Metrotuned Apple G5 PC Hackintosh

Metrotuned Apple G5 PC Hackintosh by Wilson Tai

I’m not an Apple fanboy, but a long-time fan of their Power Mac G5 case, something that in the glory days of 2003, Steve Jobs, legendary CEO of Apple, piped hard about being the “Fastest Computer in the World.” The Power Mac was a first for Apple in many ways including 1) their first aluminum case, moving away from the colored jelly and clear plastics 2) their largest computer at 20 x 8 x 18″ with nine fans inside the drilled aluminum case and carry handles that were integrated by design and 3) the heaviest computer at 39 lbs.

power-mac-g5-steve-jobs-2005

The G5 case looked industrial and smart, future modern, yet classic, not “futuristic” which typically looks teenager pimple popping cheesy a couple years later. Think Honda or Acura versus Mercedes – one is trendy and cheap, the other is classic and luxurious, with designs that translate in a linear fashion.

Up until this project, I refused to own an Apple product, except the iPod Shuffle which remains the minimally cleanest MP3 player on the market.

Ironically, refusing to participate in the consumer culture of Apple products was about to change as my creative company, Metrotuned, won a bid to design a transit app for a large city. Complete with UX research and UI digital display elements, it was an exciting project to take on. My brother and I have been enamored with conceptualizing and designing iterations of the platform, Bridgegood, and Shaun insisted on utilizing Adobe Experience. It is so much more powerful and efficient than Photoshop and Illustrator. No problem I thought as learning on the fly is something I excel at, except Adobe had just released XD and it was exclusively for Apple. PC support was slated for the future “end of 2016” and I couldn’t wait due to the urgency of the project scheduled to wrap up by end of July 2016.

I was forced to acquire a Best Buy/Apple “sponsorship”, electing for a maximum performance Mac Book Pro complete with the Retina high-definition display – at the devastatingly expensive $1,850 out the door. Another option was the brand new minimal gold Mac Book, outrageously expensive at $1,500 out the door. It didn’t have a DVD drive or even have a USB port, needing an $80 accessory just to plug a USB into the notebook. Silly, but still a beautiful form factor. Long story short, I designed and completed the project using Apple hardware and even after the sponsorship was over, I was left longing for the aesthetics and retina display. My primary desktop Windows OS computer was built years prior and still going strong through the 1920x1080p high definition Windows 10 era.

Enter 4K, known as UHD ultra high definition. Because I’m so myopic, investing in visual tools is a required luxury and one example is using a 37″-40″ LED UHD display while others are still on 20″ something monitor’s. My video card was sufficient for processing 1080p video but was lagging on streaming 4K YouTube videos. Further, the problem became a priority when I upgraded my 1080p display to a 4K display. I tried everything from 40″ to 55″, with the latter, a 55″ Sony being ludicrously large, so large that I had to literally move my head to see the left and right sides of the screen.

metrotuned-fifty-five

Above: Sony’s thinnest LED TV, the 55″ 900-series, thinner than your smartphone

I have to admit the marketing deliveries of “the world’s thinnest TV” connected to “the world’s fastest computer” was an appealing concept. It became clear that a computer upgrade might just be the summer project to undertake. Timing couldn’t have been better, as AMD just released the RX480, a $200 graphic card that immediately sold out like some limited edition Nike’s at a Supreme pop-up. And in line with American culture of choosing sides: Ford vs Dodge, Republicans vs Democrats, East vs West, the Nvidia GeForce 1060 vs AMD RX 480 became the great debate for a $200 consumer budget card. The culture was mesmerizing and I instantly became hooked to searching for the latest news of when the 1060 card was going to drop. The morning of the release, I grabbed my smartphone and credit card upon waking up before the 6:00AM PST launch and placed my order for the Founder’s Edition immediately. The bug was so potent that I had even placed a pre-order the night before on Amazon for a Gigabyte 1060 and on launch day, placed an order for the ASUS Strix at Newegg just because it was in stock that morning. I had three cards coming in the mail with the idea that I’d choose only one for the build.


1000, serious

A photo posted by Wilson Tai (@racingmix) on

 

 

 

The build turned into a zen DIY maker’s practice:

  1. Hack a G5 Power Mac and make it more powerful than the best Apple computer for less than their entry level notebook, meaning out the door, total build was to be less than $1,500
  2. Go 4K ultra high definition, VR ready for um, you know, email and spreadsheets, otherwise known as future proofing as best possible
  3. Utilize smart shopping such as Newegg, Ebay, Amazon, Google Shopping, Tiger Direct, Slickdeals, Reddit, to find and source the best prices and availability
  4. Build and complete before the July cut off for digital legacy entitlement upgrades from Windows 7 and 8 to Windows 10

How to Fit Your PC in a Power Mac G5 Case

Sourcing the G5 case was easy, I looked up “Power Mac G5” on Craigslist and ebaY and found a number of them for $25-50. The best option for me was getting it shipped directly to my door. Then literally just tearing out the guts of the computer. It struck me as amazing how much garbage is actually inside. Like how many fans, processors, memory sticks, cables, even glue. Once cleaned out, the case reveals as a quality piece of kit – thick aluminum panels, bead blasted anodization. I had to take a moment and give a shout out to Steve Jobs for insisting on absolute advanced perfection in every detail possible when pencil pushers around him were killing the vibe with mundane, generic, cost-saving, and status quo average. Anything but dirty beige.

In 2003, the big news was Apple’s move away from IBM to Intel processors in their pursuit to make the world’s most powerful computer. Today, I am using the consumer equivalent of the most powerful consumer processor, the Intel i7 4.0ghz Skylake processor. It’s in the choosing of the processor when it helps to compare your build with the next best thing on the market.

To Be Continued…

Garrett Chow on being a Designer

Takeaways:

  • a real artist can make art with any tool, it’s not about the bike, it’s about you
  • artist’s that fear people will steal their art have a lot more learning and doing in front of them
  • genius is as rare as ever even with the plethora of tools available
  • good hearing the hardships to output art, analog/digital/limitations as it was a trip down memory lane when I had to cut a video on a 486 PC with 500MB hard drive and transfer digitally to VHS tape because DVD burners weren’t on the market yet. The gamechanger when one could buy a $600 CD burner even just to make mixtape CDs to share with friends and sell $15 bootleg mixtapes at the special events circa 1997.

FAQ Bulbs: Types, Lumens, Brightness, Color Temperatures explained

hanging tungsten light bulb, energy saving and LED bulb

Left to Right: Incandescent, CFL, LED
Still confused about bulbs? You’re not alone; I learned by making purchasing mistakes. Let me break it down:
 
HALOGEN: best light for quality output but use high energy and the bulb gets extremely hot. So hot that if you touch a bulb with your fingers, the oil will make the light bulb go bad, prematurely. However, even with these cons, the light quality is excellent, very bright and warm. Typically a clear glass cover, crisp appearance. However, they share durability with incandescents and for the price, are the worst value. Sometimes, if you want the best quality light then choose this. For example, I choose halogen in my desk lamp where I create and make money.
INCANDESCENT: classic traditional bulbs – the ones that burned out after 4 months of use – you shake them, and you can hear the loose filament pieces inside. They are 2700k in temperature, that means a warm tint. Mood lighting, a splash of yellow, aka “soft” white. They are still sold and typically in many wattages: 40w, 60w, 75w, 90w, 100w etc. Most of the time, 60w is the gold standard.
 
FLUORESCENT: Then came the spiral CFL’s aka compact fluorescent, they were innovative about the time I was living and working in China 2001-03. All the restaurants and cafe’s used them, the schools, the rooms. First thing I did when I moved into teacher housing, I immediately changed out all my bulbs to regular incandescents or halogens. CFLs are odd in shape, not bright, 5000k+ in temperature, very blue or green tint, and cold feeling. More on bright later. I immediately disliked CFLs because in the winter when it was 32 degrees, the cold light made the freezing cold even less bearable. The CFL’s flicker – that’s how they save energy – you can see the flicker if your eyes tell you something is wrong like squinting or feeling annoyed under CFL’s. A poor choice when used for lighting during studying, reading, or any long term occupation. What’s worse is that CFLs are actually not as durable as they’re marketed, contain toxic mercury thus are not trash disposable, and they take a minute to get to full brightness. That means CFLs are also a poor choice for bathrooms where you turn on/off often. Their saving grace is usage in high bay lighting or in situations like warehouses and showrooms if you leave lights on all day.
 
LED: Breathe. Finally. LEDs were originally low brightness but lowest energy use which made them appealing. I’ve bought them since a single bulb was $20 and had the output of a 25w incandescent. They were a novelty. With time and acceptance, LEDs have innovated and really come to fruition since 2014-15 when bulbs hit $3 each. LEDs do last many years (haven’t tested the 25,000 hours lifespan yet). Great choice for places that you never want to return to like hard to reach spots. With regards to its achilles heel, the brightness finally hit 800 lumens and more, equal to a 60w incandescent bulb. If you can find 100w equivalent, you’re looking at over 1000 lumens.
TEMPERATURE: 2000k yellow to 7000k blue. This chart breaks it down well:
Color Chart for Bulbs
 
BRIGHTNESS: Not color temperature. Brightness is light output measured in lumens. I learned about lumens from shopping experience for bike lights, specifically for riding mountain trails at night. They’re self-contained flashlight torches that mount to the helmet or handlebar and have over 700 lumens. The more lumens, the more the trail is illuminated, the farther you can see, the faster you can ride in the darkness of the night – a real-life must-experience method of learning brightness. 800 lumens is a 60 watt incandescent equivalent – and LEDs use 10w of power or 1/6 the energy of an incandescent. Powerful efficiency. When I buy LEDs, I look for lumens after color temperature. I aim for 2700k-3000k temperature, nothing higher. Any higher, like 5000k or 7000k, you will have that cold/green/blue tint of CFLs.
 
ULTIMATE CHOICE: you want a 2700K-3000K temperature and 800+ lumen LED bulb for around $3-5 each.
 
Now, don’t get me started on mix and matching different color temperatures in the same room. Pet peeve. Hurts. My. Eyes.

The System is Not Meant To Be Solved

Took me over three decades to figure this out. If what I’m saying is too simple or too deep, don’t worry – with enough life experience, you’ll understand one day, well, hopefully: The “system” is not meant to be solved. Ask anyone working or making decisions in these systems: politics, education, food, health care, immigration, law enforcement, et al. The system, created by humans not much smarter than you or me, is flawed so people have the opportunity to fix it. Nothing is easier to prove that something human has imperfections. It’s amazing how many people are devoted to that very task. If the system is solved, why do we need you? – Wilson Tai @racingmix