disc image.

I fiddled with Target Disk Mode, which is still amazing technology, and gave up only to discover the above technique. Holding down the option key on boot will not generally allow us to boot off of a USB Drive, but using the Open Firmware gimmick above does. A great tip to turn some of those old USB drives into serviceable backup booting options for these old Macs.


— Nathan

Snow Leopard on PPC

Screenshot from Lars Von Hier at MacRumors

The incredible PowerPC community is at work again, conjuring up some interesting experiments to see how else our machines can be extended.

The biggest nugget that has been circulating is the discovery of early builds of Snow Leopard which included PowerPC compatibility. These images come before Apple decided to nix PowerPC code. As such, they aren’t finished builds of Snow Leopard, and the support for some hardware is sketchy. However, initial reports of those who are trying them out note that Snow Leopard runs fairly well, though graphics drivers are buggy.

I haven’t taken the plunge yet, but I am working up to it as I watch the community learn about these finds and troubleshoot how to get the system stable. For example, kexts and drivers from Leopard (10.5.8) could being copied over when missing in Snow Leopard. Other imaginative thoughts include exploring later Snow Leopard builds for PowerPC code that lingered and moving those pieces back into these pre-release disc images. A Frankenstein kind of experience.

Read the thread on MacRumors to get started: Snow Leopard on Unsupported PPC Machines

Questions that remain:

  • Will this open PPC machines to some later builds of certain software? Would this potentially make some TenFourFox builds easier?
  • Is this stable enough to be a daily driver, and is it truly snappy?
  • What will be incompatible?

— Nathan

The iPod Shuffle Lives

My main machine at home runs Catalina. It’s nice. I’ve grown to like it, and despite losing 32-bit apps, I appreciate the direction Apple is taking the Mac (for the most part).

When I found my old iPod Shuffle at the bottom of a box of parts, I wondered if it worked. Plugging it in to my Mac had it verified and open in a flash. However, when I tried to sync music onto it, nothing. Other users have reported similar problems, a loss of functionality with Catalina. Maybe an old device like this is just not on Apple’s radar?

However, things are different on my Power Mac G5. iTunes still works. I was able to access the iTunes Store, download purchased music (since streaming music won’t load on these ol’ shuffles), and quickly sync a number of songs to the iPod. Easy peasy. Another reason to keep old tech around.

I do give credit to Apple for making sure iTunes is backwards compatible at least to Leopard. At some point, it will break, but for now, load up those old Shuffles and keep using them.

The iPod Shuffle is a great form factor. I dig the chewing gum size of the device, and it’s overall sturdiness. The thing still works. I imagine the battery life is less than it used to be, but it’s darn cool even in its aged state.

The only other issue I’ve had with the iPod Shuffle is that newer EarPods with the mic need to be plugged in carefully. Don’t push the jack all the way in. Otherwise, you end up with a weak, strange sound. Pull it out just a tad, and you still have a quality listening device for workouts or whatever.

Looks like various iPod Shuffles go for around $15 on eBay if you are in the market for one.

— Nathan


Well, hello, and Happy New Year!

I’ve been absent from the blog and site for a bit, as I have been absolutely swamped with a trip overseas, classwork, and life. My G5 has been plugged in but neglected. (I’ve heard that’s not kind on the electric bills.) In the midst of some reorganization of the workshop and other projects, I finally reconnected the G5 to a monitor and fired it up to load the latest TenFourFox beta.

Look for more content, and thank you for the comments, especially those I’ve missed lately.

Here’s a quick fun tidbit:

Fast and Slow is free utility for your PPC Mac.

Fast and Slow is a helpful little Mac utility to give just a bit of oomph when you need it.

What does it do? There is no magic code or gimmicky trick in this. Rather, Fast and Slow uses the built in Energy Saver options on your G5. One option is to lower your CPU speed to save power. The other option is to crank the CPU up full blast. The little utility makes it quicker and simpler to switch between the two modes on the fly as you edit your latest album in Garageband and then work on an html document in TextEdit or something.

My download link stopped working recently, but it’s now been fixed.

Is there a downside to always running your Mac in the “fast” mode? I don’t think so. I suppose power usage would be higher if you are running your G5 24/7.

I do remember a similar but slightly different utility for the Mac which uses the underlying UNIX based functions of Mac OS X to force your Mac to focus on a chosen app, ignoring or pausing all other background tasks. If I find it, I’ll pass it on as another way to squeeze a little juice out of your Mac if you are doing heavy processing tasks.

See you soon.

— Nathan