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View Full Version : My Powerbook G4 obsession and what I did about it




brycemason
May 19, 2011, 01:20 AM
So, when I was in grad school I figured if I was going to write a dissertation I would at least do it on an attractive computer. I had always wanted to play around on an Apple, so that would be a good opportunity while preventing me from playing too many games while I wrote. I bought a 12" PB G4 and used it for 3 years before I sold it in 2007 when my work bought me a newer machine.

Long story short, I regretted selling it! I trolled craigslist for a replacement, envied the few users I saw at the coffee shops who still used the venerable machine, and basically last month couldn't help myself when I spotted a perfectly clean example of the 1.5 GHz model on eBay.

It's wonderful and I'm glad to be back among the PPC users! This forum seems like the place to be, so I just signed up to have some fun with you guys and gals.

Here's what I've got on the PB so far, and I'm impressed it can still do so much great computing.

12" PB G4 1.5 GHz
1.25GB Ram
240 GB OWC Sandforce Solid State Drive
10.5.8 (with Xslimmer on everything)
Fresh battery (5:30 on a fresh charge and uber-conservative text editing mode)
Office 2004
Photoshop CS
STATA 11.2 (awesome statistical package I use, and they still support the PPC in the current version)
TeX

I plan on doing the crazy display panel mod as soon as it arrives in the mail so I can get 1400x1050---double the resolution. Dremmel ready to go!

Yes I feel I am crazy for spending more than a new MacBook Air would cost on this old thing, but what can I say. Some people like to restore old cars and I wanted to play around with my old laptop. Never enjoyed using another computer as much as the 12" G4.

Can't wait to discover other good software for PPC. Learned about TenFourFox tonight and will give that a shot.



tbl
May 19, 2011, 01:28 AM
Sounds like a venerable project!

I always felt the PowerBook was a beautiful machine, and your improvements are making me drool. :D

Badrottie
May 19, 2011, 06:25 AM
good for you every time i go to borders bookstore and i see alot of people with macbook on the table and I am using cheap Dell netbook...then I saw craigslist ad selling for top condition PB I got it last week I opened a PB and feel like I am using a Macbook Pro...I am glad Leopard is close to Snow Leopard. So I will learn more about OSX until I can upgrade to MacBook Pro.

666sheep
May 19, 2011, 11:51 AM
This OWC drive you've bought is 1.8 or 2.5"?

JaguarGod
May 19, 2011, 12:38 PM
I commend you for simply doing what you like. There is nothing wrong with updating a PowerBook as far as it can go, especially when the PB can still work for and with you for many tasks.

It is much like restoring an old car, for the price, you could probably just buy a new car, but restoring something you really love makes it that much more memorable and special. I have new Macs and old Macs, but I have put the most into my PPC Quad G5 as I just feel like it is my favorite. Some sort of attachment. My Wife and Kids all use their new Macs, but the G5 Quad totally upgraded is still a great machine.

brycemason
May 19, 2011, 03:04 PM
Yes, the analogy to car restoration is apt.

The OWC SSD is 2.5". I did a lot of due diligence about the drive beforehand to make sure it had a good shot at performance. By the time manufacturers got around to fixing their SSD controllers to perform better random reads and writes, SATA had become the standard. OWC makes, to my knowledge, the only PATA SSD with a good controller (Sandforce).

stroked
May 19, 2011, 07:45 PM
I plan on doing the crazy display panel mod as soon as it arrives in the mail so I can get 1400x1050---double the resolution. Dremmel ready to go!
.

What is the crazy display panel mod?

brycemason
May 19, 2011, 10:27 PM
Hooray! My LCD from China came in the mail today and I spent the last few hours putting it in. Obviously it was not meant as a replacement for the Powerbook, but the panel spec is exactly the same size and LVD-20 connector. I used a Thinkpad X61 Tablet display replacement, which is a BOE Hydis 12.1 HV121P01-100 model. Had to do some soldering, take off the Wacom digitizer carefully, drill screw holes, and Dremmel off the metal frame where it didn't fit, but in the end I got it!

Here are some pics! I now have taken this baby as far as she can go, with 1400x1050 resolution and a fat SSD. I have the world's sweetest PB 12! Hah!

I have to say, I was worried about power consumption with the new screen because it's twice the pixels, but idling came in about 0.6 Watts less than before!!! I am now consistently below 10W in conservative text entry mode, which should give me about 5:45 battery life. The graphics die is also idling slightly lower on temperature, which I'm not sure why (about 6 degrees).

Had fun, be well all!

SuperJudge
May 19, 2011, 10:38 PM
I have the world's sweetest PB 12! Hah!

Quoted for truth. I have to admit, I'm kinda jealous.

How much did that panel run you if you don't mind me asking?

Nameci
May 19, 2011, 10:45 PM
hmmmn, I might try that as well... sweet!

cocacolakid
May 19, 2011, 10:47 PM
Nice work.

brycemason
May 19, 2011, 10:53 PM
Here was the budget, although you'd need tools:

Powerbook $287
240GB SSD $577
Hydis LCD $235
OEM Battery $55

Total $1154

You could shave off a lot of money if you just got the minimum SSD, a 60GB I think for $200.

Nameci
May 19, 2011, 11:02 PM
you should be better off buying the 2011 13" MBP. But hey it is like restoring and pimping an old mustang... priceless!

brycemason
May 19, 2011, 11:11 PM
I heard there was an aftermarket PPC 1.67 GHz upgrade but I can't find much on it.

Capt Underpants
May 19, 2011, 11:16 PM
That's badass.

I'm a former 12" Powerbook owner. It was one of the finest machines Apple has ever made. Love that you upgraded the screen! The extra resolution will make it so much more usable.

Hrududu
May 20, 2011, 12:59 AM
Thats fantastic! I'd love to use that thing for a few hours just to experience that kind of speed from a 12" Powerbook, but I know it would make it hard to go back to mine.

cocacolakid
May 20, 2011, 12:59 AM
What was the maximum resolution on the PB before?

Looked it up on Everymac, 1024x768.

brycemason
May 20, 2011, 01:04 AM
1024x768, or 0.75MP.

Bloodstar
May 20, 2011, 04:40 AM
...That's a big resolution bump, especially considering the screen size. Nice work!

It's tempting to try that with my iBook G4 sometime... though it'd be hard to justify the cost, and I'd be far too afraid I'd irreversibly screw something up. :(

666sheep
May 20, 2011, 07:08 AM
Congrats! It's really impressive mod. You've put as much life in this PB as it was possible (except overclocking CPU, but in case of PB gain it's not worth it, mostly due to heat increase).

brycemason
May 20, 2011, 03:51 PM
Just an FYI any readers who want to do the panel mod, I tried to change the res today to something other than its native 1400x1050 and it got all screwy. Not a big deal to me because why would you ever run it in anything other than its native resolution, but just putting that out there in case it matters to you.

zildjansg
May 22, 2011, 11:11 AM
nice!

Bloodstar
May 22, 2011, 02:31 PM
Just an FYI any readers who want to do the panel mod, I tried to change the res today to something other than its native 1400x1050 and it got all screwy. Not a big deal to me because why would you ever run it in anything other than its native resolution, but just putting that out there in case it matters to you.

Any chance you can show a picture, exactly, of how it acts weird? Does it do it with every resolution, too?

California
May 23, 2011, 03:24 AM
OP how fast does it run now with the SSD?

Great upgrade. But I'm not sure on the original machines that you could mess around with the resolution. I have that machine right now and I'll test it.

Did you upgrade the superdrive at all or did yours come with a combo drive?

brycemason
May 25, 2011, 11:53 PM
By screwy, I mean I get lines in the screen going up and down, perhaps mixed with some squares. It's like the signal got botched. At 1400x1050 it's perfect. Anything lower and it's botched.

I am not sure how to answer the question about how fast it is with the SSD. It's way faster than the rotational hdd that was in there. Xbench scores went way up on everything, twice as fast reads and writes sequential. Random writes increased 10x.

The superdrive that's in there is fine for me. I don't really care about region-free viewing or else I might consider the Pioneer KV upgrade.

G-Force
May 26, 2011, 03:16 AM
This is a really cool mod, nice work!

But does the brightness control still work with this display?

Angelo95210
May 26, 2011, 07:52 AM
Nice job mate. I love this computer but your upgrade makes it pricey :eek:

Have you tested it with Geekbench?

brycemason
May 26, 2011, 10:14 AM
Brightness control functions fine. I think that's controlled by the inverter, which didn't change.

I doubt Geekbench would tell much of a story, because it looks at memory and processor performance, neither of which would be affected by the mods I did.

Angelo95210
May 26, 2011, 06:21 PM
I doubt Geekbench would tell much of a story, because it looks at memory and processor performance, neither of which would be affected by the mods I did.

Ohhh yeah you are right. But nice machine anyway. I like the hidden capacities of this one. People seeing you at the Starbucks with your computer would never assume all the mods you did on this 'old computer'. :)

hinkamp
Jun 3, 2011, 09:51 AM
Based on your software, I'm guessing you do economics?

I assume you are using Texshop for your latex. Does Stata 11 run well on the pbook? I'm currently cranking with Stata 10 on a 12 inch pbook.

cherry su
Jun 3, 2011, 12:01 PM
You might want to change the screen resolution from something other than its native resolution for playing games, etc. because they might run faster in 1024x768 given its somewhat weak graphics processing unit.

brycemason
Jun 3, 2011, 10:12 PM
STATA 11.2 SE runs just fine on the notebook (and the MP license works fine for an SE installation, as I verified with STATA Corp). Honestly I'm not fitting insane models with matrix sizes of 5000 or else I would appreciate a faster machine, but scripting, data management, graphics creation, and simple regressions and analyses are totally acceptable using this hardware and 500MB of RAM dedicated to it. I can do tons of stuff. I am so happy that STATA Corp continues to support the PPC. As long as the machine works, I will do all of my mobile analysis with this platform. Oh, and let me say, having the 1400x1050 resolution is so helpful for that program! I trained as an economist/policy wonk at a place that uses STATA heavily, but now do university administration.

Yes, I use TeXShop, which seems to work fine for what I need it to do.

durruti
Jun 3, 2011, 10:37 PM
sounds like a healthy obsession to me.

scmacdaddy
Mar 29, 2012, 06:40 PM
this is really cool. i gave my 12" powerbook to my dad but he never uses it. i'm going to get it back and think about an SSD upgrade. i don't think the display would be worth it to me.

thejadedmonkey
Mar 29, 2012, 06:52 PM
Soon as I have some spare cash (this summer hopefully) I'm getting a 12" Powerbook.

joepunk
Mar 29, 2012, 07:37 PM
I'm impressed and jealous especially with the new screen.

goes back looking at puny 1280x854 screen

ppcg4mac
Mar 29, 2012, 07:46 PM
:eek:I have been looking for a PPC laptop, anyone want to trade one for an 800MHz eMac? Just kidding, i still want one though!

YanniDepp
Apr 4, 2012, 10:28 AM
You might want to change the screen resolution from something other than its native resolution for playing games, etc. because they might run faster in 1024x768 given its somewhat weak graphics processing unit.

This is especially true for some older games (the same age as this laptop), that are usually built to run at 800x600 or 1024x768, but aren't built for anything higher.

Examples from the Windows world: Stronghold 1, Rollercoaster Tycoon
Examples from the Mac world: SimCity 3000, The Sims etc.

playmobil
Apr 11, 2012, 08:17 AM
HI, how is the G4 12 batery doing?

Does it still give you the 5 hours ?

Can you tell me where you bought the battery? I'm looking for a new one for my powerpc 12 G4, but I only find some Chinese batteries from ebay.

Thank you

Davy.Shalom
Jul 7, 2012, 02:33 AM
Can anybody send me a link to where I can buy this Hydis LCD?

skinniezinho
Jan 10, 2013, 09:02 AM
Can anybody send me a link to where I can buy this Hydis LCD?

Sorry for the bump,
Guess you can find them searching for screens for Thinkpad X60 Tablet, X61 Tablet.
http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/TFT_display#Flexview_.28IPS.29
You may have better luck buying a complete X60t or x61t or in a thinkpad forum.

powerpcguy
Jan 12, 2013, 12:00 PM
I bought a 12" PB to write a dissertation too... in 2011! Then someone just gave me a 17" PB that I still use as well.

I bought the 12" absolutely mint off eBay for ~200$, and am really glad I did.