The Low End Mac Mailbag

Pismo Downgrade a Treat, IE for OS X, Pimp My SE/30, Education Market Reality, and More

Dan Knight - 2006.06.09

Pismo 'Downgrade' a Refreshing Surprise

Damien Fox writes:

 I had the exact same situation: in fact, I had a 12" PowerBook with a 1.5 GHz chip and 1.25 gigs of RAM, 80 gig hard drive, plus SuperDrive. I sold it off a few months ago to get some cash to put towards a second revision MacBook, when they have worked out all the issues.

In the meantime, I went back to using my 6-1/2-year-old Pismo, with a 400 MHz chip, 576 megs of RAM, and a 40 gig hard drive. Three minor upgrades help keep it going: first, I scrounged a 500 MHz chip from a friend's broken Pismo; I added an additional 256 megs of RAM for a total of 768; and I bought a SuperDrive from FastMac. Then, I moved the entire system to 10.4.5 (10.4.6 kills many G3 Macs - a real kernel panic, and the only solution is to wipe the system).

I use my machine every day for Web browsing, email, iPhoto, iTunes, simple layout and text processing with Pages, a little bit of terminal, and opening and are doing minor edits on all sorts of documents from PDS to the odd illustrator or Photoshop file. I also compress video files and write DVDs routinely.

Honestly, except for games or highly processor-intensive tasks like iMovie, there is not that much of a speed difference. The drives are the same speed more or less, the system busses aren't that different considering that four years separate the two machines, the Pismo's one meg backside cache helps compensate for the slower bus, and the 3-D graphics performance hardly comes into play with my type of usage.

I've been quite happy with my "downgrade" and don't miss the G4 in any way. iMovie is out of the question on the G3, and encoding DVDs takes three times as long, and the odd website drags, but not by enough to make me complain or want to even upgrade again. The fact is, the gizmo is a high-end, well-balanced machine, whereas the 12" PowerBook has a terrible clock to bus speed ratio and is severely limited by many things that depend on drive speed, just like the G3 PowerBook is. Add in expansion options, a PC card slot, and a bigger screen, the Pismo is a strong and very low-cost contender. I highly recommend not getting the G4 upgrade, leaving the RAM as it is, and only getting a new battery and SuperDrive model if they are needed. Use that Pismo for another year, until MacBooks are stabilized and are worth getting as a primary machine. That's my plan, and I've been happy with how it has worked out so far.

-Damien Fox

Congratulations, Damien, on rediscovering the power of an older Mac. My first 'Book was a PowerBook G4/400, and it's still a decent performer (although I hardly ever use it these days).

For me, the biggest difference between it any my dual 1 GHz Power Mac G4 isn't browsing speed, writing speed, or speed in any tasks. The big difference comes from dual CPUs, because OS X lets them balance the load so no single task dominates the computer. Since I often have a dozen apps running at once, including a couple of Classic mode ones, I really appreciate the fast app switching, too.

I'm going to want a new 'Book before Macworld San Francisco, and the power and specs of the dual-core MacBook make it look just right if you ignore my dependence on a pair of Classic apps.

The key is finding a system that works well enough for you, whether that's a MacBook Pro, a Pismo, or even (for some die-hards) a Mac Plus.

Internet Explorer for OS X

After reading Help, I Need Internet Explorer for My Mac!, Aaron writes:

Note sure if this will Help . . . Archive for Browsers: http://browsers.evolt.org/

Note they even have a copy of Apples Cyberdog Browser including Support files [Open Doc]

Run IE6 on OS X (WINE)

Run Internet Explorer on OS X without having to boot or virtualize Windows. IE is right on the desktop! http://episteme.arstechnica.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/8300945231/m/397003349731

This is a little tricky setup, but it does make it possible.

Thanks for the tips. I can't imagine how weird it would be running IE 6 on a Mac....

I (Don't) Need Internet Explorer for My Mac

Ray Gossen writes:

Dear Dan,

Your reply to Gara Gillentine in "Help, I Need Internet Explorer for My Mac!" failed to mention one way around some of the problems: Using the Debug menu in Safari, it's possible to set Safari to present itself as Internet Explorer. I'm not at home right now, so I don't remember which options are there, but they include Windows IE. Of course, this workaround doesn't solve the problem of those pages' noncompliance, and they don't always display properly because of that, but it does at least allow access.

And there is the problem that it just perpetuates the myth that everyone is using IE. That's why I try to just turn this feature on for the minimum time required.

I don't remember right now how to turn the Debug menu on, but it's not difficult and there are even a couple of Safari extensions that will make the job even easier.

Oh, and one quibble, kind of a pet peeve of mine: "it's" means "it is", not "belonging to it". Other than that, nothing but praise. Keep up the good work.

Ray Gossen

Thanks for the catch, Ray. I've corrected the article. Guess who is the only Low End Mac writer without a proofreader? :-)

Church Needs 5 Cheap Macs for Internet 'Cafe'

Ted Bragg writes:

Hi Dan,

Can you help me out? I'm looking for a place to get 4 to 5 used Macs for my church's youth center, an 'Internet cafe'. Convinced them to go Mac to ward off virus/typical threats, but also to keep fuss to a minimum.

At first I was about to get 5 iMac G3s, but they're too deep for the counter - need smaller. Laptops won't work, too easy to lose those here....

These machines need to run OS 9 (OS X not needed for basic Web and email/myspace) so a slimline would work, I guess. We have a wireless router downstairs, and my thought was if these can't use Airport cards, then we could pipe them via ethernet to a wireless access point to connect the cafe upstairs with the router in the main office.

An all-in-one design would be awesome, but most of the CRT models are too deep. I'm taking measurements today to be certain how big to go.

If I go with slims, I'll need a source on cheap 15" LCD monitors. I've got $1000 to spend for this. You are the beast of Mac deals, man.

Bust out.

Thanks bro,
Ted Bragg
New Covenant Church
Houston

And a while later:

Hi Dan,

Just measured the counter space, turns out they are deep enough for the Lifesaver iMacs. Shreve Systems has them for $49 ea. Have you ever dealt with them before? Heard good/bad reports? Do you know of a place where a nonprofit org. can order multiple units like these at a similar price?

-Ted

I'm glad to hear you have room for G3 iMacs, because I was racking my brain to come up with a Mac that had a smaller footprint. And the color should really brighten up the room.

I have purchased a few things from Shreve in the past. They have obscure stuff you just won't find elsewhere, like Newton accessories. I've been happy with their service.

Education Market Reality

In response to Apple Needs to Offer Less Mac for Less Money, Bill Doty writes:

Hi Dan

As a teacher, I agree we need an education Mac. You are almost on target with your article of 6-7. Leave the optical drive in. Make it a SuperDrive so the kids can burn CD/DVD of projects and play them at school or at home. I would also like to see a port to connect computer to TV or to connect computer to projector device. Many classrooms have one computer. If you can project or enlarge the image, it does wonders for the lesson.

Make network compatibility job 1 and the display options second priority.

Thanks
Bill Doty
West Branch

One computer per classroom? Ouch! I have high hopes for MIT's $100 laptop project, even if current price projections are closer to US$135. I'd love to see every student with a laptop, and that's just not feasible in most locales with the cost of Windows notebooks or Apple's 'Books.

With a FireWire SuperDrive, it would be possible to connect the drive to the education Mac without having to leave it connected all the time.

Pimp My SE/30

After reading Mac IIfx ROM in an SE/30, Steffen Barabasch writes:

Hi,

just give me some more weeks (or years now...) till I eventually finish my "Pimp my SE/30" project. My goal was to put the finest expansions available into one just normal-looking SE/30, pushing every limit possible. So far I got a 50 MHz 030 CPU card, 128 MB RAM, Asante Ethernet card, Xceed graphics card with greyscale adaptor, and, finally a IIfx ROM. The two biggest steps left now are the adaptor for the PDS slot of the Asante card to turn the 90-degree slot (that was intended for the IIsi pizzabox case) to the 180 degrees needed for the gfx card and then checking if the PSU will be able to cope with all the additional stuff I put into the box.

Long story short, the IIfx ROM runs fine in the SE/30, I already tried and tested that. Only a slight cosmetic disadvantage is the random pattern appearing at power-up; apparently the IIfx ROM doesn't expect a classic graphics RAM, so it won't be cleared/filled with a regular pattern. But after a few seconds the Mac just starts up as expected.

Take care,
Steffen Barabasch

Thanks for the feedback, Steffen. I've got an SE/30 (maybe two) that I'd like to try this in someday....

Mac IIfx ROM in an SE/30

Mark Gadzikowski writes:

Please do not publish my email address, although you may publish the rest of this content as you like.

If any readers have successfully used IIfx or IIsi ROMs in an SE/30 with an accelerator, I'd love to hear about it.

I used multiple IIfx ROMs and one IIci ROM in SE/30 machines with great success. I acquired the IIfx and IIci ROMs after great perseverance, searching from approximately 1990 to 1994 before finding my first IIfx ROM. From 1994 through 1997, a 32-bit clean ROM was relatively easy to come by, at least in Silicon Valley where I had moved. In 1997 I gave away my last SE/30 and stopped experimenting with 32-bit clean ROMs in SE/30s.

HARDWARE

My primary SE/30 had 32 MB RAM, a Daystar 50 MHz 68030 CPU accelerator, and a RasterOps 264/SE30 24-bit color card. Note that the RasterOps 264/SE30 video card was explicitly equipped with a 32-bit clean ROM upgrade long before the SE/30 has a 32-bit clean IIfx or IIci ROM.

The Daystar and RasterOps items were installed before the ROMs were acquired. There was never any problem with compatibility. I was relieved, as these upgrades were more important to me than addressing 32 MB RAM without Mode32.

A Second Wave PDS-to-NuBus 4-slot expansion chassis would not operate with the 50 MHz accelerator, but it did work with the IIfx ROM using the stock SE/30 16 MHz 68030. I don't recall testing the expansion chassis with the IIci ROM. I do recall that the 32-bit clean ROM in the SE/30 caused crashes with a 24-bit dirty RasterOps 264-NuBus video card. Overall, the 32-bit clean ROMs were more stable than the PDS=to-NuBus expansion chassis.

SOFTWARE

The ROMs were able to give me 32-bit clean operation without Mode32, visible via full access to the 32 MB RAM. The ROMs never seemed to interfere with operations of System Software 6.0.3 through System 7.5.4. However, if I recall correctly, System 7.5.5 would not install with a 32-bit clean ROM in my SE/30, but it (7.5.5) would operate properly with the ROM installed after the System software.

I was never able to install System Software 8.x. Not with the stock ROM or either 32-bit clean ROM. If I recall correctly, the OS 8.x installer would refuse to install at all, because the Macintosh model was not recognized (32-bit ROM) or had no 68040 CPU (24-bit dirty ROM).

Mark Gadzikowski

P.S. I still own one IIci ROM and one IIfx ROM. If you run across a reader who wishes to experiment, you may forward their email address to me. I'm likely to give them away free, one at a time. [UPDATE: These ROMs are no longer available.]

Mark, we never publish email addresses without permission - and when we do, we encrypt them.

Thanks for the info. The SE/30 was a great Mac, and there were hacks that allowed installing Mac OS 8.0 and 8.1, such as Born Again. I don't think I'd want to run OS 8.1 on anything slower than a Mac IIfx, so an accelerated SE/30 should be a decent performer.

Looking for an ADB Mouse

Responding to "the mac acito's" need for a mouse, Andrew Main writes:

Dan,

For the guy who needs an ADB mouse, may I suggest - ahem - the LEM Swap List?

Andrew

Doh, now why didn't I think of that!

ADB Mouse? Go USB!

Jim Strickland writes:

Another solution for the person wanting an ADB mouse for a 9600 would be to put a USB card in the 9600. This works reasonably well for mice. It works with keyboards as well, but if memory serves, you can't turn the computer on and off from the keyboard if it's on a non- factory USB interface. I think adding a USB interface is probably the best long term solution for this person, since USB keyboards and mice will (probably) be around a while, and the difference in cost might pay for the board.

- Jim Strickland

Thanks for the suggestion, Jim. I was looking for the simplest solution, since a lot of people aren't comfortable inside a computer, but adding a USB card is a great suggestion, as that would allow use of modern printers, digital cameras, and other peripherals as well.

Re: Hailing Mac Gurus! Video Recording Ideas Needed

Responding to his own search for software, Tim Larson writes:

Finally hit on the right combination of search terms!

<http://www.lowendmac.com/tech/video1.html>

Looks like I can do capture with built-in Apple software. :) Woo hoo, LEM rides to the rescue again!

Tim

You know, Tim, there's so much stuff on Low End Mac that I can't keep track of it. Hooray for Google!

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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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