The Low End Mac Mailbag

PowerBooks and Static, Beige G3 Questions, OS X and Serial Ports, Used Mac Values, and More

Dan Knight - 2003.05.28 - Tip Jar

Using IBM Travelstar in USB Enclosure with Windows

Jeffrey Harris writes:

I upgraded a drive in a Lombard PowerBook, and bought a Mercury USB 1/2 enclosure from you to put the old 4.8 GB Travelstar to use for backup. Worked fine on Macs.

I now have switched to a FireWire drive for the backup, and want to use the USB drive on Windows.

Problem is, I can not see or initialize the drive from Windows 2000 or 98. Have tried 4-5 PCs.

The Travelstar has marked on it "Apple Firmware", which may mean it can only be used on a Mac.

Do you know a workaround?

Low End Mac doesn't sell hardware; you couldn't have purchased the enclosure from us. As for using the Mercury enclosure on a Windows machine, I don't do Windows. Perhaps the manufacturer can help.

PowerBooks and Static

George Alexander writes:

I sent an email to Bill Fox at macsonly.com in response to one of his articles regarding modem disconnects, and he remembered that some time ago, you had made mention of "static problems" with the early TiBooks on your website.

I was wondering if you had managed to resolve the problem and how?

If there is a link to an archive or similar on your site, I'd be interested in following it up.

There is a search box in the upper left corner of every page on the site. Typing in "static" lead me to the following article, TiBook Report #7: Zap!. It included the following comment: "My problem is with static electricity. Static is usually associated with dry weather and carpeting, but I've been able to zap my TiBook on a rainy day in a room with no carpeting."

My initial solution was to touch the outer edge of the computer before putting hands to keyboard. These days I've gone a step further - I use a wireless keyboard and mouse. I didn't choose them to address this problem, but eliminating static shock lockups has been a nice side effect, one I wouldn't even have realized if you hadn't asked this question.

I don't know if later revisions of the PowerBook G4 improved upon this. Maybe we'll get some reports from the field in response to posting this.

Re: Mac PM G3-333 Upgrade Qs

Following up on SimCity 4 Questions, Rich writes:

Thanks for taking the time to reply. Based on your reply, it appears that I wasn't clear enough (I hate when that happens) ...

As far as I can tell, there is no reason that you would have to be OS 9 free to run SimCity 4 or any other OS X program. As long as you're running Jaguar and have adequate hardware, SC4 should work.

I wasn't implying that, except to say that I like OS X a lot, and that I would prefer to just use OS X. :-)

Sonnet upgrades have a great reputation, and the 1 MB level 2 cache will help you get the most out of the faster processor, and these are designed to work with the beige G3.

Unless you need to run a drive larger than 128 MB, there's not much reason to invest in an ATA133 card. Most of today's hard drives can't saturate a 66 MB/sec. bus, and the ATA66 version of the Acard Ahard sells for about $20 less. It's the card we use in our beige G3, and it works very nicely under both OS 9 and X.

Thanks for clearing this up.

It looks like you've got plenty of memory, but to get the most out of OS X, it wouldn't hurt to replace the 64 MB DIMM with a 256 MB one.

Actually I don't. I'm a price conscious buyer. I don't know where you are, but in America, we've mail-in rebates programs. If you're diligent & patient enough (like, waiting a bit of time in buying), it pays off.

With regards to the memory sticks, I was concerned as the 3 sticks all have different bus speeds (66-100-133 MHz RAM). I was hoping not to upgrade my drive IDE card (to ATA133) as that would mean loosing both my stock 66 & bought 100 MHz cards. You cleared this up with your answer above.

Whether the Radeon 7000 is the best PCI video card for the Mac is a matter of value. The Radeon Mac Edition is a better card, but it sells for about twice as much. Considering the difference in price, the Radeon 7000 is probably the better value. According to benchmarks on Bare Feats, the "Radeon PCI" is about 50% faster. Whether it's work the price is your call.

The Radeon 8500 simply isn't an option for you. You can't use any AGP video card in a computer without an AGP slot.

I was told that it was easier to buy the 8500 as it's newer & more readily available. I would be paying a premium to buy these "older" cards. Then again, I'm behind these graphic cards info. I just realized that PCI + AGP are not interchangeable. I thought one was faster/better than the other (like a 500 MHz or 1 GHz is better than my 33 MHz CPU). My mistake, sorry.

* My Beige G3 is now more than 4.5 years old. No upgrades at all, just stock, and only added the 2 RAM sticks & recently an external HDD (photos & such). The only game I play (when I can) is Sim City 3000. No game consoles, The Sims, UT3k, or whatever. I still have board games. I'm a bit old school like that. :-)

I looked at (perhaps recycling &) getting another used or refurbished minitower; but with the rumoured "IBM-970 64-bit chip" around the corner . . . maybe I'll just wait a bit longer.

Then again, maybe I'll just be status quo & continue with my Sim City 3000. But boy, my PC friend is really marketing that game for the game company then. :-O

Thanks again, and if you've any further tips or advice to share, will be really much appreciated by me.

If you can use just OS X and have no legacy games, utilities, or applications that require OS 9, that's great. A lot of long term Mac users don't have that option, though, since we may be using discontinued programs (such as Claris Emailer and Home Page) that will never be ported over to OS X.

As for memory sticks, as long as they're fast enough for your computer, there's generally no problem mixing speeds. If you can buy PC100 or PC133 for the same price as PC66 memory, go for it.

As for our location, Low End Mac headquarters is in Grand Rapids, Michigan, although we have writers from all over the US, some from Canada, and a few from overseas. I'm familiar with rebates, hate filling out the paperwork, hate the delays even more, and hate the "you didn't dot this 'i' or cross this 't'" rejection letters still more. Rebates are great when they work, but they can be a real scam since the manufacturer realizes that a good percentage of buyers won't apply or will fill out the paperwork incorrectly.

ramseeker cuts through the rebate nonsense and simply lists out-of-pocket prices for memory, with or without shipping. Today they show 256 MB DIMMs for the beige G3 from US$32.33 to $107 shipped. I don't always pick the lowest cost vendor, but I usually pick from the three or four lowest when buying memory for my Macs.

I'm very cost conscious. My first computer was a $129 Commodore VIC-20, followed by a $99 Commodore 64. My first PC was a refurbished Zenith Z-151, a 4.77 MHz DOS computer I bought in the 386 era. My first Mac was a Plus; Apple gave it to me in a 1990 or 1991 holiday sales contest, so it only cost me income tax.

The most expensive computer I purchased for myself was a 20 MHz Centris 610 at a student price of about $1,340 in mid 1993. I replaced it with a SuperMac J700 at a liquidation price of $800 in mid 1998. I used that until I started publishing Low End Mac full time in January 2001, when Cobweb Publishing bought the first 400 MHz titanium PowerBook G4 to reach my dealer.

This is the fourth Mac I've used in 12 years with the operating system. I get a lot of years out of my hardware; the cost per year of ownership has been very reasonable. And I always look for bargains - like the $77 1 MB SIMMs I bought for my Mac Plus.

From my perspective, being able to have a 256 MB module delivered to your door for $33 is an incredible bargain, and I don't have to worry about rebate forms and "the check is in the mail" to get it for such a reasonable price.

My advice is always to look at the total cost of the upgrades you're considering, compare that to a comparable new or used system, and see if the difference is more or less than you could get for your old computer. If you're looking at a better video card, bigger hard drive, more memory, better IDE controller, and so on, it might be more economical to pick up a blue & white G3, which already has a better (although not AGP) video card, twice as fast an IDE bus (possibly eliminating the need for the IDE card), a 50% faster memory bus, and probably includes a larger hard drive to begin with. Or maybe a "low-end" Power Mac G4 with AGP would provide the power you really need - those Sims games get more demanding with each upgrade.

I can't tell you whether upgrading your beige G3 is a better or worse choice than moving to a blue & white G3, a Sawtooth G4, or even a refurbished 700 MHz eMac. With current deals on the refurbished eMac, I'm considering one as my primary computer, which would relegate my PowerBook G4 to backup and field use.

A Question about B&W G3s

Chris Kilner writes:

I noticed that the power button on my B&W G3 turns amber when I put it to sleep in OS 9.2 (and the fan/drives spin down), whereas it stays green when I put it to sleep in OS X 10.2 (and the fan doesn't spin down). I've read that "deep sleep" wasn't enabled until the G4 came out (but not w/r/t any particular operating system). Can you (or any Low End Mac readers) enlighten me on this issue?

I can't. Although we had b&w G3s at my last job, I left before OS X left the beta stage.

There are some differences in the way OS X and the classic Mac OS works which could account for the b&w G3 not sleeping as deeply as newer models, but I'm not familiar with all the ins and outs. Perhaps a reader will be able to enlighten us.

More Comment on Beige G3 on OS X

Further continuing our discussion from More on Mac OS X, SCSI, and the Beige G3, Dan Yarberry writes:

Daniel Knight wrote:

Back in the early days of OS X, support for third-party SCSI PCI cards - including some Apple had included as build-to-order options - was pretty much nonexistent. Things have improved since then, and today SCSI is very well supported by OS X.

The first version of OS X I installed was 10.1. Everything just worked. :-)

Apple's serial ports have always been RS422, not RS232, but 422 is a superset of 232, so pretty much any RS232 device can connect to the Mac. (RS422 is what allowed Apple to use their serial ports for LocalTalk networking.) Jaguar may not support the serial ports - it doesn't support the floppy drive - but third party drivers may be all it takes to let your GV modem work with your beige G3 and OS X.

I haven't (knowingly) installed any third-party drivers. It just works. :-)

As for Classic, it does its input and output through OS X, so even if it were running, it would have to use X resources to talk to your modem.

That's my understanding, too. Since my last note, I browsed across a web page for XPostFacto, which I hadn't read for a while. There are now some interesting statements about G3s, despite that fact that the utility is primarily aimed at Apple-unsupported Macs, the utility author claims that some serial modems will work with OS X on beige G3s. If some do and some don't, then that explains the contradictory experiences.

I think we're dealing with a Gorgon's knot when we're trying to figure out just what should, shouldn't, does, doesn't, might, and might not work under OS X on the beige G3. According to some recent discussions I've read, the serial ports are pretty much fully supported for regular serial devices - but not for anything that uses the LocalTalk protocol.

That said, the next issue is whether Apple or the manufacturer has the drivers for the modem, printer, or other serial device in question. Since Apple often used Global Village modems, it's not surprising that OS X provides support.

Getting to the Power Mac 8500 Motherboard

Jeff Williams writes:

I happened onto your article (originally written in 1998 and posted on Low End Mac) after a search on Google - which in turn was prompted by problems I was experiencing on my PowerPC 8500.

I want to thank you for the valid and reliable information on logic board batteries that you provided in your article. It's reassuring to me that there are still people "out there" willing to help others - mahalo nui loa (thank you very much) for the peace of mind of knowing.

I have a follow-up question regarding my Mac 8500 - obtaining the battery, removing the case - these are straightforward actions to me. However, I hit a brick wall when I try to get to the logic board - it has a Chinese puzzle motif to it, and I'm at a lost to know how to open the brackets that hold it place so that I may access, remove, and replace my dead clock battery.

I'm not all thumbs, and it would be a crime if I relegated to a "tech" shop that'll charge me a 100 bucks. Can you help me, or point me in the right direction as to how to properly access the logic board?

Grateful in Hawaii

The bad news is that the Power Mac 8500, like the earlier 8100 and the Quadra 800 and 840av, used one of the most user-hostile cases in Mac history. It's the only Apple case to ever merit a Road Apple rating.

It's been a few years since I've been inside one of these, but I can pretty much walk you through it from memory.

  1. Unplug the computer and disconnect all wires going to ports on the back.
  2. Remove the cover.
  3. Remove any cards (NuBus or PCI, PDS, CPU) and set them aside.
  4. Disconnect any wires to the motherboard - SCSI, floppy, CD-ROM sound, and speaker are the ones that come to mind. I may have forgotten one or two.
  5. Turn the computer so you're facing the back/bottom of the motherboard. Remove the Philips head screw located near the center of the motherboard.
  6. Remove the plastic reset button (not on all models that use this case - the 840av doesn't have it, but the Q800 does) and make a mental note which way it fit.
  7. Now you're finally ready to begin removing the motherboard. There are one or two plastic tabs that prevent it from sliding forward (or to the left if you're facing the bottom of the motherboard). Loosen these and slide the motherboard about an inch to the left.
  8. If you've disconnected all the cables, the motherboard should come out very easily at this point.
  9. Install the new battery. If you've been thinking about a memory upgrade, now is the time to do it. You don't want to go through this again.
  10. Reinstalling is even trickier. You have to line up all the ports and pins and tabs before you can slide it into place. It may take a few tries to get it all right.
  11. Once that's done, you can verify that you've done it right by putting the screw back that's near the center of the motherboard. If it doesn't line up, you need to reseat the motherboard yet again.
  12. Then reinstall the plastic reset button.
  13. Next reconnect all the internal cables.
  14. Plug in all of your cards.
  15. Don't bother putting the case on. Connect power, monitor, and keyboard. Start computer with extensions off (hold the shift key down). Listen for the bong. Look for video. If all seems well, shut down, put on the cover, and pray you won't have to do it again.

I hate this case. I had to work with a Q800, 840av, and 8100 at my last job. I got good at it, but this is a horrid case design. You'll probably agree once you get it back together - if not long before then.

Jaguar and RS422 serial ports

Responding to More on Mac OS X, SCSI, and the Beige G3, Jeff Hellige writes:

Just wanted to add some information to your 05/22/2003 mailbag concerning Jaguar not recognizing the RS422 serial ports on a Beige G3. If Jaguar isn't recognizing the built-in serial ports on the Beige, it's not due to Jaguar dropping support for the ports, unless it specifically dropped support for the ports on just the Beige. I have a WallStreet (stock 250 MHz G3, 512 MB RAM, 20 GB HD, stock CD-ROM, 13" screen) which runs Jaguar (10.2.6), and everything on the WallStreet works perfectly, including the VST Zip drive, the CD-ROM, and the built-in serial ports. I use the serial ports to transfer programs to my Newton (MP2000 upgraded by Apple to MP2100) using NewtSync.

I also have access to both wireless networks (through a Compaq wireless PC-card and the IOXperts driver) and FireWire (using the eMachines IEEE-1394 card that was being sold by OWC), both of which work perfectly on the WallStreet under 10.2.6. iTunes 4 syncs my iPod with my WallStreet using the eMachines PC-Card without a problem, just as if the ports were built in.

The WallStreet running 10.2.6 certainly doesn't make me wait for programs to load any more than the average Windows machine and is a lot more stable at that. It's quite a usable combination, as well as being a nice expandable machine with lots of connection options, though I may eventually get one of the processor upgrades for it.

Thanks for the information. This seems to corroborate what others are saying - that regular serial works, but LocalTalk devices are not supported on the old Mac serial ports under OS X.

Road Apple "Yikes"

After reading our Road Apple report on the "Yikes!" version of the Power Mac G4, Al Shep writes:

Let me start with my strong appreciation for your site and you. You have done a great job of putting together this wonderful site for the armature hacker (i.e., non-paid Mac pros). I spend a good chunk of my time refurbishing used Macs, and I send everyone who wants info on one to your site. Their is no better.

Now to the "but." I very much appreciated your information on the 52xx series of Macs. I found your links insightful and increased my appreciation of the machine each time I read their intentional limitations. A 5200 was my first Mac, and I found it wonderful. I still use it, mainly as a TV, but knowing its limitations really made it easier to circumvent some issues.

I do have a problem with the whole Road Apple status. Yesterday I read that the "Yikes!" received this rating. I like this only because it lowers the eBay price of these machines. I am though irked that this fine machine gets lumped together with the 5200. Although I love my 5200, I understand why it received the Road Apple rating, but the "Yikes!"?

Labels are a shorthand for classifying things. The problem is that people even shorten the label. Take the term thief. You can have for example master thief, larcenist, grand larcenist, regular thief, and petty thief. My son took a packet of gum while no one was looking and walked out of the store with it. My wife was very upset and marched him back in to apologize to the manager. She did not want this thief getting away. Now I think thief is a pretty strong label for a four year old (hey, call me a liberal). Petty thief might be more appropriate, but to me still very harsh. In fact, I feel that any variant on "thief" is too harsh.

I have read your pleas to Apple for a low-end low-priced Mac in the lineup. Problem is this Mac would almost certainly be a Road Apple. Anyone buying it would need to take into consideration when buying it that the resale value of said Mac will be tainted by the Road Apple label. This is unfair, as a low-end computer is not necessarily any more compromised than a G4 is when you consider they don't all have dual G4s (compromise for price), floppy drives (current technology foolishly excluded), and whatever else you may feel a modern computer needs. Consider if Apple had put back in the floppy drive, maybe the iMac and B&W G3 would be considered Road Apples due to this omission.

Don't get me wrong, I think you have good points with some of your Road Apples, I just hate the idea of denigrating a perfectly fine machine due to what is to me a minor issue. ADB was dead when Apple removed it from the motherboard, and I was one of the low end buyers who appreciated Apple having a lower-end Mac to the more capable "Sawtooth" series. I knew my wife would not consider letting me buy a "Sawtooth," but I could at least toy with the idea of convincing her to buy a "Yikes!" Then their is the issue of AGP not being really that big a deal when you consider that when the "Yikes!" came out, basically only gamers appreciated AGP. PCI-66 kept up just fine, and the video cards performed essentially the same for Photoshop and the like. I also would ague that the biggest benefit for AGP Mac's is Quartz Extreme, and for that I consider the Sawtooth Macs to be in need of upgrades to really run "X" well (I do hear Panther might change this).

Hope I did not offend. No, I don't think G4s need floppies (that is why I still have an 8600 on my home network), and I do recognize your points with the Road Apples, I just think especially in this case that the scope is too broad and the label too harsh.

As to my son, the store manager did not want to do anything about it and just accepted the gum back. Since he was letting my son off so easily, my wife took my son to the police station so he could see what jail was like. We discussed it when they got home, and I think my liberal views on four year old thieves won out, and we took him out for ice cream at Mickey D's. I think we can reform him.

We covered a lot of this territory in last week's Beige G3 (Rev. A) No Road Apple. There are four levels of Road Apples, and only the x200 series merits the worst rating. Most of the single bullet Road Apples - including the Yikes! G4 - earn the distinction not because they are poor computers, but because they were unnecessarily crippled.

In the case of the Power Mac G4, Apple announced three models on August 31, 1999. The 400 MHz model had PCI graphics, no AirPort support, and a US$1,599 price. The 450 and 500 MHz models had AGP graphics, AirPort support, and a faster memory bus. These started at US$2,499. By comparison, Yikes! was a real value.

In mid-October, Apple reduced the Yikes! to 350 MHz with no change in price. On the 1st of December, Apple replaced it with a 350 MHz Sawtooth model at exactly the same price.

We knew about the differences between Yikes! and Sawtooth from the start, but three months after Apple introduced Yikes! they phased it out and replaced it with a Sawtooth model at the exact same price. This tells me that it really didn't cost Apple any more to use the superior motherboard; they chose to offer a compromised design to unload excess inventory.

We have warned people away from the Yikes! since the beginning, and Apple made that job a lot easier in December 1999. Yikes! isn't a terrible computer, but it was deliberately cripple when Apple could have sold an AGP model for the same price.

Our goal in awarding the Yikes! a single Road Apple is making people aware that all Power Mac G4 models are not created equal. We want people to understand what the Yikes! G4 is really worth and not get suckered into paying nearly as much for it as they would for an AGP machine.

I'm pleased at the way Yikes! prices have been dropping in recent months. I hope Low End Mac has been part of helping Mac users and sellers understand that Yikes! is little more than a blue & white G3 with a G4 processor and a graphite case. At the right price, it's a great value. We're doing our best to help define that price in comparison to the b&w G3 and AGP G4s.

Value of a StarMax

Yuka Tero writes:

I think I'm completely wrong to Email you, but I thought you might be able to help me.

I am using StarMax 3000/180, which I bought at £500 with monitor, extra hard drive, and printer two years ago. Was it a right pricing, you think?

Anyway, now I'm thinking of selling it, but some people say I won't be able to sell it, because it's worth nothing nowadays. One said it would be £50 at most. Is it true??

I've browsed the web and it seems it would cost $60-$100 (hard drive only??), but I'm not really sure. I don't know much - that's why I bought it at £500!!

It would be great if you know the current market value of StarMax 3000/180 and you could let me know.

Thank you so much for your time.

Here in the States, the StarMax 3000 is selling for $20-30 on eBay. I really don't know what they were selling for two years ago or the exchange rate between US dollars and British pounds (which has also changed over the past two years).

Whether you got a good deal depends on the size and quality of the monitor, size of the hard drive, and value of the printer. Still, I'd guess you paid on the high side.

Over the past two years, a lot has changed in the Mac world. Mac OS X is the biggest change, and it's not supported on your StarMax. The value of any Mac that doesn't support OS X is falling faster than for those models that do support OS X. That's definitely a factor.

Other factors are a very limited memory ceiling on the StarMax (160 MB maximum), the generally mediocre build quality, and the fact that Motorola dropped the line five years ago.

All things considered, with so little market value left in the computer, your best bet might be keeping it around as a second computer. Depending on what you buy next, you may still be able to use your monitor, printer, and extra hard drive.

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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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