Monday, January 20, 2020

PPC Media Center -- Final Update

Adam Albrec decided to make one last curtain call with his Youtube gui app PPC Media Center. After six years of support he deserves one last standing-O and Bravo! and all that. Although no one can say how long the app will still work, my crystal ball tells me we can eek out at least a couple more years before Youtube or youtube-dl changes something that breaks it. This crystal ball also tells me the stock market will crash this year, but I don't know anything about that.

Everything needed is included in the download link below -- the base installer, the updater, and the instructive readme files. The download link is to my Mediafire account, which I'll also leave on my original PPC Media Center post, but you should probably bookmark PPC Media Center's Macintosh Garden page as the app's main host. Since websites occasionally disappear without warning (RIP, a little duplication never hurt.

Download! Drink! Be Merry!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

PPC Media Center Battles TLS Apocalypse

You may have read about the "TLS Apocalypse" hitting PowerPC Macs as a web browser/TenFourFox complication, but another thing it affects is youtube-dl, PPC Media Center's backend. You can no longer update youtube-dl with Tiger's old OpenSSL version (hence PPC Media Center's auto-update fails as well), so you have to manually download youtube-dl's binary from their website and move it to /usr/local/bin. That is until PPCMC's Adam Albrec recently released an updater app to do it all for you.

Called PPCMC Updater (download page here), it updates youtube-dl in the background and can also tie into iCal and have it call for an update check every couple of weeks. It also has a rollback feature in case you download a new version that's completely broken and you need to recover the old one. The app is actually a TenFourFoxBox, so it requires TenFourFox on your system.

Also, Adam is attempting to compile a new version of OpenSSL that actually works and can save us from the ultimate apocalypse when the Youtubes and Vimeos start requiring TLS 1.2, not just Github and SourceForge. So if you have any pointers, this Macintosh Garden thread might be the best place to drop a word.

Monday, October 16, 2017

WPA2 KRACK (Oh, God no)

It seems a researcher staring at code has discovered a giant flaw in the WPA2 protocol. I hate it when that happens.

WPA2 is the wireless encryption protocol that secures our data between our wireless devices and our routers. This new crack takes advantage of a flaw in the 4-way handshake (trust me on this, I know what I'm talking about) to allow malicious hackers within physical distance of connecting to your router to read your wireless traffic and even inject malicious code onto your device (such as ransomware).

It's important to note a few things. First, this crack cannot be used to attack your device from anywhere in the world. The attacker must be within physical distance to connect to your router's wifi. Second, all unpatched devices as of now are vulnerable. Third, HTTPS and VPN traffic remain secure as long as whatever applications you're using don't bypass those encryption protocols. This caveat mostly applies to apps; browsing HTTPS sites in a web browser is safe.

The good news is this flaw can be patched, and only really needs to be patched on the client side, so if your old router doesn't receive firmware updates I wouldn't freak out about it. What's most important is that your laptops, phones, etc. receive patches. As a temporary precaution I've turned off wifi on my phone, turned off my wifi printer until I really really need to print something (hopefully Epson will have an update available before then, but I have no idea if they're reliable about such things) and am using ethernet on my home network.

What does this mean for OS X and Linux PowerPC users? Linux patches are reportedly on the way, but unsupported OS X systems are likely to remain unsupported, lulz. Tiger and Leopard users may have to rely on "security through obscurity" warm and fuzzies to reassure themselves that hackers would never use this hack to inject malicious PowerPC code onto their systems. But who knows, maybe there's some check box in System Preferences we can tic to make it all go away.

Finally, this applies to everything that connects to your router via wifi -- laptops, phones, printers, wifi bluray players, all of it (hence the "Oh, God no" histrionics in the subject line). I'm starting to get a little ill just thinking about it.

Anyway, here's a decent link to read more if you're insolent enough to require more than my third-hand understanding of these things:

Severe flaw in WPA2 protocol leaves Wi-Fi traffic open to eavesdropping

Thursday, September 7, 2017

More SSD Lessons from Adam Albrec

(The following is a guest post by PPC Media Center creator Adam Albrec who shares his experience using SSD and SATA for a year on his MDD Power Mac.)

[UPDATE]: Adam has some very interesting additions to this post here: How to use an SSD in a PowerMac - Addendum. [END UPDATE]

So after 1 year using an O.W.C. SSD (and figuring out a SATA connection to make it go) what have I learned?

Still Loving it. For anyone doing PPC (in a case that lets you tinker), and wants a boost, in the final analysis, it is SO worth your money! My PPC is more responsive than my Brother's Mac Pro (Quad Xeon) and while it cannot say - convert a DVD to mp4 as fast, his only about 4x faster; which is interesting since it should theoretically have 15-20x the power of my MDD. Multitasking in Tiger also is silky smooth even with LOTS open.

So what's the downside or catch??

1. Well - a couple of very real things. This drive (especially in a 32Bit system like my G4) needs a good 60-80GB free for Swapping (especially if using a RAM heavy app like Photoshop CS4). Otherwise it will get REALLY unresponsive when it starts trimming unused blocks back to available status. With my current workload, just had to upgrade from 120GB to 240GB and now all is Right with the world and it's Super Happy again.

2. AND when first cloning a system to an SSD, it will be really SNOTTY for a couple of weeks while it gets sprawled-out. Most have noticed that when you clone OSX to a normal drive it will feel a bit laggy for a few weeks, but with an SSD, this turns into Kernel Panics - and lots of them for a week, then a few the 2nd week then after about a month smooth sailing. Apparently the RAID0/parallel-access that SSDs use can cause a lot of sync errors with the system bus until it balances and spreads over the drive. In practice this just reiterates the old adage in the beginning: “Save Often”, and after a few weeks you can relax.

Some have said that getting O.W.C.s Extreme 6G SSDs alleviate both of these concerns since they handle big chunks of data more efficiently and also reclaim unused blocks faster, but an OWC rep advised against it because he felt that syncing with a bus so much slower might lead to other problems (curious other people's experiences). With my system, this did make sense though as the 3G Electras they sell are virtually identical to my G4 systems native bus speed. For a G5, the Faster 6G SSDs might be better. At this stage, the prices are often within $10 for one or the other (NOTE: the 3Gs are warrantied for 3-years and the 6Gs for 5-years).

Now the SATA Question:

Have also upgrading to a Sonnet Tempo TSATA for the internal drives and a FirmTek 1Se2 eSATA card for external connections (like data recoveries and such) this too, has been AMAZING. With this configuration, and also a Sonnet Allegro FW800 card (still $20-$30 on eBay), I'm now able to copy/move files at TWICE the speed of my Brother's Hoity-Toity new Intel Beast!

And with Apple's new Thunderbolt to FW800 adapter (under $30), even our old machines can interface with Thunderbolt at about 75% of current real-world speeds for new systems. Only ultra high-end 6G systems really even make use of Thunderbolt fully, and the result is that our old Macs can be VERY COMPARABLE to USB3. This is especially useful to keep in mind if you are keeping an old G4 for a file server!

A real world use was recovering a PC Hard-Drive for a customer. Pulled 100GB of 'User's folder from an NTFS volume in 30-40 minutes (eSata to FW800)!!!!!

OK so now the 'BUT' on this topic...

There are things to keep in mind. The eSATA External 1se2 cards are still available new from FirmTek, but they are eSATA and for External drives (which is less ideal, than internal). The Sonnet cards built on the same chipset, are amazing, but very expensive and hard to find now (will likely take about 6-weeks of watching eBay and Amazon to find one).

But What about the inline IDE to SATA adapter cards many are using (as I did in the beginning)? They are lovely - especially for the $5 they cost. They work just fine (minus the ability to check SMART status of the drive), but only at IDE speeds. Until you find your FirmTek/Sonnet card, however, you'd be very wise to pick one up to start enjoying your new SSD right away. If you are only doing one System Drive, it might even make sense to stop there.

BUT the benefit of the FirmTek-based SATA/eSATA cards is that they have internal data-processing/buffering that accelerates and stabilizes file transfers between drives sharing the same card, well beyond the system bus-normal abilities (a big plus on a G4). So while I'm listening to iTunes, or watching a video and Carbon Copy Cloner comes on to do my backup, I don't even notice a hiccup in playback because both my SSD and Backup drive share the same Sonnet Card. On clocking a 1GB test-file transfer going from one drive to the other, it maintained a ROCK SOLID 52MB per second (416Megabits), and a MORE IMPRESSIVE 27MB per second (216Megabits) simultaneously copying in both directions - with NO additional overhead to the CPU!

Thus the Gold Standard would be to find the Ultra Rare 2-SATA/2-eSATA card by FirmTek (SeriTek/1VE2+2) and have any attached drives share this amazing performance boost.

But getting back to the inline IDE/SATA adapters, they are fantastic for using modern optical drives (little known fact, while you cannot connect two SATA drives with such adapters on an IDE ribbon-cable, since Sata doesn't have a Master/Slave framework, you can use an IDE drive as 'Master' and SATA as 'Slave', thus enabling having a normal Dual-Layer DVD+- Drive in the top and a Sexy New quad-layer, BlueRay/MDisc burner on the bottom of an MDD. And the upper and lower tray ejectors still work!

My current setup with the two cards is fine; transfers run about 45.5MB per second (364 Megabits), but when I am moving big files between an internal drive on one card and an external drive on the other card, or vice versa, and it has to go through the system bus, while still VERY fast, bus-saturation suddenly rears its ugly head and applications like iTunes start cracking and popping as it tries to keep up. The good news is that this really only seems to be noticeable during really big file transfers, rather than read-in data.

The two card solution does have one other issue worth mentioning. For the cards to function, they must have the same firmware (if both SeriTek based), and they DO NOT want to be seated next to each other.

And what of the "Other" cards like SIL3114/SIL3124? I have yet to get them to reliably work and stay working - after trying a lot of them. Maybe this isn't as much of a pill on some PowerMacs, but At least on Digital Audio through MDD, Apple's PCI Slots want it 'Their Way' and often don't work as expected. An advantage of the SeriTek cards is perfect compatibility (often in OS9 too).

So in short if you like your Apps, and just want better performance, it might make sense to switch your system drive to SSD and get some SATA love going to it.

Adam :0)

P.S. A final note on the Sonnet Allegro FW800 card: While ultra-big drives (larger than 2TB) are a big issue even for many newer systems, O.W.C. has a USB2/FW800 Dual Enclosure for under $100!

It supports 20TB drives in Striped, Mirrored and JOBD configurations and with the Sonnet Allegro is absolutely seamless to use.

Just note that OS9 will not recognize more than 2TB, and will try to “Initialize” the drive – so you've been warned! Also for compatible drives, OS9 will only run it at FW400 speeds.

When you see how much 'Real' raid cards still cost for these older systems used on eBay (usually only supporting OSX OR OS9), and see this unit flawlessly do the heavy lifting for a say a mirrored config, it is an amazing value. The normally Green lights will momentarily flash Red and rebuild blocks so fast you don't even notice during sometime sensitive - like video playback.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

New PowerPC Hardware in Sight

We have not one but two items of news on the PowerPC hardware front. Yes, you read that right. It's not just software developers still working in PowerPC. There's also some hardware development happening.

First there is the PowerPC Notebook project I blogged about back here. They've kicked off a fundraising campaign to hire Acube Systems to design a PowerPC motherboard with the following rough specs (quoted from their project blog):

  • CPU: NXP T208x, e6500 64-bit Power Architecture with Altivec technology
  • 4 x e6500 dual-threaded cores, low-latency backside 2MB L2 cache, 16GFLOPS x core
  • RAM: 2 x RAM slots for DDR3L SO-DIMM
  • VIDEO: MXM Radeon HD Video Card ( removable)
  • AUDIO: sound chip, audio in and audio out jacks
  • USB: 3.0 and 2.0 ports
    NVM Express (NVMe), M.2 2280 connector
    2 x SATA
    1 x SDHC card reader
    1 x ethernet RJ-45 connector
  • WiFi connectivity
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • POWER: on-board battery charger and power-management
  • CHASSIS: standard notebook case 15,6”

As of this writing they've raised about 4,500 of their 12,600 goal. All the details of the campaign are at this post, and you can read much more at the GNU/Linux PowerPC notebook blog and the Power Progress Community website.

A small but dedicated community has gathered around this project, and if the past is evidence they're in it for the long haul, so I think this project warrants some serious consideration.

There's also another PowerPC project that might be even closer to fruition, the Talos II. Cameron Kaiser has been following this project on his blog, so read all about it there, but suffice to say they look tantalizingly close to bringing a POWER9 desktop to market.

There is no RISC in not trying.

Oh, God, that ended terribly.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

IPv4 is Apparently Ludditeville - And Also Faster

I got an email from Adam Albrec, creator extraordinaire of PPC Media Center, with a fix to a performance lag he noticed when moving to a new house. PPCMC wasn't nearly as fast in the new digs and after conversing with the youtube-dl developers, they suggested he disable IPv6 in the app. He reports it helped "IMMENSELY." He promised a new version of PPCMC which will do this automatically, but you can disable IPv6 system-wide right now in Tiger by going into Network Preferences, and under the TCP/IP tab, click the "Configure IPv6..." button and switch from "Automatically" to "Off".

In Leopard it appears you have to click on the Advanced button first to get to the TCP/IP tab, as illustrated on this University of North Carolina help page.

I also noticed on G5 Center's Internet page this tidbit:

Pro-Tip: Tobias, key developer of Leopard-Webkit, recommends disabling IPv6 in the Network system preferences for your internet connection/port on your Mac if you experience hangs when loading webpages. I can confirm that this leads to a night and day performance change for my G5. WebKit is smooth as silk now.

So disabling system-wide sounds like a good option to experiment with. Just be aware, things like Bonjour or other system services could break, but re-enabling IPv6 is quick and easy.

Que the network IT people saying, "Don't disable IPv6. Fix your @#%^&$ing network!"

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

BitTorrent for Mac OS 9 (!?!)

The Macintosh Garden forums had a bit of a Christmas surprise this year with news of a new BitTorrent client called MacTorrent. Not just any BitTorrent client, but one that runs on Mac OS 8-9.2.2 (a separate OS X version runs on 10.3-10.6.8). Somebody should tell these developers that the Classic Mac OS (the real Mac OS) already had its funeral and there's no reason to write useful and awesome applications for it. After all, the only reason Mac OS 9 isn't quite useful and awesome enough to run as an everyday system these days is a lack of useful and awesome modern applications. Or something like that.

In my limited testing so far, MacTorrent seems to work. It's bare at this early stage, but the developers are working on adding features such as magnet links in the future. Be part of the testing and give it a download. Download the .sit file labeled "Classic" for the Mac OS 8-9 version, and the .zip file labeled "PPC-OSX" for the OS X version.

If someone wrote an h.264 decoder for Youtube streaming on OS 9, I swear I'd switch back permanently.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

It's Christmas in October: New PPC Media Center, Plus Pianobar, TSclientX, and SetEXIFDATA

As macOS Sierra is busy underwhelming the computer world, you'll be happy to hear there's still software being spun for good operating systems like Tiger and Leopard. I've gotten a few emails pointing to a few new titles, so I wanted to pass the word on.

First, there's an update to PPC Media Center, our favorite GUI frontend for youtube-dl. This brings it to version 6.5 (and requires 6.0 already installed) and includes many Theatre Mode improvements. Here's the download.

Next, Daniel Milisic tells me he has new versions of Pianobar and TSclientX for Tiger and Leopard PowerPC.

His port of Pianobar is actually called PianoPPC and brings back the Pandora terminal client to Tiger and Leopard desktops. I've tested it myself and it works fabulously. Here are a few brief instructions:

After unpacking the download, the application must be run only from the /Applications folder or it will not launch. Also, for automatic login with your Pandora email and password, create the text file ~/.config/pianobar/config and save the following text inside it:

user = your email
password = your password

That step may not be necessary if you already had an older Pianobar and its old config files. Also, if you're not sure how to create files in hidden folders like ~/.config, here's how:

First, check that ~/.config exists in your home folder by opening a terminal window and typing ls -a. If you don't see ".config", type mkdir .config to make the folder. With .config now in place, enter cd .config to change to that directory, then enter ls to list its contents. If you don't see the folder "pianobar", then create it with the mkdir command. Then enter cd pianobar, then ls, and if you don't see "config" listed, create it with nano config. This will open a new text file where you enter the user and password. Finally, use the commands ctrl + o to save and ctrl + x to exit.

Milisic's TSclientX is an RDP client for 10.4 - 10.6 and runs on both PowerPC and Rosetta. Since I didn't have any Windows networks to connect to I didn't test this extensively, but it looks good! This also must be run from your /Applications folder and won't launch if it's in any other location.

Feel free to email Daniel with feedback at the email addresses from the links above.

Finally Adam Albrec points me to SetEXIFDATA, a GUI tool for editing EXIF metadata that was previously Intel-only but was recently compiled to run on PowerPC. And also for photographers, don't forget RawTherapee for Leopard PowerPC.

Friday, September 23, 2016

An Inside Look at Apple's Skunkworks

I feel a little paranoid even posting this, especially after Tim Cook loaded all those Samsung phones with explosive devices like a ninja. A few weeks ago I came into contact (won't say the method or the medium) with an insider at Apple (won't say who) of some distinction (won't say their rank) who first dangled and then delivered pictures of the new 2016 Mac Mini. Ordinarily I'd be like, "Cool," but nothing to risk my neck over. The Mac Mini isn't the most exciting product ever, but this Mac Mini, my source said, is different. It's a revolutionary new Mac Mini, and one that would hint at changes to the entire Mac lineup. This is a paradigm shifter. It shows Apple's changing priorities and where Jony Ive & Co. intend to take the whole Mac product line in years to come. The old Mac Mini is no more. It's time for a new form factor, new internals, and even an assault on the very concept of internals.

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you the 2016 Mac Mini:

2016 Mac Mini

As you can see, it's minnier than ever. "How can they fit a computer in that?" you ask. Before you go speculating there's an A10 fusion processor in there, ask yourself first, "What is the concept of a processor?" Is it internal to the core housing of a computer, or is it modular? Must it always be internal taking up valuable space that can be better filled by the feng shui of Jony Ive's brilliance, or would it be more harmonious as an external add-on — a dedicated CPU (or eCPU)? This is the next revolution Apple intends to give us. Their new computers will have no CPUs, and just as they used the Mac Mini 10 years ago to usher in the age of Intel, they're using the 2016 Mac Mini to usher in the age of Notel. That's right, the CPU is a thing of the past. You may add one if you wish, but Apple will not bow to the vulgarities of manufacturers who pursue function over form. Rather, Apple is dedicated to balancing form and function on equal terms.

As with the CPU, there is no internal GPU. There is no internal hard drive or memory. The new Mac Mini is a waystation for your dreams. To fulfill your vision, add an external CPU and motherboard. Add an external GPU and hard drive. Even many hard drives if you like. Apple has never shied from its role as curator for the essential and worthy in life, and this new design (I blush at such a blunt moniker) creates, yes creates, maximum flexibility to follow your muse.

So advanced is the new, "form," we'll call it, that it doesn't even need a power supply. You simply plug it into one with the USB-C connector. You can attach a plethora of external devices to the included ports comprising of USB-C, USB 3 , and HDMI. If you run out of ports, you may add a hub, or perhaps hubs upon hubs. In this way, Apple devices will be scalable. For the first time, home consumer devices will scale in ways that will make many an enterprise procurer wonder why they even still exist.

You may wonder, "Won't this ruin the aesthetic?" Won't all these devices, hubs, and dongles make every desktop a tangled web of cords and connectors, of external housing units of varying brands and sizes, turning an otherwise elegant workspace (brainspace) into a teeming jungle? Yes, and this is where Apple's second innovation comes in. This is not your traditional device rack. Apple, my source informs me, thought long and hard to come up with the right form factor for a new component receptacle befitting of the new now.

May I humbly introduce the Apple Wastebasket:

Apple Wastebasket

Simple. Futuristic yet harkening. You never would have thought of it yesterday, but now that it's arrived, you cannot imagine anything else.