In my last blog, I mentioned I had ordered a PowerMac G5. Finally. It’s not the newest; in fact, so I could run Jaguar if needed, it’s a Rev. A machine. Refurbished, so hopefully most of the Rev A bugs will be mitigated. The Rev A fit me better. Not only would it run Jaguar but it had an ATI video card, which I wanted more than the Nvidia Geforce card in current machines.
Of course, as soon as I bought the thing, I started looking at how I was going to transfer the video projects sitting on my dual 1.25 GHz G4 PowerMac over to the dual G5. Using Carbon Copy Cloner, cloning my current PowerMac’s Panther-carrying boot drive onto the G5 doesn't appear to be much of a problem. (Though my plan is to boot the machine using its native Jaguar hard disk, register the G5 with Apple, and check it out before doing that.) Originally, I had thought I might buy a 300GB Serial ATA (SATA) hard disk, mount it in the G5's second bay (to replace ths second of four hard disks I'm currently using), and hook the other two in via a Firewire 800/400 case that would not only mount the two hard drives but later put them together in a RAID 0 setup. But when I looked at the money I would have to spend, I started wondering if there was some other way I could move and use the hard disks. I also had two 120GB ATA 100 hard disks sitting in my closet. Was there some way I could use them all?
One of the PowerMac G5’s design shortcomings is its lack of room for extra internal hard disks. Two companies offer “third-party” solutions to this problem. Transintl has its “Swift Data 200” and Wiebe TECH has its “G5 Jam”. I decided to purchase the “Swift Data 200” from Transintl because of its lower cost. It starts at $259, though that price is deceptive because it doesn’t account for everything you need if you’re starting from scratch. It assumes you’ve got a controller for the extra 3 hard disks you can mount, a fact I realized after I had placed my order. Transintl’s website is not customer friendly; once you place an order, there is no way to electronically cancel it; you must call them on the phone. If it’s late at night when you realize you’ve made a mistake, then you just screwed the pooch. The real “in the door” cost is $339, and that price includes a Firmtek PCI controller card. Rather than spending the next day correcting the order, I bought off on a little extra expense and ordered the Firmtek card from somewhere else.
Since the Swift Data add-on would let me mount 3 hard disks in it, I now had enough room to mount all the hard disks that are currently in my PowerMac G4. Of course, the big problem is that the hard disks in the G4 use an ATA interface and the G5 uses SATA. But I realized I could solve that problem by using ATA to SATA converters, which I ordered from Other World Computing for $25 each. I could have gotten them cheaper elsewhere, but these were guaranteed to be Mac compatible.
My plan now is to clone the G4 PowerMac’s boot drive onto the G5’s and use the Serial to ATA converters to move the ATA hard disks over to the G5. If this works, my G5 will sport 900GB of hard disk space, including the boot drive. There are a lot of questions, though, about how well such a kludged setup will work. Introducing the Serial to ATA converters adds five extra components that can cause incompatibilies or produce errors. I’ll clone the boot dive, check the machine out, and then add one of the converted ATA drives to the G5’s internal bay. If it won’t fit, I’ll buy a 160GB SATA drive for that bay and then try using the others in the Swift Data bay. The worse case scenario would be that I’d have to replace all the Ultra ATA drives with Serial ATA drives, which would cost a pretty penny but at least be a “one time” expense.
The other two 120GB hard dives that have been sitting around are going into my dual 1.25 G4 PowerMac. I’ll clone a Jaguar drive I’m already running onto one of them ans use it as the boot drive and probably use the second 120GB drive as a data backup drive. I may use the machine as a back-up video editor, though I would need to get a copy of Final Cut Express to do that. But my major and overriding use of this machine will be to use it exclusively for my creative writing. In time, I may decide that it’s overkill and that I’m not using my G5 PowerMac enough to make a separate machine for writing necessary. In that case, I’ll boot it from an external Firewire hard disk loaded with Jaguar and use it exclusively for writing. For now, I’m going to keep the two PowerMacs largely separate. “Largely” means I’m going to use an IOGEAR ADC KVM switch to run them both with the same 20 inch Apple Cinema Display, the same Apple keyboard, and the same Logitech MX510 mouse.
Obviously, how all this works and evolves will be the subject of this blog, as well as the other things I learn while running this G5. This will be the last desktop purchase on the Mac side of the house I will be making for the next few years and may be the last PowerMac upgrade I do for many, depending upon how much video work I get into. Honestly, I’d like to use my purchasing power for another video camera and some good lights rather than any more computers, though I will upgrade one notebook this year also.
(Of course, if I win the lotto, all bets are off!) I need to move more into the creative work these machines were bought to support, instead of them being an end unto themselves.