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Apple G4 upgrade block confirmed

We never promised users an upgrade path, says company operative

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Updated Apple has given tacit confirmation that its now-defunct Power Mac G3 line of desktop PCs have been nobbled to prevent owners from installing the new PowerPC 7400 (aka G4) processor. According to the MacInTouch Web site, Apple's Tech Exchange bulletin board was bombarded with complaints about the fix, introduced in the G3's most recent firmware update (see Apple crippled G3 Macs to bar PPC G4 upgrades). Apple subsequently pulled the discussion thread, but before it did so, an Apple employee wrote: "Notes to consider after reading this [thread] include the fact that there is no shipping or announced PowerPC G4 processor upgrade from Apple or, as far as we know, any other company and we're not aware of any documentation that indicates any Power Macintosh G3 computer was marketed as being upgradeable to a PowerPC G4 processor." In other words, G3 owners were wrong to assume their machine was upgradeable simply because previous models have been. Or, more bluntly, if you now want new Mac processor technology, you'll just have to buy a new Mac. Of course, Apple is well within its rights to design and sell computers that can't be easily upgraded, but it's pretty shoddy behaviour to develop a machine that can be upgraded only to nobble it at a later date -- and to do so without informing users installing the firmware update that this is the case. The existence of the anti-G4 fix, which prevents a G3 from booting up if the user has installed a PPC7400 upgrade processor daughtercard, has been confirmed by upgrade specialist XLR8, which said: "A special fix will be needed to run G4 with the 1.1 firmware in a Blue and White. Users get five [warning] tones... We have a fix in hand." "Currently, the most recent Apple ROM update issued for blue and white Power Mac G3s has rendered them incapable of using G4 upgrades," said upgrade supplier Newer Technologuy. However, Newer also suggested: "This could change as ROM updates are issued frequently." Upgrade vendors have also said that G3s with the 1.0 firmware are not limited in which CPU they can take. When news of the firmware fix broke in June, we asked Apple to comment, but a spokeswoman would only reiterate the company's refusal to discuss rumours. Perhaps the company would like to return to the issue, now it's something more than mere speculation and in light of the fact that the PowerPC 7400 has now been launched officially. Another Apple employee, Todd Hart, from tech support this time, yesterday revealed on the Tech Exchange bulletin board that division isn't aware of the full story. "Was this done intentionally?" Hart wrote in response to a user query. "From our perspective at the user level support, we don't know. We do have a request in to find out yes or no. Will there be a software update from Apple? We have a similar request in on this." Until then, he added, there's not much else he could say. In the meantime, irate G3 owners might like to follow one MacInTouch reader's suggestion and complain directly to Apple's Customer Relations department on 1 800 767 2775 or at PO Box 4040, Cupertino, CA 95014-4040, USA. ®

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