Apple PowerMac 7300 and 8600 User's Logby Ed Inman
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EDITOR'S NOTES: I've combined the two otherwise unrelated Mac models in this log to accommodate the author's documentation. Certain embedded web links and documented costs/prices for certain wares discussed may be out-of-date by the time you read this. END NOTES.
I believe he has his Macs all running, but not necessarily with any of the accelerator gear described previously.
Apple PowerMac 7300 and 8600 User's Log Contents
Apple PowerMac 7300 and 8600 User's Log Contents
In case you haven't noticed, I am what you call a Mac enthusiast. I use PC's at work because I have to. I use Mac's at home because I want to. I started out building/repairing/troubleshooting PC's as a source of income in the mid-eighties. However, the first computer I actually bought was a Mac. I have never bought a PC. I always figured I had enough misery in my life by attempting to use those atrocious machines at work.
Anyway, on to the adventure!
The reason that this adventure began was due to a six year old girl - my daughter. It seems that the latest Barbie CDROM games require G3's. The only G3 or better computer in our house is an iBook (that belongs to me). Therein lies the problem. I also have a two and a half year old son. Clearly, these three things do not the perfect picture make. Something had to be done.
This did not include buying a new Mac. Don't get me wrong... I would love to have a new Mac. However, there are a few reasons that wouldn't make it a good decision. Number one, I wouldn't get to use my 8600 anymore. Say what you will but, I would miss this computer like a member of the family. This feeling parallels that of a car enthusiast. PC's just do not garner this kind of attention. One of the reasons my 8600 has lasted so long without any kind of hardware upgrade is because it was the super machine of its time. I think it still has the distinction of being the most expandable Macintosh ever made. I bought it as a refurb almost 5 years ago. The machine cost $3800 new but I paid $1300. Upon arrival it had problems. It would function for about 30 minutes and then die. I took it to an authorized Apple repair center where it was repaired - bad power supply. I have had no problems with it since.
Secondly, if I bought a new Mac my daughter would get it (this would make me a wee tad jealous). When I first saw the new iMac on the web and in catalogs I really wasn't moved all that much. When I used one at CompUSA I fell for it hard. You could see how well built this machine was - it was also larger and heavier than I had anticipated. Obviously, I couldn't get a new computer and give my laptop to my daughter because she is still too young to be responsible for not having an 'accident' with it.
Thirdly, the purchase of a used or refurbished Mac would not work for me either. The prices are just not good enough to rule out buying a new Mac. The only reason I got the 8600 for such a good price 5 years ago was due to Jobs' return to Apple. He liquidated all the older systems upon his arrival.
Upgrading became an attractive option.
Since my daughters computer is a Performa 6300, upgrading is an impossibility. Thanks to my Mother, my daughter did indeed have an option. About a year ago my mother bought an iMac DV so she gave my daughter the old 7300 she had been using. The 7300, by the way, was a refurb too. My mother bought it about six months before I bought the 8600. Instead of putting this machine in my daughters room I decided to let my Mother-in-law put it in her extra room so the kids could play on it while she was baby sitting them.
So, a processor upgrade was the way to go for our family. I had seen them in magazines and catalogs but I had never seriously considered them. Being so unfamiliar with this prospect I began a web search to find out what the deal was and discover my options. Turns out that all Macintosh processor upgrades are considered to be much more reliable and of better quality than their PC counterparts. I also searched the web for dialogs with people who had upgraded machines like mine. I found some extremely useful information there as well - good and bad. As a matter of fact, I decided that a video card upgrade was definitely not an option. All this information strongly influenced my decision.
I then needed to decide which manufacturer to go with. After some rather extensive research I finally decided on Sonnet Technologies Crescendo G4 450 PCI upgrade. There were several reasons for this. For one, some information I had gleaned from Macworld review archives helped me out a great deal. In one review of some older upgrade cards the reviewer listed one of Sonnets drawbacks was not having dip switches to "optimize" the card to the motherboard. To me that is a big PLUS! That's not a drawback at all. Sonnet received high marks in quality and service as well.
I then visited Sonnets web site. I became interested in their Tango USB/Firewire PCI card and their PCI card to convert to ATA 100 Hard Drives along with the processor upgrade. I was getting pretty giddy about all these possibilities. It didn't make any sense to get a larger 18.2 Gig SCSI hard drive for my 8600 when I could get an 80 Gig ATA hard drive and a PCI host adapter card for about the same price.
Next, on to finding the best price. I searched high and low for the best price I could find. I did find some low prices but I hadn't heard of the companies before. To make a long story short I decided to make my purchase at ClubMac. I had purchased items from them before and have had good results. They also have a decent tech support department. And, if your purchase is sizable, they will work with you on the price. No, they were not the cheapest. However, when you are buying items like these you need to look at the support and knowledge of their offered products - which gives you piece of mind. ClubMac provides all of this.
I wound up buying two Sonnet Crescendo G4 450 Daughter cards and the Sonnet Tango USB/Firewire PCI card. The ATA PCI card and hard drive was dropped from consideration because I didn't want my wife to kill me for spending too much money. Although, if I had the money she had in her shoe 'collection' I could buy new computers for everyone in the family. I call it a collection because she usually only wears them once and stores them away - in a pile in the back of the closet. Oh well, maybe sometime down the road. Even though there are other USB/Firewire cards that are cheaper, I decided to stick with Sonnet because of the quality excellence issue.
It should be noted here that I am an electronic technician and I have over fifteen years of experience with electronics. When installing components it is very possible that you can damage them with static electricity. If you do not have the knowledge, and do not feel comfortable installing electronic components, by all means seek professional help.
The cards arrived via FedEx on the Monday after Easter. I came in and immediately put one of the processor upgrades in the 7300 for my daughter. It took 15 minutes. Actually, I did dabble further but that was to satisfy my curiosity. The computer had 96 megs of RAM and after the processor addition it went to 88 meg. The processor jumped in speed as well (554 MHz). The RAM was interleaved and Sonnets manual indicates that, should you have trouble, it would be necessary to de-interleave the RAM. So, I de-interleaved the RAM to see what would happen. Well, the processor went to the promised 450 MHz and the RAM went to the appropriate 96 meg. And that is the way I left it even though I hadn't used the machine enough to see any problems.
So, I played with the already installed Photoshop 3.0.4 to get an idea of the speed increase. I didn't really expect much because of the 7300's bus speed limitation. What I saw pleased me a great deal. This was quite literally a different computer. It was amazingly fast. I couldn't wait to install my upgrade card and Tango card. The warm and fuzzy feeling of quick and painless installation fresh in my mind.
I then put the newly upgraded machine in my daughters room. Which made her very happy. Isn't this where I say, "And they lived happily ever after"?
The upgrade process requires installation of software from Sonnet before anything else is done. This is included on a floppy. They also include another floppy with diagnostic software and Hard Drive updates. I tried loading the software on my 8600 before I went to bed so that the next day after work I could go straight into painlessly installing the upgrade cards. This didn't happen. I could not get the software to load. It always locked up immediately after hitting the software INSTALL button.
I assumed that there was a problem with the extensions. So, in order to avoid a load of trouble I just loaded OS 9 from CD (I was currently using 9.1). I did make a backup system folder on CDR beforehand as a precaution. Always make sure to have your stuff backed up before you start an "adventure". I guess you could say I am overly paranoid about data back up but I have been burnt too many times. Learn from your mistakes people! (ideally, you should learn from other people's mistakes). After that, I was able to install the Sonnet software with no problems. I then went to bed - long after I should have.
The next day I began replacing the processor. A little information would be helpful here. Sonnet splits its installation manual into like models. So, depending on the type of Mac you have, you simply turn to the specified chapter. The procedure says to remove the current processor (interestingly, even though Sonnet refers to this upgrade as a PCI upgrade, it is actually a processor daughter card that plugs into the original processor slot. Other Macs do use a processor mounted on a PCI card because their processor is soldered to the motherboard and cannot be removed). Next, Sonnet says you must remove the level 2 cache if it is present. This card is usually located in the midst of the RAM slots. On the 7300 I upgraded the day before, I had to remove the cache. When I looked for the L2 cache card on my 8600 I was greeted with no L2 cache slot at all. It had never been installed. Only copper pads existed where the socket should be. Pushing forward, I reset the CUDA switch on the motherboard (located in the vicinity of the processor daughter card). I then installed the G4 upgrade - which, by the way, is much smaller than Apple's original processor.
I went ahead and installed the Tango USB/Firewire PCI card (in retrospect this was probably not a good idea). I then put it all back together and fired it up. It worked great for about 5 minutes and it locked up. I restarted and it didn't even build the desktop and locked up again. I restarted again and it locked up before extensions loaded. I followed the troubleshooting guide in the Sonnet manual. I zapped the PRAM, I de-interleaved the RAM, I took the Tango PCI card out, I rebuilt the desktop, I removed RAM and tried it with different configurations. I found that when the RAM or the G4 card were removed and replaced the process would repeat itself.
I reinstalled the original processor and logged on to the internet and consulted Sonnet's web site. I emailed their tech support with my problem as well. I then went to bed - long after I should have. The next day I called them and the tech I spoke to suggested that I boot up without extensions. I did and at first I thought this was the problem because the upgrade ran - for 15 minutes and then locked up and started the same process all over again. When I talked to the Sonnet tech earlier I had asked him about the missing L2 socket on my motherboard (thinking this was the source of my problems). He said that the 8600/250 had the L2 cache on the processor daughter card and that this was not an issue. He also suggested that I run Sonnets Metronome software and see if it indicated any cache on the motherboard - it did not (which was a good thing).
Frustrated, I reinstalled the tango card and decided to try to install the downloaded Mac OS 9.1 upgrade that I have backed up on CDR.
After loading this the 8600 sprang to life. It didn't crash! And the Tango USB/Firewire card came to life. I hooked my Handspring Visor USB dock up to it and it worked flawlessly. I put the G4 card through the paces and am thoroughly impressed. Life in the fast lane is a welcome occurrence. Long live the 8600!
A little side note here. One reason for a USB/Firewire card was because I wanted to use my USB Handspring Visor dock with my 8600. Its a load of trouble using it with my laptop since it leaves it exposed to my highly curious children. I use my laptop at the kitchen counter/bar. This is where it connects to the internet via the ethernet port. Yes, I have a home network. Actually, I have a LinkSys 4-port cable/DSL router. It would just make my life easier to have the Handspring dock connected to my main work station, the 8600 - located in my bedroom, that has a lockable door, to fend off unruly children.
I recently bought the Handspring PDA because it was such an excellent deal. It was on closeout at the local Sam's Club. I had been watching prices on them for about 3 months but I couldn't see paying that much for something that could so easily be lost or damaged. Normally, I wouldn't even consider buying such a device since a lot of the people I talked to deemed them useless for everyday folks.
Well, I found some very viable reasons to have one upon some introspection. One, I like to read. Since my children have been born I have very little time to do any reading. I am a very involved father and I love spending time working with, and having loads of fun with, my beautiful children. I consider my children as the most important thing in my life. At this point in their lives, I feel it would simply be extremely selfish of me to place my wants above theirs. Enter the flexibility and portability of the PDA. With the PDA and some software, namely Documents to Go by Dataviz, I can download reading material from the net and place it on my PDA. I can also download entire books from the internet and put them on my PDA. I also have the option to scan in reading material to read - if I get the time and want to put forth the effort. Now, I can literally read anywhere at anytime in almost any situation (which I do).
Another useful thing to do with them is to store useful knowledge on them. You know, birthdays, events, clothes sizes, vehicle information, the list is endless. I have information about things around the house, window sizes, counter space, measurements of all kinds. I plan to finish my basement in the future and all this information will contribute to finding exactly what I want at the cheapest possible price - because I have the information instantly at my fingertips.
I also use it at work extensively. I am a Electrical Maintenance Supervisor at a manufacturing plant. With this PDA I can use it for many of the same things I use it for at home. I have valuable information stored on it that allows instant access to plant phone numbers, vendor phone numbers, machine parameters, machine procedures, the list goes on. And all of this you can carry with you! What a boon to mankind. I have used a Franklin day planner for years, and frankly my PDA has killed it. There is no comparison. There are many, many things you can do with this device. And just think, Apple pioneered this with the Newton. Steve Jobs killed it off though.
Well, this adventure is over - for now.
Apple PowerMac 7300 and 8600 User's Log Contents