Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mac Retrofitting

Like a lot of other Mac users who own dated hardware, I have looked for ways to keep my machine up with the latest and greatest technologies available. After Apple's decision to exclude pre-Intel machines from utilizing OSX 10.6, Snow Leopard, I grew a bit distraught. Why, I asked, can't I also have the computing power the newer machines were capable of without shelling out thousands of dollars on a new computer? Where was an Intel motherboard upgrade for my G4, or any other vintage Mac for that matter? It quickly became apparent Apple wasn't concerned with my plight so I've decided to seek an alternate means of making my Mac viable again......by doing it myself. It may surprise some of you to know that every component needed to build your own Mac Pro can be purchased directly from the third party sources that supply Apple. In fact, the ONLY difference between a PC and a Mac is the I/O format. PC's use BIOS (Basic Input Output System) to tell their machine what software OS to run while Macs use EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface). It has come to my attention that a number of EFI motherboards will soon be on the market. According to my sources, this will allow native OSX booting from an unhacked disc. If this proves to be the case, I am going to send a set of board specifications to my step-brother who builds motherboards for a company in Austin, Texas to see if they can engineer solutions for our Snow Leopard problem. Who knows? Mac Retro may become a hardware company as well as a blog site.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's Here! It's Here! Woohoo, It's here!

My G4 Cube came in via UPS today after an undisclosed delay. It didn't include a power supply, but I'm not too unhappy about being denied the chance to play with it before I tear it apart and turn it into the coolest Mini ever. I'm not alone in my quest, either. I joined up with a group of visionary MacHeads on Stephen Foskett's blog site and, I have to tell you, I was blown away by their innovative thinking. Several of them have already begun making their own G4 cube conversions and given me insights I otherwise would never have thought of for how to approach my own build. I'm probably one of the least experienced members of that noteworthy group, but I have more than enough style and imagination to make up for my technical shortcomings. I've invited them to post their builds here for your enjoyment and help with your own projects. I hope all of you hot rod MacHeads will join up and help me create a new underground movement in the Apple world.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Mod Squad

Inspiration abounds, my friends. In my previous post, I showcased a Mac G4 Cube another MacHEAD built. Ever since Apple's unfortunate decision to drop support for G-Series Macs in their latest OS, I have been looking for a solution to my Intel conundrum. I own a PowerMac G4 tower Dual 450MHz Gigabit Ethernet and an iMac G3 so old it's processor speed can't be seen with the naked eye. As of today, however, I am also the proud papa of a G4 Cube 450MHz. My goal, now, is to make all three of them sporting Intel Core 2 Duo 2.26GHz processors on Mini mobos. Of course, I will make them shine, too. I really like EL wire, so I'll be putting it in them to highlight my works of art. Viva La Retrolution!

I think I will post some different themes here for members to vote on for the Cube build.

That's What I'm Talkin' About!

I had a thought to put the guts from a Mac Mini into a G4 Cube. I, however, did not have the money to do so, but a gent named Andrew did. Moreover, he did so with aplomb and a sense of style I don't think I could reproduce. In my quest to find the middle ground between Mini and Mac Pro, this is the closest I've seen yet.

With any luck, my own forthcoming attempt will also be a success. I am hoping to improve a bit on this design and add multiple hard drives and a second optical drive by stacking my components horizontally instead of vertically. Also, my unit will sport strategically placed EL wire and a more powerful power supply and distribution bus to allow for the addition of multiple drives. With any luck, and my electronic expertise, I should be able to envision my own Mini dream.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hot Mods....The Hot Rodders of Mac

Recently, I've been skulking about the world wide web in search of fellow visionaries who want their Macs to look as good as they perform. I found a few such people in my search, thus far. Indeed, there is even a site dedicated to Mac modifications called Resexcellence. Of course, I immediately joined this community. The link will be below along with a few others.

For those of you just looking to spruce up your desktop, you may want to browse The Apple Collection, Interfacelift, or Mac OSX Applications. You can find everything from awesome wallpapers, to apps, to cool icons on these sites. Check them out. In the meantime, I will continue my search for more cool computers.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Elitist Fear Shines Through

I just got removed from a forum for spreading my brand of "heresy". The insufferable elitists who try to lord it over the rest of the Mac community can't silence us, though. The genie is out of the bottle now. Mac OSX can run on just about any PC that has the specs to drive it. You can stick your fingers in your ears all you like, denial does you not a bit of good. I started doing this to find a solution for people who want to get the most out of their older Macs. Apple's snubbing us by switching to Intel processors had lead to more than a little resentment. Still, now that we are aware we can build our own machines for far less than Apple offers, not all is gloom and doom.

I will continue to try to push for a median Apple desktop to give us, the die hard Mac users, the means to join the Intel community without resorting to O.P.C.'s. I am still a fan of OSX, whether it likes me or not. Is it simple economics that is driving our Retrolution? Partly. It's also Apple's refusal to offer a computer for the average Joe that has made it come about. None of us wants to build a "Hackintosh", mind you, we just can't afford anything else that will reasonably fit our needs as computer consumers. Apple has become akin to Cadillac in regard to branding. Case in point: You can go to an auto parts store to get an alternator for a Chevy car with a 350 engine and it might cost you thirty dollars. An alternator for a Cadillac sporting the same engine will cost you nearly two hundred dollars. The difference? The cost. People have become accustomed to believing their brand is better than others simply 'because'.

Look beyond the myth people, for it is a lie. Apple buys it's computer components from the same manufacturers as Dell, HP, Gateway, and others. Many times, they use the exact same parts. There is nothing inherently Mac about the processors used in a Mac Pro. They are readily available online from several retailers. Simply put, what Makes a Mac a Mac is the ROM on the logic board....that's the only difference aside from the casing. Don't get me wrong, Apple's engineered an awesome case. I just wish they'd make one toting a souped up Mini brain, 2GHz at least and 8GB RAM with front loading, hot-swappable HD's and a pair of Blu-ray optical drives....all for around nine hundred bucks.

The main problem we, the income challenged face, is there are way too many people out there with more money than common sense who are willing to shell out fortunes for a high end Mac. Apple is comfortable in it's niche and, why shouldn't they be? With the success of the iPod and iPhone, they really don't need to care what modest income people need. I just wish Steve Jobs and company could remember what it was like back when they had nothing but hope, a prayer....and a dream.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How To Build A Monster, Baby.

After the vast amount of snooping in cyber-space I did today, it would appear as though I have found the answer to the problem of the missing mid-level Mac....build it yourself. Que the ranting from the Peanut Gallery! Impossible you say? No. It is not. I humbly offer this entry as proof. But first, a brief recap of what started it all....

Not long ago, Apple introduced Boot Camp, a way to run Windows natively on a Mac. Since then, several third party offerings have released, most notably Parallels. I, then, asked an innocent enough question: "If a Mac can run Windows, can a PC run OSX?" Oh....the naysayers lined up by the tens of thousands to chastise me for even daring to think it, let alone postulate it upon their sacred forums! You'd be surprised at how naive that proud elitist group really is. (OSx86 aside.) I chose to ignore their insane rantings, much like Christopher Columbus did in 1492, and set off an a voyage of discovery to find my elusive dream. Mission accomplished.

I took a Michael Moore approach to answering the question....in other words, I asked Apple. It's amazing how uncomfortable an Apple support technician gets on the phone when you ask them the secret to what makes a Mac a Mac. Fortunately, they are like police officers: They don't necessarily like the laws they are sworn to enforce so, I finally found a maverick who was willing to share his knowledge of Apple's alchemy.

First off, before I tell you what he said, let me give credit to a few of my detractors for inadvertently pointing me in the right direction when they stated Apple does not make it's own hardware.... They were right, of course, which is the very reason I can now build my very own Mac.

Apple buys it's hardware from third party sources. Anyone can readily buy every component, sans the Mac tower and fittings from various places across the internet. I chose to buy my parts directly from their manufacturers. The savings I accumulated are noteworthy, to say the least. Let me give you an example: Intel's Core i7 Nehalem 920 2.66GHz processor, the very same processor used in the base model Mac Pro, also can be purchased for use in a PC, as can the other two variants, but at a bit more cost. Two of these processors can be bought for $560.00 and added to the motherboard at no additional cost prior to shipping. The motherboard costs $194.00. I cannot divulge the way to make it a Mac here, however. I do not wish to be sued. It IS readily available knowledge, if you know how to Ask the right questions on a net search. Inexpensive, third party memory is readily available, as well. Now, let me hit you with the shocking news...it can use a Blu Ray drive! How, you ask? It's a simple matter of a few individuals reverse engineering Paralells. This machine will run Windows AND OSX, but in reverse order. You only have to boot up in OSX, unless you wish to take advantage of the Blu Ray, of course. OSX still isn't Blu Ray friendly....but I bet it's coming soon.

Needless to say, you still need a Hard Drive, video card, keyboard / mouse, and tower (and a power supply if the tower doesn't come with it.) to finish the basic build... all of which can be had for less than $400.00 total. Then, you have to buy your OS's to complete the journey. The rest, you'll have to figure out by Asking the right questions, just like I did. Of course, there IS that stupid end user agreement garbage that any court in America will throw out as monopolistic. Macs are running Windows now, after all.