Hot damn! A curiously upgraded PowerMac G4 (two brains are better than one!)

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Hot damn! A curiously upgraded PowerMac G4 (two brains are better than one!)

Postby xjas » 2018-2-24 @ 08:58

Welp, time for this. :) I posted about it in the "Retro Hardware" thread but it needs its own space. It's the mighty Sawtooth G4:

sawtooth-cover.jpg
17 years old and you'd hardly even know it...

Firstly a little disclaimer - I've put an unbelievable amount of work into some of my past build threads, but sadly on a lot of them just didn't get the engagement to make it worth the time invested. This one's gonna be a little more casual, less story-driven and focused more on the technical nuts & bolts of the build as I get the impression that's more what you guys like to discuss. So if you came in here hoping for a "full-on" xjas Megathread I hope this isn't too disappointing, but please do leave a comment if you're enjoying this 'lite' version. :)

I'm also gonna allow myself to be a little lazier & copy and paste a bunch of stuff I already wrote. So nothing interesting's gonna happen for the first few posts. Anyway, here goes:

This started with me vaguely planning some upgrades for my PowerMac G4 Cube. I was looking around for a CPU module from a "Sawtooth", "Gigabit Ethernet" or "Digital Audio" G4 tower (Apple never officially named these so we go with what we've got) - these are all very similar machines & the CPUs were on little daughterboards that could be swapped around. I actually put out a want ad on a local site, not expecting much, but that netted me this gem above. A mighty Sawtooth G4/400 AGP. Nice, except the CPU in the Cube is 450MHz so what's the point?

Well,
holycow.jpg
Hot damn! A Powerlogix 1.7GHz dual upgrade board. NOW we're talking.

Image

inside.jpg

It came stripped of hard drives, but other goodies inside included a 16MB ATI Rage 128 Pro (not a bad card but I've got some better options), a Sonnos Tempo ATA133 card (behind the Rage) giving 2 extra IDE channels, and 2GB PC100/133 SDRAM. Here's a shot of the back of that accelerator board:
accellerated.jpg
(I didn't want to take the heat sink off but yes, there are indeed two G4s on the other side.)

zip.jpg
^^ This one even came with a factory Zip250 drive. Apple went on a binge of including zip drives for a while, to appease prospective buyers who were scared of the removal of the 1.44MB floppy. Uncertain times!

(Ironically this would be like Apple of today removing the headphone jack, but then including an 8-in/8-out professional recording interface to make up for it. IF ONLY.)

So if you haven't already noticed, this is an awfully nice machine. I kinda don't want to part it out to upgrade the Cube. So for now I'm gonna restore this one and get it set up; it does everything the Cube can do and has PCI(-X) slots. Don't worry, the Cube will get its own time in the sun, but just not at the expense of this one.
Last edited by xjas on 2018-3-21 @ 22:31, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth

Postby xjas » 2018-2-24 @ 09:03

Since it came without drives, I chucked a spare 160GB IDE HDD into it and got Leopard installed on it. The previous owner said he couldn't boot off or install anything onto the internal HDDs, but I think he was having trouble with the Sonos ATA133 card. I took that out and used one of the built-in ATA66 ports and it went without a hitch. Note that this model isn't even supposed to be able to boot Leopard (it checks for a minimum CPU speed of 866MHz, although there's a hack that bypasses that), but the CPU upgrade solves it just fine. ;)

1.jpg
Please press 'restart' within 29 seconds or setup will do it for you...

2.jpg
everyspecatonce.gif
Every spec you could want, presented in the most obnoxious way possible.

This thing is a juxtaposition of oldschool & modern PC in a lot of ways - Leopard looks and works more-or-less like current OS/X versions & a near-2GHz dual-CPU system doesn't sound very "retro", but then you've got a 128GB IDE drive size limit (it just formatted my 160 as 128), USB 1.1 (I was wondering WTF copying files was so slow until I figured that out!), PC100 SDRAM, and a 16MB Rage card that makes dragging windows around the screen sluggish. I'm DEFINITELY gonna upgrade that, and will see if I have a USB2 card that will work too.

Anyway if you have absolutely nothing better to do with your next five minutes, enjoy this pointless vid of its post-install first boot that I edited on the G4 itself. In iMovie of all things. As a stress test it did just fine, doesn't even seem to be running hot. Rendering out takes about as long as you'd expect. You could run a Youtube channel on one of these, just not in 4k.

This pointless vid.

render.png

5.jpg
Obligatory inception joke.
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth

Postby xjas » 2018-2-24 @ 09:18

It's had a few interesting mods over the years. Going through and vacuuming/dusting it (ALWAYS my first step when I get a new PC!) I encountered this blob of electrical tape:
1.jpg

2.jpg
It turned out to be the original modem jack, but why was it dangling there wrapped up?

Well, in its place was this old-world-Mac-style RS422 serial port. This is fantastic, I actually have MIDI interfaces that use this port (although I was intending to use the native firewire for that.) Not sure if it's supported under OS/X, it might be OS9-only. Will find out.
4.jpg
3.jpg
^^ it connects up to this daughtercard here. Incidentally that's NOT A PCMCIA slot right on the motherboard (I originally posted that it was, but that was wrong. :P See below.) It's intended for Apple's same-era wi-fi cards where they slightly messed around with the pinout for dumb corporate reasons.

I ended up cutting the cable in half & ripping the modem jack out, with the serial port in its place it's long useless & I don't like dangly stub things inside my cases. You can make whatever snarky joke you like about that line, Beavis.

Here's the whole motherboard if anyone's curious. Great layout.
5.jpg
Last edited by xjas on 2018-2-26 @ 20:11, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby derSammler » 2018-2-24 @ 09:21

Nice one. :) I've got a later "Quicksilver" model with 2x G4 @ 866 MHz.
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby xjas » 2018-2-24 @ 09:29

It seems to run fine right now but there are a few bulging surface-mount caps that are going to have to be dealt with. Of course there are.

cap1.jpg
cap2.jpg

I hate these things, bane of my existence.

cap3.jpg

I had to pull the barrel battery to see if it showed any signs of leakage (it hadn't) :

barrel.jpg
It actually still read 3.2V when I pulled it, and I'm guessing it hadn't been charged in a while. Will see if it lasts.

Unfortunately I broke one side of the extremely brittle plastic clip holding it in there. No big deal, it still has more than enough grip to keep it in place.
barrelcell.jpg
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby KCompRoom2000 » 2018-2-25 @ 01:29

Welcome to the PMG4 club. I have a 350MHz Sawtooth G4 in my collection, it's a pretty fast OS9 machine, but I do plan on giving it some upgrades here and there in the near future.

xjas wrote:Unfortunately I broke one side of the extremely brittle plastic clip holding it in there. No big deal, it still has more than enough grip to keep it in place.

Good call on removing the Li-ion barrel battery just to be safe, I removed that on mine to prevent leakage from damaging the motherboard, the same thing that happened to yours happened to mine, I guess they cheaped out on battery holder clips.

I can see why you want to upgrade the graphics card, an ATI Rage 128 Pro doesn't really do much when it comes to OS X 10.5, A Core Image capable card would be appreciated in that category, but there might not be that many cards that are good performers with Leopard and are still AGP 3.3V compatible (3.3V restriction assumed by the motherboard picture), at least you won't have to tape over pins 3 and 11 which is required to use modded cards on the later ADB-equipped models.
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby yawetaG » 2018-2-25 @ 14:54

KCompRoom2000 wrote:
xjas wrote:Unfortunately I broke one side of the extremely brittle plastic clip holding it in there. No big deal, it still has more than enough grip to keep it in place.

Good call on removing the Li-ion barrel battery just to be safe, I removed that on mine to prevent leakage from damaging the motherboard, the same thing that happened to yours happened to mine, I guess they cheaped out on battery holder clips.


Just do install a new battery, because running without a battery (or with a dead one) can be the cause of all kinds of 'fun' Open Firmware and Power Management Unit hijinks - including hanging at shut down and subsequent boot issues because the hard disk contents got damaged when you force shut down the Mac, or having to reset the PMU at every boot...

...I'm happy my PowerBook is one of the backup-battery-free models, from that point of view.
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby xjas » 2018-2-25 @ 19:48

^^ I think that battery's actually fine, I just stuck it back in & kept using it. It charges up to 3.6V and holds it. I'll keep an eye on it though.
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth

Postby Byrd » 2018-2-26 @ 02:19

xjas wrote:IIncidentally that's a PCMCIA slot right on the motherboard, it's intended for Apple's same-era wi-fi cards (I have one in the G4 Cube) but AFAIK it can be used for anything.
5.jpg


Nice Sawtooth! Surprised with the dual CPUs the original owner didn't put a beefier graphics card into it.

Re: it's not PCMCIA, Apple reversed the pins so short of an official Airport card it won't work with anything.

The serial port is a Gee Three Stealth Port

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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby chinny22 » 2018-2-26 @ 13:44

I'm only a recent member to the Mac club.
Wanted an OS9 computer to see differences in games for myself, knowing nothing about them when I found out about they were SMP systems I was sold and got a Duel 1Ghz MMD.
I did get another matching stick of 512MB making the total of 1792, I'd also like to upgrade the Graphics from the Radeon 9000 Pro to a Gforce Ti4600, but for a computer I've only reinstalled the OSX/OS9 on I cant really justify the price.

I'm just surprised they are sill cheap, I thought the apple fan club was alive and healthy?
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby yawetaG » 2018-2-26 @ 15:42

chinny22 wrote:I'm only a recent member to the Mac club.
Wanted an OS9 computer to see differences in games for myself, knowing nothing about them when I found out about they were SMP systems I was sold and got a Duel 1Ghz MMD.
I did get another matching stick of 512MB making the total of 1792, I'd also like to upgrade the Graphics from the Radeon 9000 Pro to a Gforce Ti4600, but for a computer I've only reinstalled the OSX/OS9 on I cant really justify the price.

I'm just surprised they are sill cheap, I thought the apple fan club was alive and healthy?


PowerPC software is not compatible with the newer Intel Macs (except for Universal Binary format and one or two versions of OS X), so PPC hardware has dropped in price considerably the last few years because it is off the radar for Intel Mac fans.
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby bjwil1991 » 2018-2-26 @ 19:59

Wish the iMac G4 had it where you can upgrade the CPU without buying a whole system, but, sadly, there isn't a way, especially the motherboard design changed (the ports are the exact opposite orientation, and the PSU plug went from the rectangle to Mickey Mouse (like PC laptop brick chargers) style.

I have an iMac G3/600 and iMac G4/800 both running Mac OS X Tiger, but my G4 cannot connect to any wireless network, and I'm gonna buy a few nano USB wireless dongles for both Macs and other devices as the one dongle that I found does support Mac OS X Tiger (hopefully it supports the PPC systems as well). Is there a KVM switch for Macs (USB + FireWire and VGA/Minidisplay) anywhere? I'd like to have both of my Macs on one desk and a flat panel monitor in case the CRT and LCD displays go out.
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby xjas » 2018-2-26 @ 20:27

Byrd wrote:Re: it's not PCMCIA, Apple reversed the pins so short of an official Airport card it won't work with anything.

Noted, fixed. I did a bit more reading into that and it turns out the reason is that big businesses are insane.

chinny22 wrote:I'm only a recent member to the Mac club.
Wanted an OS9 computer to see differences in games for myself, knowing nothing about them when I found out about they were SMP systems I was sold and got a Duel 1Ghz MMD.
I did get another matching stick of 512MB making the total of 1792, I'd also like to upgrade the Graphics from the Radeon 9000 Pro to a Gforce Ti4600, but for a computer I've only reinstalled the OSX/OS9 on I cant really justify the price.

Nice, the MDD duallies are really sweet, although I am one of those heretics who think the Sawtooth/Gigabit are a tiny bit better looking. Your 1GHz is probably faster overall than my 1.7 despite the clock speed because you've got L3 cache, a faster FSB, PC133 RAM and just a more modern architecture.

Also, video card upgrade coming up. See below.

chinny22 wrote:I'm just surprised they are sill cheap, I thought the apple fan club was alive and healthy?

PPC systems got dumped hard after Apple dropped application support in 10.7, nobody bothered building software for PPC anymore and most self-identified "Mac people" are so deeply invested in the upgrade treadmill that the thought of keeping an old system going is unthinkable.

There's basically three camps of Apple hardawre fans, the "collectors" who love Steve Jobs biopics, hate everything PPC & OS/X and will spend five figures on a useless Lisa, the "Mac people" who hate everything more than six months old and poop iPhones, and us in the middle scooping up last decade's professional workstations for peanuts. (NOTE: SARCASM)

bjwil1991 wrote:I have an iMac G3/600 and iMac G4/800 both running Mac OS X Tiger, but my G4 cannot connect to any wireless network, and I'm gonna buy a few nano USB wireless dongles for both Macs and other devices as the one dongle that I found does support Mac OS X Tiger (hopefully it supports the PPC systems as well).

I have the same problem and a (dumb) solution to this. See below. :P
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby xjas » 2018-2-26 @ 20:38

Some handy upgrades! First up, replaced the lanky DVD-ROM that seemingly wouldn't read most burned discs with this DVD+/-RW dual-layer. Much more capable despite being only 5 years newer. Secondly, USB2. I found this NEC-based card in my stash which is known to be compatible with Tiger/Leopard. Stuck it in and it worked straight away, no fuss whatsoever. Highly recommended.
1.jpg

Incidentally for those of you who don't realize how nice these are to work on, they are really nice. If you've ever lacerated your knuckles on a same-era ATX tower popping one of these open is like a breath of fresh air.
4.jpg
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^^ I guess this is what that internal USB port on so many of these cards is for...

Next up, wi-fi! I took the Airport card out of my G4 Cube which I'm not using at the moment and stuck it in.
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3.jpg
^^ All of these have an antenna already fitted. I love how they engineered a cable guide that holds it out of the way if there's no card installed OR holds it in place if there is one. Classic Apple overengineering.

I wish they'd overengineered the capacitors and the PSUs like that.
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby xjas » 2018-2-26 @ 21:04

So the wi-fi card was immediately detected by OS/X although for some reason I had to pull the battery out to make it able to activate. But as alluded to earlier, it doesn't seem to like modern wireless networks. Theoretically it supports WPA(1) + TKIP over 802.11b (which my router also supports, had to activate some legacy compatibility settings) but it just didn't want to connect. I really don't feel like regressing my home network to WEP, so I found another solution:

6.jpg
^^ Stick a Mac Mini (with a modern wi-fi card) on top, and

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...string the two together with a firewire cable.

It is really easy to set this up & works with any version of OS/X from Leopard on (possibly earlier??) All you do is plug the FW cable in, the two machines will auto-negotiate a network, and then on the 'bridge' (the Mini in this case), open the Sharing preferences & tick two boxes. Done.

fwbridge.png

I might try to find a PCI wireless G or N card that will work later, but the Mini was just sitting around anyway so this will do for now. (Ironically it's probably 3x more powerful and has twice the RAM as the G4, but that's the fun of dealing with old computers.)

Incidentally I was going to give Apple some props for easy interoperability of their devices here, but then I remembered it is literally impossible to copy photos over bluetooth from an iPhone to a Mac, despite every Android device from 2011-on having that capability. Fuck Apple.

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With the G4 on my network I was able to update to 10.5.8 (although I ended up having trouble with the updater, so I downloaded the update & ran it manually instead.) Didn't bother with iTunes, because eww.

9.jpg
BTW direct copies over Firewire are really fast. This did eat about 60-70% of both CPUs on both machines while it was running though.

^^ And HELL YEAH we're gonna be doing some gaming on the G4. ;) As you might have guessed, next up: the video card
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby havli » 2018-2-26 @ 22:18

Great machine you have here. :happy:
That reminds me I really should take a look at my G4 733 https://everymac.com/systems/apple/powe ... 33_qs.html
It hasn't been powered on in years, but it was working when I got it. The last thing I remember is that MAC OS wasn't working very well using regular "windows" keyboard and neither was PPC Linux... some kind of video drivers issues.
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby Byrd » 2018-2-26 @ 22:55

chinny22 wrote:I'm just surprised they are sill cheap, I thought the apple fan club was alive and healthy?


Late PPC desktop hardware - think G4 towers, eMacs, Lampshades and G5s - are cheap as chips at this moment (and I'm in Australia) - it's a good time to buy. I wouldn't spend more than < $50 on any machine. They are off the radar for Intel users and 68K/early PPC collectors alike. Great and cheap machines to upgrade and tinker around with.

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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby KCompRoom2000 » 2018-2-27 @ 02:06

yawetaG wrote:Just do install a new battery, because running without a battery (or with a dead one) can be the cause of all kinds of 'fun' Open Firmware and Power Management Unit hijinks - including hanging at shut down and subsequent boot issues because the hard disk contents got damaged when you force shut down the Mac, or having to reset the PMU at every boot...

I'm actually thinking about getting two new "half-AA" Lithium PRAM batteries for my PowerMac G4 and my iMac G3, the only concern is how likely is it for those batteries to leak? I've heard of horror stories of the barrel batteries hosing older (<486) motherboards and I really don't want to risk permanently damaging my old Macs should they become rare at some point.
Byrd wrote:Re: it's not PCMCIA, Apple reversed the pins so short of an official Airport card it won't work with anything.

Good to know, back when I also had a Quicksilver 933 MHz G4 tower, I was once thinking about modding a bog-standard 802.11b/g PCMCIA Wi-Fi adapter to fit in the Airport slot, now that I know that slot is proprietary, you've just made me glad for not going as far as attempting that stunt back then because who knows what fireworks could've happened inside there?
xjas wrote:USB2. I found this NEC-based card in my stash which is known to be compatible with Tiger/Leopard. Stuck it in and it worked straight away, no fuss whatsoever. Highly recommended.

Incidentally for those of you who don't realize how nice these are to work on, they are really nice. If you've ever lacerated your knuckles on a same-era ATX tower popping one of these open is like a breath of fresh air.

^^ I guess this is what that internal USB port on so many of these cards is for...

Oh yeah, I happen to have a USB PCI card that's identical to the one you have, I was thinking about putting it into my Win98/2k rig depending on how compatible it was with those two OSes. I also have a Belkin card with three (2 external and 1 internal) USB ports instead of the five ports on the NEC card, but IIRC it worked fine on OS X 10.4 but it disabled the standby ability on OS 9, maybe USB 2.0 is worth it on OS X only?

I also agree with you on how those cases open, that's one of the factors that make the PowerMac G3 B&W/G4 case one of my favorite cases of all time, I remember Dell copying that trend in the late-P3 - mid-P4 era with their Optiplex systems, but their method was a bit more fragile than Apple's.
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby JidaiGeki » 2018-2-27 @ 12:56

KCompRoom2000 wrote:I'm actually thinking about getting two new "half-AA" Lithium PRAM batteries for my PowerMac G4 and my iMac G3, the only concern is how likely is it for those batteries to leak? I've heard of horror stories of the barrel batteries hosing older (<486) motherboards and I really don't want to risk permanently damaging my old Macs should they become rare at some point.


It's a mixed bag. The red ones (Maxell I think?) had something of a bad rep, but as we all know forgotten batteries tend to leak in anything. They have destroyed many Mac IIs and IIxs, as generally they were soldered to the boards. Most of the 1/2AAs I've pulled out of my Macs tend to still be holding a charge many years later, so the best approach might be to store them with the computer, but not in the battery holder.
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Re: Hot damn! A curiously upgraded Sawtooth (SMP content inside)

Postby yawetaG » 2018-2-27 @ 18:55

KCompRoom2000 wrote:
yawetaG wrote:Just do install a new battery, because running without a battery (or with a dead one) can be the cause of all kinds of 'fun' Open Firmware and Power Management Unit hijinks - including hanging at shut down and subsequent boot issues because the hard disk contents got damaged when you force shut down the Mac, or having to reset the PMU at every boot...

I'm actually thinking about getting two new "half-AA" Lithium PRAM batteries for my PowerMac G4 and my iMac G3, the only concern is how likely is it for those batteries to leak? I've heard of horror stories of the barrel batteries hosing older (<486) motherboards and I really don't want to risk permanently damaging my old Macs should they become rare at some point.


According to Apple, the batteries should be replaced every three years, but on my old eMac the capacitors started failing before the battery (which worked fine for over six years). :lol:

You can try running your Mac without the battery, but realize that PRAM/PMU problems due to a dead battery can really fuck up the workings of these machines and cause all kinds of sleeping/waking issues. If you want to use the machine for anything serious have a working battery in there.
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