From the G5 Quad to the Mac Pro

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
December 22nd, 2006 • 10:12 am

This is the very last chapter in the long saga of my defective G5 Quad.

After many weeks of troubleshooting, ineffective repairs, and negotiations with Apple Canada, I finally got send a brand new Mac Pro to replace my defective G5 Quad on December 6. The decision to replace the machine was made by Apple on November 20, but somehow they managed to waste another 10 days because the dead G5 Quad was with the authorized repair shop in Halifax and not with me, and so they had arrange for the repair shop to ship the dead machine back to them, and they couldn’t place the order for the new machine until the old defective machine was “in transit” back to them, and the repair shop, rather unimpressively, sat on the machine for a week because they did not have a box to send it in, because of course the box is still here in my own attic. (I didn’t bring the machine to the repair shop in its original box.) I finally had to get angry with the repair shop and they somehow found a box and sent the dead machine back. Hence the December 6 date for the shipment of the new Mac Pro.

I got the new Mac Pro about a week later (which means that, technically, after living with a freezing and crashing G5 Quad for a couple of months, I was without a machine for a total of nearly two months) and my first reflex was to check what they had actually sent me. See, the AppleCare girl had assured me that they had all the information that they needed and that they would send me a replacement machine matching the characteristics of the specific G5 Quad machine that I had ordered the year before.

It didn’t take long to identify the first problem with the new Mac Pro. Somehow, even though it was, as expected, a French-Canadian model and the package included the French system discs and manuals, the keyboard included with the machine was… a U.S. keyboard.

Now, of course, this package with the Mac Pro, keyboard, and mouse was a replacement for a dead G5 Quad that was shipped back to them without its keyboard and mouse—I never bothered to bring those back to the repair shop with the machine, since the repair shop specifically told me that I didn’t need to. So I actually still had the keyboard and mouse that came with G5 Quad, and the new mouse and keyboard were just extra freebies for me. And of course regular Betalogue readers know that there is a slight incompatibility between this particular keyboard model and my own typing anyway. But still… It was a bit irritating and disappointing to see that, after all this, they still had managed to screw up the replacement somehow, and in such an obvious way too.

I was soon back on the phone with the AppleCare representative that was taking care of me. (At that stage, she had been kind enough to give me her direct phone number, so I didn’t have to go through the usual routine to actually reach the customer service department.) She was very apologetic and couldn’t really explain how this had happened, except that the replacement machine was evidently a built-to-order machine, and the whole package had been customized. She said she would get the correct keyboard sent to me—and didn’t even ask me to send the U.S. keyboard back. I got the correct keyboard by courier within a week, so that issue was settled very smoothly. (And I now have two extra keyboards, one French-Canadian and one U.S.)

Back to the replacement Mac Pro now… To my surprise, the rest of the package was actually much better than the keyboard. The Mighty Mouse was there. The actual Mac Pro model was the model with the four 2.66 GHz cores, which was of course more than an acceptable substitute for the four cores of the G5 Quad. The package also included an external Apple USB modem, because I had actually ordered one along with my customized G5 Quad back in November 2005, so I have an extra one of those as well now.

And the Mac Pro was actually a built-to-order model that included the wireless AirPort/Bluetooth connectivity that is not included in the default Mac Pro configuration—again, matching my customized G5 Quad bought back in 2005, which also included the AirPort/Bluetooth connectivity. When I got the other Mac Pro that my employer bought for me a couple of months ago, I didn’t request a model with AirPort/Bluetooth, partly because I did not want to buy a customized machine in case I had to return it (as I had discovered with the disaster of my MacBook purchase back in June 2006, customized machines cannot be returned for a refund, even with a 10% restocking fee), and partly because I didn’t feel that I really needed the AirPort connection. (I couldn’t care less about Bluetooth. I have no problems with having cables on my mouse and keyboard, and I don’t fancy having to replace batteries regularly. I also feel that we still have a long way to go before wireless technologies work as smoothly and as seamlessly as they should.)

In actual fact, I was surprised to discover, when I bought an AirPort Extreme Base Station to replace my old Graphite AirPort Base Station back in June 2006 (as part of the MacBook disaster saga), that, contrary to the Graphite base station, the AirPort Extreme base station can actually be configured with the AirPort Admin Utility even when it is only connected to the computer via Ethernet. In other words, I configure my AirPort Extreme Base Station with AirPort Admin Utility even with my Mac Pro that doesn’t have AirPort.

I cannot use Internet Connect to connect/disconnect the internal modem in the AirPort Extreme Base Station. (I don’t see why Internet Connect cannot “see” the AirPort Extreme Base Station’s internal modem when connected to it via Ethernet, especially since AirPort Admin Utility can see the base station via Ethernet, but that’s the way it is.) But it is a minor problem as long as I use the feature in the base station that causes it to automatically connect via dial-up as soon as it detects a dial tone. This is still an issue for me even now that I have high speed Internet via satellite, because there are times where the weather is so bad that the satellite connection doesn’t work at all and then you have to fall back on dial-up if you cannot wait until the weather improves. But since I can use the AirPort Admin Utility to change the AirPort Extreme Base Station’s configuration from the Mac Pro without AirPort, all I have to do when this happens is to change the “Internet” settings for the AirPort Extreme Base Station and restart it, and then it automatically connects via dial-up. When I want to disconnect the dial-up connection (I no longer have a separate phone line just for the dial-up connection), I just use the AirPort Admin Utility to change the AirPort Extreme Base Station’s configuration back to Internet via satellite, and keep monitoring the connection to see if it’s coming back.

So basically the bottom-line here is that I don’t really need AirPort in my Mac Pro anymore. But Apple included it in my replacement machine, since it was replacing a machine that did have it. So now I have two Mac Pros, one with AirPort and one without AirPort.

Sadly, the one part of the equation that AppleCare couldn’t do much about is the RAM. Since Apple’s RAM is typically much more expensive, I had not bought extra RAM for the G5 Quad from Apple. I had bought 4 GB of extra RAM from a third-party and installed it myself. This meant, of course, that the replacement Mac Pro that they sent me wouldn’t come with any extra RAM, and since the RAM required by the Mac Pro is completely different from the RAM required by the G5 Quad, I am stuck with 4 GB of RAM that I could no longer use.

I had mentioned this in passing to the AppleCare representative that was taking care of me, and she had said something like, “We’ll see what we can do once you get your replacement machine.” As anticipated, there were no nice surprises in the Mac Pro package itself, and the machine only had the default 1 GB of RAM. When I got back on the phone with the AppleCare representative regarding the keyboard mishap, I mentioned this again, and she said that she had talked to her supervisors about it and that they had agreed to send me an extra 1 GB of RAM for my troubles. It’s not quite the same as 4 GB of RAM, but I guess 2 GB of RAM should be OK for a second machine for now.

I haven’t received the extra 1 GB of RAM yet, but I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the AppleCare representative. She’s been very careful to address all my concerns on a timely basis so far, probably because their department is well aware that I have endured more than my share of troubles with my G5 Quad saga since last June, and they also know that I play an important advisory role in decisions made regarding the purchase of new Apple hardware and software by my employer.

This doesn’t change anything to the fact that I have 4 GB of G5 Quad RAM that I can do nothing with. So I am probably going to try to sell it on eBay in the near future—unless a Betalogue reader is interested, in case they can get in touch with me using the “Contact the Author” link on the right-hand side.

When Apple told me that they would replace my G5 Quad with a Mac Pro, I had mixed feelings about it. But the truth is that the Mac Pro is indeed a significantly better machine. The lack of native support for PowerPC stuff (including Classic) is a limitation that I would have preferred to be faced with later on in the future, but Rosetta does work quite well, and the Mac Pro has several substantial advantages that make up for it. One of them is noise level. The Mac Pro is significantly quieter than the G5 Quad, to the point that I have no hesitation about having two Mac Pro computers running at the same time in my office.

Another good aspect is that, of course, now that I have two Mac Pro, I can have one running Windows occasionally (thanks to Boot Camp) and the other one running Mac OS X at the same time. I have Parallels on the one running Mac OS X full-time, but there are still circumstances when running Windows via Boot Camp is preferable (i.e. to play PC games), and it will be convenient not to have to shut down the Mac OS X environment in order to run Windows.

I was curious to see if I could just transfer the hard drive with Windows that I had in my first Mac Pro to the other Mac Pro. (Because I normally use several partitions on my hard drives, I am not using Boot Camp’s partitioning features. I have Windows on a separate hard drive.) So I just turned off my other Mac Pro, took the hard drive with its chassis out, took one of the empty chassis from the new Mac Pro, and swapped them. I then tried to boot in Windows on the new Mac Pro.

The only problem I encountered was, for some strange reason, with USB devices. Everything else worked fine from the get-go, but initially Windows would not recognize my mouse and keyboard at all. I found that plugging them in the USB port on the front of the Mac Pro worked, and then I proceeded to reinstall the latest Windows drivers from the latest version of Boot Camp. After that, the USB devices were working fine regardless of the USB plugged used to connect them to the machine.

I also encountered a problem with AirPort. Windows corrected detected that I had a wireless card installed in this Mac Pro (contrary to the other Mac Pro where the Windows hard drive was initially), and it was able to see my local wireless network, but when I tried to connect to it, Windows complained about my WEP password being wrong. It’s something about Windows only support 40-bit encryption and another xx-bit encryption, but not 128-bit encryption, I think—which is the form of encryption that I used for my local wireless network. I figured I would try to change this from WEP to WPA2 later to see if it worked better with Windows. But for now I have connected the new Mac Pro to my LAN via Ethernet, and that works just fine.

Other than that, the Windows hard drive works in the new Mac Pro without any problems—which is a relief because it means that I don’t have to reinstall everything all over again.

Finally, there is the AppleCare warranty coverage issue. When I bought the G5 Quad back in November 2005, I bought a new 30″ display at the same time, and I bought the AppleCare extended warranty that covered both for three years. With this whole replacement business, I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t lose any of the coverage that I had paid for. So I checked with AppleCare, and indeed that’s what they will do: They will maintain my existing AppleCare coverage and simply replace the G5 Quad with the Mac Pro in the profile, which means that my new Mac Pro will be covered until the end of the three-year warranty period that started in November 2005. I guess it’s a fair deal.

So there we are. I now have two Mac Pros in my office: one with 5 GB of RAM, three internal hard drives (all three Mac), and no AirPort, which serves as my main Mac OS X work machine, and one with 1 GB of RAM (soon 2 GB), two internal hard drives (one Mac and one PC), and AirPort, which will serve as a Mac test machine, as a Mac server, and occasionally as a Windows PC gaming machine. (I am quite impressed with Half-Life 2 at the moment.)

It really is not a bad home office set-up!

This whole saga with the defective G5 Quad was quite an ordeal, and it is a bit frustrating that I will never know exactly what was wrong with the G5 Quad, but at some point Apple had to do the right thing and replace the machine, and they did it, albeit after a long period that was only really made tolerable for me by the fact that, in the interval, I managed to convince my employer to buy me a new Mac Pro to replace my old G4 MDD.

I no longer have a PowerPC desktop, but I don’t really anticipate this to be a big issue. I am certainly glad that the noise situation has improved so much in the past few years. Now I just hope that, when the time comes to replace my wife’s aging PowerBook G4, there won’t be a repeat of the MacBook mooing disaster. Then I will finally begin to feel more comfortable about Apple hardware again!

2 Responses to “From the G5 Quad to the Mac Pro”

  1. npc says:

    The bug you report with the keyboard is not a problem with your typing. I had the same problem (repeated keystrokes) on a keyboard shipped with an apple machine. I was told it was a known problem – a replacement keyboard entirely fixed the problem.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    If you read my reports carefully, you’ll see that I have now used several different keyboards, and that they all exhibit the same problem with my typing.

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