Macintosh API Comes To Linux, Android

Unlike DOS, early versions of Windows, and most *nixes, the classic Mac operating system is weird. Contained in the ROM are subroutines to draw windows, pop up dialog boxes, and other various tasks purely related to the UI. On other systems, this would be separate from the BIOS, but in your Mac from the 80s, everything is baked into the ROM and hidden deep in the operating system. This has caused many problems for emulation; you can’t emulate an old Mac without a ROM or without a real installation of the operating system. Where BeOS — a cool but entirely forgettable operating system — has an Open Source reimplementation of the programming API, there’s nothing like that for a computer that at one point had a ten percent market share. This is weird, and we’ve all been waiting for someone to come up with an Open Source reimplementation of the Macintosh Toolbox, the API that’s responsible for everything from LoadRunner to Shufflepuck.

Now that day has finally come. The Advanced Mac Substitute is an API-level reimplementation of the classic Mac OS. You can now run classic Mac apps on Linux and Android without using an Apple ROM or Apple system software.

The Advanced Mac Substitute (AMS) is a project from [Josh Juran] to run old (pre-OS 7) Mac software without an Apple ROM. For the last twenty years, Macintosh emulators have required Apple ROMs and/or installation media because the API calls will redirect to the ROM. Unlike other emulation projects, the AMS does not attempt to emulate the hardware, except for the 68k processor. It simply launches directly into an application with the frontend being a generic bitmap terminal. This means there is no OS to speak of, but that also means we finally get flatpak for the classic Mac OS.

AMS is still in the very early phases of development; keyboards don’t work on some systems, and it doesn’t work on the latest versions of MacOS at all. Additionally, there’s no support for System 7 applications. That said, this is an excellent advance in the state of Macintosh emulation. If you’d like an example of how cool this could be, go play some Oregon Trail and tell me how awesome playing Shufflepuck or Glider on a webpage would be.

The Mac That Helped Build the Xbox Rides Again

The original Xbox, released in 2001 by Microsoft, was notable for being built out of largely off-the-shelf PC components. With a custom Pentium III CPU and IDE peripherals, the console was much closer to a contemporary desktop computer than any of the dedicated game consoles which had come before it. Which of course makes perfect sense if you think about it. Microsoft would want to use technology they were intimately acquainted with on their first foray into gaming market, and if there’s anything Microsoft knows better than forced system updates, it’s x86 computers.

But for their follow-up system, the Xbox 360, Microsoft decided to go with a PowerPC processor they co-developed with IBM. Naturally this meant they needed PowerPC development systems to give to developers, which is how Microsoft ended up briefly distributing PowerMac G5’s. [Pierre Dandumont] came into possession of one of these oddball Microsoft-branded Macs, though unfortunately the hard drive had been wiped. But with the help of a leaked drive image and some hardware sleuthing, he’s now got the machine up and running just like it was when Microsoft was sending them to developers between 2003 and 2005.

Since you’re reading this on Hackaday, you might have guessed there was a little more to the story then just downloading an ISO and writing it to the hard drive of a PowerMac G5. There’s apparently some debate in the community about whether or not it’s some form of rudimentary DRM on Microsoft’s part, but in any event, the development kit operating system will only run on a G5 with very specific hardware. So the challenge is not only figuring out what hardware the software is looking for, but finding it and getting it installed over a decade after its prime.

Most of the required hardware, like the Intel 741462-010 network card or 160 GB Seagate ST3160023AS hard drive were easy enough to track down on eBay. But the tricky one was finding a Mac version of the ATi Radeon X800 XT. [Pierre] ended up getting a much more common ATi FireGL X3 and flashing it with the Mac X800 firmware. This is a little easier said than done as depending on which manufacturer made the memory on your specific video card you have to fiddle with the clock speeds to get a usable image, but in the end he found the winning combination and the development kit OS booted up with his hacked graphics card.

So what does all this get you in 2019? [Pierre] admits nothing terribly useful, but it’s still pretty cool. The system lets you run Xbox and Xbox 360 binaries, and even features the old Xbox 360 “blade” style dashboard. He says that he’s only had limited success getting retail games to actually run on the thing, but if your goal was running Xbox 360 games in 2019 there’s certainly better ways to do that anyway. Like, buying an Xbox 360.

We’ve previously talked about the Xbox 360’s rather unusual processor, but around these parts we more often see projects which involve tearing Microsoft’s sophomore console apart than digging into how it actually worked.

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Unobtanium Bezels Finally Modeled For 3D Printing

In 1991, Apple released the Quadra line of computers, named after their utilization of the new Motorola 68040 CPU. The Quadra line initially consisted of two models, the Quadra 700 and the Quadra 900. These two models, and the Quadra 950, released as a slight upgrade to the 900, were the peak of performance. You could conceivably load these machines up with 256 Megabytes of RAM, in an era where hard drives hovered around 80 Megabytes. This much RAM would cost as much as a house. These were powerhouses, the first ProTools workstations, and they ran Jurassic Park. If you wanted peak performance in the early 90s, you got a Quadra.

The Quadra 900 and 950 were tower computers, and there were options for floppy, Zip drives, Bernoulli drives, and a CD-ROM drive. They were introduced a little before the ‘multimedia’ hubub, and right now, the plastic bezel for the CD-ROM option is an absurdly expensive piece of plastic. People have paid $150 for an original CD-ROM bezel. Seems like the perfect application of 3D printing, doesn’t it? That’s exactly what [360alaska] over on the 68k Macintosh Liberation Army forms did. The unobtanium bezel can now be sent off to Shapeways.

This project is a continuation of a thread where various forum members shared their .STLs for random bits of Apple plastic, ranging from rubber feet for PowerBooks to the clip-on ‘programmer’s switch’ for the Macintosh SE. The crowning achievement of this community endeavour is the Quadra 950 CD-ROM bezel. There are a few varieties, ranging from one that fits a standard 5 1/4″ drive, to a nearly exact replica of the official Apple offering for their official drive. All the files are there for the downloadin’.

Printing these bezels will be a bit of a challenge for a filament-based printer, but resin printers are getting cheap and Shapeways is always there for you. Painting to match the brominated patina of old plastic is also a challenge, but the forum members have had some success with off-the-shelf spray paints.

Giving An Old Mac Spotify

The Macintosh SE/30 is the greatest computer ever made, and I’m not saying that just because I’m sitting on a cache of them, slowly selling them to computer collectors around the world. No, the SE/30 is so great because of how powerful it is, and how much it can be expanded. A case in point: here’s an SE/30 that’s a Spotify player. Oh, it does it over WiFi, too.

You might be asking yourself how a computer from 1989 (it’s late enough in the year that we can safely say this computer is thirty years old) can possibly play music over the Internet. While the SE/30 supported an astonishing 128 Megabytes of RAM, it’s still just a bit too slow to play MP3s or any modern audio codec. The 68030 CPU just wasn’t fast enough to play audio, to say nothing of streaming it over a network connection. The trick is that this SE/30 is simply a remote for Spotify Connect. You could theoretically get the Mac to speak, “Alexa, play Despacito” and get the same functionality, but that’s not fun, is it? You need to do it wirelessly.

This is a continuation of one of [ants] earlier hacks that basically put a WiFi to Ethernet bridge inside an SE/30. Tie that together with a Finder extension and you have System 7, with WiFi. That’s a connection to the Internet, but [ants] actual wrote an app to connect to a Spotify playlist, browse tracks, and display album art in beautiful 1-bit color. Writing the app involved dealing with OAuth, which means the MacPlayer isn’t entirely standalone; some of it must be done on a ‘modern’ device. This, along with porting a conversion utility that translates UTF-8 text encoding into something the Mac can understand ties everything together.

With all those pieces, the SE/30 becomes a handsome, functional piece of art. Apple is never going to release a computer like this again, and you’re not going to find a touchbar MacBook being used like this in thirty years time.

Apple’s Best Computer Gets WiFi

The greatest computer Apple will ever make isn’t the Apple II, it isn’t the Bondi Blue iMac, it isn’t the trash can, and it certainly isn’t whatever overheating mess they’re pushing out now. The best computer Apple will ever make is the SE/30, at its time a server in a tiny portable shell, and capable of supporting 128 Megabytes of RAM thirty years ago.

Over the years, people have extended and expanded the SE/30 to absolutely ludicrous degrees, but now we have a simple way of adding WiFi to this classic computer. Over on the 68kmla forums, [ants] discovered a tiny cheap card that could easily serve as an Ethernet to WiFi bridge. After attaching this card to a Danaport Ethernet card and bending some aluminum for a bracket, they had a WiFi antenna sticking out of the back of a 30-year-old computer.

But adding a WiFi card to an old computer is nothing new — this could have been done with a Pi, or if you’re a hacker, a TP-Link router flashed with OpenWRT. To really do this right, you’ll need integration with the operating system, and that’s where this build goes off the rails. [ants] wrote a WiFi extension for System 7 (with the relevant GitHub)

The problem with the Vonets WiFi card is that configuration has to be done through a browser. Since there are no modern browsers for classic macs, this meant either pulling out a PowerBook or doing the configuration through your daily driver desktop PC. The WiFi extension gets around that by giving a classic mac the ability to configure the Vonets card almost automatically. This extension also looks like how you would configure the WiFi on a modern mac, complete with the WiFi icon in the toolbar. It’s beautiful, and one of the rare examples of modern 68k mac programming.

As for what you can do by adding WiFi to a 30-year-old computer with a 16MHz processor, the answer is a resounding, ‘not much’. Your choice of browsers is limited (iCab seems to be the best), but you can load the Google homepage slowly. HTTPS isn’t going to work, and the Internet right now is full of megabytes of Javascript cruft. If you find a nice, lightweight web page — such as the Hackaday Retro Edition, for example — you’re looking at a capable web browsing machine. Of course, the real use case for giving the SE/30 WiFi is file transfer around the home network, but still: it’s WiFi for the best computer Apple ever made.

Desperately Trying to Find a Use for the ChugPlug

[AkBKukU] writes in to tell us of his experiments with the rather vile-sounding “ChugPlug”, an odd portable AC power bank designed for the express purpose of powering MacBook chargers. It would seem more efficient to simply build a DC power bank with a MagSafe connector to cut out the charger all together, but presumably there is some market for this particular niche device. Especially at the $15 they are currently selling for on Amazon.

Unfortunately, the ChugPlug that [AkBKukU] bought doesn’t seem to work. After some experimenting he found that it appears to only be outputting 80 VAC, obviously too low for many devices to function. But he reasoned that some things, like switch mode power supplies or restive loads, might still work. He just needed to come up with a way to plug them into the ChugPlug.

If his testing setup gives you a case of sweaty palms, you aren’t alone. He breaks open a dead MacBook charger to recover the female AC connector, and then solders that directly to an AC grounding adapter. The resulting pigtail lets [AkBKukU] plug in various AC loads while allowing him to probe the wires with his multimeter and oscilloscope.

Once he’s satisfied his hack works conceptually, that is, he’s able to plug arbitrary AC loads into this purpose-built battery pack, he follows up with a less dangerous looking adapter. Making use of the shell of the dead MacBook charger and what some might describe as a salacious amount of hot glue, he produces a compact and relatively safe looking device that will let him use his handicapped ChugPlug as a general purpose source of AC power.

It’s not the most elaborate portable power supply we’ve ever seen, and certainly wouldn’t be our first choice in an emergency, but at least [AkBKukU] managed to wring some use out of the thing in the end.

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