Charles Moore's Mailbag

Problems Getting 'Tiger' on a DVD-less Mac, More Text Editor Suggestions, Future of Smulton, and More

Charles Moore - 2009.08.19 - Tip Jar

Getting OS X 10.4 on a DVD-Challenged Mac

From Nancy, following up on Installing Tiger on DVD-less iBooks:

Hi Charles.

I tried this again to see if I did something wrong, but I got the same message: "Cannot install on this volume . . . Mac OS X cannot start up from this volume", and it needed 15.5 GB of space to install.

I tried the reverse method of putting my Intel Mac in Target Disk Mode and the non-DVD iBook starting up attached with FireWire. I clicked to install from the OS X 10.4 disc that appeared, but when the iBook restarted to do this, I got a black screen with "debug dumping" message and "Kernel..." message saying "We are hanging here" and then wouldn't do anything else. I shut the iBook down and gave up.

This iBook is running 10.2.8 (PowerPC G3) just fine, but I want to connect it to an AirPort in the house, and that is reason for upgrading to 10.4. The image below or attached shows the "Install" option I used and the external hard (iBook) icon to the right which shows up. Might the problem be that my desk computer is an Intel, or does this matter?

Thanks for all your time and assistance.

Nancy

Hi Nancy,

I don't know for sure, but the fact your desktop computer is Intel might well have something to do with it.

I assume you've attempted booting the iBook with the DVD inserted in the other machine's DVD drive with the "C" Key held down.

It would be good if you could find a PowerPC Mac with a DVD drive and try connecting it to the iBook to help determine whether Intel is the issue.

Charles

Smultron Is Open Source

From Ruffin in response to Hasta La Vista, Smultron:

"Ideally, someone will pick up development of Smultron if Peter Borg is agreeable to that."

Luckily he is, by definition! The source to Smultron is in Cocoa/C, is available from Sourceforge. It is licensed under the Apache license, version 2.0, so anybody who wants to can do most anything to the app.

It is a shame Borg's hung Smultron up for now, as well as Hallon and Lingon. Are we assuming gainful[ler?] employment? I started using Smultron for PHP work after reading your recommendation. I still do 90% of my editing in MacVim, but Smultron's Snippets made it easy when I needed to make relatively consistent changes over many files. You're also right on regarding how little real estate it takes on your screen - and very little of my iBook G4's resources.

I'm hopeful it'll keep on chugging a while, and am glad to have caught your recommendation. It's proven a great "fringe use" text editor, and every good tool is appreciated.

Ruffin

Hi Ruffin,

You're right of course. It's Open Source.

My main Swiss Army Knife text application is still Tex-Edit Plus, but I do like Smultron a lot for the particular tasks I apply it to - and haven't found anything yet that fills the bill quite as satisfactorily.

Charles

iData 3

From Michael in response to Suggested NotePad Deluxe Replacement:

I was going through my computer files today and found an item that might be the missing link for you since the loss of NotePad Deluxe. This would be iData 3.

It appears to be almost as useful as Notae (it won't suck in URLs and websites) but costs more.

Best regards, Charles.

Michael

myNotes

Also from Michael:

Not to inundate you with these NPD replacement suggestions, Charles, but here's another one: myNotes.

Michael

Thanks for the tips Michael,

I'll check them out.

Charles

Pismo Doesn't Need a PRAM Battery

From Scott:

Just remove the Pismo's PRAM battery and dispose of it properly. It's not even required. I'm typing this on a Pismo with the PRAM battery removed.

Scott

Thanks Scott.

Charles

MainStreet, WallStreet, and Pismo

From Chris, following up on What to Do With Old and Ancient Macs?:

Greetings, Charles,

It seems that I'm not alone in having more old computers than I know what to do with here. I didn't think you had any Macs besides the three Pismos, a PowerBook G4, and a new Unibody MacBook that you just had to buy before Apple unveiled the 13" MacBook Pro with FireWire.

I also should have mentioned that my Pismo, with all its faults, was actually a substantial upgrade from my very first Mac that I mentioned in passing - you see, the neighbors gave me an unused MainStreet free of charge, complete with its accessories, software restore disc, OS 9.2.1 and OS X 10.2 "Jaguar" discs, because with all those iBook G4s and a MacBook around, there was no reason to use it. Problem was . . . well, I called it "MainStreet" and not "WallStreet" for a reason. 2 GB hard drive (which was also loud, like the one in the Pismo that would replace it). 32 MB of RAM that would barely support the Classic Mac OS. 2 MB of VRAM and no S-video port. Main battery that'll only last 10 minutes off of AC at best. The Road Apple-earning cacheless G3/233 MHz. ADB and SCSI ports in a household full of USB, DB-9 serial, and a few FireWire peripherals. (At least it had ethernet.) No modem!

But none of that bothered me nearly as much as that passive-matrix 12" screen did. I just couldn't put up with the ghosting and awful color reproduction at all, and later found that with a $100 budget, it would be far more economical to just buy a Pismo that somehow squeezed under that figure than to make the MainStreet a proper WallStreet (14" active-matrix, 512 MB of RAM, a third-party G3 or even G4 upgrade, and a larger hard drive, not to mention USB and AirPort PCMCIA/CardBus cards for good measure).

However, that MainStreet is why I looked at the Pismo and not the TiBook or iBooks. I fell in love with those module bays at first sight and can't think of why laptop manufacturers in general haven't made them standard already. (Lombard and Pismo lose points for making the left bay battery-only and losing a CardBus slot, but they make up for that with everything else.) The keyboard was the absolute best I had ever used on any laptop, and perhaps even better than your garden variety rubber dome cheap desktop keyboard (though I'd still take my beloved IBM Model M any day). Its apparent durability also makes the Pismo (mine, at least, which is clearly worn over time from having previously been a school computer) look downright flimsy in comparison with regard to the hard feel of the screen lid and rear port door, though the hinge had a little play.

All I knew from the moment I was introduced to it was that I wanted something like it, just with better specs, integrated USB, FireWire, and AirPort, and a screen I could tolerate. My research ended up leading me to Low End Mac, and from there, to the Pismo.

The deal was pretty much sealed when I learned that almost all Macs equipped with internal FireWire had this useful little feature called Target Disk Mode, and the Pismo was the first PowerBook to have it internally. (It also ensured that I'd never even think of buying a relatively modern Mac without internal FireWire in the process, like that iMac G3/350 or those recently discontinued Unibody MacBooks, and makes me look at Macs in the laptop market that much more because it saves me from having to try and yank out the hard drive to diagnose it. It also gives access to optical drives as well, which can be pretty handy in a few cases. The only exceptions I'll make are for vintage machines like the 6500 and IIcx.)

In short, I do like Pismos, and it started well before I stumbled across Low End Mac and your articles in a sense (though that kind of fueled things along).

Where is the MainStreet now? Somewhere in the Philippines, where I have relatives I've never even met in person. They'll probably appreciate it despite the age, though I'm thinking that any hard drive or RAM upgrades done to the Pismo will be hand-me-downs for that MainStreet. (Going from 2 GB to 6 GB of storage and from 32 MB to 256 MB of RAM could at least make it that extra bit more useful.) Who knows - maybe they'll get the Pismo too!

As for your Pismos being extremely hot-rodded with things like G4/550 MHz upgrades, I'm guessing that you've had your machines for far longer than I've had mine and upgraded them while they weren't too depreciated, thus the cost in respect to the rest of the system didn't seem too inflated. Going over nine years old, though, they seem to have passed that point. The only upgrade I've done to mine so far was the original AirPort Card. (I went that way because I wanted to keep the external CardBus slot free, not to mention using the internal antennas for potentially better range.) I may still look into a newer hard drive and maxing out the RAM, but the G4 upgrades just aren't worth it unless I see some major discounts. Thus, I must ask - on a nice 120 or 160 GB 5,400 RPM hard drive (though more likely to be a 40 GB 4,200 RPM drive that's still fairly quiet) and the full 1 GB of RAM, will a G3/400 still provide adequate Tiger performance? (I doubt it will, but I have alternatives; those remain for another email, though.)

I think I recall you saying that with a G3/500, you'd run Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger", but if it was a G3/400, you'd run OS X 10.3 "Panther" instead. Too bad I only have access to Jaguar and Tiger, and most OS X software nowadays requires Tiger as a minimum, Panther if you're lucky. Some software even requires Leopard now.

It's kind of jarring when I look back on two of my PCs running an OS that dates back to 2001 (albeit with three Service Packs and other miscellaneous updates) still being able to run most of the latest software, in terms of web browsers, Office suites, and the like, while people who had to watch OS X evolve over the years had to pay a full $130 or so for most major updates needed to run new third-party software, 10.0 Cheetah to 10.1 Puma (free) and 10.5 Leopard to 10.6 Snow Leopard ($30) being the exceptions.

Finally, while this isn't quite Macintosh-related, after seeing a YouTube demonstration video and watching the post-iPhone mobile computing trends of emphasis on the finger completely eschewing the ability to write and draw with a pen/stylus, I'm thinking of rolling all the way back to an Apple Newton MessagePad 2000/2100 as a suitable PDA, especially since the data is stored in a nonvolatile manner. (I already have an HP iPaq hx4700, which I do like to some extent and serves as not just a PDA, but a PMP and MID just like the iPod touch. It's showing its age, however, and the speed I desire can only be attained by running WM2003SE, which has the flaw of hard-resetting every time the battery runs flat - unlike the much older MessagePads I mentioned earlier! WM2003SE also has no decent browser options, especially ones that leverage the VGA screen. There's also my HP TC1100 Tablet PC, but the battery life isn't long enough and it's too large to carry around all the time.)

Why go through so much trouble to find a pen/stylus-driven device rather than a pen-driven device, you ask? It all boils down to this - I don't like paper. Too cumbersome and unwieldy for me, even if it doesn't need batteries or calibration and never, ever crashes.

-Chris

Hi Chris,

Thank you for the detailed and interesting commentary. I used a MainStreet PowerBook for about three months at the end of 1998. I was an agent for a Mac reseller at the time, and it was my demo. Mine did have a modem, however, and I quite liked it, even with the passive matrix display and the cacheless 233 MHz processor. Compared with the 100 MHz PowerBook 5300 that was my main workhorse at the time, the MainStreet was a speed machine! It was what convinced me to buy my own WallStreet LE - the 12.1" TFT display 233 MHz model with 512 KB of backside cache that replaced the MainStreet in the fall of 1998.

I've written enough about that machine that you probably know a lot of its story. Those 2 GB IBM hard drives that shipped with the MainStreet and LE certainly did get noisy very quickly. I pulled mine out and replaced it with a 10 GB Toshiba drive with an 8 MB buffer cache, which was a big improvement and which is still in the machine, which is now in the possession of my daughter with OS X 10.4 "Tiger" installed on it.

I would personally rank the WallStreet keyboard as the best computer keyboard of any sort that I've ever used, although the Pismo keyboard is a close runner-up, and I'm a big fan of my Kensington SlimType external keyboard as well.

I needed those two PC Card slots toward the end, which I filled with USB and FireWire adapter cards.

I share your enthusiasm for FireWire Target Disk Mode, but there was a SCSI-based predecessor called SCSI Disk Mode that earlier PowerBooks supported, and which worked quite similarly other than the fact that SCSI is not hot pluggable or as dependable connecting as FireWire is.

I also agree that it's getting very difficult to rationalize spending any serious money on upgrading a G3 PowerBook, although I still think a case can be made for Wegener Media's $200 G4 Pismo upgrade for folks who really love the Pismo. I hope mine lasts a good long time yet, but of course it's my "B-team" utility computer and not my main workhorse, nor has it been for many years now.

I've somewhat revised my views on Panther versus Tiger. The later versions of Tiger, say from 10.4.7 on up, seemed to be faster and actually quite decent performers on a 500 MHz G3 Pismo, and I expect would be adequate on a 400 MHz version as well. Panther simply has too many limitations and software restrictions these days, plus there's no way I would want to live without Spotlight and some of its piggyback third-party derivatives.

I don't share your disaffection for paper - I love the stuff and still compose a lot of my writing work longhand on paper and then transcribe it to editable text using MacSpeech iListen. This time of year on nice days I'm inclined to head to the beach in the afternoons with a notebook and pen in my pocket and get some writing done while enjoying the summer weather. It just wouldn't be the same with an electronic device.

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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