Wanted: G5 Author

Have a G5?  Run Linux, Mac OS and other OS?  Have a legitimate background in technology, and would enjoy writing about it?  PowerPC Liberation needs you.

The G5 chip has always been very under-represented here, and not because of intent, but because the stance of this blog has always been to write from direct experience, not conjecture.  So since none of us who write here own a G5-powered machine, we can't really write from that perspective.

Logout from viva PowerPC has an open invite to be an author here, and that offer will always be there if he wants it.  He is about the only truly qualified G5 user I know of.

Anyone else, please send your details, and perhaps some sample writings, to powerpcliberation at gmail dot com.  In your details, please explain why you want to write here, along with how you're qualified to do so.  Only serious and qualified applicants will be considered.

The number one thing we need here is a G5-based Linux/Debian user; with some Mac OS and other operating systems peppered in.  So if you're a strict Mac OS only fanboy-type user; don't waste your time or ours.

Grab a Qup ;) of QupZilla!

Admit it, you laughed.

A reader and starter of this Ubuntu forum thread alerted me to the existence of a (relatively) new browser with the pun-proliferating name QupZilla. Since it's a good idea to have at least two web browsers on your system, and since Midori seems to be having difficulties lately, I'm on the lookout for a second browser to complement Iceweasel. And being a webkit browser, QupZilla seems to fit the bill.

So is it any good? Upon first opening it, it looks familiar, very much like Firefox from the pre-Australis days. This isn't the eccentric interface of Midori which was developed to the interests and needs of its author rather than a general audience. With QupZilla there are no surprises, but there are many features. This isn't one of those minimalist webkit browsers, either. Besides the usual bookmark, password, and cookie management, there are also built-in features that are rather like some popular Firefox and Chrome extensions. So it comes with AdBlock, FlashBlock, and Greasemonkey as well as Speed-Dial, an RSS reader, and Videoner, which opens video links in an external program.

Its performance on Linux is practically indistinguishable from Iceweasel. They use almost identical amounts of memory and I didn't perceive any differences in page loading times.

Additional features let you link to an external download manager if you want more than the built-in one, and enable user agent management either globally or on a site-by-site basis. There's also a web inspector, so this is a mature browser even though it's relatively new on the block.

Overall, I have to say I'm really impressed. The only downside for me is the lack of a NoScript-like feature, but maybe if we cross our fingers and email the developer they'll make our wish come true.

QupZilla is in the Debian Jessie repository with a newer version in Sid, so go give it a look!

Taking a Walk With Debian Jessie

It's about that time in Debian's release cycle again where Testing enters a feature-freeze and all of Debian's worker bees hunker down and concentrate on bug squashing for their next stable release (yes, my metaphors are terrible). Also, they've recently come out with Jessie Installer Beta 2, so what better time to check out how Jessie's coming along and see if it'll crush our dreams or not?

In order to do this, I wanted to do a clean install instead of upgrading from Wheezy and having the safety valve of falling back on the old kernel. No safety nets here! Also, it's on a testing machine. I'm not gonna risk my stable install for you people. So onto the exercise. How does Jessie measure up?

The installer itself remains very familiar. It's only toward the end where it throws in something new: fresh choices for the desktop environment. In addition to the usual Gnome, KDE, LXDE, and XFCE, they also have options for Cinnamon and Mate. Good to know, but I was in a hurry and deferred installing a desktop environment for later.

To get a GUI up and running quick, I installed Openbox over the base system along with Xorg and LightDM and rebooted. It didn't take long for things to go wrong. For some reason LightDM didn't want to start up, so I replaced it with Slim, which is what I should've done in the beginning since it's much faster, and tried again. This time I got past the login screen but quickly found there's an issue with the radeon driver. This G3 iBook has an ATI card in it, so I need the radeon driver to give me at least 2D desktop acceleration, but I'm getting kicked back to the fbdev driver instead. Either the radeon driver is broken or it stopped supporting another slew of cards. I'm not sure which.

So to get an acceptable picture, i.e. without psychedelic colors, with the fbdev driver, I had to enter the yaboot parameter "Linux video=radeonfb:1024x768-32@60" at boot. This gives me a usable desktop, though video playback is unacceptably slow. So there's showstopper number one.

Showstopper number two is sound. As in, I have no sound. This bug has been around and reported on for over a year now and still isn't fixed. Basically, in many iBook models and some Powerbooks and perhaps others, the machine ID isn't read correctly so the sound card isn't seen. Patches have been proposed, but still no fix. Worrying.

At this point, do I have to say suspend is broken? Didn't think so.

As for new and exciting things Jessie offers, one is Mpv, an Mplayer fork that supports https streaming. Also there's Compton, a compositor that expands on xcompmgr, adding window and menu transparency and many bug fixes. Also, I saw Abiword is now at version 3.0, so just for laughs I decided to install it and see if it was any less awful than my previous experiences with it. And it was not quite as awful. I would put it around 80% as awful, so keep up the good work!

If you used Wheezy when it was in testing and were impressed by its stability and lack of bugs, Jessie is sure to be a letdown. There are major problems with video and sound, even this late in the development cycle. Some people can get around the radeon issue by disabling the radeon framebuffer and enabling KMS, but KMS for me is too unstable so it's not an option. Downgrading the radeon driver to the Wheezy version drags you into dependency hell and is probably unwise, so of course that's what I'm gonna do. I still don't know what I'll do about sound, though. Compile a new kernel? Or to be more accurate: learn how to compile a new kernel and then compile a new kernel? Or maybe I can try my "ignore it until it goes away" approach to problems. It doesn't always work, but when it does it's a thing of beauty.

The Liberating Luddite

Dan, the renowned founder and author of PPC Luddite, has joined the PowerPC Liberation writing team.  Please join me in welcoming him.

I feel truly honoured and privileged to have someone like Dan be part of this blog.  In my opinion this will bring an already close PowerPC community even closer.

For at least the next couple months, I will be taking a total break from active blog activity, like posting and commenting etc.  I will still be handling the administrative side of things, and commenting where I really feel a need on occasion, but the over two years of running this place has left me in dire need of a total break from the active side.

This doesn't mean Dan will no longer be a writer when I return; far from it.  He will be an author here for as long as he desires.  He isn't here as a temporary replacement, but rather just arriving at the time I needed help.

Don't think I'm tired of blogging, because I'm not, and I plan on this blog being around for many years to come.  I have a chance now to spend more time with my girlfriend over the next couple months, which is something we rarely do more than a couple hours in the evening before bed, as we both have very busy lives.  I just need some real life time away from all tech that isn't directly work related.  I shall return refreshed by early next year.

For now it's the Mark (fiftysixk) and Dan show here, and I know you will enjoy it, so just sit back and take it all in.

So again, welcome to the Liberation family, Dan!

Calling Doctor Dave

Dr. Dave is a former author here, and was a very regular voice of the PowerPC community, but I have not seen him around anywhere in about a year now.  He was very highly valued as a writer here, but due to his increasing amount of work as a Veterinarian (both professionally and charitably) he had to cease writing here in 2013.

Since we have lost touch, and I don't see him around here or on the Luddites blog, I just wanted to put it out there so he knows he's dearly missed.  I know that Dan the Luddite has a lot of respect for Dave also, so I'm sure he feels the same.

So to Dave I just wanted to say that you're always welcome here, whether as a writer or commenter.  The invitation is always open.  In the end though, saving animals is far more noble than old Macs.  Dave always did have his priorities straight. 

Power Mac G4 cooling project: Phase 3 - Orientation swap

Hello and welcome to the third installment of the Power Mac G4 cooling project. If you missed the last two installments here are the links...

Power Mac G4 cooling project: Phase 2 - The baseline
Power Mac G4 cooling project: Phase 1 - The plan

In this installment I will be changing the orientation of my 120mm side panel fan and my 60mm CPU fan. Originally the CPU fan was oriented to draw external air into the case and onto the CPU heatsink. The Apple OEM heatsink for my Quicksilver did not have a fan on it; however, my third party CPU has two 40mm fans on top of it. With that in mind, I will orient the 60mm fan to expel the internal case air out of the case. The Quicksilver's CPU, RAM and GPU all live very close together. I suspect that expelling all of that hot air may bring the temperatures down. The results will answer that for us. The 120mm side panel fan is originally oriented to draw air out of the case. I will be changing it's orientation to draw external air into the case. I suspect that using the 120mm fan to draw air into the case may help the GPU temperatures; again, the results will answer that for us.

At the end of phase 2, I came to the conclusion that, on my Quicksilver, nap mode was enabled by default under OS X. With that being said I will not be performing an idle test without nap mode enabled.

I will note the difference in temperature taken, from the baseline temperature taken in phase two.

With all that said, onto the tests!

Ten minutes of idle. OS X 10.4.11:
CPU: 39°C, -3°C
GPU: 43°C, +1°C
RAM: 36°C, -3°C
Exhaust air: 33°C
Intake air: 36°C, +2°C

Ten minutes of idle. Debian Wheezy:
CPU: 38°C, -4°C
GPU: 43°C, +1°C
RAM: 36°C, -6°C
Exhaust air: 33°C, +1°C
Intake air: 38°C, -4°C

This very interesting already. Swapping the orientation did benefit the CPU and the RAM temperatures. There is a catch though; the benefit comes at the expense of the GPU temperature. A one degree increase is not large but this is just at idle. Once I actually start taxing the GPU with something like Quake III; I suspect that the increase in GPU temperature will grow larger.

I will start with the web browsing test. I am curious to see how the GPU temperature increase trends. I will have three tabs open, PowerPC Liberation, FrozenCPU.com and Newegg. I will bounce between FrozenCPU.com and Newegg just as I did in phase two.

Surfing under TenFourFox 31. OS X 10.4.11:
CPU: 48°C, -3°C
GPU: 46°C, +3°C
RAM: 39°C, -4°C
Exhaust air: 36°C, +2°C
Intake air: 38°C

Surfing under Ice Weasel 24.7.0. Debian Wheezy:
CPU: 51°C
GPU: 46°C, +3°C
RAM: 39°C, -4°C
Exhaust air: 36°C, +2°C
i Intake air: 39°C, +1°C

This keeps getting more and more interesting! The GPU temperature did slightly increase, going from a one degree increase to a three degree increase on both platforms. The RAM temperature also maintained it's decrease under both platforms. This is where it gets interesting, I managed to completely loose my CPU temperature decrease under Debian. This makes me start to question the benefit of this orientation swap. It looks as if, when pushed hard enough and long enough, the CPU temperature rises to the baseline temperature. So far I have gained ground on the RAM temperatures and CPU idle temperatures; while loosing ground on the GPU temperature and possibly the CPU temperature under higher usage.

Now lets see if I can erase the drop in the CPU temperature again by pegging the CPU at 100%. To do this I will perform the DVD rip test again. This is the same DVD rip test from phase 2 using using Handbrake 0.9.1. under Mac OS X.

The DVD rip results are...
CPU: 57°C, -4°C
GPU: 43°C, -3°C
RAM: 39°C -9°C
Exhaust air: 36°C
Intake air: 38°C, -4°C

Just when I thought this could not get any more interesting, it did. For the DVD rip we have a drop in the CPU and GPU temperature. We have a sizable nine degree drop in the RAM temperature. My theory on this is as follows. The CPU, RAM and GPU are very close to each other on the Quicksilver motherboard. The DVD rip is very taxing on the CPU. Out of all the tests I run this test is the hardest on the CPU. The CPU being taxed like that will obviously generate more heat. I suspect that the generated heat stays in that area. The RAM is next door to the CPU and the back of the GPU is right next door to the RAM. Now that I am immediately expelling the hot air with the 60mm fan I do not believe that the CPU heat is staying in that area as much as it did prior to the orientation swap. With that being said, the DVD rip is not very taxing on the GPU at all. The AVI playback tests and the Quake III tests will be more GPU intensive. Let us see what happens when I get the GPU to put out some heat.

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: 43°C, +4°C
RAM: 38°C, -1°C
Exhaust air: 33°C
Intake air: 38°C, +4°C

OS X 10.4.11 VLC 0.9.10 windowed playback:
CPU: 43°C
GPU: 43°C, +1°C
RAM: 38°C, +3°C
Exhaust air: 34°C
Intake air: 38°C, +5°C

Debian Wheezy VLC 2.0.3 full screen playback:
CPU: 43°C, -3°C
GPU: 46°C, +3°C
RAM: 38°C, +4°C
Exhaust air: 34°C, -2°C
Intake air: 39°C, +5°C

Debian Wheezy VLC 2.0.3 windowed playback:
CPU: 43°C, -3°C
GPU: 43°C
RAM: 38°C, -4°C
Exhaust air: 34°C
Intake air: 38°C

Debian Wheezy mplayer svn34540 full screen playback:
CPU: 43°C, -3°C
GPU: 43°C
RAM: 38°C, -4°C
Exhaust air: 34°C
Intake air: 39°C, +3°C

Debian Wheezy mplayer svn34540 windowed playback:
CPU: 43°C, -3°C
GPU: 42°C, -1°C
RAM: 37°C, - 5°C
Exhaust air: 34°C
Intake air: 38°C

Quake III Arena OS X 10.4.11:
CPU: 54°C, -3°C
GPU: 44°C, +1°C
RAM: 40°C, -3°C
Exhaust air: 36°C, +2°C
Intake air: 37°C, -1°C

Now it is time for my final thoughts on this experiment. I was honestly convinced that using the 120mm fan to draw air in; combined with using the 60mm fan to expel the CPU and RAM hot air would bring the temperatures down. I did not want to make such a claim without having data to back it up. That is where these tests come in.

I was wrong in regards to the effect of switching the 120mm fan's orientation. The tests, for the most part, had raises in the GPU temperature. Even though I am blowing cooler external air onto the GPU using a 120mm fan, the GPU temperature went up. I believe the reason for this is the fact, that by switching the orientation, I have given up a large form of exhaust. The heat generated by the GPU and the PCI area does not have the immediate exit it had before.

Switching the orientation of the 60mm fan however; did cause drops in the CPU and RAM temperatures. The tests, for the most part, confirm my theory about this area of computer. Immediately expelling the hot CPU and RAM air usually lowered the CPU and RAM temperatures.

The results are mixed. Since this has negatively affected portions of the system; I do not believe I can recommend this orientation swap as an improvement to a Quicksilver's cooling system. The cooling system in it's stock form does not perform poorly; therefore I do not see the sense in raising some temperatures for slight decreases in other temperatures. The mission of this project is to make it as good as I possibly can. I believe that this orientation swap misses that mark.

That brings us to a fork in the road. That is where to go from here. I could add a fan to the top of the airport bracket like Zen has in his Power Macs and test it's impact. I could also opt to replace all of my fans with Noctua or Antec fans, then test the impact.

I look forward to feedback. I hope you all have enjoyed this project so far.

Proposed new PowerPC portables

An entrepreneurial fellow named Roberto has contacted me - and it would appear the Luddite also - about the potential for a new PowerPC-based laptop; which also is intended to run Linux.

I am not yet actually putting my support behind this, but since Roberto seems genuinely motivated about it, I thought it was well worth mentioning here.  I simply don't know enough about the project, and if it has enough resources to turn this into a reality.  He claims to be close on a logic board.

I have mentioned many times before that I'm not much of a laptop/portable user, so this wouldn't be an overly desirable thing for me personally, but Mark (fiftysixk) is a portable user, as are many of the readers here.

It will be interesting to see if this actually becomes a reality, but being a laptop, no matter the architecture, there is a lot more engineering involved.  Almost anyone can make a desktop/tower; hence the Mac-clone days back in the 90's, but a laptop is much more challenging.  We shall see what happens.

I give Roberto my sincere best wishes in this project.

GNU/Linux PowerPC Notebook