Gee, thanks for the … PowerBook …

Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.

I occasionally yammer a little too much about the usefulness of old computers, and this time it might have come back and bit me on the

The IT staff at work got a little tired of me talking up Linux on old machines, and when I encouraged them to give me their old junk, they said, “Oh, we’ve got a computer for you. …”


Enter the PowerBook, a castoff from a long-departed techie who used it to test in-house network connections and do a little Web development. It’s a 400Mhz Bronze G3, 64Mb PC66, 6Gb hard drive, USB, ethernet … and looks a lot like this.

It’s certainly not a bad looking computer. Hard to believe the original price was $3,500 though.

There’s no damage to the screen, all the keys are present, it has a hard drive, memory, a processor — all the requisite parts. It might even have Yellow Dog Linux on it. And I have been assured by a rather gleeful tech crew that it worked fine last time it was turned on.

Ay, there’s the rub.

It hasn’t been turned on in about four years. And that’s because the batteries are dead. And the batteries are dead because the power supply is malfunctioning.

And that’s why they were so excited about dumping this old laptop on me: I just took some of their junk off the shelf for them, and took it home with me.

I refuse to quit though. It’s a matter of pride now. I’ve taken the step of testing the power supply with a Fluke meter and the tip lets out less than 1V DC, which I take to mean it’s broke. I ordered a new one off ebay, but I sincerely suspect that one was also defective, since it didn’t result in any life in the laptop.

My biggest fear at this point is that the power supply receptacle might be hosed. That used to happen a lot on old Inspirons — the actual bracket that held the power tip would go bad, rendering the receptacle — and the rest of the motherboard — more or less useless. I don’t imagine it wasn’t a problem in other hardware of the pre-2000 era too.

So this is my latest project, one that I hope I have adequate time and ambition to complete. I don’t have a whole lot of experience with Apples, so this is (in part at least) a new experience. Everything is ready, I got my PPC Ubuntu CD out, I’ve wiped it down with a mixture of vinegar and tap water, and blown dust and hair from the keyboard.

Now all I got to do is turn the darn thing on.


3 thoughts on “Gee, thanks for the … PowerBook …

  1. mrisi

    NICE man, what an amazing piece of recent Apple history that is. The PowerPC thing will really limit your choices, obviously, but it’d be so fun to tool around with one of those things, nice find. Keep us updated on if/when you get ‘er running.

  2. Danny

    Keep a running post on this one. I’m really interested. Hopefully, the Fluxbuntu guys will have their version of Fiesty for PPC out soon, and that might go on the old Powerbook.

    Could you do a post on how you create a setup, from the server install. What order do you install packages. Basically, using the server CD, how do you create a custom lean Ubuntu distro for your old equipment?

    Paint this one red too. I’m thinking of painting all my “Unofficial Central Florida Free Geek” give aways red, to give them a unique identity.

    Excellent blog, dude. Most excellent.

  3. Pingback: Howto: Find an old computer « Motho ke motho ka botho

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