A KVM switch to the rescue…

This isn’t specifically related to Tiger, though I find that it might be of interest for some of you. Being averse to a cluttered desk I decided to buy a KVM switch.

k/v/m stands for keyboard, video and mouse. It’s a small little black box that you plug your VGA (or DVI) monitor cable, your USB keyboard and mouse. Then you connect the box to your Macs. In my case, the PowerMac G5 and the TiBook G4. After that, you may use the same keyboard, mouse & monitor for both computers. By pressing a single button you can switch between the systems, thus using one e.g. for office work while the other one is busy doing movie editing.

I usally keep my TiBook G4 booted in Mac OS 9 now while the G5 workhorse does my everyday work. The Aten CS682-AT I bought wasn’t specifically cheap (50 euros) but it is a quality product and doesn’t show any unreliability as it happens with those 15 euro switches.

I must admit that I’ve become so used to my Aten switch that I could hardly imagine ever doing without it again. It’s great for switching between a gaming and a productivity system or a retro and a modern system. If you haven’t tried it yet but you use two (or more) Macs at the same time, give it a try.

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Another new game for our “obsolete system”

When was the last time you remember a PowerPC exclusive Mac game was released? Well yeah, it has been some time. However, there are still good-spirited folks out there porting new software to our “obsolete systems”. One of them goes by the nickname “xeno74” and just finished porting the platform game “Open Surge”.

I rushed for the download and I got to say that it is really a good game. Apart from most open source games, it appears to be polished and comes with a nice intro movie. As old timers, we also recognize that this game bears a slight resemblance of the original Genesis (Mega Drive) game Sonic the Hedgehog.

I haven’t tried how this one works performance-wise on my 800Mhz TiBook, but on my G5 it runs perfectly fine with smooth graphics and sound. According to xeno74, it will run on every OSX system from 10.3.9 and up.

Download from here:

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A word of warning: Beware OCZ SSDs …

Recently I had the “pleasure” of acquiring one of OCZ’s Solid-State-Drives (SSD). A Vertex Plus 30GB to be precisely. I also ordered a 3,5″ mounting frame so that the 2,5″ SSD would fit into my PowerMac G5 drive slot. As a matter of fact, I never got any use out of it.

My trouble began right after installing the SSD, when I tried to clone the 10.5 Leopard partition I had recently installed for testing purposes (more soon). I was using a wonderful program named SuperDuper which I found to be excellent for cloning (bootable) drives.

However, SuperDuper failed utterly right after the start, reporting an error. I was surprised, since I never had any problem with cloning drives before – not even onto the SSD in my 800 Mhz PowerBook. Ah well, …

I decided to insert my Leopard system disc, formatting the SSD all again and then installing Leo. To make a long story short – it wouldn’t work. And – as a last try – also Ubuntu 10.4 would become desperate when partitioning the drive.

Clueless I decided to ask almighty Google for help and as it looks, I’m far from being the only person having serious problems with OCZ SSDs. I wrote to the dealer who sold me the SSD, supplying links and information about the high failure rate. First they offered to replace the SSD with another OCZ Vertex Plus. Haha, no way I ever let one of those touch my PowerMac again! Finally they agreed to refund the money after they’ll receive the SSD. As I write this, I’m in the process of packing the SSD for shipping. My first and last OCZ SSD – Thumbs down! And what’s your experience with OCZ?

Posted in General | 10 Comments

Instant Messaging & 10.4 Tiger

Back when I was a kid, I always smiled about how grown-ups were so dismissive of computers and all the new IT-technology in general. “I don’t need this new stuff, I’ll keep on writing on my typewriter“. I told myself that I would never become like them, that my generation was different. I admit, I was wrong. The older I get, the more reluctant I get about “new features”. I just want things to work the way I am used to.

That said, I’m not only using a dinosaur OS™, but I’m also a dinosaur when it comes to communicating with others over the net. I’m a 90s internet guy. I remember when I sent my first e-mail (selling an old SEGA game) back in ’96 and how excited I was to receive an answer so quickly within minutes. Another fond memory was ICQ, which I ran into in 1999. Instant-Messengers made communication so much easier and have since then become an everyday companion. While all the cool kids hang out in Facebook Chat today, I remain using ICQ. So do my friends & family. However, I keep running into more and more obstacles.

There have been a lot of Instant Messengers for Tiger. Many of them support multi protocols, which means you can write to people on yahoo messenger or AIM using only one client. (instead of separates for each protocol)

The most popular one for the Mac is arguably Adium. Adium offers support for multiple protocols, a nice interface and it can be customized. However, they were pretty quick about dropping support for Tiger. When ICQ changed something in their protocols, they announced that there won’t be a fix for version 1.3.10, the last one that supports Tiger. While e.g. the Yahoo Messenger protocol still works fine with Adium, ICQ is out of the race. And so am I.

There is an official ICQ app that I use since that day. Lo and behold, it is a carbon application from 2003 which will even run on OS 9. To my surprise it works fine, except that it doesn’t deliver offline messages and looks a bit quirky. It’s also very basic in its functions. I find it interesting that ICQ stopped developing a Mac version of their messenger back in 2003, when Macs were finally on the rise again. Odd decision. Anyway, it’s dated, it’s ugly and it’s “basic” BUT it works.

That’s more than other Instant Messengers (IM) for Tiger. In my attempt to find a more recent one, I found Psi. It looked promising and I like the list of features but for whatever reason I couldn’t get it to work. It wouldn’t connect. The project also doesn’t look very lively, as so many open source projects.

Then there is also Proteus, an IM with one of the most bizarre websites I’ve ever seen. Close your eyes and run for the download. Version 4 is said to still support 10.4 Tiger. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to use it with ICQ and eventually gave up after unsuccessfully trying to set it up for half an hour. Maybe some Proteus user can enlighten me?

While digging around for an Instant Messenger  supporting ICQ on Tiger, I found that there is a Web ICQ which can be executed in the browser window. Unfortunately, it requires Flash *sigh* and it doesn’t save the message history. Plus whenever my browser crashes (not too often, but still) it crashes as well. I also expect them to “flip the switch” every day now and setting Flash 10.2 as a minimum requirement. (10.1 is the last version for PowerPC Macs) So I’m not really too fond of it.

That said, I’m still waiting for someone to come around and presenting us an easy-to-configure, fully Tiger & Leopard compatible multi protocol instant messenger that will allow us to save a message history, send offline messages and doesn’t look ugly. Anyone up for the task?

Posted in Utilities | 3 Comments

Bits and Pieces #2

As you may have guessed from the missing blog posts over the past three weeks, I’ve been fairly busy. Yes, again. Reason number one was that I discovered the blog of my fellow PowerPC user Dan. I had to read up on all the entries and highly recommend them.

The second reason were the two articles that I wrote for LowEndMac. One was an interview with Alexander Clauss, creator of the iCab browser. The second article describes my search for a way to watch YouTube Videos on my 800 Mhz TiBook. Have a look, it works fine for me. Try it out yourself on your old hardware. I would particularly be interested in feedback on how YouView and the Quicktime Enabler are doing on G3 machines.

Once you have finished reading and you want to try it out yourself, search for this fantastic video named Il était une fois… les technologies du passé. A french journalist showed today’s kids some of the 80s and 90s technology. It was appalling to see that someone could take a floppy disk for a digital camera. But then again, we grow old. (hey, are those your bushels of hair on the floor!?)

I also recommend watching the Winsongs 95 video, a parody on Windows 95 made by Apple employee Dave Garr (must have been funny days in Cupertino). The video was originally handed out on some developer CDs and made its way onto the internet. It always makes me laugh, just like another legendary piece from Dave Garr called I Think We’re A Clone Now.  Ah well, back in the day it was so easy to tell that we were on the good side. Remember those days the next time you try to delete that forced Mac AppStore item from your Apple menu …

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iShowU – desktop recording for 10.4 Tiger

While looking through my last blog entries I noticed we haven’t looked into some cool shareware for a while. Expect some short reviews to come up soon. The first one will be about  *rataplan*  iShowU.

iShowU and me crossed path when I was in need of explaining my mother how to do some setup on her Mac. She can use a browser and e-mailing software but when it comes to more sophisticated tasks, she is clueless. So I could have either written her a loooong e-mail with detailed explanation – or simply record a video from my desktop while performing the needed task. Guess what, I voted for the second option.

Initially I was looking for a freeware solution, as we always do in such cases. Unfortunately, my search dug up nothing useful. Finally, I landed on the website of developer Shiny White Box and was immediately struck by the looks of their program “iShowU”. It contains a lot of features but yet seemed so easy to use. After goofing around with the demo version for a bit, I decided to bite the bug and spent the 20 Dollars. What can I say? This was one of the best shareware investments I had ever done.

Basically, iShowU (last version for 10.4 Tiger is v 1.88) allows to record whatever part of your desktop. Of course, you may also record the entire thing. You choose among lots of different resolutions, the quality of the video and whether or not you’d like to record system audio as well. So this is also cool if you’d like to record you playing a game for putting it up on YouTube. I haven’t tried it out yet, but it may also allow the recording of DVD movies while they play on your Mac. I’ll post an update once I had a chance to try that.

I’ve used iShowU both on my G5 PowerMac and on my 800 Mhz TiBook and it runs very well on both. In fact, I was suprised it would perform so well on my old TiBook. If you’re looking for a way to create tutorial videos, gameplay videos, capturing youtube videos on your hard disk etc. etc. – iShowU is a must. Recommended!

More info: Official Website

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Overlooked gem of Mac gaming: Summoner

The reason there had been lesser updates during the past few weeks is credited to one particular game: Summoner.

I had always been looking for it when it came out for the Mac back in 2001 but first couldn’t pay the full version and later on never found a used copy. Sales must have been really bad with this one. I expect that is because they only published a version for Mac OS 9. No OS X native version, no carbon, no let’s-make-this-a-OS X-game update. A real pity, since Summoner  is a great classic Role-Playing Game for the Macintosh and it runs perfectly fine in full speed & full screen using classic mode of 10.4 on my Dual 2 Ghz PowerMac G5.

I am by no means a Pro Gamer so all you Xbox kiddies nagging about the dated graphics (yes, it’s a polygon hell!) go away, please. If the clunky graphics don’t offend you, you’ll be experiencing an entertaining game. You play as a guy with mysterious powers (he can summon creatures), hunted by the evil emperor. So basically you travel around the fantasy realm, attempting to find new party members, fighting a lot of monsters (in real-time), upgrading your equipment and chating with town folks to learn more about what’s actually going on. Lots of sidequests here. There is also the occasional puzzle, some of which can be pretty hard. (Khosari Labyrinth, I curse you!)

Nevertheless, this is a very entertaining game. You can easily spend nights fighting off the evil emperor’s lackeys. But best news is that this one can be obtained for free from the Macintosh Garden. In order to play you are required to burn two discs (which can be easily done using Toast, also to be obtained from the mentioned website). Just make sure you have enough horsepower to run this one as classic mode in OS X needs a lot of it. I wouldn’t try playing Summoner on anything less than a fast G4 with plenty of RAM and a good graphics card.

Posted in Games | 2 Comments