The Low End Mac Mailbag

From the Familiarity of Windows to the Power of Mac, Why 867 MHz for Leopard, and More

Dan Knight - 2007.12.05

From the Familiarity of Windows to the Power of Mac

Hi Dan

I'm a newbie in a Mac world.

I bought my first Mac couple of years ago at the garage sale for $60. It was an iMac, I believe something around 300 MHz with OS 9. I sold it following week and doubled my money. I felt it was a good deal.

I have been working in the PC world for years and never thought about buying a Mac to keep . . . until Vista came out. I have taken on a project to evaluate Windows Vista for the company I work for. We're a complete IT solution provider to a number of small to medium businesses, and we needed to know what we were going to face once our clients started purchasing new computers with Windows Vista in terms of software and hardware compatibility issues.

Being a Windows user my entire life (in desktop world), I was very excited to install Vista Business and start working on it. My enthusiasm started dying very quickly as my 64-bit Athlon 3200+ with a 1 GB of RAM and a 250 GB SATA II drive and an ATI X1600PRO PCI-E 256 Meg video card slowed down dramatically the moment Vista finished installing. Sure, Windows looked nicer, but I did not see any features that would justify slowing down my PC so much.

I lasted one month. About three weeks into the experiment, a friend of mine bought a new dual Xeon Mac for his studio and brought his old MDD dual 867 over for me to take a look at. I set it up next to my Vista tower and started it up. I must say the only thing that made me try it out was it's look, a kewl looking silver tower with a shiny mirror like doors covering optical drives.

Tiger loaded up, and I started clicking around. I launched Safari, iTunes, DVD Player, installed Messenger for Mac, and X-lite to try out my softphone. I could not believe it. This was a 5-year-old machine that was working just as fast as my 2-year-old PC under Windows XP. I must mention that my friend had installed 1.25 GB of RAM and an AirPort card, and added two 80 GB hard drives, but still, I did not expect that from a 5-year-old computer. I was hooked.

I used to upgrade my PC hardware on average every two years, and here was a computer that after five years of existence was still cutting it. I was blown away when I attached my miniDV Sony Camcorder to this Mac via FireWire. I had done the same thing with my PC few weeks earlier; it took about 20 min. of installing drivers, rebooting, etc. The moment I plugged camcorder to the Mac and turned it on, a message appeared on the screen asking if I wanted to import the video clips. I clicked yes, and in few minutes I was looking at the screen holding all clips from my camcorder!

Please, don't get me wrong; I've worked with video editing before, but I have never seen a setup like this. I bet my 3-year-old could do it if he was able to read (LOL).

To make a long story short, I had to bargain for this one, and in the end got my first "Mac to keep" for $450 this past February. My PC rig was sold the following month. In April, a friend at work tipped me off to the old inventory sale at the store he used to work at, so that morning I became an owner of a brand new G4 1.33 GHz iBook with 512 RAM, 40 Gig hard drive, AirPort, Bluetooth, and a combo drive for $399. I have since added 512 RAM to make it a 1 Gig and have been very happy with it.

In May, I bought an Apple TV, and, yes, my 3-year-old is actually able to run it.

My latest purchase, as a $60 local eBay deal: a B&W G3 400 MHz with a 512 RAM, 32 Meg ATI Video, and a 40 GB hard drive with a combo drive. The seller also threw in an almost new IKEA desk with a 20" CRT Sony Trinitron monitor.

I cannot explain it, but I find myself going through eBay on a daily basis looking for good deals on used Macs. My next goal is a late iMac classic. People keep asking why am I doing this, and I really can not tell, other than I guess I do see those machines as something more then just computers. They look great. The G3 is close to nine years old, and I installed Tiger without any issues (my nephew is using it for browsing, email, and do school work). Last weekend I ready through all the articles in Mac history on LEM, and now I think I want more!!! Anyway, great work, Dan, I'll be coming back to the site as often as I can.

Mark

Mark,

Wow, what a great testimonial to the power of Macintosh - horsepower and accessibility. I'm using the 1 GHz version of the MDD Power Mac, and my computer just about flies through everything. Just about, because video conversion will always be slow, and AppleWorks has been bogging down with each recent "update" to Mac OS X 10.4. Except for that, it's all the power I want or need.

These old Macs are real workhorses, and it's incredible to think that you replaced an Athlon 3200+ with a dual 867 MHz G4 because the Mac wasn't just easier to work with, but also more powerful. And if you ever run out of steam at 867 MHz, there are 1.8 GHz upgrades out there....

Keep helping others discover the Mac. Those old G3 iMacs, B&W G3 Power Macs, G3 iBooks, and Lombard and Pismo PowerBooks are great ways to introduce others to the power of Tiger without spending a lot of money.

Dan

Why 867 MHz for Leopard?

From David Kiley:

I am pretty sure that the reason Apple put the min. system specs at 867 MHz was not so much really the processor power as much as the video cards. The 867+ systems (such as the Quicksilver series) all have video cards that can support the eye candy minimally much better than systems prior. Now that is the reason, but I don't think it makes it right. The fact is the "eye candy" is not worth the environmental impact on all of the computers landing in landfills just so Apple can sell some more units. The core functionality of say Time Machine has nothing to do with eye candy - the eye candy is just added to kill off old systems. They could have programmed efficient code that allowed older systems to exist, if the greed didn't overtake them. Of course, they are like every other capitalist company, not really "thinking different" after all.

I understand Apple is in the hardware business, but I have a problem with how both Apple and Microsoft push bloatware to force hardware upgrades, often for completely silly reasons. (Such as Apple requiring a built-in FireWire port in the OS X Tiger).

Apple is a creative company, and surely they could come up with ways to make money on older computer users without resorting to unethical behavior as they do.

You lost, Apple, as I'm sticking with my G4 867 MHz for a looonnnggg time, even if Leopard is the last OS to run on it.

David Kiley

David,

I think you're partially on target, but the 867 MHz Quicksilver Power Mac shipped with exactly the same Nvidia GeForce 2 MX video card as the dual 800 MHz and single 733 MHz Quicksilver models, so once again Apple's "line in the sand" seems completely arbitrary. Our readers report that older, slower G4 Power Macs with decent video cards (not the ancient Rage 128, but Radeon and later) work quite decently with Leopard.

I have to disagree with your assessment that Apple is a hardware company. Apple sells hardware, software, and content - Mac, iPods, iPhones, Mac OS X, iLife, iWork, Final Cut Pro, music and videos from the iTunes Store, etc. In terms of profit margins, I'm sure Apple makes more from software than hardware, and the company may make more profit from a $129 Leopard sale than a $599 Mac mini sale, although that's not likely.

Also, I can't imagine anyone putting an older Mac in a landfill simply because it isn't supported in Leopard. Tiger is a perfectly good operating system, and there are ways to run Leopard on a lot of unsupported systems, so long as they have a G4 CPU. Regular visitors to Low End Mac know that.

Then there's the whole question of business ethics. If Apple's goal is making a profit, it's up to them to decide how to do it - by supporting as many old Macs as possible or by reducing support costs and supporting less Macs than Leopard can run on. From a business standpoint, neither choice is more ethical than the other, although from the standpoint of environmental friendliness and end user value, supporting more older Macs is more ethical.

However, Apple's first responsibility is to its shareholders, not its end users. Maybe someone should lay this out for board member Al Gore. :-)

Dan

DAV Cable in Power Mac 8600

From Guilherme Maranhao in response to Power Mac 8600 Question:

That's for the DAV cable that connects some video output directly through the MOBO, like Avid Cinema PCI card.

Regards,
Gui

8600 Motherboard Connector

From Monk:

http://www.macgurus.com/products/motherboards/mbppc8600.php

Does the reader mean the DAV slot? Man is it hard to find pics of Mac motherboards. I'm guessing the DAV slot is some video pass-through connector?

Monk,

Thanks for the link to Mac Gurus. It is indeed hard to find this kind of information on the Web!

Dan

Really Old Mac System Software

From John Helock:

Dan,

I have just read about a reader's trouble finding old System software. I had a similar problem myself. In my searching, a forum user on another Mac forum sent me two Zip files with the software from when it was available on Mac512.com. I would be more than happy to send them to you to forward on, if you like. Or feel free to forward my email address, and I'll send them.

John

John,

We don't share reader's email addresses without permission, so I've forwarded your email to A Harju and asked him to contact you directly.

Dan

Aperture and Vampire Video

From Nicholas McCormick:

Hi Dan,

I have been reading Low End Mac daily for some time, but this is my first submission to the mailbag (feel free to edit and publish this as you see fit). I want to chime in on the Vampire Video discussion. I recently decided to make photography a serious hobby, and through my school's Apple store (I am part-time faculty) I purchased Aperture. I also had to decide what was the best upgrade on a tight budget from my beloved 1 GHz TiBook. I could not afford a late model or refurbished MacBook Pro, nor I did not want a Revision A Core Duo (Wegener Media has good deals).

The MacBook seemed like a good choice for processing power -except for the Vampire Video and the puny screen (compared to the Titanium). Some people on MacInTouch were having decent performance, but I am skeptical about integrated video for a GPU intensive application. In the end, I decided upon the High-Res PowerBook. I am pleased to report I have, in my opinion, decent performance from this computer using Aperture.

I work with large JPEG and RAW (NEF) files from my Nikon D40 and scans. I would like to know if any of your readers used Aperture on a High-Res or other PowerBook and then shifted to a MacBook for a side-by-side comparison. I do not have an Intel Mac, but I plan to buy one once I can afford to upgrade all of my software to Universal. I will test Aperture under Leopard soon and report back on performance. I am happy with it, but I wonder what difference the Core 2 Duo would have made over my G4 and discrete graphics.

Thanks for a great resource!

Nick McCormick

P.S. My Mac Cred: Six years of employment as a tech in all-Mac computer facilities

Current Macs:

  • 1.67 GHz PowerBook 15"
  • 1.33 GHz iBook G4 14" (my wife's)
  • Lombard 400 (was my Dad's- he bought the TiBook from me...)
  • Grape iMac (tray loading 333)

I have owned (my trail of upgrade and sell): PowerBook 520, PowerBook 1400, WallStreet, Pismo Performa 466, 6100, G4 533

Nick,

I'll post your email in the Mailbag column. Perhaps some readers who have compared Aperture on a PowerBook, MacBook, and MacBook Pro will share their experience.

Dan

Thanks Dan!

I am really interested to hear what your readers have to say. I love my Hi-Res PowerBook- it has more than enough power to do everything I need right now. Meanwhile, the Titanium is running circles around my folk's PC. I tested Leopard on the TiBook, but with 512 MB of RAM it seemed like the Finder was poky and applications took longer to launch (FCP 4.5HD seemed to work though). I cloned Tiger back for my Dad, rather than have him go through the aches and pains of breaking in a new cat.

Nick

Using an ImageWriter with USB

From Christy:

Hello!

I have a MacBook and I have an old ImageWriter 2 in the garage. It turns on, but I haven't been able to really test it out. I want to make banners with it like I used to in Print Shop. I haven't bought any stuff for it yet, like the special papers with the holes on the side or those trapezoidal ink things with a string on it. But before I buy any stuff for it, will it even work with MacBook? The thing has a serial printer port, but I have no idea if it has anything else. is there a serial/USB cable out there?

I dunno. I've heard of people hooking up old printers with Macs running Tiger & Leopard from your website.

Thanks,
Christy

Christy,

The adapter may cost more than the printer is worth. The Keyspan USB Twin Serial Adapter (US$79) will let you connect two Apple serial devices, such as your ImageWriter printer, to any USB Mac. Belkin once made a USB Serial Adapter for Mac, but it's apparently been discontinued.

I've never tried using the ImageWriter in my basement with an OS X Mac (it was donated to LEM, and I've never even plugged it in), so I don't know how easy or difficult it is to make it work, but The Linux Foundation has ImageWriter drivers for OS X that should do the job.

You'll be happy to know that The Print Shop has been updated for OS X, and it's a lot more powerful than the old version ever was. In addition to banner, signs, and cards, it also supports printing CD labels, business cards, and brochures.

Dan

Disk Utility Broken

From Dylan:

For some reason, in the latest version of OS X (10.4.11), my IM program (Fire) will not work. When I try to send someone a message, it just crashes. This only started happening with the latest OS X update. I went back to download an older version of the program, however, Disk Utility seems to be broken, and will not open at all.

This therefore prevents me from installing quite a bit of software. Any ideas?

Thanks for the help,
Dylan

Dylan,

It's a shame that Fire has been left behind, as it was the first multiplatform IM client for Mac OS X, but Adium is a wonderful replacement.

To solve your problem with Disk Utility, put your Tiger installer in your Mac's optical drive, open the Applications Folder, and then open the Utilities folder. Drag Disk Utility to the Utilities folder on your hard drive and replace the old version.

If that doesn't solve the problem, it's due to preferences. Open your User folder, then Library, and then Preferences. Delete com.apple.DiskUtility.plist and restart your Mac to completely clear out the old preference file.

Dan

Translucent Grey Border

From David Leavitt:

Hi,

A friend pointed me to your article on the translucent grey box. I have a similar problem: I have a translucent grey border around my screen, which I cannot move and cannot get rid of. If anything is "below" this border, I can't click on it. And I don't have WinSwitch installed anywhere on my system.

I may have to do a lot of installing/uninstalling third party stuff, but wondered if you had had any other suggestions.

I'm running a first generation Intel iMac under Tiger, if that makes any difference. Relatively low end, I guess.

Thanks.

- David Leavitt

David,

The bad news is that I've never noticed such a thing, nor is Google helping me find a problem like this. I'll post your story in the Low End Mac Mailbag in hopes someone will write in with the solution.

Dan

Dan,

I found out what happened. I must have hit F11 (for Exposé, which I've never intentionally used) by accident. That caused the translucent grey box. Hitting it again got rid of it.

Thanks. I'm glad I came across your site.

- David Leavitt

David,

Glad it was a simple fix. I haven't used Exposé enough that I would have recognized your problem.

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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