Charles Moore's Mailbag

Ubuntu on Older Macs; Lombard, Pismo, and WallStreet Upgrade Questions; Installing Clamshell RAM; and More

Charles Moore - 2006.10.09 - Tip Jar

Ubuntu on Older Macs

From Jason Compton in response to Is Ubuntu Linux a Sensible Alternative for Mac Users?

While it would be a tough sell to get someone to ditch OS X 10.4 in favor of Ubuntu, for the truly stripped-down low-end Mac, I think it's a fine choice.

I came into a B&W G3 for the princely sum of $20 recently - not much memory, not much disk space, and no OS whatsoever. So I could have shelled out for OS X, but I elected instead to install Xubuntu, and I'm feeling pretty pleased about the whole thing. Since I have a comparatively shiny new Intel mini to run OS X on, and no particular need to run OS 9/PPC era applications, Xubuntu seemed like a logical choice.

Admittedly, I did have to swap out the video card my B&W came with - before I got the machine, its Rage 128 card had been replaced with an old Rage Pro board, and the ATI drivers available for ubuntu/ppc don't like that card one bit, so $25 later I put an introductory Radeon in the machine - but even with that extra expense, it was a lot cheaper than going out and buying a new copy of 10.4 for a machine which wasn't truly up for the challenge anyway and would have needed more memory, etc. to make it sing.

For $50 I have a blue-and-white which can be used for real tasks, and I think that's pretty spiffy. Even setting up wireless was comparatively painless. For people with low-end Mac hardware to spare and no pressing need to use a Mac killer app on it, I would say the Ubuntu family merits some serious consideration.

Hi Jason,

Thanks for the report.

I agree entirely.

IMHO (based on personal experience), The minimum Mac system for satisfactory performance with OS X is a 500 MHz G3 with at least 512 MB of RAM.

For your old B&W, Xubuntu makes eminent good sense.

Lombard Memory Upgrades

From Travis Patocka

I just wanted to say "thank you" for the excellent article on upgrading the Lombard. I am considering the Daystar upgrade that you mentioned, but I was wondering if you might be able to answer a question that I have.

Does the Lombard use the same size RAM for the upper and lower slots? I didn't know if there was a smaller RAM stick that goes in the lower slot than the upper. I just figured that you have quite a bit of knowledge in this area and I have only had my Lombard for about two weeks but am ready to upgrade.

Thanks for your time and keep writing great articles!

Travis Patocka

Hi Travis,

Thanks for the kind words.

The answer to your RAM question is yes and no. The Lombard can support low profile RAM sticks in both slots, but high profile ones only in the upper slot. Physical clearance is the only issue that would prevent RAM that works in the upper slot from working in the lower slot.

Charles

Lombard G3/333 and DVDs

From Keith Veitch

Charles,

Enjoyed very much reading your article on the Lombard - it has always been one of my favourite Macs, and I kept mine despite moving on to a Pismo (which my middle daughter now uses to run her iPod/iTunes setup as well as playing Bubble Trouble) and my current 12" and 15" PowerBook G4s.

One thing you omitted to mention when discussing the 333 and 400 MHz models regarding DVDs is that not only did the 400 have a DVD drive, it also has the necessary MPEG decoder chip to play DVDs, something the 333 MHz model lacks and so requires an external card (now difficult to find here in Europe). I assume that this would not be a problem after the Daystar upgrade, but might affect those who just fancy a great computer for a low price.

Cheers,
Keith Veitch

Hi Keith,

Thanks for your note and information covering the DVD support issue.

The Lombard is a great old machine. My son liked his, and it went through three more owners after him before I lost track of it, all of whom got good service from it.

Charles

Pismo Upgrade Questions

From Tom Weis

I have recently acquired a Pismo G3/400 for free. I just spent $200 for a new battery & clock battery + installation.

My first question is: Apple says that the max RAM for this machine is 512 MB via two 256 MB SIMM's, but I see 512 MB SIMM's for sale . . . can I use two of those for a total of 1 GB RAM? Will this computer address 1 GB correctly?

My second question is: I know I need an ATA 5 hard drive if I want to upgrade the HD . . . is there anything else I need to know about the HD specs when shopping?

Thanks.

T

Hi Tom,

The Pismo will address two 512 MB sticks of memory for a total of 1 GB, however, the internal backup battery may or may not have enough reserve to keep the RAM alive during main battery changes with that much RAM. Not a big issue, IMHO.

There was some controversy a few years back over whether the Pismo would support ATA66 hard drives, but I see that Other World Computing, which sells a lot of hard drives, is listing several ATA 6 units as compatible with the Pismo, so I wouldn't worry about it. However OWC also notes that "Laptop models manufactured prior to 2003 do not support internal hard drive capacities of over 120 GB," which might be helpful to keep in mind.

Charles

Installing Clamshell iBook Memory

From Arthur Cooper

Charles,

I have enjoyed and utilized your articles on older Macs and appreciate your advice. I have a clamshell iBook with 64 MB of RAM that I've had for about 7 years.

I recently purchased the max RAM of 256 but do not know how to access the open slot. Can you advise.

AC

Hi Arthur,

For nice, illustrated, step-by-step instructions on how to access the Clamshell's RAM expansion slot (and much else), see iFixIt.com's free teardown guide for the Clamshell iBook here:

http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/49.0.0.html

Seven years is a long time to go with just 64 MB of RAM. I think you'll be happy with the performance improvement of the upgrade.

Charles

From Arthur Cooper

Thanks for the advice! I use the iBook for my grades for school as well as rough editing for iMovie. I have a dual 2.0 G5 that I do my major stuff on. If it wasn't for the fact that my printers will not accept anything lower than OS X, I probably would not have thought about upgrading!

But as you said, I'm sure I'll appreciate the performance! Thanks again!

AC

Problem with Wallstreet CPU Upgrade

From Mark Lowery

I hope you don't mind me writing to you to ask a question that I am sure has been dealt with hundreds of times.

I have had a number of WallStreets that I have done repairs on, and recently I got a PowerLogix 466 upgrade in a WallStreet that was not working. Since I bought it for the other parts (14" screen, ram, etc.) I wasn't expecting much with the upgrade CPU. I was pleasantly surprise to find it works . . . I think.

In one of my WallStreets, it works but does not give me 32-bit resolution, so my DVDs have a ghost image to them. In a couple of others I can hear the system boot up, but there is no video on the screen. I haven't tried using an external monitor to see if there is some video.

Anyway, I know there are problems with this particular CPU upgrade, but do you have any answers for me for the problems I am experiencing.

Thanks for your help,
Mark Lowery

Hi Mark,

Wish I could help, but this issue is beyond my level of expertise. My understanding would have been that video support is handled by the graphics processor, and the symptoms you describe are not something I would expect from a processor defect or incompatibility, but my knowledge in this area is far from encyclopedic.

PowerLogix no longer makes PowerBook upgrades, but their tech support people might be willing to address your issue. Never hurts to ask.

Charles

Beige G3 Unable to Read CD-R

From David Walker in response to Beige G3 Unable to Read CD-R

Charles,

The beige G3 probably has a 24x CD-ROM, so the editor's note about really old drives not being able to read CD-Rs is not applicable. Having said that, older CD-ROM drives often have trouble with modern CD-Rs because the new discs use lighter coloured dyes and have a lower contrast ratio than older discs had. CD-RW discs have also changed over the years, and drives from the beige era can't cope with high speed CD-RWs. It's usually possible to use low speed CD-RWs in older drives. I have some Maxell 4x CD-RWs that I'm using for off-site copies of my digital photos because they work in everything from my G5 to the Power Mac 7600 from a decade ago (the oldest machine I have tested the discs in).

Your reader should probably invest in a USB 2.0 PCI card for the beige G3 and use a USB flash drive instead of a CD to transfer data.

David Walker

Hi David,

Thanks for the additional information.

Charles

Russell Beattie's Underhanded Criticisms of Mac OS X

From Chris Turpin

Hello, Charles.

Even though this article you wrote [A Flameless Response to Russell Beattie's 33 Criticisms of Mac OS X] is almost a year old, I have a point I want to make known. Actually, a couple.

If this were a tech journalist, I would criticize him for saying "Smoking Dope" on item #1 in the list. And using the word "Fucking" later on. It's not good form if you are trashing an operating system, and using such profanity. It usually fails to capture an audience.

On to what I had originally planned to say on item #11, which reads:

11. Yahoo! products work better on Windows: Yahoo! Messenger and Yahoo! Music Engine are awesome on the PC. Yes Y! could concentrate more on Mac products, but they're hardly alone here.

This was kind of an underhanded stab at OS X, in my opinion. Pretty much what he did is called (in a book I read) framing the debate, in which he mainly focused on something that would give him an advantage in his argument that the Mac OS doesn't meet his needs. It's easy for Yahoo to give Mac users all those extra features, but they instead choose to leave us out of the loop. And Yahoo not concentrating on Macs because they are minorities is also fast becoming an invalid argument.

Heck, I'm of the opinion that Yahoo can support Macs just as well as PCs. For Mr. Beattie to say that was really underhanded and unfair towards Mac users, in my honest opinion.

And lastly, I thought it was really great of you to take a flameless approach to this, even though Mr. Beattie flamed all throughout the list.

-Chris

REPLY

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the commentary.

If Yahoo! continues to all but ignore Mac users, that's their policy decision, and their loss of customers who won't tolerate indifferent performance.

I agree that gratuitous profanity detracts from the effectiveness of an argument.

Charles

Editor's note: Yahoo! has updated Yahoo! Messenger to version 3.0 (well, it's still considered a beta), and it's a much better OS X client. It's a universal binary, but there's still no support for voice chat. dk

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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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