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.

Tackling BSD

Before I head off in a couple weeks, I wanted to deal with a question I tend to get every 3-4 months.  The question is why don't I write a BSD guide, or can I help them install BSD from scratch.

These questions are a bit ridiculous, since that is not at all how one should approach BSD for the first time.  It is the type of thing that you read a book about before you even attempt using it.  There are BSD install guides out there, but that won't teach you most of the fundamentals you'll need to get by.  The main problem with install guides is that you don't really grasp what you're doing.  You're really just going through the motions that someone else figured out for you.  You can approach Linux like this in limited ways, but not BSD.

If you really want an install guide then use the ones on the BSD sites, but I won't be linking to any, since I cannot promote that way of learning if you're coming to the table with a totally blank BSD slate.  Instead, I will link to BSD books you should read first.

BSD is actually less user accessible than Linux, and that is saying something.  You need to use it to truly understand that.  It's not that it gets in your way, but more that it's just on another level.  BSD is the closest modern remnant to true UNIX.  Linux on the other hand is a UNIX-like OS, but in an off on its own sense; which means it's based on many of the same concepts and ideals, but not the same code or direction.  BSD is also technically UNIX-like, as it's not the original AT&T version, but it is the truest form of UNIX today.  The most proper thing to call BSD is a UNIX clone.  GNU/Linux was designed by largely UNIX people to be more user accessible, and include features those developers couldn't get into UNIX at the time; for whatever reasons.  GNU literally stands for GNU's Not UNIX.

These days things are a lot more open in the UNIX/BSD world, and there are multiple BSD variants that have been released in the last couple decades, but it's still BSD; the Everest of operating systems.

This is not an OS for the lighthearted user.  You've been warned.

A good list of BSD/UNIX books to read can be found here.  The list is a bit OpenBSD dominant, but that is my BSD of choice.  The next closest thing would be NetBSD. 

Hello from Houston

Hello everyone! I am very happy to be with you all. As you may already know, my name is Mark Elliott and I am going to be filling in for Zen while he is working abroad in Europe. I am very honored that Zen asked me to fill in for him. I have been a long time reader of PowerPC Liberation. Zen has been the driving force in motivating me to learn and use Debian. I am truly a better user and technician because of him. When he asked me to join the liberation the only natural answer was yes!

I do have some plans for a project involving my PowerMac G4 that I will be posting about here. My Power Mac is an upgraded Quicksilver. It has a 1.33ghz OWC Mercury Extreme CPU, a flashed Radeon 9800 pro and a PCI SATA controller with two drives attached. I have always wondered if I could improve the internal airflow by adding fans and possibly changing the existing fans with modern ones. I would like to keep the temperatures as low as possible while keeping fan noise at bearable levels. While experimenting I will use these thermometers to collect live data from various points inside of the case. This way we would have hard data to see if any changes made to the fans are helpful or detrimental.

I am absolutely thrilled to be here with you guys, it is going to be fun! If everyone would please join me in wishing Zen a safe, fun and productive trip to Europe.