Charles Moore's Mailbag

Hopeless iMac, Cause of iBook Board Failures, Legacy Macs and OS X, Info Managers, and More

Charles Moore - 2004.10.27 - Tip Jar

A Hopeless iMac?

From Alex Ansley

Hi Charles,

I have a friend with an Rev. B iMac (233 MHz, 32 MB, 4 GB), and she has really lost all hope for it. She's a teacher that only needs her computer for email composition and an occasional paper in AppleWorks. I just upgraded the stock 32 MB RAM to 96 MB and will soon up that to 128 MB at least so she can run Panther.

The problem is with her CD-ROM. I think it's broken because the drive will not spin and OS 8 will not recognize any CD inserted. You can also not boot up from it when holding down the C key. She has no use for a CD-ROM, so she'd prefer not to buy one, but is there any way to get Panther loaded onto it if the CD-ROM really is broken?

I have a Lombard and wasn't sure if I could network the two and somehow load it to her iMac that way. She's so fed up with this Mac and it's led to her distaste for Macs in general, so I would really love to fix her up and get her going on something faster and more user friendly than OS 8.

Thanks for your help!
Alex Ansley

Hi Alex,

If your friend thinks Macs are annoying, she should try living with a PC (without institutional tech support) for a while and see how she would enjoy coping with the viruses, worms, spyware, and having to install system patches.

Anyway, you might be able to get Panther on without a CD by cloning the Panther installation on your Lombard with Carbon Copy Cloner, and then transferring it via an ethernet hookup or using an external drive.

Unfortunately, the Rev. A/B iMac does not support FireWire, which complicated matters a bit. Transferring a system with a USB drive would be pretty slow.

If your friend is at all interested in repairing the iMac, Wegener Media has replacement drives for US$63.

Charles

Cause of iBook Logic Board Failures?

From Chris Campbell

Hi Charles,

I noticed you talking about the iBook problems. I've had both of the widespread problems with my machine. The first one was the reed switch/backlight cable break. This problem is as widespread as the logic board problem, but Apple has not been forced to admit it. I ended up making this repair myself because Apple would not repair it out of warranty and wanted an outrageous $300 for the repair.

The machine worked fine for about 6 months, then the logic board problem. I took it in to an authorized repair center. They looked at it, agreed it was the logic board problem, and sent it in. Apple refused to repair it, claiming I had caused the logic board problem. They wanted $750 to repair it - more than the computer is worth!

So back to the subject at hand: I now have a really nice white paper weight. Unhappy with this, I decided to do some further investigation. I found that it isn't a component failure per se, but a failure of a component to maintain a connection to the logic board. An investigation of my iBook revealed that this was in fact the case with it. One of corner of the ATI Radeon GPU has solder joints that are failing. This is why pressing down on or squeezing the case causes the lines on the screen to disappear - as long as you continue doing it.

I don't know if this problem is caused by poor manufacturing, a design flaw, or both. I suspect both. In a column, you and a reader discussed the possibility of failing solder joints. While the reader was correct that it's not getting hot enough to melt the solder, this is not the problem. The problem is due to stress on the joints pulling them apart, not melting solder. The stress may be due in part to heat. Another problem is the placement of the GPU on the underside of the logic board.

In order to fix the board, the solder needs to be reflowed. I actually ran across a couple of stories of people doing that - successfully - with a heat gun or butane electronics soldering torch, but I don't think I'm that much of a risk-taker. I found a company in Chicago that will do the reflow for $37. That's much better than Apple's outrageous $750.

Chris

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the report and analysis.

Why did Apple blame you for the logic board problem?

What is the name and contact info for that Chicago firm?

Charles

Re: Cause of iBook Logic Board Failures?

From Chris Campbell

Hi Charles,

I am not entirely sure why they are blaming me for the board failure. The claim made was something like misplaced screws causing damage to logic board. I don't see how that could happen considering I never took the screws out that hold the logic board to the frame.

I would understand if this were a warranty repair, but it's not, and it's clearly failing for the same reason that tens of thousands of other iBook boards have failed. Either the tech didn't know what he was talking about or it's just plain greed on the part of Apple.

I suspect it's greed. If they blame me for the problem, they don't have to foot the bill for the repair. They are betting that I'll either pay for the repair - and I would be paying more than the repair would cost them - or I'll buy a new Apple laptop. However, I intend to do neither.

It's too bad they didn't just repair or swap the board, because they would have a happy (and possibly repeat) customer, instead of what they have now - an unhappy one. It's too bad, too, because I really liked the little iBook up until this point. The two widespread failures (board and reed switch cable/hinge), plus the failure of Apple to address one of them and not repair the other for me, all combined with the high cost of a replacement board (Apple, of course, won't sell them to customers) have really turned me off to the company. I wish they would change their policies.

The name of the Chicago firm is BEST, Business Electronics Soldering Technologies. Their website is <http://www.solder.net>. I spoke with a guy named Dan. Keep in mind that they do general PCB (Printed Circuit Board) work, and I doubt they are familiar with the specifics of Apple's board failures.

Chris

Hi Chris,

If neither you nor any unauthorized repair person ever had the iBook open (aside from Apple-endorsed DIY procedures like RAM upgrading), then it's bizarre that they would blame you for screws being loose.

I would encourage you to try to appeal this to higher authorities at Apple. Sometimes the squeaky wheel really does get greased.

Thanks for the name and URL of the Chicago outfit BEST. It might be helpful to readers in that area.

Charles

Legacy Macs and the Professional Wedding Photographer

From Peter de Waal

Hello and greetings from Auckland, New Zealand.

I just came across your piece on what I call "G2" Macs and photographic processing published on the 8th October 1999 [Legacy Macs and the Professional Wedding Photographer]. I am interested in doing the same, as I have a large investment in ADB/SCSI printers, scanners, etc.

I note that you quote: "Put it this way, " Dave tells me, "Apple's 9500 was the best tower ever made for graphic arts preparation and presentation. The Power Tower Pro 250 was/is excellent."

I also had a Power Tower Pro 225 and thought it a very good, if somewhat noisy,, machine. A friend of mine has a Umax S900 and it is very noisy!

I am currently using a Beige G3 Minitower with 384 MB of RAM, which is very stable but a bit noisy. However, the design is very good in terms of access, and as I spend a lot of time configuring various types of Mac and PC setups for people, this is important. The thing that continuously irks me is the limited expansion capability with only 3 PCI slots.

What is your opinion on the relative merits of the 9600 vs. the 9500 for such photographic work?

I currently use OS 9.2.2. I have tried OS X on a Sawtooth G4 but thought it "sluggish" - even with the faster 100 MHz bus. I am interested in one day running OS X on the 9500 or 9600 with a G4 upgrade. Is there anything in terms of stability between the two? Can you recommend any particular brand of G4 upgrade over another?

I have also been told that the Beige G3 has problems with its ROMs if running OS X, but the "G2" is supposedly quite compatible with XPostFacto.

I realise that it is a long time since you wrote this piece, but I thought you would be well placed to offer me some advice given that the Mac community has had an additional 5 years to muse on these issues.

Thanks for your great website. I really enjoy its thoughtful pieces and love Macs. I trained for the MCSE in WinNT4 as I was supporting a large graphic design business back in the 90's. It's unfortunate, but the more I learnt about Windows, the more I despised it's ad-hoc and undocumented nature. It really is a slimy hack of an OS. Win XP is even worse. I wouldn't have thought it possible...

all the best,
Peter de Waal

Hi Peter,

That column is a blast from the past.

In the meantime, I purchased a Umax S900 in 2000 - a never-used leftover unit. It's an impressive computer. I also had a Power Mac 9500 for a bit, but have no firsthand experience with the 9600.

Frankly, my take would be that price and condition would be more important than which of these three models to choose from. They all have the Tsunami motherboard with six PCI slots and eight RAM slots.

My son has an S900 with a Sonnet 500 MHz G3 upgrade and is happily running OS X 10.3 Panther on it with the help of XPostFacto. He has found it stable. I understand that the beige G3 can be problematical with OS X.

I have no really adequate frame of reference to judge among different processor upgrade solutions. My son has had great service from the Sonnet upgrade. I'm very pleased with the Daystar (XLR8) upgrade in my Pismo PowerBook.

Don't overlook the Blue & White G3 tower as a low-end OS X platform. They're quite reasonably priced these days.

Charles

ToyViewer 4.6 vs. GraphicConverter 5.0.1

From PEA

Dear Mr. Moore:

I read about ToyViewer in your previous and current columns and was curious enough to download ToyViewer 4.6 from Version Tracker for a test drive. I'll stick with GraphicConverter for now and try to figure out what is meant by the phrase: "sees formats supported by OS X."

I'm being too harsh on this application, since I registered GraphicConverter and put up with it's "wait a minute" viewer. Plus, I'm not the typical Mac user, since most of my graphics files are Windows .CGM, .WMF, and .TIFF from ClickArt and Presentation Task Force collections that date back to MS Publisher 1.0! (There are .EPS files on one ClickArt CD-ROM, but all I have are QuickDraw serial and USB printers, and an old copy of Freedom of Press for Win 3.x, so I'm also not a PostScript fan.)

I loaded up some ClickArt CD-ROM disks to find out what ToyViewer could see on these "Dawn of Man" graphics disks. TV saw the .JPG CD-ROM, but not the .TIFF CD-ROM; GraphicConverter 5.x sees everything, though image display is slow. GC had/has no problem with .WMF files, but .CGM flies have to be converted on Ye Olde P4 tower via Hijaak to .WMF for use with InDesign 2.x. (I've used .CGM/.WMF->.PICT files converted by "Classic" GC on OS 9-version-Adobe PageMaker 6, which show up as "ghost graphics" on InDesign 2.x.)

So, with only .JPG on display out of the .WMF/.TIFF/.JPG set, Lemke Software can count me as a continuing supporter of his "ein minute, bitte!" program.

PEA

Hi PEA,

I don't see GraphicConverter and ToyViewer as being in competition with each other. GC is a much more powerful program and a different class of software.

However, ToyViewer may well be all the graphics conversion/editing software many users need, and it is soooo fast and slick - I use it for probably 80% of my graphics needs.

And, of course, being freeware and very small, there's really no hardship to having it aboard, even if you need a more powerful application for some things.

Charles

Try QuickImage for OS X

From Clyde Kahrl

As I noted to Adam G., check out QuickImage.

AirPort Express

From Zach

Charles,

Good evening! I hope all is well.

James Williamson asked:

"I'm very keen on getting an AirPort Express, but I want to know if my base station is compatible of AX's WDS (Wireless Distribution System) so I can extend my wireless range to the back of the house. Has anyone compiled a list of stations that will let the AirPort Express tag along for the ride?"

Here is a a Slashdot article on this topic: Matching AirPort Express to Third Party Routers. I'll also include a direct link to the article poster's Airport Express compatibility website [http://www.nilobject.com/apx/ - the link appears to be dead. ed]. I included because there may be other compatibility sites listed in the comments on Slashdot. Enjoy!

Take Care,

Zach q=o)

Thanks Zach

Charles

Info Manager Advice

From Jim Scolman

Hello Charles,

I have been searching for an information manager type application for some time. I have reread your review/compare of Boswell and DevonThink several times.

I have tried CircusPonies Notebook and one called Notebook. Most of what I have found are outliners, not what I need.

I am looking for someplace/something to keep all of my "stuff". I want to be able to put the scraps, snippets, napkin notes, phone numbers, URLs, and on and on in one place and be able to find it again when I need it. To this point I have been using Sticky Notes and other text files - searching for some of these is less than convenient and fast.

Based on your reviews I tried DevonThink. This seemed to fit the bill, but some of the features seemed not to work (perhaps they work in the real app versus the demo). The "drag a document onto the Icon feature" didn't seem to work. I tried the backup and archive feature, and the data was lost (not to worry, it was mostly test or dup data).

I then tried Boswell!!!!! This application was/is unfathomable. I read all of the Docs and help files several times and found it to be very obtuse and counter intuitive. I have been using computers and working will all types of software for a long time, and this one bested me. I am back to trying DevonThink.

I read all of your columns on the watch for new software - and all of your other thoughts and opinions and reviews, too. Is there any other program you can suggest? I am using Panther on a Pismo - great combo!

Keep up the good work.

Thanks,
Jim Scolman

Hi Jim,

Based on your comments, I think KIT - the Keep It Together Database might be right up your alley. KIT is a new application for Mac OS X that is intended to help you keep your stuff organized and accessible from a central interface and find it again easily, view it without opening other applications, organize it in lots of different ways, and find it again in an instant.

It is much more intuitive than DevonThink or Boswell and has a very attractive and user-friendly interface.

Kit is $24.95 demoware.

You can read my recent review of KIT 1.0.2 on Applelinks.

Charles

FireWire Enclosures

From Brian Gray

Charles,

Thanks again for helping me with my Pismo screen problem! This time I have a question about FireWire enclosures. I want to buy one, but I'm not really sure what the compatibility is or how they work.

My goal is to be able to burn to DVDs with my G3 iMac (Summer 2000, SE model), and/or use it as an external hard drive to store video. Can I put nearly any brand of DVD-R drive in the enclosure, or would I need to get a drive that would be compatible with a Power Mac?

Thank you!

Brian

Hi Brian,

You seem to be looking at two distinct tasks - DVD burning and external FireWire hard drive data storage.

You can find a list of DVD burners here with ratings on the Cnet Reviews site.

Other World Computing has a selection of Mac compatible units and also has a variety of FireWire hard drives.

I frequently post information about external drives in my 'Book Review column on LEM on Fridays, and external drives will work with either laptops or desktop Macs. You might want to check through the recent column archives.

Charles

Editor's note: FireWire enclosures contain a bridge that translates the FireWire protocol on your Mac to whatever protocol is native to the drive inside the enclosure. That's normally IDE, but some FireWire enclosures bridge SCSI drives as well.

As far as IDE hard drives go, I've never run into any compatibility issues with the various FW enclosures I've used. The only big issue is that FireWire-to-IDE bridges that don't support ATA-6 won't let you use the full capacity of 160 GB and larger hard drives.

With CD-ROM, CD-RW, DVD, and other types of drives, drivers may be an issue. Your best bet is to research compatibility before you buy. A good source of drive compatibility reports is Accelerate Your Mac's Drive Compatibility Database.

If you're thinking of adding both a hard drive and a DVD burner, consider a dual-bay enclosure that could hold both drives and use only a single power cable and FireWire cable to connect to your iMac. Here's one by Inland that sells for just US$89.95. dk

Running Old Microsoft Apps in OS X

From Tim Larson

Hi Charles,

I've been searching and asking all over, but I can't find a solution to this problem. Your articles and mailbag column have been very helpful in the past, so that's why I am writing. Maybe I am dreaming that I ever heard this was possible.

For background, I can't justify spending more of my hard-earned $$$ for another version of MS Office to run on OS X when I already have Word 5.1a/Excel 4 and Office 98. (It's like spinning my wheels just to stay parked.) Even if I could justify it, the money just isn't there.

AppleWorks isn't quite "there" yet (.doc compatibility is a problem), and none of the free alternatives I've seen (like AbiWord, OpenOffice.org) are very polished - i.e., I'm not comfortable letting my wife use them*. So I'm on a quest to get my old versions running in Panther. The chrome might look a little different, but the feel in Aqua/Classic is pretty similar.

* Regarding OO.o, since she's already going to be adjusting to OS X from the Windows GUI, I don't want to muddle the issue with X11 too! Waiting for the 2.0 version with native UI isn't an option.

I installed Word/Excel on my old SE/30 running System 7.1. AppleTalk was incompatible between this and the G5, but with the help of my G3 running OS 9, I got everything copied over. Word seems to run fine in the very minor testing I did.

Excel launches, but it crashes as soon as I hit a menu. So I pop in the Office 98 CD and drag the apps over. Launching one of the apps fires up "first run" like it's supposed to, but it immediately dies. I can run the apps on the G3 over the network, but not on the G5.

Hopefully we can cope with Word 5, since I have the patch to lets it open Word 6 and 97/98 files. (In practice, albeit limited, this causes Word to crash.) AbiWord isn't too bad - I suppose we could live with it. I'm usually the one using spreadsheets, and I can deal with OO.o's Calc. But getting these other apps running would be very nice.

Any ideas or hints? I've tried LEM, macosxhints.com, Google. I was almost positive I had heard of people doing this, but no one mentions this problem. Am I the only one? Or am I dreaming?

Thanks,
Tim

Hi Tim,

I admire your resolve to persevere using these good old applications, but I think you're running up against the law of diminishing returns. I don't recall hearing of any hacks that would improve Panther compatibility for these apps, and I'm wondering how much effort is worthwhile in trying to get them to work. Tiger may break them again in new ways.

Apple is no longer installing OS 9 on new Macs even to support Classic Mode (the user can install it from the restore disks).

I'm wondering if a more satisfactory solution to your problem might be ThinkFree Office. It's cheap ($50) and includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint substitutes. I've found M$ file compatibility pretty good (but not 100%), and your wife would probably find it user-friendly.

ThinkFree is a Java app, so it's a bit sluggish on slower Macs, but that should not be a problem on a G5.

Another alternative would be Mariner Write and Calc.

Charles

Logitech V500 Cordless Notebook Mouse vs. AirPort

From R. Friede

Hi Charles,

Re: "The 2.4 GHz technology virtually eliminates interference with other mice or wireless devices - especially important when multiple mobile users work in close proximity."

I wonder how it avoids interference with AirPort's own 2.4 GHz technology.

Rgds,
Bob F

Hi Bob,

Good question. I have no expertise in this.

Anyone?

Charles

Re: Why Linux

From Richard Ford

There was a discussion going on about "Why use Linux when there is OS X" with Rob Endearle or Chaffin or someone from ZDNet....

My contention was that to simply look at OS X as the "Polished and mature Desktop Unix" and "Linux as the unpolished desktop Unix" was a bad comparison.

I too have written (architected) open source software (Well about to be unleashed on the world! ;-) ) and I do understand that BSD and OS X share the micro kernel approach and that there is a whole story of Linus and MINIX and where all these systems were born and bred. I was not referring to any of that. Hell, I even learned about semaphores and mutual exclusion process locking with Minix at UNI.

I wanted to answer the question "Why Linux on desktop" (with a tacit implication that OS X was the 'better' desktop Unix) ?

And my response was basically "Linux is open source and I can muck about with it - and OS X is not".

Now if OS X was open sourced more than it is now, then wow, we have a very compelling little operating system that would appeal to all walks of life.

Anyway, at the end of the day it is just computers (re: my comment on crazed zealots and fan boys) and no need to take anything to do with computers so seriously or personally. There are more important issues in life to get worked up about.

Yes Aqua is great, and now it is much cleaner than Gnome (what l use). In my mind, if you want a Unix desktop, Mac OS X is it.

If you actually love the rough edges and constant monthly development at breakneck speeds, Linux is the only choice for people who genuinely "love" computing (as opposed to a tool that you may or may not require Unix underneath).

Cheers,
RF

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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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