Power Mac G4 cooling project: Phase 2 - The baseline


It is finally time to kick this project off, so lets go! I will get some preliminary information out of the way first.

The temperature in my room is 80°F/27°C.

My Radeon 9800 Pro has a fresh thermal paste job using Arctic Silver 5.

My Motorola G4 1.33GHz 7455B has a fresh thermal paste job using Cooler Master High Performance Thermal Compound (HTK-002).

My memory sticks have heat spreaders on them.

Before I get creative and start moving fans around and swapping them out I need to get a set of baseline temperatures. I will be using the stock fans in their original locations and orientations. I will use the resulting baseline as a metric to determine the success of all the future cooling modifications during this project. Dan (PPCLuddite) suggested using CHUD in OS X for nap mode and powernowd in Debian for CPU frequency scaling. These should obviously help bring the temperatures down so I would like to test them out. Unfortunately I have hit a snag. I am unable to get powernowd working on my Quicksilver. I fear that my CPU is not compatible with powernowd. When I run powernowd as root I get the following results...

powernowd: PowerNow Daemon v1.00, (c) 2003-2008 John Clemens
powernowd: Found 1 scalable unit: -- 1 'CPU' per scalable unit
/sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/cpuinfo_max_freq: No such file or directory

For grins I ran the same command on my iBook G3 as its CPU does scale with powernowd. Here are it's results...

powernowd: PowerNow Daemon v1.00, (c) 2003-2008 John Clemens
powernowd: Found 1 scalable unit: -- 1 'CPU' per scalable unit
powernowd: cpu0: 400Mhz - 700Mhz (2 steps)

I do not have an original Quicksilver CPU so I am currently unable to test against that fear. After running dmesg I found the following encouraging line.

[ 0.000000] Processor NAP mode on idle enabled.

Even though I cannot currently get my CPU to scale with powernowd on my Quicksilver, at least I have nap mode in both Debian and OSX. I feel like I have talked enough, lets get onto the tests and results, shall we?

Ten minutes of idle. OS X 10.4.11. CHUD nap mode disabled:
CPU: 57°C
GPU: 43°C
RAM: 43°C
Intake air: 38°C
Exhaust air: 33°C

Ten minutes of idle. OS X 10.4.11. CHUD nap mode enabled:
CPU: 42°C
GPU: 42°C
RAM: 39°C
Intake air: 34°C
Exhaust air: 33°C

Ten minutes of idle. Debian Wheezy:
CPU: 42°C
GPU: 42°C
RAM: 42°C
Intake air: 34°C
Exhaust air: 34°C

My first stress test will be web browsing. I will have three tabs open, PowerPC Liberation, FrozenCPU.com and Newegg. During the test I will flip between FrozenCPU and Newegg, browsing both sites for fans.

Surfing under TenFourFox 31. OS X 10.4.11:
CPU: 51°C
GPU: 43°C
RAM: 43°C
Intake air: 38°C
Exhaust air: 34°C

Surfing under Ice Weasel 24.7.0. Debian Wheezy:
CPU: 51°C
GPU: 43°C
RAM: 43°C
Intake air: 38°C
Exhaust air: 34°C

Now for my second test. I will rip a portion of a DVD using handbrake under OS X. I will be using Handbrake 0.9.1. My codec choice will be XviD. My average bitrate choice will be 2000kbps. I will be using 2-pass encoding and the AVI container. These settings came from Zen's excellent XviD guide. I recommend reading it if you haven't already.

The DVD rip results are...
CPU: 61°C
GPU: 46°C
RAM: 48°C
Intake air: 42°C
Exhaust air: 36°C

The third test will be the playback of the resulting AVI file. I will use VLC under OS X and Debian. In addition to VLC, I will test mplayer in Debian.

OS X 10.4.11 VLC 0.9.10 full screen playback:
CPU: 43°C
GPU: 39°C
RAM: 39°C
Intake air: 34°C
Exhaust air: 33°C

OS X 10.4.11 VLC 0.9.10 windowed playback:
CPU: 43°C
GPU: 42°C
RAM: 41°C
Intake air: 34°C
Exhaust air: 33°C

Debian Wheezy VLC 2.0.3 full screen playback:
CPU: 46°C
GPU: 43°C
RAM: 42°C
Intake air: 36°C
Exhaust air: 34°C

Debian Wheezy VLC 2.0.3 windowed playback:
CPU: 46°C
GPU: 43°C
RAM: 42°C
Intake air: 38°C
Exhaust air: 34°C

Debian Wheezy mplayer svn34540 full screen playback:
CPU: 46°C
GPU: 43°C
RAM: 43°C
Intake air: 36°C
Exhaust air: 34°C

Debian Wheezy mplayer svn34540 windowed playback:
CPU: 46°C
GPU: 43°C
RAM: 42°C
Intake air: 38°C
Exhaust air: 34°C

This experiment needs more first person shooters. Time for some Quake III Arena!

Quake III Arena OS X 10.4.11:
CPU: 57°C
GPU: 43°C
RAM: 43°C
Intake air: 38°C
Exhaust air: 34°C

This has been fun. I could have just cheese balled my way through this and used something like geek bench. I opted to use real world tasks instead as they are more important to me than benchmarking software magic numbers.

I did notice something interesting about CHUD and OS X nap mode. I belive that OS X, for my Quicksilver, enables nap mode by default. I can install CHUD, turn off nap mode and watch my temperatures climb. I can then turn it back on and watch them go back down. This is where it gets interesting. If I turn nap mode off using CHUD, then remove CHUD and reboot, my temperatures will go back down to nap mode levels. In the article Dan brought to my attention this is not the case. The MDD owner in the article can monitor his temperatures using software and watch them drop after enabling nap mode with CHUD. Based on my findings and the MDD owner's findings, I believe CHUD's benefits will vary model to model.

Given the period of time the Quicksilver came from, I do not believe these temperatures are bad. The highest temperature I got was 61C during a handbrake rip. I have seen plenty of PCs of similar vintage push out higher temperatures. However, I want the absolute best for my Power Mac. Despite these positive results, I still feel like I can make improvements to the cooling. I will continue to keep pushing onward.

The next phase will be experimenting with the fan orientation. Stay tuned and thank you for reading!

New ARM powered Freescale MCU sets modern example


While this is not a PowerPC chip; it is a RISC chip, and sets a perfect example for the modern predominant path of most RISC chips.  For those that don't know, an MCU (Micro-Controller Unit) is a type of SoC (System-on-Chip); which means it has the CPU, RAM and ROM on-chip to run embedded applications.  These are typically used in jets, cars, power generators and many other industrial based applications.

There are also PowerPC specific MCU development options like this that have been around for a while, and put all the capability directly in the users hands.  Much like Unix and Linux in the software realm; these SoC hardware and embedded development tools are only limited by the ability and imagination of the user.

This is why we should embrace the fact that we are no longer computing within the mainstream (and never really were); because even the current path of RISC steers far away from user friendly.

Solutions like these can literally turn engineering dreams into reality. 

Power Mac G4 cooling project: Phase 1 - The plan


I am excited to report that I am ready to kick off the Power Mac G4 cooling project. I have gathered all of the hardware I need in order to move forward. The goal is to incrementally upgrade the cooling fans and experiment with different intake/exhaust orientations all while monitoring the pertinent temperatures inside the case. All temperatures will be compared against the temperature of the original fans in their original locations. I will start simple by working with the existing fans and their mounting locations. Then I will move onto upgrading the existing fans while maintaining the same mounting locations. Ultimately the goal will be to add additional fans by changing the location of the hard drives and utilizing the liberated floor space of the case. Any case modification will have to absolutely look professional and clean. The ultimate goal is still in the brainstorming stages, the project will build up to that point. I want the project to be incremental so that it will benefit users of all comfort levels. I imagine that cutting up Power Mac cases may not be for everyone.

I have a hardware solution to monitor temperatures. I will be using a NZXT Sentry 2 to monitor the temperatures of 5 locations in my Power Mac G4 Quicksilver. The Sentry 2 was a pleasant surprise. It monitors two more locations than the other product I was looking at. The Sentry 2 also offers fan control in addition to temperature monitoring. The idea was to use this to temporarily monitor the temperatures during this project however I may wind up using it permanently some how. I was also able to buy it locally so I did not have to pay shipping.

I will be monitoring the...

Intake temperature

Exhaust temperature

RAM temperature

GPU temperature

CPU temperature

This will be a fun project. I look forward to sharing it with you all.

I'm off


I leave for France tomorrow, and although a bit nervous about being away from home so long, the excitement and anticipation far outweigh any nerves.  I am, and pretty much always will be, a code from home guy, but this was an opportunity I simply couldn't pass up.

Mark (fiftysixk) speaks for me while I'm gone, and to help ease his taking over here for me while I'm away, I have added a lot of automation to the blog to help him (and myself) out.  

I will be available for important things, but mostly just to Mark for blog related matters.  His contact email is found on the author page, but if you genuinely need me directly then use the blog email on the same page to contact me.

From time to time I will pop in and comment, and maybe even make a quick post.  Mark will be the main poster for the next couple months.  He brings a different perspective than I, being that he works in the space industry in Houston.  So while I'm gone (and after I get back) I'm sure you will enjoy reading his posts.

When time allows it, I will be sure to post here, so don't assume I won't be around.

Flash is really dead


I know I sound like captain obvious here. I am also sure that 99.9999998% of you reading this blog would never humor the thought of running flash on a PowerPC Mac OS. However I just saw something very serious on the TenFourFox Development blog. Cameron Kaiser wrote about a full blown flash exploit. This vulnerability is as serious as they come. You can read more about it at the link above.

You may see or know people who choose to roll the dice and run flash on a PowerPC Mac OS in 2014. Some even go to lengths as far as tricking websites into thinking they have a later version than what they do, while in reality they have the same old insecure version under the hood. I've heard some arguments for it. "Most of the bad stuff on the web is written for Intel macs, it won't run on my PowerPC." "The chances of me getting hit are so astronomically low." The first claim is simply not true when it comes to this new exploit as it will run on a PowerPC mac. The second argument is simply a gamble. We here at PowerPC Liberation will not gamble with security or advise people to do so, no matter how "good" the odds are.

The good news is that there are plenty of flash alternatives at our disposal. We just need to adapt and implement them. Dan at PPC Luddite has a whole section of his blog dedicated to flash alternatives. When you start up TenFourFox, its start page also gives you links to QuickTime enabler and MacTubes enabler.

We have plenty of good options to get around using flash on our Power Macs. I know you already knew this, but just in case you didn't, it is time to put flash to rest on Power Macs, end of story.

Unexpected inspiration


This is more of a general computing entry than it is a technical one.

A large portion of my job is supporting guest speakers and special events. Every Friday we have an astronaut come in and speak to the public. This past Friday was no different. I was asked to support Colonel Jerry L. Ross during his presentation. My actual task was to simply insure that his microphone and power point worked properly. During these events it can be easy to focus on the technology more than the speakers message to their audience. This event was technically simple, therefore I was able to listen to his message. I am thankful I was able to, I took something away from it that you all may appreciate.

During the middle of his speech Colonel Ross talked about how early he became interested in the US space program. When he was very young he scrap booked about the space program and by the age of ten he decided he was going to be a part of it. This was not just a kid committing the "When I grow up" cliche. You know, the "I want to be a doctor" or "I want to be a scientist". Prior to this point he had daydreamed about it. From this point forward It was a calculated decision. That is rather ambitious for a ten year old if you ask me. He then informed the audience that he was not the best student. That may strike you as odd. Many people, including myself are quick to assume that brilliant people, such as astronauts, must have been good students. What he said next really resonated with me. I wish I had wrote down exactly what he said but I will try to poorly paraphrase it. When you fail you don't quit. Take a step back and look at the situation. See what you can do differently and keep at it. He informed us that he often had to do that academically. It was a real challenge for him that he had to work through.

When I thought about what Colonel Ross had just told us and then paired that with his career, two things stood out to me. He really did practice what he had just said, when he met challenges and failures he did not quit. He kept at it, trying different approaches and solutions until he succeeded. It was also very obvious that the man has incredible resolve. He decided at the age of ten he was going to be an astronaut and he absolutely accomplished that and then some.

You may be wondering what that has to do with us. I know there are plenty of readers here who have already made the switch to a free/open/secure OS. Now I am going to speculate that there may be readers here who are still on the fence about making the switch. Maybe you have one foot in the pool but you often get intimidated or aggravated. I would say that I am still in a journeyman phase myself. I have an x86 Debian Wheezy Machine at work and two PowerPC Debian Wheezy Machines at home, all of which are daily driven. With that being said I am not a master by any stretch of the imagination. Challenges still arise for me. It is easy to get aggravated and maybe even think thoughts such as "This is a lot easier on Windows or OS X" or "I'll never figure this out." This where Colonel Ross's words really apply to me. When you fail you don't quit. Take a step back and look at the situation. See what you can do differently and keep at it. When I heard him say that I thought to myself, "That's a great way to look at challenges." and "If I applied that same resolve to computing could anything really stop me?" I can already tell you from first hand experience, there is nothing like the feeling of meeting a computing challenge head on and coming out on top. The learning and experience you gain as result is priceless.

That is what I really want to impress upon you all. I know taking the plunge from an easy environment like Windows or OS X into the world of free and open source software can be intimidating. I have experienced that first hand, I still hit bumps in the road. When you take the plunge it will be challenging. If you want to make the transition to becoming a more empowered user, start by simply making the decision. Decide that no matter what, you will become an empowered user. If any challenges arise you will meet them head on. Research them and keep attacking them until you overcome them. Not only will you accomplish your goal, but you will have learned and experienced so much along the way.

I really enjoyed the message and figured that you all might enjoy it as well. I hope it as enjoyable for you as it was for me.

A final push against TPP


I'm sure many of you know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam have been working on for almost 10 years.  Well, they have recently been trying harder than ever to get it passed, but thanks to over 3 million people speaking out against it so far they have agreed to meet with OpenMedia, an international nonprofit that fights for internet rights and freedoms.

OpenMedia are making a final push to get an online petition and feedback from people to help guide them at these meetings with the TPP people.  You don't need to live in one of the nations above to sign the online petition and share your thoughts.  The link is below.

OpenMedia - Face to Face with Internet Censorship


The TPP will increase internet censorship and decrease privacy, so have your say while they're listening.