B&W G3 OS9 as television server
November 18, 2005 7:01 AM   Subscribe

I’ve got a B&W G3 running OS9 (actually, mostly gathering dust) - can I slap a big hard drive in it and use it to feed downloaded television to my TV?

In particular, is there software for OS 9 that will work with contemporary video codecs? And if you have any particular software to recommend, that would be great.
posted by juliewhite to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
I don't know about OS 9, but I would wager it won't.

However, there is YellowDog Linux, which should run more stable anyhow and will allow you to do pretty much anything you can do with, well, Linux.
posted by uncle harold at 7:11 AM on November 18, 2005

I'd suggest throwing OS X on the G3. It has better support for large hard drives, and the best video player (with all the codecs), Videolan Client, doesn't run under OS 9.

Something else to keep in mind: which revision B&W is it? The original model has a buggy IDE bus controller. The only real solution is to replace it with a controller card from Sonnet. But this is only a problem if you've got the original Rev. 1 B&W G3 sold in the first half of 1999.
posted by jbrjake at 7:36 AM on November 18, 2005

Tiger will install on these, provided they have Firewire ports on the back.

That said, don't be surprised if even VLC chokes on all but the lowest of bitrate media. Even a 450MHz G3 might not cut it with 640x480 MPEG2 decoding. It definitely won't cut it with any of the MPEG4 codecs. Some of these machines used special versions of the DVD player app to achieve full frame full speed MPEG2 decoding by utilizing the (ATI I think) video card in them, and that was only the case if they shipped with a DVD drive.

jbrjake is correct about the buggy IDE controller. I have an early B&W and a late B&W. The late one works great with the internal IDE controller and the early one required a cheap ATA PCI card.

The good news is that you can easily upgrade the video card, the ATA subsystem and the processors on these to get to the point where it would be a fine media player. A 1GHz G4 upgrade will run you about $275, or less on eBay. A decent video card should run less than $100.

However, given the Mac Mini priced at only $499, and being small and quiet to boot...

That B&W with a chunk of HD would make a fine file server though.
posted by tomierna at 9:42 AM on November 18, 2005

I'll second tomierna -- You can put OS X on it, max the memory, stick in a larger HD, and give it a shot. But while this machine could gracefully serve audio, it will probably chug, huff, and puff serving video. Mac Mini...
posted by omnidrew at 10:05 AM on November 18, 2005

I would not put Tiger on anything slower than, say, 800 MHz. Definitely not this machine. Panther would probably be OK.

VLC, while a great program, will overmatch your processor, resulting in periodically halting playback.
posted by adamrice at 10:20 AM on November 18, 2005

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