Charles Moore's Mailbag

Best Refurb MacBook Pro Value, AirPort Card Thermal Issues, Opera vs. iCab, and More

Charles Moore - 2008.11.05 -Tip Jar

2.4 GHz or 2.5 GHz Previous Generation MacBookPro?

From Torie:

I wanted to say first of all reading your articles on Low End Macand MacOpinion are a fewof the reasons why I've been sitting on the fence ready to make thejump to the Mac OS.

I've been building PCs as a hobby since 1997 but have not enjoyedhow buggy and temperamental Microsoft Windows can be. Like you, I don'tbelieve in going for the latest and greatest, so I've decided to gowith a previousgeneration MacBook Pro as my first Mac since the Apple II andMacintosh that I used in grade school over 20 years ago.

That being said, now that Apple have the refurbished previousgeneration 2.5 GHz 15" MacBook Pro on sale for $1,499, do you thinkthat is a better value than the 2.4 GHz, or is the $150 pricedifference not justified for what you get? Thanks for any help you cangive!

Hi Torie,

Personally I would opt for the 2.5 GHz model at thatprice, as I think you easily get the $150 worth of extra value,although I found it difficult to justify the $500 (25% higher) pricespread between the 2.4 GHz and 2.5 GHz models at the original fullprice.

You should find a tremendous difference with any MBPcompared with those Apple IIs and early Macs you remember.:-)


Original AirPort Card May Be Heat Sensitive

From Bill Brown:

Yo Charles and Dan,

Interesting experiences here about our beloved Pismos. My Pismo is my mainMac. Has been for two years now. It works for me very well doing allthat I do. I do not baby it. It has traveled all over the country withme, often in trying circumstances. It always delivers beautifullyincluding online performance using its now slow first generationAirPort Card. Well, except for one experience....

For no accountable reason, I lost all signal. I went to the basementto recycle the wireless router bringing me my DSL, but this didn't helpat all. Besides, my wife's peecee was doing online perfectly, and shewas just grinning at the experience I was having with my Mac. After theusual diagnostics and troubleshooting, I was beginning to suspect theAirPort Card. I had a spare up at the senior center where I fix theMacs. Tomorrow I would swap the card and see.

Didn't have to swap no stinkin' AirPort Card. First thing in themorning before breakfast, I fired up the Pismo to confirm a dead card.It wasn't dead! My weather widgets brought me in my normal startupweather briefing. Wireless on the Pismo was okay! This is good. Idismissed the event of the prior evening as a fluke and moved on notthinking much about it. Until....

In another week, same thing. Next morning, all was fine. Once a weekor so, the wireless signal just disappeared. Didn't matter if it was athome or away from home. It just stopped. Hmmm....

So I swapped in a known to be working AirPort Card - and wirelessnever dropped out again. This wasn't my AirPort Card, so I swapped mineback in. And the signal drop about once a week came right back. It wasthe pesky card after all.

This was going on all through the middle, the warmest part ofsummer. Hmmm.... Here in the far northern latitudes of the GreatPacific Northwest, the warmest time of day inside is actually in theevening - while I am online. Noting the time of signal loss told me thecard was dying when the evening was at its warmest. This AirPort Cardseemed to be suffering from the heat, only to recover in the cool ofthe night. With notes as to time time of failure, I also noted thefailures becoming more frequent. Towards the end of summer, the cardwas dying near daily. And finally it died utterly; won't work in anysupporting Mac. Toast. Damn.

Interesting to note: Early on in my troubleshooting, I ran thisfailing AirPort Card in our G4 MDD Power Mac 24/7 up at thesenior center. It never failed. There is a lot of cooling air movingabout freely in an MDD.

Discovering heat seemed to be the culprit, I altered my MOP (Macoperating procedure). I have always left my Macs on 24/7, Safari andMail on all the time, and AirPort turned on all the time. While theheat produced in a Pismo isn't great, it is a bit crowded inside thePismo, and this card might benefit from not being run so hard insidethe Pismo. I have become a regular at shutting down at night, nothaving Safari and Mail up all the time, and turning AirPort off when Ireally wasn't doing online stuff. Maybe my replacement AirPort Cardwill have a cooler life for itself.

Rereading the story that Bill was having with the AirPort Card inhis Pismo, It may be that he has a card failing or sensitive to heatbuildup also.


Hi Bill,

Thanks for the report. Intermittent faults are themost challenging ones to diagnose. It does sound like a thermal orthermally-induced fault. It's boilerplate that heat over time is theenemy of electronic components, and our old Pismos are not getting anyyounger.

Makes you wonder how the much hotter-running machinesof the Macintel era will fare down the road.


Opera Fan Speaks Again

From Leif:

Hi Charles,

I find myself using Opera moreand more. I actually like iCab more, butI find that Opera demands less of my perhaps inferior computer - aPowerBook G4 with 1.33 GHz processor.

Thus I have experienced what the boss of Opera has said, that Operacares for the "lower-end" computers. I guess I have a memory problem,and Opera handles this much better.

So there seems to be proof in the pudding.

Leif Halvard

Hi Leif,

I have 1.5 GB of RAM in my old G4 PowerBook, also with a1.33 GHz processor. I use both Opera and iCab, and I like both a lot,but I would say that on the balance I like Opera the best. Stuff likethe handy zoom and image toggling buttons in the browser window and theway text copies and pastes from Opera tip the scales for me, plus ofcourse that Opera is faster.


Hi Charles,

Having translated iCab into Norwegian, I cannot possibly be 100%neutral. :-) But, yes, you touch on some things. Perhaps myeyes are not what they were - I'm not sure. (No glasses yet.) But Ihave really come to love the zoom!

BTW, do you use the Filters in iCab?

Leif Halvard

Hi Leif,

I've worn glasses since I was 8 (that would be 49years ago) and am currently resisting (with mixed success) thetransition to bifocals. The smaller default sizes on higher-resdisplays are also a factor in making convenient zoom an attractivefeature.

I can't say that I have ever done much with thefilters in iCab. Do you find them useful?


FireWire 400 and the Unibody MacBook

From Tim:

Just a quick two cents worth on FireWire on the Unibody MacBook, looks fromhere that Apple might've faced a greater penalty shipping with one USBand one FireWire with the intended market. For example, it would begreat for my daughter to take to university next fall, and I hope toget one for her. For myself, not so good; I use a FW400 drive forbackup and have a miniDV camcorder that has a USB port that might ormight not work in iMovie. They chose for better sales, for the rest ofus; refurbished Unibody MacBook Pros can't be too far off, and OtherWorld Computing has a 9-to-6 pin FireWire cable for less than $9.


Hi Tim,

I would never suggest that they dump a USB port infavor of FireWire. Two USB ports is short of adequate. I want FireWireand two - or better three - USB ports. Guess I need a MacBook Pro -either Unibody or old school. :-)


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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 and a columnist at If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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