Old World Mac

I actually have a couple of these hanging around (all the way back to a Mac Classic II!) But they’ve stayed in the background as I play with machines that are more likely to be still in use today. A couple weeks ago a friend mentioned he had an old powerpc and, being a windows guy, didn’t know what to do with it. So, trying not to look too excited, I offered to help him out, thinking, “Yes! Another linux box!”

When I showed up at his “warehouse” (he’s got about 50 computers at any given time, in various stages of completion), he took me to the latest delivery items, carefully stacked up, and pulled out a beige powerpc. We went to plug it into a monitor, when we noticed the adaptor plug for the monitor. As he went to look for a Mac mouse, I thought, “Uh oh, this bodes ill.” But it booted up, displayed on the monitor, accepted the mouse, and was running Mac OS 9.2.

Blinking through the fog covering my memory of OS 9, I got to the control panel and was able to see it had 384 MB of RAM, and at least 4 GB on the hard drive. As I was trying to remember where to find the processor information, my friend, who was in a hurry to pick up more computers, suggested I take it with me and work on it. The only proviso: I’d have to give it away (which is what he does with all the computers he refurbishes).

So home it went with me. I got a monitor from my dad (with the same give-away requirement) and found an old mac keyboard and mouse. The first thing I did was pop in an OSX disk just to see if it could install. OS 10.2 did fine, but there was a smug little message when I tried to upgrade to 10.3, telling me it just wasn’t going to work out. But I found it actually had a 6GB hard drive, and did indeed have 384 MB of RAM, as well as a 233MHz processor. There was a CDROM and floppy drive, a modem port for an external modem, an ethernet card, and serial ports. No firewire. No USB.

There was some more “This bodes ill” thinking as I started looking stuff up on the Web, and found just what Old World Mac means. Yeah, you can get Linux on them, but they’ve got to have OS 9.2 on them because that’s what Linux boots from, and it’s a real bear to get it on and working (I checked both Mandriva and Ubuntu). Figuring whoever got the computer would probably be happier with OS 10.2, and without the headaches of Linux on an Old World Mac, I abandoned that effort.

The OS9 disk has a nifty little feature in its Initialize Disk tool: write zero’s on the disk to completely wipe the disk for a totally clean install. But it’s hidden in the menus when you get to the Initialize window. So I went looking, found it, and let it run. It took at least an hour. Then I created two partitions: one 200 MB, and one 5.8 GB, both with the HFS+ file system.

I installed OS9 on the larger partition, then downloaded the 9.2 upgrade. Knowing some of these older computers do not like burned disks, I burned a copy of the 9.2 upgrade at 2X. It worked fine, except version 9.2.2 requires version 9.2.1 be installed first. Back to the Apple site, and pop in another CD-R.

After getting everything upgraded to 9.2, I moved the system folder to the smaller partition. Then I installed OS 10.2 on the larger partition. There was about 3.75MB left over. I stretched an ethernet cable across the house and plugged it in to get the rest of the OS updates. It still had Internet Explorer set as the default browser. So I downloaded Firefox and made a few changes to the dock. Then I went looking for someone to give it all away to.

Hello Freecycle! I posted a message in the local Freecycle, and the setup was picked up 5 days later. I threw in a couple unused program disks I had laying around, and a copy of Software for Starving Students. He seemed happy. And now I know all I want to about Old World Macs.

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