Thursday, September 7, 2017

More SSD Lessons from Adam Albrec

(The following is a guest post by PPC Media Center creator Adam Albrec who shares his experience using SSD and SATA for a year on his MDD Power Mac.)

So after 1 year using an O.W.C. SSD (and figuring out a SATA connection to make it go) what have I learned?

Still Loving it. For anyone doing PPC (in a case that lets you tinker), and wants a boost, in the final analysis, it is SO worth your money! My PPC is more responsive than my Brother's Mac Pro (Quad Xeon) and while it cannot say - convert a DVD to mp4 as fast, his only about 4x faster; which is interesting since it should theoretically have 15-20x the power of my MDD. Multitasking in Tiger also is silky smooth even with LOTS open.

So what's the downside or catch??

1. Well - a couple of very real things. This drive (especially in a 32Bit system like my G4) needs a good 60-80GB free for Swapping (especially if using a RAM heavy app like Photoshop CS4). Otherwise it will get REALLY unresponsive when it starts trimming unused blocks back to available status. With my current workload, just had to upgrade from 120GB to 240GB and now all is Right with the world and it's Super Happy again.

2. AND when first cloning a system to an SSD, it will be really SNOTTY for a couple of weeks while it gets sprawled-out. Most have noticed that when you clone OSX to a normal drive it will feel a bit laggy for a few weeks, but with an SSD, this turns into Kernel Panics - and lots of them for a week, then a few the 2nd week then after about a month smooth sailing. Apparently the RAID0/parallel-access that SSDs use can cause a lot of sync errors with the system bus until it balances and spreads over the drive. In practice this just reiterates the old adage in the beginning: “Save Often”, and after a few weeks you can relax.

Some have said that getting O.W.C.s Extreme 6G SSDs alleviate both of these concerns since they handle big chunks of data more efficiently and also reclaim unused blocks faster, but an OWC rep advised against it because he felt that syncing with a bus so much slower might lead to other problems (curious other people's experiences). With my system, this did make sense though as the 3G Electras they sell are virtually identical to my G4 systems native bus speed. For a G5, the Faster 6G SSDs might be better. At this stage, the prices are often within $10 for one or the other (NOTE: the 3Gs are warrantied for 3-years and the 6Gs for 5-years).

Now the SATA Question:

Have also upgrading to a Sonnet Tempo TSATA for the internal drives and a FirmTek 1Se2 eSATA card for external connections (like data recoveries and such) this too, has been AMAZING. With this configuration, and also a Sonnet Allegro FW800 card (still $20-$30 on eBay), I'm now able to copy/move files at TWICE the speed of my Brother's Hoity-Toity new Intel Beast!

And with Apple's new Thunderbolt to FW800 adapter (under $30), even our old machines can interface with Thunderbolt at about 75% of current real-world speeds for new systems. Only ultra high-end 6G systems really even make use of Thunderbolt fully, and the result is that our old Macs can be VERY COMPARABLE to USB3. This is especially useful to keep in mind if you are keeping an old G4 for a file server!

A real world use was recovering a PC Hard-Drive for a customer. Pulled 100GB of 'User's folder from an NTFS volume in 30-40 minutes (eSata to FW800)!!!!!

OK so now the 'BUT' on this topic...

There are things to keep in mind. The eSATA External 1se2 cards are still available new from FirmTek, but they are eSATA and for External drives (which is less ideal, than internal). The Sonnet cards built on the same chipset, are amazing, but very expensive and hard to find now (will likely take about 6-weeks of watching eBay and Amazon to find one).

But What about the inline IDE to SATA adapter cards many are using (as I did in the beginning)? They are lovely - especially for the $5 they cost. They work just fine (minus the ability to check SMART status of the drive), but only at IDE speeds. Until you find your FirmTek/Sonnet card, however, you'd be very wise to pick one up to start enjoying your new SSD right away. If you are only doing one System Drive, it might even make sense to stop there.

BUT the benefit of the FirmTek-based SATA/eSATA cards is that they have internal data-processing/buffering that accelerates and stabilizes file transfers between drives sharing the same card, well beyond the system bus-normal abilities (a big plus on a G4). So while I'm listening to iTunes, or watching a video and Carbon Copy Cloner comes on to do my backup, I don't even notice a hiccup in playback because both my SSD and Backup drive share the same Sonnet Card. On clocking a 1GB test-file transfer going from one drive to the other, it maintained a ROCK SOLID 52MB per second (416Megabits), and a MORE IMPRESSIVE 27MB per second (216Megabits) simultaneously copying in both directions - with NO additional overhead to the CPU!

Thus the Gold Standard would be to find the Ultra Rare 2-SATA/2-eSATA card by FirmTek (SeriTek/1VE2+2) and have any attached drives share this amazing performance boost.

But getting back to the inline IDE/SATA adapters, they are fantastic for using modern optical drives (little known fact, while you cannot connect two SATA drives with such adapters on an IDE ribbon-cable, since Sata doesn't have a Master/Slave framework, you can use an IDE drive as 'Master' and SATA as 'Slave', thus enabling having a normal Dual-Layer DVD+- Drive in the top and a Sexy New quad-layer, BlueRay/MDisc burner on the bottom of an MDD. And the upper and lower tray ejectors still work!

My current setup with the two cards is fine; transfers run about 45.5MB per second (364 Megabits), but when I am moving big files between an internal drive on one card and an external drive on the other card, or vice versa, and it has to go through the system bus, while still VERY fast, bus-saturation suddenly rears its ugly head and applications like iTunes start cracking and popping as it tries to keep up. The good news is that this really only seems to be noticeable during really big file transfers, rather than read-in data.

The two card solution does have one other issue worth mentioning. For the cards to function, they must have the same firmware (if both SeriTek based), and they DO NOT want to be seated next to each other.

And what of the "Other" cards like SIL3114/SIL3124? I have yet to get them to reliably work and stay working - after trying a lot of them. Maybe this isn't as much of a pill on some PowerMacs, but At least on Digital Audio through MDD, Apple's PCI Slots want it 'Their Way' and often don't work as expected. An advantage of the SeriTek cards is perfect compatibility (often in OS9 too).

So in short if you like your Apps, and just want better performance, it might make sense to switch your system drive to SSD and get some SATA love going to it.

Adam :0)

P.S. A final note on the Sonnet Allegro FW800 card: While ultra-big drives (larger than 2TB) are a big issue even for many newer systems, O.W.C. has a USB2/FW800 Dual Enclosure for under $100!

It supports 20TB drives in Striped, Mirrored and JOBD configurations and with the Sonnet Allegro is absolutely seamless to use.

https://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/MED3FR0GB/

Just note that OS9 will not recognize more than 2TB, and will try to “Initialize” the drive – so you've been warned! Also for compatible drives, OS9 will only run it at FW400 speeds.

When you see how much 'Real' raid cards still cost for these older systems used on eBay (usually only supporting OSX OR OS9), and see this unit flawlessly do the heavy lifting for a say a mirrored config, it is an amazing value. The normally Green lights will momentarily flash Red and rebuild blocks so fast you don't even notice during sometime sensitive - like video playback.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

New PowerPC Hardware in Sight

We have not one but two items of news on the PowerPC hardware front. Yes, you read that right. It's not just software developers still working in PowerPC. There's also some hardware development happening.

First there is the PowerPC Notebook project I blogged about back here. They've kicked off a fundraising campaign to hire Acube Systems to design a PowerPC motherboard with the following rough specs (quoted from their project blog):

  • CPU: NXP T208x, e6500 64-bit Power Architecture with Altivec technology
  • 4 x e6500 dual-threaded cores, low-latency backside 2MB L2 cache, 16GFLOPS x core
  • RAM: 2 x RAM slots for DDR3L SO-DIMM
  • VIDEO: MXM Radeon HD Video Card ( removable)
  • AUDIO: sound chip, audio in and audio out jacks
  • USB: 3.0 and 2.0 ports
  • STORAGE:
    NVM Express (NVMe), M.2 2280 connector
    2 x SATA
    1 x SDHC card reader
  • NETWORK:
    1 x ethernet RJ-45 connector
  • WiFi connectivity
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • POWER: on-board battery charger and power-management
  • CHASSIS: standard notebook case 15,6”

As of this writing they've raised about 4,500 of their 12,600 goal. All the details of the campaign are at this post, and you can read much more at the GNU/Linux PowerPC notebook blog and the Power Progress Community website.

A small but dedicated community has gathered around this project, and if the past is evidence they're in it for the long haul, so I think this project warrants some serious consideration.

There's also another PowerPC project that might be even closer to fruition, the Talos II. Cameron Kaiser has been following this project on his blog, so read all about it there, but suffice to say they look tantalizingly close to bringing a POWER9 desktop to market.

There is no RISC in not trying.

Oh, God, that ended terribly.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

IPv4 is Apparently Ludditeville - And Also Faster

I got an email from Adam Albrec, creator extraordinaire of PPC Media Center, with a fix to a performance lag he noticed when moving to a new house. PPCMC wasn't nearly as fast in the new digs and after conversing with the youtube-dl developers, they suggested he disable IPv6 in the app. He reports it helped "IMMENSELY." He promised a new version of PPCMC which will do this automatically, but you can disable IPv6 system-wide right now in Tiger by going into Network Preferences, and under the TCP/IP tab, click the "Configure IPv6..." button and switch from "Automatically" to "Off".

In Leopard it appears you have to click on the Advanced button first to get to the TCP/IP tab, as illustrated on this University of North Carolina help page.

I also noticed on G5 Center's Internet page this tidbit:

Pro-Tip: Tobias, key developer of Leopard-Webkit, recommends disabling IPv6 in the Network system preferences for your internet connection/port on your Mac if you experience hangs when loading webpages. I can confirm that this leads to a night and day performance change for my G5. WebKit is smooth as silk now.

So disabling system-wide sounds like a good option to experiment with. Just be aware, things like Bonjour or other system services could break, but re-enabling IPv6 is quick and easy.

Que the network IT people saying, "Don't disable IPv6. Fix your @#%^&$ing network!"

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

BitTorrent for Mac OS 9 (!?!)

The Macintosh Garden forums had a bit of a Christmas surprise this year with news of a new BitTorrent client called MacTorrent. Not just any BitTorrent client, but one that runs on Mac OS 8-9.2.2 (a separate OS X version runs on 10.3-10.6.8). Somebody should tell these developers that the Classic Mac OS (the real Mac OS) already had its funeral and there's no reason to write useful and awesome applications for it. After all, the only reason Mac OS 9 isn't quite useful and awesome enough to run as an everyday system these days is a lack of useful and awesome modern applications. Or something like that.

In my limited testing so far, MacTorrent seems to work. It's bare at this early stage, but the developers are working on adding features such as magnet links in the future. Be part of the testing and give it a download. Download the .sit file labeled "Classic" for the Mac OS 8-9 version, and the .zip file labeled "PPC-OSX" for the OS X version.

If someone wrote an h.264 decoder for Youtube streaming on OS 9, I swear I'd switch back permanently.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

It's Christmas in October: New PPC Media Center, Plus Pianobar, TSclientX, and SetEXIFDATA

As macOS Sierra is busy underwhelming the computer world, you'll be happy to hear there's still software being spun for good operating systems like Tiger and Leopard. I've gotten a few emails pointing to a few new titles, so I wanted to pass the word on.

First, there's an update to PPC Media Center, our favorite GUI frontend for youtube-dl. This brings it to version 6.5 (and requires 6.0 already installed) and includes many Theatre Mode improvements. Here's the download.

Next, Daniel Milisic tells me he has new versions of Pianobar and TSclientX for Tiger and Leopard PowerPC.

His port of Pianobar is actually called PianoPPC and brings back the Pandora terminal client to Tiger and Leopard desktops. I've tested it myself and it works fabulously. Here are a few brief instructions:

After unpacking the download, the application must be run only from the /Applications folder or it will not launch. Also, for automatic login with your Pandora email and password, create the text file ~/.config/pianobar/config and save the following text inside it:

user = your email
password = your password


That step may not be necessary if you already had an older Pianobar and its old config files. Also, if you're not sure how to create files in hidden folders like ~/.config, here's how:

First, check that ~/.config exists in your home folder by opening a terminal window and typing ls -a. If you don't see ".config", type mkdir .config to make the folder. With .config now in place, enter cd .config to change to that directory, then enter ls to list its contents. If you don't see the folder "pianobar", then create it with the mkdir command. Then enter cd pianobar, then ls, and if you don't see "config" listed, create it with nano config. This will open a new text file where you enter the user and password. Finally, use the commands ctrl + o to save and ctrl + x to exit.

Milisic's TSclientX is an RDP client for 10.4 - 10.6 and runs on both PowerPC and Rosetta. Since I didn't have any Windows networks to connect to I didn't test this extensively, but it looks good! This also must be run from your /Applications folder and won't launch if it's in any other location.

Feel free to email Daniel with feedback at the email addresses from the links above.

Finally Adam Albrec points me to SetEXIFDATA, a GUI tool for editing EXIF metadata that was previously Intel-only but was recently compiled to run on PowerPC. And also for photographers, don't forget RawTherapee for Leopard PowerPC.

Friday, September 23, 2016

An Inside Look at Apple's Skunkworks

I feel a little paranoid even posting this, especially after Tim Cook loaded all those Samsung phones with explosive devices like a ninja. A few weeks ago I came into contact (won't say the method or the medium) with an insider at Apple (won't say who) of some distinction (won't say their rank) who first dangled and then delivered pictures of the new 2016 Mac Mini. Ordinarily I'd be like, "Cool," but nothing to risk my neck over. The Mac Mini isn't the most exciting product ever, but this Mac Mini, my source said, is different. It's a revolutionary new Mac Mini, and one that would hint at changes to the entire Mac lineup. This is a paradigm shifter. It shows Apple's changing priorities and where Jony Ive & Co. intend to take the whole Mac product line in years to come. The old Mac Mini is no more. It's time for a new form factor, new internals, and even an assault on the very concept of internals.

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you the 2016 Mac Mini:

2016 Mac Mini

As you can see, it's minnier than ever. "How can they fit a computer in that?" you ask. Before you go speculating there's an A10 fusion processor in there, ask yourself first, "What is the concept of a processor?" Is it internal to the core housing of a computer, or is it modular? Must it always be internal taking up valuable space that can be better filled by the feng shui of Jony Ive's brilliance, or would it be more harmonious as an external add-on — a dedicated CPU (or eCPU)? This is the next revolution Apple intends to give us. Their new computers will have no CPUs, and just as they used the Mac Mini 10 years ago to usher in the age of Intel, they're using the 2016 Mac Mini to usher in the age of Notel. That's right, the CPU is a thing of the past. You may add one if you wish, but Apple will not bow to the vulgarities of manufacturers who pursue function over form. Rather, Apple is dedicated to balancing form and function on equal terms.

As with the CPU, there is no internal GPU. There is no internal hard drive or memory. The new Mac Mini is a waystation for your dreams. To fulfill your vision, add an external CPU and motherboard. Add an external GPU and hard drive. Even many hard drives if you like. Apple has never shied from its role as curator for the essential and worthy in life, and this new design (I blush at such a blunt moniker) creates, yes creates, maximum flexibility to follow your muse.

So advanced is the new, "form," we'll call it, that it doesn't even need a power supply. You simply plug it into one with the USB-C connector. You can attach a plethora of external devices to the included ports comprising of USB-C, USB 3 , and HDMI. If you run out of ports, you may add a hub, or perhaps hubs upon hubs. In this way, Apple devices will be scalable. For the first time, home consumer devices will scale in ways that will make many an enterprise procurer wonder why they even still exist.

You may wonder, "Won't this ruin the aesthetic?" Won't all these devices, hubs, and dongles make every desktop a tangled web of cords and connectors, of external housing units of varying brands and sizes, turning an otherwise elegant workspace (brainspace) into a teeming jungle? Yes, and this is where Apple's second innovation comes in. This is not your traditional device rack. Apple, my source informs me, thought long and hard to come up with the right form factor for a new component receptacle befitting of the new now.

May I humbly introduce the Apple Wastebasket:

Apple Wastebasket

Simple. Futuristic yet harkening. You never would have thought of it yesterday, but now that it's arrived, you cannot imagine anything else.

Friday, August 19, 2016

G5Center Interviews Cameron Kaiser

Look who bumped into each other at Vintage Computer Festival West.

Also, I've been using the new TenFourFox 45 beta. It's a smooth ride, like driving a vintage '38.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Getting Linux on an iLamp iMac with Nvidia Graphics

ILamp iMacs (G4s) are maybe the most notoriously difficult Macs to get a Linux desktop on, mostly because of the GeForce graphics they were afflicted with came with. Since I don't have one and haven't tried to put Linux on it myself, I haven't posted anything about it, but PPC Luddite reader Gary R. via email shared a very concise set of instructions on how to get Ubuntu running on his, so I thought I'd post it here.

Here I quote Gary very liberally:
This is how I got Ubuntu to work:

Download Ubuntu 16.04 minimal install iso for ppc.

Install system utilities and Ubuntu Mate

When finished, reboot

At yaboot type: Linux nomodeset single

When you reach root, type: visudo

Below: root ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL type: username ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL (as per your instructions)

Hit Control o, hit return, then exit

nano /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-framebuffer.conf

comment (#) nvidiafb, uncomment vesafb

write, save, exit

nano /etc/modules, add nvidiafb

write, save, exit

nano /etc/initramfs-tools/modules, add nvidiafb

write, save, exit

update-initramfs -u

nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf and add:
Section      "Screen"
     Identifier   "Default Screen"
     Monitor     "Default Monitor"
     Device      "Configured Video Device"
     DefaultDepth 16
EndSection
write, save, exit

nano /etc/yaboot.conf and add to the append lines to read "quiet splash video=offb:off nomodeset single"

write, save, exit

ybin -v

Type "passwd" and add a root password

Reboot

You should come to a screen that says "Enter root password for maintenance or Control D to continue"

Hit Control D and you should get the Ubuntu Mate desktop
And scene. Gary adds he has to boot into rescue mode as it seems necessary with the nvidiafb and it's the only way to have shutdown, suspend, and reboot working properly. He also likes MATE, and after playing with the latest release on my Debian Sid install, I like it, too. So there.

Thanks again to Gary R.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

New PPC Media Center Version 6

It seems like just yesterday that I was bitching about Vevo videos on Youtube breaking my Greasemonkey downloaders, and Adam Albrec came to the rescue with PPC Media Center, a GUI frontend for youtube-dl written in all AppleScript. Now he's back with another update and we're all the way at version 6 now. Through that time, the app has evolved from a simple streamer and downloader to a full-featured package that's added multi-segment video support, MP3 creation, Universal binary support, etc., and now with version 6 adds even more to the festivities.

New to this version (quoted from the Read Me):

1. Now supports List (Youtube) / Album (Vimeo) Play & Download.

2. AutoDownloading (Batch) - In the background; separate from Primary Play/Download/MP3-creation functions.

3. Enhanced WebM-avoidance for PPC systems and only downloads as a last-resort - with a prompt (Intel Mac are
unaffected).

4. Dynamically check Python version, and can even work in Intel systems with system-Python problems.

5. New Smart Installer, deletes all install-packages on completion (reclaiming 50+MB of disk-space).



The big addition here is the batch AutoDownloader, allowing you to copy multiple links to the clipboard (links can be separated by commas, spaces, or line breaks) and download them in the background while still being able to play other videos in the foreground.


Also added are Spanish and German localizations. Viva PowerPC!

So give it a download. And when you do, don't forget the Extras/Goodies/Legal folder where you'll find some experimental apps and the localizations.

Of course all the previous features we've come to know and love return for this version, and I'm seriously impressed by the work that went into this and that Adam could do it all with AppleScript. The more likely scenario is he already developed this when I made my original complaint about Vevo videos, but I'll still cling to the belief that my bitching and moaning opened the floodgates of inspiration and led directly to the creation of PPC Media Center. None of this would have happened without PPC Luddite. This blog is all powerful. I am ruler and surveyor of my realm.

PPC Media Center 6 supports both PowerPC and Intel, OS X 10.4 - 10.8. You may download it here:

http://www.mediafire.com/download/a7oo6v27ilma29r/PPC_Media_Center_6.zip

MD5: fa675015ad7f78b82f5fb8affea3247e
SHA1: f371b922a856d48518c33277beb4f8eb2ce023f9


SLIGHTLY UPDATED version with Pasquale Barbaro's Italian localization in addition to the German and Spanish ones:

http://www.mediafire.com/download/r5wqp9y40p88r95/PPC_Media_Center_6.0.zip

MD5: 04188b4e00b69eae8c667dfc0cf2701c
SHA 1: d56e5d721fc3d6d85c54a28121194d3945b3edc8

As always, my original post introducing PPC Media Center will be updated with a download link to the latest version.

(UPDATE: A couple of people have reported getting stuck in a loop at the end of the installer. If this happens, you can download PPCMC_6.0-App_ONLY.zip. It's the app only and doesn't install any missing programs like mp3 binaries or Spark, which you probably already have if you've used previous versions of PPC Media Center.)