Charles Moore's Mailbag

Pismo Modem Issues, Best Mac Keyboard, Pismo Processor Upgrade Value, and More

Charles Moore - 2006.05.01 - Tip Jar

Pismo/Tiger Modem Issues

Re: Tiger 10.4.4 Update Cripples Pismo's Internal Modem

From Joan Hallberg

"At this writing I have successfully updated my OS X 10.4.0 install, which seems to have fixed the .pkg file mounting problem (whatever that was) and run the 10.4.1 updater. The modem is working properly, and I will stick with this system version for at least a couple of weeks to see how things unfold."

Charles - I'm running 10.2.8 on a Pismo and was just thinking about upgrading to Tiger when I ran across your article. Did you ever find a fix? Any idea if the modem works ok with 10.4.6?

Thanks for any info.

Joan

Hi Joan,

Since I posted the paragraph you cite, I have downgraded my Pismo to OS X 10.3.9, and everything has been working smoothly now for three months or so.

However, I wouldn't want to dissuade you from upgrading to Tiger if you want to experience Spotlight or the Dashboard, etc. Many people are running Tiger happily on their Pismos, and the issues I had were very likely idiosyncratic to that machine or system install.

I may upgrade to Tiger again, but I find Panther quite satisfactory in most respects, and it has livelier Finder response than Tiger on the Pismo, I suspect due to video support issues.

I would definitely recommend upgrading to at least Panther. The performance improvement is significant.

As for 10.4.6, I'm still running 10.4.4 on both my iBook and my 17" PowerBook, and I have held off updating because both 10.4.5 and 10.4.6 seem to have had more than their share of issues, while 10.4.4 has proved very stable and trouble-free on both computers.

Charles

Best Mac Keyboard

From Dana

Is it too late to beg to differ with you on what you wrote about the best Mac keyboard on 2005.01.10 (see The Best Mac Keyboard? I Beg to Differ)? For about eighteen months I had a Matias Tactile Pro keyboard. In many ways I really liked it, but my experience turned out to have a very unhappy ending.

In the first place, the Tactile Pro is loud. How annoying you find that is a matter of personal taste, but even if you can live with it, you may make enemies out of the people around you. Surely, if Matias had not been so hell-bent on making this keyboard physically resemble the current Apple keyboard they could have figured out a way of damping the sound, perhaps by adding a layer of sound-absorbing material under the faceplate (feasible if it were a solid color and not transparent).

Second, like the contemporary Apple keyboard it imitates, it is a real dirt-trap (and that transparent faceplate makes the various gunk that gets under it as conspicuously visible as a museum exhibit). With all its nooks and crannies, it's a bugger to keep clean. In fact, it's impossible. After eighteen months of admittedly very hard use (I'm a full-time professional writer), it had collected so much gunk of the kind that only a CSI team could love that a couple of keys were beginning to go wonky because the switches could no longer make proper contact.

In view of their five-year warrantee and their "built-like-a-tank" advertising copy, I sent it back to the factory. Whereupon they declined to honor the warrantee - because it was so dirty. My protest that it had got dirty because its design is so unreasonably dirt-friendly cut no ice at all.

What to do? Buy another one? A strong temptation, because the keyboard is admittedly a fine one to use. But in the intervening eighteen months the price had gone up to $149.95, which is a lot of moo for a keyboard. While dithering I visited the Matias site and happened to read the first paragraph in their ad copy, "the Matias Tactile Pro Keyboard is built from the same premium keyswitch technology that Apple used in its original Apple Extended Keyboard, widely viewed as the best keyboard Apple ever made."

Right, I remember the old "Saratoga" with all the nostalgia that Matias seeks to conjure up. Hey, wait a minute: Why not try to lay hands on an actual Apple Extended Keyboard and use it with an [ADB-to-USB] adapter? A couple of minutes on the Web, and I found out about the Griffin Technology iMate adapter (which requires a special driver you have to download from the Griffin site), street price slightly above $35. But with a little more Googling, I found a used-Mac store in Colorado which sold me the keyboard and the adapter for the unbelievably low price of $27. Worked like an absolute charm

Using the Extended Keyboard, two things were immediately obvious: First, it is very quiet. Apple's engineers did indeed worry about damping the noise of the switches, with remarkable success). Second, its faceplate is solid and smooth, a breeze to keep clean. Dirt is not going to be a problem.

So my personal story has a happy ending (except that I still think Matias owes me a keyboard, and the more I think about this the madder I get). If you want to get the best Mac keyboard on the planet, I think this is the way to go. Not a Matias. Never a Matias.

Dana

Hi Dana,

Not at all too late. I must clarify, however, that the "The Best Keyboard Apple Ever Made" in the article title appeared in quotation marks (it's a Matias slogan) and with a question mark after it. It did not express my personal opinion of the keyboard.

I do like the appearance of the Tactile Pro, but I'm not a fan of the noise (although Matias claims that some people are), and the key action is too stiff for my chronic peripheral neuritis.

Matias does make some quiet keyboards - their OS X Keyboard and their USB 2 Keyboard. My daughter uses one and professes to like it a lot.

You can read my review of both keyboards: Matias OS X and USB 2.0 Keyboards Reviewed.

For more information, see http://OSXkeyboard.com or http://matias.ca/osxkeyboard/

I actually have an old Apple Extended Keyboard II and an iMate adapter. I agree that it's an excellent keyboard and somewhat quieter than the Matias Tactile Pro, but the key action still doesn't agree with my physical disability.

My current favorite keyboard is marketed by (at least) Kensington and i-Rocks; it's a wonderfully comfortable, short-travel, quite quiet laptop keyboard like design. You can read my reviews on Applelinks:

However, those old Apple keyboards are overbuilt, and you'll probably be able to get years out of the one you're using.

Charles

Re: Best Mac Keyboard

From Dana

Dear Charles:

One footnote to what I wrote about keyboards last week: The place I work had a couple of extra Extended Keyboards in the back of the supply room; I snagged them as insurance against a rainy day. Wow! I was surprised at the difference between them - one of them is a good deal louder and has a more "typewriter" feel to it than the others I now have, which are considerably more quiet and feel a lot more like modern keyboards that use rubber dome switches, membranes, etc. I never noticed this before, but quite clearly not all Extend Keyboards are equal. Apple must have introduced some changes during the production run, perhaps by changing switch suppliers at some point. So I guess it's more dangerous to make generalizations about these keyboards than I had realized (except for your observation that they sure are rugged!).

Dana

Lombard/Pismo Screen Swapping

From Jacek A. Rochacki

Dear Charles:

With regard to post/question titled: Frankenpismo? from Shane Young and your answer, precisely the part of it quoted below

...On the other hand, the screen hinges are to the best of my knowledge the same, and I think (but am not sure) that the screens are the same as well. The hard drives are definitely swappable, and the RAM should work as well in either machine....

let me add, that by the occasion of upgrade of my Pismo I, I have investigated the problem myself. I have bought my first Pismo with the top part - whole lid including the matrix/screen, which was obviously coming from Lombard - not just the matrix/screen, but the whole screen unit (subunit). It fitted and worked perfectly with Pismo, except the lack of antenna, and I wanted WiFi.

The Lombard, not being AirPort ready, doesn't have the antenna. So I found another, original Pismo screen with burn marks made by some vandal distinguishing cigarettes at the lid/top case - of course just at the outer shell. We have completely disassembled both screens, have kept the Lombard shell of the lid, and my Pismo was finally given the screen with antenna, etc. assembled from parts coming from both models. It has been and still it works perfectly.

Perhaps I should just say much shorter: IMO the screens, although not exactly the same in some details (lack of antenna, another construction and details - for example: the left hinge of Lombard doesn't have this grove for thin wire coming from antenna; this doesn't prevent in any way the substituting, universality of the hinges), definitely can substitute one for another. In case of Pismo screen used for/at Lombard - there will be no use for the antenna; in reverse situation - Pismo with Lombard screen will be not having the antenna for Air Port card. Beside these, in both combinations/variations machines will work very well.

As always
Jacek
Jacek A. Rochacki
PUC - Pismo Users Club

Thank you, Jacek,

That should clear up any confusion (including mine) and be helpful to Shane.

Charles

Re: Frankenpismo?

From Shane Young

Thanks very much for your valuable insight. Seems a shame to toss the Lombard, but c'est la vie.

Before I do toss it, do you have any clues as to why it would suddenly be so cranky to wake from sleep?

Thanks again.

Shane

Hi Shane,

It could be several things, however on a machine that old I'm inclined to suspect it's a hardware problem, perhaps a motherboard or hard drive issue.

However, a clean system reinstall might be worth a (long) shot.

Charles

Re: Frankenpismo?

From Shane Young

Hello again, Mr. Moore.

I hope you're not beginning to hate me for the questions.

After your previous suggestions, I decided to do what I could to salvage my Pismo at the sacrifice of Lombard. The power plug of the Pismo was loose, so I thought I'd try swapping the one from the Lombard.

As it turned out, I managed to get Pismo fired up, no problem. However, it seems the one and only drawback is that the internal speaker are not working. I messed up the inverter plug in the process, and had a couple of loose wires that go into the motherboard, which I carefully pushed back into their holes, and figured if the screen worked I was home free. Now I'm not sure if the sound card is not compatible after all - or if the wires aren't seated properly, which is allowing the screen to work, but not the speakers.

I was wondering if you think the inverter cable could be the problem, or is it the power/sound card, which 'works' but not 'entirely' compatible? Any idea??

And, I promise, this is my last question . . . at least regarding Frankenpismo. Thank you again very much, for your great help and expertise.

Sincerely,
Shane

Hello again Shane,

No need to apologise about the questions.

However, anything I could volunteer on this one would be a pure guess. Could conceivably be either of the issues you suggest. I don't know.

Charles

Pismo Processor Upgrades

Re: Pismo Processor Upgrades

From Michael Gambuzza

"Personally, I would recommend, especially since your Pismo is in good condition, one of the several 550 MHz G4 processor upgrades available for the Pismo. I'm into my third year with the Daystar 550 MHz G4 upgrade in my own Pismo, and I have essentially no complaints. It has been a rock of stability, and a lot better performer than the original 500 MHz G3 CPU was."

Charles,

I had a Ti 400 for quite some time, until one of our pets got caught up in the power cord causing a flying laptop and ultimately destroying the screen and case in the fall.

I was forced back to my previous Pismo 400, which ran well - but definitely not as quick as the G4. I began looking at G4 upgrade options and went with the G4 550 kit from Wegener Media. I must say so far it was money very well spent! Installation was a snap and within 15-20 min. of opening the box I was back in business with Web pages and applications loading much quicker than the old G3 processor.

I did have one question on the heat sink installation, and the tech support at Wegener was excellent! Highly recommended economical upgrade which will allow me to reuse my faithful Pismo once again!

Regards,
Mike

Thanks for the report, Mike.

I'm delighted to hear of your positive experience with Wegener and their G4 Pismo upgrade. The price is certainly hard to argue with.

Now to keep Fido or Kitty away from it. ;-)

Charles

Re: Pismo Upgrade

From Michael Gambuzza

Charles,

I will definitely keep them away - both Fido and Kitty. They can be a handful at times.

www.dogdreamery.com

Mike

PRAM Reset May Fix Lombard

Re: Best Dead Lombard Replacement?

From Chris Daley

Hi,

I had the same problem with my Lombard when I upgraded the hard disk, and I found resetting the PRAM was all that was needed to get the machine booting again.

HTH

Cheers
Chris D

Thanks for the tip, Chris.

Charles

Lombard Still Dead

From Lee

Dear Charles

First, let me thank you for replying to my mail. I know how busy you are. Like one of the other editors on Low End Mac, I have CFIDS (20 years), so I am not the brightest bulb on the tree.

I have tried three different drives:

The 12 GB, the OEM 6 GB both IBM and the 6 GB from my MainStreet, A Fujitsu. The latter had OS 9.2.2 on it. The 12 GB runs in an external case; the OEM is toast. I tried DiskWarrior and TechTool Pro v. 2 and v. 4 - and as a last resort NUM v. 5.0.

I was able to wipe the drive using DW. I can boot from an external Winchester drive, an EZ 230 with OS 8.6 on it. With this the hard drive icon shows up, but I cannot get an OS Installer disk to continue past the licensing accept pane. I have 10.2 CDs and two 10.3 versions, both DVD. Thinking that the only thing left that might be bad I took the PRAM battery in to be checked. This has 4 lithium button cells in it.

All good.

I am stumped.

I would have gone into debt for an original Mac mini, a very good deal at London Drugs when they closed them out, but my Lombard was OK then. I purchased a 40 GB Seagate to have on hand for when the drive did die, but the drive died before it came. This in an external case USB 2.0 and FireWire [case] with a power supply, as there is not enough power at the ports of the Lombard to drive it.

I would appreciate Any thoughts.

On the Alberta Advantage: As a Person with CFIDS (PWC) in a province with a conservative government, there is no advantage. After fixed costs for many years, I had $40 left for everything else.

Again Thank you very much.

Lee

Hi Lee,

I'm stumped, too, but I'm beginning to suspect that you probably have a motherboard problem. perhaps the boot ROM. If so, my advice would be to move on, perhaps to a Pismo, and use the Lombard as a parts mule.

I have fibromyalgia and/or myofascial pain syndrome, plus a bunch of autoimmune distempers, so I can empathize with your CFIDS travails and your frustration with the public health care system. Nova Scotia has had Liberal and Red Tory governments through my lifetime, and I would guess that it's no better than what you have in Alberta. I get the most satisfactory and effective treatment from my naturopath, but he's expensive and it's entirely out of pocket (mine).

Charles

FM/CFS & Lombard Won't Boot

From Lee

Dear Sir

There are few individuals who are my peers (men with CFIDS and FM).

There was a researcher from Brussels, Belgium, in Calgary a few weeks ago. Dr Kenny De Meirleir. I no longer travel, so I did not hear him. However, he is working with some American researchers, and for the recently diagnosed or suspected has labs done in the US. Their address is www.redlabsusa.com. I attempted to send blood to Huntington Beach for PCR, but even having a sample drawn at either Calgary airport or Great Falls, MT, it would not get there in the 24 hour period required.

Dr. Garth Nicholson's daughter came back with Gulf War Syndrome.

Have had a couple of bad days.

On Lombard:

Now it won't boot from the EZ Winchester drive. I thought to try and install new ROM. Also tried a FireWire drive with OS 9.2.2 on it.

Spent a couple of hours on-line trying to get a handle on Boot ROM, etc. It's beyond me.

Should the Bronze be able to boot from an external drive? I have a 12 GB in a USB case, but I don't think there is enough power from the Lombard to drive it.

Is there a Canadian laptop service center. The locals are really PC geeks - only one with an interest in Macs, and he is way too busy looking after schools. Much more lucrative. Budget tight.

TTFN
Lee

Hi Lee,

Sorry to hear about the bad days. I'm familiar with that dynamic.

I know of no Canadian Mac laptop service centers other than the service departments of local resellers. You could try a stateside repair service, such as TechRestore, which I have personally found to be good folks to deal with.

However, I question the economic wisdom of spending serious money on an ailing Lombard. A used or refurbished G3 dual-USB iBook can be had pretty cheaply these days, and even the oldest 500 MHz units will handily outperform the Lombard. Another alternative would be to buy another Lombard and use yours as a parts mule. Wegener Media has some for $319, and you can probably find one even cheaper on eBay.

Booting from USB drives is not supported even on newer PPC Macs. The Lombard should boot from an external SCSI drive with proper connections and termination.

Best wishes,
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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