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Iamanamma

Regressing to an earlier OS?

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I am looking at some B&W G3s as possible replacements for some of our beige G3 units.  Everything I have been finding is updated to OS 9.2 and/or OS X.  I have a vague memory of updating a machine (don't remember which series) to OS 9 and getting a warning message that if I did so, firmware updates would be installed that would prevent me from going back to OS 8.6.  I have never had a B&W G3 to work with or on, so I know it wasn't one of them.  I was wondering if anyone knew if I could "regress" one of the B&Ws if I bought it?

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There will be no issues "downgrading" to OS 8.6, however the sweet spot for such a machine and you don't want OS X is Mac OS 9.1.

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Any blue-and-white will 8.6 and also run 9.2.2 perfectly. In my experience there's no performance difference between 9.0 and 9.2.2. There are a couple reliability and performance fixes going from 9.1 and 9.2.2 to 9.2.2, so it's nice to go all the way when you can. (G3s and G4s.)

 

Some early G4s also shipped with 8.6 but I don't really recommend bothering with 8.6 on any G4. As far as I'm aware, any blue-and-white G3 should run 8.6 fine though.

 

I forget: Does your application run on 9.x? If it does, your options for slightly newer hardware do open up a lot - because a lot more Power Mac G4s were built than blue-and-white G3s. Depending on your physical environment, some eMacs and iMac G4/G5 might also work.

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FWIW, a B&W G3 was the most unreliable Mac I have ever used.  Maybe we were just unlucky enough to get one that happened to be somewhat of a Lemon rather than an Apple.  I don't know.  And I think some early models had a problem with the hard drive controller or something.  Ours was replaced, as I recall, but the replacement didn't seem to fare much better.  I don't remember all the problems we had with it, but it got so bad that I just kept the recovery CD in the CD drive so it was always readily available for when I needed it, which was fairly frequently.

 

To be fair, the machine still runs but it doesn't get used that often and was eventually relegated to running one piece of equipment which is now obsolete.  It still gets occasional use to open old files that cannot be opened on newer Macs.  But I still wouldn't trust it as a production machine.

 

Again, maybe we were just unlucky, so YMMV.

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I will second that the B&W is, well, kind of a piece of junk. I would rank it slightly higher than the Beige but in my opinion all of the MPC106 machines Apple made simply don't rank among their finest efforts. (This also encompasses the Wallstreet and Lombard Powerbooks and the tray-loading iMac.)

 

The "Rev 1" machines did have faulty hard disk controllers, although the problem usually didn't show up with only a single drive installed. They also have known issues with the Firewire module flaking out. My personal B&W with the Rev. 2 motherboard works okay, mostly, but it is *incredibly* picky about what DIMMs, hard disks, and PCI cards it works with. Architecturally the B&W is kind of a mongrel, which I don't think helps in the stability department; it uses most of the same motherboard chips as the Beige, but with (essentially) an overclocked frontside bus and PCI video slot, a *weird* PCI bus bridge arrangement for the non-video slots, and USB, Firewire, and the UDMA/33 hard disk controllers essentially just tacked on as if they were built-in PCI cards.

 

Overall I'd say the Uni-North machines just "feel" generally more stable and less cobbled together. But most of them do bottom out at OS 9 if 8.6 really is a priority. (I can't really think of a good reason why it should be, but it is what it is.) Only the oldest Sawtooth machines will do 8.6.

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15 hours ago, Byrd said:

There will be no issues "downgrading" to OS 8.6, however the sweet spot for such a machine and you don't want OS X is Mac OS 9.1.

I wish I could upgrade to 9.1, but the one "must have" program I need to run on these machines doesn't function correctly in OS 9.  

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11 hours ago, Gorgonops said:

Overall I'd say the Uni-North machines just "feel" generally more stable and less cobbled together. But most of them do bottom out at OS 9 if 8.6 really is a priority. (I can't really think of a good reason why it should be, but it is what it is.) Only the oldest Sawtooth machines will do 8.6.

I am completely ignorant of what you mean by "Uni-North."  We are a bit on the unique side in the Mac user industry because we use our Macs for metal fabrication.  Our options are extremely limited and support is non-existent.  OS 8.6 is the latest OS I can use, because OS 9 changed something in the way it produces text files, and it will not make usable copies of the files we need to communicate to our machinery what they need to do.  My Boss has given me permission to share information about our set-up, so one of these days when the mechanical problems are repaired on our last machine, I'll take pictures and post what I have managed to accomplish with our vintage Macs.

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18 minutes ago, Iamanamma said:

My Boss has given me permission to share information about our set-up, so one of these days when the mechanical problems are repaired on our last machine, I'll take pictures and post what I have managed to accomplish with our vintage Macs.

This sounds really interesting and I'd love to hear about it when you are able to post about it.

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1 hour ago, Iamanamma said:

I am completely ignorant of what you mean by "Uni-North."  We are a bit on the unique side in the Mac user industry because we use our Macs for metal fabrication.  Our options are extremely limited and support is non-existent.  OS 8.6 is the latest OS I can use, because OS 9 changed something in the way it produces text files, and it will not make usable copies of the files we need to communicate to our machinery what they need to do.  My Boss has given me permission to share information about our set-up, so one of these days when the mechanical problems are repaired on our last machine, I'll take pictures and post what I have managed to accomplish with our vintage Macs.

Uninorth refers to the chip that passes data between the processor and the memory. Uninorth was what Apple called the chip.

In a PC this chip is usually referred to as Northbridge.

But in this context it refers to the early grey G4 Macs. Most of them are capable of running 8.6.

This page has the specs for the G4 Macs and lists the minimum OS that they will run.

https://everymac.com/systems/apple/powermac_g4/index-powermac-g4.html

Edited by MOS8_030

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2 minutes ago, MOS8_030 said:

Uninorth refers to the chip that passes data between the processor and the memory.

Thank you!  We have a Yikes! G4 that is running OS 8.6 and the user doesn't seem to have any problems with it.  All he needs it to do is run our layout program and connect to the Appletalk Network.  I love everymac.com, I use them a lot.  

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1 hour ago, beachycove said:

I'd go with a more robust beige machine: a 9600. A 9600 could be recapped, fitted with cards and drives as needed, and run 8.6 cheerfully for another 20 years.

Interesting possibilities there.  On a side note, we had all of our IIsi and IIci units re-capped, and the ones that are the "brains" of our metal fabrication machines have been fitted with SCS2SD boards.  The operators are singing the praises of the SCSI2SD cards because everything loads faster.  I will have to look up the specs on a 9600 to see what I could do with it.  We ran 6000 and 7000 series PowerMacs for a while, but ditched them for the G3s.  They were just so much faster.

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In general the 9600 would be significantly slower than a G3 at most tasks. Plus it's still got SCSI and EDO ram. 

I'd personally look into the G4 "Sawtooth" machines myself. They can also run 8.6 and are pretty reliable. Disk I/O is plain IDE, so you can just throw in an IDE -> SATA adapter and run a 120 gig SSD or whatnot for ~$35 in parts. The RAM is standard SDRAM so upgrades/replacements are easier to source than the EDO RAM. The one downside is they don't have the mac 9 pin serial ports or ADB if those are important features. 

 

If you need a copy of the Sawtooth 8.6 CD, I've got that here. It should work on any of them. 

 

 

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14 hours ago, Gorgonops said:

I will second that the B&W is, well, kind of a piece of junk.

That's a bit of a relief, actually, that someone else thinks that.  Heck, I even tore off the Apple logo at one point because I didn't think the machine deserved to wear it.

 

Which reminds me that one day I want to replace the missing/broken plastics on it to restore it to its original condition.  And I'll likely keep it around but I wouldn't use it for any production needs.

 

 

2 hours ago, Iamanamma said:

OS 8.6 is the latest OS I can use, because OS 9 changed something in the way it produces text files, and it will not make usable copies of the files we need to communicate to our machinery what they need to do.

How does your setup work?  Does the application on the computer feed the text files directly to the machine or do you create the text files from the application and then transfer them to the machine?  I'm just curious if there is a possibility of using a translator to covert the text files from however OS 9 does them into a OS 8.6 or earlier text format.  Maybe something like DataViz, if I'm getting the name right there.

 

Or is running your program in emulation on a newer Mac a possibility?

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9600s are fine. Unless you are using lots of PCI cards, any of the other machines from that era is also more or less fine.

 

In my experience, PowerMac G4 "Yikes" (PCI Graphics) and PowerMac G3 Blue-and-white Rev2 are stable with 9.2.2 once you find some RAM that works well with them and if you're not using too many or too wild cards. Any blue-and-white with just one SATA card should be fine, for example, and let you avoid the controller issue.

 

To add about the disk controller issue, LEM and Wikipedia both report that it happens both with two hard disks and with hard disks meaningfully newer and faster than what the original blue-and-white G3 shipped with. If you have such a disk and it works fine, it's good to go, but if you need to upgrade it, consider just doing so via an expansion card.

 

13 minutes ago, Iamanamma said:

We have a Yikes! G4 that is running OS 8.6 and the user doesn't seem to have any problems with it.

Notably, the YIkes! G4 is mostly the same computer as the powermac G3, just, with a G4 processor installed instead of a G3. I have a blue G3 case with a  450MHz G3 processor and a Yikes motherboard and it performs great for me, but I'm not putting lots of different cards in it.

 

Mine has had its fair share of foibles, but to be honest, I don't think I've owned a single Mac without some kind of weird foible or behavior so it doesn't strike me as weird beyond what Apple has ever done.

4 minutes ago, Iamanamma said:

We ran 6000 and 7000 series PowerMacs for a while, but ditched them for the G3s.  They were just so much faster.

Most 9600s will be approximately as fast as most of the 7000 series machines.

 

To be honest, 9600s are highly sought after by people who are in essence looking to build a bad replica of a later Power Mac G4 system, but with a beige case, so I wouldn't waste time and money buying one if something else will do what you need fine.

 

There are G3 upgrades available for the 7/8/9 series, and the 8600 is available in a version with the same go-fast 604ev/mach5 stripes the 9600 had. (Though, if you intend to G3-upgrade, I recommend against bothering to find a Mach5 /250, /300, or /350 version of the 8600 or 9600, both because from a collection and interstingness standpoint I think those should be run as-original, and because the extra CPU speed up front doesn't help a lot with the upgrades.)

 

You are absolutely right though, a G3 totally smokes even an 8600/300, in terms of compute performance. How much that matters will depend a lot on the particular applications and workflow a machine is using.

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4 minutes ago, dcr said:

How does your setup work?  Does the application on the computer feed the text files directly to the machine or do you create the text files from the application and then transfer them to the machine?  I'm just curious if there is a possibility of using a translator to covert the text files from however OS 9 does them into a OS 8.6 or earlier text format.  Maybe something like DataViz, if I'm getting the name right there.

It has been quite a few years, so I hope I am remembering correctly.  The layout program makes a pair of files that are necessary for the machinery to punch a layout.  It makes them automatically with a command from one of the menus.  I think one of them is basically an ASCII tape.   When we upgraded to OS 9, it would no longer make them, the second file, the "Report" would come out as being made by an unavailable application.  We did find a way to make Simpletext translate them, but it was deemed too cumbersome and time consuming to make it work.  I believe it required quite a bit of manual editing.  Regressing to 8.6 made it work like they needed it too.

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6 minutes ago, Iamanamma said:

When we upgraded to OS 9, it would no longer make them, the second file, the "Report" would come out as being made by an unavailable application.  We did find a way to make Simpletext translate them, but it was deemed too cumbersome and time consuming to make it work.

I'm a bit confused.  Under OS 9, did the application no longer create the two text files?  Or was it that the two text files it created were not, essentially, readable?

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I referred to the 9600 mainly because it is a remarkably bulletproof machine. Stick an IDE card in it and it will run an IDE drive, but AFAIK it will take a SATA card too. Or indeed, a newfangled SCSI to SD. For my part, I tend to pop 68-pin SCSI cards and drives in my PCI Macs of that era, which I find plenty fast. 

 

The stock 604e is really good at a number of things, including calculations, which most likely will be involved in milling. It was a server grade processor back in the day, and is not going to make anyone who does not complain about the performance of a IIsi unhappy.

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The 9600 isn't by any means a bad machine. The 8600 is the same, but short three slots and with a/v and the 7300 or an upgraded 7500/7600/8500 will do the same. There's also lots of clones from that generation.

 

If there's speed concerns that made the firm upgrade to G3s back in the day, going back to 7/8/9-series machines might not be a good idea, even if they're perfectly fine for the "I need a high end machine to make me feel better about playing clarisworks, hypercard, and myst" crowd.

 

To be honest, depending on the complexity of the program and files and how much speed is really needed, a 6400/6500 or 7200 might be fine, as well. (Hell: a 6200 should be fine.) If these are sideboards doing a single specific task and that task runs fine on almost anything, you've got a lot of latitude to kind of just buy whatever and probably have it work fine.

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3 hours ago, MOS8_030 said:

But in this context it refers to the early grey G4 Macs. Most of them are capable of running 8.6.

I'm curious about this. According to EveryMac every AGP Mac after the original Sawtooth ("Gigabit Ethernet" on up) shipped with 9.0 preinstalled, only the original Sawtooth had 8.6. As a *general rule* Macs won't accept OSes earlier than what they shipped with but there are exceptions, do you know from experience that you can run the Sawtooth version of 8.6 on later machines?

(Wikipedia's article on OS 8 claims the 8.6 that came on the Sawtooth was a machine-specific version, the retail CD wouldn't run on it. Which is a bad sign.)

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2 hours ago, Iamanamma said:

It has been quite a few years, so I hope I am remembering correctly.  The layout program makes a pair of files that are necessary for the machinery to punch a layout.  It makes them automatically with a command from one of the menus.  I think one of them is basically an ASCII tape.   When we upgraded to OS 9, it would no longer make them, the second file, the "Report" would come out as being made by an unavailable application.  We did find a way to make Simpletext translate them, but it was deemed too cumbersome and time consuming to make it work.  I believe it required quite a bit of manual editing.  Regressing to 8.6 made it work like they needed it too.

Just spitballing here, how does the machinery receive the finished file? Is it pushed over a serial port directly from the Mac or somehow network/sneakernet-ed over? I can't help but wonder if emulation just might be a viable option. QEMU's Mac emulation is working *reasonably* well these days, and Sheepshaver might also work. Both can run 8.6.

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There was someone doing some work on getting 8.6 running on later G4s, claiming it was a more stable OS release even on hardware where it won't officially run, but I'll be perfectly honest: I have a super hard time believing that and I recommend against doing it in a scenario like this one. The person doing the work didn't really seem to have a strong understanding of what it is they were doing or why they might want it or what might cause or fix some of the problems they were having.

 

There are a few scenarios where "wink wink" it just kind of works to run an earlier OS than what something shipped with. Most Sandy Bridge Macs should hypothetically be able to have 10.6 installed on them, any other Mac that shipped through a long run of different OS releases (MacPro 5,1 and 6,1 and the MD101LL/A), and so on.

 

It might be possible that if the Gig-Ethernet is the same hardware as a Sawtooth except for the Ethernet controller that you can run 8.6 on it and use a PCI network card 8.6 supports with it. The QS'02 will "run" OS releases from before its OEM version (in theory anything supported by the dA or QS), but will be unstable and networking won't work correctly.

 

QEMU/Sheepshaver isn't a bad idea. At the very least, I'd say to give it a go. 

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39 minutes ago, Cory5412 said:

QEMU/Sheepshaver isn't a bad idea. At the very least, I'd say to give it a go. 

Is there a thread around here dedicated to discussing emulation?  I'm curious as to the best options these days.  I know the ones I use probably won't run under macOS 10.14 so I will need to update to newer emulators one of these days.

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There was a super brief discussion thread about the emulators at the launch of 10.15 - most if not all at this point of the emulators have been updated to 64-bit for OSX 10.15 functionality.

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