Charles Moore's Mailbag

Resurrecting a Dead Pismo, Spotlight Search Tip, and EasyFind a Good File Finder

Charles Moore - 2008.08.27 - Tip Jar

Dead Pismo: Remove PRAM Battery

From Joe:

Hi Charles,

If it's a bad PRAM battery on James Nakashima's Pismo, he likely has to unplug the PRAM battery (which is a piece of cake using the ifixit.com take apart guide) before the Pismo will power on. A few years ago, I got a free - yes free! - Pismo on Craigslist. It didn't work at the time, but it came with two good batteries (as well as some other goodies) which worked well in my Lombard at the time. I set the Pismo aside until a few months ago, when I bought another Pismo for $50 - again on Craigslist.

Sometime after I got it, I was Googling for something Pismo related when I came across a post (I think it was on the Apple support forum - of course I can't find it now) which suggested unplugging the PRAM battery, then starting up with the adapter. I tried it on the free, non-working Pismo, and it powered on and booted up! So before James gives up on his Pismo, make sure he tries starting it up with the PRAM battery disconnected.

I have to say that even though they are both 400 MHz models, $50 for two working Pismos with three working batteries is pretty good - I love Craigslist!

BTW, with enough memory (I maxed one of mine out at 1 GB), Tiger runs quite nicely on the 400 MHz Pismo. It handles surfing pretty well. It can even do YouTube, albeit a little choppily, and only after waiting for the whole clip to download. I admit that there are some pages with a little too much flash for the Pismo to handle - these pages significantly slow down my 1.25 GHz G4 Mac mini as well. But still, for an eight-year-old machine that cost me $25, I love it - I'm typing on it now!

Joe

Hi Joe,

Thanks for the excellent tip, something I had previously been unaware of, and I'll pass it along to James. Great deal on those two old Pismos!

Charles

Dead Pismo May Boot with No Battery

From Matthew:

Charles,

I just read about the user whose Pismo doesn't work ever since its battery died. Mine was having that problem too, but I took the dead battery out of it and replaced it with the "weight saving device" from the original box, and now it works fine when plugged in.

Matthew

Hi Matthew,

Interesting.

There must have been a defect in that battery causing the charge circuitry in the Pismo to malfunction.

Charles

Pismo May Run without PRAM Battery

From Robert:

My Pismo 400 worked for years without the main battery, then it wouldn't start properly. I assumed it was the PRAM battery, but I was annoyed at the prices for a replacement. I discovered that it would run fine on AC power alone with no main or PRAM battery. Being a Pismo, it's very easy to access the PRAM battery and disconnect it.

Of course, the clock resets every time I start it up, but with an Internet connection and the Date/Time set to find network time automatically, that wasn't a problem.

I wonder if you could cobble together a 3.6v PRAM battery from the original connector and 3 AA size NiMH cells. There's room in the battery bay for them if you don't use a main battery. I'm not sure if the PRAM battery was trickle charged from the power supply, but if it was you could keep the NiMH cells charged indefinitely.

Rob

Hi Rob,

Interesting speculation. Those PRAM batteries are getting pricey - supply and demand kicking in. So far both mine are still going strong, but if you try out your theory, let us know how it works out.

Charles

Comatose Pismo

From Mark:

The key to reviving comatose Pismos is to disconnect the dead PRAM battery's pigtail from the motherboard (a simple operation - you just lift the keyboard, eject the expansion bay drive, and pull the pigtail), then plug in the power adapter and hit the power button. You will get the startup chime. Then you can usually plug in the PRAM battery again.

Mark

Hi Mark

Thanks for the tip!

Charles

Dead Pismo Fix

From Dylan McDermond:

Don't forget that the easiest way to revive a "dead" Pismo with PRAM battery issues is to pull the keyboard up, remove the optical drive sled, and pull the PRAM battery wire. Next, plug the PowerBook into the power adapter, and it should start up if there is simply an issue with the PRAM battery.

-Dylan

Hi Dylan,

Thanks muchly!

Charles

Thanks for Pismo Resurrection Tips

From James Nakashima:

Thanks, thanks, thanks and thanks!

Finally have time this weekend to give it the ol' college try....

Thanks to all for the advice.

James

Another Pismo Boot Problem

From Michael:

Charles:

Have a Pismo, upgraded to 550 MHz G4 (Wegener Media), one gig RAM, Tiger 10.4.11, upgraded hard drive to 40 GB, and upgraded Mitsushima/Panasonic combo drive. Intermittently (as now) it will not boot without pressing the PMU button on the back and only if plugged into the external power supply. Once running, can run on battery with no problem. Will not boot from battery alone. On occasion, this will disappear and all will be well for a while. Have tried new PRAM battery and Open Firmware reset to no avail. It will not boot from the optical drive (option key at startup), although I seem to remember it once did.

Any thoughts?

Mike

Hi Mike,

You seem to have covered all the usual troubleshooting bases.

I'm wondering if bad RAM might be a factor. You could try removing them one at a time and checking to see if that alleviates the issues.

Another, more drastic diagnostic would be to substitute another processor card (such as the original, if you still have it) to see if it might be a processor card issue.

I suppose there is a remote possibility of a motherboard problem. These old machines aren't getting any younger.

Charles

EasyFind a Good, Free Alternative to Spotlight

From Brett Campbell:

Hi Charles:

You might want to add to your recommendations for a Spotlight substitute EasyFind, Devon's free search utility, which I used both before and after the advent of Spotlight. Even now, it often finds files that Spotlight doesn't and almost always finds what I want faster than Spotlight does.

Thanks again for all your Mac writing.

Brett

EasyFind

Think Mac OS X's Spotlight could use some help? Download EasyFind, an alternative to (or supplement of) Spotlight and find files, folders, or contents in any file without indexing. EasyFind is especially useful for those tired of slow or impossible indexing, outdated or corrupted indices, or those just looking for features missing in the Finder or Spotlight.

Highlights:

  • Boolean operators, wildcards, phrases
  • Immediate searches, no indexing required
  • Finds invisible files and files inside packages (something Spotlight doesn't do)
  • Displays the location of each file in a separate column
  • Provides contextual menus and services
  • Supports drag-and-drop
  • Very responsive, thanks to multithreading
  • Uses very little memory

Hi Brett,

Thanks for mentioning EasyFind. I've used it, and I generally like Devon Technologies' software. I included it in my list of top 10 freeware picks earlier this year.

However, for non-indexed searches I tended to use (and still do from time to time) another little utility called SpeedSearch, which searches specific folders. Here's a link to an old review, SpeedSearch Text Search App; Better Than Sherlock II.

But even with its manifold shortcomings, the raw speed of Spotlight (and various third-party offshoots like SpotInside that tap into the Spotlight technology) has roped me in.

That said, EasyFind is an excellent little search utility, and the price is hard to argue with!

Charles

Spotlight File Name Search Tip

From Zack:

Charles,

You might want to inform Gerhard about using the "name:" string in Spotlight searches. For example, using a search such as "name:mydocument" should only list the file "mydocument." While it may be annoying to have to type the "name:" string, this method should produce the type of results that Gerhard expected under the Classic OS.

Keep up the great work at LEM.

Best regards,
Zack

Hi Zack,

Thanks for that info. Definitely easier than going to another application.

Seems to me that Apple could figure out a way to make filename searches more convenient, though.

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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