New (old) laptop (OS X questions)

I just got an older beat up 1ghz Titanium G4 Powerbook (FREE!). The pram battery is dead, the DC in card is broke, some pins on the optical drive cable are busted and the charger is on the fritz (which from what I’ve been reading is a typical problem with the apple 65w chargers). But I found some good deals on ebay and for 40 bucks I got a ton of parts, including a DC in board and the DVD burner bus cable and a regular battery (older, may not hold much capacity but we’ll see).

I’ve used this laptop a couple of times and everything else checks out, no dead pixels on the screen which looks to have no scratches!

So while I wait for the pram battery to be shipped I’ve got a couple of questions:

The laptop came with Panther 10.3. Not bad but I want Tiger. Is tiger worth the 129 price tag (with an educational discount I can get it for 69), and will it work well with 512mb of ram and a 1ghz g4? If I get it should I format the drive completely and reinstall or just upgrade? I plan on reformatting when I install 10.3 after I get the thing fixed.

Also, what kind of software should I use. In windows/linux there’s stuff I install immediately when I reload/reinstall, everyday apps I can’t live without. Is there anything you guys like to install immediately?

Basically: What can’t you live without?

Thanks all…can’t wait! :smiley:

Tiger works very well with 512 MB RAM and a 1.4 GHz G4, so it ought to work fine with a 1 GHz chip. The other question is what kind of video card it has – how much RAM, etc. That’ll dictate what kind of cool effects your machine can display.

I’m on Tiger right now, but I don’t have much experience with 10.3, so I can’t really say if upgrading to 10.4 is worth it. It is a nice OS though. Spotlight is sometimes useful, and the Dashboard is pretty neat. Your call – for $70, can’t be that bad.

Here’s some stuff to install immediately:

Adium – this instant messaging app blows the rest away. Yes, it is that nice.

Quicksilver – little launcher app from Blacktree. You hit Ctrl+Space, and then type enough of an app name, a document name, etc. so that it knows what you mean. Hit Enter to open it. There’s a lot more stuff that it can do, but I think I would hate OS X without this program.

TeXShop – It and teTeX are a phenomenal LaTeX work environment. BibDesk handles BibTeX bibliographies gracefully and easily.

Blender – when you get a real mouse and a real keyboard, install it. Before that, keep as far away as possible so you don’t get frustrated when a nice numpad doesn’t exist! :stuck_out_tongue:

Colloquy – really nice IRC client

MacVim or SubEthaEdit or TextWrangler – MacVim is open source; TextWrangler and SubethaEdit are free for personal use. All are nice text editors; take your pick. Aquamacs is ok, but it seems slow to me. Its buffer behavior also annoys me, but there might be some way to fix it. XEmacs is much more well-behaved, I think.

Fugu – really nice FTP client

Xee – nice lightweight image viewer, similar to IrfanView on Windows. I’m pretty sure it’s still alpha, but it segfaults very infrequently.

VLC – media player, you know the deal.

Have fun with your laptop –

meestaplu’s list covers pretty much anything i’d suggest. but whenever possible i feel the need to stress how awesome quicksilver is. plus xgestures finally resolved its wacom issues in tiger; i had been really missing strokeit from my pc. (xgestures is $5 shareware, though)

Thanks guys, I ordered the battery tonight so hopefully it’ll be here friday or monday.

Some of those apps look awesome, much more elagant than most of the crap on windows or linux.

Here’s a list of others I found, not sure if they’re any good: <–used that a little before, seems nicer than firefox on OS X <-- nice ftp client

This also seems quote interesting:

So, I’ve been on OS X since August and I really like it. I’d say tiger is worth it, mostly because many apps require it. It’s a sad issue but it is ture.

App reccomendations:

Smultron is a good choice for editing - it behaves like you want it to and it dosen’t suck.

Cyberduck >> Fugu (Fugu can’t connect to FTP servers, last time I checked it was SFTP only)

Adium pwnz j00, naturally

Scribus aqua crashes a lot. I haven’t had good luck with it.

Camino is VERY VERY good. It’s lack of extensions sometimes makes me miss FF, but it is faster and far more native. I have a large collection of bookmarklets that do many things I’d use extensions for on FF.

About the OSX-GTK thing… These guys blazed onto the scene in early october, got a compiled version of the gimp limping around, and then stopped talking. While I’m sure it’s not vapor since they have source code to GTK (and their GTK changes have been committed to GTK’s tree,) I don’t think we’ll see X11-less GTK apps like GIMP for quite a while.

Also, just as a best-pactices kind of thing, run as an unpriveleged user all the time, and escalate when you need to install stuff. Never enable the root user, it’s completely unneccesary, and don’t use the integrated web server/ssh server/ftp server unless you actually intend to use it.

and above all: Keep at least 1 GB of free space on disk at ALL TIMES.

if you run out of space, OS X does not come down gracefully; you’ll get all sorts of corruption of preference files and naughty things can occur.

Also, just as a best-pactices kind of thing, run as an unpriveleged user all the time, and escalate when you need to install stuff. Never enable the root user, it’s completely unneccesary, and don’t use the integrated web server/ssh server/ftp server unless you actually intend to use it.

Yeah, I’m used to UNIX/Linux so I know not to run as root. Though I do quite often use SSH on my linux boxes, but I only allow root login via su/sudo from only the user privileged to do so…usually only me.

and above all: Keep at least 1 GB of free space on disk at ALL TIMES.

if you run out of space, OS X does not come down gracefully; you’ll get all sorts of corruption of preference files and naughty things can occur.

It’s a sixty gig disk, and since I won’t be installing any games on it, or using it to render (I don’t think the video card on this is blenderable) I won’t use up much room. Mostly DVD rips/mythtv recordings or bittorrent tv shows I think, and maybe my music collection which is around 3.8 gig right now. Mostly I’ll be doing web development and my test server will be in the closet, I may if need be run php/apache, or if possible just run lighthttpd with php and mysql, hopefully that won’t hog ram or cycles much.

Thanks for letting me know though, I’ll certainly be cautious.

Good deal. I got a powerbook at work and someone else has an old 800MHz powerbook. His only seems to have usb 1 ports, which kinda sucks but firewire makes up for that.

I would have gotten a new burner or external one. External is probably cheaper in this case. The reason I say is because if it’s older, it will likely be just a 1x or 2x superdrive and they aren’t great for 3rd party media support.

IMO Tiger isn’t worth it but as someone said, a lot of apps now require it (e.g. Google Earth). I’d consider that 10.0 was alpha, 10.1 was beta, 10.2 was final but buggy, 10.3 was the first proper release of OS X and 10.4 is sugar coating.

It works better the more Ram you have but the powerbook I use has 512MB and it runs pretty well - even things like Shake, Photoshop CS are smooth. But then it is a newer one with a CoreImage graphics card. The other guy at work has an older 800MHz powerbook and it doesn’t do so well with Tiger. It’s a tough choice because some apps require it but I’d probably just stay with Panther. Especially as Leopard should be out this year anyway.

I tend to reformat on installing a new OS because it’s often better to re-install apllications. Some adobe apps don’t like it when you just upgrade. Plus it clears up the junk that a new install might not put there. This could easily save you a few GB of space.

Photoshop - although native gimp would be nice, it’s still not here and Photoshop’s interface is better and the output is better. Plus it supports tablets properly. Since gimp is under the x11 layer, it doesn’t and it’s quite unresponsive
TextWrangler - I used to use Smultron but I found it very slow. TextWrangler’s big brother is considered almost standard for web page development short of a Wysiwig editor. I’m not sure why though but check both out.
File Buddy
the developer tools
iterm (tabbed terminal) - turn anti-alising off. It slows down considerably if you scroll lots of text
DVD Studio Pro
Toast Titanium (latest is v7 but I use v6 just now)
graphicconverter - batch image editing and basic editing when I can’t be bothered waiting on Photoshop to load up
Flip4Mac for playing WMV files
CDFinder for my DVD catalogue
chmox for viewing chm files
clix and cocktail for system cleaning
OnMyCommand for adding shell scripts to the contextual menu which can be run anywhere so e.g. you can select text anywhere you are and right click then open it as a url in a browser
combine pdfs - good for adding/removing pages from pdf documents
easyfind - spotlight doesn’t index certain folders so sometimes it’s good to do it the old way
File Juicer - extracts data from archive files. Safari (my browser choice) in Tiger can save pages as webarchives and this will let you extract the contents separately. It is handy for other file types too
iswiff - plays flash files in a standalone player so you don’t have browser overheads
jad - java decompiler
pacifist - OS X installers sometimes ask for your password and really you don’t know what they will do. This app gives you more peace of mind. Plus you can custom extract stuff from the system discs
path finder - new version has tabbed windows but it’s bloated so I don’t use it much. Apple are hiring someone to make a completely new Finder so maybe Leopard will have something
pdf shrink - good for optimizing pdfs. I saves hundreds of MBs on my ebooks. I also got the old Blender manual down from 45MB to around 6MB
classic quicktime - intel didn’t update their indeo video codecs so I have to boot classic to view/recode them
the official rar command line tool - stuffit sucks
resorcerer - for modifying the old style resource forks. You can also use resedit under classic
stuffit - I hate it but it supports a lot of compressed files. Plus there are a lot of stuffit files around for os x and nothing else seems to open them
superduper - for cloning a drive. I keep a clone of my internal drive updated.
techtool pro - good low level diagnostic tool for checking drives and things
tinkertool - modify built in prefs. I hate the default zoom of opening apps etc. and it enables the safari debug menu
Virtual PC - for some dos games and small useful apps like the advanced zip file recovery tool (extracts broken zips) or the video pixel aspect ratio editor
whatsize - tells you what space is being used where on your drive and highlights high usage areas
wimpy flv player - I’ve come across flash flv files and this is the only app that plays them
zipit - kinda like winzip
audio hijack pro - record any audio stream that plays on your computer. If you play audio in protected aac persay, you could get it to read the stream and save as unprotected. It’s near lossless since it is using the digital stream
snes9x - for playing old snes games
rbrowserlite for ftp
I don’t like Camino because it’s still gecko and susceptible to the same issues firefox has. It’s basically firefox without extensions and less options but a nicer gui. I go with Safari but only in Tiger. In Panther I had firefox because Safari didn’t save web pages with images in Panther

lots of movie tools that have let me sort, rip, mux/demux any video I’ve come across.
The main ones I use are:
ripping: yadex (great tool), osex, mac the ripper
recoding: ffmpegx (requantizes dvd9s in next to no time to fit on dvd4), mpegstreamclip (best mpeg editor), bbdemux and mpgtx for demuxing, mpeg2 works for muxing and other editing, gumby for some nice unix tools in one app - mainly for vcds
handbrake is a good dvd to mpeg4 solution
I use DVD Studio Pro for authoring as it supports dvd streams, which idvd doesn’t
explicit and d-vision for avi chopping, fixing and joining
vcdgear for fixing vcds only

It’s possible though I’ve done it loads of times without problems. On many occasions, I managed to get zero k free and the OS came up with a message saying that I was out of space and all disk activity would be suspended at which point I’d have to restart. That was a while ago before I had a bigger drive though. I usually maintain more than 1GB free and it’s a good idea. I’ve read stories about a file overlap and the entire filesystem being trashed, though I’m not sure if low space was the cause but it was a suspect.

Make sure to get an external mouse with 3-buttons and a wheel at least. And it may help to know that the alt-key solves some missing keys. I found out today that alt-backspace acts as the delete key. In case you don’t know some hotkeys, this might help too:

Expose is quite handy too - F9 shows all windows, F10 shows all windows in current app and F11 moves windows out the way and shows the desktop.

The built-in activity monitor is great for showing disk activity, cpu usage, processes etc.

To get the real benefit from a G4, try as best you can to use Altivec apps - they are about 4 times faster on certain tasks. This is another major reason to favour PS over Gimp. If you want to be entirely legal, you can get PS Elements for £20 off amazon. Check the features list between them but you might be able to live wih elements. It’s surprisingly full featured and supports some PS plug-ins.

One thing I find handy to do is to keep a text document in my Finder sidebar (make it plain text and not rtf as rtf is slow - change the setting in textedit). It’s great for keeping notes and listing URLs in a safe place. It acts as a to-do list too.

Thanks osxrules, greatly appriciated.

Lots of great apps there, I’ve already downloaded a lot of stuff I had on my list (as well as your guys’) to my windows disk and am going to use samba/cifs to grab it off once I’ve got the laptop running.

I have a 550mhz PowerBook Titanium with 1gb ram and 16mb of video ram and it runs blender with out any problems, as long as I set the display to thousands rather than millions of colors. Make sure to install X11 (included on the install disk for OS X 10.4) this lets you run the many great open source unix programs that have been ported to run on OS X. Gimp is up to version 2.2.10 and works great.
OS X 10.4 is faster than 10.2 or 10.3 (important with a 550mhz processor) and very stable.

I just tried iterm, and it seems pretty crappy to me at this stage in the game. It has all the standard eye candy of OS X, which is great, except for the fact that they forgot to make it fast. There’s a very slight, but very noticeable and very annoying delay after typing each letter in a command (I did turn off antialiasing). Once it’s fast, though, this looks like it will be an excellent program.

On a different topic: If you’re using Safari, PithHelmet is a really nice hack/extension for it. Its default settings do a really nice job of clobbering intrusive, blinky ads, even if they are a tad excessive. When I can, I use ad-blocking software if only to get rid of those horrendous intellitxt links with annoying mouse-over text that ruin the articles I’m reading. In PithHelmet, a regex URL match on .intellitxt. works great.


Thanks for the recommendation on PithHelmet, I’ll check it out.

Mvelik: This site seems to suggest that this laptop has a Radeon 9000 with 64mb of ram. This is not at all what I expected! Does anyone know if blender will run very well on this ATI, or whether I’m screwed here? I’ve had lots of problems with ATI/Blender in the past on PCs, and have heard many horror stories about ATI and Nvidia on Mac. Are they founded?

I’m getting more and more excited about this thing…the battery is due today! (it shipped Wednesday!)

I love living on the west coast…all my computer parts arrive very quickly from California.

I’ve already downloaded the combo updater for 10.3.x to 10.3.9 and the updater for 10.4.x to 10.4.4.

What happened is I got this laptop to work on for a friend’s church (someone had donated it, even in it’s broken state). I did plenty of research and came to the conclusion that plenty was broken. I wiped PRAM, reinstalled 10.3 and tried to update it but the battery wouldn’t charge and the PRAM battery was very dead (tried charging for 72-96 hours but didn’t do anything), since the DC in port wasn’t working the charger wouldn’t seat well (seeing that the charger is frayed slightly I can see why).

Upon inspection of the unit I managed to break the dvd burner cable, it was already pretty delicate though. I let them know of all the problems with it, and seeing that they wanted to use it for cutting video (whoever donated it gave Final Cut Pro 4 with it).

I tried plugging in a USB mouse. A reboot (which always comes up with a screen saying to hold down the power button…not sure why) fixed this and allowed me to use the mouse but disabled the keyboard and trackpad, now I can’t go back. I’m assuming that these settings are kept in PRAM, so when PRAM is getting saved or is corrupting the settings aren’t save properly.

Finder among most other apps (control panel especially) are very slow. So much so that it takes several minutes to boot and several minutes more to login and get things into a somewhat usable state, and the finder bar itself is completely locked up. The most telling sign of a pram failure is that upon any reboot the unit’s time resets to 12:00 1976. Asside from this other settings like screen brightness/contrast weren’t being changed by the keyboard.

After breaking the optical drive cable it won’t boot to any OS X setup disks, which worked before. Once OS X boots up it complains that the the volume is unreadable.

Hopefully this will all be sorted out by this evening. :slight_smile:

Any input as whether this is or isn’ a PRAM issue might be helpful however.

I’ve put ~100 dollars into the unit for the following parts:

47USD for the PRAM Battery (used, fully tested and includes a 30 day warranty from

46USD (used, ebay) for:
-Used main battery (the text on the back is set in Garamond instead of Myriad, which is what the unit came with, we’ll see if it keeps much a charge, if any)
-Plastic shield for HD
-Modem inverter board
-DC in board
-HD ribbon cable
-Optical Drive ribbon cable
-Modem inverter board ribbon cables
-CPU/case fan
-HD mounting brackets
-lots of screws

Got a fairly good deal on those, and if this thing works good I’m going to get a 'case that can carry my tablet and my laptop and a few accessories (rio, thumbdrive, papers etc). I might get tiger as well, there’s some very cool features on it. Maybe someday I’ll get Photoshop for mac, I love it one windows but it’s a windows only license!

Thanks again guys.

ATI drivers are ok on OS X.

Nvidia driver had a swerious bug, a bug that’s now fixed.

So, no, you shouldn’t be afraid.

Well. I’m typing this message from bed, using my new (old) Powerbook. It’s much faster and more responsive than I had at first thought it would be.

The missing J key is a bit strange, but the replacment keys don’t include the little rubber thing the hits the membrane, so I’ll have to buy a whole keyboard or something…any suggestions?

I went ahead and ordered tiger, hopefully sometime next week I’ll get it, until then I’ll try not to get things the way I want them, I don’t want to set all my settings twice! :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks all!

I’ve never taken apart a Mac laptop keyboard, but I’m pretty sure the rubber things are similar to or the same as those in PC keyboards. You could go garbage picking (or dumpster diving, whichever term sounds cooler to you!) for whatever laptop keyboard you find. Maybe one of your friends recently spilled coffee on a laptop keyboard and ordered a replacement – you could get their old one. Grab a rubber thing and you’re good to go.

Laptop keyboards are ridiculously expensive, so you should check around before spending US $1 million on a new one.

The external Mac USB keyboards (wired ones) run about $30; they seem well put together to me. A little on the mushy side, but not anywhere near enough to bother me. One of those will tie you over until you can find a replacement (or just use a regular USB keyboard, it doesn’t really matter).

One other thing I should mention. If you still need a mouse, the IBM Optical Navigator is the best mouse I have ever used – super comfortable and well designed. I just checked Amazon and they’re selling them for $11.

When you just want to check email and surf the web for random stuff, plug your laptop into an external monitor (you probably already have one), and you’ll have a nice silent workstation, so you can listen to music without feeling like you live in a jet engine test facility.

For me, the silence makes using a computer a lot more pleasant, especially for mundane things where you don’t need a dual Opteron 250 with 8 gigs of RAM, 4 video cards with 512 megs of memory each, and 24 fans [insert Tim Allen grunts here].


I just tried iterm, and it seems pretty crappy to me at this stage in the game. It has all the standard eye candy of OS X, which is great, except for the fact that they forgot to make it fast. There’s a very slight, but very noticeable and very annoying delay after typing each letter in a command (I did turn off antialiasing). Once it’s fast, though, this looks like it will be an excellent program.[/quote]

That’s odd. It’s the same speed as the built-in terminal for me. Did you turn off transparency too?

Yeah, PithHelmet is probably the best adblocker I’ve seen. I’m going to install it again. The version I used before crashed Safari a few times and broke some sites so I got rid of it and I’ve used a CSS hack to hide the ads until now. But the hack still puts ads in your cache and it breaks site functionality too, though Safari hardly ever crashes.

I’ve also re-installed flash 7 because flash 8 makes ads jitter when you scroll and captures your mouse when hovering over certain ads.

I’m not sure about the USB settings but the PRAM would affect the Finder bar and the control panels as that’s where the time is set. $47 for a battery is ridiculous. Desktop batteries are about 1/10th of that. I replaced a desktop PRAM battery a while ago and it was about £5. That was one reason I got rid of my laptop. If something breaks, it’s just so expensive to replace.

Still, if you have a working 1GHz laptop for $87, you’ve got a pretty good deal.

ebay has some keyboards:

Not sure how easy repairs are but this might help even though it’s not using laptop keyboards:

I’ve tried to stay away from laptops as long as I can. A lot of the innards are proprietary designs, the parts aren’t made forever, and used parts are lesser quality and still expensive.

The PRAM battery was 40 bucks, with a 6.50 shipping (all USD). I was going to get one eBay since I figured they’d be much cheaper, problem is I wasn’t paitent and wanted it now now now. I just bought this one off of, it came with a 30 day warranty and was shipped to me within 3 days (ordered Tuesday night, got here Friday afternoon) on standard shipping. That and there support was pretty nice in the two questions that I had.

Brand new, these batteries cost about 70-120 USD.

The problem with these batteries is it’s not just the 6V battery, it’s soldered to --if I’m not mistaken-- the PMU board as well.

It’s only on the Onyx/DVI TiBooks though:

When I first got the laptop I tried reinstalling the OS, the dead PRAM battery caused it to be slow and the update to 10.3.9 locked it hard. After that hardware didn’t work right, it was very slow etc. As well as things just not working at all. After installing the new battery and reinstalling OS X from scratch it worked great.

I’m really impressed at the speed of the animations, and how useful the visual cues really are.

About the keyboards I’ll see about taking a key off an old full size KB I’ve got laying around. If that’s got a plunger in I might be able to use that. We’ll see. If worse comes to worse I can see if I can’t find any broken latop keyboards on ebay for less and then I’ll take the plunger out of it.

We’ll see, thanks for the suggestions ans help.[/quote]

If you get annoyed with the brushed metal look, try installing this:

IMO it makes everything look much better.

The fastest way to find out what you have for a video card is to click on the apple in the upper left corner click “About This Mac” then click “More info…”
under “Graphics/Displays” you’ll get something like this…
"ATI Mobility Radeon:

Chipset Model: ATY,RageM6
Type: Display
Bus: AGP
Slot: ATI
VRAM (Total): 16 MB
Vendor: ATI (0x1002)
Device ID: 0x4c59
Revision ID: 0x0000
ROM Revision: 113-XXXXX-115
Color LCD:
Display Type: LCD
Resolution: 1152 x 768
Depth: 16-bit Color
Built-In: Yes
Core Image: Not Supported
Main Display: Yes
Mirror: Off
Online: Yes
Quartz Extreme: Supported
Status: No display connected
This runs Blender with out any problem. As long as I set it to thousands rather than millions of colors. If you have 64mb vram than that shouldn’t be an issue for you.

Michael Velikanje