The Low End Mac Mailbag

Third Party 802.11b Support, RAM for Lombards, Jaguar and Panther Upgrades, and Lots More

Dan Knight - 2003.04.21 - Tip Jar

It's three weeks since I posted a mailbag column, so some of this may be dated. Now that taxes are behind me, I hope to keep up. dk

More on Wireless Options for Older PowerBooks

After reading Wireless Options for Older PowerBooks, Ron MacKinnon notes:

As I was reading this article today, I wondered that apparently no one had mentioned this outfit in your presence. www.ioxperts.com has wireless drivers for PowerBooks that don't support a genuine apple AirPort card, including the Kanga and just about any other that has a PC Card slot. I have a Lucent Orinoco card in my 3400. Their driver works fine with that card. They have a version for OS X, and a version for OS 8 and 9. They have a really long list of supported cards, and they also list some cards that are similar to supported cards that are specifically not supported. It's $19.95, and works fine. It's quite a treat to have a truly portable PowerBook 3400.

IOXperts makes a shareware 802.11b driver for Mac OS X and another for the classic Mac OS that supports dozens upon dozens of 802.11b cards. However, Kenneth Gill was asking about 802.11g support for the D-Link AirPlusXtremeG hardware on the Mac OS. It wasn't listed on the D-Link site then, nor is it listed today.

Belkin has promised both classic Mac OS and Mac OS X support for their 54g Wireless Notebook Network Card, but the card is not yet shipping, so it's a moot point.

At this point, I don't know of any PC Card 802.11g solutions that support the Mac, although it's bound to come eventually.

RAM for Lombards

Tom Burke

I read a recent mailbag about this topic (Lombard Memory Issues) with interest, as I've got a Lombard into which I have just put 256 Mbyte into the lower slot without problems.

My supplier, here in the UK, was Tony Green at Animacs - tony@animacs.co.uk. He's spent some time getting this sort of thing right, and, as I said, the SO-DIMM I bought just worked. And he's got a lot of knowledge of what will work in other old PowerBooks as well.

So he's an excellent source of memory for LEM PowerBooks here in the UK.

Thanks for the field report and recommendation. It's always nice to have another instance proving that Apple was too conservative in claiming Lombard only supports 384 MB.

More on Apple Alienation

In response to my reply in Apple Alienation, Ken Cavaliere-Klick writes:

Thanks for the reply. I think another perspective that should be considered is the total cost of ownership (TCO). At some point the value gained from upgrading does not equal the cost involved, even amortized over a reasonable period of time.

An interesting aside would be that while Apple computers are expensive and getting more so, PCs are dropping in price. The cost/function ratio is getting tilted. Apple caught itself in an interesting paradox. Make [OS] X (more) suitable for older equipment (a lighter Aqua/Quartz) or kill off the lower end hardware.

Perhaps because I go back many years with computers (of all sorts), my perspective is that while the systems have changed greatly my use has not changed at a similar rate.

My particular heading towards Linux is simply that it is cross platform. As a freelance computer tech, it will be handy to have the experience. I can also see the value of having that experience for older Macs as well.

Again, my thanks for your time and thoughts.

Linux has its place, and it's really the only cross-platform OS going today. IBM uses it on their big boxes, it runs on "Wintel" hardware, and you can run it on the Mac, among other options. Best of all, it's cheap (you can download it for free) and runs on older hardware, making it a very affordable way to build a stable server.

Where Linux falls down is ease of use; it definitely takes a back seat to Windows and the Mac OS (both OS X and classic). Thus, it has never made serious inroads on the desktop. The only really successful Linux distribution for desktop use is Lindows, which bills itself more as a low-cost alternative to Windows than anything else.

Despite your assertion, Apple hardware has become less costly over time. The first Macintosh cost $2,500 and Apple has produced a few $10,000 computers. Today's Power Mac G4/1.42 GHz dual is just $200 more than the original iMac and offers about 2000 to 3000 times the power.

Apple has consistently reduced prices. The CRT iMac debuted at $1,299 and had dropped to $799 when it was discontinued. The iBook started at $1,599 and sells for $999 today. And the list goes on.

No, Macs aren't as inexpensive as Windows PCs. The cost/function ratio is more tilted toward the Windows side all the time primarily because Apple refuses to release a low-end, consumer friendly, eminently affordable desktop Mac - let alone anything that competes costwise with the vast majority of Windows systems out there.

The result: Apple keeps selling about 3 million computers per year in a growing PC market and becomes increasingly marginalized as an overpriced, underappreciated desktop platform.

OS X Jaguar Upgrade

Matthew Wakeman suggests:

First off, great site - I check it often, and it is a valuable resource (I support my family's 3 G3 iMacs, iBook/500, G4 Tower, 2400c, and Duo 280, in addition to my Ti) so being able to check specs and read the online tech journal columns are great.

I'm curious about something - since you own a licensed copy of 10.2 (through your cascade of updaters), why not make a copy of your 10.2 update CD and make it into a full installer CD? I am pretty sure it would work the same way it did for the 10.1 update (there's a file somewhere on the CD called "CheckforOSX" or "Check for OS X" that you have to find and remove). I haven't personally checked, but it would be interesting to know. I realize this requires a little bit of extra work on your part, but since you own a legitimate copy of 10.2, and probably don't plan on installing 10.1 on any other machines, you should have no legal issues surrounding it.

If you want more info on creating the full install CD, let me know.

Not sure if this should be posted or not - your call. I am not recommending piracy (I don't practice it), just a simple backup...

I covered this in Good News and Bad News About the Jaguar Update and Other Thoughts on OS X a few days after you sent your email. It's not difficult at all to make a disk image of Disc 1 of the Jaguar installer, remove the "CheckForOSX" resource, and burn a new bootable install CD.

I used that CD to do a fresh install of Mac OS X 10.2 on my beige G3 and the external FireWire drive connected to my TiBook. Yesterday I did a "clean install" on my TiBook's internal hard drive, using the option to retain all of the user and network settings. It took about an hour to run the installer, maybe another 30 minutes to download all of the updaters (one after another over 3 or so restarts).

At this point I haven't used it enough to know if it's more stable or faster than the previous installation (10.0 updated to 10.1 updated by fits and starts to 10.1.5 and then to 10.2 and later with each update to that as it came out). The only problem I ran into was launching AppleWorks files and saving files in Claris Home Page. Both problems were solved by using First Aid in Disk Utility to repair disk permissions on both drives.

My next plan is to defragment and optimize the hard drive, which should make things a bit smoother yet.

Panther Will Not Be Out in July

Paul Lee comments:

You make a lot of good points. I'm now inclined to think that the [PowerPC] 970 machines will be out sooner rather than later, and if that's the case, it couldn't happen a moment too soon. My guess (and admittedly just a guess) is that Apple will launch Panther with the 970 machines. January seemed like a good date just because I didn't think it would be likely for Apple to introduce 970 machines before then, but it looks like it may prove otherwise.

Also, Jaguar still has a lot of life left in it. So even if Panther is technically ready by July, the marketing aspects might cause Apple to hold back on the launch. Right now, there seems to be a lot of interest for Panther, but not so much demand. By delaying the release 3-4 months, Apple would be able to stoke those particular fires a little hotter while using the extra time to make sure Panther is relatively problem-free (something I can't say for the recent iMovie 3 upgrade - very nice, but very buggy). I think I read somewhere that Jaguar itself didn't launch until 4 months after it was first previewed at the WWDC.

Still, I admit you have good arguments for a July launch, too. As with most things, we'll have to wait and see!

On April 2, eWeek posted Mac OS X 'Panther' on Track for September. The article is based on unnamed sources, so I don't know how close this is to a rumor. It makes sense that they will lock in the features before showing Panther off at the Worldwide Developers Conference June 23-27.

I'd picked a July date based on Macworld New York, but that show is going to be called Create - and Apple apparently won't be doing a keynote. This destroys Apple's best forum for releasing new hardware and a new version of the Mac OS, giving them no compelling reason to work toward a July 14 unveiling.

Looking at the history of Mac OS X, it looks like Apple's plan is a major release about once a year with significant updates (such as 10.2.4 to 10.2.5) roughly every 2-3 months. Based on that pattern, we may see another updater for Jaguar before Panther ships. Without the Expo, I don't see any reason for Apple to launch Jaguar until it has a compelling reason to do so, such as a major hardware improvement.

Re: You don't pay much attention to history

In response to my correction in You don't pay much attention to history, Doug Petrosky writes:

I will grant you that my memory slipped a bit with 7-7.6, but are you really trying to tell me that 8.1, 8.6, 9.1, 9.2, 10.1 where all minor updates? Apple has never charged for bug fixes and for over 5 years they have not charged for mid release OS's.

Name another company that gets as much grief about things they have not yet done as Apple does.

Get over your loss of a .mac email address. Apple didn't owe this on going expense to you. Giving it away so people would understand the use is a fare business practice. It says nothing about how OS updates will be charged.

A major difference between Apple and MS is that some people are buying an OS from MS who do not own any MS OS. This is not the case for Apple. Everyone is upgrading from a previous OS, and you can think of it as Apple is not going to penalize people who don't buy every update and will instead charge a single fair upgrade price. I personally disagree with this, but it made sense to some bean counter at Apple.

I did not intend to disrespect you or your website by the title of my email, but there is a strong pattern that Apple has followed, and I personally don't see it changing soon. So you can choose to buy or not buy 10.2, but I'm willing to bet that 4-6 months from now, if you buy a new OS from Apple the only benefit you will see by waiting is a combined installer and 50 cents in interest.

10.3 will be free!

Good talking with you, and I'll hold on to your address in case I have to send you an I'm wrong letter.

Doug, I'm not trying to tell you that 8.1, 8.6, 9.1, 9.2, and 10.1 were all minor updates. The update from 8.0 to 8.1 was not a major update, but it was a significant one, adding support for HFS+, the biggest improvement to Apple's hard drive file system since the Mac Plus introduced HFS in 1986.

I think most users would agree that 10.1 was a significant update, but it was also a necessary fix for the buggy, almost beta quality 10.0 release. Even Apple has admitted that 10.0 was more of a preview release than a full fledged operating system ready for prime time.

Panther has already been announced as a major upgrade, not a minor update. Based on Apple's pattern of releasing minor updates for free and charging for every major upgrade except 10.1, I anticipate Apple will charge for Panther. You disagree. We'll know in September, I guess.

As for my mac.com email address, Apple promised me that email address for life with the implication that it would remain free. I've paid $49 to keep it for a year, but I doubt I'll retain it unless Apple significantly reduced the price of .mac service from the current $99/year.

The Panther Upgrade Fee Letters

On the same subject, Mel Krewall comments:

You wrote, "After all, Microsoft is the leading OS vendor on the planet - and they do offer discounts when users upgrade." And yes, this is true to a point. But you can't upgrade any computer with Windows 95 on it (including Virtual PC), no matter how new it is, to Windows XP. You have to buy full price. Also, Windows upgrades are as much or more than Jaguar's full price. Example: Windows XP Home Full version $200, upgrade $100. Windows XP Pro Full $300, upgrade $200. Microsoft also profiteers on users that want better networking in the Pro version by nicking them for an extra hundred bucks. At least Apple doesn't try to fragment the market like that.

One other thing, Apple gives home users the Family Pack to try to help customers not violate the license agreement and not treat them as criminals (a pretty good deal, especially with 3 machines in my house). I don't notice any Microsoft family packs. They respond with Windows Product Activation, so that you can give them an extra $100-200 per machine to not violate the license agreement, and they enforce it by snooping on your computer over the network or Internet every time you try to update your machine to keep out all the virii and bugs (thus treating their users as criminals).

You can offer comparisons to Microsoft about upgrade discounts, but the reality is not so great. Having lived on both sides of the fence, I'll take Apple's pricing even if I'm sometimes disappointed in it. I also hope Panther is a free upgrade, but if not, I'll try to remember that it could be a lot worse.

You can't upgrade any Mac with System 7.5.3 (a 1995 release) to OS X 10.2 without paying the full price of OS X, either. Very few companies offer a discount for upgrading a product more than one or two major revisions old, and in the few cases where they do, they often offer less of a discount to those who have not purchased the intervening upgrades.

Yes, Windows upgrades are more costly than Mac OS upgrades, but Microsoft only dings you every two years or so (Windows 3.1, 95, 98, Me, XP), while Apple seems to be releasing a major upgrade every year (Panther is widely expected in September). Windows users can pay $200 to upgrade to WinXP and expect it won't be replaced until it's been around for two years. Mac users can pay $129 each year for an OS X upgrade. Whether we'll see any kind of discount for migrating from 10.2 to 10.3 remains to be seen, but I'm not holding my breath.

Mac OS X is probably a much better OS than Windows, the family pack is a great value, and Apple's refusal to incorporate a registration system like WinXP uses is admirable, but none of these excuse not offering discounted upgrades to loyal customers.

Apple's market share is small and declining. Despite the big talk, the growing number of retail stores, and the Switch ads, Apple hasn't managed to increase the number of computers they sell. Instead of learning how to market the best computers on the market or offering the kind of quality we should expect of premium priced products, Apple seems more interested in squeezing profits from its loyal customers than actually growing their presence in the market.

They should expect a backlash.

The Once and Future Mac286 Page on the Web

John Cate writes:

As you already know, the original link is dead; however, the people at archive.org seem to have the entire original site saved in their database, and I was able to locate it here.

Thanks for the link. I've already updated the three pages that used to link to it. I'm also attempting to contact the author of these pages (and hoping that the mac.com email link is still valid) to offer free hosting of these pages on LowEndMac.net.

Response to Paul Lee's response to Panther

After reading Panther will not be out in July, Ed Hurtley says:

While I tend to agree with most of his Panther/64-bit speculation, I do have one thing to point out: Microsoft already has a desktop 64-bit OS. Windows XP 64-bit Edition. Right now it's only for Intel's mostly-server-oriented Itanium processors, but HP does have some Itanium-based "workstations" that run that version of Windows. And Windows Server 2003 will be their server-class 64-bit OS. (It will also be available in 32-bit versions.)

And Dell has never been known as a high-end workstation company. HP, Compaq, and IBM are the Intel-based companies known for that. And, Windows 2000 even supports up to 32 GB of memory on 32-bit systems. (Through their Datacenter Server edition) HP sells their HP workstation xw8000 with two Xeon Processors, supporting up to 12 GB of RAM, starting at $1,500. Or their zx6000 with two Itanium 2 Processors, also supporting up to 12 GB of RAM, starting at $7,000.

AMD's x86-64 will be supported by Windows by the end of the year. Microsoft has leaked that 64-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 will be available for it before the end of the year. (Some rumor sites even say Server 2003 will be available when the Opteron launches in a couple months.)

There's been a lot of debate over the pros and cons of Apple porting Mac OS X over to a second hardware platform - and not the "Wintel" one that Microsoft already dominates. I think Apple could have a real chance to shine if they would port OS X over to both Itanium 2 and x86-64. They need to get in before Windows becomes the de facto standard.

Despite the nice things I've heard about Windows XP, it's still a Microsoft operating system with all the control, monitoring, and insecurity that entails. It's not often that a new hardware platform gets launched and creates the opportunity for a true OS war. I hope Apple will rise to the occasion.

OS X, Slave Drives, Beige G3s, and Older Macs

More from Terry O'Leary on his OS X adventures (see Beige G3 Slaves, OS X on a C600):

From what I have read Rev. A Beige G3s cannot even see their slave drives unless they boot in X. This is the same for my Umax C600 and I assume the PowerMac 6400.

The Umax C600 has only one IDE bus. The CD-ROM is on the SCSI bus, and as you may know the 6400, 6500 and clones are - so far - incapable of booting in X off of their (built-in) SCSI bus. Once in X, though, SCSI seems to work fine.

FYI, I have 2 of these machines. My mom has one. Both have the MacTell upgrade. One has a Matrox Millennium 2 video card, which gives you unaccelerated video in millions of colours at one screen size (640 x 480), and the other is the old ATI RAGE card originally found in 9500s. Again, the video is unaccelerated. They really are useful machines.

Yes, Rev. A beige G3s can't see slave drives unless they have been booted into OS X. As far as I know, these were the last desktop Macs not to support slave drives.

Thanks for the additional information on the SuperMac C600. This model is related to the Power Mac 4400, as well as the Motorola StarMax 3000 and 4000. Although I don't note it on Low End Mac, I believe the 6400 uses the same Tanzania motherboard, which is very limited in RAM expansion and have only a single IDE bus - and it doesn't support slave drives.

So, what's your secret? The XPostFacto page says your C600 is currently unsupported. Are you setting up the drive on another machine and then transplanting it into your SuperMac?

Panther Upgrade Fee Letters

In response to my comments in Apple update program, Mark Hooker notes:

I usually do not write letters to the editor, but I am becoming fed up with Apple's kick in the teeth called OS X and would like to add my small voice to the voices of those who have had the courage to say that the king has no clothes.

My PowerBook is two years old. Among Mac users, that's fairly new, since we tend to hold onto and productively use our Macs for more years than Windows users.

Yes, that's hitting the nail on the head. My PIC PPC (a 7300/200 to be precise) is still productive. It does what I want it to do, and it does it well. Maybe Panther and the IBM PowerPC 970 chip and the Mach 5.0 BSD kernel will make OS X usable, but for now, for me, it is a waste of my time and a hindrance to my productivity, as you yourself noted (see below).

I have updated to Jaguar, and for the first time my investment in OS X 10.0 paid off with a version of OS X that I could actually live with as my primary operating system. It's rock solid, but it has also reduced my efficiency compared with OS 9. I guess that's the price of a fully modern OS with a bloated GUI.

That is a price that I am not prepared to pay, as long as I have an alternative. Your car analogy was a good one, but I would modify it a bit.

I have a car that's all paid for, and I don't have to go back to my dealer for gas, oil, and brakes every so often. I don't have to pay an annual update fee to GM so my vehicle can keep up with the newer cars on the road.

Paying a fee to keep up with the newer cars on the road (i.e., updating the OS so that you can run the latest software) is a marketing strategy that has made millions for the software producers, and I don't like playing that game. It is as if they changed the gasoline so that only the newest cars would run on it. (I seem to remember that that did happen once, but with software, it keeps happening over and over, and for most programs that I use, it does not make me any more efficient.)

But I take the low end seriously. As regular LEM visitors know, the dot- com collapse has been very tough on us. I've taken two cuts in salary since I started managing the site full-time, followed by a part-time 20 hour a week job to help make up for the lost income. I only have Jaguar because a reader donated it; I don't have the luxury of spending much money without making sure it's a wise investment.

That makes two of us. I see no return on my investment for moving to OS X (be it Jaguar or Panther), and Apple, therefore, is not going to see any of my money until I see that the move is worthwhile. If Apple were to bring out an upgrade to OS 9.5 that would run on my machine, I would be happy to fork-over $129 for the upgrade, but as far as I'm concerned OS X is not ready for prime time, and I won't be ready to consider it for a long time yet, even if Panther and the IBM PowerPC 970 chip and the Mach 5.0 BSD kernel are the hottest thing since sliced bread. I cannot afford the bleeding edge package (computer, peripherals, software, learning curve) that it will take to use it. I am going to have to wait until that becomes low-end, well, maybe high low-end.

Power Mac sales are hurting, and Apple needs to address that.

They certainly do, and the reason that sales are lagging is that they have nothing compelling enough to make me want to spend my money. In any event, I could not afford to upgrade to the bleeding edge of the Mac just to keep doing what I am doing now on my low end Mac 7300. The "Killer" app that will make me "upgrade" is going to be my tax prep package. I bought Tax Cut, and it only just runs on OS 9.1, and at their site it says that you need OS 9.2 at a minimum.

When next tax season comes around, if I can't find a tax package that will run under OS 9.1, then I am not going to go out and buy an Apple bleeding edge system to do my taxes; I'll just get a low end PC. (They seem to support every version of Windoz from 95 on.) Apple could make my life a lot easier by bringing out OS 9.5 - or Tax Cut (a.k.a. H&R Block) could support OS 8.6 and OS 9.x a bit longer. It would be in Apple's interest to twist their arm a little, or maybe Apple would like to bring out their own tax package to support the "faithful." They need to do something to show that they have not abandoned us completely.

It's in Apple's interest that we all buy new hardware and run Mac OS X. It's only by putting us on this software treadmill that they can induce us to pay for OS upgrades. Whether it's the improvements in iTunes 3, the antispam features of Mail (way overrated IMHO), access to Safari, or a non-Apple program that isn't available for the classic Mac OS, it drive people toward the treadmill.

I've used TurboTax all but one of the years that I've done taxes on my computer. (That one year the store only had Tax Cut. I quickly came to dislike the program and made sure I got TurboTax the following year.) TurboTax still supports Mac OS 8.1, so if Tax Cut abandons you next year, you may have an alternative.

For the most part, I'm happy with OS X. The AppleScript I use to archive email from Claris Emailer to a FileMaker Pro database is actually faster in classic mode than natively in OS 9. I just hope Apple can keep making OS X more efficient, which is just the opposite of what Microsoft does with Windows.

At this point the rest of the family still uses OS 9. My wife has Jag on her iBook, but one of her most used fonts doesn't show up, none of her habits work, several of her utilities (especially TypeIt4Me) don't work at all, and she just finds it annoying. My youngest sometimes uses Safari on the beige G3, and the kids sometimes use my TiBook, but mostly they're happy as clams with the classic Mac OS.

Disk Warrior would have found it

Anonymous writes:

In A Damaged Hard Drive Can Ruin Your Whole Day - Hooray for Backups! you may not have known it, but Norton is actually the cause of hard drive problems, not the diagnosis. It invades the directory attachment of every single file of the system, and if you aren't careful, it can render your system unbootable.

The good news is that you are keeping a frequent backup. The bad news, is you are subjecting your hard disk to torture every time you run Norton. It is not fully aware of HFS+ systems, and I have had hundreds customers who have effectively rendered their hard drive unreadable because they run Norton on their system. Only Disk Warrior will see through Norton's directory damage when it is severe enough.

David Coursey realized this the hard way: Disaster! How I wound up in hard-drive hell

Don't become Norton's next victim.

The number of times I've had to repair hard drives damaged by Norton is abominable.

I'm well aware of the problems Norton Utilities can cause. I've used Norton thousands of times since version 1.0 was released, had it fix problems hundreds of times, and only had it cause problems once. See Norton Utilities Warning for that saga.

Norton has fully supported HFS+ for years now, but I don't rely on it. Norton is just one tool in my arsenal, but it's the only one I have that runs under OS X. There was a problem, and none of my other utilities saw it. There is still a problem, and only Norton recognizes that it exists - although it can't do anything about it.

I am not averse to running Norton, because I know that over 99% of the time it won't cause any problems. Unlike Disk Warrior, which is a phenomenal program, Norton can find damaged files and disk defects. That's why I use it. I wish Disk First Aid, TechTool, and the rest did what Norton does so I could switch, but at this point it's the only tool for certain types of diagnosis.

That said, I'm really looking forward to Disk Warrior 3. If it makes me less dependent on Norton Utilities, so much the better.

That's plenty for now. I hope to have another dozen emails ready for tomorrow's mailbag.


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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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