The Low End Mac Mailbag

iBox Reflections, Beige G3 Upgrades, More on Internet Sharing, 802.11g for Older Macs, and More

Dan Knight - 2003.04.25 - Tip Jar

iBox Reflections

In response to iBox Value and Avoiding Apple Legal Complications, David muses:

I've found a listing for Power Mac G4 Gigabit Ethernet motherboards at MacResQ for $199.

I think I remember that a few months ago. Couldn't find it at MacResQ today.

Anyway, it's hard to imagine how reselling Apple motherboards will get John Fraser in hot water, since many resellers do it.

Seems to me kit form is the key here, like when SuperMac sold G3 models by downgrading the S900 to a 150 MHz 604 (the "Base" model) with a Newer card still in the box. Aside from assembling Mac-compatiblle computers, the second factor that might get John Fraser in trouble would be advertising it as such, complete with a name.

I presume that even with their OEM VAR status, Yellow Dog can't make a clone: http://www.terrasoftsolutions.com/products/briQ/

The dream for a new computer in a Q605 or 6100 form factor lives on.

I've got some thoughts of my own on repackaging an LC, LC II, LC III, or Quadra 605 motherboard, but there's no way anything containing a G4 motherboard with room for several PCI cards can be anywhere near that small.

Choosing between beige G3 upgrade options

Eric Chamberland

I've been reading a lot on Low End Mac lately, looking for information on how to best spend my money on upgrading my beige G3.

Your site has been very invaluable to me so far, as it allowed me make a well informed choice on many options (ATA card, USB, FireWire, RAM). Still, I have some questions remaining, mostly regarding comparisons between recently released products and older upgrade products. I figured I'm probably not the only one with these questions and thought it could be useful for many if you published my questions with answers on Low end Mac.

Context: I run Jaguar on a Beige minitower G3/266. 288 MB RAM, 60 GB Western Digital ATA/66 7200 RPM HD (partitioned), Yamaha CD-RW instead if the original 24x CD-ROM, 6 MB VRAM.

I mostly do simple Internet stuff (browsing and email), QuickTime and Windows Media Files playing, and simple office tasks in MS Office and AppleWorks. So far I'm very disappointed with Aqua performance and general system responsiveness (such as when switching between apps or launching apps).

My remaining questions :

  1. For Aqua performance, should I get an ATI Radeon 7000 PCI or an original ATI Mac Radeon PCI? Will it make any difference, Aqua-wise? How do the two cards compare, generally speaking?
  2. For QuickTime and WMP performance, which will benefit me more, a G4/500 upgrade, a G3/800 upgrade, or a video card upgrade?
  3. For Aqua performance, should I get a 500 MHz G4 upgrade or a 800 MHz G3 upgrade?
  4. For general system responsiveness, should I get a 500 MHz G4 upgrade or a 800 MHz G3 upgrade?

I will buy a processor upgrade and a video card, but obviously I'd like to pick a combination of video card and processor upgrades that will globally benefit my G3 the most, responsiveness-wise and media playing-wise.

From what I've read, the Radeon Mac Edition is generally considered superior to the newer Radeon 7000. Maybe that's because the earlier card was a top-end one, while the 7000 is designed not to compete with a more expensive card. Regardless, consensus seems to be that the Mac Edition is the way to go.

I can't speak to the Windows Media Player, but Aqua really does benefit from a G4, and since the hack to enable Quartz Extreme on a PCI video card produces mixed results, you'll probably have the best overall results with the G4 for both general Aqua display and QuickTime.

Whether Microsoft takes advantage of AltiVec is something I don't know.

If you're running the classic Mac OS and not doing heavy duty imaging, video, or sound work, the G3/800 will give you a much more responsive computer. But if your running OS X or doing heavy duty video stuff, the "slower" G4 will probably be the better choice.

Problem with Internet Sharing

Mark Bakken ran into a problem with Internet sharing in OS X and writes:

I have updated to OS 10.2.5 and everything seems OK, except using Internet applications in the classic environment on the host computer when sharing your Internet connection. Maybe another of your readers has a fix, maybe others would like to know this, and maybe it's just me.

I love your site and I visit almost everyday. Thank you for your time and effort.

I don't recall having any problems with classic applications when using Internet Sharing on my TiBook. I use Claris Emailer and POPmonitor 1.1.1 regularly, both classic only applications.

If anyone else has run into problems with classic apps while sharing an Internet connection on your Mac, please send details so we can share them.

Wireless PCI cards for older Macs

Jay Williams writes:

I just got finished reading Extreme Wireless for Older Macs. It was a story you wrote in January.

Were you able to write a follow up piece showing any successes to your endeavors? I have an B&W G3 that I'm hoping to buy either a 802.11b or g wireless PCI card so I can hook up to my standard AirPort base station (knowing I'll get only b speeds, but maybe buying a g card for 'future proofing' or ability to use elsewhere later).

From my studies so far, drivers for OS X by any of the manufacturers are not available. There is a third party freeware driver website, http://wirelessdriver.sourceforge.net/, that I gathered more info, but found what it had would only work with wireless cards and not PCI wireless cards.

I was just wondering you if you had any luck.

Thanks for any information!

Much as I'd like to pick up an 802.11g hub and PC Card for my TiBook, at present none of the manufacturers mentioned in that article appears to have OS X drivers available. And in some cases, even the cards themselves aren't shipping yet.

Krylon Fusion for Painting Macs

Boltzero writes:

Saw an advertisement today for a new line of Krylon spray paint specially formulated for plastic: Fusion, "the first paint for plastic."

  • Bonds to plastic
  • No sanding or priming
  • Dries in 15 minutes or less
  • Features the EZ Touch Fan™ spray nozzle
  • Available in 16 colors

This would be excellent for Mac users intending to customize their individual Macintosh models with a new finish. I have an SE/30 just begging for one of the 16 colors. Is there a way to get the word out to the Mac community about this new line of paints, it may be worth writing an article on.

We have a small section of the website dedicated to CustoMacs - this would certainly increase the number of repainted Macs out there.

If anyone has used the new Krylon Fusion paint on a Mac, we'd love to hear about it. I've got a bunch of old Classic IIs that could really use a fresh look to hide all the writing on their cases. (The joy of buying retired school computers.)

Upgrading from a PowerBook 1400

Stan Marks

I enjoyed your series of recent LEM articles on G3 PowerBooks. I have a maxed-out PB 1400 that is acting flaky, presumably because of the 64 MB RAM limit under OS 9.1, and I am planning to upgrade to an iBook in the not-too-distant future (as funds become available). In the meantime, however, this 1400 has become rather unpredictable - even unreliable - and I am considering upgrading to a WallStreet as an "intermediary" (or step-up) machine.

Your articles have been very helpful, but - as the information in them is, understandably, rather general - I am hoping that you might be able to answer some more specific questions for me...

To start with, my PB 1400 has a Sonnet G3/400/1 MB CPU upgrade and 64 MB of RAM in it. (Also running RAM Doubler 9 for an effective total of 192 MB.) What processor speed in a WallStreet would provide comparable performance? Would I be correct in assuming that a 250 (or even a 233) MHz WallStreet, with its faster system bus speed, would give me about the same performance as the upgraded 1400, or should I hold out for something faster?

Secondly, is the 12" display on the "Special Edition" WallStreet an active or passive matrix LCD? Also, is its resolution limited to 800 x 600? I would consider the 12" in an active matrix display at 1024 x 768, but if the passive matrix LCDs are as bad as those for the 1400, I would not - even if it meant a lower purchase price.

Lastly, just out of curiosity, you stated that the original WallStreet (the "MainStreet"?), with its cacheless 233 MHz CPU, earned the dreaded "Road Apple" status and should be avoided, but wouldn't it be possible to improve on that with a better CPU from another WallStreet model, or even a CPU upgrade? (Not that I am considering such a move, myself, mind you. I ask for information, only.

I would appreciate any light you might care to shed on the above questions and thank you in advance for your consideration.

Despite the seemingly significant 2:1 difference in bus speed, once you start dealing with a backside level 2 cache (instead of one on the motherboard), it really isn't that significant. In short, no speed of WallStreet (the fastest was 300 MHz) is going to have the same horsepower as your G3/400 upgraded PB 1400.

To answer your other questions, the WallStreet Special Edition screen is a fixed 800 x 600 resolution; there is no way to display 1024 x 768 on it. I don't recall whether the screen was active matrix or not.

If you want comparable processor performance, I'd suggest a 400 MHz Lombard or Pismo as your best choices. Neither suffers from the 8 GB partition issue of the WallStreet, and both have better video circuitry and USB ports. If you're willing to settle for a little less performance - and few people are - the 333 MHz Lombard is probably your best choice.

Then again, these get you within striking distance of a used or refurbished iBook 500. If you can swing it, you would be better of skipping an intermediate step and reaching for the iBook right away.

Russian System 7.5

O.J. Lougheed writes:

Don't know if you have good contacts at Apple.

Last year I found the European Apple FTP site with various Eastern Eurolanguage software updates including the 7.5.3 "free" system disks (19). Didn't grab them though...

Yesterday the site gives no response. The Euro Apple website has a list of countries, so I happily sent email to support@apple.ru. The reply this morning was that "NO Macintosh System Software is FREE in Russia!"

Please forward this to someone at Apple. I have 7.5 in Russian and would like to update to 7.5.3 which used to be "free" for download. Note that the apple.ru folks did not give a price, saying only that I would have to deal with dealers.

What gives?

Come to the American Apple website to find what you need. Start at the Apple Software Updates page, then choose Russian. Then Macintosh, then System, and finally System 7.5 Update 2.0. Here you'll find the 14 files you'll need to install 7.5.x on your Mac.

Replacement Mac

After reading How to Survive While Your Mac Is Gone for Repair, Chris Kilner suggests:

The B&W G3 has a few issues. The Rev. 1s are costly to upgrade the HD due to the faulty IDE controller. FireWire is flaky, and all B&Ws also cannot boot from a FireWire drive.

The 366 MHz clamshell iBook is the oldest Mac that can boot from FW. Boot off the FireWire drive, and you eliminate the problem of the iBook's small HD.

The blue & white G3 can't boot from FireWire? Well that certainly throws a wrench in the works. And the same holds for the "Yikes!" G4. Time to update the profiles....

However, a clamshell FireWire iBook isn't going to solve my problem. The biggest issue is the display. The way I work, I can just get by with the 1152 x 768 display on my TiBook. The 800 x 600 of an old iBook would be unusable; even my wife's 14" 1024 x 768 iBook it too small considering my need to have documents side-by-side.

Still, there's probably a way to work around the fact that the b&w G3 can't boot from a FireWire drive. I could probably use Carbon Copy Cloner to move everything to an external FW drive and then use it again to move everything to the internal drive on a b&w G3. Not quite as efficient, but it would get the job done.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention!

iMac Problems

Alvin writes:

I read your article on what to use while the Mac is being repaired. My iMac 350 seems to have little zigzags on the top half of the screen. It's visible on the side of the scroll bar on any application, but if I take a pic of it using command-Shift-4 on OS 9, it's straight, does not appear, and the zigzags are not there.

Also, any idea on how to self repair the iMac speaker, the bass is rattling and sounds bad even at half volume. I this when I played an MP3 that's had too low on bass frequency, it got damaged. Repair in the Philippines is not reliable, usually they say they'll try to fix it but just store it, never really tries to fix it but charges storage fee and consultation fee I think (at least at one incident, which I got to fix myself but feel cheated - they should have just said we can't fix it). I can fix things myself anyway, and it's faster; I get to learn, too.

I'm confused, by the way, by "third oldest son" in the article, is it a moral issue of the past but no need to answer this if this question is uncomfortable.

Been reading LEM for years now. Any chance there's a section for the staff's pictures and family? I'm sure a lot would like to see that, too.

When you do a screen capture, your Mac captures the image in video memory. It's not the same thing as taking a picture of the screen itself. It will never show flicker, wavy lines, etc.

I've never worked inside a slot-loading iMac, but I can imagine it's pretty easy to blow those tiny speakers - and probably anything but easy to fix them. Here in the States you can buy a pair of external speakers for $10 and up, depending on the quality of sound you want. That's probably a better sounding and less costly alternative to repairing your speakers.

In English, we have terms for oldest, youngest, and middle sons and daughters, but when you have four children, #3 is either the third oldest or second youngest.

Because of online predators, I don't think putting pictures of kids or even their names on the Web is a very good idea. Too many twisted people out there.

Low End Mac Religion

Peter Wagner writes:

I appreciate Low End Mac, but sometimes I think your (individual) articles take the low end religion a bit far. Let me explain. If a business depends on the computer, you need backups. I know you're good about data backups, but where is the hardware redundancy? I think your objective to buy (or rent) a machine with the goal of selling it back is shortsighted.

You are lucky that you have some flexibility in getting your TiBook fixed. A more critical error would not give you that kind of freedom. The old slogan about floppy disks applies to hardware: "If it's worth putting on one disk, it's worth putting on two."

To stay functional in an OS X production environment, the minimum setup is:

  1. A main machine with FireWire port
  2. Retrospect to burn data to CD-R, tape, etc.
  3. An external FireWire drive with a cloned version of the system
  4. One spare CPU in the office somewhere capable of booting off of that FireWire drive.
  5. A spare monitor, keyboard, and pointing device, even if at an extremely lower quality.

That's expensive, but it's the price of being productive. "Shit happens" on a statistically predictable interval. My personal goal is to be able to survive the inevitable without missing deadlines. We all can tell stories about our colleagues who lost data or time to the inevitable.

Given the number of Macs in your family, the incremental cost is smaller than in one Mac shops.

Incidentally, I have two thoughts on making this affordable:

  1. The refurbed eMacs are a wonderful buy at $650 or so. From the rumors, a huge number of these machines were returned with video problems. Although the Apple Store is out of stock at the moment, I'd expect them to return shortly. (BTW, the screen quality on the eMac is wonderful. It's sharper and easier to read at 1024 x 768 than the same resolution was on a cheap 19 incher)
  2. Unless you need to have maximum power on the road everyday, don't try to make a laptop your main machine. The premium for portable is too steep. (I'm writing this on an eMac 700 and currently transferring files to an iBook 500 for a week long trip.) If an eMac would spoil you for speed and you couldn't go back to the TiBook, perhaps that's a sign that you should "upgrade" to the eMac for your at home work?

I know it stinks to have to pay for redundancy, but if your work is important, it's the only way. (Or so says my two cents.)

Keep up the great work.

In an ideal world, I'd just buy a nice PowerBook G4/667 (DVI) and make my 400 MHz TiBook the backup computer. But this isn't an ideal world, and there's nothing "religious" about low-end computing with my budget.

That's why I bought AppleCare, not knowing at the time that Apple would refuse to let my local Apple dealer service screen problems. I can skip a few days of site updates, although I certainly don't want to, but we're talking about a week without my computer.

You must have missed the part where Low End Mac is barely breaking even and three months behind on paying its staff. Any money I spend on a computer is money I can't use for our wages. Given the choice between food on the table and a spare computer, I'll buy groceries.

Although we do have a lot of Macs here, 90% are pre-PowerPC, and half of those are in unknown condition (I saved a truckload of LC 630 DOS Compatibles from the dump). My business owns a TiBook; that's it's only significant physical asset. My wife's business owns several iBooks, but each is used by one of her employees.

One of my sons owns a 266 MHz WallStreet with a broken hinge, another owns a SuperMac S900 with a 400 MHz upgrade, and yet another has his own Color Classic with an LC 575 motherboard.

More computers I can't use to replace my PowerBook G4.

Beyond that, there are a couple pre-FireWire iMacs, two pre-G3 SuperMacs with G3 upgrades (one used to run daily network backups), an even slower SuperMac (our network file server), and a few NuBus Power Macs.

Based on your recommendation (which I essentially agree with), my only choice is to buy a FireWire-bootable computer. Based on my needs (1152 x 768 or higher resolution), the minimum would be an eMac, thanks to Apple's continued unwillingness to sell a low-cost modular desktop computer. Based on my budget, I either buy a $700 refurbished eMac or do two weeks of payroll.

I bought my 400 MHz PowerBook G4 because it was the minimum computer that met my needs. It needed to be portable so I could take it to trade shows and clients, it needed a screen at least 1152 pixels wide, and it had to be no slower than 300 MHz, which I considered the minimum comfortable speed for OS 9. Today the 400 MHz TiBook remains the minimum computer that meets my needs, and it does so without my having to switch between it and a desktop machine. I can put the whole thing in a bag, take it to my part-time job, and use it there.

I really am operating on a shoestring. Low-end computing isn't some sort of religion or goal for us; it's a financial necessity.

Network Problems

David Hamilton is stumped:

Been reading your Web comments, and I have found you very helpful, but I have not found anyone on my Web yet with my particular situation. Been working with Macs for the past 15 years, and I'm stumped on this one. Plugged my new G4 into the ethernet wall socket at work, punched in the right TCP/IP numbers (no DHCP client, just an IP address and the rest) and was immediately connected to the building's DSL. Great. No problem.

But I cannot do the same with my older equipment, including several 6100s and a 7100, all on OS 8.6 (and, of course, using the Asante adapters for the ethernet cables). Do I need crossover ethernet cables for the older equipment?

The AppleTalk won't allow me to select ethernet when they are hooked up into the wall connectors, and my TCP settings are, indeed, correct. I even tried placing a router between the old equipment and the wall connections and, an INTRAnet is established but no connect to the Internet.

I would sure desperately appreciate any thoughts about this - it seems like they should work fine. In fact, I used one of my 6100s at home using a router from our cable modem and it worked well. Any ideas? Could it be this particular DSL company serving the building? I haven't tried crossover cables instead yet, but I have fiddled with everything else.

I think you hit the nail on the head. Newer Macs automatically sense what kind of ethernet port they're connected to and adapt accordingly, so your new G4 has no trouble getting on the network.

Your older Macs don't work that way. Using a crossover cable should solve your problem. With the wrong kind of wiring, they won't even recognize that they're physically connected to a network since the signals are wrong.

It's been quite a week for the old mailbag - we've processed three weeks worth of backlog over the course of five days. I am definitely looking forward to the weekend. ;-)

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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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