Charles Moore's Mailbag

Living Microsoft Free; iBook, Pismo, WallStreet, and PB 5300 Issues; AppleCare Alternatives; and More

Charles Moore - 2004.01.13 - Tip Jar

Why I Live Microsoft Free Article

From Chris Gardner:

I was recently introduced to your "Why I Live Microsoft Free" article by www.wired.com. I was immediately struck by a "can't see the forest from the trees" metaphor.

"Why give aid and comfort to a company that wants to control your interaction with your own computer and with the Internet, obliging you to pay handsomely for both".

Apple has always been about controlling users interaction. The Mac interface has always been a stolid example of this. Apple has consistently turned down any kind of customization (themes support is, and continues to be, lacking). They offer a single text editor out of the box, a single picture viewer. They moved to the brushed metal interface even after users cried foul. I'm no Microsoft apologist, but Mac is less about "using your computer your own way" than Apple's "use your computer the way we've set up our standards".

As for paying handsomely, I don't think I need to retread that argument. I've paid $100 a pop for OS X upgrades since it's inception. I paid $20 for a small point update (which, for all intents and purposes, should have been free).

I have many different systems at home: Linux with KDE, Windows XP, OS X, and even some rogue ones like Plan 9. The most customizable, affordable interface comes with Linux. Microsoft offers enough ability to customize, although I don't appreciate its price. Every time I turn on the OS X machine, while I like the colors of the GUI, I'm immediately turned off by the total lack of customization.

Chris

Hi Chris,

Different strokes I guess. I prefer not to tinker and maintain any more than absolutely necessary once I get things set up the way I like them. The Mac interface suits me fine (X or Classic).

But "single text editor"? Heck, there must be two dozen text editors available for the Mac platform, many of then freeware. My fave is Tex Edit Plus.

Charles

Re: Why I Live Microsoft Free Article

From Chris Gardner

In terms of text editors, I mean what comes with the platform. There's probably thousands if you count the same on Linux and Windows.

Chris

Hi Chris,

Yeah, granted, and it's great to have choice, but Text Edit is a pretty decent one, and AppleWorks ships with consumer Macs. If they don't suit, there's little hardship finding one that does - any platform.

Charles

iBook in Need of a Doctor

From Daniel Paxton

Hi

I need a diagnosis. Is it possible for a faulty keyboard to fry the logic board on a clamshell iBook? I have one where I took the keyboard off to clean it, and after I put it back on and started the iBook all I got was a blank (but lit) screen. I can hear the hard drive spinning, and on the keyboard the caps lock key is lit along with the light between F4 and F5 keys. What do you think? Did I blow the logic board? Is there a way to test the keyboard? Or will I need to replace both the keyboard and the logic board?

Thanks,
Daniel Paxton

Hi Daniel,

Anything's possible, but I'm doubtful that it is the logic board if the computer was working fine before you removed the keyboard. I think it more likely that you might have loosened the video cable or some such.

What method did you use for cleaning? Vacuum cleaners are a very bad idea around computers because of the potential for static discharge. You might also have dislodged the keyboard cable, but that wouldn't explain the video loss.

Charles

OS 9 on G3

From Dave Nicholas

Charles:

Great article on using OS 9 on G3s. I have a G3 operating on OS 8.6. The machine is rock-steady, but I need to update my scanner, and anything I'd like needs OS 9.1 or above.

One of our graphic houses has the CD for OS 9 (maybe 9.1) that came with one of their G4s a few years ago. My question is, will it be okay for me to install that OS on my G3? Or am I far better off looking around to buy an OS 9 CD and installing that.

Any other tech ideas you have are very, very welcomed. I can pay you off in very nice Xterra USA Series T-shirts (Xterra is an off-road triathlon that we produce).

Dave Nicholas

Hi Dave,

OS 9.1 or 9.2 should work great on your beige G3. The OS 9 disk that came with the G4 may or may not work Some restore disks that ship with new computers will only work with that model. Worth a try.

Other World Computing has OS 9.1 disks for $39.99. Wegener Media has some OS 9.2.1 disks for $59.99. Both can be upgraded to OS 9.2.2 for free.

No gratuities necessary. ;-)

Charles

Daystar's Pismo Upgrade

From James Brock

"The user then plugs in the new XLR8 Point&Scroll Mouse and starts working at G4 speeds."

The above does not mean that the track pad on the Pismo will no longer work, does it? I am considering this CPU upgrade on my beloved Pismo....

Thanks,
James

Hi James,

Horrors! I hope not! I'm also considering a DayStar upgrade for my beloved Pismo.

The P&S Mouse is just part of the upgrade package.

Charles

Small Question to Charles Moore

From Ian Robert Douglas

Hi,

I see that you have written quite a lot about FireWire drives. I check through some of the links to your writings, but I didn't find anything that addressed a particular issue I have: How to safely shut down when a FireWire drive is your boot volume?

I'm using an external drive via a FireWire crib to boot from. The booting is fine. I make sure the drive is running as I start my system (OS X 10.2.8) and choose my drive having kept the option key down. I know that if I were just using the drives for storage I'd be able to drag them to the Trash to put them away. But if I'm booting from them, what do I do?

When I try to shut down something happens, but then nothing happens. Under OS X the computer doesn't seem to shut down, so I have to force quit it, and then simply pull the power on the FireWire drive.

I think this is probably very bad practice, but I don't know another way....

Is there another way? If you could help me with this I'd much, much appreciate it.

I have a TiBook DVI.

all best wishes,
Ian

Hi Ian,

Never thought of this issue before. One workaround would be to select the system on your internal hard drive and restart in it - then drag the FireWire drive to the Trash. Then shut down.

Cumbersome, but it's better than force-quitting. There may be a more graceful way. Perhaps our readers can help.

Charles

Editor's note: I've run both a 400 MHz TiBook and a 700 MHz eMac with external FireWire drives. As long as the computer shuts down properly, there's nothing else you need to do. If the external drive is bus powered, you're done. If it has its own power supply, wait until the computer is fully shut down before turning off the power.

If your Mac isn't shutting down properly, it's definitely time to run some diagnostics, repair what you can (especially be sure to repair disk permissions using Disk Utility), and see if that solves the problem. If it doesn't you may need to consider reinstalling the OS. dk

Current Bible Software Available?

From William Boyer

Dear Mr. Moore,

I checked out your Mac Bible software [article] and noticed the following: Accordance Library 5 sells for $59, but is on sale until December 31, 2001 for $49.

This product sounds interesting but I need a newer version than 2001, if you have one available. I have just switched over to Macs, so am still a novice and don't have time for a big learning exercise just to get the program to even work. What do you recommend? Your help is appreciated, sir.

Sincerely,
William Boyer

Hi Mr. Boyer,

For a more recent roundup of Bible software for the Mac, see this article.

Charles

Warranties after AppleCare?

From Brett Campbell

Hi Charles:

A friend just wrote me with a question:

Wondering if you know a any third-party companies that offer warranties on Macs. My AppleCare is about to expire, and Apple doesn't extend their warranties anymore.

Makes me nervous.

Any ideas?

I didn't realize you couldn't extend AppleCare anymore. When did this happen? And do you know of other companies that offer warranties? I seem to remember you mentioning one in your column, but I couldn't track it down.

thanks,
Brett

Hi Brett,

Personally, I've never thought AppleCare was a very good deal (at least at Canadian prices), so I've not paid a lot of attention to it until recently with the iBook logic board debacle. I wasn't aware that it was ever available beyond three years.

Thing is, by the time a computer is three years old, it's substantially depreciated and out of date performance-wise, so paying several hundred dollars to extend the warranty does not represent good value. Better to take your chances, and if worse comes to worse, either upgrade to a new machine or pick up a used one of similar vintage for probably not much more than AppleCare would have cost.

IMHO

I don't know of any third-party warranties, but it's possible that some exist.

Charles

Editor's note: AppleCare used to be renewable on a year-to-year basis until Apple discontinued parts support for those models. When Apple switched to the current AppleCare system that adds two years to Apple's one-year warranty, the old renewable AppleCare was discontinued. dk

Re: Warranties after AppleCare?

From Brett Campbell

Thanks, Charles.

Since I think my friend has one of the first generation TiBooks, I'm advising him to look into Apple's $700 trade in deal. Hope he doesn't get any white spots.

Me, I'm happily plugging away on a 600 iBook (the old silver and ice kind), which except for a hard drive failure (repaired free under AppleCare in two days, and with enough warning that I had time to back up everything that wasn't already), has been trouble free. with 640 megs of RAM, it runs Panther fine. I thought I might regret selling my Pismo 400 to a friend (who needed its video out capabilities more than I did) and its 14" screen, but I actually like this one better; just feels friendlier and easier to tote.

Meanwhile, my wife's last generation 1 GHz TiBook is still going strong - no peeling paint or anything as yet, knock wood. And at under $2K (plus $200 off an iPod) brand new with SuperDrive (educational special), it was a great deal, especially for a photographer like her. As with the Pismo, it was the very last run of that model, and I now advise all my friends to avoid Rev. A of anything, and get the last version. It's not going to be as sexy or new, but it'll likely be a lot more reliable, with all the bugs worked out.

Anyway, thanks as always for your advice - I depend on it!

Brett

Hi Brett,

I agree about late production models. My Pismo and my son's Lombard were both among the last built, and both have been trouble-free.

I also agree that the 12" display on the iBook is no hardship. I've never been able to decide which I like better. Like 'em both. :-)

I think the white spots issue has been resolved in current MiddleAl models.

Charles

PowerBook G3 266 MHz and XPostFacto

From: Adrian Carter

Just to add my two pennies with regards to XPostFacto and WallStreet models.

I'm another successful installer of the application, and I've taken my 266 MHz Wallstreet (1998) from OS X 10.2.8 to OS X Panther 10.3.2 without any problems. The machine is running with 320 MB [of RAM] and I've swapped out the original drive to an IBM TravelStar 20 GB drive.

Performance is pretty sprightly on the graphics front; the screen redraw is quick but seems slightly less smooth than it was before, but it's a barely noticeable issue. The only issue I've had with Panther has been slight problems with networking (dropping the connection and locking up the finder but I'm convinced this is a configuration issue in relation to AirPort and not in any way related to XPostFacto).

All the apps are working, and the most dramatic improvement I noticed is Mail, over a 56k connection under Jaguar I always thought this application was really slow but this time round Panther has really made a difference and mail collection and filtering is a lot faster.

In short I'm loving the upgrade, I didn't think Panther would run this healthy on such an old laptop but it's proved there is life in the old dogs on WallStreet yet :)

Cheers & Enjoy the holidays.
Adrian Carter

Thanks for the report Adrian.

Charles

PB 5300 Question

From Joe Smith

Charles, I always enjoy your columns. I know from your archived material that your family had much experience with PB 5300s. One of mine just developed a screen flaw - vertical lines running down the lower half of the screen. PowerBook Guy said that was definitely a failing LCD when I emailed him. Do you concur? I sense from reading around that the cable is also a possible cause. I have a screen located on eBay from MacResQ for low bucks. Appreciate any advice/comments. I'd like to keep the old girl running if I can. It's been lovely to have a "beater" that I can carry in wintertime and not worry too much about...

Hi Joe,

Could be either the cable or the LCD itself. Whatever, it's hard to justify spending serious money repairing a 5300.

Alternative solution: Pick up one of the $50 5300s that Wegener Media has for sale and use yours as a parts mule.

Charles

7x00 + Upgrade Card versus Beige G3

From Peter da Silva

Six months ago the 7300/7500/7600 with a G3 upgrade card was the best Mac deal ever, especially with barebones 7500s going for under $20 and the Sonnet Crescendo going for $100 at OWC. Now I wouldn't touch it unless I already had a well equipped 7x00 at hand.

Why?

You can get a Beige G3 for less than just the G3 upgrade card for your 7x00, and you'll end up with an overall faster computer. Thanks, Apple, for making Panther not run on the Beige G3 so people are dumping them left and right rather than trust XPostFacto. How about surpling the Blue and White next?

Only half kidding, but I'm dead serious about the cost effectiveness of the 7x00s.

Hi Peter,

I agree on the economics. Don't forget the Umax S900. Basically a Power Mac 9500/9600 motherboard (Tsunami) with tons of slots and bays. My son and I both have them. His has a Sonnet 500 MHz G3 upgrade card.

Charles

Editor's note: I still have one as well, which my 16-year old son uses. Those old SuperMac S900s can often be had for a song. dk

Jeff T. Matsuda's Freezing Mouse

From Kyle Griffin

Just an FYI which might help with this person's problem.

The strain relief on the cable coming out of the Apple Pro Mouse was very poorly designed and is prone to failure, causing the wires in the cable at that point to fray and eventually break. This leads to either erratic mouse movement or complete loss of the mouse. Turning the mouse over and wiggling the cable illustrates the problem well - the red LED on the bottom of the mouse will flicker off and on as you wiggle the cable. We've probably thrown away a dozen of these mice because of this and, as a result, don't buy them anymore.

Kyle Griffin

QuickerTek again?

From Robert Friede

Interestingly, the base station antenna shown at TechnoWarehouse is entirely different than the one shown at Small Dog. Buyer beware.

Bob Friede

6320 Upgrade

From Brian

Hi Charles...

I have long wanted to replace my 6320 with a 6360 and believe that using the motherboard from a 6400 would do the trick. However, I have heard that there are power supply issues with this solution.

Do you have any info on this type of upgrade?

Many thanks

Brian

Hi Brian,

I have no knowledge on this issue, but perhaps some of our readers will.

Charles

iMac G3 Drives

From: Ed Hurtley

In your column on 12/15 you link to Wegener Media for replacement drives. The drives on the page you link to will not work. They are desktop-style CD-ROM drives that are way too large, draw too much power, and use different ATA and power connectors. The G3 iMacs used laptop-style optical drives. The drives in the page linked to in the "Editor's note" are correct.

Ed Hurtley

Hi Ed,

I expect you're right. See below.

Charles

iMac G3 CD-ROM Drives

From Lotas Smartman

Yeah, I actually found them shortly after I sent the email. I ordered one of these and delivery should be soon.

I just got a standard CD-ROM drive out of the normal iMac.

Thanks for the link!

Lotas Smartman, MCP


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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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