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The Big Fat PowerPC Mac Post

handoferis

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Time to dump all the junk in my head. I love PPC Macs, I grew up with them, and thanks to the efforts of a bunch of people they're still very usable today. If you come across one of these, I strongly recommend grabbing it cause they're a lot of fun to play with. Gonna split this guide into a few bits, the generic side and the bonus round side with extra things you can do if you have a modern Mac / iPhone.

Models to Get
Avoid G3 Macs unless you want a proper retrocomputing machine. They are just too slow to do anything modern with. G4 Macs over 1GHz clock speed are decently usable (eg. later models of iMac G4 17", later models of eMac, iBook G4, aluminium PowerBook G4, certain later Power Mac G4). All G5s are great, but take special care with iMac G5. Rev A models (no iSight, 130nm process, no light sensor) can sometimes have fans that sound like a jet engine taking off. iSight G5s are pretty great but watch out for people selling Intel ones as G5s.

Basic Setup

We're going to be using Macintosh Garden a lot for this. This Mac archive has pretty much everything you could ever want, often with serials. You'll want a CD/DVD burner (and optionally, a FireWire hard drive! They are super handy) to burn install media if your Macs are out of date (pretty common).
Screen Shot 2022-09-11 at 12.26.04.png
An iSight G5 running Leopard browsing Agora and receiving streamed music over shairport from my server.
Operating Systems
There are a couple routes here - one for if you only have a disc burner, and the other for if you have a FireWire hard drive. You'll need the disc burner for both cause it's a pain in the arse to find any system with FireWire these days that isn't also old.

Disc Burner
This Macintosh Garden page is your one-stop shop for Mac OS X install media. For the models of Mac we're talking about, you're either going to want to be on 10.4 (Tiger) or 10.5 (Leopard). I typically prefer Leopard but either is fine for our purposes (If your Mac has below 867MHz G4 you should install Tiger).

If you are installing Tiger: Download #27 - #30 and burn them all to CD-Rs. These are '.toast' files which are secretly isos in disguise, so you can just rename them. There's a larger dmg image of the installer DVD on download #32 but I've found it to be super finnicky. Alternatively, you can scour Internet Archive for isos of the original install DVDs for your Mac model but this can be a bit of a chew-on.

If you are installing Leopard: The original DVD for Leopard was a DVD-DL!! These were a pain in the arse to get hold of back in the day and I can't imagine it's any better now. I always get download #37, which is a pared back Leopard installer that fits on a single DVD-R. For some reason it's a .cdr file, but you can just rename it to .iso and burn as normal.

FireWire HD
This is where it gets fun! z970 on MacRumors made Sorbet Leopard, a copy of Leopard with all the Intel binaries stripped out, backports of better WebKit, and a bunch of utility stuff to make the system snappier. You can install this by fucking around with the partition map on your internal hard drive but it's a fuckabout and I don't recommend it. Open the .dmg file on your Mac, clone it using Carbon Copy Cloner to the FireWire HD and then boot off it by going to System Preferences > Startup Disk and choosing your FireWire hard drive. Once you're booted, install CCC onto the system on the hard drive, copy the Sorbet Leopard dmg from your Mac to the hard drive, open it again and clone it back onto your internal hard drive. Set your usual hard drive as your startup disk in System Preferences and you're done! There's a Sorbet Tools folder in /Applications where you can configure a bunch of stuff.

Browsers
This has gotten a bit more of a one-horse race since TLS 1.3 started getting more adoption, but there are two major browsers worth a damn on PPC OS X:

InterwebPPC
InterwebPPC is the continuation of the venerable TenFourFox, which was recently abandoned by its maintainer after like a decade or something. It supports TLS 1.3 and is very capable for most stuff, though it can be a bit slow on G4s. Make sure to download the version built for your processor from the page! It will make things faster! (If you have a late iMac G4 or G5 on Leopard, you can grab the Quartz version)

Leopard WebKit
For Leopard only - this is Safari relinked against a much more recent version of WebKit. (If you're on Sorbet Leopard, this is included by default as the "real" Safari) It's really snappy, even on G4s, but can sometimes have a bit of jank, and doesn't support TLS 1.3. You can get around this by using a MITM proxy to handle SSL for you like oldssl-proxy and setting your system HTTPS proxy in System Preferences (you'll need to run this on another machine on your local network).

Video
Ignore everything you read on the internet about this. There is only one video player worth installing, which is CorePlayer. I don't know how they did it, but this thing is amazing. If you convert a 1080p file to H.264/AAC with Shutter Encoder, a G5 can play it with no dropped frames or skips using CorePlayer. It's insane. If you want YouTube videos, you can install PowerPC Media Center which wraps yt-dlp and dodges the fact that youtube.com is a horribly bloated website that poor PowerPC chips can't handle.

Other Cool Stuff
Cyberduck - good FTP client - I used to have an FTP server set up for shifting files around before I switched to Apple Remote Desktop.
Quicksilver - I used to use this a bunch back in the day, makes searching your Mac / launching stuff way easier.
Transmission - for if you fancy a bit of yar-har-fiddle-dee-dee with your PowerPC
Adobe CS2 - works a treat, and probably one of the best things to use an old Mac for.
Minecraft PPC Edition - so you can do crimes (in Minecraft)
Halo 1 - full on classic. Don't know if you can still play online.
Nestopia, SNES9x, PCSX - there are other emulators too but these are some of the most popular systems
iScroll2 - enable 2 finger scroll on some select PPC laptops.
Disctop Pro - stupid thing for iMac G5s that puts an animated CD on the desktop when you put one in the slot

Screen Shot 2022-09-11 at 12.54.18.png
iMac G4 playing music through shairport

Bonus Round

Got another Mac? There's a bunch more stuff you can do.

Apple Remote Desktop
Apple Remote Desktop was/is a piece of enterprise software that happens to include the most absurdly good implementation of VNC I've ever seen. On your modern Mac, enable Remote Management in System Preferences > Sharing and configure the options for your account. Then from your PPC Mac, search for your modern Mac on Bonjour and connect to it. You can now control a modern Mac with very little display latency. If you use SwitchResX or DisplayMenu to jank your modern Mac to have the same resolution as your PPC Mac, you can go fullscreen and drag the control window off to the side to have an immersive experience. It's also super useful for shuttling files around your local network, sleeping computers you've walked off from and forgotten about, stuff like that. I install it on every machine I own.
Screen Shot 2022-09-11 at 13.00.11.png
A 20" G5 pretending to run latest macOS - except it's all a fucking LIE
Shairport
You may have noticed I said absolutely nothing about music in the basic section. This is because there used to be a PowerPC version of Spotify but it recently stopped working. There's a way around this using AirPlay, but it's a bit of a pain in the arse. First you'll need to grab Xcode (the appropriate version for your Mac - 2.5 for Tiger, 3.1.4 for Leopard). Next, install Tigerbrew following the instructions on github. If you're running Tiger, create a .bashrc file in your home folder with the following contents (you don't need to do this for Leopard):
Code:
export PATH=/bin:/sbin:/usr/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/local/bin

Next you'll want to run this script - save it on your mac as shairport.sh and chmod +x it in Terminal:
Bash:
#!/bin/bash
# Update Perl
brew install perl
perl -v # Validate the Perl version
sudo mv /usr/bin/perl /usr/bin/perl5.8 # Move the existing Perl install
sudo ln -s /usr/local/Cellar/perl/5.22.0/bin/perl /usr/bin/ # Symlink the newly installed version to /usr/bin/
# Install requirements
brew install pkg-config libao
perl -MCPAN -e 'install Crypt::OpenSSL::RSA'
perl -MCPAN -e 'install IO::Socket::INET6'
perl -MCPAN -e 'install HTTP::Message'
perl -MCPAN -e 'install Builder' # Required to install Net::SDP
perl -MCPAN -e 'install Net::SDP'
# Clone repository
brew install git
git clone https://github.com/albertz/shairport.git
cd shairport/
export ARCHFLAGS="-arch i386"
make
# Start Shairport
perl shairport.pl

I picked this script up from a medium post (and then fixed it) - you'll need to put your password in a couple of times, and it'll fail the first time you run it. Once it fails run perl -MCPAN -e 'install Crypt::OpenSSL::RSA again and then cd into the shairport folder you created and run perl shairport.pl. After a couple seconds your PPC Mac will appear in AirPlay menus on your Mac/iPhone/AppleTV/whatever as a valid audio target.


Anyway that's all I've got for now - please enjoy PPC Macs! They look great and are totally useful.
 
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punishedgnome

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Great write up!

I was rocking a Powermac G4 MDD with dual 1.25 ghz processors as my daily driver from around 2006-2007 or so. It's probably my favourite computer, but I sold it and bought a shiny new intel mac mini due to the allure of being able to dual boot into Windows and play games.

I also had a G3 Pismo Powerbook for a while, but that was around 2008 or 2009 and it was ridiculously out of date even then. I used it to write essays while I was getting my second degree and played a lot of Ur Quan Masters on it. I didn't use it for very much beside that.

The real tragedy with Apple switching to Intel and then Arm is the loss of the PowerPc architecture. Nintendo used it in the Gamecube, Wii & Wii U, but besides that it hasn't had a mainstream use since the early 2000s. Having fewer viable arcitectures is bad for all of us and can lead to companies like Intel having too much power.


I haven't used Mac OS X regularly for quite a long time now. I have a unibody Macbook that's kind of a kitchen table computer I use to read the news and check forums in the morning and the kids watch videos on it, but it's running Linux Mint, not Mac OS X.
 
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handoferis

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Great write up!

I was rocking a Powermac G4 MDD with dual 1.25 ghz processors as my daily driver from around 2006-2007 or so. It's probably my favourite computer, but I sold it and bought a shiny new intel mac mini due to the allure of being able to dual boot into Windows and play games.

I also had a G3 Pismo Powerbook for a while, but that was around 2008 or 2009 and it was ridiculously out of date even then. I used it to write essays while I was getting my second degree and played a lot of Ur Quan Masters on it. I didn't use it for very much beside that.

The real tragedy with Apple switching to Intel and then Arm is the loss of the PowerPc architecture. Nintendo used it in the Gamecube, Wii & Wii U, but besides that it hasn't had a mainstream use since the early 2000s. Having fewer viable arcitectures is bad for all of us and can lead to companies like Intel having too much power.


I haven't used Mac OS X regularly for quite a long time now. I have a unibody Macbook that's kind of a kitchen table computer I use to read the news and check forums in the morning and the kids watch videos on it, but it's running Linux Mint, not Mac OS X.

To be fair to Apple, they did keep asking IBM to make both a G5 that could do 3GHz and also a G5 that wasn't shit on power consumption and thermals and IBM just sat on their hands and fucked it up, and Motorola seemingly just went turbo afk, I can't remember what happened to their chip business. POWER arch is still going but just relegated to specialty use.

Macs being on ARM is the only reason I went back! During Apple's Intel years there just wasn't any reason at all to buy their shit that I could find (given both that it was just subpar PC hardware in a nice box and also hackintoshing existed). Apple silicon stuff is the closest to Macs actually being different again that I think we'll ever get (significantly less so just cause so much stuff has moved to the browser over the last decade :( )
 
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punishedgnome

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To be fair to Apple, they did keep asking IBM to make both a G5 that could do 3GHz and also a G5 that wasn't shit on power consumption and thermals and IBM just sat on their hands and fucked it up, and Motorola seemingly just went turbo afk, I can't remember what happened to their chip business. POWER arch is still going but just relegated to specialty use.

Macs being on ARM is the only reason I went back! During Apple's Intel years there just wasn't any reason at all to buy their shit that I could find (given both that it was just subpar PC hardware in a nice box and also hackintoshing existed). Apple silicon stuff is the closest to Macs actually being different again that I think we'll ever get (significantly less so just cause so much stuff has moved to the browser over the last decade :( )

How have you found the arm Macs? Do they live up to the hype?
 
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handoferis

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How have you found the arm Macs? Do they live up to the hype?
I bought the M1 Mac mini with 8GB RAM (against every instinct I had) and it's been totally fine, good enough to put my old pc tower into mothballs and cannibalise it for hard drives and SSDs. Performance feels absurd, it goes toe-to-toe with my work MBP (2019, i9, 64GB RAM) except in extremely RAM-dependent situations like stablediffusion or running VMs - but it also costs a pitiful fraction of what the MBP costs. MBP also regularly sounds like a jetplane, while the only time the fans have come on on my Mac mini is when I turned them on in iStat Menus cause I wanted to know what they sounded like.
 
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I'm currently rocking a 1999 iBook G3 Clamshell Blueberry running Mac OS 9.2.2 with 64MB of RAM and a 8GB HDD. I bought the laptop (in near mint condition) + charger for 100€ locally and i love it!
The early 2000's aesthetic of it is beautiful
 
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punishedgnome

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I'm currently rocking a 1999 iBook G3 Clamshell Blueberry running Mac OS 9.2.2 with 64MB of RAM and a 8GB HDD. I bought the laptop (in near mint condition) + charger for 100€ locally and i love it!
The early 2000's aesthetic of it is beautiful
Are you posting from it right now using iCab or something?
 
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punishedgnome

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Classilla is decent for Mac OS 9 (as decent as Mac OS 9 browsers get, which is... not decent). Doubt you could post on Agora with it.
Last time I used Mac OS 9 was around 2008 or 2009. I picked up this Powermac G3 Sawtooth for around $25 with no harddrive and fixed it and fucked around with it. ICab was the current browser at the time and I remember it being decent enough to play Youtube videos.

I ended up installing Tiger on it and giving to a friend who had never owned a computer up to that point. That was a situation in itself. When we were growing up in the 1990s, his family was like 20 years behind.
 
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I picked up a G5 Quad for $150.00 in 2010, and used it until 2017 when I gave it to a friend. At one point I ran Debian Linux on it for a year. System was still very useful when I gave it away, and I wish I still had it.
 

handoferis

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here are a couple shots of it in action. a bit too much light ill have to mess w everything.

View attachment 43543
You can go up to 2GB of RAM in those, you want 2x1GB sticks of PC3200 (DDR1), pretty easy to install, you just loosen three screws at the bottom in the grille bit and the back lifts off, then the RAM slots are instantly visible.
 
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handoferis

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put an installer CD in but after picking the language, instead of starting the install, go into utilities menu and pick Reset Password Utility.

Or just format over it your call
 
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eve

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Time to dump all the junk in my head. I love PPC Macs, I grew up with them, and thanks to the efforts of a bunch of people they're still very usable today. If you come across one of these, I strongly recommend grabbing it cause they're a lot of fun to play with.
been using my powerbook G4 for a little while now, running OpenBSD. rlly fun :D the powerbooks especially are really really good for typing, i mean the keyboards are super nice, especially for a laptop keyboard.
 
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