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Two iMac G4s - looking for setup advice (which OS to install)

tweedy7736

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 6, 2002
29
9
Colorado
Hi all - I'm so glad and amazed to find this community here.

As a quarantine project, I decided to get my hands on an old iMac G4. I love the design; it's always been one of my most favorites. I'm an academic, and my daily work-related computer use mostly involves a text editor (I write in Markdown); the pandoc utility to convert to compiled LaTeX -> PDF; and a reference manager (Zotero). I figured that I could use the iMac for daily writing at least, the whole workflow at best. (I have a newer MacBook Pro to compile the files on if needed.) I also have a healthy dose of nostalgia for the OS 9 and early X days of yore, so I also thought the iMac G4 would be great for running old games etc in Classic. I went and bought a 1GHz 15" model on eBay. It's still on its way now.

A day later, I found an 800MHz model on my local craigslist for $25, so I picked it up. Awesome - now I've got two. I figure I can fix this one up and sell it on, give it to a friend, etc.

I've spent the last few days on the 800MHz machine catching up on the state of PowerPC computing in 2020. Honestly I'm blown away. But I also now have more choices than I thought I would have. Having now done a lot of reading about the capabilities of PowerPC machines thanks to all you good folks, and especially after having discovered the TLS apocalypse, I'm now torn about what to do.

Do I...

  1. Install Leopard on the 1GHz iMac, so that I can have access to all the great software being maintained and developed for it, plus older software that requires it -- Leopard WebKit, MinDisc, Adium w/ IRC, etc., maybe even pandoc? I feel like I might even be able to get working access to Zotero this way. My understanding is that this machine can't boot natively into OS 9, and of course Leopard dropped Classic, so I would have to give up the OS 9 nostalgia factor here for the bump in daily usability.
  2. Stick with Tiger and Classic? I've got TFF, the ArcticFox build, and IceWeasel, but honestly they all leave something to be desired. I keep looking over at the browsers available for Leopard and being tempted...
Or a crazy idea:

3. Partition the 800MHz machine into a Leopard and an OS 9 dual-booter? (I assume this is possible?) And use it instead of the 1GHz iMac, I guess? I'm worried that Leopard would be too unpleasant to use on this machine.​

I should add that I have a functioning PowerBook 2400c, so I can run most of the older things I want to there. And I'm not especially interested in going for a Linux setup.

I guess I'm asking, for those of you who have experience with these choices, on a 1GHz iMac G4, would you choose Leopard or Tiger + Classic for the best combination of performance and versatility?

Again, I'm so impressed by what you're all keeping alive here. I hope I'll find myself in a position to give back!
 

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originaldotexe

macrumors member
Jun 12, 2020
33
58
Kentucky, USA
personally, i use 10.4.11 tiger on all of my machines for a very simple reason: i have a lot of OS 9 games, but i don't like dual booting, so i use the OS 9 classic environment (which was removed in leopard) to play those games. but if not for this, i would most certainly use leopard, as support for everything, especially webkit, is way better.

if it were me, i would keep the 1ghz model and put leopard on it. i would use leopard webkit for most browsing and tenfourfox for the sites that dont work with the old version of tls in webkit (but be prepared: tenfourfox is VERY slow on g4's, even my dual processor 1.25ghz mdd gets very, very choppy and slow when running even a single tab of a semi-heavy site, such as the macrumors site. i'm actually getting lots of lag even just writing this post :p)

EDIT: i notice you list arcticfox as a possible browser, but as far as i'm aware, the only OS X that arcticfox builds for is i386/amd64 10.6 (intel macs on snow leopard) and doesn't build at all for OS X powerpc. there is a powerpc linux version however.
 
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wicknix

macrumors 65816
Jun 4, 2017
1,175
2,061
Wisconsin, USA
@originaldotexe There is/was an experimental unfinished build for 10.4/10.5. I'm too lazy right now to search the forum for it, but it's linked from my blog. Click the link in my signature.

Cheers
 
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z970mp

macrumors 68040
Jun 2, 2017
3,124
3,235
The Matrix
(but be prepared: tenfourfox is VERY slow on g4's, even my dual processor 1.25ghz mdd gets very, very choppy and slow when running even a single tab of a semi-heavy site, such as the macrumors site. i'm actually getting lots of lag even just writing this post :p)

Try foxPEP. My single 1.25 MDD is quite usable around the Web once installed into TFF.

Breakthrough stuff. :)
 
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Amethyst1

macrumors 68020
Oct 28, 2015
2,421
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Whatever you do, don't use Panther's or Tiger's crappy Classic environment to play games. The experience sucks.
 
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Windreader

macrumors newbie
Aug 3, 2019
17
22
Iowa
You could also go for Leopard + separate Jaguar partition since your iMac can support it. I have the 17" version of the 1ghz iMac and it works pretty well for running those old games and the software that I would want to run. Jag's Classic performs really well for most tasks and the installation size for it is minuscule.
 
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Amethyst1

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Oct 28, 2015
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Jag's Classic performs really well for most tasks and the installation size for it is minuscule

BootCD (scroll down) creates a stripped-down Puma/Jag/Pan Installation that fits on/boots from a CD - you presumably need to add Classic back in tho. I gotta give that a spin.
 
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Windreader

macrumors newbie
Aug 3, 2019
17
22
Iowa
BootCD (scroll down) creates a stripped-down Puma/Jag/Pan Installation that fits on/boots from a CD - you presumably need to add Classic back in tho. I gotta give that a spin.
That's awesome to see and I didn't realize there was such a utility available! I definitely will have to look into that sometime! :)
 
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z970mp

macrumors 68040
Jun 2, 2017
3,124
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The Matrix
i already have foxpep installed, but even with it TFF is still really slow.

Out of curiosity, how much RAM is installed into your machine?

For what it's worth, on anything sans a G5, TenFourFox will always be "slow". To what degree of usability slow is a different story, but it will never have anywhere close to the same ability and level of response as newer browsers on newer platforms because everything it does is permanently handled by the CPU, because Tiger (which it is compiled for) does not support GPU acceleration, and OS X did not support hardware rendering for video streaming until 10.6. It also does not help of course that TFF is compiled to blacklist every useful rendering technology out of the box, leaving very little to viably leverage, in effect giving the user a totally crippled browser.

Quite frankly, foxPEP really shouldn't support it for these exact reasons. When there's nothing to improve, what's the point? It's an insult to all parties. This goes to show how everything pre-10.6 is best used for offline software, because the hardware and OS are in their element when they aren't bothered by the modern Web.

Which is sad, because I could take the lowest-tier x86 computer in 2002 and still turn it into something usable online today, because it isn't limited by its browser and OS, and can even use Firefox 77 on Linux without breaking a sweat. And what really sucks is that even that would be leagues cheaper and easier to max out to get Web-ready than any PowerPC available (on OS X).
 
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originaldotexe

macrumors member
Jun 12, 2020
33
58
Kentucky, USA
Out of curiosity, how much RAM is installed into your machine?

For what it's worth, on anything sans a G5, TenFourFox will always be "slow". To what degree of usability slow is a different story, but it will never have anywhere close to the same ability and level of response as newer browsers on newer platforms because everything it does is permanently handled by the CPU, because Tiger (which it is compiled for) does not support GPU acceleration, and OS X did not support hardware rendering for video streaming until 10.6. It also does not help of course that TFF is compiled to blacklist every useful rendering technology out of the box, leaving very little to viably leverage, in effect giving the user a totally crippled browser.

Quite frankly, foxPEP really shouldn't support it for these exact reasons. When there's nothing to improve, what's the point? It's an insult to all parties. This goes to show how everything pre-10.6 is best used for offline software, because the hardware and OS are in their element when they aren't bothered by the modern Web.

Which is sad, because I could take the lowest-tier x86 computer in 2002 and still turn it into something usable online today, because it isn't limited by its browser and OS, and can even use Firefox 77 on Linux without breaking a sweat. And what really hurts is that even that would be leagues cheaper and easier to max out to get Web-ready than any PowerPC available (on OS X).
i'm using 2GB of ram (the maximum for the mdd) in my system. i actually installed the older versions of noscript and ublock origin today and noticed a quite sizeable speed boost. my typing barely lags now as i'm writing this post on the forums. :)
 
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christiann

macrumors 6502
Jun 7, 2020
250
68
Laguna Beach, California
Hi all - I'm so glad and amazed to find this community here.

As a quarantine project, I decided to get my hands on an old iMac G4. I love the design; it's always been one of my most favorites. I'm an academic, and my daily work-related computer use mostly involves a text editor (I write in Markdown); the pandoc utility to convert to compiled LaTeX -> PDF; and a reference manager (Zotero). I figured that I could use the iMac for daily writing at least, the whole workflow at best. (I have a newer MacBook Pro to compile the files on if needed.) I also have a healthy dose of nostalgia for the OS 9 and early X days of yore, so I also thought the iMac G4 would be great for running old games etc in Classic. I went and bought a 1GHz 15" model on eBay. It's still on its way now.

A day later, I found an 800MHz model on my local craigslist for $25, so I picked it up. Awesome - now I've got two. I figure I can fix this one up and sell it on, give it to a friend, etc.

I've spent the last few days on the 800MHz machine catching up on the state of PowerPC computing in 2020. Honestly I'm blown away. But I also now have more choices than I thought I would have. Having now done a lot of reading about the capabilities of PowerPC machines thanks to all you good folks, and especially after having discovered the TLS apocalypse, I'm now torn about what to do.

Do I...

  1. Install Leopard on the 1GHz iMac, so that I can have access to all the great software being maintained and developed for it, plus older software that requires it -- Leopard WebKit, MinDisc, Adium w/ IRC, etc., maybe even pandoc? I feel like I might even be able to get working access to Zotero this way. My understanding is that this machine can't boot natively into OS 9, and of course Leopard dropped Classic, so I would have to give up the OS 9 nostalgia factor here for the bump in daily usability.
  2. Stick with Tiger and Classic? I've got TFF, the ArcticFox build, and IceWeasel, but honestly they all leave something to be desired. I keep looking over at the browsers available for Leopard and being tempted...
Or a crazy idea:

3. Partition the 800MHz machine into a Leopard and an OS 9 dual-booter? (I assume this is possible?) And use it instead of the 1GHz iMac, I guess? I'm worried that Leopard would be too unpleasant to use on this machine.​

I should add that I have a functioning PowerBook 2400c, so I can run most of the older things I want to there. And I'm not especially interested in going for a Linux setup.

I guess I'm asking, for those of you who have experience with these choices, on a 1GHz iMac G4, would you choose Leopard or Tiger + Classic for the best combination of performance and versatility?

Again, I'm so impressed by what you're all keeping alive here. I hope I'll find myself in a position to give back!

OPTION 1: If you want to stay safe: I would say Leopard. It has many new features, and has support for newer applications. They even have a Spotify version for OS X Leopard. It’s the newest your Mac will run.

OPTION 2: If you want Snow Leopard on it you will need that beta that runs on G4/G5...with a bit of modifying:
You can edit the OS install.mpkg. I just posted a guide on how to do that, but for Leopard in unsupported Macs. You could indeed get Snow Leopard on your G4 with some work. I would personally choose option two.



Good luck!!
 
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Amethyst1

macrumors 68020
Oct 28, 2015
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OPTION 2: If you want Snow Leopard on it....with a bit of modifying:
You can edit the OS install.mpkg. I just posted a guide on how to do that, but for Leopard in unsupported Macs. You could indeed get Snow Leopard on your G4 without too much work. I would personally choose option two.

Sorry, but that advice is

1) wrong. The released Snow Leopard is Intel-only and will not run on any PPC Mac.

2) inaccurate. You can indeed get early Snow Leopard betas (10A96 and 10A190) to run on G4 or G5 Macs - there's a huge thread on it over in the SL subforum. Editing the OSInstall.mpkg or whatever is not enough. But right now lots of things aren't working properly and are still being worked on and it's not a "Set up and forget" solution. It's also not the same as the final SL, much as 9A241 isn't the same as the final Leopard.

To the OP - don't bother with Snow Leopard on PPC right now. Use Tiger or Leopard.
 
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christiann

macrumors 6502
Jun 7, 2020
250
68
Laguna Beach, California
Sorry, but that advice is

1) wrong. The released Snow Leopard is Intel-only and will not run on any PPC Mac.

2) inaccurate. You can indeed get early Snow Leopard betas (10A96 and 10A190) to run on G4 or G5 Macs - there's a huge thread on it over in the SL subforum. Editing the OSInstall.mpkg or whatever is not enough. But right now lots of things aren't working properly and are still being worked on and it's not a "Set up and forget" solution. It's also not the same as the final SL, much as 9A241 isn't the same as the final Leopard.

To the OP - don't bother with Snow Leopard on PPC right now. Use Tiger or Leopard.

Ah, yes, I thought SL did run on G5’s. I was thinking about the beta.
 
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Amethyst1

macrumors 68020
Oct 28, 2015
2,421
3,065
Ah, yes, I thought SL did run on G5’s. I was thinking about the beta.
No harm done :) Sorry if my reply sounded grouchy or anything - I didn't mean it to - but there have been posts that enthusiastically suggest those early SL betas are ready for daily use on PPC to the same extent as Tiger or Leopard are - which, as of today, they aren't.
 
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