PowerMac Experience

I'm recording some of my discoveries and dissapointments that I've experienced with my PowerMac boxes. Fortunately, if I get angry enough at Apple and MacOS, I can always run NetBSD and be as happy as a clam.

I have a 1.5GB of memory for my DP 800MHz PowerMac G4, just waiting to be installed. However, I've been running it with the stock 256MB to see how well it works with more limited resources. Performance is quite acceptable. I've compiled small software packages, run iTunes, ripped and played CDs and MP3s, and used the DVD player and a web browser without problem. Admittedly casual use is not a stress test, but it is a starting point.

As far as I can tell, the slowest point seems to be the Western Digital IDE disk which came with the box. I may upgrade to some IBM Deskstar 7200 RPM IDE drives and try striping them together to see how that changes performance. however, in the long run, I plan on getting an ATTO SCSI card, the same as Apple ships with SCSI-equiped PowerMacs. Combined with some Ultra 160 LVD scsi drives, it can have up to two times the performance of the slow ATA drives.

The SuperDrive CD/CD-RW/DVD/DVD-R works reasonably well, although it has problems reading CDs that other drives have no problem reading. Most of the time, though, it easily reads CDs for ripping at 4x.


One of the biggest beefs I have is that there is no way for technical people to contact Apple and tell them that something is wrong. They have these lame user groups on the Support web site where people can commiserate -- but no actual product support by Apple at all.

The other beef I have is that Apple could run their MacOS-X aka NextStep environment on top of a modern OS, instead of their antiquated version of Mach. Up to date unix kernels, such as NetBSD have support for many devices, excellent reliability, and world-class library support. Instead of using this as a stepping-stone to provide support for Apple's own excellent software, they waste their time trying to keep their obsolete stuff working. They don't have the time to make a good unix environment and libraries that the rest of the world has had for a decade. If Apple wants to be really competitive and stay that way, they need to have standard unix facilities underneath -- not the unsupported, halfway hacked stuff they have now.

Notes about Problems and Oddities

DVD Playing
The DVD player on MacOS-9.2.x has hiccups every once in a while, especially if you use the DVD control gizmo. Under MacOS-X, the DVD player never skips or anything, even with an active control panel.
CD / MP3 Playing
After the above note about the DVD playing, it came as a bit of a surprise that MacOS-X has worse audio performance than MacOS-9.2 has! When playing CDs and MP3s on MacOS-X there are noticeable skips and pauses which just don't appear in MacOS-9.2.x.
MacOS-X Sleep Hangs
MacOS-X will often remain catatonic after going to sleep. The only way to recover so far has been to hit the reset button. The display remains turned off and inactive. It just never wakes up. I also learned that pushing the power button for 5-6 seconds will power off the machine to fix this problem
MacOS-X Network Problems
ESC doesn't work in OS X
ESCape is the default activation key for the speech recogniction subsystem. This of course breaks vi. The solution is to use a different key to recognize speech in the speech system preference or control panel. I used option+ESC, but whatever works for you.

Notes about Macintosh

Being a Unix person, there are some Mac-oriented things I've needed to pick up on for using the GUI part of the machine. I've listed them here for myself and others. Mac people will laugh, undoubtedly.

Apple Knowledge Base Notes

Software Updates

I keep track of these here so I can find old updates in case I need to re-install.

Random Hardware Suppliers

Random Notes

Software and Such

Bolo's Home Page
Last Modified: Tue Nov 6 17:24:01 CST 2007
bolo (Josef Burger) <bolo@cs.wisc.edu>