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Yubetsu, Hokkaido – April, 2023

So, look... I was sad... there would be no freight in Hokkaido this time around! I found this out at ~8pm on a Sunday night and entered what-else-shall-we-do mode, scanning google maps for targets. Engaru was intially a junction for the line out to Yubetsu and, although the line no longer exists, there're still a few remnants to visit! Having the next day being Monday also meant that the bus services were actually quite frequent!

I got up at sparrow's-fart and left my crap in the Hotel room. To my surpise, I was presented with a warm sunny morning, after it'd been horizontally snowing the night before! I was also happy to find a bus terminal on the doorstep, but the bus wasn't for another 30 minutes. Instead, I dawdled to 7-11 and grabbed the day's essentials.

There is no purchasing of tickets from the station. Instead you grab a ticket from the machine as you enter the rear-door of the bus.

Around 8 stops later, match the number on your ticket toe fare listed on the board above the driver and pay the corresponding amount. From there, the bus will continue on it's way...

And you'll be presetend with Yubetsu Station, as it was... Or is it? There seems to be electrical caternary guards under that pedestrian overpass? Was it donated?

The YOs have been doubled-up and turned into classrooms, but they don't seem to have been used recently. I initally thought they were larger vehicles until I saw the welded footplates.

The whole park is beautifully designed and used as a road-stop. There's also a Tulip museum!

I caught the next bus back to Engaru, with the plan to check out and head to Abashiri via Kitami.

And the best part, a JNR KIHA was waiting for me!

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Engaru, Hokkaido – April, 2023

After making it to the northern and eastern extremities of Hokkaido back in 2019 (pre-covid!), I'd decided I wanted to do the round-trip via Abashiri. There's freight to see on the line from Asahikawa, via Engaru, to Kitami and a joyful train from Abashiri to Kushiro. Getting there would be no mean feat though!

The plan was to get to Asahikawa and then venture east. From Shin-Osaka, it would've been a 2-day trip via trains, and I'd done that last time. This time I was to cheat and fly Itami(Osaka) to Chitose(Sapporo), leaving very little time to transfer to the Limited Express trains.

Getting to Sapporo via Itami

The first leg was easy.. and this may even be the first time I've featured a plane on this blog. JAL has a Japan Explorer Pass and, even though I didn't fly JAL into Japan, any international visitor can still make use of it inside Japan, as long as you prove to have a booking reference for an international flight. You simply provide that information whilst booking. It's very similar to the Japan Rail Pass, which I was about to activate.

I'd never been to Itami Airport before, but it was an easy trip on the Hankyu Railway, with a transfer to the Osaka Monorail at Hotarugaike Station. Note that the monorail makes a huge S-bend at this station and it'd be great to photograph... when one isn't rushing to a plane. Getting to the Hankyu line involved a 5am walk through Nishinakajima-Minamigata... it was very serene.

Before long, a westbound local took me to Juso where I changed for a northbound service. It happened to be the first out of Umeda for the morning and the karaoke experts were all sleeping on the seats, just itching to get home to their warm beds.

Itami was a very non-eventful event. There was a huge queue to check in and so I tried to use the check-in kiosks. It couldn't work out my english name and, before I could press the 'call attendant' button, a staff member grabbed me and coerced me to the 'priority' desk. Hah. I felt sorry for the other passengers in the queue!

All checked in, with my bag still in hand (I had no time to wait for checked-in baggage at the other end), I headed into the airport's main terminal. It's... stunning!

I watched a lot of cargo get loaded... and other people's luggage...

And then we were off! Landing 5 minutes early.

Sapporo to Engaru

Despite being at the far northern end of Japan, the Limited Express trains in Hokkaido are still convenient and fast. Sometime in the future there'll be shinkansen, but it'll still only reach as far as Otaru, via Sapporo City. Getting further north will still require the use of zairaisen.

We arrived at Sapporo New Chitose Airport early and this meant I could make the 10:06 rapid to Sapporo. I could then take the Lilac 13 express north, arriving at Asahikawa in time for the first Taisetsu of the day! If I was a few minutes later, I'd have to take the ~2pm Lilac 17 from Sapporo and then a Rapid Kitami, getting to Engaru 2 hours later. Two more hours of daylight in my target destination was definitely a bonus! Maybe even an extra freight service.

The trip out to Sapporo was nice, being in the front behind the driver. I love being able to see the tracks ahead... but not the mountain-tops... isn't this meant to be the end of Spring?

Lucky I'd packed for winter. Sapporo Station was even still ready for winter:

Yup, those heaters were active.


Lilac 13 departed on time and we were on our way to Asahikawa. They've blocked access to the corridor which leads to the front window of these trains. It happened years ago, but it's still sad that there's no more ability to see through to the front.

Taisetsu (the name means 'heavy snow', I'd initially thought 'important') was there waiting... and the weather was dreary! It got furtherly-hilarious along the way...

But then we cleared the mountain range and the snow went from blizzard to spring.

And, before long, we were in Engaru... the first stop for freight!


This small town has a lot of railway history. The line used to extend north-east to Yubetsu, but now there's just a few relics along the old alignment. I didn't have transport, so instead loitered in town waiting for the trains to pass in and out. They don't officially pass 'through' though, as the station functions as a switch-back terminus.

It was bloody cold and there were signs of recent snow activity...

I climbed the pedestrian bridge where the incoming rails split north and south. Fortunately, there was another railfan waiting! The freight must be coming!?...

Not freight, but a darn fine KIHA40 in JNR Vermillion. Turns out all of the KIHAs up here have been painted in koku-tetsu (Old-skool JNR) liveries and that's what everyone's hanging out for. Speaking of hanging out, the freight never came... so I checked out the SL Park.

To the north-west of the station is a rock formation with a lookout up the top. The SL Park is down the bottom and there's even a public toilet. Can you just imagine how majestic the area would've been when the SLs were operational? Needing to be turned to pull the freight back out of Engaru yard? Anyway, thinking of that made me go back to the station and dawdle around... taking photos of random stuff ...

I'd arrived in time for the ~2pm freight, but that didn't happen. I then dawdled further until the ~4pm freight... but there was no sign of that either.

You can only take so many photos of Vermillion, right? Anyway, the next train wasn't until 8pm, so I went and checked into my Hotel Sun Shine.

After a quick relax... I found random combini dinner and then trotted back to the station for the evening freight. Actually, on the way to dinner I checked out the snow plow at the end of the yard.

Very cute... but I prefer a DD51 with plow carriages. Anyway, dinner.. then the station... and more KIHAs.

SO PRETTY. I then loitered...

Note that the departure boards are all fixed-lighting and they switch in the service departing from the platform. Very cool.

Then the expresses came through. They were meant to pass further south, but the northbound was delayed and the pass happened in front of me!

They both left... A KIHA was hanging around... so I photographed it...

And then the station-master came out and asked if I was waiting for the freight. I could feel the bad news coming.... He proceeded to explain that the "tama-negi" season was already over. I then asked if that's the only rail-freight on this line and he very simply said 'yes'. I was slightly astonished... they run two daily return trips to Kitami JUST for brown onions!

And just to rant... in English, "onion" is brown onion and "spring onion" is just that. In Japanese "negi" (onion) is actually spring onion and "tama-negi" (ball onion) is brown onion. Amazing how we have the single-word version backwards. Anyway, I digress... the whole bloody point of this trip was that I'd seen the paths on the timetable and thought it would be fantastical to see the freight operating. Supposedly I'd missed them by one week. Super Mario 2 had plucked the last onion around 10 days earlier and it'd already been boxed and railed.

It started snowing. I went to bed. I still wanted to complete the loop of Hokkaido and ... well ... now that there was no freight in Kitami, I could go to Hard Off :)

Oh! The pedestrian overpass did have graffiti.. I was a little surpised.

Appropriate? Maybe another tecchan also missed out.

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Mac Pro 1,1 A1186

This beast was AUD$30 at the local tip and (after failing with two of them months back and selling them off as parts) I thought it looked like a good challenge.

I got it home and checked the guts (you're not allowed to open things at the tip!), noticing no drives, no drive sleds and no RAM. This is all fine... except the RAM... those FB-DIMMs are proprietary hell. I tried to power it on anyway and got the slowly-pulsing power light, as expected when there's no RAM installed.

RAM must be installed in pairs, in a specific order. I scoured the web for the cheapest pair (or two) as I didn't want to sink too much cost into this thing, until knowing it'd boot. The FB-DIMMs arrived ... slowly ... darn Santa! ... and one pair was installed in the first two slots of the top RAM card.

Power was applied... and... a solid power light! No bong? Do these Mac Pros even go 'BONG'? Power was quickly removed and the second pair of RAM was installed into the first two slots of the bottom RAM card. This is, of course, following the installation order as expected. Power was applied once more and ... another solid power light!

Next up was disk. Without the sleds, the drives would be suspended in mid-air from the fixed SATA connectors, so I chose a very light-weight SATA SSD drive so that there wasn't too much weight hanging around. I'll install more drives later, once I print some sleds. For now, the goal is just to get an OS installed and booted.

So yeah, an OS. Let's not get too tricky, too early. This is a Mac Pro 1,1 and it's only good for OS X 10.7.5, so let's start with anything I have, bootable, lying around that keeps below that maximum. Yes, this unit can be flashed to pretend to be a Mac Pro 2,1 and can even run up to OS X 10.11! It can also run Linux and just about anything else, with the caveat being the 32-bit EFI vs. 64-bit CPU. This machine was born during the world's transition to 64-bit EFI, and so is quite a hybrid.

You'll find OS X 10.5 Leopard here, if you don't have media lying around. Fortunately, I had a DVD of OS X 10.7 Lion in my box'o'junk from previous eMac/MacMini tinkering. Of course, it wasn't legit... it was bought from a computer fair for the exhorbitant price of AUD$20 and is merely a 'restore' disc. Regardless, the bloody thing booted... and installed... to 75% and kept stalling.

The stalling was from a scratched DVD. Not the best investment. Realising this was never going to work, I instead burned a random ISO of 10.6, which I had on my NAS, to a USB key with Balenca Etcher. Balenca might warn that there's no bootable yada on the media, but please disregard this warning! Hit next-next-finish, slap that USB in the front of your Mac and reboot! Pray that the flashy-flashy-folder icon pisses off and that the installer starts.

It worked!

Fake MacPro2,1

I have a plan to upgrade the CPUs to X5365s, so I followed this video to upgrade the BIOS, using this file and this file. This all worked splendidly, even though it required a little mucking around. I'm sure you could just extract all required files from the mounted DMGs into a single folder and make the process a whole lot easier.

More RAM

The next two 2gb FB-DIMMs arrived and simply just-worked... Mac OS 10.7.5 displayed 6GB!

Yay... but not enough for 10.11... so... buy more. I found a bargain on generic Samsung FB-DIMMs and everything worked perfectly... 22gb baby! I have all slots full now, but it seems you can install 64gb of RAM if you really desire!

OS X 10.11

Follow this Youtube video to get OS X 10.11 on the machine. It seems it'll be the last ever version that'll work.

Note that this was still running on the stock NVidia video card. You can now probably guess what's being replaced next.

Better Video

First I tried a Radeon 6870 and it was nice... but then I browsed to MacVideoCards and determined the 'final' best card for this machine: R9 280X. This thread about the card had ultimate success with the MSI Gaming 3GB version. I checked eBay and they were going for quite a lot of cash, so I scoured FB Marketplace, grabbing one for a nominal fee! You can use ATIWinFlash on Windows 7 (no idea if newer windowses will work!), or amdvbflash on linux. The latter was MUCH easier. I put the card in as my primary video and booted to MX Linux.

$ chmod a+x ./amdvbflash
$ sudo ./amdvbflash -s 0
$ sudo ./amdvbflash -p 0 MSI\ R9\ 280X\ 3GB\ Mac\ EBC.rom
AMDVBFLASH version 4.71, Copyright (c) 2020 Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.

Old SSID: 2775
New SSID: 2775
Old P/N: 113-C3865000-G77
New P/N: 113-C3865000-O77
Old DeviceID: 6798
New DeviceID: 6798
Old Product Name: 113-MSITV277MH.300 TAHITI B0 XTL C38650 GDDR5 3GB 
New Product Name: 113-MSITV277MS.350 TAHITI B0 XTL C38650 GDDR5 3GB 
Old BIOS Version:
New BIOS Version:
Flash type: W25X20
Burst size is 256 
20000/20000h bytes programmed
20000/20000h bytes verified

Restart System To Complete VBIOS Update.

So yeah, after downloading, make it executable and then save the current ROM with -s. Use -i to get the ID of your card if you have mutliple installed. Finally, write back with -p followed by the card ID and the filename of the ROM.

Note that in the MacPro you'll need one 6-6 and one 6-8 PCI-E power cable. I only had two 6-6 cables, but a random ATX 6/8 cable on hand, so I rigged it together!

I tried all ports, but the boot only seemed to show on the mini-display-port closest to the DVI port!

The resolution options in OSX were fantastical. The best resolution, I found, was 3840x2160 (2160p).

More Disk!

Whilst screwing around with the video card, I had the 3D printer working overtime on a drive sled. The STL was actually pretty detailed and Cura demanded a 4.5hr print. Whatever, better to make it strong and safe so disks don't drop onto the newly installed video card!

Once printed, I grabbed a 4TB from the ex-NAS pile and slapped it in. I had no need for any of this space, but maybe I can just install a ridiculous amount of OSs on here for a museum-esque experience.

What first?

Max CPU?

That plan to upgrade the CPUs came true and was very easy!

So yeah, the final answer/question is... now what? A-Train?

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USA – October, 2013

Yes yes, you read that right. I recently installed a new NAS and, whilst copying files, found this stash that I'd totally forgotten about. After a quick browse through, I remember why I threw the bunch in cold storage: I had mould on the sensor in my A55 and all photos had artifacts.

Bound Brook

The first scene is from New Jersey. I'd been staying in New York and do not remember travelling to this station, but the photos prove that I must have! I assume I'd chosen the station as it was a junction between freight and passenger.

I wonder how long I stayed and waited for this Norfolk Southern consist to come through?

Long Island

Oh wait, it was an AirBNB on Long Island, just near the Long Island City railway station.

I vaguely remember doing laps around the Subway depots and freight ferry docks, but can't find any photos of that... because I'd done it the year before!

Hudson River

A few more memories flooding back... a trip up the Hudson! I picked Poughkeepsie for the target, and wanted to see freight on either riverbank.

It didn't take long... and I even got MNR to boot!

Before long I toook an MNR service back to town.

Or was it this spark? I can't remember.

NYC Subway on LI

At some point, maybe on the way to the airport?, I took shots of the NYC Subway in glorious afternoon sun.

I'm guessing it was towards the airport, as the next set of photos were a little further west.


Sure, I gave it away... but if you only saw this pupper, would you know where the photo was taken?

I'd bought a book on Chicago-based railways and was on my way to Blue Island-Vermont Station. The goal was to wander to an interesting railway landmark. Before the wander though, a photo of the consist that brought me, and some freight in the yard...

And other angry-looking Metra services!

I then walked to the Blue Island Diamond Crossing

Lots of abandoned buildings along the way, and random other freight/passenger lines criss-crossing everywhere.

The walk was epic, or so it seems... I ended up at Robbins Station?

I assume I wanted a northbound service to take me home, but that southbound was next... and I watched it pass.

Wait, no, that is a northbound... did I miss getting onto the correct platform? Did I have drive-on-left brain active? Seems I then walked back to Blue Island-Vermont! But not without rewards:

Back at Blue Island-Vermont, there was a cute little switcher still in Conrail livery! Ok..ok... it's Metra. They even do freight?

The next stop was Kensington Station where the Southshore Line comes in from Illinois. It didn't dissapoint... love those EMUs.

Oh.. that's why...

During the wait there was even a UP-liveried GP38? running around on maintenance works!

And that was a wrap... Chicago was amazing!

San Francisco

Such an amazing place. I stalked the MUNI cars this time...

And then found a familiar suspect in a one of the depots...

Finally, I hired a bike and checked out the San Francisco Belt (Bay?) Railroad. Fortunately right at shunting time!

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Germany – September, 2022

After mucking around in The Netherlands for the start of this trip, the return was via Germany. This started with an IC service through to Berlin from Amsterdam Centraal.

The service swaps locomotives at Bad Bentheim, and it's usually a short stop. Unfortunately, our operating locomotive (which hauls the opposing train) was late and so we had to wait quite a while for it to turn up (2 hours).

Finally it did...

And the rest of the trip was effortless.


Up early the next morning, we caught a new S-Bahn on the way to Innotrans 2022.

From here.. I'm just going to spew the photos of everything in the yard. It was pretty amazing to see fresh rollingstock!

Japan had quite a presence...

And the beer garden was empty... because it was still early and we had somewhere to be!

Meet the Coradia iLint. The first Hydrogen train in commercial service in Germany! Riding on it felt no different to an EMU, just with no pantographs.

And then back to the convention...

Finally the heavens opened... and we hid inside the nearest train.

And that was a wrap. As you leave the area on the train, above you can see the rail entrance to exhibition centre.

Other random sightings

The next day was spent railfanning. If it wasn't vintage diesel locomotives, then it was yards and Swedish night-train shunting.

Or beautiful DMUs...

Or subways...

Or new S-Bahns...

Or the trip train of the Coradia iLint on the second day of the exhibition...

Or evening freight! This was top-of-the-ring at Wedding S-Bahn Station.

Also, if you're after model railways... look no further than Modellbahnen am Mierendorffplatz near Mierendorffplatz Station. They had an amazing selection of second-hand Z Gauge... actually, second-hand every gauge!

And that was that. The next day was an ICE to Frankfurt and back to the same rail-side hotel (B&B Hotel). Same view, extra shunting!

And that was that. It was a quick trip back to the airport the next day and then a return flight home via Singapore. Don't fly Scoot.

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The Netherlands – September, 2022

This post is, simply put, extremely late. It was a family trip to Europe after lockdown and it was great to be able to travel again. The tour would be Melbourne to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Berlin, Frankfurt and then back to Melbourne. During the flight home, I had splitting pain in my right inner-ear which still hasn't healed.... maybe that's why I've taken so long to recollect these memories.


I know, I said I went to Frankfurt, and I did, but whilst google-map-planning the trip, I remembered that Frankfurt was a terminus station and that there wasn't much going on freight-wise. Instead, I found the closest station to the airport that was big enough for a variety of freight and passenger services. A rail-side hotel (B&B Hotel) was chosen and a special request for a "railway-out-the-window" room was acknowledged. It didn't disappoint!

The main signal box was directly across the tracks and, at night, you could watch the employees carry on with their business.

As you can see, it was a late arrival, so I headed straight into town for dinner. I do lie, I hardly went to the station and found the nearest Frittenwerk chain to have a healthy curry-overloaded snack. Delicious. To get to the station, you had to cross through a creepy underpass...

And then... trains!

Oh, and trams!

And finally, my only shot of the actual station?

The next morning, it was off to Frankfurt HBF for my express to Amsterdam. Of course, that was booked for just-before-midday, so I loitered in Mainz a little longer.

There was a mildly-interesting vintage carriage in one of the terminating tracks...

And then a final freight.

Next up, a quick stop-over at Mainz-Bischofsheim which had a freight yard that I'd seen activity in the night before when passing through.

But very little happening there. Frankfurt HBF was on another level though!

Those vintage diesels above were cool. One was even getting a charge.

Beautiful station... but it was time to go to The Netherlands.

Amsterdam Centraal

A quick stop through here to transfer to the Metro... but whilst here... nothing but twins!

Nice to see the Koplopers still in action!

Lage Zwaluwe

Where? It's somewhere in the south of The Netherlands and I had a morning free from family activities to go on a junket.

This is a desolate station in the middle of nowhere (just read the comments on google maps), but doesn't disappoint as the fast trains don't stop.

Every now and then, you'll have to bolt from the bridge to a platform to get a trundling freight on the standard lines.

But otherwise, it's just zooming trains down the high-speed corridor.

If anyone is bored. The first and second shot above: neither front or rear loco have their pantos up? Coasting? Crossing an electrical block? About to fail?

You may also be lucky enough to see freshly-painted EMUs.


This was a quick stopover because the bridge looked awesome. Whilst on the platform the bridge actually lifted twice, thanks to all the water traffic in Holland.


When heading south, I'd seen something hilarious parked at Rotterdam Station and I was happy it was still there on the return leg...

Poor thing.

Helmond 't Hout

This was a fun trip. A long way just to make an appearance on a railcam.

A freight came through... I took a photo...

But here's the captured video from the camera. You can see me on the far side of the road just before the gates come down.

I then did a victory lap! (I'm this side of the road at 1:00)

There wasn't much else going on... So I took the next service back to Amsterdam. From here it was more family days and a return trip via Berlin. I'll post that shortly.

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A 66mhz PPC603 BeBox!

Never, in my wildest fantasies, would I have thought I'd be the owner of one of these! Of course, caveats-be-caveats: it was listed as non-working and needing-work. How much work would it actually need?

First thing's first... a proper source of information was required. Thankfully, The BeBox Zone has been recorded by the web.archive in all of its glory!

Which revision?

Prior to receiving the unit, I asked which Revision it was, just so that I could get ahead of any problems. Turns out these machines had quite a lengthy Revision history and, well, I could be in for a lot of pain. For even more information, here's a great page with information on the differening revisions. Also, if I was to receive an earlier revision than v6, here's what happens when you try to upgrade a Rev.05?. Fortunately, the answer came back that it was to be a Revision 6! This meant any BeOS would work on it... as long as the CPUs could hold out.

Video Card?

The author had mentioned that the machine probably needed RAM and a new video card. I started googling and found a lot of conflictcing information... or just information that only pertained to newer x86 BeOS versions. Fortunately, if you go way back, there's a cache of the old Be site here with a list of the valid hardware for the BeBox! The good cards listed are:

  • Cirrus Alpine 5434
  • STB Systems Nitro PCI 1.5 (5434)
  • Cirrus J6NGD543XPCI (5434)
  • Number Nine GXE64 (864)
  • Diamond Stealth 64 DRAM T PCI (Trio64)
  • Expert Color Trio64 PCI

Now, I'm sure that newer/cooler video cards are supported for BeOS, so I'm thinking this page is dated somewhere around BeOS 3.0? It's listed as 1999. I also know that I had a beautiful Diamond Stealth in the junk box last year and sold it. What was I possibly going to use it for?!

So, actually, it seems that BeOS R4.5 was the last known good OS for this model of BeBox. What cards does it support OOTB? There's a hardware compatibility list here, and it's sad to see that's the last version of the page... seems the domain expired not long after! Here's the PPC-specific notes which then points to a Q&A URL for the BeBox that was never captured. But, slapping that into Google brings back the original page... and we complete a loop as it's the same link as the first one above!

Based on list above, I managed to source a Diamond Stealth in PCI format, prior to even receiving the BeBox!

Sound Card?

You don't need to worry about sound as it's all on-board. There's even an internal speaker, just like any good Macintosh.


You'll find the requirements here, but the basic idea is 60nz 72-pin non-parity. Parity will work, but the parity function won't be employed. Sizes can be mixed and matched in pairs.

The author mentioned that RAM might be an issue, so I also purchased a few matching-sticks in advance.

Network Card?

There was no mention of an included network card, so I started googlin'. Looks like I'd need an NE2000 compatible ISA card. The other alternative is the DEC 21040/21041 on PCI. You'll find 3Com 3C509 drivers over here. I just don't have one of those cards anymore... yes... I sold one last year also! I really think I'll be able to install an RTL8139 ... but the bebits archive only has a version for Intel.

Reviewing other people's problems...

Just because there was time... and that this is a very vintage machine... and that google returns some quickly-damning results, I fell down the rabbit hole of other user's tales of woe. Not to be discouraged, it's great to read through such articles to understand what I might have been in for?

Pick-up day!

This is all in hind-sight, so I need to come clean. I was visiting Canberra to see my grandfather in hospital. It was the first weekend I was there that I also arranged to pick up this unit, and, call it bittersweet timing, but it was serendipitous that I grabbed this and got to say goodbyes. I can't word this well, but there was extra value added to the unit.

It even came in the original box!? Pretty rotten, but a great momento! Would you believe I never took a pic of the whole unit fresh outta the box? Instead, I delved straight into the issues...

Being away-from-home, a quick inspection was really all that I could do. The whole unit was in amazing condition! The only real physically-obvious issue was the "jack nuts" (as I now find they're called) on the ports on the rear and they were quickly replaced.

I take that back... not so quickly..

And then...

Only needing a little bit of extra effort!

Powering the beast on!

So, I got back to Melbourne and gave it a once-over. All checked out, so I slapped in a power cable and hit the switch on the rear. Fans spun up, HDDs also, but no life. Thanks to the previously-received RAM, I swapped out the existing two SIMMs with another pair. Before long... we had POST!

What? It just works? There was no video output on my shitty little VGA LCD, so I plugged in my nearest Trinitron. Whatttttttt.....

I had no input devices... so I just hit the switch with a STUPID grin on my face.

Upgrading BeOS

I grabbed a 3.2 BeOS BOOT ROM UPGRADE from some random site and wrote it to a floppy... which booted!

From there, I skipped ahead to BeOS 4.5, as I'd bought the box back in 1999 with two other friends from The Software Shop in Phillip, ACT.

The floppy was useless, but holding down spacebar let me get the boot menu...

And yes, the CD was visible, and even booted!

Such a familiar screen! A spare SCSI HDD was inserted to install 4.5 onto. This required the removal of two screws, allowing access to the tray...

Haha... you should've heard the noise when power was applied to that revolting Apple SCSI HDD. It was quickly replaced. Note that this unit also has an IDE bus, so I can easily upgrade to larger disks in the future... and proper burners!

Time to tinker...


The OS installed in no time and rebooted to a familiar desktop. The unit came with an RTL8139 ISA card which happily worked as an ISA NE2000?

And I could ping away!

What's next?

DOOM is next. WON, from the experimental folder, failed to find my AFP and SAMBA shares, so I need to find a proper SMB client from somewhere. All links are turning up 404 so far. Sheepshaver also needs to go on there with a captive version of Mac OS 8.5. This page also hints at other software I should install.

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Resurrecting a Dead PowerMac G4

Saw this on FB Marketplace... didn't know what I was thinking. Seller listed it as a "display piece" and, upon opening it, I worked out why. Weird cables disconnected, RAM missing, power supply set to 115v in Australia?

Switching it to 240v and attempting a power up saw nothing. I realised the ribbon to the front panel was disconnected internally? Connecting it didn't help though. OK, time to pop the supply open and.. oh look? It's just a blown fuse... replace... test... OH LOOK, IT'S A BLOWN MAINS BREAKER.

(Something has now occurred to me after posting this blog entry: The sticker above the 'closed off' power plug says 100-120v MAX... with no 240v rating? Even though the power supply had a 115-240v switch, was this supply actually only ever going to work on 110v? It's a little weird!)

Either way, screw it, this power supply is filthy... time to hack off the power cable and inject some ATX goodness.

Replacing a G4 Power Supply

First step? Choose a donor. I have some ATX to AT adapters which I could re-wire, but I would have to cut and heatshrink wires, so, I might as well just use a real donor ATX power supply. The next question is if the donor ATX supply in the junk box is even race-fit. If I install it and, knowing an Apple, too much power is consumed.. it might fail in minutes/hours/days. Should I go buy a new one? Actually, does the unit even fit?

The answer is simple.. it didn't... so-much-so that I even forgot to take a photo. The shot above is from Google images and explains a newer power supply where the main power socket is centered and has a mains-switch underneath. This, when compared to the image above of the actual power supply from the G4, is obviously quite different. The original had two plugs (one covered), with the the power-on plug much lower-than-center when compared to newer power supplies.

Could I shift the guts of the newer one into the Apple supply? Or put this PS into my PIII-550 and use that older PS in here? I could... but that's a lot of unscrewing... oh what the heck... Maybe I should jerry-rig this ATX supply into this power cable.. I could just tin and insert the wires? Just to see if the motherboard even wants to show life.

Of course, the gauge of the wires prevents one from cleanly jamming them in the end of the ATX plug. What to do? Tin them all and trim them with snips... then tediously jam them in and grab two diodes to make the trickle supply.

To do the actual wiring, here's the mapping:

ATX Supply Gigabit Pinout
3.3v 12 24 GND
12v 11 23 5v GND 11 22 28v TRKL
12v 10 22 5v 12v 10 21 5v
+5v TRKL 9 21 5v NC 9 20 5v
POK 8 20 -5v 3.3v 8 19 GND
GND 7 19 GND GND 7 18 GND
5v 6 18 GND 5v 6 17 GND
GND 5 17 GND GND 5 16 GND
5v 4 16 P-ON 5v 4 15 P-ON
GND 3 15 GND GND 3 14 GND
3.3v 2 16 -12v 3.3v 2 15 -12v
3.3v 1 14 3.3v 3.3v 1 12 3.3v

Above, you can see that more than the lower half of pins can be straight-wired through. The top just needs a bit of juggling. Firstly, glue the plugs from the ATX supply together, then cut all four wires (11,12,23,24) from the ATX header, leaving zero mm length on 12 and 24, but 5cm on 11 and 23. Run the ground to pin 11 and pin 19 on the Mac side. Then cut pin 9 from ATX clean level with the plug and run it into a diode and then into pin 22 on the Mac side. Run the 12v from pin 11 on the ATX side through another diode and join to the Mac side of the previously-soldered diode. This makes the trickle voltage as per ATXG4's doings. Finally connect the 3.3v from pin 12 on the ATX side to pin 8 on the Mac side.

Finally, it's all plugged together... how does the Mac respond!?

WE HAVE LIFE! A hideous single beep, but... LIFE! The single beep means we have no RAM? Sure we do... but it seems to hate PC100 modules. After slapping in a PC133 DIMM....

It worked! But nothing would boot.. until I flexed the IDE cable to the CD-ROM?

Right, that damage was hiding up behind the CD-ROM/ZIP chassis area.. fun. It's also ultra-DMA, which I can't reproduce, so I'll just create a new IDE cable as I did for the last G4. Wait, that G4 was faster... and I ended up putting it on the gutter during hard-rubbish for another scavenger to collect. Why did I buy this one!? Oh well.

Hacky cable created and...

Yessss... it works! In the end, I had two options: truncate an existing ATX plug and graft on the old cable or just re-wire a 24-pin plug to fit... with overhang. I did the latter. As mentioned above, glue the 4-pin extra plug ONTO the base 20-pin plug. That way you (like I did!) won't cut wires that you need. When the 22-pins don't line up, it's easy to mistake the wiring!

Old and new... but we're only going to use the new. The old can be donated to a museum (or to the next G4 I stupidly pick up after disposing of this one.)

Route the grounds and volts and stuffs as per above... you'll have wires left over, but that's OK. Don't forget to wire up the fan plug!

And then remember that there'll be two pins hanging over the edge... easily removed if you can be assed...

No need... JUST PLAY!


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NEC PC-9801VX – SCSI Devices

So, I've gotten my PC-9801VX to power-on, boot a floppy disk and then initialise the 486 upgrade... the next step was to get a HDD attached. Luckily, the unit already came with both SASI and SCSI cards, so I just had to choose one and connect things. SCSI was chosen, as I don't even know what SASI is and, perfectly by chance, I'd purchased an external 4.3gb SCSI HDD with the matching HD50 plugs!

Upon searching the usual boxes'o'junk for a cable, I attempted to plug the unit in and, to my surprise, the connector on the SCSI card wasn't actually HD50.

Turns out it's a mini-centronics HPCN50! You can learn all about SCSI connectors over here. It seems this connector type is very popular amongst PC98s. With this new information, I went scouring the web for an adapter. I found one from my usual favourite seller in NSW (RetroShopBox on eBay) and then also another full SCSI cable (HPCN50 to HD50) from the UK... but that was to take a lot longer to arrive.

I adjusted the HDD to SCSI ID 0 and, with everything connected, booted the IPL disk and then MS-DOS 6.20 Disk #1. The installation was painless, thanks to the Gotek, and before long the machine rebooted and failed miserably. This was due to MS-DOS 6.20 trying to start without the 486 Accelerator initialised and so I rebooted and installed that via the Installation disk. Before long, the machine had rebooted into DOSSHELL!

Removable Media

I grabbed my nearest Magneto-Optical drive and chained it onto the SCSI bus. It happened to be set to ID 6 and I just left it as-is and attempted to boot. Before long it threw the following error:

No system files!

To add insult to injury, it just continued to emit a high pitched squeal. Seems it thinks/knows this is a removable drive and expects removable media to be bootable. The disk in there certainly wasn't... I didn't even know what was on it.

Just for fun, I slapped in the IPL disk, installed DOS, installed the accelerator and then voila!, the disk started booting.. But the fun didn't last long. It failed with an error initialising MSDOS.SYS? How does that even fail?

No matter of mucking around got me further... Until I switched the MO's SCSI ID from 6 to 1. I had no idea why, but on ID 1, the MO booted to a command prompt! Unfortunately, once booted, I couldn't get to the internal HDD. The MO was mounted as drive A: and the floppies were mounted straight afterwards. No HDDs to be seen.

I had initially expected this unit to show up as a second HDD, so was a little perplexed as to how to make it act as one. A few emails back and forth from Adachi-san saw me realise that I either had to configure the drive into HDD mode, or force the SCSI controller to treat it like a HDD.

The SCSI controller is a TEXA HA55-BSW and, whilst booting, there's an initialisation screen that shows the devices found on IDs. During this process, there's no hint that it's able to be configured. After a little bit of googling, it turns out it can be configured, but only if you hold down the T and S keys at the same time whilst it's initialising.

Inside the configuration menu, you'll find drive options in the second choice. From here you can tick through the IDs and set the parameters accordingly.

I happened to find that the drive type could be set to MO Small Image and, well, this worked! I now got to the SCSI boot menu instead of just booting directly from the MO.

From here I booted into DOS on the main HDD at SCSI ID 0, but I still could only see that HDD (and other partitions on that SCSI drive), and no other SCSI devices. After a few more emails, it turns out there's a requirement with PC98 SCSI IDs: they need to be consecutive! That explained the issue above with MSDOS.SYS, but not this new one. Adachi-san also passed me a formatter that could format 230mb MOs up to 218mb and I went for it. Actually, it was obvious that the format was wrong as this is how the MO showed in the SCSI boot menu:

Similar to USB keys of nowadays with multiple partitions, this MO has been partitioned+formatted in "removable mode" and therefore shows up corruptly in HD mode. I re-partitioned and re-formatted the drive in the current HD mode with (RMUTL (Now MOUTL) from Adachi-san, received 218mb free and drive C appeared! Yesssss...... We can now copy from MO to HDD.

Thanks to my MO USB drive on my main machine, I could start expanding HDI files onto MOs and tinker...


I thought I might have needed the latest CD Drivers from, but DOS 6.20 just installed NECCDB.SYS and MSCDEX.EXE and my SCSI CD drive was mounted! I could even list the contents of the CD in the drive! Looking more-closely, it's actually an NEC CD-3010A which is somehow covered by the driver installed. Note that upon installation, DOS copies the driver it wants to use to the DOS folder as NECCD.SYS. Just match the sizes to determine which one it's actually using.

The Final SCSI Stack

Somehow I had enough cables, with the correct SCSI connectors, to join all of these together and terminate them!

It all works perfectly and I'm actually really impressed with the tech-level of multiple-booting and boot-menu of my PC-9801VX.

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NEC PC-9801VX – PK-X486 CPU Upgrade

So, this PC-9801VX came with the weird sticker on the front indicating that it was powered by a 486 CPU.

It was a pretty random claim seeing as that the base system is built from a 286. How could you possibly upgrade an 8-bit CPU to 32-bit?

A quick inspection (see the over here) saw that the 486 was contained on a daughter board which used a PLCC-socket adapter to hijack the 286 socket!

The upgrade happens to be an IO-DATA PK-X486/87SLS (IOD2Y284), consisting of a Texas Instruments TX486SLC 25mhz CPU coupled with a Cyrix FastMath CX-83387 33mhz 387 Math Coprocessor.

As that this CPU actually replaces the existing 286, it's always been active and operating the system but, regardless of this fact, the system still reports as a 286!

Trying to install DOS 6.20 very quickly throws a "You cannot install DOS 6.20 on a machine with a 286 Processor."

So, a little googling later and it turns out there's a TSR which needs to be loaded. That link indicates the TSR is named PK486.COM, but no amount of googling resulted in such a file. Instead, PK486D.COM showed better results, like this Interrupt Extender for this CPU Upgrade, but that software still didn't include the TSR!

Finally, a little more googling brought up this Japanese forum post indicating that there was an old oldsoft/98.htm page at the IODATA website that had derelique drivers. Of course, this page no longer existed, so to the rescue! Finally, there it is, down the bottom of the page.

Unfortunately, the files are just upgrades and want the original setup disk to hack some bytes. So, next up I started clicking random links on the iodata library site and found this page. It's full of random Win95 stuff, but one file seemed to be valid for a newer upgrade card than I had.

The COM files looked great... so I just renamed and executed... and the CPUCHK.COM even threw out the following result...

But, alas, both TSRs just reported an incorrect CPU when trying to run. Of course, what are the chances they'd even work.

UPDATE:: Adachi-san of Adachi Giken has come to the rescue! You can skip this part.

IF ANYONE HAS ONE OF THESE UPGRADE KITS, CAN THEY PLEASE MAKE AN IMAGE OF THE DISKS FOR THE INTERNET?... there's many sites with people asking for the software and I'd love to try it out! The box looks like this... and the disks seem to come in both 5.25 and 3.5" variants.

The disks are labelled "共通サポートソフト".

Excuse the image quality... they were flogged from a yahoo auction. But here's a better close-up...

I'll have to keep watching the auctions as those Power Up Kit /PK-X486Sシリーズ disks above went for $10.

The disks!

So, the kit comes with two disks: an IPL and an Installation disk. The IPL (or Initial Program Loader) is used to boot the machine into a state where the seconday CPU is active. This is good to use prior to installation of something that needs a 386+ (i.e. DOS 6.20), so boot this disk to the following prompt:

And then swap disks. Once done, hit enter and you'll get to continue as if you booted the second disk you inserted, but on a 486! Of course, after installation, rebooting the machine will set the 286 active again and that's where the Installation disk comes in. Let the machine restart after installing DOS 6.20 and watch it crash and burn. Once it does that, insert the Installation disk and restart the machine...

That screen above scrolls onto the screen in 90s goodness... and then you get the main menu. The options are to Backup something, read the README, install the software or configure cache. Choose the third option, and then your SCSI disk.

From here, choose the partition/installation and go for it!

You'll then be told that everything is complete and that it's time to restart your machine.

With this done, your machine is now a 486! Congrats. Message me if you need the disk images.

Filed under: Retro 6 Comments