Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pimp my Quicksilver - Part I: Intro

One of the best things about the G4 PowerMacs was their wide array of possible upgrades. That said, I currently have 2 identical 2002 G4 Quicksilver PowerMacs both with a stock 867 800 MHz Motorola CPU.  I've officially decided to soup one up in every way I know how while likely leaving the other one exactly as it is.  The idea came from one of Cameron Kaiser's recent posts where he mentions the fact that he has beefed up his Quad G5 in almost every aspect. If anyone reading this knows of an even better, more powerful, efficient (not likely in terms of power consumption as you'll discover below) option, please, I say, let me know. I always have an open ear, but I also know when to make a solid argument as well. :)

Here are photos of the machine as it is before any upgrades.  Provided are shots of the front, back, inside, and sides with the machine's case opened up.

Here's my plan of action:
Memory - .  Max out the RAM at a whopping 1.5 GB  Easily the most achievable and probably one of the cheapest upgrades for improving the performance of the PPC machine.  I've already purchased the necessary 1.5 GB of RAM from Other World Computing as I've never had any issues with their memory in the past, it is competitively priced, and has a lifetime warranty.

1.5 GB may not seem like much to somebody NOT using an older [PowerPC] machine, but trust me, it's more than enough and currently not the bottleneck of either machine in Mac OS X 10.4, Mac OS 9, or Debian Jessie.

CD/DVD Drive - Right now this is the stock SuperDrive, but it's not in fully working order and has a most difficult time trying to read DVDs. Does it absolutely need to be upgraded?  Probably not.  But will I? You bet I will. I've always been a fan of the drives offered by MCE Technologies.  So I'm going to go with the MCE internal SuperDrive seen here.  I don't believe I'll find any other alternatives supporting such a wide array of CD and DVD formats or one that surpasses the recording speed for either media type.

Video -  Replace the existing 4X AGP ATI Rage 128 Pro card with its measly 16 MB of VRAM with an 8X AGP nVidia GeForce 7800 GS with 256 MB of RAM.  Preferably the card will be purchased without the flashed ROM on it yet, so I can enjoy attempting to tackle such a feat.  I'll need to make sure that the one I purchase is running BIOS version 5.70 as a newer version of the card was released running 5.71, which CANNOT be flashed to work with a Mac.

I've already done the liberty of locating an older PC with a 4X AGP slot as well an older PCI video card so I can actually flash the card. What an incredibly difficult task that was although in the end I did not pay a dime for it! You'll probably laugh when I provide more details on the machine and how it works.

CPU - Preferably, I'd find a working dual CPU upgrade, although they are starting to go the way of the dodo bird in terms of locating one. At the current time, I'm leaning towards a dual Sonnet upgrade for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I've haven't had much luck looking for the other available brands' upgrades anywhere on the web. Secondly, based on what I've been reading on the Internet, they are some of the top performers in terms of G4 CPU upgrades. Correct me if I am wrong.

Hard Drive - Although some may argue on this one, I'm still going to bite the bullet and purchase an IDE/ATA SSD from OWC.  The speed of the drive likely exceeds that of the bandwidth available on the hard drive bus, but that's okay with me. Trying to decide on either a comfortable 60 GB or the 120 GB in order to have plenty of breathing room.  And since the unit has another slot available for another 3.5" drive, I'll likely plug it with an existing 250 GB Ultra ATA/66 drive I already own.  It will be used as either a data or backup drive.

PCI Add-Ons - The G4 already has Gigabit connectivity, so I don't think I will be purchasing any sort of PCI network card.  However, I'll still have 4 PCI slots to fill if I so desire.  My question is, what do I fill them with? I don't mind Wi-Fi but it will never be as reliable as a wired Ethernet connection so I will NOT consider that as an option.  Of course there is an available Airport expansion slot that would support up to 802.11b if I for some reasons still want to add some sort of wireless connectivity.

There are so many options to choose from, I'm having a tough time narrowing it down.  Perhaps I would like to add more USB 2.0 or FireWire 800 ports for connecting more external devices?  Or maybe I want to add a RAID controller card plus additional drives for either better drive performance, more storage, or reliability?  I'll provide more details about which ones I go with when I reach the post covering this part of the process, which may need to be subdivided into separate posts as well for each PCI slot depending on the type of cards I choose.

Power Supply - With the upgraded dual CPUs and more power hungry video card, the existing power supply may be overworked. If that is the case, I'll need to find a replacement that is both compatible with the G4 and sufficient enough to supply enough power to all on-board components. Research is still ongoing with this particular piece of it all.  What I do know is that the max output supported by the existing power supply should NOT exceed 355W.

Fans - With all this extra hardware running on the system, it is safe to way it'll produce more heat, so it may be necessary to replace the existing fans to better regulate the temperature and keep the system running as cool as possible.  I'll be watching temperatures closely throughout each upgrade and I'll post my results during each phase. One nice thing about the video card above is that it includes an on-board fan so that should help but that depends on several factors as well.  Overall though, this piece is also still under heavy research. So far, I've read positive reviews for this SilenX fan.

Exterior/Casing - Haven't decided for sure on this one, but I'm quite positive I'm going to move forward with it here sometime soon.  As I've seen and read of many others doing, I want to paint the exterior body another color.  I'll likely have an Apple decal on hand to paint the Apple logo another color too.  I've made no headway yet on a color scheme.

Whew.  That's a lot of hardware.   Keep in mind, there is a lot of information and specifics I didn't include in the above descriptions that I'll need to be aware of mostly because I wanted to save that for the post I'll write when upgrading that particular piece of hardware.  Wouldn't want to spoil all of the fun now.  For example, taking into consideration CPU level 2 and 3 cache when seeking the best possible CPU performance upgrade or caveats of using a flashed nVidia card.

What I also plan to do is record some measurements of performance for completing certain tasks before each upgrade and after and post the results during each installment of this series. I'll use tests that will likely provide the best sort of overall picture of performance improvement with the upgraded hardware.

I know some of you may look at all of this and wonder why? I say why not? This should be interesting, fun, and most of all expensive, but it's a hobby and those are never cheap right?