Thursday, November 08, 2007

Cube supported by Leopard after all... sorta

I have been spending a lot of time testing various different 10.5 Leopard install methods for my unsupported Cube. The Leopard install disc told me my Cube was unsupported, despite the Cube's 1.7 GHz CPU. However, I began to think that was because its Sonnet 1.7 GHz G4 7447A upgrade was reported as operating at 0 MHz, both in "About This Mac" and in the System Profiler (in both Tiger and Leopard).

I'm going to miss those pinstripes.

I contacted Sonnet, and they seemed a bit surprised by that odd 0 MHz reporting, so they suggested I simply rerun the OS X firmware updater to make sure everything was updated correctly. That in turn surprised me, since I never knew an OS X updater even existed. I had purchased my 1.7 GHz CPU upgrade way back in 2004, and the updater I had used had required OS 9. Even when I swapped out a motherboard in the Cube a long time later (because of a broken USB port), I was advised by my online Cube amigos to use Sonnet's OS 9 updater.

Today, I tried Sonnet's new OS X-based firmware updater in Leopard, and... No worky. I tried it again in Tiger. Again, no worky. It went as far as to start the install process, only to tell me shortly afterwards "Programming Not Successful". I went back to Leopard and tried it again. Nope, no worky. And then I just about gave up, thinking I'd have to take apart the Cube, replace the G4 450, remove the Sonnet firmware, and then rerun the OS X updater to install the new one. But I gave it one last shot in Tiger... and it worked! Every one of those glorious seventeen hundred megahertz are now showing up properly.

The new firmware still has the same 4.1.9f1 revision number, which is why I wasn't aware the firmware had changed since 2004.

The main effect of this new firmware is essentially two-fold for me. First, the Leopard installer disc now recognizes my 1.7 GHz Cube as a supported machine. No more installer hacks or Firewire target mode are required. Second, DVD now de-interlaces properly.

This is a huge improvement over the previous situation, where I had combing galore in DVD Here is what a GeForce 6200 and a Radeon 9200 gave me in 10.4 Tiger and in 10.5 Leopard, with a 0 MHz CPU:

It's notable also that in addition, Leopard now provides new and improved DVD de-interlacing support in DVD, with its new Adaptive Video Analyzation technology.
Enjoy even higher-quality video with Adaptive Video Analyzation technology that applies deinterlacing and inverse 3:2 pulldown on demand.
This feature requires a 1.6 GHz processor... and now my Cube officially has one.

It is clear now that Apple isn't specifically blocking Cubes and other older machines with that Leopard installer. A simple CPU (and perhaps GPU and/or memory) upgrade may be sufficient to get Leopard compatibility. However, for those of you thinking about a CPU upgrade, you should be careful. It seems the experiences in the trenches are hit and miss. There are still some out there with fast enough G4 upgrades to meet Leopard's minimum requirements, but they are still having problems with getting Leopard to install without hacks. Maybe some of them just need a firmware upgrade.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Create a Leopard Boot Drive for PowerPC Macs, using only an Intel Mac

It works!

Yesterday I put forward the idea that we might be able to create a Leopard boot drive for G4/G5 Macs, using only an Intel Mac. In the article I included a step by step method to do this, but hadn't actually attempted it yet.

I got the chance to try this today, and it works perfectly. In fact, I'm typing this on a G4 Cube running off such a drive.

To summarize the previous post, here are the steps:

1. Use an Intel Mac and the Leopard install disc to create a bootable Leopard drive. This drive will use the GUID Partition Table (GPT), so it cannot be used to boot a PowerPC Mac. Only Intel Macs can boot from GPT drives.

2. Using Disk Utility, format another drive with the Apple Partition Map (APM) option. This will erase everything on this drive. (You can skip this step if you already have an APM drive.)

Note that you must change the "Volume Scheme" from "Current" to "1 Partition" to un-grey the "Options" button. Press that button and then select "Apple Partition Map" for the new drive.

After the partitioning process is finished, you are left with an empty APM drive.

3. Clone the Leopard install from the original GPT drive to the new APM drive.

And you're done. The resultant cloned APM drive will be bootable on a PowerPC Mac. Easy as pie!

This works because Leopard and its included applications are universal. I would therefore only recommend this method with a new clean install, since software installed separately may not be universal.

So why not just install OS X Leopard directly from the original install DVD onto the PowerPC Mac? Sometimes this is not possible. For example, Leopard won't install on older G4 Macs. To get around this you can use another more recent PowerPC Mac to install the OS, but not everyone has a PowerPC Mac. If your other Macs are Intel Macs only, then the method outlined above can be used.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

PowerPC Mac Leopard boot drives can boot Intel Macs

I recently installed Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard on a G4 Cube. I then tried to clone this install to an external Firewire boot drive, with no luck. Everything I tried just gave me an unbootable drive:

As you can see from the above picture, even the Startup Disk option in the System Preferences would simply not see the drive as a bootable one. It turns out the reason for this is that I had previously formatted the drive with a GUID Partition Table, which is incompatible with PowerPC Macs for boot disks. During the clone process, Disk Utility erased the drive, but didn't reformat it, which means that the cloned drive had the entire OS present on it, but with the wrong type of partition table.

However, when I tried this cloned G4 drive on my Core Duo MacBook, the boot disk worked fine, as did all the applications I tried. It would seem that the OS install is the same. The only significant difference is the partition map.

It turns out that Intel Macs can boot OS X 10.5 Leopard installs for G4 and G5 Macs just fine. PowerPC Macs use the Apple Partition Map, but this poses no problem for Intel Macs, even though Intel Macs use the GUID Partition Table. The reverse is not true however. PowerPC Macs cannot boot disks with a GUID Partition Table. However, I wonder if we might be able to clone an Intel Mac to work on a PowerPC Mac just by changing the type of partition map:

1. Open up Disk Utility and select your backup drive. Select the "Partition" tab.

2. Go to the "Options" and choose "Apple Partition Map", which is the partition type necessary for PowerPC Macs.

3. Format the drive using the above settings by hitting the "OK" button and then the "Partition" button. This will delete everything on the selected drive.

4. Clone an Intel Mac's Leopard install to the external drive, using Disk Utility's "Restore" tab (or else another program such as Carbon Copy Cloner).

5. After you have double-checked which drives are the proper source and destination disks, start the clone process by hitting the "Restore" button.

Why would we want to do this anyway? This would be the perfect solution for installing Leopard onto an older and unsupported G4 Mac (like the Cube) if the only other Mac at your disposal is an Intel Mac. (Clones to disk images could theoretically also be used as backups for either PowerPC or Intel Macs, as long as the correct partition table is used when the disk image is restored to a Firewire disk.)

However, I have not tried this method yet to confirm if this works. If anyone has the time to try this, please tell us your results. Otherwise, I will try it in the next little while when I have some more time.