Charles Moore's Mailbag

Buying Glasses Online, iCab on G3 iMacs, USB Adapter for WallStreet, Long Term Support, and More

Charles Moore - 2008.07.16 - Tip Jar

Blog about Online Glasses

From John Fisher:

Chuck,

Check out

http://glassyeyes.blogspot.com/index.html

He has been doing the online glasses thing for awhile.

Sincerely,
John

Hi John,

Thanks for the tip.

A great resource and some even cheaper prices. ;-)

Charles

Online Eyeglasses Links

From Wendy:

Charles,

Do you mind reposting the links? They were not working when I tried them just now.

By the way, thanks for everything you do. I check this site every morning right after cnn.com & espn.com.

Wendy

Hi Wendy,

Thanks so much for the kind words. :-)

Strange; I just tried the links in Opera and get an error message, but they come up just fine in Firefox and iCab.

http://www.goggles4u.com/

http://www.optical4less.com/

Also check out this resource:

http://glassyeyes.blogspot.com/index.html

Charles

15" PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz a Sensible Choice?

From Allan:

Hello Mr. Moore

I am a old Mac guy going back after 10 years keeping my old PC laptop for proprietary stuff. My main computing is simply iTunes, iPhoto, word processing, and email.

I am thinking seriously about getting a refurbed G4 15" laptop with 1.67 GHz, 1.25 RAM, and running Tiger for about $800 with three months warranty? I would like to use iWork 08.

Is this a sensible plan?

I understand that Apple will soon stop supporting G4 PowerBooks.

Thanks for your time.

Allan

Hi Allan,

As a semi-power user still with a 1.33 GHz G4 PowerBook running Leopard 10.5.4, I think it's a sensible plan. There's a lot of life left in these old G4s yet, and a 1.67 GHz model will be a better performer than my 1.33.

The price you cite sounds good if the machine is in decent shape, and I wouldn't worry too much about Apple's support. They will be supporting OS X 10.4 Tiger and 10.5 Leopard for several years to come yet.

OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard almost certainly won't be supported, but unless you are distressed by not being able to run the latest OS version, that should not be a problem.

I'm still doing a lot of serious, medium-duty work on 550 MHz G4 Pismo PowerBooks running Tiger and am still quite happy with them. For the sort of computing you say you do, a 1.67 GHz G4 PowerBook should be more than ample for a long time yet.

Charles

Top End or Midrange the Best Value?

From Yuhong Bao, contining the discussion in Depreciation and Value for the Money:

On the other hand, if you care how long the computer will be before it will get obsolete, you buy the highest-end model.

Lower-end models will get obsolete more quickly.

Hi Yuhong Bao,

Well, yes and no. I appreciate your point. Both my first Pismo and my 17" PowerBook were top-of-the-line machines when new, and that has contributed somewhat to their useful longevity, however, returning to my example of the MacBooks, the middle, $1,299 model should have as lengthy a service life as the line-topping $1,499 model, the only difference being the color and capacity of the hard drive.

I also contend that the high-end 15" MacBook Pro simply doesn't deliver 25% more value for its 25% higher price tag.

Charles

Question about iCab on Older Macs

From Sally:

Hello Charles,

Yes, I'm way overdue for a new iMac, but meanwhile I do love reading Low End Mac, and I'm puzzled by the good reviews I've seen about iCab -e.g., yours May 12, 2008. On my very old machine (Bondi Blue, 8.6, iCab 3.05) it runs terribly slow! Is iCab that much faster with OS 9.x? Or, am I missing something here? Mozilla/WaMCom & Netscape 7 are so much faster (tho fast going outmoded).

Thanks,
Sally

Hi Sally,

I agree with you completely about iCab 3's poor performance. Version 3 put me off using iCab for several years, but yes, Version 4, which is OS X only, is a very speedy and satisfying browser that has restored my enthusiasm for iCab and then some.

Netscape 7.02 is my browser of choice for Classic OS Macs, although as you say, it's getting dated. That Bondi iMac has the same processor as my old 233 MHz WallStreet PowerBook, and that is still a half-decent Web machine running OS 9.2.2 and Netscape.

Charles

Longevity of Apple Support

From Jeffrey:

Charles,

Well, I can only hope that you are right about the continued viability of Leopard on PPC in the days of Snow Leopard on Intel.

I am skeptical. As an example, I have observed Apple release a Safari version (or more) that is not compatible with anything but the newest Mac OS. And in these days of growing web-based security threats, who can afford to be running anything but the latest browser version?

And then what about other applications developed by folks other than Apple? What good is it to have an OS that is getting bug and security fixes, but won't run the current versions of the applications that I use. I am concerned that software developers have already stopped developing for PPC simply because of recent articles on Apple's plans. Wasn't Microsoft rather quick to stop supporting Office on 68K once PPC machines were was available. I am frustrated that iListen is no longer being sold, and apparently is no longer under development, in favor of MacSpeech Dictate, an Intel-only voice recognition solution. In my mix of Macs, most of them are PPC today. Now I have two different software applications to do the same function, on machines running the same OS version, driven purely as a function of the chip inside.

You know, I like Apple's Mac OS Family Pack for all of my machines at home. That way the three most current machines can run the same thing. Of course, I find it easier to support a bunch of machines that way. But Family Pack doesn't do me any good if the next OS only supports one machine in my household. So then I will get to support two OSes where I was previously supporting one. And that might be a seven year proposition, since I strongly suspect that it would take me just as many years to replace them all as it took me to get them in the first place. Oh joy!

Which brings me back to my original issue: Mac has been good for me in the past especially because I have been afforded the opportunity to support machines for an extended period of time with machines changing roles as our needs change and our Mac-mix changes. But if Apple in the future doesn't continue to support machines as long as I've become accustomed to, then I will have much greater difficulty maintaining the all-Mac household I have today. How can I justify buying a machine that I cannot keep current more than 4 years? Said differently, shortened support doesn't give me a reason to leave Macs entirely; but it takes away a reason to invest as much in Macs in the future.

Hypothetically, an alternate arrangement for me could be to have only 1 or 2 Macs at home and everything else running the same version of Linux. I can get Intel machines from numerous vendors, especially used and refurbished ones, that will support the current versions of Linux for less money than it would cost me to outfit with Intel Macs. In fact, it would cost me about the same amount to purchase two Intel machines of the same clock speed for every PPC Mac I sell on eBay. Whereas I am not a strong advocate of Linux for PowerPC Macs, Linux or *BSD for less expensive Intel machines (both new and used) is, I believe, a viable second OS for my household.

I am curious why you find Leopard on a 1.33 GHz G4 sluggish. I've heard numerous reports of G4s much slower than mine providing acceptable performance. I run my TiBook on batteries in "reduced" processor mode most of the time, and I find performance acceptable. That said, I am not terribly demanding of performance. I use some much older and slower machines than that. I have access to my Quicksilver for more demanding tasks. To your point, my wife does not like my TiBook after using her MacBook Pro. Perhaps it is what one is accustomed. to.

Regards,
Jeffrey

Hi Jeffrey,

As I noted, the shift from PowerPC to Intel CPUs is probably the most radical change the Mac world has ever experienced, and I don't expect the backwards compatibility issues it has engendered to be repeated anytime soon.

However, I do recall considerable disgruntlement when it was announced that Mac OS 8.1 would be the last Mac system that supported 68k Macs, some of which (e.g.: PowerBook 190) were only a couple of years old at the time. Sometimes you can't move forward without leaving something behind. It's part of what has held Windows back and/or made it such a cranky beast.

Apple has continued to release security upgrades for Safari in Tiger - one came out just a couple of weeks ago.

As for sluggishness on the 1.33 GHz G4, it's a relative thing I guess. The Finder is actually not too bad, but I notice it in applications, especially ones that want more graphics support moxie, and email performance is utterly, atrociously horrible compared with OS X 10.4 (I still have it installed on a separate partition) running on the exact same machine and Internet connection. Tiger provides much more refined and variably more lively performance depending upon what it is you're doing.

On the other hand, the 1.33 GHz unit is generally livelier running Leopard than my 550 MHz Pismos are running Tiger (except for email again), so it does depend on what you're used to.

Charles

Web Browser and USB Adapter for WallStreet

From Alan:

What web browser do you recommend for WallStreet (and what OS does it require)?

I understand that there are USB Cards for WallStreet computers. Which would you recommend?

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,
Alan

Hi Alan,

If you're running OS 9.x Classic, my fave browser on my WallStreet is Netscape 7.02, which is available here:

http://browser.netscape.com/releases

The most contemporary option is iCab 3, which was last updated on January 1, 2008; iCab 4 is not being developed for Classic:

Some folks swear by the WaMCom hack of Mozilla 1.3. (Download WaMCom here.)

I have an old MacAlly PC Card USB adapter for my WallStreet, and it's been great. Nothing to complain about. However, if I were buying today I would get USB 2.0. MacAlly makes one, but there are plenty of other brands. Just make sure it supports the Mac.

Charles

Via Voice Software for PowerPC Macs

From Nancy:

Dear Charles,

Thank you so much for such a swift, and helpful, reply. My friend wouldn't even notice the downgrade to Panther, actually, as she has just switched to the Mac. And I still have both the original installation disc for her iBook and a copy of Panther. So it would not be difficult for me to do this for her.

I will check out the link you provided for IBM Via Voice 10. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your assistance.

Best,
Nancy

Hi Nancy,

My pleasure. Let me know how VV10 works out for your friend.

Charles

Opera Can Change the Way You Work with the Internet

From Leif

Charles W. Moore wrote:

"I've been using both Opera 9.5 (now 9.5.1) and Firefox 3 since they were released almost simultaneously last month, and they're both good browsers, but Opera is superior by a substantial margin, mostly because of a whole host of little things and without even factoring in the embedded email client."

Agree. I have found out that Americans and Europeans have completely different habits when it comes to use of cell phones. (e.g.: today I read that Norwegians on average send 4 SMS text messages each day, while 80% of Americans have never sent an SMS text message in their entire life.) I know that this is also because you use services that we, on average, do not use - such as BlackBerry. (That said, I don't think/assume that BlackBerry services are nearly as "folksy" as SMS text messages are.)

This long intro was meant to lead up to Opera Mini. I have begun using Opera Mini somewhat on my Nokia mobile phone. And it is wonderful to use! And if you subscribe to their MyOpera service, you get access to the Opera LINK service, which lets you synchronise the Bookmarks of the Opera desktop and the Opera Mini. Quite fantastic, I think.

This is one of those little things!

BTW, Opera Mini has so many nice features that would have been useful in any browser! For instance, it lets you save pages in an archive so you don't have to connect to read them. We can of course save pages in all the big browsers. But can we do it in a "systematic" way? In a way that is focused on reading the pages? (I think Internet Explorer for Mac had something of that, though.) I read one review of the coming Opera 9.5 Mobile version. (It was released for HTC - or whatever - almost 6 months ago, I think.) The reviewer said using it had changed the way he used his desktop browser.

One thing that strikes me: Opera is really focused on their browser! Webkit, on the other side, is made by a company that sells computers. (Okay, it is open source, but we know that Apple is behind it.) Internet Explorer is made by a big software manufacturer that needs to tie people to Windows. Firefox/Mozilla - I don't know what is "wrong" with them. Perhaps nothing. But anyhow. Opera is fresh. I think they are more open minded. They are only focused on browsing. And this makes them come up with lot's of good stuff.

Apple is now coming with MobileMe. Okay. It is probably fine. But do I want to sell out my soul to them? Or to Google?

Charles Moore wrote:

"The latter I'm finding very tempting as I continue to struggle along with not quite Leopard compatible Eudora 6.2.4. Two things hold me back, the first being a dozen years of experience and archived messages in Eudora along with the fact that it's still the best email client ever designed, while the second is hope that Odysseus development will come to fruition soon with a stable and reliable modernized interpretation of that Eudora goodness."

Perhaps some of the reason why Eudora is so good is because they were so focused on email. Eudora was a company that tried to make the most out their field - email. Just like Opera is innovative because it focuses on just one field. (We, the users, perhaps do pay a price for the freeware revolution ... I mean, who pays for an email client these days?)

I have my doubts about Odysseus. It might end up good. But it sure will take its time.

Leif

Hi Lief,

I don't use cellphones at all, first because we only got coverage where I live a couple of years ago, and still no data service (i.e.: no Internet on the iPhone here), but mainly because I refuse on principle to pay the highway robbery service fees or sign up for the interminable contracts demanded by Canada's mobile phone service corporate triopoly.

Canadians are heavily into texting, however.

You're preaching to the choir about Opera. I love it. However, I have noticed that more sites are refusing to load in Opera that work just fine in Firefox, which is disconcerting. I have to say that the three dominant browser engines on the Mac - Webkit, Gecko, and Opera are all generally excellent these days.

I'm still optimistic about Odysseus. The second public beta is out (now for Windows as well as the Mac), and while I like free software as well as the next person, email is such a vital tool that I don't mind paying to get the features and functionality I want, provided Odysseus comes through with that.

Charles

From Leif:

You mean: You can't even use WAP? Opera Mini does not require more than a WAP connection. It is, I've read, the cheapest way to browse the Web with a mobile phone (unless you're using a wireless connection.)

I would have loved to live out in the sticks. :-) Don't know if that is the right word for where you live. And may be I am a bit romantic - but. :-)

Texting: Interesting difference from US Americans, then - if I've understood this right.

Do you say that Opera has become less compatible with the Web? Or that more sites are ignoring Opera? I have not seen this myself. (But I don't claim to know the answer.)

I really hope Odysseus becomes that Eudora successor. Thanks for notifying me BTW. I wish they sent me an email or something each time they updated the program. Do you actually use it for anything though? I have not even reported a bug....

PS: Today I upgraded my G4 PowerBook to Leopard. So now I am "on par" with the the latest version of the system. I plan on throwing out a bunch of Apple applications ...

Leif

Hi Leif,

Frankly, I'm not sure about WAP availability here. We only got cell phone service at all about two years ago. Prior to that, you might get analog connections on good days if you were on top of a hill. I know that in the context of the iPhone, GSM service is not available here.

"The sticks" is accurately descriptive and a term that is used here. It's actually very nice. We are situated on a lakeshore and only a kilometre from a lovely ocean sand beach, but there are lots of "sticks" as well.

I've been noticing a lot more sites are stalling out with Opera lately than used to be the case. It's particularly evident when one is running Firefox 3 in tandem, and the same sites pop right up in Firefox. Of course I'm on slow dialup - not sure whether that's a factor or not.

I've only experimented with Odysseus so far, but I haven't encountered anything obvious that would preclude using it for basic emailing at least. My provisional plan is to phase into it somewhere along the beta road with a few accounts at first.

How do you like Leopard on the G4?

Charles

From Leif:

I think you should get a cheap mobile phone and experiment. ;-) Just make sure that it is good at running Java - as Opera Mini is Java based.

"Sticks" was something I picked up on a mailing list recently. Perhaps I do not understand what it is 100%. But I imagine high, thin threes - perhaps pine.

Interesting . . . Opera appears to do caching differently. Perhaps that is what it is.

Oh, BTW, perhaps a tip could be to disable the new "secure browsing" feature? I could imagine that that would steal resources. (Secure browsing sounds like a joke to me, BTW. It is much a marketing trick. One browser gets it, and then the others can't be worse.) Anyway, Opera and Firefox differ in which service they use there.

Another thing: In the past, Opera had some technology to speed up download on dialup/narrow-band, something that ultra-compresed the graphics. Perhaps they stopped with it now?

Odysseus, well, for me it is out of question using a mailer which does not do format=flowed. And Odysseus currently does not do that. I must admit I already look at other solutions. The candidates currently are Mailsmith and perhaps Balzac. However, I also, just this week learned about a new Thunderbird twist: the Muttator. You can do everything from the keyboard, in a VIM-editor like way - if you are into it, then it is very cool! Unfortunately it requires Thunderbird 3, which isn't ready for prime time yet. (Did you see they released an official alpha recently? ( http://www.mozillamessaging.com/ )

I have also installed Pine - which is now called Alpine. A terminal based program. It is impressingly good. But, of course, the basic things (setting up an account, etc.) are a bit to complicated. Too much to do before the fun can begin. However, who knows, perhaps I end up with Alpine. (It is said to be best with IMAP - not so good with POP. I use POP - out of old habit.)

Leif

Hi Leif,

The problem in Canada is that while there are cheap cellphones (even free), there are no cheap service options.

I don't have a cellphone of any sort, largely because I philosophically resist the concept of locking into multiyear contract commitments for any sort of service, and also assuming the obligation to pay for incoming calls over which I have no control.

There are just three national cellphone service providers in Canada - Rogers Communications, Bell Canada, and Telus Corp, and while that theoretically could provide the market structure for price competition, it manifestly hasn't, and indeed a chummy price détente seems to exist among the big three, unlike with other industries that have high fixed costs, such as airlines, where competition tends to generate price wars or at least sharply competitive pricing and discounting.

Canada's wireless carriers, on the other hand, obviously are loathe to compete on price and seek rather to differentiate from each other with hardware products offered, such as Rogers with the iPhone and distinct service package bundles - which of course bump up the cost of service to the consumer, as opposed to countries where real competition exists like Hong Kong and India where cell fees run about a penny per minute.

"The Sticks?" You're overanalyzing I think. ;-) Just means the woods or the boonies - e.g.: "out in the sticks." Strictly speaking, trees don't as a rule grow very large in diameter on this coast (mostly balsam fir, red and black spruce, grey and white birch, but virtually no pine).

I'll try disabling secure browsing in Opera and see if that helps.

Hmmm.... What goes in T-Bird 3 should also wind up in the new official Eudora.

Charles

From Leif,

"I've been noticing a lot more sites are stalling out with Opera lately than used to be the case. It's particularly evident when one is running Firefox 3 in tandem, and the same sites pop right up in FF. Of course I'm on slow dialup - not sure whether that's a factor or not."

Perhaps, when you say it, I experience it too. Not sure. I imagined it was something else. But may be you have a point. Perhaps it was the 9.5.1 update?

However, if Odysseus will speed up the getting some features then....

Leopard on the G4? - Very good! I was running out of space on my 80 GB hard disk, and so - while making more space, I decided to upgrade. (I was too lazy to do it before.) I feel that Thunderbird 2 runs better on Leopard, for some reason. I have, BTW, removed a lot of things. For instance, I deleted Mail, iCal, and some other things which I never used anyway. I also used the Monolingual app to remove lots of redundant this and that.

The only thing I did not like was the upgrade process....

Leif

Hi Leif,

Well, perhaps it's a coincidence, but I first started noticing the stall-out issue after upgrading to version 9.51.

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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