Thursday, May 04, 2006

The MDD Chronicles: Part I (Hard Drive Fan)

The last revision of the Power Macintosh G4 was called the "Mirrored Drive Doors" G4 (or "MDD", for short), so-called because it's dual optical drive bay doors were given a sleek metallic-like mirror polish. Inside, it had the best of Apple's technology: DDR SDRAM system memory fed to dual PowerPC G4 processors through a "System Controller" chip, a system inherited from Apple's G4-based xServe.

It was in some way a sign of ingenuity and desperation on the part of Apple's hardware engineers; with the Power Mac G5 still coming, Apple had to something, anything to keep its G4-based desktop computers in line with their Intel and AMD-based equivalents. The G4's antiquated bus couldn't handle the bandwidth of the new memory, so they had to find a way to work around it. It's in many ways a symbol Apple with it's back against the wall, trying to find a way to do the best with what they had.

Anyway. My friend Renee told me that I need to blog more about myself, so, I decided to do so, by putting up a series of posts as a chronicle of my quest for a quieter, cooler computer.

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This is my computer; a June 2003 MDD Power Mac G4, the last Mac Apple ever made capable of natively booting Mac OS 9. The main distinction that this computer has from the earlier 2002 models is that, like the later 2002/2003 MDDs which couldn't boot OS 9, they sported several modifications to make you actually believe that yes, that was a Mac under your desk and not an F-16 taking off on full afterburner.

Also, they sported huge heatsinks, and an internal arrangement reflecting how Apple tried to pack as many things as they could within the confines of the G4 case. As you might imagine, With two optical drives, four hard drives, and 2 GB of RAM plus four PCI cards and a graphics card all crammed together with dual 1.25 Ghz G4 processors, things have the potential to get very hot, very quickly.

If it don't fit, don't force it...

My odyssey began with a trip to Canada Computers on College Street. Ah, College Street. A little slice of heaven for a computer geek, where you can wade into rows of computer stores owned and operated by shifty-eyed Asian families who always seemed to know a lot more about you and the stuff you were buying than they were letting on, selling a panoply of obscure and common computer stuff for suspiciously low prices.

Naively, I picked up a $15 Vantec Hard Drive cooler to use with my boot drive, expecting that somehow, some way, it would work with my system...

Errr. Yeah. I bring it home and I realize that the rear drive cage can't accomodate the height of the drive with the hard drive cooler screwed on its bottom. It's best described in pictures, but I don't have a digital camera, so a short description will have to do; the rear drive cage in the MDD has special slots to allow a standard 3.5" IDE drive to slide inside. Since the cooler adds a few more millimeters of height to the drive, the drive won't fit in the cage; the slots aren't big enough. I tried unscrewing it, and attaching it to the cage itself above the drive with plastic wire ties; it worked, but oddly enough my system kept on freezing after waking from sleep.

I then tried attaching it to the top of the drive by attaching it to cage, via more wire ties; this time, it prevented a signal from appearing on my monitor, causing the screen to cease functioning (!?!?). After about a week of fruitless agonizing over finding some way to mount this fan, I gave up and tossed it out of sheer frustration.

Oh well. Better luck next time?


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