The Low End Mac Mailbag

Too Few USB Ports in Too Many Macs, Developer Leopard Ran on Yikes, Mac IIfx RAM Heaven, and More

Dan Knight - 2008.01.16 - Tip Jar

Macworld Disappoints

From Robert Crane:

Other than the shiny new executive non-upgradeable laptop to distract the faithful, the update to the Apple Store was very disappointing.

Missing in action:

  • Lower priced iMac using GMA 3100 graphics and combo drive. $899-999. For a lot of people crossing that $1,000 barrier of a Mac is still a problem.
  • Upper priced iMac using Core 2 Quad, $2599. For the gamer types and those who fantasize about productivity this would have been an easy move.
  • Since they did not kill the Mac mini as rumored, they sure had a lot of time in which they could have improved it: Upgraded Mac mini: to SR Core 2 duo: Would have been nice to see a combo with 2G RAM, 100G drive, GMA 3100 at $499. And a SuperDrive version with 4G RAM 200G drive, GMA3100 at $699.

And on a whole new note, I think that Apple is missing a very good market for their products: Embedded, Industrial and Ruggedized versions of Mac mini and iMac need packaging changes but could very well fit into motorhomes, boats and ships, and industrial control settings.

Apple makes a profit of a billion dollars a month. The changes listed above pay for themselves in days.

Apple is not serving their public as well as possible.

Robert Crane

Robert,

I like your idea about a ruggedized Mac mini. With Mac OS X, they would be extremely reliable. Let's hope someone at Apple is reading Low End Mac.

It's only been 5 months since the Mac mini finally migrated to Core 2 Duo, and until the MacBook Air was announced, it was the slowest computer in the Macintosh family. Apple does need to improve the graphics, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the next revision of the Mac mini include the Santa Rosa chipset, an 800 MHz bus, and GMA X3100 graphics. I would, unfortunately, be surprised to see Apple cut the price.

Apple has defined its market, and that doesn't include people who want a sub-$1,000 iMac, whether with a 17" display or integrated graphics. Ditto for sub-$600 desktops, and the features of the Mac mini pale compared with most $400 Windows PCs.

Apple is serving its own interests first: making a profit and staying in business. Apple has the highest profit margin in the industry, and they don't seem at all interested in shaving that back a bit to increase market share. Looking at Apple's growth since 1998, they are doing very well for themselves while ignoring some obvious markets.

Dan

Enough USB Ports in MacBooks

From Björn Steiner in response to We Need More than 2 USB Ports in MacBooks:

Hi Dan,

Yes, you are right that we often need more then 2 USB ports, but no, I don't want to see that at the machines. I prefer having the additional USB ports on a small separate hub. Increasing the number of ports does . . . raise the possibility to break these ports, and that is why I go for external split - just my 5 cents.

best
Björn

Björn,

Different strokes for different folks, and Apple has taken that thinking to the extreme with the new MacBook Air, which has only one USB port. Of course, another drawback of only having one port is what do you do when the port breaks? With 3 or 4 ports, that's a lot less of an issue.

Dan

Most Macs Need More USB Ports

From Alan Zisman:

I agree with your comment that Apple needs to up the number of USB ports on its portable computers - but it needs to up the number of powered USB ports on its desktop models as well. My iMac comes with 3 USB ports on the body of the computer, plus a pair of unpowered ports on the keyboard.

Once you plug the keyboard into one of the ports, you've only got two left - you can plug the mouse into one of the ports on the keyboard, but the other port is not very useful; it's unpowered, making it unusable with many devices, and its location is awkward for many other devices.

I use an external hard drive (for Time Machine backups); add an iPod dock, a USB flash drive (or whatever these are being called these days), a digital camera, a USB printer, and on and on - it would be nice to not have to either get a hub or forever be plugging and unplugging devices.

Alan,

I agree. I have two USB 2.0 cards in my Power Mac as well as a hub in my monitor and one built into my desk. I don't think it's possible to put too many USB ports on a computer.

As for those USB drives, I've heard them called thumb drives and flash drives, terms that I tend to use myself.

Dan

And the new MacBook Air has just one USB port (and no FireWire) . . . which may be carrying form over function too far.

I love the look of it - but to make it more useful would require immediately adding a USB hub (and carrying it everywhere) and the external drive, and the ethernet dongle, and at that point it starts to be less of a stylish ultralight and more a collection of parts.

Alan,

I don't know what Apple was thinking in eliminating FireWire, which has been on almost every Mac since 1999. No Target Disk Mode for MacBook Air owners. Still, it's a very tempting computer. Wouldn't it be great to see a 15" version with more ports?

Dan

USB Ports on MacBooks Too Close Together

From Jason Packer:

Dan-

My wife has a MacBook, and there are more problems than just that there are only two USB ports. They're also a little too close together. Some USB devices are a little chunky to be used in conjunction with any other USB device simultaneously.

That said, I think you'd best invest in the USB hub. I have an eMac as my main machine, and I ran out of ports way before you did. I have my original Mac keyboard plugged into one, and an optical two-button mouse plugged into the USB hub on the keyboard. In the same hub, I have a cable plugged in for my digital still camera. In the other two USB ports I have plugged in an external DVD writer and finally a connection to a 4-port USB powered hub. That hub has an external 300 GB hard drive, two printers (a Canon i850 and an HP PSC1310, shared on our network quite nicely, thanks), and a multicard reader for memory sticks, SD cards, etc. One of my FireWire ports is also taken up with a cable for our Canon MiniDV video camera.

I'm amazed you've been able to go on this long without a hub. I happened to have one laying around, or I'd have been forced to go out and buy one about a week after I acquired this Mac in the first place!

Jason Packer

Jason,

You don't want to know how many hubs I have here. Two or three of the 4-port USB 2.0 Belkin hubs, one built into my computer desk, a 3-port hub combined with a card reader (for which I've misplaced the power brick), a 13-port hub I need to review, and an ancient 7-port USB 1.1 hub from the olden days. Hubs are important at your desk, where you may have one or two printers, a scanner, a card reader, a keyboard, a mouse, a graphics tablet, an iPod, a hard drive, a flash drive, etc.

The point I was trying to make is that MacBooks are portable, so they should be designed so you don't need to carry anything extra. They should have enough ports so you can plug in your flash drive, iPod, and printer at the same time - or whatever peripherals you may have. That's the norm in the Windows world, but Apple only gives you three USB ports on one portable, the 17" MacBook Pro.

Dan

Leopard Developer Edition Ran on Yikes G4

From David Zinkin:

Hi Dan,

I went to the 2006 WWDC and obtained the developer copy of Leopard that was handed out. I can confirm that, yes, I did have it booting successfully on my Yikes G4 tower with a Radeon 7000 Mac Edition card installed. It didn't run very quickly, but it did run.

Best,
- David Zinkin

David,

Thanks for the information. Now all we need to do is have someone try transplanting the drivers and bypass any AGP testing that may be part of Leopard....

Dan

Pismo 'Works Really Well'

From Manuel Jorge Marques:

Well, when I read this article on LEM, I smiled, because I do exactly the same with my almost 8-year-old Pismo.

I bought it used, on eBay - paid about 170 Euros ($250) for it, with a not-so-stock configuration: 256 MB of RAM, 40 GB hard drive, and an AirPort Card. The battery wasn't dead, it lasted a charge, but only for about an hour.

It has been my only - as of today - laptop computer, and it serves me well! I can surf through my college wireless network, write my assignments using LaTeX, and browse my ever-growing PDF collection. I bought a new battery, and now the two combined (a feature I simply love in my Pismo!) can let my Pismo run for almost 7-8 hours unplugged.

Of course I have another Mac to do the "heavy duty" work: in my case, I have a Core Duo iMac with 2 GB of RAM for the heavy work I sometimes need to do. But for most of the things, the Pismo works really well!

I only charge the "little guy" once in every 2-3 days, depending on the usage - and it sleeps whenever I'm not using it, contributing for its gigantic uptime - my record is 40 days without a single crash! (The only reason I had to reboot it was to install a new set of drivers for my printer.) Try doing that on a Windows notebook :o)

Although I'm planning on upgrading to a MacBook sometime in the next year, the Pismo is a really nice piece of hardware, and I hope it continues to serve me well for many years to come! :-)

Regards from a happy Pismo owner!

Manuel Marques, Portugal

Manuel,

Thanks for writing. If I were to ever acquire a G3 PowerBook, it would undoubtedly be the Pismo. It's rugged, has a great keyboard, includes FireWire and USB, takes an AirPort Card, can handle 1 GB of RAM and a 120 GB hard drive, and can even take a G4 upgrade. Taking two batteries is an additional bonus that hadn't even occurred to me! It's no surprise they often sell for over $300 from used Mac dealers.

Dan

Using Flash Memory on a Vintage Mac

From William Goodstone:

Hi Dan,

I read your article a while ago and decided to buy one of those cheap CF adaptor cards for my old PowerBook, just as an experiment. But only to find out that my PowerBook has SCSI and not IDE. I should have done more research!

Compact Flash in a SCSI adapterOne site (http://450.servehttp.com/) claims to have the LC web server running on CF cards. The pictures of the adaptor CF-SCSI card look real to me.

I still haven't found sites that sell CF-SCSI card, but I thought I would just like to inform you that such adaptors do exist so that SCSI Macs can also take CF cards in place of a hard disk.

Bill

Bill,

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Looking at the photo on the Junkstation website, it looks like this might be a 2.5" SCSI-to-CF adapter with a 3.5"-to-2.5" SCSI adapter. I've sent an email to the owner of the site asking for more info.

BTW, we try to mention in our profiles whether a Mac uses SCSI or IDE drives. If we've missed it on a page, please let me know. Thanks!

Dan

Mac IIfx RAM Heaven

From Cory Tobin:

Heya bud, while on some idle time I decided to randomly see if somehow I missed out on someone's potential 16 MB 64-pin SIMMs, like usual.

Instead of checking the usual suspects, I did a Google search, checking out any site that had 64-pin SIMMs listed. What you'll see next is what floored me:

<http://www.yourmacstore.com/shop/shopexd.asp?id=12>

I figured that the site may be out of date and to order anyway, worst case scenario being I get refunded, right? I order 8, price be damned, and I did get an order confirmation and shipping confirmation not too long after.

The SIMMs arrive today, swapped my 32 megs worth of SIMMs for the 128 megs' worth, boot the puppy up, and voilà, About this Mac shows 128 megs of RAM (usually 131 with base-8 math), I'm ecstatic. I'm not sure how much they have left. I'm hoping to get a second IIfx at some point and max it out as well. I guess trying to solder-hack 16 MB chips won't be necessary, at least not for a little while longer :)

-C

Cory,

That's a great deal. With an accelerated video card and Mac OS 7.5.x through 8.1 (you can install it using Born Again), the IIfx can be a really fun computer to play with - and useful as well.

Dan

Microsoft Word vs. Apple's Pages for Academic Writing

From Clinton MacDonald following up on Microsoft Word vs. Apple's Pages:

Mr. Adkins:

Here is some more information following up on my rant about lack of reference manager support for Apple Pages, as well as the general disinterest Apple has shown in opening Pages and its other iWork applications to third-party add-ons.

TidBITS had a discussion of reference managers and mentioned several of the points I did. Additionally, CHeinz338 mentioned another tool, Zotero, which is an extension to the Firefox browser that helps in tracking research sources.

Excitingly, Third Street Software has announced direct support for Pages '08 in their Sente reference manager (well, "announced" is too strong a word, but it is listed deep within their site).

I have not tried Sente with Pages yet, but it could be a winning combination.

Best wishes,
Clint MacDonald
Texas Tech University

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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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