Charles Moore's Mailbag

Favorite Keyboards, Keyboard Design Flaws, Memory Speed, Classic II Mail Server, and More

Charles Moore - 2005.01.17 - Tip Jar

Favorite Keyboards

From Richard Lindsey

Hi Charles -

Just a quick note to mention my favorite keyboard, which is an Adesso Tru-Form. I used an ADB version of this keyboard with several subsequent Macs, starting with my IIsi, then later a Quadra 610, followed by a 6100, and now a G4 iMac. I only replaced it when I found a USB version, which let me dispense with the ADB to USB adapter. While it makes soft clicking sounds, I'm pretty sure (from reading the various letters in your column) that it is still a membrane type keyboard.

Enjoy your work!
Richard Lindsey

"Hi Richard,

"It is a membrane 'board.

"I have a Tru-Form, and I like it quite well except for the humongous amount of desktop real estate it requires. The key action is a bit stiffer than I like, but it's better than average.

"Charles

Keyboard Design Flaw

From Andrew Main

Charles,

Interesting to read all the comments about keyboards. One question I've never seen addressed: Am I the only computer user who's annoyed by the standard keyboard design, which makes me (or any right-hander) reach way around the right third of the keyboard to use a mouse?

Mac PlusMy first Mac, purchased in May 1988, was a Plus, with which I intentionally bought a 128/512-style keyboard; I'd never used a computer before, but this keyboard clearly fit my primary design criterion, that a useful device should be no larger than it has to be. (Years before I'd purchased a Sony TCD-5M portable cassette deck, on the same principle; I never used it as a portable, but its elegance and compact size were worth the extra price.) Of course, the original Mac keyboard had no number pad - which I never used anyway - but Apple offered it as a separate option which could be connected to the keyboard and placed wherever the user desired rather than permanently attached to the right side of the alpha keyboard, always in the way. (The original keyboard also lacked arrow keys, which I've missed on occasions when I've returned to it.)

Mac PortableI moved from the Plus to an SE, which required the new ADB keyboard with a number pad, but at least they kept it fairly small. My next Mac was a Portable, as soon as those were remaindered and thus affordable, and it's been PowerBooks since then, so I've never had to deal with the battleship-size keyboards that apparently all desktop computer users consider normal and take in stride. I did have a desktop machine for a while in the mid-90s for page-layout work (a IIsi with a DayStar 33 MHz '040 accelerator and Radius Pivot monitor); fortunately the Apple Keyboard II was fairly small like the original SE keyboard - and I managed to train myself, somewhat clumsily, to use the mouse with my left hand.

Recently I had occasion to set up a new iMac G4 and found the ergonomics of keyboard & mouse design and use most annoying. If I located the part of the keyboard I (and most users, I'd guess) use 95-98% of the time, the alpha keys, right in front of me, in line between my eyes and the display, then I had to consciously stretch to the right to reach the other input device I constantly use, the mouse. If I moved the mouse to a comfortable position, then the keyboard was way to the left of the line between eyes and display, with the unused part of the keyboard right in the middle, between eyes and display. Either way, an ergonomic disaster. The only solution was to put the mouse on the left, which was sort of workable, but it prevented fine cursor control for this right-hander.

Even the Mac Portable suffered somewhat from this problem, as it was impossible to center the keyboard in front of the display; it was offset either to the left or the right. I tried putting the trackball on the left, which seemed a little better actually, as the eye seems to like to look up+left more easily than up+right - which I assume is why the standard alpha keyboard's vertical rows move that way? But of course my left hand was not nearly as dexterous (check the etymology of that word) with the trackball as my right.

Are computer keyboards designed by a secret cabal of left-handers who are gleefully exacting revenge for all the inconvenience (not to mention persecution) they've endured over the centuries? If anything, the trend seems to be toward ever-vaster keyboards, all (that I've seen) with a seldom-used block of numeric keys and other miscellany occupying the right third (or more). I don't think I've ever seen a plain alphanumeric keyboard with a separate number pad (that can be placed somewhere out of the way unless needed) since the original Mac ones.

Only the Apple portables offer keyboards that naturally sit right in front of the display; even Windoze portables that I've seen crowd the alpha keys to the left (one of many reasons I've never seen a Windoze portable I'd want to live with even visually). The only alpha-only keyboards I've seen are "innovative" ergonomic designs with all the keys in entirely different positions; some of these look interesting but require learning a completely new way of entering text.

Truly, is nobody else bothered by this grossly unergonomic device that's now become a universal artifact of "civilization"?

"Hi Andrew,

"To be honest, I'd never really focused on this issue before. I tend to like small keyboards, too, although I'm more concerned with the key action (light/smooth/soft-bottoming/short-travel being my priorities).

"I use both left and right hand mice simultaneously as well as a foot operated mouse for clicking, so I guess I don't really notice the right hand reach a whole lot. I do use the keypad a bit, but for the most part am perfectly happy with a PowerBook or iBook keyboard as well.

"Charles

Small Note Regarding Apple Laptop Hinges

iBook Special EditionFrom Mat Schulte

After reading this week's 'Book review, I just thought I'd mention in case no one else does: The hinge(s) of my clamshell iBook SE have never given me even a hint of trouble. They feel as if they could withstand all kinds of abuse. Despite its other design flaws, the clamshell sure is rugged!

Cheers!

Mat Schulte

"Hi Mat,

"Yes, the clamshell iBook may well be the exception that proves the rule, and save for the keyboard perhaps, could be the most rugged Apple laptop ever.

"Charles

Bluetooth Mouse and Panther Upgrades

From Jonn

I have Panther (OS X 10.3.5) loaded on my G4 iMac and iBook. Trying to load my new Apple Bluetooth mouse into my iBook, I got the response that 10.3.6 or higher was needed! What do I need now to load the mouse. I'm currently downloading the Mac OS Update Combined, version 10.3.7 (97.4 MB), so sometime next week I'm hoping to have my mouse in operation. Will this download do it, or is there still something else for me to buy to get it going? I enjoy your site.

Thanks
jtw

"Hi JTW,

"The 10.3.7 updater should do the trick.

"Charles

Memory Speed, OS X, and iBooks

From Mike

Charles,

Read your columns all the time. I am a recent switcher, after buying a friends iBook SE (366) last January, I used my experience with that machine and OS X to purchase my now main machine: the 17" 1.5 GHz PowerBook. I ordered it the day after it came out. *grins* I cannot claim to have ever used a finer machine. I have always admired Macs from afar, but until now, I have finally been able to afford one.

On to my two responses from your column:

"Re: Recalcitrant B&W

"From Gahanna

"Both hard disks I have are at least OS 9, although both are HFS (not +).

"Now, I'm not too sure about the memory speed. It's Kingston, so I know it's good. Also, how would this Mac take to 133 memory? A local store has 133 cheaper than 100. Any problems you know of?

"Hi G.

"To the best of my knowledge (although I make no claim to being an expert) it won't work.

"Best to stick with PC100.

It works. It works quite well, actually. My iBook has used both a 256 MB PC100 chip and a 256 MB PC133 chip. Both worked just fine. I need to lay hands on a 512 M PC133 chip to give that machine a tiny boost. Even though a 512 M chip is not supported by Apple, there are many, many people out there that have done it with success. Buying quality memory is a big key in that. Gahanna is looking at Kingston, so no problems should be evident.

Just FYI, I mix memory speeds in PCs all day long and have had no problems from the memory. Remember that memory speed on the PC 66/100/133 front is the max it's rated for, not unlike the ATA-x ratings. If your machine is rated for or requires PC133 and you install PC100, it may not work, or at a minimum it will run degraded. If your machine requires PC66, in almost all cases it will work with PC100 or PC133 up to the limit that the system can address per chip.

From what I understand, the same is not always true on the DDR front, but I do not have any experience with mixing DDR memory right now, since there is very little cost difference between the "right" and "wrong" modules. The days of proprietary memory are long behind us.

Though this departs a bit from that ATA-x ratings, since a machine that supports ATA-6 will work fine with a drive that only supports ATA-3 speeds. It will only run at that slower speed that the drive knows how to talk. However, a machine that has an IDE controller that is capable of ATA-3 speeds will be happy to talk to an ATA-6 drive at the slower controller speed. It works, but you will not enjoy any performance benefit from the higher data transfer speeds that ATA-6 would offer. However, many of the ATA-6 drives have higher spindle speeds and faster seek times, so those benefits would be somewhat tangible.

On to my next point:

"From Jamie Saunders

"I have an original iBook (no FW) with 364 MB RAM. Will it run OS X at a decent speed? I didn't know who else to ask and I did a search.

"Jamie Saunders

"Hi Jamie,

"It will run, but "decent speed" is a value judgment. It will be a lot slower than OS 9 on that machine. My son ran OS X on a 333 MHz Lombard PowerBook for a couple of years, and the current owner of that machine continues to do so.

"My personal view is that I wouldn't want to use OS X on anything less than a 500 MHz G3 or 400 MHz G4 with 640 MB of RAM, and consequently I run OS 9 on my 233 MHz WallStreet. Many would disagree with me.

"Charles

Editor's note: I've used OS X on an overclocked beige G3, iMac 333, iBook 333, my 400 MHz PowerBook G4, and some faster Macs. "Decent speed" is a personal call, but even with lots of memory, the G3/333 machines feel slow. The 400 MHz G4 is comfortably fast. dk

Note my above comment: I used an original iBook with OS X 10.3 as my deciding factor for switching. *grin* I don't know what model she has or what the original iBook's clock speeds were, but if she has a 366 or or the SE model, I can say from very personal experience that it works, albeit a bit lethargically. The only problem I have is with fast user switching turned on, the menu bar does some funny stuff where refreshing the data on the right side is concerned. Otherwise, everything that should work on that architecture does. The lack of a CD-R drive kind of annoyed me, so I finally took the dive and bought a USB key drive to handle file transfer duty.

My only real complaint about using the iBook was the 800 x 600 resolution of the display. I found that to be quite painful. The machine that I sorta switched from is a 1 GHz IBM ThinkPad T22 with a display resolution of 1400 x 1050. Ouch. Just a tiny bit cramped. What added insult to injury is that particular ThinkPad is my work laptop, so I still use it for work every day!

Now that I have my PowerBook, my wife uses the iBook as her personal/home computer. We are now looking at a 17" iMac this spring. I'm trying to delay a desktop purchase until there is a firm release date for Tiger.

Anyways, take care, and keep up the good work.

Mike

"Hi Mike,

"Thanks for the tips, information, comments and correction of my mistaken surmise about RAM compatibility.

"I agree with you about the 800 x 600 screen. My WallStreet has one, and while I find it satisfactorily fast running OS 9.2.2, the low-res display is a pain.

"The original iBook was 300 MHz, with a 3.2 GB hard drive.

"Charles

PC 100 vs. PC133 Memory

From Ryan Smith

Hi Charles,

Just to let you know, most PC133 will work fine in a B&W G3, so long as it supports operation in PC100 mode. Most modules can do this just fine, although some newer modules (especially cheap ones) only operate in PC133 mode and will not work.

Best regards,
Ryan Smith

"Thanks for the clarification, Ryan.

"Charles

NewerTech Pismo Battery

From Bob Russo

I want to second the recommendation of the NewerTech Pismo replacement battery. Over a year ago I bought the only replacement battery they had. I suspect it was a 5400 mAh.

Honestly I had problems with the first two batteries NewerTech sent. One of the contacts bent when I tried to insert the battery in my Pismo. OWC was happy to replace the battery, but I had to pay to send the first battery back.

The third battery has been working very well ever since. Much better then what I had become used to with my old battery. This week I bought a 7200 mAh battery and now travel using two batteries.

Bob Russo

"Thanks for the report, Bob.

"Charles

Classic II Mail Server

From Dan Cheng

Hi Charles,

Thanks for your columns - lots of good stuff to be found there! Hope this contributes to the pot.

Regarding Jeff Hewitt's question, years ago I used to run a mailing list server off my 6100/66 using Macjordomo. The author pointed to Eudora's EIMS (Eudora Internet Mail Server) mail server software, which I used in conjunction with it (but it can be run w/o Macjordomo, of course). EIMS seems to say it's good for System 7 and above. I used it with 7.5-8.5 with no problems.

Cheers,
Dan

"Thanks, Dan

"Charles

iTunes Glitch?

From Philip Croff

Hello there Mr. Moore.

I have been a regular visitor to Low End Mac for a long while and enjoy your writings.

From the iTunes Music Store, I purchased one of my personal favorite songs, "Every Breath You Take" by The Police. With about 1:27 left of the song (right after Sting says "make" in "every move you make") there is a definite sound that doesn't sound normal. This sound closely resembles "Funk," the standard OS X system tone. I was wondering if any of your readers (or even you) have noticed this and if it is audible in other versions from sources other than the iTunes Music Store. I realize it's somewhat off topic, but seems to be a Mac related subject.

Thank you,
Philip Croff

"Hi Philip;

"I haven't experienced this glitch, but perhaps someone in readerland will be able to answer your question.

"Thanks for reading.

"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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