Charles Moore's Mailbag

WallStreet Tales, Which Version of OS 9, Another OS X System Utility, Online Petitions, and More

Charles Moore - 2003.11.18 - Tip Jar

WallStreet

From Adam R. S. Guha

Glad to hear your WallStreet is working again. I'd say the processor failure was probably just one of those 'stuff happens' type things. Back when I had my Lombard G3, the fan had shorted out for absolutely no reason. Once it was replaced I had no more trouble with it. And my Dell laptop (and this probably says something about the quality of the machine) had a hard drive failure and a keyboard failure at the same time. Shortly thereafter the battery 'suddenly' died. I was about to suspect something with the motherboard, but replacing the battery, hard drive, and keyboard got everything working again - that was last winter, and I'm sending this e-mail from that computer now.

It's good that you'll be able to get more use out of the WallStreet. My dad's got one also - top of the line model when new, 266 MHz, 14" screen, 8 GB hard drive - that he relegated to the closet after its battery died. I told him it's probably got another year or two left in it. Like you said, even a 'slow' G3 chip can still feel pretty fast when running OS 9. I mean, my now 'obsolete' beige G3 works just fine doing recording with ProTools under OS 9. A new G5 wouldn't make the recording process take less time, so I have no reason to replace the G3 with a faster machine.

Adam

Hi Adam,

Thanks for the musings. Yes, it could have been just one of those things. The old machine is certainly working great now.

Too bad your dad's WS is just sitting around if all that ails it is a dead battery. These are wonderful computers.

Charles

WallStreet tales

From PEA

Dear Mr. Moore:

I'm a dual system user, with G3 Mac PowerBooks and Wintel desktops used as needed. (I was a Wintel-only sort until a "thrift shop Mac" popped up one day for $40, then $25, and I brought this SE 4/40 home. It left for a Packard Bell-afflicted computer user as an SE/30 32/540 a year later.) I bought a 266 MHz (rev. 2) from an Ontario eBay vendor in 2001 to use a Sony CRX-1650L FireWire CD-RW via a VST FireWire PC card. This was a 4 GB/128 MB RAM unit running OS 8.6 that wasn't having any of this FireWire nonsense. (To make a very long story short, things began happening under OS 9.2.2 when I upgraded the beast to 256 MB RAM and a 40 GB HDD and added a FireWire2Go PC card in anticipation of upgrading to OS X 10.2, a.k.a. Jaguar.) I could now burn CD-Rs, something that my Wintel desktops had been able to do for years!

I still have the 266 MHz card, because previous to the RAM/HDD upgrade, I'd had a Sonnet 500 MHz G3 processor card installed in a vain attempt to get a Que! Fire 24X CD-RW unit to work. (The VST FireWire PC card has never worked, as it turned out.) The "Jaguar" WallStreet runs OK, though things do happen faster if I reboot to OS 9.2.2 and run Classic applications like FileMaker Pro 5 or Office 98. As for the fan, Hawai'i averages 75-80 degree Fahrenheit days, so WallStreet tells me to "cool it" after about 1-2 hours plugged into the AC adapter. (Yes, the G3 units are "card table" computers, plugged into the round AC adapters unless needed far from the wall plug.)

It is unfortunate that OS X 10.3 marks the official end of the trail for these beefy units, but it had to happen sooner than later. I'm writing to you on a Lombard, which had been called a "400 MHz Pismo" on eBay. (So I looked for a 500 MHz Pismo just to make sure I got a native FireWire G3 PowerBook the next time!) This "red headed cousin" has never let me down and ran just fine out of the box, while the WallStreet's internal modem extension arrived turned off, which mystified this "Mac naive" user to the tune of $95 at the 25-miles-distant Mac shop. (The Pismo's internal modem, by contrast, was toast.)

I didn't learn about Macs in a vacuum, I have a four-miles-over-the-hill-Apple-since-II series-guru who told me about Low End Mac, Mac bits and pieces on eBay, and other "check your extensions" tips. The Wintel desktop doesn't get used as much these days, since virus-free surfing of the Internet is the preferred way to go. (Now, if spammers and identity thieves could be declared international terrorists and hunted down with gusto, 'Net life would be less complex.) Excuse me, I have to check on an eBay auction for FileMaker Pro 6, the last major software upgrade to OS X before I enter the "will it mess up the Pismo/Lombard?" OS X 10.3 Panther upgrade follies.

The Mac SE was an early model, complete with 800K floppy drive to go with the 40 MB HDD. (The previous owner had left everything on the HDD, from notes to students he taught as a Marine Science TA, to jokes, to resumes for his next job!) It wasn't long before I found out that Wintel computers can download Mac files, but Macs can't access them. Plus, the 800K floppy drive couldn't read HD floppies, though I did use old DD IBM floppy disks to back up MS Word 4 and Excel 3 files written under OS 6.

So it was off to eBay for a HD floppy drive, then an SE/30 motherboard to support the floppies. That's when I found out that Wintel downloads were still foreign to the SE. It was time to "get another Mac that could talk to the original Mac." My neighboring Mac friend has/had a collection of pre-PowerPC Macs, from a PowerBook 160 to several "pizza boxes," but reading LEM articles convinced me that a PowerBook Kanga or 1400 would be a better bet. The eBay bidding wars convinced me that a Kanga was too rare/expensive a proposition, so 1400s became the object of contest.

To make a long story short, an ex-elementary school PowerBook 1400C/166 arrived from Pennsylvania one day and reminded me of what it had been like to use a laptop again. Back when Windows was version 3.0, I'd bought a Toshiba 1200XE 12 MHz 80286/20 MB/1 MB RAM for the dramatic price of $2,000. My timing was awful; three months later the first 80386 laptops with 30- and 40 MB HDDs arrived, so I made acquaintance with PC GEOS/Geoworks 1.0 as a Windows substitute. (I also tried one of those "HDD space doublers" for a virtual 35 MB, which turned out to be as satisfying as crackers made of cardboard boxes.) I learned how to take apart the unit to install an internal 2400 baud modem and tried not to mind CGA monochrome graphics. This unit later left for college with a family friend's son.

The 1400 allowed me to use a computer where I was, instead of having to go to the Wintel desktop. The external modem was a quaint reminder the IBM XT system that I'd used when I worked for a portrait photography studio, until I upgraded PC card modem. In time, I added a 32 MB RAM module to the bring it up to the 64 MB maximum, and upgraded the OS from 8.1 to 8.5. Then I discovered PowerPrint 3, which made it possible to use my IBM printers. Things went well for a time until one day the CD-ROM drive refused to read anything, be it music CD, data, or program CD. I found a 20x CD-ROM drive replacement kit on eBay, and it worked okay, though the latch was a bit iffy.

Not quite a year later, I got interested in FireWire, burning CD-Rs, and moving up to a 32-bit PC card system. So began the next great PowerBook hunt, usually unsuccessful, since bids were for serious money. (The 1400 had cost somewhere in the $140 range, while most MainStreet and WallStreet units were "north of $500" - and occasionally over $900!) After chasing 233 MHz and the rare 300 MHz rev. 2 WallStreet, I settled on the 266 range, trying not to faint at the $850-$900 price ranges. After a number of losing bids, a Mr. Tai Lam of Ontario accepted a $770 ($27 S+H) bid for such a middle-of-the-road unit. The rest you've read about, and the G3 era began.

The 1400, along with an Apple Color StyleWriter, left with yet another student who needed a computer for school. I wonder if the SCSI stuff should have gone with it; a 36 GB (4 x 9 GB) external HDD and a 8x CD-RW drive, since I'm upgrading to OS X applications and such hardware is foreign to Jaguar. Looking back, although the Lombard and Pismo are compact units, there are times I wished to locate a crazed Mac Tech to stuff the WallStreet's innards into the 1400's shell, to create an "almost iBook" of tank-like reliability. (Just as I've wondered if there's a "Gyro Gearloose" Mac Tech who'd move a trashed cosmetically, but still working, G4 800 MHz into a "bronze keyboard" case before the advent of G4 iBooks.)

Oh well, xlr8yourmac.com has people almost as crazy as my Mac friend, who moved a "dead monitor" 233 MHz iMac into a desktop PC case for a "poor/crazy man's Cube"! I supplied a damaged-in-transit Sony CRX-1611 CD-RW drive, which he fixed and now has a real conversation piece. He says it's like his 266 MHz WallStreet as far as Jaguar is concerned, needing only a 14 inch or larger monitor to surf the Internet, play around with iTunes 4.x, or burn CD-Rs. Thank you for slogging through yet another long tale, and I wonder if there's a Mac version of Shutterbug Ads? (There lies a story of collecting ancient Leica screw thread lenses and accessories, but that's another tale.)

PEA

P.S.: The first RAM upgrade to the WallStreet came when my Mac friend couldn't get the then-live-monitor 233 MHz iMac to accept a 128 MB RAM SIMM. So I ended up with 192 MB RAM, and found that I could burn CD-Rs on the "does not work with Apple PC cards" Sony CRX-1650L via a FireWire2Go card. The WallStreet and Lombard now purr along with 384 MB RAM each, and the Pismo might do video someday with 640 MB RAM. Thanks to Data Memory Systems, which my "mad Mac friend" and I endorse for worry-free RAM and HDD upgrades.

P.P.S.: I would pay money for a print version of Low End Mac, since it will be some time before I upgrade to a G4, let alone G5 Apple computer. (Most Mac magazine writers extol the new stuff as if money did grow on trees!)

Hi PEA,

Thanks for the chronicle. Glad to hear you're still getting good service from both the WallStreet and the Lombard. My son's Lombard 333 was (is - it's still going strong under new ownership) one tough machine. He gave it rough service, and it never missed a beat. It even runs OS X decently well.

Incidentally, "Old Fart's Guide To The Macintosh" author Aaron Rosenzweig runs his Cocoa Nuts website off a circa 1998 WallStreet 266 MHz on Mac OS X. Aaron says: "Not only does this computer handle our Web site, but it is also the secretary's computer and our fax machine."

Glad you enjoy LEM. There's lots of life in these old computers yet. For the past six months I've been spending about 1/4 of my computing time on a PowerBook 1400cs/117, and now that my WallStreet's working again, and replaced the 1400 as my "laptop-laptop" that proportion will likely increase. Running OS 9 it's much faster than my OS X production 'Books and such a pleasure to use for basic word processing and editing.

Charles

Operating System Upgrade Question

From Andrew Somerton

I own a Power Mac 9600/300. Should I just upgrade it to 9.1 or all the way up to 9.2.2? What benefits/downsides are there to doing that?

Thanks,
Andrew

Hi Andrew,

The differences in OS 9 versions are subtle. A few extra features and refinements in each upgrade.

Any of the OS 9s should work fine with your 9600, but my personal fave is OS 9.1, but 9.0.4 worked well on my G4 Cube. OS 9.2 does not support pre-G3 machines, but there is an installer hack available.

Potential reasons for installing 9.2.x are:

1. Compatibility with ATI's latest drivers . ATI dropped support for OpenGL versions lower than 1.2.2. (9.1 has 1.2.1)

2. You can't run DVD Studio Pro 1.5 or 1.2.1 without 9.2.2.

3. You can't run Final Cut Pro 3 without 9.2.2.

4. Full compatibility with iPod .

5. MacSpeech's iListen dictation software is not supported by OS 9.1.

If none of those apply to you, it's probably not worth the trouble. I have both OS 9.1 and OS 9.2.2 installed on my Pismo, and I boot into OS 9.1 by preference.

OS9 Helper is available as a free download with no support. There is a support forum available for a $10 fee.

Charles

System Utilities Compared

From Martin Sammtleben

Hi Charles,

I read your article "7 Mac OS X System Utilities Compared" with great interest - very helpful in depth information!

After having used Onyx as well I finally have settled for another utility that might be worth mentioning in that context: Macaroni.

It does not reach the scope of the other utilities but has one advantage over them: It can run all the maintenance scripts (and any custom scripts you might want to add) automatically as it's a system prefs pane module.

It's a matter of install & forget resting assured it will perform the specified tasks on a regular basis.

Cheers
Martin

Thanks for the report, Martin.

Charles

Apple Catholic Website

From Alvin Chan

Thank you for your time. How are things going? I launched a new, simple site. It's about Apple computers, ideas, and computers in general with the spiritual effects and benefits of using them and vice-versa, viewed as a catholic. It is for everyone (all religions, churches, and nations), and if you feel good about it, you're welcome to link it (for those who have sites), to spread the good word. The site is named Apple Catholic.

iBook petition

From Brendan Carolan

Hi!

My name is Brendan Carolan, I've been reading your columns on various sites for a while now, and I was wondering if you could help spread the word about an online petition I've got going to get Apple to acknowledge the problem with their dual USB iBook logic boards, namely, the repeated failure of said logic boards.

The petition is at <http://www.petitiononline.com/ibook123/petition.html>

Hopefully if all of us with this problem get together, they'll have to do something.

Thanks.

Sure Brendan.

The petition reads:

To: Apple Computer, Inc.

This petition is created to force Apple Computer, Inc. to admit there is a recurring and endemic problem with their Dual USB iBook computers, namely, the frequent and repeated failure of the logic boards in these machines.

We petition that Apple provide recourse to this problem by either extending the warranty on the logic boards to cover all purchasers of said machines, or by offering reasonable replacement options other than the current replacement logic board, which has been proven faulty.

Sincerely,
The Undersigned

PowerBook Petition

From pipebomb

Regarding the PowerBook petition, perhaps it could be used in conjunction with http://www.PowerBookRecall.com. It sure seems like there are a lot of unhappy PB owners these days, doesn't it? :)

Have a good day!

It does, alas.

Charles

Letters sent may be published at our discretion. Email addresses will not be published unless requested. If you prefer that your message not be published, mark it "not for publication." Letters may be edited for length, context, and to match house style.

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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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