Many people have their favorite Mac and for several different reasons. A lot of people in the Mac world tend to put aesthetics before function and expandability, by choosing impractical but pretty computers. The Cube, and any iMac from the G4 model on are perfect examples of this. To be fair, I do have a natural bias against any all in one computers, but at least the iMac G3's didn't sacrifice hardware health for the sake of design. The form before function thing is a big part of the Mac culture; one I have never been able to relate to and never will.
When I look at what makes a perfect computer, I look at reliability and expandability before anything else. Expandability means tower and the Power Macs Apple made in the 1997 - 2002 (8600 - Quicksilver) era are the most reliable computers Apple ever made. Within this elite group of hardware the Sawtooth has the greatest track record of them all in both personal experience and Apple service records. The first revision of the Sawtooth only had a 1.6 % failure rate and the Uni-N 7 revision of the tower was under 1 %. These numbers are very impressive on their own, but they seem even better when you look at MDD's or G5's. MDD's had a 6-11 % failure rate depending on model, and the first dual 2 GHz G5 has a shockingly high failure rate of around 30 %. The liquid cooled models are just as bad if not worse. People can chase after higher specs all they want, but what good is it when it stops running?
I actually switched from computing with 2x MDD (dual 867 and 1.42) to 2x Sawtooth in 2009. The dual 867 was decently reliable, but the dual 1.42 had some real issues with stability on every OS I ever ran on it. Then there is the G5 systems, which I feel are about the worst thing that ever happened to the PowerPC architecture, but I will get into that more in the future.
When most hear about my switching from the MDD to the Sawtooth they ask things like "why would you do that?". The answer is reliability combined with the G4 7448 CPU. I need reliability first and foremost, and I also had a strong desire to acquire a 7448 chip. The MDD's fail me on both these needs, because they are not nearly as reliable as other G4's, and they cannot take any of the 7448 upgrades since they are all only compatible from the Sawtooth through to the Quicksilver.
The Sawtooth are not only the most reliable Power Mac, but also one of the cheapest to buy of all the AGP equipped models. I see them these days for 40-80. Cheap enough that I have 5 total and plan to buy another few for a cluster I plan on building. 8+ systems is the sweet spot for G4 clusters, and I still want a few spares if the day comes that I need parts. I have built clusters for other people for years now, but this will be the first one I have ever built for myself. I am even at the point now of writing some of my own cluster software.
Breaking down the other G4 towers
MDD's are by far the most unreliable of all the G4 towers. Many people are understandably enticed by the stock specs since they are the highest of all the towers. If someone needs to get the best bang for their buck, and good performance without CPU upgrades, a dual 1.0 GHz Quicksilver might be the best choice for the long run.
The Gigabit Ethernet model has the same 2 GB RAM capacity as the Sawtooth vs the 1.5 GB limit in the Digital Audio and Quicksilver. Over the years though I have noticed the Gigagbit PSU's are not quite as reliable as the Sawtooth are. I would prefer the onboard gigabit vs the gigabit PCI card I have to use but the PSU tradeoff made the choice for me.
The Digital Audio and Quicksilver are both very reliable towers, but in my experiences the extra 512 MB RAM the Sawtooth allows is more of an overall system benefit than the 33MHz faster bus and AGP 4x vs 2x. OS X loves RAM as we all know, so the 33 % extra memory capacity and better PSU is why I chose the Sawtooth to base all, or at least most, of the computing I do. I have one Gigabit Ethernet system.
The Yikes (PCI Graphics) is one to avoid unless you get it for a steal. There is nothing unreliable about it, but it shares the same logic board with the rev. 2 B&W G3, and has a very slow memory controller compared to the AGP models with the same 100 MHz bus speed. Sawtooth's can be found for the same price or just a few bucks more and will perform noticeably better with the same CPU speed. The memory performs up to 3x faster, with a Yikes clocking in at only 180-250 MB/sec vs 500-800 MB/sec in a Sawtooth. Very impressive for the same bus speed which points to how important a good memory controller is.
The final word
Everyone has their own prerequisites for what makes a perfect computer but longevity, reliability and expandability are qualities that virtually anyone can get on board with. The Sawtooth meets all these needs and then some. They may be 12 years old now but when used by the right people they can still be extremely capable in the modern world.
Published on Thursday, August 30, 2012
The recent news of the new Mars rover being powered by a 200 MHz G3 is making some reevaluate their perception of the G3's ability. The early G4 chips are fundamentally just a G3 with an added Altivec unit. The final Power Mac G3 and the first G4 tower even share the same logic board and CPU socket. In terms of video playback though, the lack of Altivec is a big hit on performance, but there is still lots you can do with the right codecs and software.
I started out watching and collecting compressed digital video on a regular basis in 2002. This was in the late OS X 10.1 days. Then in August that year when 10.2 was released a big swarm of BSD and Linux software started getting ported over, thanks to the BSD based kernel. As I mention in my previous video article for G4/G5, it was this mid-late 2002 era when digital video playback really took off on the Mac. The classic and early OS X days were limited to half a handful of very sloppy, didn't work more than they did, DivX based QT codecs.
Your best friend with DivX/XviD and the like will be Mplayer (1.1 from 2002), because newer versions of it don’t like G3 CPU’s. This is because they rely heavily on Altivec. The same goes with versions of VLC past 0.5.3. To be fair, the versions that don’t run well (if at all) on G3 are from 2004 on, which is 5+ years after the G4 was introduced. The lack of Altivec is a hindrance on video playback, but I will now move on to the tools that will help you get all the video goodness you can out of your G3.
The Software (OS X 10.2 – 10.4)
Mplayer OSX 1.1 – Download
For best results open preferences and check the drop frames option, and also turn on cache. The drop frames option sounds bad, but it will make choppy video look quite smooth by dropping 2-5 frames a second in an orderly fashion so the end result is smooth. This exact version may be the second most efficient playback app ever made on Mac OS after CorePlayer.
VLC 0.5.3 – Download
As I noted already, the newer versions don’t work so well on G3 in my experiences, but your mileage may vary. You may also want to try some of the 0.6.x and 0.7.x builds, but don’t expect much better than 0.5.3. The archive of old versions is found here.
Apple DVD Player
Mplayer and VLC can play DVD also, but not as well (or with as little CPU) as Apple DVD Player can. DVD playback is something G3’s have done well for a long time, and will keep doing as long as they are still around to use.
It needs to be noted that early G3's like the beige desktop and tray load iMacs do not have DVD playback capability because they lack DVD decoding. On a beige tower/desktop you can upgrade the video to a late model Rage 128, or any compatible GPU with DVD decoding. The rev.1 B&W G3 had a special piggybacked decoder on the graphics card, but only on the DVD model of the tower. Later revisions of the Rage 128 had DVD decoding built in.
Any slot load iMac or white iBook with a DVD drive can play DVD. Any G3 tower with a DVD drive and a 100 MHz Rage 128 (vs the 75 MHz orig.) or better GPU can also play them.
When it really comes down to it, any computer is only as capable as the ability and imagination of the user. A G3 still has many capabilities if you use it with the right software and computing habits. I encourage everyone who owns a G3 still, and loves video to try my methods and the tools mentioned here. Let your G3 show you what it can really do. It may surprise you.
Published on Thursday, August 23, 2012
In 2004 I discovered what could easily be considered the greatest app launcher ever created on the Mac, but it's much more than just an app launcher. I am of course referring to Quicksilver. This has been the very first thing I put in the apps folder after a fresh OS X install ever since. I love how it allows me to all but ignore my dock and not only live without spotlight, but evolve past it.
Quicksilver can and will completely revolutionize the way you think of your apps, files and bookmarks and really all the contents of your drive. Rather than wasting time looking for what I want in the dock or anywhere else, I just tap F6 (you can set it to almost any key) which brings up the bezel and I then type the first 1-2 letters of whatever I'm after. That may sound odd to some, but once you get used to it, and learn how unlimited and customizable it is, your computer use and data access will be on a much more cerebral level.
The shocking thing is that after all these years of Quicksilver being around, there are still many people that have never used it, or even heard of it. I think this is at least partly to blame on the bloated dock syndrome so many suffer from on Mac OS X. This is part of that dock aesthetic Apple started in OS X. I personally think the dock is next to useless. It's kept hidden, and only contains apps that are running, and a rare minimized window, but I normally prefer just hiding whole apps to get them out of my way visually.
So for those of you willing to relearn how you get at your stuff within the OS, I encourage you to give it a try. I can't tell you exactly what it will do for you, because thats actually up to you. It learns from your personal use of it, and what things with similar names you open up more, so that after just 2 -3 uses it has already leaned many things from you.
Leopard/Tiger - Panther
Homepage - Plugins
The once great but short lived PowerPC Users dot com site went down after about 7-8 months without any new articles. When loading the site now you see:
It's sad to see what could have been a great site die, because of one lie ridden lamer, and another who made nothing but bad judgment calls.
A short history:
In December 2011 four of us (myself, chrismacguy, Thundersnake and adcx64) decided to start a PowerPC focussed site. We started this idea on the MacRumours forums, as we were all regulars there at the time.
Leading up to this time, adcx64 was going on and on about all the things he knew about computers, but when it came time to show us and write about it, he was a completely blank slate. He also waited till the site was started to spring the fact on us that he was only 15. It turned out that he didn't really know anything beyond starting a computer up and asking one of us other three to teach him everything. The guy that pretty much claimed to be a master of all things that compute, turned out to need us to figure out literally everything for him. He couldn't even put on thermal paste properly for goodness sake. There is nothing wrong with asking people for help when you don't know something, but not after claims of being a guru. The only thing of his that was ever published to the site was his system specs, because that was the only thing he ever contributed.
Then there is the issue of after all four of us decided to start the site together, that chris went behind all our backs, registered a url, and created the site without telling us. He then took the stance that it was his site first and foremost after we had decided to do it as a team of 4 equals. That killed half my interest right there. Although chris doesn't really lie, I wouldn't ever trust him again. His word is worth nothing. Then there was the fact that after he knew adcx64 knew absolutely nothing about computers, and told nothing but lies, he tolerated it as if it was normal and fine. The end result that now exists was inevitable.
On Dec. 24th 2011 I published my G4/G5 video article there, but by early January I had enough of chris seizing power from all of us and adcx64's endless lies and delusion so I left and then Thundersnake left soon after.
The lessons learned from the train wreck that was PowerPC Users have reminded me just how essential trust and valid information is. This is why this blog is so dedicated to sound accurate information.
adcx64 still frequents the MacRumours boards. Everyone who goes there needs to never trust anything he says. He is a compulsive liar that seems obsessed with pretending to know everything he ever says. A pathetic little mentally unstable ape. The kind of person that you wish would stay out of society forever.
I use one of my spare 400 MHz Sawtooth for testing things on occasion, and a few nights ago I was installing Leopard and testing performance. I went the more direct route to shoehorning it on by putting the drive in my 1.8GHz and installing it that way. I then put the drive in the 400 MHz again and it booted perfectly into a fully updated 10.5.8 install. No need to mess with firmware.
The performance was quite shockingly good to my delight. I opened Camino and Aurora with 4-5 tabs each then played 480p XviD in VLC 1.1.12, and had about 9% CPU to spare and no real system lag. After testing VLC playback I fired up MacTubes and was able to play the SD h.264 feeds perfectly smooth at approx. 81-82% CPU consumption. If you download the files with MacTubes, and play with VLC, or even play the feed in VLC; you can get away with even less CPU power, which makes a G4 350 MHz (AGP) a possibility to watch youtube with no frame drops. To be fair, the test system I'm using has 2GB RAM and an extra Geforce 6200 I have which supports every GUI/GPU feature in Leopard so those alone would help on any CPU.
This is even more proof that having a GPU with Core Image and Core Animation support is really what makes good Leopard performance. Without GPU hardware support for those built in can't turn off features in 10.5 you have to pay a CPU tax of up to 34%. This is because without CI/CA the OS uses the CPU to emulate the GPU. So anyone not running a Geforce 5200 or higher or a Radeon 9500 or higher under Leopard is literally slowing their CPU down as much as 34% and about 23% on average. The only way to actually disable all the GPU/GUI features in 10.5 that I have found is to have a tower and remove the video card. That means you can only remote into it.
The moral of the story is you're better off running Tiger if you have an unsupported GPU since it doesn't force the GPU features on the OS and CPU unless there is proper hardware support. If you do have GPU support then your 10.5 performance should be just as good, if not better. My two daily use Sawtooth both perform slightly better in all aspects on 10.5 and much better in OpenGL related code. A fully capable GPU is literally like an extra CPU in Leopard. In Tiger it's more of a slight benefit.
It's all about having the right hardware in the right places for the OS you run. The performance is amazing considering it's less than half the minimum CPU spec.
Test system specs:
G4 400 MHz 7400 w/1MB 2:1 L2
2 GB Memory
27 GB PATA HD
Geforce 6200 256 MB AGP
Published on Sunday, August 12, 2012
CorePlayer struggles with AC3 audio, but I discovered that installing Perian fixed this issue about 90%.
As a big user of VLC and Mplayer for about a decade before I bought CP in January, I hardly ever use Quicktime for playback. In turn, I never bothered installing Perian, as I didn't need extra codecs for it. It turns out that Perian makes some codecs truly system wide for any compatible app. In this case the compatibility is accidental.
Most of the MKV wrapped h.264 I play have AC3 audio so this is a huge help! I still have some issues with XviD that have AC3, but all the h.264 that had it play fine now.
Just something I wanted to share with the few CorePlayer users out there. I am running version 1.3.6 of CorePlayer and OS X 10.5 Leopard for the record.
Perian can be found here for those that don't have it or know of it.
I will say it right off the top... I am a video super-nerd. I love documentaries, films, sitcoms and animation, among many other things. There is no doubt to how much I love my video collection and the fact that I can play it all beautifully on PowerPC hardware. The hardware I currently use for playback is a PowerMac G4 Sawtooth with a 1.8GHz 7448 CPU and over 10.5 TB local storage, but I have used hoards of different PowerPC Macs over the years, and with many different Mac OS, codecs and playback software. The Altivec engine found in all G4 and G5 CPU's is key to good playback on more codecs and resolutions. In the next month or so I will be doing another article based on G3 video playback, but since video really comes to life with Altivec support I wanted to lead with it.
Since at least the early 90's, Apple hardware has been a leader in the professional video production industry, with Mac OS and Avid based applications. For years consumers have been able to play DVD's, and edit their personally filmed camcorder video on their Macs. Until 2002 though, the Mac platform was very limited in terms of good software and codecs for the ripping and playback of compressed video like DivX, XviD or anything FFmpeg based. This was a shame before then, because these are by far the most efficient codecs in terms of low CPU use and file size, and in turn the best for people that want to rip or digitize their video collections.
When OS X 10.2 Jaguar came out in August 2002, it really was a great time, as that was when a lot of new developers started porting their apps to Mac OS. Because of the BSD foundation of OS X this brought many developers over from the Unix and Linux world, and along with them they brought greats like VLC, Mplayer and Handbrake, just to name a few. By summer 2003, the Mac platform had done a complete 180 from DivX inept to fully capable, and I for one was very excited by this as a lover of video. Although I am going to explain how to get good playback on other codecs, I just want to first emphasize how crucial DivX and XviD are to a good experience, because of how inherently efficient both are, especially on sub-700MHz G4 hardware. Even if you have hardware far beyond that spec, it's still nice to keep CPU cycles free for other things. On the extreme low end of the G4 scale, like a 350-600MHz, these codecs will be your saving grace.
When it comes to h.264 video, it's less blocky, but can easily use 2-3x more CPU compared to DivX etc. The YouTube web interface for example is Flash on top of h.264, and will make many PowerPC systems come to screeching halt unless you have a faster G4 or a G5 system, but even then anything higher than 360p can be taxing on it. Flash has not been supported on PowerPC for over 2 years now, and I don't recommend anyone use it any longer. There are far too many security holes in 10.1, and any technically sane person would never use it. Those that love to spread the 10.1 plugins that are modified to show as newer versions should be banned from ever helping anyone with computers. For those that are a true slave to flash, and simply have to use it, you shouldn't do it on a PowerPC. Life can exist without it very easily. In my opinion using it is like saying you love things that are covered in horrible. Far too many people are slaves to this horrible technology.
I do have a few tips on how to improve playback and lower CPU use that I will get to in this article. One app out there that several PowerPC users I know online have raved about is CorePlayer, which several have confirmed can play 720p and 1080p h.264 on higher end G4 and G5 systems.
I am now going to group the hardware into two categories based on computing power, as it will help fine tune the playback options to the power you have to work with. The lowest OS I will advise on in this article is 10.4 as anything lower really limits playback options. When I do a G3 playback article I will add 10.3 and even 10.2 to the mix. Anyone running a G4 or G5 is far better off on 10.4+ for playback in terms of better software with more codec playability.
Group 1 - Single G4 350-600MHz
Your only real options are DivX (FFmpeg) based codecs at a lower resolution (240-360 high) for compressed video or standard DVD. Some low res h.264 will play also in MacTubes, once you get up to about 450MHz.
Best Software Options for 10.4:
- VLC 0.9.10 and/or Mplayer OSX 1.0rc1 for DivX
- Apple DVD Player for DVD
- MacTubes (set to use Quicktime in prefs.) for YouTube
Best Software Options for 10.5:
- VLC 1.1.12 and/or Mplayer 1.0rc1 for DivX
- Apple DVD Player (this will only work on a sub-700 MHz if you turn off deinterlacing)
- MacTubes (set to use Quicktime in prefs.) for YouTube
Since Leopard requires a G4 867MHz+, you should expect at least a slight decline in performance in this 350-600MHz range if you have shoehorned it on your hardware.
Group 2 - Single G4 700MHz+ - Any Dual G4 - Any G5
This is where video playback really shines on Apple's PowerPC systems. Virtually every codec is usable, and where your hardware sits on this scale will determine the quality/resolution it is capable of playing. Having a 1.0 GHz or higher is preferable but a 700 MHz is enough beef in my experience. I suppose even the 667 MHz PowerBook and PowerMac could be included, as they are close enough to 700, but I have little direct experience with that exact MHz.
Best Software Options for 10.4:
- VLC 0.9.10 and/or Mplayer OSX 1.0rc1 for ripped video of any codec or DVD's
- MacTubes for YouTube
Best Software Options for 10.5:
- VLC 1.1.12 and/or Mplayer OSX 1.0rc1 for ripped video of any codec or DVD's
- MacTubes for YouTube
About the Software
This is easily the most capable freeware player on any OS. Although 0.9.10 (last version with Tiger support) is very good, I feel the newest build of 1.1.12, which needs Leopard, is enough of a jump forward that it's worth upgrading if video playback is one of your main roles for your Mac. This newest build is hands down the best freeware player on the platform. I use it about 95% of the time I play video. I honestly cannot think of one bad thing to say about 1.1.12. It's that good. VLC had hinted at dropping PowerPC development about a year ago, but some great coders stepped up and they obviously have a great comprehension of Altivec optimizations.
0.9.10 - http://sourceforge.net/projects/vlc/...0.dmg/download
1.1.12 - http://sourceforge.net/projects/vlc/...c.dmg/download
Web Plugin - http://sourceforge.net/projects/vlc/...c.dmg/download
Archive - http://download.videolan.org/pub/videolan/vlc/
Mplayer is a very old and loyal friend that I have always kept around. It offers great features like frame dropping for slower machines, and I find is the best player by far at playing ripped media off optical disks, with it's well implemented disk cache feature. There are actually 2 different Mplayer projects on Macs. There is the standard Mplayer team and then there is another development team that ads the OS X name on the end. Over the years this has resulted in two different directions for the app and many different versions from each. The best one in my experiences is 1.0rc1, which is a PowerPC optimized build from 2006 that runs great on Tiger and Leopard. VLC is a more elegant and capable player in general, but Mplayer is a beast and has always been there for me when I need it. A very worthy tool to keep around indeed.
It tends to like G4 chips a lot more than G5's.
1.0rc1 - http://www1.mplayerhq.hu/MPlayer/releases/MPlayerOSX_1.0rc1.dmg
This is a saviour for anyone with at least a G4 450MHz (maybe a 400 if it's all you're running), and the desire to be able to watch YouTube video. It also offers a totally different method of experiencing YouTube. Set the player setting in preferences to Quicktime to make video playable. I am able to play 240/360p/480p perfectly on my G4 1.8GHz with Flash on the site, but after almost two years of using MacTubes now I honestly prefer it over the web. For one you never have to look at what are generally obnoxious comments, unless you want to see them, by clicking on info which opens the comments in a separate window. It makes YouTube a lot more like watching a video in VLC or Mplayer. A winner in my book.
MacTubes is also a very capable and robust YouTube downloader, and also gives you direct urls to each resolution offered, to stream to VLC or whatever player you choose.
Always get the newest - http://macapps.sakura.ne.jp/mactubes/index_en.html
A note about Quicktime
While it is useful to give MacTubes its most CPU-efficient form of playback, and to do simple edits (Pro version), it is easily the least efficient playback application on the Mac. VLC and Mplayer beat it hands down in terms of CPU consumption, and by margins of 50% and higher. Even if you have every codec under the sun installed for Quicktime, it's simply far too much of a CPU hog to use for playback. No matter the codec, resolution, or whatever - QT is a sloppy pig. All I use it for is MacTubes (indirectly) and simple edits, and/or joining parts together ($30 pro version).
Quicktime has a clear role on the Mac, but its strength hasn't been playback for a long long time now. Even with MacTubes, I often download the videos and watch them in VLC. A clear example of the difference in CPU use... to play a 360p video in MacTubes via Quicktime it uses about 30-35% of my 1.8GHz 7448. To play the same video in VLC it only consumes about 18-19%, and a very low 9-12% in CorePlayer.
The moral of the story is don't use QT to play video. Streaming a video is going to consume the same bandwidth, so why not just download it and play it with a more efficient tool. I only ever use VLC and CorePlayer to stream, and only for video I just want to watch the first few seconds of to see if it's worth downloading. I delete most of them after watching.
I am the proud owner of several Sawtooths; these were the last PowerMac to have 10/100 ethernet.
I bought two Trendnet TEG-PCITXR PCI gigabit ethernet cards for only $12 each on ebay. I am happy to say that it works perfectly and uses built in drivers found in 10.5.2+.
Here is a product page for it: TEG-PCITXR
It lists nothing about mac compatibility, but I read on a couple different sites that these worked in 10.5.2+ so I gave them a try. Glad I did. It's also a great idea for firewall systems that need 2 ethernet or even a PowerMac with dead onboard eth.
So any PowerMac with PCI and 10.5 can easily benefit from this card. I am loving the true gigabit speed. It makes network drives perform like local drives.
After further testing I have found that these cards do work under 10.4.11. I had one working on both my G4 upgraded G3 tower, and one of my spare Sawtooth. Both were running 10.4.11.
I have been using the two cards under 10.5 for over a year and they offer very reliable and consistent performance. I get around 27MB/sec on average, and up to 34MB/sec when transfering between my two Sawtooth. Far better than the 4-11MB/sec I get on the built in 10/100.
These cards also work perfectly in Debian and Lubuntu Linux. There seems to be no OS I use that these don't work perfectly with. OpenBSD also.
These cards are a must for G4 towers. The built in ethernet on my Gigabit (Mystic) tower only gets around 20-21MB/sec vs these cards that are 27-34MB/sec as I mention above.