Monday, April 17, 2017

My iBook and Mac OS 9

So I'm back and working on some new retro projects.  I am blaming my long silence on kids, but things have changed such that I now should have a quite a bit more free time.  By "kids," I mean my god-children, specifically the twins Harmony and Trinity.  Some time ago they and their mother had moved out to live with her fiance (a very nice guy who is also great with the girls), but they were still attending the same school so as a consequence spent every other night with me.  So while they went to bed by 8, by that time I was generally too tired to do much of anything.  But now they're attending a school close to their new home, which is about 45 minutes away in clear traffic, so they come over here a lot less.

As much as I miss having the kids around, it does have the nice benefit that I have a great deal more free time, especially during the week.  So this weekend (the kids were at their father's for Easter) I tackled a few new projects.  On Friday I received a Macintosh Performa 430 I had purchased off of eBay; on Saturday I started putting together my RC2014 kit; and on Saturday I installed Mac OS 9 on an iBook that I had gotten several weeks ago but hadn't done anything with.  I'll talk about the first two projects in later posts, but I'll talk about the iBook now since it's the simplest.

I got the iBook off of eBay (the source of all vintage computers, at least for me) several weeks ago with the express purpose of using Mac OS 9 on it.  Why did I get it?  Well, I recently discovered the joys of cheap semi-old computers on eBay.  By "semi-old" I mean computers between 10-20 years old, not old enough to be considered truly "vintage" but not new either.  I bought a Dell Latitude D610, a 12-year old computer that I promptly upgraded to 2 GB of ram and the latest version of Lubuntu, a lighter Ubuntu distribution.  I also picked up a 12" G4 iBook with Max OS X 10.4 installed.  Both I got for under $50 including shipping.  The Dell I had specific plans to use for Node.js development, but I didn't really having any plans for the G4.  It was an impulse buy, pure and simple.  I didn't even have any great excitement over using an old version of Mac OS X.  I'm primarily a Mac OS X user, and 10.4 was the first version I used when I switched from the PC.  But I didn't have any great desire to jump back in time to 10.4.

Then a thought occurred to me: What about Mac Classic OS?  Prior to Mac OS X, I always eschewed Macs in favor of Windows.  There were many things I didn't like about the old Mac operating system.  I didn't know much about them honestly, but what I did know I didn't like.  I didn't like a single button mouse.  I didn't like the lack of true preemptive multitasking.  I didn't like the lack of a command-line.  Mac OS X solved all of these for me, with I guess the exception of the single-button mouse.  But then I learned about the Ctrl key, and Mac OS X (and maybe classic Mac OS did as well) supported multi-button mice just fine, so even that was resolved.

So anyway I decided to install Mac OS 9, since it is the last version of the classic operating system.  But then I discovered that my iBook didn't support OS 9, it could only run OS X.  Also the CD-ROM drive didn't work, so installing anything would be much more challenging.

So back to eBay where I found a 12" G3 iBook, and I confirmed beforehand that it did support Mac OS 9.  $50 and several days later, I had it in my hand.  I booted up the Mac OS X 10.4 that came on while I burned a Mac OS 9.2.1 iso image I found online.  But when I booted from the image and tried to install, it said it couldn't install on this computer.  Then I tried just Mac OS 9.0.4.  Same outcome.  Then System 8.6.  Same thing.  Finally after much searching I found out that Macs (at least classic Macs) are very tied to their particular version of the operating system.  On the PC side, you can install later version and even earlier versions of an operating system on any PC.  You can even boot into DOS on a modern computer!  But with the Mac, it has to be the version that the model shipped with or later.  My iBook shipped with 9.2.2 so it had to be that version and nothing earlier.  So I downloaded a 9.2.2 iso, but it actually had an install for 9.2.1 and an upgrade for to 9.2.2, not a direct install of 9.2.2.

I did some searching and found out about the Mac OS 9.2.2 Universal Install cd.  I downloaded this, followed the instructions, and they worked perfectly!  The final thing I did, after the OS was completed, was to upgrade the machine from 256 MB ram to 640 MB, which cost about $15 on eBay for the ram module.

But alas all was still not well in my Mac OS paradise.  My iBook has an AirPort card, but I don't seem able to connect to my WiFi.  I don't think it's the card though.  In the AirPort setup, it sees my network and says it connects, but then fails to find the DHCP server, saying that it can't check the status of the network.  My theory is that it doesn't support WPA2 security protocol, which wouldn't be surprising since it is quite old.  However, when I plug a network cable in, it sees the network just fine and I can get out to the internet.  Rockin' the Internet with IE 5.5! 😁

Still, not all is happiness and cupcakes.  I tried to connect the iBook to my iMac, running the latest Sierra, but the AFP protocols aren't compatible.  I tried a few things on the net, but nothing worked.  Finally I reverted to non-secure FTP.  I have a non-secure FTP server setup on my iMac to serve up files for my DOS machines (I can't use Sierra's built-in FTP server because it is secure, so DOS client can't connect to it), so I just fired it up, made a Macintosh directory, and the iBook could pull down files without a problem using Internet Explorer.  I even downloaded Fetch, a popular FTP client from back in the day.

But one small ray of sunshine in this otherwise cloudy day network incompatibility: My G4 iBook with Mac OS X 10.4 can connect to both the Mac OS 9 iBook and my iMac!  So I can use FTP to download from my iMac to the iBook, and on the rare circumstances that I need to go the other way, I can use the G4 iBook as an intermediary.  Why not just upload via ftp, you ask?  Because I can't figure out how to configure the ftp server I'm using to allow it.  I tried multiple times while playing around with my DOS machines, and finally just gave up.

So now I have a G3 laptop running Mac OS 9.  I installed Codewarrior Pro 7.1, so I hope to do some development for it.  But as I have other projects brewing at the same time, I don't know when I'll get back to this machine.

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