To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade?
Ted’s Late, Great PowerMac G5—Long Live!
January 2, 2012

My main computer, an Apple Macintosh dual G5 tower model, is almost 7 years old. Yes, I know the experts say you should upgrade every 3 years. Why not buy a shiny new computer? Because there are applications I depend on which won’t run on Intel Macs. For example:

National Geographic, in their infinite wisdom, abandoned the capability of starting a new GPS track when a wild point is recorded – which does happen, even to me. So your track on the map in the latest TOPO software comes out with a big spike off into never-never land and back. I’ve contacted National Geographic about this, to no avail. They also abandoned the ability to select a portion of a map to save on disk as a JPEG image. It’s all or nothing with the latest version of TOPO.
Then they abandoned TOPO altogether.
Microsoft, everybody’s favorite software upgrade, no longer lets you save a slide as a Macintosh picture (PICT). This format provides the highest resolution, which is necessary when making topographic hiking maps with PowerPoint.

In all fairness there might, might, be workarounds. But none have been found so far by me. I would love to ditch PowerPoint and find a different graphic editor which does everything I need to finish the maps in my new hiking book.


My computer started crashing. The crashes are similar, but they happen at random times and are not associated with any particular application. Although the times are random, the frequency of crashes has increased. I hypothesize that something in the hardware is going sour.

What I’ve done so far:

1. Run every diagnostic tool I have: Disk First Aid, DiskWarrior, TechTool Pro, memtest.
result: No problems identified. Then it got to the point where the computer crashed immediately after booting up, and then, it wouldn’t boot up any more.

2. Take my computer to the Apple Store and have them re-install MacOS on the startup disk.
result: The crashes went away for a while, then came back same as before. Something in the operating system may be gradually getting corrupted.

3. Take it back to the Apple Store and ask them what do do.
result: The technician at the Genius Bar said he suspects the hard disk, the memory, or the logic board, in that order. The computer is too old to be repaired by Apple.

4. Replace the startup disk and re-install everything on it.
result: The crashes went away for a few hours, then came back same as before.

The good news: All of my documents are backed up!

My next idea:

For about $400 I can buy a refurbished computer of the same model: Apple Power Mac G5 (M9748LL/A). Transfer the PowerPC applications, PCI cards, hard disks, and extra memory to the refurbished computer. If it works I’ll have all my capabilities restored for a few more years, plus plenty of spare parts.

What do you think?


January 6, 2012

Amazingly, in my Google search, the exact model popped up! I bought it from and proceeded with the computer component transplant:

We’re going to transplant memory, hard disks, and PCI cards.
hard disks and PCI cards

result: Everything seems to be running, so far.

Lessons Learned:
•  Ask the experts, even if you are one!
Keep your software installation disks and their license codes where you can find them.
When you download a software update, save the installer file.
Don’t assume the update will always be available for download.
Keep all your documents on an external disk.
You can easily connect the external disk to a different computer.
Have your USB devices on powered hubs which plug into the main USB ports — shared devices such as printers on one hub, local devices on another.
Use the dusting attachment on a vacuum cleaner to clean the inside of the computer.
Make sure the memory modules are pushed all the way down into their sockets.
My computer has locking tabs on both sides, which must be fully engaged.
Be wary of eSATA PCI cards: eSATA is a suspect in the crashes, so I removed it.
I know that eventually I’ll have to upgrade. Keep looking for work-arounds.
See also:
Hiking with GPS
Professional-Quality Digitized Maps
MP3: Computers and Ted
Comment from Clara

The rest of the story:
In November, 2012, I upgraded to an Apple iMac 2.5 GHz Intel core i5, 2011 model (which still has a Firewire port and a CD drive), running MacOS 10.8.2. But I’ve kept my older Macs running OS 10.5 and OS 9. They’re better for GPS maps and for sound recording, respectively.

 updated October 24, 2017 Mile 204 Ted