Tuesday, August 25th, 2015
Hot and semi-successful computing
Last two weeks were in the Czech republic probably the most hot days
in two decades. My wife and our little boy went to countryside to
escape temperatures reaching almost 40 degrees Celsius here in Prague,
so I had few free evenings for my computing.
I have most of my computers stored in my parents house, which is
causing two problems: If I want to do something on these computers,
I have to drive more than 150 km and what's even worse: the storage
is really bad for electronics as it's directly under the roof, so the
temperatures are close to 60 degrees in summer and near freezing in
winter. I still hope to find a cheap storage near Prague some day,
but at the moment this is all I have. Therefore I decided to move
part of my collection to storage room of one of my ZX Spectrum
friends, because it has stable temperature and humidity, so my at
least some of my precious hardware will not be tortured anymore.
One of these computers is the original iMac G3, the one with
tray-loading CD drive and infrared port. I really like the machine.
Ten years ago, I've got more than a dozen of G3 iMacs for free. Four
or five were tray-loading models, the rest were the newer,
slot-loading models. Just one of tray-loading was broken beyond
repair (the hi-voltage electronics for screen was dead), but all of
the slot-loading were dying in some way and in the end it took two
or three of them to make one fully functional. It's no surprise,
the first models had the electronics far less integrated and there
was proper active cooling. Even now mine is working perfectly.
I remember using it for a while side by side with my then new
iBook G4 and indeed there was working OS X 10.3 on the original
6GB hard drive with my profile and profiles of other members of my
family. As nobody will ever use this Mac as main machine, I wanted
to restore the it to as much original condition as possible.
I wiped the hard drive and tried to install Czech MacOS 8.1, but with
no success, which is weird, because that's the system shipped with
iMac back in 1998. Next best thing to try was OS 8.6, which works
very well. So now iMac sits on the shelf with original keyboard,
original mouse and looks just great, no other iMac has for me the
appeal of the first one.
Another machine, I brought to the storage, was Compaq iPaq PC -
a small desktop with Pentium III @ 500MHz. I wanted to install Plan9
on it to finally dive into that mysterious OS. Unfortunately, the
system seems to be incompatible with the hardware. Rio kind of works
(640x480) only when running from the CD as live system, in install
and after install it doesn't start. Chipset (i810) seems to be on
the supported list, so I really don't know what the problem is.
Plan9 still keeps it's mystery.
Another machine stored in the storage is my SGI Indigo 2 Impact.
I've got it for free, it has some issues (keyboard port has
a broken pin stuck inside, I have no display, ...) and I never
even tried to power it on. Few months ago I discovered in my
gopher guestbook, that SGI machines can be hooked up to serial
terminal, so I wanted to test whether it boots at least this way.
I have no cabling for my VT terminal yet, so I used the cable for
connecting Apple IIgs to generic Linux PC and it worked, in minicom
terminal emulator I was able to get into some firmware menu and run
hardware tests. Sadly it seems, that the hard drive is not working
properly, it gave me tons of timeouts and failure reports. At least
the machine itself works, I hope I will find some compatible HDD
sooner or later.
Recently I've got Apple Newton MessagePad 120 with broken touch
digitizer. It was for free, so I was prepared to spend some money
to repair it and to my surprise, the new digitizer even isn't much
expensive. It came from Germany in about a week and I decided to do
the repair. After dismantling most of the device I've got to the
point where you have to desolder some wires to get to the display
and that's exactly where I'm stuck now, because my soldering iron is
in no shape to mess with cables so tiny. I labeled all parts and
screws and put the device into plastic box to return to it with
And last on my list is my planned desktop upgrade. My PowerMac G5 is
now almost 12 years old, I have it half of that time and even though
I love the machine (more like because I love it) I don't want it to
do the boring daily tasks like web browsing, movie playing or RAW
photo processing. As I discovered, even really cheap three-year-old
PC will be at least three times faster, so I decided to go this way.
The first thing (and the only thing yet) I bought is an Intel
motherboard with socket 1155. It's for second and third generation
of Core i3/5/7 and even Celeron/Pentium CPUs in these generations
are fast enough for me. The board did cost me equivalent of USD10
on local bidding server and is supposed to be new, never used.
I hope it works, I shall see, when I buy CPU for it.
That's all from my experiments during the hot summer days. I will
post here updates about some of the computers mentioned as soon
as there is anything to post.