Charles Moore's Mailbag

Future of FireWire, NKJV Bible Software?, WallStreet Battery and Keyboard Problems, Macintel or G5?, and More

Charles Moore - 2006.01.23 - Tip Jar

FireWire and Apple

From Mark McKenney

Dear Mr. Moore:

The blurb by O'Grady on the "death' of FireWire (FW) in your Dec 16 05 column at Low End Mac is a topic near and dear to my ancient flat panel iMac, which only has USB 1.1 and FW 400 ports. That dictates that I buy a DV camcorder that has a FW port (which I have successfully bought from Sony in their TRV series). Presently, Sony is making fewer DV camcorder models with FW built in and more with only USB 2.0. But I cannot connect that USB camcorder to my Mac and expect to import it into iMovie or Final Cut Pro directly [though I could spend additional money and get a USB converter, but why should I do that on top of my camcorder expense].

Watching FW disappear from the iPods has also led me to believe that Apple is sending it to second-class status. I have written about this in my editorial for my local Mac Users Group newsletter.

I think the final straw (or nail in the coffin) for FW at Apple will be when they announce that they have "figured out" a way to use USB 2.0 to import DV video with iMovie or Final Cut Pro. When that happens (and maybe it will happen with the rumoured "revised" Mac mini), then they will slowly phase out FW and turn it into a "special order" probably only on their high-end Macs.

O'Grady is not the only one to comment on this, as there was a brief blurb in a recent issue of Macworld (USA) that was not as pessimistic but certainly noted the lack of support from Apple in pushing the FW technology.

I even have a check from my mother-in-law to get an iPod for Christmas. They were all sold out were she was, so she just gave me the check, so I could get one in 2006 (hopefully). I know that I will have horrible experience using my flat panel iMac USB 1.1 ports (i.e. slow, slow, and more slow) if I try and sync the two together. This may lead me to buy a new Mac (i.e. G5 of some sort, or possibly a Macintel) in the near future.

My wife sees that as the "cart before the horse" syndrome. I like my FP iMac (size, monitor that swivels, etc.) and would use it longer if I could. I think the first thing I will try is whether any new iPod with USB 2 requirements will work on one of the Beige G3s I have in the basement that I have installed Tiger and a USB 2.0 PCI card. Perhaps it will work for a while, but it will be a pain to have to fire up the ancient G3 just to sync my music with the iPod.

Do you know if anyone has tested that scenario, as I thought that USB 2.0 speeds were possible from the better PCI cards, as long as you were booted into OS X.

Mark McKenney

Hi Mark,

I don't know anyone who has tried that. Let me know how you make out when you do.

Alas, I think you're probably right that a FireWire phaseout has commenced. Probably FireWire 800 will stick around on the high end machines, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it dumped from the consumer-targeted Macs.

Charles

Re: FireWire and Apple

From Mark McKenney

Charles:

I will let you know if the USB-iPod-beige G3 scenario works or if I am forced to buy a Mac with built in USB 2.0. First I have to locate an iPod, as the small town where I live was completely sold out, so it maybe a few weeks before I can actual have one to test.

I am anxiously waiting for the upcoming Macworld Expo to see if they attempt a Mac Media Center based on the Mac mini plus the Front Row software or just hit us with a Macintel inside something we already recognize, such as an iBook or PowerBook.

I still like my FW, but it looks like it was a good thing I bought hard drive enclosures that had FW and USB 2.0 ports on them, instead of just FW.

Keep an eye out for the iMovie via USB, as I cannot see how they could phase out FW, unless they breach that hurdle. Or, horrors, they may have to drop iMovie completely. That would upset a few Mac users, I think.

Mark McKenney

Hi Mark,

Well, now we know. Pretty much the second scenario you projected. The good news is that the new MacBook Pro has FireWire 400, and it is anticipated that ExpressCard FW 800 adapters will be available soon.

Good luck with the iPod quest.

Charles

New King James Version Bible Software for the Mac?

From Ray Worrell

Charles,

I greatly appreciate your reviews of the various Bible software programs available. I was going to download both MacSword and BibleReaderFree on your recommendation when I noticed that neither application supports the New King James Version of the Bible. Is this true, or am I just missing something?

Ray Worrell

Hi Ray,

The NKJV is a relatively recent proprietary translation and still being strictly protected by copyright. I assume that the licensing fees for reproducing it would be too steep for freeware developers like BibleReader Free and MacSword/Sword Project.

Charles

WallStreet Battery Problems

From Colette

Hello!

Sorry to impose, but I see on Low End Mac that you answer computer questions, and I have a souped-up WallStreet. :) I was looking for solutions for my own WallStreet problem when I came to your page.

I just got a WallStreet off eBay (hoping to do word processing while my dog plays in the park this summer), and it won't boot from the battery. It will often start - I hear the chimes, then it shorts out. The first time I tried, I even got as far as the smiling Mac screen before it tanked.

The battery seems to be chargeable. When I start up from the AC adapter, I will often see a fully charged battery in the battery monitor. Other times, it will show a completely dead battery until I reboot once or twice. There seems to be some sort of interruption in the energy flow.

I've tried swapping bays with no luck, and when the computer sees it as a dead battery; removing and reinserting makes no change, so I doubt it's a problem with the contacts.

Do you have any idea what the problem might be? The seller isn't responding to my questions at all yet, and I don't really want to return if I can get it to work more or less inexpensively.

Thanks so much for your time!

Colette

Hi Colette,

The likely suspects are a bad battery (notwithstanding that it appears to be fully charged) or a defective Power Manager Unit.

Your first step should be to reset the PMU to see if that helps. The procedure for the PowerBook G3 Series (WallStreet) is as follows:

  1. If the computer is on, turn it off.
  2. Simultaneously press Shift-Fn (function)-Ctrl (control)-Power.
  3. Wait 5 seconds.
  4. Press the Power button to restart the PowerBook.

If that doesn't work, you are faced with a conundrum.

Wegener Media has Charging & Power management boards (mounts between the battery bays) for $39, but you would probably have to pay to have it installed. They also have used batteries for $79.

It could be either. You'll have to decide whether it's worth spending more money on this machine.

There is a remote possibility that it could be a software issue, so a system reinstall would not be a bad idea.

Good luck!

Charles

Re: WallStreet Battery Problems

From Colette

Thanks so much!

Resetting the PMU didn't help, but I've ordered a completely new battery from Other World Computing, now, so maybe that will sort out my problems. The computer is otherwise in pretty much perfect condition, and I got it fairly cheaply, so I suppose putting more money into it is worthwhile.

If the battery doesn't help, I'll replace the PMU board, too. If it doesn't involve soldering, I can probably do it myself. I've been looking at take-apart guides online, and they seem fairly simple. (In fact, I'm a little tempted to try it, just to see if I can. :) )

Your advice means a lot to me, and eliminates several of my other worries about what was going wrong. Thanks again for your help!

Cheers,
Colette

Hi Colette,

I concur with your decision to go with a new battery. I just replaced the one in my Pismo with one from OWC.

Good luck with the PMU board replacement if needed (hope it won't be).

Charles

Re: WallStreet Keyboard Failure

From Michael Allen in reference to Re: WallStreet Keyboard Failure:

Sir Charles,

Maybe this will help. I had to unplug the ribbon just so I could get the G3 to boot. Then when I carefully plugged it back in, only half of the keys worked. So I'm going to order a keyboard, but still don't know from which size ribbon to purchase.

-M

Hi Michael,

I would recommend checking with the supplier of your replacement keyboard for advice on the appropriate cable.

Charles

Macintel and Current Macs

From Alvin

Hi,

It looks like there's a lot of news on the Macintel hardware, how you can run all 3 OSes in it at the same time, but there's not much news on Macintel native applications. Do you think Apple is planning on just releasing the Macintel hardware, only the built-in apps (Mail, Safari, etc.) will be native but the rest would have to depend on Rosetta for months to go?

If you have a Mac now with say a G5, if you network that with the Macintel, you think it's gonna' well with it using XGrid/Rosetta combo for apps that support scheduling (how many apps besides Maya support scheduling btw?). I ask because someone wants to swap my PC (3200 Athlon64/6600GT/1 GB/80SATA/17" LCD/DVD writer) with an iMac G5 (1.6/80SATA/783 MB/17"/5200 video/combo drive). I'd like to buy a Macintel when it comes out and pair it with either an iMac G5 or PC, but would you swap this if it was yours?

God bless,
Alvin

Hi Alvin,

The availability of Macintel native software depends greatly on the developers. The impression I get is that things are going well. More and more shareware apps are being released as universal binaries.

I expect you know more about software supporting scheduling than I do.

As for your trade dilemma, I really am not well informed enough about your PC to advise you. I really can't say what I would do. I have never owned a PC, save for an old, hand-me-down 286 back in prehistoric times. Follow your heart.

Charles

OmniPage OCR on Macs

From William Doty

Hi,

I have used OmniPage Pro for Mac for a long time. I have used it with OS 8.x, 9.1, and now OS X 10.3. (I bought it when I got the G4 in 2001.)

If you want good software, sometimes you just have to pay for it, rather than fool around with quirky and klunky junk.

Bill Doty


Hi Bill,

As I noted, I have OmniPage Pro 7, which dates back to System 7 days, and it is excellent software. I've never used an OS X version.

Which version are you using?

The ABBYY FineReader 5 Sprint Plus OCR program that came with my Epson scanner, however, is not clunky junk. It works very well.

Charles

Re: OmniPage OCR on Mac

From: William Doty

Hi Charles

I have version 10 of OmniPage. I sometimes think the older version was a bit simpler to use, but I will not change to something else.

At one time I had version 5 on a Power Mac 6100 with a black and white HP ScanJet. The school in Missouri where I was teaching had a computer "expert" who said Macs weren't "real" computers. I asked him if his computers could do OCR. He said, "Well, that technology isn't yet widely available." He brought a hand scanner the next time he came to school. I invited him to bring a few pages to my house. I told him I had a Mac 6100 and an HP scanner he could play with. He brought 18 pages of text. We fed them into the scanner using OmniPage.

He acted unimpressed until I accidentally put a page from a daisy wheel printer in upside down. While he watched the screen, OmniPage flipped the page to the correct position and then recognized the text. That was the last crack he ever made about "real" computers.

I'm glad ABBYY has made lots of improvements. I gave an early version of it a try and was left unimpressed. I paid $150 for OmniPage in 2002 at a store in Omaha, Nebraska.

Bye,
Bill D.

Hi Bill,

Thanks for the follow-up.

Great anecdote about the anti-Mac bigot. :-)

Charles

Mediocre OCR

From Jim Strickland

The good news: Hamrick's Viewscan has OCR built in.

The bad news: It's mediocre at best.

-Jim Strickland

Trackpad Issues - Update

From Ben Daube

Hi Charles,

Your helpful 2005.03.18 PowerBook G4: Troubleshooting Intermittent Trackpad Issues article for a trackpad issue on my 1.67 G4 PowerBook referred me to http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=301047

Unfortunately, "3. Reset the trackpad by placing your entire palm directly onto the whole trackpad for 3 to 4 seconds" only worked for a while.

Here's the update:

Apple Tier 2 TS today recommended a Power Manager reset, and that has cleared up the "stuttering/locked-up" trackpad problem.

Cheers! - Ben

Thanks for the feedback and links, Ben.

Charles

Re: Trackpad issues - update

From: Ben Daube

It worked for while, but the problem's back. Now they'll want it in for service :(

Cheers! - Ben

What Kind of Mac Configuration Is Good for a Cafe-like Business?

From: Alvin

Hi, I'm trying to build a sort of radical Net cafe of about 10 to 14 computers that focuses on business and Internet for a client. I'm shying away from multiplayer gaming kind of Net to attract a more mature crowd. If possible something that businesses could also rent for something to gain more income for it.

It's a choice between a Mac and PC - of course I would choose a Mac, but it has to be justified. I've done my research, even measurements on the place to see which components are the best, including interior designing and chairs (high chairs to save space is my first choice). I would need another point of view and present all the ideas and illustrations, hopefully they go to a Mac - it is admittedly expensive at 10 to 14 computers. Any configuration on which Mac and other peripherals, printers, etc. that would work almost flawlessly together, including lighting interior and other extras?

What's a good justification not to go with a PC and instead go for a Mac? Should they be leased or bought?

God bless,

Alvin

Hi Alvin,

I would consider Mac minis with good (but not super-expensive) third-party displays. Hard to beat on price, although you can find something faster for less money in a cheapo PC - but you tend to get what you pay for.

Aside from the ignominy of working in Windows, the most compelling argument for using Macs is the freedom from the Wintel malware pandemic and attendant support costs.

Charles

UPS Canada Brokerage Fees

From Michael Kelly in reference to Hosed by UPS - Again:

Hi,

I have had mixed experiences with UPS. I won a Video card off eBay and am being slapped with a $31 brokerage fee, but then again before that I had a CPU shipped via UPS and did not have to pay any fees at all. Is it based on the value of the item? How can I fight them and not have to pay the fee?

Mike Kelly

Hi Mike,

How this "brokerage fee" scam (and I say scam, because Canada Post manages to clear anything through for $5) works is an arcane mystery, at least to me.

As you observe, sometimes a UPS shipment will come through with no charges owing at the receiving end. More often you get hosed for their outrageous brokerage fees. It may have something to do with the sort of contract UPS has with the shipper.

I don't know of any way to fight back other than refusing the shipment, which is not really on in most cases.

It's not always just with UPS that problems arise. Last year I received a phone call from FedEx in Montreal asking be to grant them one-time power of attorney to clear a shipment through. I was expecting some sample software for review, so I said okay, filled out the form they faxed and faxed it back to them. They also asked for my credit card number for the GST, which I assumed would be $10 or so. They debited my account for nearly $400. Turns out the shipper had quoted retail market value for the software on the documentation of more than US$2,000.

Happily (?!), by coincidence FedEx lost track of the shipment, and I was able to refuse delivery and arrange for a refund before it ever arrived here.

Moral: Don't authorize credit card payments over the phone without asking the amount (my bad there, I was in a hectic rush), and be cognizant of valuations.

Charles

UPS Canada Brokerage Fees Refunded

From Michael Kelly

Hi,

I bought a video card from eBay for US$56 and had it shipped UPS. They wanted $40 in fees. I got a refund by printing off an eBay auction for a cheaper video card $15 and sent it to them. Two days later they delivered my package with no fees.

Cheers,
Mike Kelly

Whither SpellTools?

From Rob C. in response to Review: SpellTools Freestanding Spell Checker:

Nice article. I got the program from Tucows but can't find the upgrade. The link in your article is not viable. Would you have a current link or a copy to update to 9xx Classic?

Rob C

P.S. As you can see, I have no spell tools in Outlook ex 4.5

Hi Rob,

Unfortunately, it appears that SpellTools is a dead duck.

As an alternative, I would suggest trying Excalibur.

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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