Charles Moore's Mailbag

PowerBook G5 and PPC 970GX, iBook Resolder Repair, Best Keyboard Opinions, and More

Charles Moore - 2005.01.24 - Tip Jar

PowerBook G5 Thermals

From Zack Smith

I read your recent section in the 'Book Review about the PowerBook G5, and I think I can shed some light on the issue. As far as I know, the PowerBook G5 will be powered by a special low-power version of the G5 processor, the PPC 970gx. This is very similar to the dual-core PPC 970mp, except it only has one core, the chip incorporates a heat spreader, and it has built-in speed throttling technology. This makes for a processor that dissipates about 14 watts at maximum load. To accommodate the slightly higher heat demands, my sources have told me that Apple is planning a switch to a 13" widescreen LCD model to replace the 12" model that is currently on the market.

Hope this helps,
Zack Smith

"Hi Zack,

"Cool! This is very exciting information!

"I hope your sources are correct, and it seems to lend credence to the DigiTimes report about G5 iBooks being in the works as well.

"Charles

Re: PowerBook G5 Thermals

From Zack Smith

I can only hope so. They've seldom been wrong in the past, and having an all-G5 lineup will further drive down Apple's prices.

Zack

iBook G3 Fixed

From: Chris Campbell

Hi Charles,

I wrote you a few months ago, very frustrated about my iBook G3 and Apple's refusal to repair it. I indicated at the time that I thought I had a solution that wouldn't be so hard on my checkbook as the $700 or so that Apple wanted for a new logic board.

I am happy to report that I am typing this on my iBook G3/800! It has been running continuously for four days without a single problem. My detective work and research paid off. The folks in Chicago did a fine job, and by simply reflowing the solder on the right chip package, a junk logic board was restored to a perfectly functioning one.

-Chris

"Hi Chris,

"Thanks for the report.

"I love a happy ending!

"Charles

iMac Question

From Prager, Michael

Hello-

I saw an article you wrote and thought you may be able to help me. I know little about computers. I have an iMac. I think it is Revision B, but I am not sure. I got a new iPod for a gift and want to use it. It sounds like one of the things I would need to do would be to install OS X (I am not sure which version). I think I have some version of OS 9. Do you know if that would work for my machine?

The iMacI have never added any memory, hard drive, etc. It is just as it came. It works pretty well now, and I don't want to mess it up by installing the different operating system. Could I use the CD that came with a friend's Mac to install the OS X, or do I have to buy the latest version available? Your article makes it sound like some machines would not have enough memory space, would not be fast enough to handle OS X w/o some upgrade, is that correct?

Apple's website also says I need "FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 through Dock connector". Do I have that? I don't think my USB is 2.0, but I don't know? Where do you think I could go for advice.

I was thinking about getting a new machine but don't want to spend the money. The Mac mini sounds pretty good. Could I use an old PC monitor with a mini Mac?

Thanks!

Michael Prager

"Hi Michael,

"Any version of OS X will support your iMac, but you need to check what the minimum version is required to support your iPod. The sticking point may be FireWire. If your iMac is really a Revision B, it doesn't have FireWire or USB 2, and thus it is incompatible with the iPod.

"You can check out the various specs. on early iMacs here: <http://lowendmac.com/imacs/index.shtml>

Your friend's install CD likely won't work - they are usually model specific. You can pick up OS X 10.2 install CDs fairly reasonably, and that should work for you.

"One source: <http://www.wegenermedia.com/osxj.htm>

However, if your iMac has never been upgraded, you almost certainly don't have enough RAM to run OS X. The extreme bare minimum IMHO is 256 MB of RAM, and I recommend 384 MB or more.

"The Mac mini comes with a VGA adapter and should work with a VGA PC monitor, provided it's not too ancient.

"Another option might be a newer used iMac. The "slot-loading" model was the first that supported FireWire (400 MHz and faster models only - ed).

"Charles

When All Else Fails, Check Your RAM

From Daniel Bullock

Charles,

Thanks for all your practical, down-to-earth wisdom for us low-end Mac users. I just updated our iMac DV 400 (Indigo) from Mac OS 9.0.4 to 9.2.2, due in large part to your recent information on OS 9 updates and software, and your own experiences with 9.2.2.

I wanted to share with your readers the solution to a problem I had with the update: I did the 9.1 and 9.2.1 and 9.2.2 updates (on CD from AppleRescue, because I, too, use a dialup connection) and applied iMac Firmware Update 4.1.9. Everything seemed to check out, but I started having intermittent bombs and freezes on startup, and freezes in the Finder.

I reinstalled, disabled extensions, changed the battery, zapped the PRAM, pressed the CUDA switch, and nothing worked. I had heard of the problems with Firmware Update 4.1.9 disabling some RAM modules, but I thought that couldn't be it, because my System Profiler reported both 64 MB modules, and Apple Hardware Test reported no problems.

Finally, having nothing else to try, I removed my vendor-installed 64 MB RAM module, leaving just the Apple RAM. Instantly, the iMac was rock-solid stable in 9.2.2 - no freezes and bombs at all. The moral of the story is that marginal RAM can appear okay and still cause problems, so it's a troubleshooting step worth trying. We're now happily using the iMac with 9.2.2, as well as an eMac (10.3.4) and two Performas (8.1).

God bless,
Dan Bullock

"Hi Dan,

"Thanks for this report.

"A similar thing happened to a friend of mine's Indigo iMac.

"Charles

Pismo Battery Konked, Single Flashing Light

From Aiden S. Enns

Hello Charles Moore:

I liked your helpful article, and I generally enjoy your site. I've had a similar battery problem:

I joined my partner who was watching a DVD on my G3 PowerBook Pismo (FireWire) and I saw the a single flashing green light on the battery. I looked at the Finder and noticed the lightning flash and thought, "Good, it must have ran almost dry and now is recharging." Concerned about the flashing green light, I restarted the computer. The single green still flashes, but no recharging lightning bolt appeared. We watched the movie just fine, and after I shut down and left it plugged in.

This morning the situation is still the same: single green flashing light on the battery, no lightning bolt and no increasing charge. Is it dead? Any recommendations?

Aiden

"Hi Aiden,

"I expect it's dead. The other (unlikely) possibility is a problem with the Pismo's Power manager. As a matter of form, you should try resetting the Power manager before condemning the battery.

"PowerBook (FireWire)

  1. If the computer is on, turn it off.
  2. Press and release the reset button located on the rear panel of the computer between the external video and modem ports.
  3. Wait 5 seconds.
  4. Press the Power button to restart the computer.
If that doesn't fix it, the next step would be to replace the battery.

"I'm getting good reports about the Other World Computing/NewerTech units.

"Charles

Re: Matias Tactile Pro

From Mark Wittner

Charles W. Moore wrote:

"Unfortunately, I spilled a glass of diluted Grapefruit Seed Extract into the iceKey. My son got it working again temporarily, but it died again. :-(

"Charles,

I am sorry to hear about the demise of your iceKey. If I had a spare, I'd be happy to send you one. Unfortunately, I do not. :-(

The keys on my iceKey were a bit stiff when I first got it, and I was even contemplating replacing it. However, after enough time, the keys loosened up quite a bit. They still have a great feel and require only a very light touch.

Logitech diNovo keyboard setThe only time I've envied PC users is with the Logitech diNovo keyboard set. A friend of mine has one, and it is easily the greatest keyboard I've ever seen or used. It is gorgeous, and the keys are incredible. It also happens to be one of the quietest keyboards I've heard.

It really is a remarkable set. Unfortunately, the price tag and the lack of Mac support keep me away from it. Every time I am at my friend's house or see it in a store, I try to find ways to rationalize it. Ah well, I suppose everyone needs something to drool over - and I've never been much of a car guy. ;-)

--Mark--

Matias OS X KeyboardHi Mark,

Thanks for your generous spirit. The iceKey does have an excellent action. Would that all keyboards were as good.

That diNovo 'board sounds delicious.

I'm looking forward to testing the new Matias OS X membrane keyboard when a unit becomes available next month.

Charles

Keyboard Design Flaws

From Andrew Main

Charles,

I see you published my rant on keyboard design. It'll be interesting to see if you get any comments.

The original MacintoshHowever, I was sorry to see that the picture someone (you or LEM?) added of a Mac Plus somewhat destroyed the point I was trying to make: The standard Mac Plus did indeed have an "extended" keyboard with an attached numeric pad, which was why I deliberately ordered mine (from Shreve Systems) with the 128/512 style alphanumeric-only keyboard, pictured on the LEM pages for those models: http://www.lowendmac.com/1984/mac-512k-fat-mac/ and http://www.lowendmac.com/1984/macintosh-128k/

Either of these photos would be a better match for what I wrote. (From the front, the only visual difference between the 128/512 models and the Plus was the addition of the words "Macintosh Plus" next to the Apple logo below the display; but many Pluses, including mine as I recall, were upgraded from 128/512s, so had the same faceplate as the latter, though different MLB, floppy drive, and backplate.)

Andrew Main

"Hi Andrew,

"The photos are Dan Knight's department. He'll be reading this before it's posted.

"Charles

Editor's note: We like to add photos of Macs mentioned in our columns, and the default is simply linking to the model mentioned. In this case, Andrew is right - we should have posted a photo that showed the original Mac keyboard (see above). dk

Happy Hacking Keyboard

From Ed Hurtley

A note to Andrew Main, on his comments in a letter to you posted in Misc. Ramblings of 2005.01.17.

HappyHacking KeyboardAssuming you have a USB-equipped computer, you may want to find yourself a "Happy Hacking" keyboard. Not only is it a small keyboard with no number pad, but it has Control in the right place! (Come on, how often do you really use Caps Lock?) I would recommend the HHK2, which is natively USB, has a 2-port USB hub built in, and includes "real" arrow keys (the previous revision had micro arrows like on some notebooks) - but it's also the cheapest yet at an MSRP of $69.99.

Or, if you want to try one-handed typing, you can go for the FrogPad.

Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite 2 at LinuxCentral and at ThinkGeek.

Ed Hurtley

Happy Hacking Design Flaws

From Andrew Main

Charles,

Thanks for forwarding the note from Ed Hurtley about the Happy Hacking keyboard. It does look interesting, though oddly the page he links doesn't have a useful picture of it. (It does have the lowest price I've seen.)

A Google search for "Happy Hacking Keyboard" yielded some 104,000 results, about half of them in Japanese (the keyboard is manufactured in Japan, naturally, and apparently popular there); I narrowed it down to English only and to about 9,000, which included...

The manufacturer: <http://www.pfu.fujitsu.com/en/hhkeyboard/>

A review (of the original HHK) <http://www.linuxgazette.com/issue35/dinsel.html>

Apparently they're popular in the Linux world, which I suppose is where I'd be if the Mac didn't exist.

And a U.S. dealer with a number of small keyboards: <http://www.fentek-ind.com/minikb.htm> and a useful picture: <http://www.fentek-ind.com/hhlite2lrg.jpg>, which answered a couple of questions.

Though I don't use Caps Lock often, I'd rather not be entirely without it; it appears from the photo that the HHK offers Caps Lock by pressing the Fn key together with the Tab key (why they didn't just put a Caps Lock key in the empty space at lower left I don't know). And though I'm not a function-key jockey, some recent Macs (e.g., the iMac G4) use F12 to open/close the optical drive, and the HHK has no F keys; but it seems that pressing the Fn key together with top row keys will give function keys.

Actually, I rather like the balanced look of the Delete key opposite the Tab, and the Esc key to left of 1, with `/~ at the right end of the top row (it's hard to make out, but it looks like the latter may function with Fn as the Eject key). The arrow keys look a little awkward, but I suppose that's the best that can be done. In all, though not perfect it looks pretty good, and I'd probably get one if I were using a desktop Mac.

Here's a review from a Mac user: <http://www.epinions.com/content_135210176132> who echoes my objection to reaching waaay around the standard keyboard's little-used right third to get to the mouse.

The original version Happy Hacking Keyboard offers ADB connectivity for older Macs but lacks arrow keys (like the original Mac 128/512 keyboard) and is expensive. Probably could be found on eBay.

BTW, I'm preparing to upgrade my beloved PowerBook 2000/FW ("Pismo") with DayStar's 500 MHz G4; your articles have been a great help.

Andrew

"Thanks for the info and links, Andrew.

"Let us know how the Daystar processor upgrade goes for you. I'm still delighted with mine.

"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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