Sunday, October 17, 2010

How To: Getting Mac OS 9 to work on rare computers made after 2001

EDIT 2 (2 April 2011): I have made a custom image that has most of the below preinstalled here. Though this image is intended to be used with Titanium PowerBooks, it should work with other Macs as well.

EDIT (16 December 2010): I found a much easier way to accomplish the same thing on a computer released within a few weeks of the MDD G4: download "Mac OS 9 MDD DMG" here, use Disk Utility in OS X (/Applications/Utilities/Disk to convert it to a read only, uncompressed image. Move it to OS 9 and use Disk Copy 6.5b13 to mount it. Grab Toast 5 and burn a bootable, non-optimized Mac OS CD (you may need to read the manual if you can't figure it out). Pop in a CD and burn. Alternately, you can copy the System Folder to a hard disk in OS X and bless it (Startup Disk Control Panel/System Preference. Failing this, type the following into Terminal (in /Applications/Utilities/ "sudo bless --folder9 /Path/To/System Folder/" and type your password, editing as necessary. It IS case sensitive. If the folder is on a separate disk, prefix the path with "/Volumes/<name of disk>/". I will leave the rest intact for any eMac users who need it. Bear in mind that the above feels slightly faster on my American hardware than the International version (I guess localized hardware optimizations).

If you have read this blog much, you will know that I am the owner of a 1 GHz Titanium PowerBook, the most powerful portable Mac to ever boot into Mac OS 9. Before sometime last week, I had spent one month less than two years looking for a suitable install CD with no luck. Then I found a preconfgiured system disk built for an eMac. I broke out Toast (included with the image) on a Combo drive equipped iBook and burned it (you MUST use Toast to make a bootable disk). One coaster later, I had a working boot image. There are only a few minor issues that need correcting.

First, this is loaded with a bunch of utilities, making it a viable maintenance disk. Second, this version of OS 9 is an International English version of 9.2.2 with the obscure Mac OS 9 ROM 10.2.1 modified to accomodate Russian users. As for the language, the only difference I can see between International and US English is a PAL video output extension that I recommend that you disable on American Macs (it makes my display flicker a bit due to refresh rates; YMMV). The ROM version means that it is theoretically sufficient to boot any 9.2.2 capable Mac.

To install, boot from the CD and copy the System Folder to the root level of your hard drive. Make sure that your boot disc is less than 200 GB in size or else bad things might happen. Take a look at your new Folder's icon. If it is a plain folder, open the folder and close it again and it should change into a "blessed" System Folder. Open Apple menu->Conrol Panels->Startup Disk and change your startup disk and folder to the newly installed copy. Reboot.

Assuming everything went well, you should have a working copy of Z1-9.2.2 (the Z1 indicates International English). You should now be able to eject the CD and adjust settings to your liking. If you intend to go online, I recommend that you change the settings in the Internet control panel to your setup and/or run the Internet Setup Assistant. If you need a browser or email client, Classilla is about the only choice there is these days. Otherwise, AppleWorks 6, iTunes 2.0.4, Tex-Edit Plus, QuickTime 6 and Acrobat Reader 5.0 are all recommended. For RSS feeds, use Acuity. If you like the dock, install A-Dock. Option drag the control strip when it is closed to move it to the bottom of your screen if you'd like. For that matter, option drag the modules if you want to rearrange them.

I will assume that you have a basic knowledge of how Mac OS 9 works for the remainder of this guide. If you need help with any of the following procedures, drop me a comment and I will do my best to help. As always, make certain that you know what you are doing before you mess with any files in the System Folder.

To remove the custom startup image, grab ResEdit and a fresh copy of Mac OS 9.2.x. Open the System files of both copies in ResEdit. Open PICT resource -16506 on the new fresh version and copy it to the clipboard. Open PICT -16506 on the bootable copy and paste it in. Repeat for resources -16505 and 16504 to get rid of the Russification tagline. Save and reboot. Go ahead and toss the non-bootable copy of OS 9.

Go ahead and play around with the extensions manager and turn off anything you don't need. If you use a Radeon equipped Mac, disable the Nvidia drivers and grab ATI's most recent drivers here. Disable the "ATI Extension" extension. It doesn't do anything useful and adds 15 seconds onto your computer's boot time.

I highly recommend you use MacsBug. If that link ever dies, let me know and I will post my backup copy somewhere. If you ever crash, press Command-Power. This brings up a command line if you weren't already dumped at one. Type 'es' (no quotes) to force the application to crash. If that fails (try it again and wait a few seconds if it doesn't work the first time), type 'rs' to unmount all volumes and force your computer to reboot. This is considered to be a graceful crash because there is nearly zero percent chance of lost data unlike the standard Cmd-ctrl-power. Macsbug also works as a calculator and hexidecimal converter. Type '#19+#26' and it will display "$0000002D #45 #45 '•••-'", the important part being '#45.' If you type in $a2f, you get "$00000A2F #2607 #2607 '•••/' (between #2K and #3K)". If you do a bit of hunting, you can even recover the contents of RAM after a crash. This especially useful if you are using any Microsoft product to type a long email or essay as it will inevitably crash just before you save your document (mostly sarcasm). If you want to exit MacsBug without killing something, either press command-G or press 'g' followed by a return. Oh, and if you press escape while MB is open, it will display what is on your screen at the moment.

If you have obscene amounts of RAM, go into the Memory control panel and set the disk cache to 32736k. This will minimize the usage of your disk and allow it to spin down more often. If you have a PowerBook and set the energy saver to reduced processor speed (you probably won't notice), increase idle time and allow processor cycling, the fans almost never come on. This will allow you to do basic tasks such as reading and typing in total silence.

To change the keyboard layout in Macsbug, open the included Debugger Prefs file or whatever they call it (it is renamed as Debugger Prefs) and your chosen keyboard layout file from the System suitcase in ResEdit. Copy the KCHR resource out of your keyboard layout into the prefs file. Delete KCHR 0 and change the ID of your layout to ID 0. Install. REBOOT BEFORE YOU USE MACSBUG AGAIN. Removing the prefs file reverts Macsbug to the Qwerty layout.

After this, you will have a fully tuned OS 9 install, provided I didn't forget anything. I will see if I can convert this image into a ready-made installer disc. I found out more or less how to do so. If I do it, I will post a link. I hope this helps somebody. I just have a feeling that there is one other person somewhere on the internet in nearly the same situation as I was.

Posted from a Titanium PowerBook G4: 1 GHz PowerPC G4, 1 GB of RAM, 250 GB HDD, Classilla 9.2.1, Mac OS 9.2.2. Alternate bootable partitions: Mac OS 10.5.8, Mac OS 10.4.11, Ubuntu 10.04. (I have yet to use more than 300 MB of RAM without Final Cut or Photoshop helping out)

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