PPCMLA Press Corps

PPCMLA Press Corps

PPCMLA How-tos, Tips, Tricks, and Articles

KStars on OS 9?

June 13th, 2007

So you’ve got an old ethernet or WiFi equipped Mac sitting in the closet taking up space, and you’ve got a shny new G4, G5, or Intel Mac on your desk. You love that old Mac, but you’ve got nothing for it to do. Well here is something you can try.

KStars is an open source astronomy tool similar to Starry Night. It displays a map of the night sky as viewed from anywhere on Earth and provides a plethora of tools and information for anyone with skillsets ranging from the backyard star gazer to the serious astronomer and astro-photographer. The map can be updated in real time, or it can be set to any time you choose. A full review of KStars is probably beyond the skope of this article, but you can read more about KStars here. Don’t download it from there, though. Use Fink or FinkCommander as detailed below instead.

Normally, you wouldn’t be able to run kstars on a Mac at all, never mind on one running OS 8 or 9. However, thanks to the wonderful world of UNIX, Mac OS X, and open source software, you can now set up your old Mac to display KStars for free. If you ask me, that’s a pretty good price (especially considering that Starry Night costs anywhere from $50 to $300)!

What you’ll need:

  • OS X on your new Mac. (If 10.4.x, you’ll also need the Developer tools. 10.3 and earlier don’t need this.)
  • Fink or FinkCommander on your new Mac.
  • A physical TCP/IP network connection between your old Mac and your new Mac.
  • A Secure Shell (SSH) client for your old Mac such as Nifty Telnet SSH.
  • An X Window server application for your old Mac such as MacX or eXodus. (For this article, I used an old copy of eXodus 7 from back in my OS 9 days. I haven’t tested this with MacX.)

If you’ve got all those tools, you should be able to get KStars running from your old Mac.

Here’s what I have:

  • Power Mac G4 (dual 1 GHz) running 10.4.something with ethernet.
  • PowerBook 1400cs/G3 233 running 9.1 with WiFi via an ORiNOCO Silver card and the ORiNOCO 7.2 drivers.
  • Nifty Telnet SSH and eXodus (eXodus is commercial software, so I can’t give you a download link) on the PowerBook.

Surprisingly, the performance of this configuration is pretty good. The 1400 runs eXodus respectably. Display refreshes are fast and smooth, and KStars, which is actually being executed on the dual G4, runs well even in real time mode.

First things first. Set up Fink and FinkCommander on your new Mac. (If you don’t already know, Fink and FinkCommander are excellent software that allow you to download hundreds of open source software titles originally written for Linux that have been ported to Mac OS X.) Follow the directions here to set up Fink, and then follow the directions here to set up FinkCommander. At this point, you could quit, and you would be ahead. You now have access to hundreds of open source software titles at your fingertips.

But we’re not done. You still have to get KStars! If you are running OS X 10.3.9 or ealier, installing KStars is as simple a matter as downloading it from FinkCommander. If you are running OS X 10.4 or higher, KStars is not in the pre-built download list in FinkCommander. If that is the case, you’ll have to build KStars from source. That is actually a lot easier to do than you might think. Just follow the directions here.

Now that you’ve got KStars installed, you can give it a test on your new Mac. Open X11, bring up an xterm, and type the following:

cd /sw/bin

This should start KStars for the first time. Configure it appropriately, and you’ll be ready to run it remotely.

The last thing to do on your new Mac is to make sure that Remote Login is enabled in your Sharing preference pane.

On your old Mac, launch your SSH client. For Nifty Telnet SSH, start a new connection (Command-N), then edit the connection settings. Make the shortcut name anything you like. Type in the IP address of your new Mac in the Host Name field. Set the Protocol to 3DES. Click the “OK” button. Now connect to your new Mac. You’ll be challenged for a user name and password. Once you are logged in, type the following commands to start KStars.

setenv DISPLAY <IP address of your old Mac>:0.0
cd /sw/bin

Kongratulations! You should now have a KStars display on your old Mac.

Why go through all the trouble of running KStars remotely? Why not just run it on the new Mac? I would hope that if you are reading the PPCMLA, you would provide the answers to these questions yourself. Certainly it takes a little extra effort to set up your KStars this way, but it can also be rewarding. Aside from the geek cred you’ll get, imagine this: You could set up four PowerBook based digital picture frames each with a wireless connection to a Mac OS X box each displaying the view to one of the four points of the compass. Then you could hang the picture frames on the associated walls of your office! How cool is that?!

Discuss this article in the forum.

Supporting Unsupported 3rd Party Hard Drives in 7.5 through 9.2.2

May 28th, 2007

(I certainly cannot claim that this was my idea or that I have had any original thought in composing this article. I have, however, put all the information in one place that I hope is more convenient for PPCMLA readers.)

Apple has a long history of having a “closed” system. 3rd party upgrades to your Mac were often difficult if not impossible for the casual home user to install. This extended to hard drives. It was often the case that 3rd party SCSI hard drives that did not carry Apple’s ROM would be unsupported by Apple’s disk formatting software. This left the user in the quandary of using either a 3rd party formatting software such as LaCie’s Silverlining or FWB’s Hard Disk Toolkit.

Silverlining and HDT were both definitely great applications, but they installed their own disk drivers that sometimes interfered with later Apple system upgrades and disk utilities. There was no obvious way around this problem. And then some enterprising Mac user discovered that it was actually possible to add support for SCSI drives to Apple’s HD SC Setup and Drive Setup.

This is accomplished through the use of ResEdit. (Beware of imitators. There is only one official ResEdit, and its version is 2.1.3. It can be downloaded directly from Apple here.) You’ll also need Adaptec’s SCSIProbe (version 5.2 requiring OS 8.1 or better is available here, version 3.3 is available here). ResEdit has a reputation for being inaccessible or difficult to use, but don’t be scared off. This modification is very simple. That said, you perform this modification at your own risk. If you foul something up, you’ve only got yourself to blame. 😉

SCSIProbe 5.2

Install SCSIProbe in the Control Panels folder, and put ResEdit anywhere. Now connect the new hard drive to the Mac so that you can still boot up from the old hard drive (or any way that lets you use SCSIProbe to get info about the new drive). Boot up your Mac and open SCSIProbe. Find the new drive in the SCSIProbe window, and write down the vendor and model number of the drive.

Drive Setup in ResEditNext, open ResEdit, and use it to open a copy of Drive Setup.  (As with any hack involving ResEdit, it is always wise to work on a copy of the program you wish to hack.  That way, if you make an error or the hack doesn’t work as expected, you still have an original, unmodified version available.)  You’ll see a window with a lot of icons with four letter names. Double click on the one named fSCR. The fSCR resource contains the definitions for the various hard drives supported by Drive Setup.

fSCR ResourcesFind a line that looks similar to the vendor and model of your hard drive. The closer the match the better. Duplicate that resource by pressing Command-D or picking the “Duplicate” menu item from the “Edit” menu.

Find the new resource you just created. It will probably be number 128. Get info (press Command-I) on the resource and change the Name to the vendor and model of your drive in a fashion similar to the other drives already in the fSCR list. Then change the ID number from 128 to a new number greater than any other in the fSCR list.

Save changes to Drive Setup, and you are done. Drive Setup should now recognize your drive and allow you to format it.

As for HD SC Setup, you probably won’t need to use it because Drive Setup is supported on all PowerPC based Macs that can run System 7.5 through 9.2.2. If you must, however, the solution is much easier. Someone has already created a patch to allow HD SC Setup to recognize any SCSI drive. You can download the patch here. The patch works on HD SC Setup 7.3.5 which you can download from Apple here. This version of HD SC Setup requires System 7 or better.

As with any hack, you are changing software to do something it was not originally designed to do. Although this modification is pretty simple and relatively reliable, there is a chance that Drive Setup or HD SC Setup will malfunction in a manner which is not easy to detect. It could write a bad driver to the disk or otherwise interfere with the operation of your new hard drive. Use caution with the new disk until you are confident that there are no bugs in its operation.

For more information on the Drive Setup hack, go here, here, or use Google. For more information on the HD SC Setup hack, go here.

If you aren’t a do-it-yourselfer or you find ResEdit too intimidating to perform this hack yourself, go check out Tyler Sable’s article on this same topic at Low End Mac where you can find downloads to patch Apple HD SC Setup or Drive Setup to work with any drive: Format Any Drive for Older Macs with Patched Apple Tools


Discuss this article in the forum.

Green Apples: Energy Efficient Computing

May 21st, 2007

Apple’s Steve Jobs recently announced that Apple would be phasing out several hazardous chemicals from their products and manufacturing centers. This change was the result of significant pressure brought to bear by Greenpeace, and it is a commendable change for Apple. However, this change means nothing to someone who wants to make a change to improve the environment today.


Fortunately for you, if you are such a person, a PowerPC-based Mac may be just what is needed. It may be true that Apple’s switch to Intel processors affords the Mac user more processing power per Watt of electricity, but it is also true that the new Intel Macs suck down electricity like water over the Niagara Falls. Consider the specifications for the newest Mac Pro. These systems have a power supply which can provide a maximum current of 12A. At 120V, that 12A max current equates to a whopping 1440 Watts!


Granted, the typical user probably won’t be operating a Mac Pro at anywhere near it’s power supply’s maximum capacity. Still, the Xeon processor is rated at 65W (typical) to 80W (max), and the super high-end quad core Xeon may need 120W. Even the Core 2 Duo has a pretty high power dissipation and is rated not to exceed 35W.


Contrast that against the latest generation of G4 upgrades. The fastest G4 upgrades these days use the Motorola PowerPC 7447A or 7448. The 7447A dissipates a maximum cool 30W at 1.42 GHz. The 7448 dissipates an even cooler 10W at 1.4 GHz. Of course, these are all spec numbers for the CPU alone, and they aren’t a solid measurement of how much current you can expect to use with any given computer. And although the power supply specifications aren’t a perfectly reliable number, either, you can be assured you won’t exceed the maximum power rating on your Mac’s power supply…


A quick browse of the Apple specifications shows the following (in no particular order):

  • Mac Pro maximum wattage: 1440 W (1200 W according to AMUG)
  • iMac Core 2 Duo (“Late 2006”) max wattage: 180 W for 17″ and 20″ models, 220 W for 24″ model
  • MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo (“Late 2006”) max wattage: 85 W
  • MacBook (“Mid 2007”) max wattage: 60 W
  • PowerBook G4 1.67 GHz 17″: 65 W
  • iBook G4: 65 W
  • Mac mini Core Duo (“Late 2006”): 110 W
  • Mac mini 1.42 GHz G4: 85 W
  • Power Mac G5 max wattage: 1250 W for the last G5 with dual core CPUs, up to 600 W for earlier models
  • iMac G5 max wattage: 180 W for all models
  • Power Mac G4 “MDD” max wattage: up to 812 W by my reading of AppleSpec
  • Power Mac G4 “QuickSilver” max wattage: 360 W
  • iMac G4 max wattage: 190 W on the 20″ model
  • eMac (USB 2.0, 1.25 GHz G4): 230 W
  • Power Mac G4 Cube max wattage: 205 W
  • Power Mac G4 “Sawtooth” max wattage: 200 W
  • PowerBook G3 (all PowerBooks, in fact, from the 5300 to the “Pismo”) max wattage: 45W
  • Power Mac G3 B&W max wattage: 200 W (extrapolated from Power Mac G4 “Yikes!” with PCI graphics)
  • Power Mac G3 All-In-One max wattage: 300 W
  • Power Mac G3 minitower max wattage: 240 W
  • Power Mac G3 desktop max wattage: 230 W
  • Power Mac 9600 max wattage: 560 W
  • Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh: 140 W
  • Apple Studio Display 21 (21″ CRT): 180 W
  • Apple Cinema Display ADC (22″ LCD): 77 W (provided by host computer’s PSU)

So what is the point of all this? Apple is doing a great job cutting down on the toxic and hazardous materials used in Macs and during their construction. However, the most intractable environmental problem facing us today is not one of toxic cleanup that can be fixed by just spending a few extra dollars. Rather, there is a growing calamity threatening the whole world in the form of global climate change exacerbated by the excess production of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a principle byproduct of power generation. Thus, by producing Macs which require higher amounts of electricity, Apple is in effect driving increasing levels of carbon dioxide emissions.


One might argue that Apple’s contribution is a drop in the bucket when considering the worldwide production of greenhouse gasses. This may be true. But when the company proudly proclaims itself to be a greener company, the notion rings false in light of the increased power consumption of their products.


Many people are still unconvinced that global climate change is a problem. Many people probably don’t care. So for those of you for whom ecological ethics are not a concern, let your wallet be your guide.


As AMUG has been pointing out in their reviews lately, energy costs are becoming a significant portion of the expenses involved when operating a computer, and thus should factor in heavily in placing large orders for power-hungry computers. This fact probably hasn’t dawned on many home users as yet. But as time goes on, computers require more power, and the household energy bill starts to escalate, not only will the purchase cost of the computer be important, so too will be the cost of running the computer.


In this age of high-speed 24×7 internet connections, there is a tendency to leave the home computer on all the time. In my house, I pay about $0.04 per kWh. I own a 9600 (560 W) and a G4 “QuickSilver” (360 W) that I leave powered on all the time. Using the absolute worst case (and, I admit, completely unreasonable) power consumption numbers from the information above, I could pay up to $322 per year for those two computers alone.


Other than some Halo and Quake 3 from time to time, I don’t really have a need for all the computing muscle provided by the Digital Audio. Most of what I do (browse the web, write some email, even administer this website) can be done reasonable competently on a 500 MHz PowerBook G3 “Pismo”. If I consolidated my computers into a G3 laptop (45 W) and, say, a G4 cube with an ADC display (205 W), I could save up $235 to per year!


If you have a PowerPC Macintosh already, and your uses for your computer are web browsing, writing, watching movies, and some occaisional gaming, you can save considerable money by not upgrading to an Intel-based Mac. If you are environmentally or even fiscally conscious, avoiding the higher energy consumption Macs from Apple (of which the Mac Pro and MacBook Pro are probably the worst) is probably a wise thing to do. Instead, carefully consider your needs and the newest G4 upgrades. These new G4s require less power than the Intel chips, and they may just fit the bill for you.

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