Charles Moore's Mailbag

WiFi Hotspot Insecurity, iBook Longevity, and WallStreet Value

Charles Moore - 2009.05.06 - Tip Jar

WiFi Hotspot Insecurity

Hello Charles,

WallStreet PowerBookHaving recently acquired a WiFi card ($3.99 at a thrift store!) for my WallStreet running OS 9, I have followed with interest the discussion about WiFi security. I just thought I'd point out that for using the internet via WiFi at coffee shops, etc., the issue is moot, since such connections are insecure by nature. For this application, users of OS 9 are no more at risk than users of more recent operating systems.

Of course, anyone using a WiFi hotspot is very much at risk indeed, unless proper precautions are taken. David Pogue has a helpful article on this subject, How Secure Is Your Wi-Fi Connection?

Keep up the good work, and long live Low End Mac!

Peter

HI Peter,

Thanks for the observations and the Pogue article link.

That was a super deal on that WiFi card!

Charles

Editor's note: From the Pogue article: "I wanted to get to the bottom of this Wi-Fi snooping business. I wanted to see exactly what is, and is not, possible for the bad guys to intercept when you're sitting there in Starbucks or the hotel lobby." His findings should get you very concerned about WiFi security, especially in public settings. dk

iceBook Longevity

From Alan Zisman:

Charles:

I enjoyed today's column commemorating the 'Dual USB iBook' on its 8th birthday.

I bought one of the G3/500 models; it's still in use - I sold it to the wife of a colleague of mine a year or two ago. No major repairs in its 8 year lifespan.

Along the way, I replaced it with the first of the G4 iBooks (800 MHz), passing the G3/500 on to my daughter . . . the G4 one was more problematic for me - on its AppleCare warranty, it had to have both the hard drive and keyboard replaced three times! Luckily, since the warranty is long expired, the last replacements proved the charm - that one, having gone from me to my daughter, is now sitting at our out-of-town cottage, where it is happily used by family and friends. (My daughter moved up to my 12" PowerBook when I bought an aluminum MacBook - keeping our Macs in circulation).

Much to my amusement, my son - the family's dyed in the wool Windows user - announced the other day that he'd bought a Mac - a 1.3 GHz G4 iBook - secondhand from a friend, making it our family's third iceBook. Ironically, his Windows laptop died a few days latter - apparently due to a poorly removed virus infection.

- Alan

Hi Alan,

Glad you enjoyed the column, and thanks for the comment.

My daughter's 1.2 GHz G4 iBook also proved more problematic than my 700 MHz G3 unit, with a keyboard failure early on (replaced under warranty) and a lot of stability flakiness throughout its life (October 2004 to April 2009).

On the other hand, it served her through her final two years of undergraduate university, was taken on a European tour and a stint on scholarship at the U. of Freiberg in Germany in the summer of 2005, two years teaching ESL in Japan, and most of her first year of grad school at Cambridge U. in England, finally expiring last month, so I suppose it didn't do too badly.

Charles

500 MHz Reliability

From Scott:

Hey Charles,

Have you noticed the original 500 MHz iBook with 8 MB video has a lot fewer video card solder meltdown issues than the newer, faster iBooks? I've had a 500 MHz iBook for several years now, and I still use it every day. The fan has never come on in all the years I've used it. I currently have my niece's 600 MHz iBook with 16 MB video here, and I notice the fan comes on every now and then when the ambient air temperature is warm. I briefly had a 900 MHz iBook with 32 MB video here, and it ran its fan constantly. I'm gonna go out on a semi-sturdy limb here and speculate, based on my very unscientific study, that the slower and cooler the iBook runs, the longer it will last before the video card melts its solder. Every time an iBook turns its fan on, it's telling you something important.

Scott Cook

Hi Scott,

I haven't done any scientific surveys, but my subjective impression concurs with yours that the original 500 MHz dual USB iBook was the most reliable and robust of all the proliferation of white iBook models.

I'm not as sure that there is a direct correlation between fan cycling and failure incidence, although running hot is never helpful to longevity. OTOH, the 700 MHz G3 was one of the worst of these models statistically (per the MacInTouch reader survey), and the fan in mine didn't come on often, although it would kick in on hot days in the summer under moderate to heavy processor activity.

I think the main problem with the post-500 MHz models - both G3 and G4, at least from what I've been able to deduce, was motherboard/video card issues due to case flexing and solder joint failure, although excess heat would contribute to that.

I don't think the build quality was as good with the later models either. My daughter's 1.2 GHz G4 iBook had a very shoddy appearance, both fit and finish and apparent materials quality than my "Opaque White" 700 MHz G3 unit, and the 500 MHz and 600 MHz models were even better in those departments.

Charles

WallStreet Value

From Brian:

Charles,

Great article on the beloved WallStreet G3 PowerBook. Having written my own WallStreet article for LEM on its tenth anniversary (Maxed Out WallStreet Runs Tiger Quite Nicely), you could say that I'm still very addicted to my machine, even though it's no longer in daily use. I just cannot find it in my heart to sell it or give it away, although I've had many other G3 PowerBooks (Lombards and Pismos) that I've fixed and given to family members.

By maxing out the WallStreet hardware and software completely and adding the necessary USB and network cards, one would have a great, rugged, daily use machine, even if it's not the fastest. The great news about these wonderful machines is that they can be had very cheaply these days (average $50 to $100, but most of the time much less - mine was $10!!!), and there are quite a few resources on the web (such as Simon Royal's site at http://www.simonroyal.co.uk/) to help one upgrade it and find the necessary compatible USB and wireless cards.

For less than $100, one can have a decent performing everyday notebook that is as rugged as it is useful.

Brian

Pismo PowerBookHi Brian,

Thanks! Given its hulking size and weight, the WallStreet is sort of a contra-netbook in the context of cheap laptops, but if one is buying on capital cost rather than compactness, there's a case to be made for the old WallStreet, and they are indeed robust if one is careful with those hinge clutches.

I'm certainly getting a lot of useful service from our two old Pismos. I understand G3 PowerBook addiction.

Charles

WallStreet Nostalgia

From Mark:

I enjoyed reading your article on the variations of the WallStreet. While Tech Director for a school district, I had a 292 MHz machine that served me through three years of hard use on the job. I did have the hinge problem after it was out of warranty, and I chose to live with it. After I quit to go into private business for a while, I returned to my old district to do some work and found the old WallStreet sitting on a shelf. They sold it to me for $25, and I put it to work as the company I was working for would only furnish me with a Toshiba laptop. I used every incarnation of OS X through Tiger on it before selling it about three years ago.

When the hinge became very frustrating, I asked an Apple engineer I was working some trade shows with if he had a source for replacement hinges since they were selling for a premium. He surprised me with a Pismo he had found, which replaced the WallStreet and became my main computer until replacing it in 2005 with an iBook G4. That WallStreet remains my favorite computer, and I kind of wish I hadn't sold it a couple of years ago, though I got much more than $25 for it.

Hi Mark,

I love these old Mac laptop stories. My personal fave of the PowerBook G3 Series troika is the Pismo, but WallStreet's are certainly lovable too, especially if you have one with a 14.1" screen. Mine is a 12.1" 800 x 600, which is a bit cramped for Web work these days. However, my daughter tells me that Firefox works well on it under Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger.

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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