Charles Moore's Mailbag

Fading Magic at Apple, Major League Baseball's Rebound, and an iMac that Won't Boot from a CD

Charles Moore - 2008.04.02 - Tip Jar

Has the Mac Magic Faded?

From Brian in response to Major League Baseball and the Macintosh: Has the Magic Faded?:

Charles,

I'm with you on this one. Sitting and pondering this one, I think there are a number of reasons why the magic has faded for me a little bit:

  1. Apple no longer has to get by on wit and pluck. Back when Steve Jobs took back over, it was "Apple against the world" again, or so it seemed. They were in deep trouble, and, even though they had always been the underdog, they had a (returning) leader with the vision to set the company straight, giving that underdog status the positive life it needed. Now that Apple is successful in many different fronts, that status has dropped a bit. No longer is Apple quite the underdog it used to be. Success seems to soothe that spirit, and Apple isn't the only company whose image now suffers from this.
  2. Apple is no longer just a computer company. Its success is due to a diverse array of products. When they were just a struggling computer company, it was easier to cheer them from the sidelines. But as computers have become a commodity item, Apple had to diversify to stay competitive. Hence, the makings of a new consumer electronics company and the dropping of "computer" from Apple's corporate name. The Apple Stores are also a part of this equation.
  3. The design magic has cooled. Each of Apple's product lines, with the exception of the iPhone, iPod touch, and MacBook Air, has maintained its design form factor for a few years now. Most of Apple's computer lines need a serious design overhaul, as they're all getting long in the tooth. I do understand that Apple has put much of their energy towards new products. But at one time, when they were still fighting for relevance, each new announcement and/or keynote brought with it some amazing design magic, with the dramatic introductions Steve Jobs is known for. Now he can just pull the new product from his pocket, or from an envelope. Not as cool; to me, anyway.

To sum this up, Apple is an aging and successful company now. And as it ages and grows more successful, it loses some of its luster, its drive, and its cool image. I'm still a devotee, as you are, and will continue to be based on my history with Macs. But the days of the fighting Apple are all but over, and its a tad bittersweet. That's where the majority of the magic is gone for me.

Great article!

Take care,
Brian

Hi Brian,

Thanks for the comment and kind words. I agree with your analysis.

Interestingly, while I'm not a particular fan of the MacBook Air from the standpoint of its compromised functionality, I see it as the first really imaginative Apple computer product in some time, and proof that the think different spark is still there.

Charles

Fading Fun at Apple

From Otto:

Hi Charles.

Your article struck a chord with me, because I was at Apple from 1996 to 2001, and the fun factor definitely diminished during that time. When I first arrived at Infinite Loop, the place was like a geek's version of Haight-Asbury, with colorful characters and goofy goings-on.

Starting with the reign of Gil Amelio, however, the effects of adult supervision began to become apparent, and this trend accelerated with the Return of Steve. One major milestone was the disappearance of the Icon Garden; another was the sealing off of the design center (prior to that, an employee badge would get you into pretty much every building on campus). Now I'm not claiming that this change was evil - it was necessary to turn the company around. But it definitely made it less fun and a lot more like working for other companies.

Hi Otto,

Thanks for the insider's perspective.

Indeed, with Apple's obsession with secrecy and leak-plumbing, having unrestricted employee access to the design department would be a nightmare for Steve.

I agree that the tighter ship is not unreasonable, or even unnecessary in respect of contemporary reality (although they do seem to take it to unwarranted extremes sometimes), but, as you say, it can't be nearly as much fun for anyone, except the stockholders I suppose.

Charles

Baseball Numbers Rebounding

From Jesse:

Charles:

I have to disagree with you on one point. Baseball attendance is up significantly since the season before the strike, perhaps due to the gimmicks you cite, and also great stories like Cal Ripken in 1995 and the Red Sox in 2004. Also, TV raw number audiences are up slightly, even though their share is way down, largely due to competition from other sports.

Clearly, it is not the golden age of baseball anymore.

Best,
Jesse-Douglas

Hi Jesse,

Thanks for the information. I stand corrected. Living in the past a bit, I guess.

There was a sharp drop-off in attendance after the strike (here in Canada, the Montreal Expos never recovered from it, and the Blue Jays are also still down from their days of guaranteed sellout attendance in the early 90s), but that's getting to be ancient history for a lot of fans, and I'm glad to hear that the ballparks are filling up again. I notice in today's newspaper that Spring Training attendance hit an all-time record this year as well.

Charles

iMac Won't Boot from CD

From Péter:

Hello!

I am writing to you, because it seems that I have nowhere else to turn but to ask help from Low End Mac. I have searched many forums and found people with similar problems but never was it quite the problem that affected my iMac.

Recently I got a 400 MHz iMac running OS 9.2.2. I have expanded the RAM to the 1 GB that is supported, and OS 9 even recognized it. I was doing that so I could install Panther, which I recently got just for this purpose. The problem, I found out, was that it didn't want to boot from a CD. Yes, I know I have to hold down the C key to make it do that, and I even tried the boot menu and resetting the computer via the firmware prompt. It recognizes the OS X CD as bootable but refuses to boot from it.

Not only that, it refuses to boot from the OS 9 CD that came with the computer! When I hold down the C key, the drive starts working, it displays a white screen, then a gray, then the flashing "?", and a flashing Mac smiley is intervalled on a folder icon and eventually it continues to boot from the hard drive.

The funny thing is, inside the Mac OS, the CD drive seems to work normally! I have installed software with it, played audio CDs with it, etc. In the "startup disk" control panel, it also shows all the CDs that it refuses to boot from as bootable!

What I would like to know is how to be able to boot up from CD. Do I need to replace the drive? Or worse, is there more severe hardware damage? The CD works, except that it won't boot from it....

Hope that you can help me with this matter, because I really would like to use the Mac as a computer for Internet and school work.

Thank you on beforehand!

Peter

Hi Peter,

Panther should install just fine on your iMac.

I see two most likely possibilities.

  1. Defective CD-ROM drive.
  2. Corrupted Panther install disks (they're getting a bit long in the tooth, and I've even heard of Tiger install DVDs beginning to go bad).

The best diagnostic would be to try booting another Mac from Disk 1. If it works, it's indication that your drive has problems.

One other long shot. You said you have recently installed a RAM upgrade. OS X can be pickier about RAM compatibility than OS 9 is. You could try removing the RAM upgrade module and try booting from the install disk. If it works, that probably means your RAM is not compatible with OS X.

Charles

Hello,

Thank you for your help. It has opened my eyes a bit, and now I am going to replace the drive. (Upon disassembling the iMac, it came clear that the previous owner had loved to use his screwdriver to bend out stuck CDs! The drive was in awful state, so I am going to put in a SuperDrive instead....)

Thank you again!

Peter

Hi Péter,

My pleasure. Glad I was able to help a bit.

It does sound like the condition of the drive is likely the problem.

Charles

USB 2.0 and G3 PowerBooks

From Michel following up on Pismo Processors Burning Out:

Hi Charles,

Thermal paste was the issue. My Pismos have been running nicely and intensely for over a month now.

I was now considering upgrading the USB after spending 15 minutes copying files off my 2 GB USB stick. I've been reading a little, and it seems the Pismo's PCMCIA can't do USB 2.0. Is that true? What card should I buy?

Thanks,
Mike

Hi Mike,

Glad to hear that you got things sorted out. The trick with thermal paste is to use enough, but not too much, i.e.: an even coating for good thermal transfer, but not a too-thick coating, which has a contrary effect.

As for the Pismo and USB 2.0 adapter cards, there is some ambiguity in that the Mac OS Classic won't support USB 2.0 (although some say even that's possible), but reportedly OS X 10.2 and up does, with these caveats:

  • With 10.2.0 through 10.2.6, any USB 2.0 card must have compatible third-party drivers.
  • With 10.2.8 through 10.4.11, Apple has added native support for USB 2.0 PC cards but not all cards will work due to different USB 2.0 chipsets used.

For example, the Adaptec USB2connect AUA-1420A card is advertised as cross-platform, but the fine print notes that you only get USB 1.1 speeds on the PowerBook G3 machines. Users have also reported problems with the Belkin Hi-Speed USB 2.0 Notebook Card (# F5U222). Also reportedly, the Adstech USB 2.0 card works fine, but only when the machine is powered by an external AC adapter. Still others have reported success with dirt-cheap generic USB 2.0 PCMCIA cards costing as little as $10.

Sorry I can't be more definitive, but evidently is is possible to get USB 2.0 to work on the Pismo if you get a compatible card.

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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