Working on old computers, of any kind really, is a form of prayer for me. That may sound silly, but I enjoy cleaning them out, tinkering, trying new things, and seeing what happens. Often, I talk to myself or whatever higher being happens to be listening in frustration or wild hope. In the last couple of weeks, I upgraded an old Dell tower from an i3 to i5 for cheap, fixed up a 2006 Mac Pro (1,1) for fairly cheap, and dusted out my ol’ G5.
In the process of working on my G5 and moving it to a new location with a better monitor (as I am using the Apple Cinema Display with the Mac Pro), I noticed the fans were getting loud. G5s don’t apparently have any means for us end users to quiet those fans down. That could be a good thing, since these machines are hardly efficient. But when they are loud, they are loud.
Enter the Apple Service Diagnostic disc 2.6.3.
I found the download via a quick search on DuckDuckGo, burned it to a blank DVD, and booted right in. On the main screen, you have an option to run a whole bunch of tests to check RAM, CPU, ethernet, and various buses, but you’ll want to click at the top and run the Thermal Calibration. My machine passed the tests, and after booting back into Leopard, I noticed the machine was quieter (relatively so).
I still plan to apply some new thermal paste sometime this week. It’s going to be a challenging job, but I’ll go slow and make sure I do it well. And I’ll have a conversation with whatever divine entity happens to be listening. Anyway, this tip may be useful to you if you need to diagnose a nagging issue with your G5 or if you need to recognize that your computer tinkering can be meditative and spiritually uplifting.
One of my better purchases lately has not been an old Mac Pro (for under $30) or my fancy iPhone XR (which is a great phone) – it’s been a basic 6th generation iPad for work.
The iPad was on sale before Christmas at a local retailer, and I splurged for it as I needed it for both my school work, writing, and sermon prep. I really wanted an iPad Pro, but the price tag scared me off from that fancier device. In the end, the iPad has become a workhorse, not just for media consumption but for getting stuff done. Taking notes is fun with the original Apple Pencil, playing games is an option, and planning for work is a breeze. It’s great to take on trips too and not have to lug my laptop around.
In fact, I’ve been surprised at just how good it is for the price – around the $300 price point for the 128GB model. It’s been a while since I’ve been so pleased from a purchase.
But – I recognize it’s not perfect for everyone. I do have a bluetooth keyboard I can throw into my bag on trips if I need to type, but generally, I don’t want to put the iPad into a case, using a protective sleeve instead. The more bulk you add to it, the less of sleek device it becomes. Some apps also are annoying, and it can take a few steps to move files around. I’ve yet to find the perfect note taking app. Bear is the closest, but I’m giving Agenda a run for meeting purposes. The basic Notes app is also great for doodling. I don’t like jumping between the three.
Even when my kids are restless, inviting them to use the Apple Pencil to doodle and draw, rather than play whatever micro-transaction app of the day, is a nice option. They like it too. I’m surprised the pencil hasn’t already gotten game designers thinking creatively on how to make games that parents don’t mind their kids playing.
The wild thing is that Apple is likely to update it later this month, meaning it becomes even more “low end” option, and the older 6th generation versions will become an even better value.
Alright – that’s enough of this non-G5 tangent. Stay tuned for more updates.
If you are at all interested in hosting a simple (or complex) website or doing some experimentation from your older Mac, I do recommend grabbing the incredibly useful XAMPP to make the process a little easier.
XAMPP is kind of a self-contained install of the Apache httpd server with PHP and CGI turned on, a MYSQL server, an FTP server, and some other tools and documentation. It’s cool, because it comes with a little tiny app that lets you turn off the services as you see fit. You can run it when you want to try out different configurations or different websites.
For Leopard, the basic Apache httpd server isn’t that older than the last available XAMPP package for G5 machines. My base Leopard httpd server is 2.2.7 while the one included in the XAMPP package is 2.2.14. Still, that includes some bug fixes as well as newer versions of PHP and MySQL. If you are going to run old software, might as well run the last version of it you can find.
Note: I do believe, using MacPorts or TigerBrew or something, you can get a more recent compiled version of httpd (2.4 series) – maybe even doing it on your own. You are likely better in that scenario of turning to Linux if you really care about security and want things fully patched (and maintained).
For now though, having access to an older version of XAMPP is still kind of fun to mess around with. Grab it here.
Another note: It is generally not recommended to copy over the httpd server in Leopard with a newer one. Now, it should technically work – we are talking about bug and security fixes from 2.2.7 to 2.2.14, for instance. However, it is probably best to be safe, keep backups, and just use an alternative like XAMPP which messes with system internals as little as possible.
Sadly, as I look over this site, I admit that many links are now non-functional. The information here is generally still fine, but you will have to search around for working links to the apps I recommend. Some developers have likely removed older apps, even though it is handy for users of old PowerPC machines. There are some app alternative websites too, including at websites like PowerPC Software Archive. Open source apps are just a great resource in times like these, as they tend to have ready archives available for users trying to maintain ancient machines.
So, hang tight. I’ll be fixing links, removing some outdated software, and seeing what the future is for this website.
Dan Knight has taken Low End Mac to Facebook with some groups there that both over-populate my feed with random old school Mac stuff but also bring great joy to readers and enthusiasts like myself. Definitely subscribe if you are interested.
A nugget that crossed my feed this week was this excellent article on how to access the hidden fan on your PowerMac G5. Granted, it’s not actually hidden per se, but if you clean your G5, you may miss this one. It’s a clever little engineering nugget and a good idea to at least take a look if you are having cooling issues.