Tuesday, January 19, 2016

On Reviving Dead Power Supplies (Or How I Just Got Lucky Doing Any Random Thing the Internet Told Me To)

My Power Mac 7600 died. At least I thought. It was a dead power supply, and also extremely disappointing (Do you hear that, 7600? I'm not angry, just disappointed.). This 7600 was da man. It was my vinyl ripper with its built-in RCA ports and Coaster, and it was also my bridge machine, the only Mac I could directly network to my post-SCSI Macs.

So I checked out Ebay and saw just one power supply available for 30 or 40 dollars plus shipping, but before I contemplated that, I took another look at the stiff. Was my dead cadaver power supply dead after all? I opened the case and was shocked to see how much dust was in it. The power supply had it packed in so that when you slid the frame off you had a brick of dust. Disgraceful. I think that's why I forgot to take pictures–my subconscious was too ashamed and didn't want anyone to see.

Anyway, I thought, maybe if I get all this guck out it'll magically awaken. Wishful thinking, admittedly, but being single-task minded and obsessive, I proceeded. I opened up the power supply and...

When working inside a power supply, it is exceedingly likely you will receive an electrical shock, and a powerful one, unless you take safety precautions. Never touch anything with your bare fingers. Never reach inside it with anything metal. Power supplies can hold an electrical charge longer than you might suspect, so be careful.

...using a modelers paint brush with a plastic handle, I brushed all the dust out. Back up a second. First I gave it a good blow and immediately realized my mistake. After letting everything settle, I more sensibly applied the modelers brush and didn't stop until every last bit of lint was removed. What I had left was a pristine power supply, seemingly, that probably wouldn't work, but at least it looked nice. I also read on some random forum that I should blow a hair dryer on it while set on hot for a couple of minutes. Not to cook it, but just to warm it up a bit. Well, if the internet tells me to do it, I'm doing it.

So after blowing the hair dryer on it, I reassembled the frame and stuck it back in the 7600. I do wish the 20 year old plastic wasn't as brittle as toffee. At least you can eat toffee. Then I put the case cover on, hooked everything up, plugged it in and pressed the power button quickly without thinking about it 'cause I didn't want to jinx it by waiting one more second, and holy s---, it worked. The fan spun, the chime chimed, and that sweet SCSI whine of the hard drive spinning up followed.

Was it the de-dusting? The hair dryer trick? My stern looks of reproach? Dunno. But since none require superhuman effort, I recommend all three. Having said that, I probably just got lucky.

While in the business of reviving things, I got the idea to fix a dead Seagate SCSI drive with a new screwdriver set I bought. This drive had its circuit board exposed on the top and was vulnerable to physical damage (don't ask), but I kept it stashed in a box with vague thoughts of one day fixing it. Fifteen years later, I finally got the idea to switch out circuit boards. Or I probably got the idea before, but I just forgot about it. Anyway, since I now have every screwdriver head imaginable and a second identical model drive that I bought way back when as a replacement, suddenly it seemed imminently doable. So I unscrewed and removed the damaged circuit board, replaced it with the good one, and now I could finally see my desktop as it was, frozen in time, 15 years ago:

my Mac OS desktop

The wallpaper is a Laetitia Casta underwater shot (I took that), and I think the icons are from AppleWorks clip art.

The universe couldn't let all this good news go unpunished, so to even things out my iBook died. It's either the DC-in board or the motherboard, but the battery still charges, so I'm 99% sure it's the motherboard. Repeatedly yelling at it, "You bastard! You bastard!" hasn't worked yet, but I'll keep you updated.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Mac OS's Ranked

17) 10.9 Mavericks – An inexplicable update, the only notable new feature being a slower boot time. This was Apple saying, "We can make them do anything" (evilly rubbing hands together).

16) 10.0 Cheetah – OS X's first release after the public beta. The Cheetah codename was an unfortunate attempt at irony.

15) 10.1 Puma – An OS X still not ready for prime time. "Restore the Apple Menu" petitions were rife at this time.

14) 10.7 Lion – The first release in the iOS era. The UI was a mess. No more Rosetta or Save As. Who thought that denim texture was a good idea?

13) 10.2 Jaguar – Well, at least they removed the pinstripes from the dock. Progress is incremental.

12) 10.10 Yosemite – Glad memory's cheap these days. Also, what was with all the spyware? B phoned home even when you opened "About This Mac."

11) 10.11 El Capitan – All the pros and cons of Yosemite but slightly leaner.

10) 10.5 Leopard – Dropped the Classic Environment yet simultaneously introduced new levels of bloat (mostly useless eye candy). The last to support PowerPC.

9) 10.3 Panther – Brushed metal. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Brushed metal.

8) System 7 – Brought many new modern features, but also brought something else we've all become familiar with in OS updates – a slower system. Also, the 7.5 - 7.6 releases had stability issues (mostly related to the PowerPC transition).

7) Systems 1-5 – These first Macintosh systems were rudimentary, but they established the user interface in an unprecedentedly human way. Whereas every other OS made you feel like you were at work, Macs made you feel like you were at home.

6) Mac OS 9 – Like 8.6 but with a bunch of new stuff I never use.

5) 10.8 Mountain Lion – Apple apologizes for Lion.

4) Mac OS 8 – Introduced Platinum, which I've never really been a fan of, although the Finder remained very fast. Had to wait till 8.6 to become stable, then it became like a rock.

3) 10.6 Snow Leopard – Apple apologizes for Leopard.

2) 10.4 Tiger – An OS X that's stable, efficient, and stays out of the way. Still usable as an everyday system after nine years, and in the internet era that's a major feat.

1) System 6 – The apex of speed and usability. Its boot times beat any modern system, and the user interface is the very definition of intuitive. System 6 is largely responsible for making your compact Mac feel like an old friend.

Happy Mac

Sunday, November 22, 2015

You Ever Wanna Stuff That Effing Website in a Box?

Just spreading the word here--Cameron Kaiser released a new app called TenFourFoxBox which generates site-specific browser apps. Read his full blog post, but in short it allows a smoother and faster experience from resource-heavy websites by boxing them into their own browser processes and keeping spinning beachballs to a minimum. I've tried it out and it makes a difference.

Faster browsing is good.

UPDATE: And Adam Albrec has made a spiffy Twitter app out of this, including a custom icon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Tiger & Leopard Users Up to Their Eyeballs in Software Updates

Who said development on PowerPC was dead?

Adam Albrec has released PPC Media Center 5.5, an update that requires PPC Media Center 5.0 and is PowerPC only (unlike 5.0 which was universal). So 5.5 is sort of our ppc secret handshake update. It has various enhancements and now includes all options in a single menu.

ICYMI, LibreOffice for Leopard PPC has started putting out LibreOffice 5 versions. Looks like this project has staying power.

Nathan Hill at G5 Center has been developing SimpleMarkPPC, a MarkDown application that creates, edits, and exports MarkDown documents while keeping everything simple--you type in the text and it gives you live updates. There are a lot of possibilities with this, so definitely check it out.

Finally, TenFourFox continues churning out updates, and Tenfourbird is out with a version 38 as well. Still waiting for the former's 68k port. I guess it's delayed.

Got any more? Please add them in the comments.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

More Randomish News

People tell me things...

Via reader Ed, a new version of OpenBSD is out with improved PowerPC and G5 stability and performance. I don't know much about OpenBSD, but don't let that stop you ;)

Also, Hack 5190 at MacRumors' PowerPC Forum dropped news of a new version of the Flash hack that has the old 10.1 plugin spoof itself as the latest v19. This should be useful to those of you using Cameron Kaiser's SandboxSafari.

In case you missed it, the PowerPC Hub just celebrated its fourth birthday with a video.

At the Ubuntu forums, I saw this Radeon UMS thread for users who need to disable KMS and can't get acceleration because the Radeon driver dropped UMS support. The new UMS-enabled debs are for Ubuntu 14.04, but just for giggles I tested them on Debian and they worked! I just had to install libgcrypt11 1.5.3 in addition to the debs provided--the libgcrypt11 in Debian was too old.

Finally, Apple's ruse to release El Capitan as x86 only to reveal it was PowerPC all along is up:

Spotify 1.0.8 on El Capitan detected as a PowerPC app

Nice try, Apple. If it weren't for those meddling kids!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ghost in My Machine

From the CRT days you've probably heard about screen burn-in, but there's sort of an LCD equivalent, what's known as image persistance. Nothing's technically burned in, but the pixels on the display can appear to be ghosting an image that's been displayed an inordinate amount of time.

I bring this up because this has been happening with my Powerbook display. Tiger's great and all (efficient, gets out of the way, Classic support, etc., etc.), but its one problem is its blindingly bright menubar. It's leaving a ghost on my display when I switch to fullscreen apps, and so does TenFourFox's address bar and back button, which are displayed probably more often than is healthy (Oh, look! Another cat gif!). I haven't seen this on any of my other displays, so maybe my Powerbook's is uniquely bad, but if this is a problem for you here are a couple of things that fixed it for me.

First I tried what Apple recommends, which is to switch your screensaver to an all white background and run it with your screen brightness turned almost all the way down overnight. After a couple of nights, I maybe noticed a little change but it wasn't satisfactory, and then I remembered a munubar utility called MenuShade and installed that.

MenuShade creates a shaded band across the top of your screen where the menubar is, giving the illusion that the menubar brightness is turned down. This obviously is a problem when switching to a fullscreen app--the shaded band is still there. However you can exclude these apps in MenuShade's preferences, though for some reason it doesn't work with VLC. Shrug, I use Mplayer anyway.



So I've been running with MenuShade dimming the menubar, and I've also started using TenFourFox in fullscreen mode to change up the placement of the address bar, and after a few days of normal use I saw a big difference, and now after about five days the ghosting is almost completely gone.

There's another utility to deal with Tiger's menubar called MagicMenu, which autohides the menubar, but it causes a lot of bugginess and misbehavior in certain applications. Not recommended unless you like slamming fist to keyboard.

Do any of your 'Books or iMacs have this ghosting problem?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Updated Transmission

A little birdie in comments tells me there's a new version of Transmission for Tiger that I previously wrote about. This new version is 2.84 and is available at this link new updated link, so try it out. I did and it's much nicer!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Debian Kernel With Sound Fix

(UPDATE: The original version of this post had typos in the symlinks below. They have been corrected.)

Following up on my last post where I mentioned compiling a custom kernel to test sound patches, I can report the patches worked and those of you who have been suffering from that nasty soundcard detection failure will have restored sound in, I believe, the 4.2 kernel. However, if you don't want to wait that long, I'm making available the patched Jessie kernel I compiled on my Sawtooth (download link at bottom).

Actually, the first kernel I compiled was on my G3 iBook, but I compiled it without Altivec instructions, so that would be kind of useless to G4 owners. So I compiled another one on the Sawtooth (I didn't want to risk melting my iBook again), and it works fine on all three systems I've tried it on (G3 iBook, G4 Sawtooth, and G4 Powerbook). It's compiled with all the stock options; the only modifications are the two patches, this one applied on top of this one, that fix the sound bug.

So after you download it, open a terminal and use the cd command to change to your downloads directory:

cd ~/Downloads

Then install the kernel with:

sudo dpkg -i linux-image-3.16.7-ckt11-soundfix_1.0_powerpc.deb

Then to set it as your default kernel, create these two symlinks:

sudo ln -s /boot/initrd.img-linux-image-3.16.7-ckt11-soundfix /boot/initrd.img.soundfix
sudo ln -s /boot/initrd.img-3.16.7-ckt11-soundfix /boot/initrd.img.soundfix

sudo ln -s /boot/vmlinux-linux-image-3.16.7-ckt11-soundfix /boot/vmlinux.soundfix
sudo ln -s /boot/vmlinux-3.16.7-ckt11-soundfix /boot/vmlinux.soundfix

Then edit /etc/yaboot.conf, adding this kernel entry on top of the others:
Listing it first will keep it as your default kernel even after a software update installs a newer kernel. Conversely, if you're through with it being your default, list it somewhere other than first. As always when changing yaboot.conf, run sudo ybin -v to update the configuration.

Now using this very unofficial kernel brings up thorny security issues: how can you trust it, how do you know it doesn't have malicious code, etc. However, in the years I've written this blog, I think I've established that

a) I'm reasonably trustworthy.
b) I totally lack the skills to pull something like that off.

So install with no worries :)

Here's the download and sha256 fingerprint:


sha256: f489a9d2c617fa803bbe44c7913a4540b1705ab3e6da6b149559bddcb3b508ff

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Compile a Custom Kernel on Debian

This post is mostly a note to myself in case I ever have to do this again, but if you can make use of it, please feel free!

So you'd like to compile your own kernel in Debian. There are at least a few valid reasons why. First, the reason I did it, is to test kernel patches. Second, you may want to configure your kernel to work around driver bugs. For example, see this Debian-PPC-mailing-list thread about compiling your kernel to get the Nouveau driver working on G5 Power Macs (long thread, but very interesting information). And third, you may want to test newer kernels from upstream to get a head start on bug squashing. In any event, here are the exact steps I took to compile my own kernel in Debian Linux:

sudo aptitude install fakeroot kernel-package libncurses5-dev #installs the development packages (about a gigabyte).

sudo aptitude install linux-source-3.16 #installs the source into /usr/src.

cd ~/Development #change directory into the "Development" folder in my home folder.

tar -Jxf /usr/src/linux-source-3.16.tar.xz #unpacks the source into current directory.

cd ~/Development/linux-source-3.16 #change to linux-source-3.16 directory; if you're applying patches, this is the stage to do it.

make menuconfig #configure your kernel options.

make-kpkg clean #clean stuff?

fakeroot make-kpkg --initrd --revision=1.0 --append-to-version=-custom1 kernel_image #compiles the kernel; the "--revision" and "--append-to-version" options may be redundant, but I just did them both; notice the "-custom1" begins with a leading "-".

sudo dpkg -i ../linux-image-3.16.7-ckt9-custom1_1.0_powerpc.deb #installs the kernel.

So there you have it! It should automatically make your new kernel the default, but if it doesn't you can add a new kernel section to /etc/yaboot.conf, placing it at the top above the "Linux" and "old" sections. Conclude of course by running "sudo ybin -v".

The actual compiling took eight hours on my G3 iBook, and not wanting to burn out my iBook compiling a kernel, I set up a desk fan to blow across the keyboard to keep temperatures sane. Here's a time saver, though: If you want to apply subsequent patches, you can go straight to the "fakeroot make-kpkg" step and this will only recompile the modules you're patching rather than the whole kernel. So that's nice.

Finally, if you want to test new development kernels, obviously you'd download the source from upstream rather than Debian's repository.

Debian kernel compiling reference link (h/t rican-linux).