Charles Moore's Mailbag

Pismo and Panther, Pismo on Last Legs, and Lombard vs. PowerBook G4

Charles Moore - 2006.03.08 - Tip Jar

Pismo and Panther

From Scott K. Brown

Hi Charles:

I read your article re: downgrading to Panther (see Back to the Future: Downgrading My Pismo to OS X 10.3.9), with much interest. I have two Pismos that I really like - I think they are the best PowerBooks Apple has ever released - and I've been tempted to upgrade the processor. I haven't upgraded to OS X 10.4 yet, and your article helped with that decision.

I do have an iBook G3 800, but the logic board is flaky, so I'm not using it. I can't bear to part with it yet, so it's just sitting around getting dusty.

Anyway, back to the Panther thing: I too sort of wanted the widget thing, so I downloaded the Dashboard predecessor Konfabulator from Yahoo. It's free, and the included widgets with that have been quite useful, and it runs well on my G3 Pismo. Just an FYI for you.

Scott Brown

Hi Scott,

Two weeks on, I'm convinced that downgrading to OS X 10.3.9 on the Pismo has been vindicated. The old 'Book is working beautifully, and faster than it was with Tiger. OTOH, Tiger 10.4.4 is working pretty well on my 700 MHz G3 iBook.

Konfabulator (now Yahoo) is indeed the workaround for Panther users who can't live without widgets.


Back to the Future: Downgrading My Pismo to OS X 10.3.9

From Marc Triola


I just read your column Back to the Future: Downgrading My Pismo to OS X 10.3.9. I just wanted to let you know that I recently did a fresh install of Tiger on my Pismo 400 MHz. I didn't do any tests after the install and before applying all of the updates to version 10.4.5, however in 10.4.5 the Finder search and Spotlight seem to be working perfectly.


Hi Marc,

Glad your Tiger experience has been more satisfactory than mine.

The Find and Spotlight functions worked fine with Tiger on my Pismo until about a month ago, but more than half a dozen reinstall attempts with various versions of Tiger didn't fix them after they stopped working.

I would speculate that a completely clean install on a reinitialized partition and a rebuild of my user settings from scratch would probably fix the problem, but I really don't want to invest the time, and I was underwhelmed by Tiger's performance on the Pismo even when everything was working. OS X 10.3.9 is a smoother and faster cat with the Pismo's mediocre video support.


Pismo About to Die?

From Thomas Thorstensen


Five years ago I bought a slightly used Pismo, which after a while had a few quirks. It suddenly froze whenever it felt like it. No typical pattern to when or where it would happen. I had to press the power button until it shut down, and then power it back up. Sometimes it would work fine again; other times it would give the three "malfunctioning RAM" beeps. I never really cared all that much, as it didn't happen that often, and "it will probably go away after a while".

A year ago I decided that the Pismo was in for a treat. A new Seagate 100 GB drive, a Newer Tech 7200 mAh battery (as well as a new PRAM-battery), a Sonnet Aria Extreme WiFi-card, and 1024 MB Crucial RAM. And OS X, of course.

But no! The Pismo is still freezing up now and then! Only now it doesn't just freeze, it gets a Kernel Panic.

As all of the other bits have been changed for something better, my highly untechnical mind has narrowed it down to either a bad logic board, or a faulty hard drive cable. Or it can be as simple (and frustrating) as both the old and the new RAM are defective.

Do you have any pointers for me? I'm about to get really frustrated with my Pismo, and I don't want that. After all, I love that old workhorse so much. :-(

Best regards,
Thomas Thorstensen

Hi Thomas,

It's highly unlikely that both the old and new RAM would be bad, although I suppose it's a remote possibility. I would me more inclined to suspect other hardware issues, such as the ones you speculate. From the symptoms you describe, the logic board would certainly be suspect.

If I were in your shoes, given this machine's history of somewhat flaky behavior, my inclination would be to look around for another used Pismo to swap all your hotrod upgrade goodies into and then retire the troublesome one as a parts mule. Five years service isn't a bad run for a used laptop.


Upgrade Lombard or Pick a 12" PowerBook G4?

From Sam

Dear Charles,

Thanks for the wonderful help. I appreciate your taking some of your time to reply to my message.

I wonder if such an upgrade is worth it. I love this PB G3 because it is light and looks great. Most newer PBs are heavy, and the nature of my job requires me traveling and moving with a light Mac for presentations, etc. I decided to make the upgrade after hearing that Apple has discontinued PB G4 12 inch, which I was planning to buy. And I have the feeling that Apple won't make a PB of the same size or weight.

Anyhow, I appreciate your help.



Hi Sam,

My pleasure.

Personally, I would recommend against spending that kind of money on the Lombard.

A used or refurbished iBook or newer PowerBook is a better bet. The 12" PowerBook is still being sold by Apple, although for how much longer is anybody's guess. If you like them (and there's plenty to like), grab one while you still can.

I just ordered a refurbished 17" PowerBook for my next system upgrade.


Re: Upgrade Lombard or Pick a 12" PowerBook G4?

From Sam

Dear Charles,

Thank you very much for your recommendation. Yes, I guess buying a refurbished 12 inch PowerBook would better than upgrading an old PowerBook.

I wonder, how much did it cost you for the 17" PowerBook you bought and if there was any warranty.

Warmest regards,

Hi Sam,

Among many others, TechRestore has the following refurbished PowerBooks:

  • PowerBook 1 GHz Aluminum 512 MB Memory, 60 GB Hard Drive, CD-RW/DVD-R SuperDrive, Airport Extreme Wireless Card, DVI Video, 17-inch LCD Screen Retail: $1,299
  • PowerBook G4/1.33 GHz Aluminum 512 MB Memory, 60 GB Drive, CD-RW/DVD-R SuperDrive, Bluetooth, Airport Extreme, Light-Up Keyboard 17-inch LCD Screen Retail: $1,499 (which is the one I ordered)

They have a six-month warranty, and a 30-day no-questions-asked return policy if you're not happy with your purchase.


Re: Upgrade Lombard or Pick a 12" PowerBook G4?

From Sam

Hello Charles,

You won't believe what I did. Well, I entered eBay for the first time in my life. I bid on a "new" PowerBook 12 inch as if there was no tomorrow. It was like an addiction for me. However, I haven't won any bidding. I have been outbid all the times. So I am thinking to buy a new PowerBook 12 inch directly from Apple.

I know this sounds crazy, considering that Apple may release a new PowerBook Intel maybe of 12 inch size after they released the mini. Yet, the Intel Mac doesn't support Classic mode, which I need in my work for the following two or three years. Correct me if I am wrong.

Thank you for help.


Hi Sam,

I don't think it sounds crazy at all. I'm doubtful that we will see an Intel replacement for the 12" PowerBook until fall at the earliest. Of course in the meantime, the 13" iBook replacement MacBook is imminent, probably next month.

That said, if you need Classic mode, then the Macintels are not for you - and the 12" PowerBook is a great, little computer.

Personally, I would go with a refurb (check the Special Deals tile on the Apple Store home page). If you buy one from Apple, you get the same warranty as with a new machine and AppleCare eligibility.

However, an new one would be nice as well. ;-)


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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 and a columnist at If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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