Charles Moore's Mailbag

Pismo G4 Upgrade Report, PB 1400 G3 Upgrade Question, FireWire Hot Swap Concerns, and 'Book Repair

Charles Moore - 2003.03.05 - Tip Jar

Pismo G4 Upgrade Review

From Lincoln Benedict

Pros: Significant boost in overall performance, especially in OS X. Real-time effects in Final Cut Pro. Added lift to the best laptop Apple ever made :-)

Cons: Long turnaround, a month. That's a lot of time to be missing your laptop.

For Christmas I was lucky enough to receive the NuPower G4 upgrade for the Pismo. I decided on Newer because I had previously bought an upgrade from them that worked out well. I started out with the base Pismo, the 400 MHz model with 576 MB of RAM. I could not even run Final Cut in OS X without frame stutters and eons of rendering time. While this was frustrating, I use my PowerBook mostly for taking notes in class, so it wasn't a major issue.

With much anticipation I packed my beloved assistant off to Chicago to receive a new soul. The paper accompanying Newer's upgrade told me that I should expect to wait 8-10 business days before getting back my newly G4'ed Pismo. 10 business days later I was still waiting. I called Newer and was reassured that the PowerBook would arrive the next week. A week later, still no PowerBook. So I called again. They told me it would arrive next week. The next week, I finally had my Pismo back.

There is definitely a performance boost. Before I ripped at about 4x in iTunes, that's up to about 7-8x. The most noticeable difference was in Final Cut Pro. Long gone were the frame stutters; full, pure, uncompromised digital video flowed like water through my laptop. I was even running real-time effects (although limited to fades and sound tracks).

I was slightly worried about heat and battery life with the new G4, but neither have been an issue. It does run a bit warmer than it did before, with constant processor usage the bottom gets warm, but never uncomfortably warm. As for battery life, I don't think there has been an effect. I just watched The Bourne Identity and still had 33% battery left (in 10.2, set my screen on the lowest setting and energy saver to DVD playback).

One more thing, some people in the xlr8yourmac.com forums said they had received a different processor card back than their original one. I have the original one that came with my machine; there has been no change.

In retrospect, I'd definitely do it again, but probably not with Newer. With the large wait time, I think I'd go with PowerLogix. To all Pismo owners who want to extend their machines life, don't want to worry about paint flaking off or frying their legs, get this upgrade! $300 is a very reasonable price for the performance boost.

Thanks,
Lincoln

Thanks for the review, Lincoln. The wait is too long, but I'm glad to hear it's working well for you. As a happy Pismo owner, I have to agree with your contention that it's the best 'Book Apple ever made (so long as you don't get one with "pink screen disease" or a bum DVD drive, anyway). ;-)

Charles

iceBook HD upgrade pages - need URL

From Jeffrey Harris

Hi Charles

Just for genl knowledge, I'd like to see G. Cox's upgrade pages. But your column the other day does not have a link in it. Can you post the URL?

Thanks
Jeffrey Harris

Hi Jeffrey,

Very weird. The draft I sent to Dan definitely had a link, but you're right, the posted article doesn't. Not sure what happened there. I'll notify Dan.

Anyway, here's the URL:
http://uk.geocities.com/ibookupgrade/

Charles

Editor's note: It was there. I accidentally deleted it while editing. We've already fixed it. dk

PowerBook 1400

From Tom MacDougall

Mr. Moore,

I have a PowerBook 1400 which is presently gathering dust because as of late I use my iMac (500 MHz) for most of my work. I miss using my faithful companion, so I was thinking of buying the 466 MHz upgrade card from Sonnet. But before I put out $500 Cdn, I wanted to read the reactions of people who have opted for this upgrade. If you can help me in my search for information, I would appreciate it.

Tom MacDougall

Hi Tom,

I invite readers who have G3 upgraded 1400s to comment.

Here are a few thoughts of mine. The 1400's internal architecture (which is based on the even older PowerBook 5300) is getting pretty long in the tooth. It has a slow, 32 MHz internal bus and supports a maximum of 64 MB of RAM, which is marginal for OS 9 - and forget about OS X, the 1400 is technically a NuBus machine, and therefore the prospects for running OS X on a 1400 are about nil.

There are other PowerBook 1400 limitations. As a nod to economy, no video-out jack for an external monitor was included with the 1400. An internal expansion slot could accommodate video-out or Ethernet upgrade cards (no standard Ethernet either), but not both. Ethernet could also be supported with a PC Card, which is also the only choice for an internal modem with the 1400. The 1400's PC Card slots are not CardBus compliant, so USB, FireWire, and wireless networking cards are not supported. Video support in the 1400 is sluggish by today's standards.

Consequently, unless you really, really like the 1400 (and there's plenty to like), you might be better off putting the Can$500 toward a more up-to-date PowerBook or iBook.

My 2¢

Charles

Could it be that Que! is just *crap*?

From Brian

Hi Charles,

Serious bummer 'bout your drive. FWIW, I have a Que M3 80 GB FireWire HD that crapped out recently. I did get some info from a tech about how to *maybe* recover it, but right now I am too pissed and afraid to risk screwing up the rest of my system to try his suggestions...

I had a system lock-up (rare) and rebooted. The lock-up occurred during a folder-sync operation that was writing to the FireWire drive. Boom! When I rebooted, I had all sorts of problems . . . strangely similar to what you described with your CD drive. I booted from the 9.1 CD and was able to fix some crud using Disk First Aid (on my boot drive, not the FW drive). After that, I was able to boot but could not get the FireWire drive to mount.

Interestingly, [Norton] Disk Doctor could (initially) see the drive as a "missing" drive. I let the machine run for *hours* while it looked for FileSaver info, etc. Nuthin'! Besides possibly losing *countless* files (backup strategy? We don't need no stinkin' backup strategy), I cannot even get the drive to mount, so I can reformat the damn thing! It won't even show up as missing with Disk Doctor anymore...

I will try the voodoo chants, etc. at a later date, but needless to say I do not have a favorable opinion of FireWire! I have used SCSI for years and never had any problems. Ever. This thing is as bad as those Zip and Jaz drives! BTW, I will dance around the room like a ninny the day Iomega croaks. I would beat myself with a baseball bat before giving them (or Que!) another friggin' dime!

Well, sorry for the long rant. Suffice it to say 'I feel your pain'. Hopefully companies that make crappy things will fix these kinds of problems, get sued and/or go out of business so we can get back to using and enjoying our Macs.

Cheers!
Brian

Hi Brian,

As you may have seen in my follow-up article last Thursday, I got both the FireWire card and the Que CD burner percolating again.

However, My Que M2 6 GB FireWire drive also died suddenly last summer with very few hours on it, but it wasn't Que's fault. What failed was the Fujitsu 2.5" hard drive. The M2 is now a 10 GB FireWire drive, by virtue of the Toshiba HD pulled from my dead WallStreet PowerBook being ensconced therein, and it's working fine. That may not be the problem with your M3, but it might be worth swapping another HD unit in to check it out. I tried an IBM 2 GB HD in the M2 and it worked fine too.

Charles

FireWire Boot Problems

From Fred Goff

Charles,

Read your article on your FireWire problems with interest. I wanted to verify that you actually plugged in the drive during the boot process, not before or after.

If you did, I'm not surprised you munged the FireWire card. You should never change a system configuration during the boot process, even a plug and play configuration. The computer is basically talking to all your hardware, getting its configuration information, and registering it with the system. If you plug in a FireWire device, you can muck that all up. Remember that FireWire is not a client-server model like USB, but a peer-to-peer system like ethernet.

Plugging or unplugging a FireWire device during boot would be like disabling AppleTalk in the middle of a netboot or when the printer drivers are initializing. All bets are off.

If you wait until the machine has completely booted, you should be able to plug and unplug to your heart's content.

Hi Fred,

Alas, I did plug in the FireWire drive during mid-boot, just as the extensions were loading.

If, you read my follow-up article on Thursday, you know that I was able to get things working properly again, and I will be more patient about connections in future.

Charles

FireWire Hotswap Issue

From Keith Godin

I understand your complaint with the hardware failure you experienced with FireWire hot-plugging. Computers should work as advertised, and FireWire was advertised with the much hyped technology of hotplugging. However, I think it's unreasonable to expect a computer to do anything while it's booting besides boot.

I think your provisional moral *is* the moral. Don't hotplug things in any port while the computer is booting. I also think that your in-passing assertion that USB2 is somehow better in this respect is simply unnecessary. There is no evidence to believe so, and I see no reason to think that USB2 is not also plagued by this issue, which is probably more related to the order in which software drivers are loaded than anything else.

Both FireWire and USB were designed to allow hotplugging after the system has fully booted, however, and so I would think that there is no cause for alarm and that people can continue to use this feature as they have in the past.

Overall, I did find your article to be informative and thoughtful, as usual.

Keep up the good work.

Hi Kieth,

Thanks. I have no problem waiting for the machine to boot to plug things in if that's what's required. I had just been laboring under the misapprehension that hot plugging meant that you could plug in any old time, and the advertising for FireWire has never in my recollection said not to plug in while booting.

However, Fred's letter above seems to imply that USB might not share this restriction.

Charles

FW hotplugin

From Ralph Kuschke

Hi, Mr. Moore!

Never touch a booting system is the first computing order. There is nothing to argue about this, never ever, it doesn't depend on the manufacture of hard- or software.

I say this as I find the article a bit too confused whether FW is good for hot-plugin. It definitely is, but you need to behave in terms of the basic set of rule(s). Like with SCSI. Remember: Any person with some basic knowledge or any printed advice said clearly: don't attach/detach devices while the machine is powered on (even in sleep mode). It's a basic rule. Don't ever break it, because you will destroy something.

So, what you experienced, is the breaking of the first amendment of FW, let's say.

The article is delivering the wrong content. You behaved wrong, but there was no malfunction of the system.

I am sorry for my noisiness, but I thought it was needed to clarify this.

Other than that, keep on burning (and writing, of course)!

Best wishes from Germany,
R

Hi Ralph,

No argument from me on the point. That "first amendment" should just be more widely publicized and clearly articulated amidst all the hype about hot plugging.

However, Apple specifically says that USB and FireWire devices can be hot plugged without putting the machine to sleep or shutting down, and even ADB devices were approved for connecting/disconnecting when the machine was asleep. I did it for years with no problems. I always shut down before attaching/detaching SCSI devices (unless the machine is frozen and won't respond), however my son has been hot plugging SCSI stuff for years and has never experienced any hardware damage (although I don't recommend this).

My favorite SCSI hot-plugging story is the time Tristan had my old LC 520 dialed up to the Internet while he was working on a Power Mac 9500 we had. He needed a hard drive to test something he had repaired on the 9500, so without bothering to shut down the LC or even a log off the Net, he popped the Quantum 160 MB hard drive out of its easily accessible bay in the back of the 520, did what he needed to do with it on the 9500, and then reinserted it in the LC, which had remained running and dialed up to the Internet throughout. Never missed a beat throughout. The LC and hard drive are still going strong more than three years later, in daily use by my wife. ;-)

Charles

RE: FireWire: Hot Swapping Isn't Always a Good Idea

From: Michael Zuhlke

Charles,

My friend and I found out the hard way that you should never hot-swap a FireWire device. I brought my FireWire external 2.5" hard drive over to connect it to his Power Mac G4/533, and when he plugged it in, we heard a pop accompanied by the smell of burned circuitry. Before I could stop him, he plugged it into his running Pismo, and the same thing happened! Since he purchased the PM G4 with a credit card a year and a half before, he was covered on repairs for a full second year (he didn't and never does buy AppleCare). As for the Pismo, it has 2 FireWire ports, so he'll just have to get by with the one that is left. After he had the logic board replaced on the PM G4, he bought a FireWire PCI card and uses that. If the card goes, it is cheaper than paying to replace an out-of-warranty logic board. People with notebook computers should be extra careful NOT to hot-plug, or buy a CardBus FireWire card.

Michael

Hi Michael,

A good cautionary tale. I've been hot-plugging my Que M2 FireWire hard drive into my Pismo and iBook (although not while booting), but I'm a bit spooked after this episode with the Umax, notwithstanding that all seems to have been resolved now, and will be much more cautious in the future.

Good point about using PCI or CardBus cards as a port buffer. If the FireWire card had been damaged in the Umax, it would have been an inexpensive replacement.

Charles

PowerBook Tech

From Mark Schroder

Hi Charles,

I saw a note that you posted on lowendmac.com in reference to Powerbooktech.com. Do you know how I can reach them? They don't respond to email and I can't find their telephone number. Any ideas on how to reach them?

Thanks a lot.

Mark

Mark Schroder
VP Creative Services
Purple Sage Design, Inc.
http://www.purplesagedesign.com

Hi Mark,

Their Website still comes up:*
http://www.powerbooktech.com/contact.fib

Here's their contact info:
sales@powerbooktech.com

Post:
PowerBook Tech
1404 Spruce St.,
Berkeley CA 94709

No phone number, though.

If you can;t get hold of them, alternatives might be:

PowerBookResQ
http://www.powerbookresq.com/

There's an email form on the Website.

1-866-Mac-Repair.

PowerBookResQ
1320 Galaxy Way
Suite 200
Concord, CA 94520
Ph. (925) 689-9488
Fax (925) 689-9487

High End Communications of West Nyack, NY, is offering a new Apple Laptop Repair service built for customers from around the US who need 'Book repairs done quickly.

For a set price High End Communications covers a 3 way shipping (box to customer, laptop to office, and laptop to customer), and a diagnostic report within 24 hours.

For more information, visit:
http://www.highendcommunications.com/

Phone and email info on Website.

MicroDoc

MicroDoc offers a full one year warranty on repairs

• PowerBook, G4, and iMac repairs.
• Fast turnaround. Most repairs are completed and shipped within 24 hours.
• Predictable fees. All repairs are flat-rated.
• No repair; no charge. If your unit is unrepairable, you pay nothing but the shipping charges.
• One full year warranty on repairs.
• Exchanged boards carry OEM warranty.

425 Lincoln St.
Eugene, OR 97401
(541)344-5335
(800)203-5337
FAX: (541)344-5020

http://www.microdocusa.com/repairs.html

Charles

* Editor's note: We try to verify every link when we publish an article, and as I proofread this column, I cannot access powerbooktech.com at all. This may be a temporary problem. dk

re. Pismo Screen Repair

From Chris Houston

Charles,

Thanks for the link to the Pismo screen repair info. Very enlightening and hope-inspiring for the screen-hobbled out there! Great to have alternatives to Apple's astronomic repair costs.

Do you know of any similar site/info regarding TiBook screen replacements? Including not only instructions, but also compatible parts? There seem to be lots of screens on eBay, but knowing which one(s) work is, obviously, essential.

Thanks again,
Chris Houston

Hi Chris,

Not that I know of, and Google didn't turn up anything. If anyone out there knows of such a tutorial, let us know.

Charles


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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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