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Shan
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 10:39 pm    Post subject: Looking for a Mac Laptop to experiment with Reply with quote

I'm in the market for a new (to me) Mac Laptop for experimentation (both Gentoo and OSX), as well as something I can use in class for note taking and such; but I've got virtually no clue on whats "good" and reviews do little to help me without a point of reference to use as a compass. I know that PowerPC chips are better adept at fully utilizing their CPU cycles so a 800Mhz PPC isn't as "slow" as an 800Mhz x86 system, which only makes things worse for me since I can't just look at a listing and "know" that whats being show is overkill or pathetic. The things it needs to be capable of performing are your standard fair, OpenOffice, Firefox, some GIMPing; bit of WebDev and C coding / compiling (my own as well as obviously packages needed to run the system). I'm preferential to KDE in Linux as well so an antique system that would require me to use *BOX or such wouldn't be terribly acceptable. Oh, and I don't have a WiFi system so it'd need to either have built in Ethernet or handle a PCMCIA card, preferably the former.

What it boils down to is I need reccomendations for specific models or performance levels (EG "You need atleast a 600Mhz G3 with 256MB Ram") that'll fit my needs. From there I can checkout eBay and the likes; though if anyone has a machine their willing to donate / sell cheap / et al I wouldn't object XD

Oh, the last catch? I'd very much prefer to be able to get something for less then 400 bucks (USD).
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silverpower
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 11:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I run a Powerbook G3/500 (Pismo) with 256MB of memory here. I haven't tried the Gimp or OO.o (haven't needed the Gimp and I hate OO.o anyway, never mind the awful build times), but everything else works pretty well, actually. KDE runs acceptably as far as I'm concerned, but then I use a pure GCC 4.1.1 system. The GPU on this thing is weak, but it's tolerable. OSX performance is pretty miserable, because of the GPU and the fact that they use Altivec heavily. Linux works just fine, though, even MPlayer runs my torture-test xvid material with very few framedrops. Not bad for a six-year-old machine. :D

Anyway, I'd highly recommend a mk2 or mk3 Powerbook G4 (Titanium). All Mac laptops have carried Ethernet since the ancient Wallstreet models, so even an iBook (should you want one, I don't recommend them - their reliability is poor) will be fine in that respect. You may like the Pismo, I love mine, but you may want to play with xgl at some point, and you really need a beefier GPU for that. Avoid the mk1 TiBooks, though, the processor is very wimpy and you're essentially paying for a Pismo with a metal case and G4 upgrade. They're the G4/400 or 500 models, the 550s and up carry a Radeon and can be upgraded with a 1.2 or 1.4GHz G4 later on, should you feel you need more raw CPU power at your fingertips.

As I write this, there's a 800MHz TiBook going for about $300ish, if you hurry and get lucky (you've got about 30min as I type this) that'd be an excellent starter machine, and it provides a solid CPU upgrade path.

If you have more questions, feel free to ask on #gentoo-ppc.
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Shan
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 7:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

silverpower wrote:
Anyway, I'd highly recommend a mk2 or mk3 Powerbook G4 (Titanium). All Mac laptops have carried Ethernet since the ancient Wallstreet models, so even an iBook (should you want one, I don't recommend them - their reliability is poor) will be fine in that respect.


How can I tell the difference between generations of Powerbooks? One of the problems I'm running into is that since theres no "branded" model number, the only way (I know of that) you can tell the difference is by their CPU speeds, but since that can be upgraded....well you can see my quandry.

Quote:
You may like the Pismo, I love mine, but you may want to play with xgl at some point, and you really need a beefier GPU for that.

If I ever get around to trying out XGL it'll probably be on my AMD64-3700 system; so that isn't really an issue :-D


Quote:
Avoid the mk1 TiBooks, though, the processor is very wimpy and you're essentially paying for a Pismo with a metal case and G4 upgrade. They're the G4/400 or 500 models, the 550s and up carry a Radeon and can be upgraded with a 1.2 or 1.4GHz G4 later on, should you feel you need more raw CPU power at your fingertips.


I'm taking a stab here but a TiBook 550 is second generation and that first gen couldn't simply be upgraded to that level of processor? (Wouldn't want to buy an upgraded first gen thinking it was second gen and get burned).

Now that I have a general idea for CPU speed, what about Ram quantity? I would imagine that on the linux side its pretty similar between PPC and x86 but what about within OSX? Basically, is OSX naturally mem hungry? My own instinct says that I shouldn't deal with any less then 256 but if OSX is a hog I might spring for more RAM at the same time and save myself some headaches.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing to be wary of is the nvidia chipset on many of the 12" ppc models. Nvidia has released a driver (x86 only) but no specs
so you would be stuck with no 3d acceleration for the time being. This is the one major disapointment I've had myself with my laptop.

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timotheus25
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 9:11 pm    Post subject: mac laptop recommendations Reply with quote

If you're going to put Gentoo on a ibook or powerbook, you'll save yourself a lot of headaches by doing the following:


  1. have an ATI Radeon videocard with model number 9200 or lower
  2. have a G4 processor (not G3)


After reading forums on putting Linux on Mac laptops for many years (and owning one), the biggest pains are an Nvidia chipset (or new ATI chipset) and being stuck with the old G3 CPU (since most people compile binary packages for G4-ish support).

Also, your assumption of PPC being faster than x86 is partially correct. The PPC and x86 aren't that much different for average performance under Linux, unless you have a PPC with Altivec AND compiled your code for Altivec. Then the PPC can severely outperform Intel on frequency alone. An other time is when you write code that is 95% branch instructions; then the Intel x86 with its oversized pipeline acts like a fish out of water. Finally, Apple is generous with their L2/L3 mobile processor caches, and Intel has not been until this past year. That cache size can make more difference than your processor speed. I think that only G4 and newer models come with Altivec, but I could be wrong. I do know that all G4s have Altivec, and some G3s do not. I never owned a G3.

For grouping of the laptop models, most non-Apple developers group them by the laptop family and some common feature, such as a code name like "Wallstreet", or the case color/material, like "Titanium, Aluminum". There's a strong correlation between the case and the motherboard inside; with video card switching back-and-forth between ATI and Nvidia models.

The powerbook with very best driver support for Linux is the 15'' Titanium Powerbook. But you're looking at $600 to $1200 used. To my knowledge, %100 of the hardware is supported (Radeon 9200 video, and most lower Radeon model numbers, have complete 3D support with Xorg drivers).

Lastly, I recommend at least 256 MB of RAM and >500 MHz G4. A slower G4 is superior to a faster G3. This is opposite of Intel, where P3 and P4 of same frequency, the P3 is superior general performance.

To get ideas of typical Powerbook models:
http://listings.ebay.com/aw/plistings/category14909/index.html?from=R11

You could get iBooks of same vintage, and have success. But those laptops are most hit-and-miss.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let's take this in order:

First off, G3s do not have Altivec. At all. This is a shame, because multimedia performance as it stands right now only stands to lose from not having it.

I have *never* seen a TiBook mk2 (550/667+VGA-out) in the wild with the aformentioned Sonnet 1.2GHz G4 upgrade - at least, not on eBay. The mk3 upgrade (all DVI-out models from the 667 all the way out to the final 1GHz models) is a 1.4GHz model, and is currently in testing at Daystar. The TiBook mk1 (400/500) carries an older-style G4, and can't be upgraded beyond 550MHz, which frankly isn't much. Bottom line - you're unlikely to encounter them at the moment, I'm simply saying that you should probably go with something that has an actual upgrade path.

If I were you, I'd avoid all iBooks. The clamshell iMac-like machines are okay, but definitely *not* a good choice to start with. If I were to get one, it'd be to have one for my collection, because I like the way they look, and they're light. They also have zero upgrade path, aside from memory. There's a reason why post-clamshell (white iBook/iceBook) machines are dumped on eBay - the GPU has a tendency to get loose connections, and it's almost impossible to repair. You can do some hacks to permamently apply the required pressure to get it going again, but really, do you want to deal with that on your first PPC machine? Besides, iBook G4s usually carry a nVidia GPU.

OSX will run ...okay... on 256MB. Linux will be perfectly fine, but Java apps will be cramped. Get 512MB at least if you want OSX, on a TiBook it's just standard PC100/133 SO-DIMMS.

If you shop around on eBay, you should be able to find a second-gen TiBook for a decent price. Hell, I've seen mk3 TiBooks go for just $500-600ish, so it's a matter of waiting for the right auction to come along.

AluBooks are pretty nice, but avoid all 12" models unless you want an OSX-only machine - the portable nVidia X11 2D drivers are pure torture. Also, avoid the earlier models, they carry nVidia GPUs as well. You do *not* want them, they're too much of a pain to deal with. Since an ATi-equipped Aluminum Powerbook 15"/17" is *way* out of your price range, don't bother.

One last thing: TiBooks are notorious with having hinge problems. Always remember to keep them tight, and possibly consider getting a set of replacement aftermarket hinges at some point. Do that and you won't get to experience the (dubious) joy of dealing with the TiBook's most annoying design flaw.
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Shan
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 25, 2006 2:59 pm    Post subject: Re: mac laptop recommendations Reply with quote

timotheus25 wrote:
After reading forums on putting Linux on Mac laptops for many years (and owning one), the biggest pains are an Nvidia chipset (or new ATI chipset) and being stuck with the old G3 CPU (since most people compile binary packages for G4-ish support).
The chances of my using a binary based distro are slim, excepting in just using the laptop as a way to try out other distro's for the fun of it. Depending on hard drive size I'd probably have a couple small sections partitioned off for testing distros, one for OSX, and another for Gentoo. If push came to shove and it was a REALLY slow machine, theres always crossdev :-D

Quote:
Also, your assumption of PPC being faster than x86 is partially correct. The PPC and x86 aren't that much different for average performance under Linux, unless you have a PPC with Altivec AND compiled your code for Altivec. Then the PPC can severely outperform Intel on frequency alone. An other time is when you write code that is 95% branch instructions; then the Intel x86 with its oversized pipeline acts like a fish out of water. Finally, Apple is generous with their L2/L3 mobile processor caches, and Intel has not been until this past year. That cache size can make more difference than your processor speed. I think that only G4 and newer models come with Altivec, but I could be wrong. I do know that all G4s have Altivec, and some G3s do not. I never owned a G3.


If my understanding is correct, Altivec is an instruction set similar to 3DNow, SSE, MMX and the likes, and would then (if available) be added to my CFLAGS correct?

Quote:
For grouping of the laptop models, most non-Apple developers group them by the laptop family and some common feature, such as a code name like "Wallstreet", or the case color/material, like "Titanium, Aluminum". There's a strong correlation between the case and the motherboard inside; with video card switching back-and-forth between ATI and Nvidia models.
Is there a site I can look to see what GPU is (commonly) contained within each model? I'm finding a lot of the eBay listings will give everything BUT GPU


silverpower wrote:
I have *never* seen a TiBook mk2 (550/667+VGA-out) in the wild with the aformentioned Sonnet 1.2GHz G4 upgrade - at least, not on eBay.


Is that because its hard / expensive to do or because most people that perform the upgrade tend to keep the machine for themselves? I'll admit that I've never really paid attention to laptop hardware (parts wise), and excepting some GPU's and RAM I was unaware that you could change CPU's and such.

Quote:
The mk3 upgrade (all DVI-out models from the 667 all the way out to the final 1GHz models) is a 1.4GHz model, and is currently in testing at Daystar. The TiBook mk1 (400/500) carries an older-style G4, and can't be upgraded beyond 550MHz, which frankly isn't much. Bottom line - you're unlikely to encounter them at the moment, I'm simply saying that you should probably go with something that has an actual upgrade path.


Basically what you're saying is that if I plan on keeping the unit for a decent time, I should go with a Mark3 even though it means a bigger hit to the wallet initially.

Quote:
If I were you, I'd avoid all iBooks.
So I've heard :-D

Quote:
OSX will run ...okay... on 256MB. Linux will be perfectly fine, but Java apps will be cramped. Get 512MB at least if you want OSX, on a TiBook it's just standard PC100/133 SO-DIMMS.


Good to know. I don't plan on doing much (if anything) java based; it was only recently that I bothered to install it on my desktop machine, and that was only so I could get OpenOffice to work with MySQL remotely.

Quote:
One last thing: TiBooks are notorious with having hinge problems. Always remember to keep them tight, and possibly consider getting a set of replacement aftermarket hinges at some point. Do that and you won't get to experience the (dubious) joy of dealing with the TiBook's most annoying design flaw.
Care to explain that a bit? I know you're referring to the hinges connecting the LCD to the lower portion but what flaw should I be looking for? Is it just that the screws come loose and when things pop apart its a pain to fix or is it a much more major thing?
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 26, 2006 12:24 am    Post subject: Re: mac laptop recommendations Reply with quote

Shan wrote:

If my understanding is correct, Altivec is an instruction set similar to 3DNow, SSE, MMX and the likes, and would then (if available) be added to my CFLAGS correct?

Correct. Those are all SIMD extensions (Single Instruction Multiple Data) to the base ISA (Instruction Set Architecture). But, to my knowledge, Altivec is the only common SIMD, available even on older CPUs, that can execute something like 8 array operations per clock cycle! Note that if your code isn't written for Altivec, then you're out of luck; there's no implicit application of altivec-based CFLAGS.

See this page if you buy a powerbook. You might find is useful for TiBook as well as AlBook.
Aluminum powerbook low-level config. tips, tricks, and hacks

Quote:
Is there a site I can look to see what GPU is (commonly) contained within each model? I'm finding a lot of the eBay listings will give everything BUT GPU

Not that I know of. I suggest you write each seller individually. :(
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2006 12:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alrighty, I'd like to start off with a big thanks to everyones advice; but I went ahead and ignored it :-D

Provided I get what I ordered, I should be recieving a 1.33Ghz 12" AluBook. I know its got the nVidia based GPU but OSX is going to be my primary OS on this machine anyways, for schoolwork. Any Linux use on it is for tinkering and learning since I have no experience with non x86 based hardware. Plus at 600 bucks for a near-mint condition laptop with the works (Software disks, HARD shell carrying case et al) I couldn't resist. I'm sure you all will be seeing me here in "Gentoo on PPC" again once it arrives, pleading for help. Either that or my ranting in Off the Wall if it turns out I got scammed but lets not think negative thoughts.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2006 12:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shan wrote:
Alrighty, I'd like to start off with a big thanks to everyones advice; but I went ahead and ignored it :-D

Provided I get what I ordered, I should be recieving a 1.33Ghz 12" AluBook. I know its got the nVidia based GPU but OSX is going to be my primary OS on this machine anyways, for schoolwork. Any Linux use on it is for tinkering and learning since I have no experience with non x86 based hardware. Plus at 600 bucks for a near-mint condition laptop with the works (Software disks, HARD shell carrying case et al) I couldn't resist. I'm sure you all will be seeing me here in "Gentoo on PPC" again once it arrives, pleading for help. Either that or my ranting in Off the Wall if it turns out I got scammed but lets not think negative thoughts.
Heh, I got my Powerbook on ebay, you're probably fine. Good luck, hope you enjoy it!
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2006 12:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I forgot to ask before, are there any good docs besides the gentoo PPC handbook and the thread linked previously for info on installing Gentoo on this particular (type) of powerbook? I'm sure the forum search can provide me with plenty of data to sift through but having a few places to start would help.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2006 12:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Could be some help - http://www.mamiyami.com/powerbook/
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2006 7:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just thought I'd let you all know that I did indeed get my laptop as promised. Its going to take some getting used to, to be sure but so far so good :D
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2007 9:43 am    Post subject: Last generation PBook Reply with quote

Now I'm also looking for the last generation PowerBook, not to experiement with but to replace my old G3 used for daily work and everything and to stay tuned to the PPC group. (Not really "replace" because the old G3 will find a new job :) )

Looking for the last generation and fully upgraded these models would fit:
  • 12" 1,5GHz 1,2GB
  • 15" 1,67GHz 2GB

As I understand the 12" versions do all have NVidia which does not support hardware acceleration and suspend. But is the latest ATI supported? Last generations have 9700 which is newer then the recommended 9200.

I have to admit I really like the tiny 12" size like my iBook, but 15" have more upgrade possibilities (CPU, RAM).

So is the 15" model the only real choice (for gentoo linux of course) ?
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2007 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, all ATI cards in Apple Powerbooks are supported.
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