How Useful is a Mac mini G4?

I purchased a 1.42GHz model off ebay a few months back for less than $40, and at the same time questioning myself why I bought it in the first place.

In the past, I owned a 1.33GHz mini and thought it was the stupidest thing ever. Two USB ports (enough for a keyboard and a mouse) without a hub, no Bluetooth, and no AirPort. Still to this day I would still hate this particular model if I owned it.

The only saving grace for this 1.42 is the fact it has BT (albeit v1.1) and AirPort, if not, I would have never considered bidding on it.

So the specs of this bad boy. You know already it has a 1.42GHz G4, and an AP/BT card. It’s also packing 1GB of DDR, 32MB Radeon 9200, SuperDrive, and a spacey 74.53GB Hitachi (which I would love to replace with a SSD, in the future however). And last but not least, Mac OS X Leopard. To overcome my bitchy attitude towards the USB ports, I am using a Wireless Keyboard and a Magic Mouse. The Intel mac mini ditches the modem and instead has 4 USB ports compared to the lame amount of 2 on the G4. If you’re even more curious about this machine it was made in the last week of January 2005, either in China or the Czech Republic, also was the 1,319th machine to be built that week.

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If you are new to the mini, here is an overview of the ports:

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  • Power
  • Ethernet
  • Modem
  • DVI out
  • 2x USB 2.0
  • FireWire 400
  • Headphone Jack
  • Kensington Lock

The point of this post is to see if this Mac mini can do enough for me to keep it around, and from here on out I’ll focus on the usability of programs and software categories. I attempt to do my best, and I’m sure people will argue that this is just my opinion, but I can’t judge for everyone! This post is also focused on the Mini G4 line. A G5 would do everything on this list a billion times easier, but I’m not discussing that today!

MUSIC & RADIO:

I constantly listen to music, and at work we listen to KSFO for Rush Limbaugh every day, and sometimes even my local radio station. This category is focused on online radio/services.

Spotify 

Spotify
The Mac mini is actually perfect for this. Plays music without any issues using the Spotify 0.6.6.10 app from 2011. To be honest, so far this is the thing I think the mini does the best! If you have Spotify Premium the ability to save music offline works flawlessly.

Pandora
Pandora does work, however requires Flash player. Attempting to use Pandora under TFF brings me to the page “We need flash player xx or higher to continue”. And using a third party program such as PandoraBoy or PandoraBox do not work whatsoever.

However, we do have some better luck with Safari. Pandora will allow you to sign in and listen to your different playlists, however this uses up your processor and memory resources (saw a max of 91% CPU and 25.74MB free of 1024MB RAM). There is also a weird bug where it will not play the next song unless you open the window again (if you minimized it).

So my conclusion: It’s functional, but the resource requirements and the minimize bug gives it a “functional, with bugs” rating.

Online Radio [KSFO & JDX] ⍰ ❌
Of course online radio uses flash, I attempted to use TFF for streaming with disappointment. With Safari, I was able to listen to KSFO with the iHeartRadio link, but streaming this actually ate up 100% of the CPU and 990MB of RAM. I was also able to listen to my local radio station, again maxing out the Mac mini, and to be honest if I only used the mini for radio streaming I’d rather buy an AM/FM radio since the mini would cut out the radio feed quite often.

I’m giving the online radio category the same rating as Spotify, because some things work, but have bugs.

INTERNET BROWSING & ONLINE VIDEOS:

Web Browsing 
Simple web browsing is not all that great under TenFourFox. With a WordPress and a MacRumors forum tab open, the fan immediately increased speed. The Google homepage lags, loading Gmail takes a 10 or so seconds, Drudge Report takes forever to load (and this website is pretty plain, text and photos), among any other websites I try to view, even with ads blocked and TFF tweaks added.

Safari was not much better unfortunately, and it is not my internet (stable 30Mbps down / 9.5Mbps up) which I had been testing alongside loading web pages on the G4. Wikipedia loaded much better, granted, it is 95% text. Due to the incompatibility with so many other websites I give web browsing on the G4 a fail rating.

Online Videos 

YouTube Safari

I tried YouTube under Safari, and it would act like it was playing, then jump to the 34 second mark then jump 20 seconds, and so on. By default the quality was set to 460p, I changed that to 240p and it was still terrible. 144p? Still wouldn’t play properly.

What about TenFourFox? I still had to stare at a black screen for a minute, then it would skip every 20 seconds or so too, however it would barely, just barely, play the video. Under TFF, you can’t select any other quality other than 360p.

MacTubes

Or MacTubes? Yeah, I gave that a shot too. Impossible to do anything, MacTubes kept giving me errors ruining hopes of playing a video. This category receives a fail rating as well.

MULTIMEDIA (AUDIO & VIDEO):

This category I have hope for, consisting of music and video downloaded on the computer (unlike services such as Spotify or YouTube that use the internet).

Audio 

VLC Audio

I played a test audio file in iTunes and VLC media player, with no lag whatsoever. Once I started messing with audio visualizations in VLC, the audio started to cut out but would come back. I give audio a pass.

Video 

VLC Video

I didn’t have any 1080p videos to test, however the 720p TV show I had played fine, but the audio would lag under VLC. The .avi file wouldn’t load in QuickTime without additional codecs. I give this category a plausible rating, that it could have just been the file I had.

So that is what I think the Mac mini G4 can do, granted I’m bashing the poor little thing. So, in light of things, what is the mini good for outside of what I listed above?

Well, you can plug in external hard drives into the mini using USB or FireWire 400 and then share them on your network if you are okay with 54Mbps over the wifi speeds or 100Mbps LAN speeds. I personally prefer gigabit if I need to move several massive files at once, so the mini is not for me in this category.

Spotify works pretty good! You can’t control the song from another computer or your phone, however if you have a big speaker system in a garage or whatever and need to put the thing to use, the mini will work great for that. Low powered music box.

Typing up documents is doable, and is doable on pretty much any machine (shoot even Office 2003 on a Windows 2000 Pro box is more than capable), and if you go this route there are many different programs available to do just that. iWork 09, Office 2004/08, NeoOffice, LibreOffice, your choice. Hook up a printer and you are good to go.

I personally don’t have a dedicated (or a good) use for the mini, and everything I listed above can be done easier and quicker on a higher clocked G4 or G5 with more processor power and definitely more RAM.

If you are reading this and are considering buying a mini G4, I would recommend finding one with at least a Core 2 Duo running Snow Leopard. Everything, good or bad, that I listed above will perform a hundred times better than the G4. If you own a mini and are reading this, make the most out of what you have!

So what are my plans with the little guy? Honestly I have no idea, it might just end up on ebay since I have nothing I can use this machine for unfortunately! If I do post it to ebay, I’ll share the link with the PowerPC Centre facebook page.

Until next time…

Posted in G4, Hardware, OS X 10.5 Leopard, Software, Uses for PowerPC | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Trying this again – Purchased another G5 Quad

Well I did not plan on this purchase, but…

I was at work yesterday looking at craigslist to see if there was anything good and with my luck, there was a 3 day old posting for a G5 quad and a 23″ ACD for $150. I emailed the guy and to my luck he still had it so when I got off work I drove the hour and a half to Reno so I could come home with it.

Since I promised the guy I was coming to get it tonight he let me have it for $100 which made the deal even sweeter. I met him at his office where he makes TV shows and is currently working on a midwestern show that will be a “Netflix Original” in the near future.

I looked at the G5 and it was in pristine shape, it was purchased and used by a Charter School in Reno and eventually he ended up with it and installed was the entire Adobe CS3 collection. The display didn’t have a scratch on it. So I gave him my money and started to head towards In-n-out burger to pick up some dinner and head home but that was interrupted by my 2003 Ram 2500 with the 5.7L hemi deciding to start overheating so I parked in the Peppermill parking lot and waited.

On the way home I brought plenty of sweatshirts to keep things from getting scratches, and my MacBook Air is hidden under them.

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I ended up not getting food and drove home (truck didn’t overheat!), and discovered the clutch fan was the cause of overheating in my truck.

I hooked the G5 up and used it for a bit, it’s packing 12GB of Ram (4x1GB and 4x2GB sticks) which will be upgraded to 16GB this evening, 256MB Geforce 6600, 250GB WD hard drive, and the rare Bluetooth/Airport card. My other quad didn’t have one but my dual core 2GHz did.

This G5 has been unmolested with the factory plastic pin and still runs in between 105-130*F at idle while being quiet, a nice touch over my other Quad.

My previous G5 will be used for parts and maybe someday if I ever find a single pump LCS to rebuild I’ll put it into the other machine so it is still semi-usable. Or shoot, maybe swap in a DC 2.3 or 2.0GHz processor and heatsink.

Time to resume my projects🙂

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Resurrecting a 466MHz PMG4 DA

The last time I mentioned this machine was February of 2015 – well over a year ago and figured I should bring it back to life! I shoved it into a shed last summer with my B&W and the 8 or so Dell Optiplex GX620 towers I owned at the same time and over this past weekend I decided to work with it again.

This machine was purchased from a guy I found on Craigslist on April 15,2014 while on vacation in the Santa Cruz, CA area. The guy only wanted $5 which I was more than happy to pay for and so I went to pick it up! He actually lived not even two miles away from the Mystery Spot location in Santa Cruz along the same main road.

What I found was a 466MHz Digital Audio G4. 256MB Ram, 30GB Hard Drive, and a weak Rage 128. The case was super clean with very minimal scratches. I have always ran Tiger on this machine but have considered throwing in a better processor to try Leopard out on.

Jump forward to Saturday evening (June 4) when I pulled it out of the shed. I didn’t mess with it until the next day so when I did, I decided I’d install some nicer stuff.

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First upgrade was RAM, and they only have 3 slots with a max of 512MB PC133 per slot (totalling 1.5GB). I of course did not have any 512MB sticks so I was stuck with 256MB. I located every stick of desktop RAM I had and spread them out along my bed (counted 84 sticks, mostly DDR and DDR2) and found three 256MB sticks. The furry friend decided that DDR2 was her favorite ram by sleeping on top of several sticks! So the machine currently has 768MB of RAM.

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Next was a SATA hard drive. I had a 320GB WD Blue sitting around and decided I should use that so I grabbed a SATA card. I raised my hopes thinking I had a Molex to SATA power adapter running around which I could not find, so I found a old power supply and cut the SATA end off and mated it to the original Molex adapter (looks pretty factory I think, outside of the heatshrink! Added factory looking zip ties as well). And about half an hour later I found 3 Molex to SATA adapters. Oh well.

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Next was a graphics card. I had two to choose between, a G5 Radeon 9600 64MB or a stock MDD Geforce 4MX 64MB. Ultimately I ended going with the MDD card to keep stock ADC port functionality.

Here is where things started to go south. I booted the Tiger installer DVD to find the machine throwing kernel panics whenever I would boot off of it. Even after swapping the RAM, removing PCI cards, CUDA reset, all of the like, the machine still kernel paniced. I was on the edge of gutting the machine out to fit in a Micro ATX board but that changed!

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I posted about my struggle on the PowerPC MacRumors thread and one user had the same machine with the same issue and mentioned that after swapping the clock battery it booted fine. Since I was gutting my MDD for a logic board replacement (future post) I took the good battery out and shoved it into the DA, and sure enough it booted the installer!

On my merry way I successfully installed Tiger and set the machine up. Now maybe I can test out some software on the thing!

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Future plans for this machine? I wouldn’t mind a processor upgrade, 1.5GB Ram, USB2.0 card, and a 128MB Radeon 9600 from a G5. All it takes is finding one and money! I won’t be throwing any more money into this thing for the meantime as I have other projects I’d like to complete first. Again, we will see!

Stay tuned🙂

Posted in Customization, G4, Hardware, OS X 10.4 Tiger, Software, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

VNC Viewer for PowerPC

Within the past few weeks I’ve been using my G5 2.3GHz (there is a story behind this machine, was originally an original 2003 dual 2GHz but now has the hearts of a early 2005 2.3GHz. I gutted the 2.3 as the case was perfect and I am using it for my i7 PowerMacX build) and I learned a few things including workarounds.

My new rack server is running Windows Server 2012 R2, and using Leopard’s built in VNC viewer brought me to a black screen; using Microsoft Remote Desktop 2.0.1 said it could not connect. So, I was left to question if there were any alternate VNC viewer programs that could still connect to a newer machine.

Fortunately, I came across VNC Viewer which does exactly what I need it to, connecting to my server remotely! The latest version for PowerPC is 5.2.3 which will work with Leopard and I suspect Tiger (although I haven’t tried that quite yet, maybe a task for my G4 DA 466MHz). The download is available on the PowerPC Archive’s server here (3MB).

Happy remote controlling! I found this as an essential tool to keep around and you will too!

VNC Viewer

Posted in OS X 10.4 Tiger, OS X 10.5 Leopard, Software, Uses for PowerPC | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Updates on the MDD

So today I had some downtime and figured I would improve the MDD a bit in the hardware dept.

One thing I didn’t mention was that I replaced the broken Optical Drive with a DVD burner out of a Core 2 Duo Gateway desktop and now I can use discs in the thing! Next thing was a CMOS battery as that was dead too so I found one that worked out of a 2.3GHz Power Mac G5 logic board from a G5 I recently gutted.

However there’s something that tops the other two things I replaced. Any guesses? It’s an SSD with a SATA card. This SSD is a 60GB Kingston SATAII drive that has been ran according to DriveDx for over two years. This SSD has been in almost every computer I owned since 2012 as it has been swapped between many PCs and Macs! I finally went to a 120GB in my MacBook Pro so the old 60GB needed a home in which case I found the MDD would be a good fit. Copying over files from the original hard drive now so soon I should be running at SSD speeds!

Just a minor update, figured I should share🙂

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Posted in Customization, G4, Hardware | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Power Mac G4 – Dual 800MHz MDD

Ahh. Here I go with another G4! I also picked up my old 800MHz iMac G4 just over a week ago. I’ll post more on that iMac soon but for now it’s all about this odd MDD!

Every once in a while on a local buy/sell Facebook group in my local area someone lists a Mac. I also picked up a 500MHz iMac G3 Snow White from a guy on there (owned it for about 3 days, I’ll post on that later too) but there was this MDD on there. The guy wanted $40 and I ended up paying $30 for it. Picked it up on 8/3/15 on my lunch break from work.

So something seems odd in the title of this post. 800MHz? Well this machine was originally a FireWire 800 single 1GHz model that the guy swapped a 800MHz dual processor card into this thing which came out of a 2001 QuickSilver. Works really good and I even get 1MB of L3 per CPU. The only bummer is that the system bus runs at 133MHz not 166MHz but I’m not complaining. If I end up keeping this it will turn into a dual 1.25 or 1.42GHz. In terms of other specs, it has 2GB of Ram, 60GB Seagate HD, 64MB nVidia GeForce 4MX, SuperDrive, and an AirPort Extreme card.

When people think of the MDD they think of “windtunnel” due to the three fans being crazy loud. One of my first posts on this blog talked about swapping the fans on my dual 1GHz MDD back in February 2014. Suprisingly enough the Samsung power supply in this MDD is really quiet and I can stand it. The evening before I bought the MDD I went on ebay and bought 2x 80mm fans to swap out in the PSU to find out the next day this thing was pretty quiet and I didn’t need to swap them. Owell, spare fans if I ever buy a noisy MDD!

So plans for this Mac? Well now it is my highest clocked PowerPC, I gutted one of my G5 towers for a hackintosh case and traded my Dual Core G5 for 8GB of DDR3 and a 120GB SSD still in the original packaging. Both the G5s I got back in March! But I will set this mac up on my desk next to my hackintosh and use it for PowerPC stuff. I have a PCI SATA card and a spare 60GB Kingston SSD that will be going into the MDD. Stay tuned!

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G4 Cubes

In the last post I said that I picked up two 500MHz models. I already sold one to a loyal buyer for $150 shipped which meant I still had a Cube left over. So I decided that I’ll be keeping this one. But I have plans for this one – for sure!

So history on the Cube. In 2000 Steve thought that there would be a market for a smaller Power Mac and that’s where the Cube came in. No internal PCI ports however things like Ram/Hard Drive can be upgraded (and deeper the CPU and GPU). Steve wanted it to be fanless although a fan bracket is there. And the other unfortunate thing is that these don’t have a 3.5mm audio jack.

Apple put the Cube “on ice” in 2001 after slow sales and having more style than functionality (on top of it’s high price). The Mac Mini seemed like the replacement for that particualr market, and furthermore the 2013 Mac Pro has similar specifications (in size) and general design idea as the G4 Cube.

So out of that $150 for the other G4 cube $140 went on a single 1.5GHz PowerLogix processor for the Cube. I looked for hours on eBay and the only CPU I could find was a 1.2GHz Sonnet for $180 and within posting that I was trying to hunt one down on MacRumors I had a reply and bought it immediately.

The other cool thing about this deal is that I will get a brand new 80x15mm fan and the appropriate connectors to wire a fan up in the cube, that 1.5GHz will need it!

So I have three guides I will be writing up here soon, and I think you will all find them neat!

G4 cube 500

Posted in G4, Hardware, Ideas, OS X 10.4 Tiger | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment