Resurrecting a PowerMac 6100

By Greg Pak
I needed a new computer for the interns who are working in my office on But I didn’t want to buy a new computer until after the July MacWorld Expo — I’m not particularly eager to taste the bitter regret of paying top dollar for almost instantly outdated hardware.
So I was thrilled when the good folks at the Asian American Writers Workshop donated an old Power Macintosh 6100 to Dating from 1994, the machine was 60 MHz, with a 160 MB hard drive, an internal CD drive, an internal floppy drive, and a 13″ Apple monitor. Not exactly state of the art, but it was free, right?

Well, yes. But it’s taken a little poking around to get the machine up and running. Read on for the full saga, dear friends. May it help you in your own endeavors to keep useful machines out of land fills.

No system folder, no start up.

Alas, when we powered the machine up, the screen stayed black. We shut down and restarted and the screen flickered to life, but then all it displayed was a disk image with a flashing question mark — the computer couldn’t find a valid start up disk.
Inserting various floppies just resulted in the question mark turning into an X and the disks being ejected. Then I inserted the first of a series of old back-up system installer floppies from my ancient PowerBook 190. For the first time, the computer seemed to process some data from the disk, but then ejected it with a message saying it wasn’t an appropriate system for this computer. (Later I learned that the System 7.5.2 on those PowerBook floppies isn’t compatible with the 6100.)
I felt fairly confident that the machine would work if I could only find a way to get a system folder onto the hard drive. On a zip disk, I had a free version of System 7.5.3, which I’d downloaded from Apple a few weeks before. I couldn’t, however, figure out how to get the information from that zip onto floppies which I could insert into the drive on the 6100. So I tried hooking up an old SCSI Iomega Zip drive to the 6100. But without a system folder containing the Iomega extension, the computer wouldn’t recognize the Zip. And neither the OS 8.6 nor the OS 9 installer CDs I had would work.
Getting desperate, I poked around some more online and finally found a site with a download for a magic thing called the “Network Access Floppy Disk.” I used Disk Copy to make a floppy disk of the download — and when I inserted it into the 6100, the flashing question mark went away and the desktop appeared!
The Network Access Floppy Disk contains a very rudimentary system folder — no doubt designed to help people like me out of situations like this. I copied the folder over to the 6100’s hard drive (which was indeed missing a system folder). Then I restarted the computer. Meanwhile, on my other computer, I put an Iomega Driver 4.2 extension onto a floppy. I then moved this to the 6100, put the Iomega extension into the extensions folder, and shut down. On restart, the computer recognized the Zip drive and I installed System 7.5.3 from my Zip disk.

Ethernet compatibility

Feeling enormously pleased with myself, I then tackled the networking issue, buying a $25 transceiver from my local computer store to turn the AAUI ethernet jack into a 10-Base T ethernet jack. After fooling with a few control panels, I managed to bring the 6100 up on my ethernet network. Finally, success!
The magic battery solution

I called up the Writers Workshop, thanked them for the computer, and bragged about my masterful skills in bringing it back to life. But my work was not yet done. The computer would forget the date and time and the network settings every time I shut it down. And the monitor still would be black when I first started the computer up after a period of inactivity. A posting I found online suggested replacing the 3.6v internal battery. This made perfect sense regarding the date and time and network settings, but I’d never heard of the monitor being dependent on the little replacable battery inside the machine. Nonetheless, when I replaced the battery ($13, Radio Shack), all of these problems disappeared.
Monitor from heaven

The same day, I found a 15 1/2″ Sun Microsystems monitor which someone in my office building had left in the trash. Less than thrilled with the tiny and somewhat blurry Apple 13″ monitor that had come with the 6100, I figured I’d give the Sun monitor a shot. I had to buy a $27 adapter to hook up the monitor to the machine, but it was clearly worth it — the monitor works perfectly.

The Upgrade

So thus far I’d spent about six hours and $65 to bring the computer back to life. And at that point it was an entirely servicable word-processing machine for interns to use for updating web pages. But eventually I’d need a computer which could comfortably run Photoshop and perhaps a few other applications. And even for minimal website work, the 160 MB hard drive was painfully tiny.

So I hit ebay and stumbled across what seemed to be some excellent deals. First, I bought a 128 MB memory upgrade (a pair of 64 MB simms) and a NewerTech 210 MHz G3 upgrade for a mere $164, including shipping. Then I bought a 2.1 gig SCSI 50 pin hard drive for $34, including postage. I’ve installed the memory, but haven’t yet installed the G3 upgrade, since I need the bigger hard drive (which hasn’t yet arrived) in order to install a more advanced OS (a prerequisite for the upgrade). Assuming everything work out, I’ll end up with a lower end G3 with a 15 1/2″ monitor for $260.

That’s a couple hundred dollars less than what monitorless beige G3s are drawing on ebay this week. So I figure I’ve done all right. Of course, some would call any upgrades to old technology foolish and bound to disappoint. But you’re talking to a guy who pulled a 1986 Mac Plus out of storage, fitted it with a Zip drive, and now has interns using it for word processing a few times a week.
    More later – when I get the 2.1 gig hard drive installed and the G3 upgrade working (knock on wood)…

Incredibly helpful 6100 website:

PowerMac 6100 Upgrade Guide – run by Steve Kan, this is a stupendous resource. Couldn’t have undertaken my little project without it.


Dealing with Bad Webhosting

By Greg Pak
Over the past week, I’ve had my worst experiences yet with the company that hosts two of my websites. I’ve learned a few very important things which might be helpful for other filmmakers with websites to keep in mind.

Back up your files!

I’ve always been fairly good about keeping multiple backups of the HTML files and graphics I create for my various websites. But I haven’t done a very good job of backing up the material that gets generated when users post messages and comments on my websites. Those posts, made through CGI scripts, are saved on the servers of the webhosting company. I can download those files to create my own backups through my FTP program, but, like a fool, I haven’t made a habit of doing that.
    And now I’ve paid for it.
    Last week the company that hosts my website imploded — the servers went down and my site disappeared. A day later, the company got the FTP back on line and advised me to upload my backup files, which I did. But I was still missing the hundreds of posts which people had made in various message boards and guestbooks.
    The company makes daily backups of the site and their various tech people have assured me that the files I’m missing will be back on line eventually. But it’s now been five days and they still haven’t uploaded the original, pre-crash site.
    The upshot is that the community we’ve built around the site is dying day by day. Deeply, deeply aggravating.
    If I’d made regular backups of my own, I could have upload the files myself and the site could be running properly. But now I’m stuck, waiting on pins and needles for this company to come through on its promises.
    So back up those files, friends.

The solution

My deepest fear in this ordeal has been that my webhosting company has actually lost the backup files entirely, destroying a year-and-a-half of community building. Makes me sick to my stomach just to contemplate it.
    But the other day I remembered that the incredible Google search engine caches the HTML of pages in its database. So by typing in appropriate keywords, I was able to find a pretty good number of my website’s pages, complete with users’ posts.
    I also discovered how to dig up all the pages which Google had listed for my site — in the seach window, type search terms here. In my case, I entered site: film, since I know that the word “film” appears on every page on the site. And it turns out that Google had 525 of my pages cached.
    So I was able to retrieve the comments people had made in response to various reviews and articles on the site. And I was able to download the HTML code for some of the pages in the message board — although for some reason, only one of the five sections of the message board had been indexed by Google.
    However, all of this cached material dates to the first week of May, meaning that any posts people have made to the site in the last six weeks weren’t cached.
    Nonetheless, I’m thrilled to have recovered this much.

Fingers crossed

Now my webhosting company tells me that they’ve replaced the bad server and are in the process of reloading all the sites. So if I’m lucky, I’ll get all my files back shortly and nothing will have been lost but my peace of mind and a week or so of interactivity on the site.
    But through the good graces of Google, if the promises of my webhosting company completely fall through, I’ll still have a good chunk of my files.
    The final lesson? Back up, back up, back up. And back up.


“Asian Pride Porn” film festival screenings

2002 First Sundays at Chicago City Limits, NYC
2002 SinCine Film Festival, NYC
2002 Asian Film Festival of Dallas
2002 Sex on Screen Film Festival, Seattle
2001 TromaDance Film Festival, UT
2001 Slant: Bold Asian Images, Houston, TX
2001 Hi Mom! Film Festival, Chapel Hill, NC
2001 Asian American Film and Literature Festival, Rice University, Houston, TX
2000 Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival
2000 CinemaTexas Film Festival, Austin, TX
2000 San Diego Asian Film Festival
2000 Opaline Screening Series, NYC
2000 North by Northwest Film Festival, Portland, OR
2000 Summer Shorts Film Festival, NYC
2000 San Diego Asian Film Festival
2000 Gen Art Summer Film Festival, NYC
2000 Culture Under Fire Film Festival, Tulsa, OK
2000 SoNo Arts Celebration, South Norwalk, CT
2000 Golden Shower Film Festival, San Antonio, TX
2000 Firewater Screening Series, NYC
2000 New Asian Filmmakers, Anthology Film Archives
2000 South by Southwest Film Festival
2000 Film Fest New Haven
2000 Arizona International Film Festival
2000 Chicago Asian American Showcase
2000 “Avenue of the Asian Americas” premiere
2000 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

Film Festivals

Creative Collaborators

Writer of over 500 comic books, including PLANET HULK, MECH CADET YU, FIREFLY, and DARTH VADER