The Low End Mac Mailbag

No Widescreen Display for Me, Accessing MacWrite Files, Fedora Linux for G3 Macs, and More

Dan Knight - 2008.06.19 - Tip Jar

No Widescreen Computer Displays for Me

From Ted Hoofar:

Dan:

Finally! I've been waiting to hear from someone else in the world that doesn't like this trend toward wide (and wider) screen displays. In my office, accessing zillions of files listed on servers, I have found that the 4:3 ratio works best for me. However, I've been shopping for a standard shaped monitor lately, and all I see in stores are these widescreen jobs. I can never get the sales people to understand that I need the extra height to compensate for the dock. In fact, if you think about it, OS X essentially makes your 4:3 monitor widescreen by default because of the dock.

If I may add to your point, what these widescreen monitors giveth in virtual desktop, they taketh away in actual desktop. At home I work on music and have two sets of speakers on my desk. My house is small, and in turn my music/computer room is small, and thus my desk is small, so my desktop real estate is rather precious. Lately I've been using an old 14" LCD monitor (I'll pause while some readers point and laugh) to make everything fit. I would like to eventually move up to a 17" or 19", but looking at these new monitors in stores I'm going to have to shop for a used one to get the dimensions I need.

These new monitors have stunning clarity, 10,000:1 contrast ratio and resolutions that might as well go to infinity, but I do wish some manufacturers out there would understand that some of us need to work "vertically".

Ted Hoofar

Ted,

Here's a tip: Some monitors pivot, including the Dell on my desk. I can go to System Preferences, select Displays, and rotate 90°, pivot the display to 1024 x 1280, and click the Confirm button. I don't do it often, and video runs slower on my older Power Mac G4, but sometimes when working on a lengthy column or new roundup, it's the best way to work.

I used to think that square monitors would make sense, as they could display vertical or horizontal content without the hassles of pivoting, but it would be a hard sell.

Dan

Monitors Need More Vertical Space, not Less

From Kenichi Watanabe:

Dan,

You are right on the money with this article.

My main display is 1600 x 1200 (4:3), and I love the vertical space. It's an old high-end ultra-sharp 21-inch flat screen CRT that I got at a local computer surplus store for a low-end price. My second display is the display on my 17-inch iMac Core 2 Duo, sitting off to the right and connected to my main display via the mini-DVI port. So I've reversed the way most people use iMacs as a two-display system. But I keep the Menu Bar and and Dock on the "secondary" iMac display. Why? To maximize the vertical space on my main display even more! And with modern apps (and web pages) having most controls on the window, having the menu bar across the top of my main display does not seem so essential. Power users use keyboard shortcuts anyway.

I don't know about others, but my eyes work better scanning up and down. I don't mind turning my whole head to look at a window on the second display, but looking side to side on the same display feels inefficient and tiresome.

When my huge CRT finally fails, I certainly hope I can still buy a big 4:3 LCD display to replace it. Maybe I should buy one now....

- Ken

Ken,

Sometimes there's an advantage to being out of step with the rest of the world - when they all buy widescreen displays, those older monitors should become even cheaper. And 1600 x 1200 sure sounds nice, although I'm comfortably getting by with 1280 x 1024. :-)

Dan

Reading MacWrite Files

From Mark Hurvitz:

Dear Dan,

My first Macintosh was a 512Ke. My brother-in-law had purchased an original Macintosh and showed me what I could do, and that was the beginning.

I have always copied old files from floppies onto newer media, and I have a number of files going all the way back. However, as they are MacWrite files, they are in a weird format, and I cannot read their text.

Do you have a suggestion?

Write on!

Mark Hurvitz

Mark,

Without knowing what you have access to, it's hard to say. If you have access to a Mac running the Classic Mac OS or have a PowerPC Mac with Mac OS X and Classic Mode, you should be able to import the files in ClarisWorks/AppleWorks and older versions of Microsoft Word. (I'm pretty sure Word 5 still supported MacWrite import.)

Another option is a program called Quill, which is a Desk Accessory for the Classic Mac OS. Online sources say it isn't pretty, but it gets the job done and doesn't require you to own Word, ClarisWorks, or an old enough version of MacLinkPlus translators that still included MacWrite support. I have no MacWrite files for testing the program, but you can download it at <http://ftp.actrix.co.nz/macintosh/apps/wp/quill.sit> - let me know if it works!

Dan

Dear Dan,

I'm sorry for not giving you the basic information... silly me!

Yes, I have a MacBook G4 with Classic on it. It even has AppleWorks. I never use AppleWorks . . . especially not its word processor. I'm a Nisus guy.

Thanks for the thorough reply.

Mark,

You're missing out on a great spreadsheet program, a decent word processor, and a usable drawing program, so even if you're sold on Nisus, there are reasons to give it a try. I'm not sure that recent versions include conversion support for MacWrite, but early versions had it.

Dan

Unleash Old Macs and Bad RAM with Linux

From Timothy Sipples:

I read Carl Nygren's article, Mac OS X 10.2 'Jaguar' Can Unleash the Power of G3 iBooks, with interest about rehabilitating a 128 MB iBook G3. (The iBook was reduced to 128 MB because of a bad RAM module.)

One disadvantage to 10.2 is that modern browser options are limited, and security-related patches are no longer available from Apple. Carl considered Ubuntu Linux but discovered that Ubuntu uses too much memory.

But Ubuntu is not the only Linux option for the G3. There's a lower memory version available called Xubuntu, with a so-called alternate installation CD that works on systems with even lower memory. Another choice is Debian Linux. You can install Debian on very low memory systems by choosing a reduced memory window manager such as Blackbox. I installed Debian Linux on a Quadra 700 and could actually get a graphical interface working, believe it or not. The G3 is luxury in comparison.

However, don't throw away that bad RAM module just yet. There's a Linux kernel driver called "badram" that is included with certain distributions - and available for all others if you can manage to recompile your own kernel. You start by running any RAM diagnostic program that can record the address ranges for bad memory. (Many Linux distributions have such a diagnostic program, called memtest.) Assuming some of the RAM on the module is still functional, you can then pass the bad address ranges to the Linux kernel (and badram) at bootup time. Badram keeps that bad memory from being used by any applications, so the system keeps running and avoids stepping on faulty address ranges. Badram can set aside as few as 4 bytes of bad memory.

Now this assumes that the memory module has predictable, fixed errors in specific address regions rather than growing errors over time. It also assumes that the iBook's ROM will still allow a bootup with that defective module. But assuming Carl's iBook clears those hurdles, badram might rescue some otherwise "low end" memory that would otherwise go to waste.

There are more details about badram from its author at <http://rick.vanrein.org/linux/badram/>.

Timothy Sipples

Timothy,

Thanks for writing. I've been experimenting with Debian and Xubuntu on my 400 MHz iMac, and I have to say that they are not yet nearly as easy to use as Macs. But both work decently on the stock 4200 rpm 10 GB hard drive. Once I have the time to install a 7200 rpm 40 GB or 80 GB drive, it should be a lot better.

Thanks for the tip about badram - what a clever hack!

Dan

Fedora Linux on G3 Macs

From MP:

Dan:

FYI, Fedora 9 works on the G3 iMac 400 DV (circa 1999, 400 MHz, slot-loading DVD-ROM, 640 MB of RAM, 20 GB hard drive - not original).

I had a bit of difficulty installing initially - I don't remember which package was causing the problem. So I dropped back to doing a more minimal install. Then, after Fedora 9 was up and running, I added in more packages via yum.

Initially, I was unable to get X started. After the most recent Fedora 9 updates to X, though, X is running fine. For whatever value it might provide to others, here is my working /etc/X11/xorg.conf in Fedora 9:

# Xorg configuration created by "X -configure" and modified

Section "ServerLayout"
Identifier "Default Layout"
Screen 0 "Screen0" 0 0
InputDevice "Keyboard0" "CoreKeyboard"
EndSection

Section "Files"
FontPath "catalogue:/etc/X11/fontpath.d"
FontPath "built-ins"
EndSection

Section "Module"
Load "dbe"
Load "glx"
Load "dri2"
Load "dri"
Load "extmod"
Load "GLcore"
Load "xtrap"
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Keyboard0"
Driver "kbd"
Option "XkbModel" "pc105"
Option "XkbLayout" "us"
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Mouse0"
Driver "mouse"
Option "Protocol" "auto"
Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
Option "ZAxisMapping" "4 5 6 7"
EndSection

Section "Monitor"
Identifier "Monitor0"
VendorName "Apple"
ModelName "Apple iMac CRT"
DisplaySize 270 200
HorizSync 60.0 - 60.0
VertRefresh 75.0 - 95.0
Option "DPMS" "true"
EndSection

Section "Device"
Identifier "Videocard0"
Driver "r128"
VendorName "ATI Technologies Inc"
BoardName "Rage 128 RL/VR AGP"
BusID "PCI:0:16:0"
Option "UseFBDev" "true"
EndSection

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Screen0"
Device "Videocard0"
Monitor "Monitor0"
DefaultDepth 24
SubSection "Display"
Viewport 0 0
Depth 24
Modes "1024x768" "800x600"
EndSubSection
EndSection

You are welcome to publish this info.

Good luck with your project. By the way, where on your site do you plan to put your Incomplete Guide to Linux and BSD for Older Macs page?

It's very much a work in progress at <http://lowendmac.com/linux/incomplete.html>

Dan:

It looks like a good start. I assume that you intend to provide more fulsome information, including user-validated hardware and user-submitted notes, such as the notes on xorg.conf for Fedora 8 and 9 that I contributed in my previous two messages. As for the two items that you specifically flagged in your checklist:

  1. There is no Live CD for the PPC version of Fedora. There is a netinstall CD, however, which can enable a smaller ISO download, followed by selective network package installation.
  2. I don't know if Fedora PPC is bootable from FireWire or USB - I haven't had occasion to try it.

With respect to Fedora, you might also want to include the following links:

Good luck.

- Mike

Mike,

Thanks for the information. The goal is to include every Linux and BSD distro for PowerPC and 680x0 Macs on that page with a brief description of what hardware platforms each supports. Eventually each of these will be linked to a page covering that distro with more depth - such as the Fedora page I'm developing based on the information you sent me and information found on those pages.

Thanks again!

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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