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Marc's Notes: Comments, Ramblings, Rants & Tips

The Beige G3 Question

This article is purely historic at this point. The Beige G3's mentioned are pretty crusty and are no longer in use here. If you're interested in playing with a beast that can barely run Jaguar (10.2) and are willing to cover the shipping, drop me a note and we'll work something out.

Ok, I have one, what do I do with it?

The Beige G3—in either the Desktop or MiniTower flavors—are the pretty well at the bottom of the Mac OS X food chain. Rather than be excluded from the X-Club immediately, as all of their predecessors, the Beige G3 boxes were initially invited to the party. I say initially, because the invitation has limitations, and they do not meet the minimum daily requirements of the latest Mac OS X 10.3 release, Panther.

First let me state my personal feelings about Mac OS X... It is no longer the future! Yep, that's right, because the future has become the now. I still have some great Macs (and clones) here that rock with Mac OS 9, but we're past the point of denial here. Mac OS X is where we all need to be now, or pretty darned soon!

About Mac OS X versions... Nothing before 10.2.3 is worth a damn—especially if you plan on hooking up to a network. There were some serious bugs in early 10.2 Jaguar, and 10.1 Cheeta actually should have been version 10.0. I don't want to think about Puma (the real 10.0) as it was not quite ready for prime time. Generally most Mac developers think the pre-release cycle went all the way to 10.1.5!

Actually, I have two…

One of each: a MiniTower and a Desktop model. Other than the case, there are really no differences in the motherboard. The two machines use different power supplies, but you can put either board in either case if you change one jumper telling it what power supply is upstream. This trick caught me off guard when I performed my first Desktop to MiniTower case upgrade.

The MiniTower was the first beige G3 to grace my mad laboratory. After ringing my hands at all attempts to install Mac OS X, I bought the above revision ROM on eBay. Once installed, OS X followed without a hitch. Other modifications followed.

The Desktop was a recent gift from another friend who plays with higher end Mac's. He wasn't planning on dragging this bottom-feeder G3 farther into 2004—Thank you Mark! It's now very useful as the network router/server in our office, and is quite happy running Mac OS 9.2.2. It will remain "stock", which for the purpose of this missive is boring and we'll speak no more of it.

About Jaguar and the Beige G3

Beige G3's are the first deskop G3 Macs. There were two basic motherboards found in both case styles.

The Revision A board is most easilly identified by the video chip, labeled RageII+, while the Revision B motherboard's chip was a RagePro. To further confound matters, later Revision B motherboards came with a Rev. C ROM module.

So there are three different ROM versions, and the ROM version makes all the difference in the world when it comes to installing Mac OS X.

Other World Computing has very detailed information on the ROM differences:

Model ROM Revision

Biege G3/233
Beige G3/266
Beige G3/300 & 333
B&W G3 ???

Rev. A
Rev. B
Rev. C
My MiniTower G3


Unless you're a bit masochistic, if you have a Rev. A ROM, either forget Mac OS X or pop over to eBay and attempt to find a Rev. B or C module. The Revision number $77D.xxxx is displayed in the Mac OS 9 System Profiler.

At any rate, the word is that any ROM beyond Rev. A will work with Jaguar (10.2 through 10.2.8)

Frankinsteining the MiniTower…

The beige G3 MiniTower is a handy machine, discounting the usless (under Mac OS X) floppy drive, it has one 3-1/2 internal bay, three 5-1/4 front drive bays, three PCI slots, and all the old world charm of earlier Macs: ADB, SCSI, 10BaseT Ethernet, RS 232/422 serial ports, and Apple/ATI video all on the mom. It's twin IDE buses support two devices each IF you upgrade the ROM. Add in the fact that it IS beige, and shares the classic 8600 case style and what more do you need?

The 4GB drive was the first to go, substituting a new Seagate Barracuda 7200 rpm ATA/100 80GB hard drive. This creates a bit of a problem though, as OS X and the beige G3 only play well if the boot volume is 8GB or smaller. The Seagate is partitioned into two volumes, 8 and 72GB (appx. size as a GB isn't always a GB in hard drive speak.)

Mac OS X 10.2.8 is installed on the first partition (8GB) but that isn't ideal from my perspective. The Users directory tends to eat space and so I relocated it to the larger partition. More on that later.

Next came a Sonnet Encore ZIF G3 processor upgrade. Face it, Mac OS X is dog slow at 266mhz, so it makes sense to bump it up to say, 500mhz. Recently Sonnet announced a 1ghz Encore chip, but I have to draw the limit somewhere.

The CD-ROM was the next sacrifice. I had a DVD-ROM I had pulled when I upgraded my Blue&White, so it seems like the thing to do. The beige G3 isn't supposed to handle a DVD, but since Mac OS X handles DVD decoding in software, the drive does work really well. You will have to extract the DVD Player manually from the Jaguar install disk or move a copy from another Jaguar system.

Last came an IOmega product: an IDE/ATA 100MB Zip drive. If you've been paying attention, this brings the total IDE/ATA devices to three, which is only possible because of the upgraded ROM. If you see a theme here, the Rev. C ROM is essential to almost everything.

How does it all work? Very well.

On to the PCI slots...

The three PCI slots filled quickly:

  1. Rather than deal with the limited onboard ATI video, a ATA RagePro 16mB video card was placed in the upper slot. This was a "pull" from my B&W and included the hardware DVD decoder daughterboard. While the decoder is not used by OS X, I did verify that a DVD will play well under 9.2's DVD Player in a Beige G3, for what that's worth.
  2. This was followed by a Sonnet Tango2 Firewire/USB 2.0 card to round out peripheral access. Mac OS X 10.2.8 recognizes the Tango2 card without drivers, and a word of caution is required here on that — DO NOT install the drivers that come with the card, as they are incompatible with 10.2.8! The USB 2.0 speed of 488k kbps has been verified and is a vast improvement over the USB 1.1 standard.
  3. Last a Asanté EtherFast 10/100bT ethernet card brought the nekworking speed up to the 100bT standard that all the other machines share here (either natively or through 10/100 NICs.)

I considered all three upgrades essential to rounding the MiniTower up to the most common denominator.

FireWire and USB are the new standards, and USB 1.1 is painful if you're using any high-bandwidth device, like a digital camera or scanner. While FW800 is the new kid in town, FW400 remains more than fast enough for my needs - mostly iPod and external FW HD access.

The 100bT ethernet is also fast enough here, and still more economical than the 1000bT ceiling that my G4s include. Just to dot your T's and cross your I's, make sure you're are connecting through a 100bT capable swtich or hub.

It was just too tempting...

Well I found I couldn't leave the Desktop Beige G3 alone. I bought a Rev C ROM on eBay, picked up a Mac OS X compatible 10/100BaseT PCI ethernet card, and began yet another foray into mad Beige G3 science. The machine is currently still running Mac OS 9.2.2 but 10.2.8 is installed and witing for a few of the software parts to be available for a full time switch to Mac OS X.

This machine is my in-house internet router and provides light duty services for some of my client's sites, like forms data collection. The routing pieces have all been upgraded to X but I'm waiting fro the forms database solution to go beta.

Oh yeah, and the original 450MHz G3 from my Yosemite is happilly percolating at 466MHz inside!

...probably will not be continued!

(1) The opinions expressed in Marc's Notes: Comments, Ramblings, Rants & Tips are exclusively those of Marc Wolfgram.
(2) Only one Macintosh™ computer was permanently harmed - link. (3) Any references to real people may be intentional.
(4) Don't try certain things while driving or at home without proper adult supervision. (5) Microsoft Windows—Just say NO!

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