The Low End Mac Mailbag

OS X for PCs, Mac mini with HDTV, 802.11n Options, Upgrading from Mac OS 9, and More

Dan Knight - 2008.04.22 - Tip Jar

OS X for non-Apple Hardware

From Matthew Wright:

Hey Dan,

All the Psystar/Apple clone stuff in the news lately has me thinking about the Apple as software company vs. hardware company question again. I say both.

Regardless of whether or not these "Open Computers" make it to market, it seems to me the only people who should really be worried by the prospect of OS X running legally on non-Apple hardware is Microsoft. How many Mac owners exclusively run Windows on their Intel Macs? I don't know any. I only know a handful with Windows on there at all, and all of them run it "because they have to" for work or school. If OS X could run legally on non-Apple hardware, how many PC owners would choose OS X over Vista in their eventual transition out of XP?

It took Vista forever to come to market, and most everyone I know hates it. OS X has been going through regular improvements and versions for seven years now (if you start the timeline with Cheetah). XP got a midnight call from the governor in the upcoming SP3, but its retirement is officially coming soon. Vista is probably salvageable, but most Windows users I know prefer - and most importantly still use - XP. Even if Microsoft started from scratch with a new OS, the bottom line is they don't have anything for the immediate future that is in the same ballpark as OS X. A non-Apple-hardware version of the next version of OS X would probably give Apple a 50-50 split on the OS market in a relatively short period of time. It's not like serious hacking is needed to run the current version of OS X, Leopard, on any old PC now, so there's no downtime here for development. The only real change needed would be policy.

Now my argument for this not cannibalizing Mac sales and for Apple still being a hardware company - I keep buying Macs for the same reasons I keep buying Toyotas: because once I buy one, I don't have to worry about it all that much. So long as I keep up on regular maintenance I can run them into the ground. With the exception of an eMac I had whose CRT died 17 months after I bought it, all my Macs have been trouble-free. How many Macs can that account for?

For a while I was a collector and have had approximately 30-plus Macs running trouble free. I have a fully functional SE/30 that's only on its second hard drive in 20 years. I had an iBook print server on a home network of several computers that worked flawlessly and was easy to set up. I had a Blue & White music server happy on the same mixed network. Right now my modern machines are a G5 tower and a MacBook Pro, but I could still be handling Leopard fine in the field with the 12" Powerbook (circa 2003) I sold a few months ago. My point being if OS X suddenly was kosher on a Dell or Gateway or HP, it wouldn't change the fact that people who buy Macs because they feel the hardware is better would continue to buy Macs.

In my opinion, the rules have completely changed with the Intel switch. Mac clones in the PowerPC era could only hurt Apple. But now that Mac clones are PCs that are going to exist in the market anyway, they can only help Apple sell more software.

Current Macs are on record as some of the best machines for running Windows. So Apple is equally attractive to buyers as a hardware company. As a software company I think people forget that a generic PC version of OS X would also mean iApps. I have an XP box now, and iTunes is still better than Media Player, and I am amazed there isn't a calendar program for Windows that's half as good as iCal. Everything in the iLife suite is better than its Microsoft counterpart. The only Microsoft software I use at all anymore (on any machine) is Office, which is still better than iWork. For now.

That's my two cents. I say open the flood gates. It can only be good for Apple.

best,
Matthew

Matthew,

Several columnists have made the point that "hackintoshes" can't hurt the Mac market and may actually help it, as the people who build them tend to be the ones others go to for advice when replacing their old PCs. If they're loving the Mac, they're going to recommend it to people who can't be bothered building their own clone.

As long as Apple isn't actively promoting OS X on non-Apple hardware and turns a blind eye to the hackintosh community, things should only get better. The biggest problem I see with Apple selling OS X for Dell, HP, Gateway, and other hardware is the vast range of hardware it would have to support. By only supporting the graphics processors, I/O chips, WiFi chips, drive controllers, etc. that Apple builds into its own computers, it's a lot easier to make a robust, reliable operating system.

It would be nice to see Apple eventually open up cloning for companies that want to reach specific markets that Apple has ignored: tablets, 12" and smaller notebooks, and midrange desktops come to mind. You can bet that Sony, Dell, and others would fight each other for the right to build a single authorized Maclone.

Dan

Mac mini with HDTV

From Steven Hunter:

I actually have a good deal of experience with this matter. We run a 52" LCD HDTV as a Digital Sign in our building. We use an original Intel Mac mini (Core Duo 1.83 GHz, 2 GB) running Keynote and a custom AppleScript script to display slides. Some pictures of it in action are here:

http://www.bio.purdue.edu/resources/cos-it/digital_sign/ (requires Flash)

Running your Mac (or indeed PC) on an HDTV is usually pretty easy. You may need to use a program like DisplayConfigX to tweak the video settings and convince OS X to output 1080p instead of 1080i (we had to!). We also had to really tweak the video settings on the TV to bring the quality inline with what we expected. The default settings were just atrocious. Color was way too warm, sharpness was through the roof (to the point of everything looking like a Photoshop filter had been applied), and the contrast was off as well.

I also have my home PC connected to my HDTV, which was slightly easier than the Mac once I figured out that my home theater's receiver doesn't like computer video (for some reason; maybe my video card isn't HDCP compliant).

As to audio, if you have a home theater receiver, pick up a mini TOS Optical audio cable and plug it into your Mac's digital audio out port (this is the headphone jack on your mini or iMac). Or use a 1/8" stereo to RCA splitter and plug it into the "DVI" or "PC" audio input on the HDTV. (Not necessarily available on all TVs)

Steven Hunter

Steven,

Thanks for sharing your findings.

Dan

Upgrade Dilemma

Sir,

I am in dire need of advice! I am running a desktop G4 with OS 9. Why OS 9? Because I have all the Adobes from Photoshop 7, Illi 9, Dreamweaver etc. I also have Sound Edit 16!

All these years, the only reason I have not upgraded to OS X is because it does not support these programs, which cost me possibly 2K!

My browsers are at their highest compatible version, and fail more and more often due to the Internet being designed increasingly around newer formats. Forcing me to upgrade the Mac and into the 2K repurchase of the OS X compatible Adobe software.

Suddenly I am offered a job traveling - I now need a laptop. I pondered "Classic" running these programs on a new MacBook but was told that even "classic" is no longer supported.

Every option seems to force me to buy the Adobe Master Suite, which is 2K again on top of the 2K for a new Mac Book. This is a ridiculous amount of money.

The only other way is to buy an older laptop with a version of OS X which has Classic, but then I am not too far removed from the shortcomings of my desktop in communicating with the fast evolving world. - OHHH what to do - what to do????????

It is so unfair that these expensive programs are left in the dust.

Thanks for your time,
Brian

Brian,

Those expensive programs have not been left in the dust (well, except for Sound Edit 16). Adobe has continued to develop them, so today's programs have a lot of features your old ones don't have - and they're optimized for both OS X and the Intel CPUs that Apple switched to two years ago.

It was nearly 6 years ago that Steve Jobs declared Mac OS 9 dead. Mac OS X 10.0 had been released over a year earlier, and version 10.1 in Sept. 2001. Apple had made OS X the default operating system for new Macs in January 2002, and in January 2003 it released the first Power Macs that could no longer boot into the Classic Mac OS. At that point, Mac OS 9 was over three years old, and the final version (9.2.2) has been out since Dec. 2001.

Apple did a wonderful thing in creating Classic Mode, which allowed users to run Mac OS 9 and most "classic" apps while using Mac OS X. It's worked well, and we still use it daily at Low End Mac. Compatibility with software is extremely high.

Over the past 5 years, with OS X as the only version of the Mac OS new Macs can boot, almost all development has left the Classic Mac OS behind. When Apple switched to Intel CPUs, it did not port the Classic Mode over, and over the course of 2006 Classic was left behind as none of the new Macs supported it (this is especially true of browsers). Apple completely abandoned Classic Mode with the release of Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" last October.

In short, it's been a long, gradual transition. Mac OS X is rock solid, and the current dual-core, quad-core, and 8-core Macs have an incredible amount of power. OS X itself has added feature after feature, as have the programs designed for it - including those from Adobe.

The Classic Mac OS still runs on all the old hardware, Classic mode runs on all PowerPC-based Macs with PowerPC processors, and SheepShaver makes it possible to emulate a PowerPC Mac on Intel hardware, so it's probably possible to run your old apps on the newest Macs with that emulator. You have plenty of options that avoid the need to invest in new software.

That said, the new Adobe Master Suite includes software several generations newer than you're using, programs with new features that fully support Apple's Intel-based models. If you migrate to new hardware and software, you'll probably find yourself more productive.

I think you've gotten your money's worth out of your old software, and if you transition to Macintel, you'll get your money's worth from the new hardware, operating system, and software. And you'll be able to use modern browsers.

However, if you're wed to your old software, a 15" or 17" PowerBook G4 in the 1.33-1.67 GHz range with Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" and Classic Mode will probably run circles around your old G4 desktop booted into OS 9.

Dan

802.11n Options for Quicksilver 2001

From Roy Huck:

Hi Dan,

I've noticed some 802.11n USB sticks and wondered if this would be a solution to add n-wireless to a 2001 Quicksilver. This originally shipped with USB 1.1 ports, and I added some USB 2.0 ports via a PCI card. I believe some of the USB sticks note that USB 2.0 is required, but I'm unsure if the added USB 2.0 would be an issue. Any recommendations would be appreciated.

As always . . . this site is a great resource.

Thank you,
Roy

Roy,

I don't have any experience with USB WiFi sticks, but any that work with the Mac should work with your Quicksilver. Some don't need any additional drivers; Mac OS X will see them as AirPort cards and use Apple's built-in drivers. Others require drivers; if so, make sure they're included and support whatever version of OS X you're using.

As far as adding USB 2.0 with a PCI card, there's only one thing you need to be aware of: When your Mac goes to sleep, it turns off power to the add-on USB cards, so you may have to reconnect to the wireless network when your computer wakes up.

All of these dongles should be compatible with USB 1.1, but they have so much more bandwidth that you're holding them back if you use them on a USB 1.1 port instead of USB 2.0.

NewerTech has a USB 2.0 802.11n solution with a neat feature: an extension cable and a base to hold the dongle so you can position it for better reception.

Dan

Hi Dan,

Thanks for the reply. I forgot about the sleep issue with the added USB 2.0 ports. While reviewing the NewerTech product, I found they have a PCI wireless n adapter. I'm ordering this, as it supports all G4 Power Macs.

Thanks again,
Roy

PowerBook 5300 in a Coma

From T. Allen:

Dan,

My PowerBook 5300c was my gift going into my freshman year back in 1990. But to say the least, I had issues, abandoned Mac in the 90s only to return by purchasing a PowerBook G4 in a terrible eBay deal in 2004. Despite my luck in the circumstances surrounding my Mac purchases, I've found my self still pretty happy with my G4.

Never got rid of my 5300c, which never had it's back seem replaced, not to mention some issue that surfaced with the power supply connection in the back. Does any one still work on the 5300c? I would love to revive it if at all possible and am not scared of doing repairs myself. I would just love to see some sort of repair manual so I can see the secret in taking my machine apart, as I don't want to break it while dissecting it . . . can you point me in the right direction?

T,

The first thing to try is resetting the power manager, which Apple documents in PowerBook 100 through PowerBook 5300: Resetting Power Management Unit (PMU).

If that doesn't help, see How to Disassemble the PowerBook 5300, PowerBook 190.

Another helpful resource is PowerBook 5300 FAQ.

Dan

Lucida Grande

From Kevin O'Carroll:

Dan,

Sorry, but this reader finds the "new" font very difficult to read! Just noticed you'd had a positive response on the change and wondered if it might be system/display specific? (LCD screen, 1024 x 768 and Windows XP [at work!])

Kevin

Kevin,

Yes, it's going to be system specific: If your computer doesn't have Lucida Grande installed, the site will be displayed with Lucida Sans. If that's not available, it will look for Geneva, Verdana, Helvetica, and Arial, in that order. If it fails to find any of those, it will use your browser's default sans serif font.

If you have Safari or iTunes installed, you probably have Lucida Sans. If you don't have either installed, you probably don't have it on your Windows PC at all.

Dan

G3 DVD Burner Suggestions?

From Gavin Emery:

Hi Dan,

First of all I want to say thanks for such a wonderful resource for Macs both old and new - Low End Mac is always my first stop when looking for Apple news and views.

Anyway, the main reason I'm emailing you is because I've been looking for an external DVD rewriter for my 700 MHz iBook G3 for quite a while, but no matter how much I Google, I come up empty. All I can find for sale are the latest models, and I'm lucky if they're compatible with Intel Macs, let alone PowerPC.

So my question is this - what would you recommend? Will a DVD rewriter designed for a new Mac still be identified by my trusty iBook, even though the bundled software won't? It's probably a really stupid question, but I figured I should ask first before going down to the store and (literally) burning 200 dollars worth of equipment - I've never really had the need for external hardware of this kind before. Also, since I'm currently living in the UK, finding older drive models proves to be a bit of a challenge outside eBay.

I've been hoping for a drive with a FireWire connection. I briefly looked at portable hard drives, too, but they simply aren't a practical option for me right now. If you're curious, I bought my iBook in June 2002 and am currently running OS X 10.3 Panther, occasionally booting into 9.2 when needs be (though I must admit it's a rarity these days).

Thanks in advance for reading, and I hope you'll be able to give me some sage advice. I also apologise for my rather confusing form of email composition!

Thanks again for the site, Dan, and keep up the great work!

-Gavin

Gavin,

You're thinking in the right direction. Those old G3 'Books have USB 1.1, and you'd never want to use anything that slow to burn DVDs. FireWire is the way to go.

I did a little Google search on "firewire dvd-rw mac" and found the following: Other World Computing, 20x external FireWire/USB 2.0 drive, $78, uses Patchburn 3 for compatibility with OS X 10.3, supports DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD+RW media. Includes a very nice software bundle. I consider that a real deal.

Dan

DeskWriter 680c Drivers for OS X

From Mike Thompson:

Not sure if you or any other readers can help, but am trying to get my old hp printer (above) to work under OS X with Keyspan USB-to-serial adapter. Have installed Gutenprint (states driver for DeskJet 680c not DeskWriter), but still no joy and printer not recognized apparently.

Anyone had any luck?

Many thanks for consideration.

Mike Thompson

Mike,

As far as I can tell, the DeskWriters are all orphaned products that neither HP nor Apple has provided OS X drivers for.

Dan

Methinks Apple Owes You Some Royalties

From Lee Farrell in response to Now That's Different!:

Hello Mr. Knight!

I was reading through the archives, when I came across an article you wrote back in 2000, about a one-pound PC. It was really the last sentence that caught my attention. You should fire this off to Infinite Loop and see if they'll give you any credit for it!

"We're looking at something about the same size as a 500 page mass market paperback (which I just measured at 4.1" wide, 7" tall, and about 1-1/4" thick). Wow! I'll even suggest a name: the MacBook." I'd ask for credit where it's due :)

Peace,
Lee Farrell

Lee,

Thanks for the reminder. That article did foreshadow the Mac mini, which arrived almost five years later. The big difference is that the tiny Pocket EPC System didn't have a built-in optical drive.

As far as the MacBook name goes, maybe I should have filed for a trademark. ;-)

Dan

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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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