Charles Moore's Mailbag

Tiger on Pismo, LC III Just Died, Installing OS X 10.4 on a DVD Free Mac, and More

Charles Moore - 2009.08.26 - Tip Jar

'His Wife's LC III Has Just Died'

Hi Charles,

For some Apple users, it's definitely time to upgrade to an Intel Mac.

A client called yesterday to ask me for help because the hard drive on his wife's LC III has just died, and he wanted to know if he could run it with an external SCSI drive.

I was pretty much floored that she was actually using that old system; hopefully he'll hand down his G3 iMac to her and get a new machine!

Have a nice day,
Robert

Hi Robert,

Wow, that is an oldie. I still have a functioning LC 520, but it's been literally years - probably five or six - since it's been booted up. I thought I was doing well still using a Pismo for real work.

I held out with PowerPC until last February and probably could've gone a bit longer, but I'm glad I didn't.

As you say, it's time....

Charles

Tiger on a 400 MHz Pismo

From Tom:

Hi Charles,

Miscellaneous Ramblings is, as always, informative and interesting to read.

Chris mentions that he does not know if Tiger would work as well with a 400 MHz Pismo laptop as with a 500 MHz model.

I presently have a 400 MHz with 512 MB RAM and a 500 MHz with 768 MB RAM, both running Tiger 10.4.11 with all software updates, and I think I can offer some insight here.

The 400 with 512 MB of RAM runs 10.4.11 just fine - not at lightning speed, yet at perfectly adequate speed - the spinning beach ball may show up for a few seconds, but does so sometimes (less, it's true) on the 500 with 768 MB of RAM. It's amazing, but the last Mac OS that will work with G3s works quite well and smoothly with both of them!

I would say that the cheapest way to gain more speed for a 400 is to max out the RAM to 1 GB, which I intend to do with my 500. 512 MB RAM chips can be had relatively inexpensively if you look around, installation is not really that tough (keep yourself grounded with a wrist strap), though a bit heart-in-mouth putting the CPU board back, and the Pismos I've seen with 1 GB of memory really have a lot of pep. (Road Runners for Road Warriors?)

I personally think Pismos are amazing machines, proof of Apple's design, versatility, and reliability excellence at its absolute peak, and I hope mine lasts until the new MacBook Pros equal or surpass them in excellence, which they appear to be on the way to doing.

God Bless,
Tom

Hi Tom,

Thanks for the insight on Tiger performance with a 400 MHz Pismo. Glad to hear my deduction was accurate.

I agree about maxing out RAM, and I would have done it myself a long time ago if I was using my Pismo for a front line production machine instead of mainly a drafting and editing platform.

I've had RAM and processor daughtercards in and out of Pismos so many times over the years that I think I could probably do it in my sleep. Adding RAM to my unibody MacBook isn't really much, if any, easier - just different.

Charles

Pismo Target Disk Mode Problem, Recommended OS 9 Apps & Extensions

From Chris:

I bought a Samsung HM160HC drive for my TC1100 and decided to put its old hard drive (a 40 GB 4200 RPM Hitachi TravelStar) in the Pismo, because not only was it much larger than the original 6 GB Fujitsu drive, it's likely a bit faster and definitely much quieter. (Not silent, but you'd have to really listen for it most of the time.)

It works . . . except when one of my favorite reasons to even look at Macs is involved. Simply put, attempting to enter FireWire Target Disk Mode will end up with the Pismo just shutting itself off.

Not only did this eliminate the possible use as an external FireWire drive for my flagship custom-built Windows desktop (which happens to be the only other computer with FireWire integrated, though others could take expansion cards), but it also denies me the method I used to install OS X Tiger. Thus, I'm left with OS X Jaguar (10.2), which appears to be even more useless than OS 9 from today's standpoint because of the lack of available applications. (The OS X software community in general seems to assume that you're running Tiger, or even Leopard; in some cases, they even just assume you have an Intel Mac!)

Back to the issue at hand - my guess is that it's one of those drives that just won't play nice with Target Disk Mode, due to how it works (something about SCSI commands IIRC, even though it's IDE/PATA). At least I can comfortably have both OS 9 and OS X in their own partitions now, and thus very easily switch between the two just by holding down Option during boot (not to mention having files from one OS start contaminating the other's file system and just making a mess of things).

Anyway, since OS 9 is the only viable option left (I'd usually consider Linux, but it's only supported well on typical IBM PC-descended x86 machines and not old PowerPC Macs like a Pismo), I'll have to know how to make the most out of it.

For instance, it would be helpful if there were extensions to add some sort of scrolling feature to the trackpad, or change the battery icon into a percentage readout that I can view without having to bring up the Control Strip, or perhaps add functionality I haven't thought of at the moment.

As for applications, it seems that Classilla (especially if they do update it down the road) and Office 98 are my best bets for general computing. It's easy to find plenty of Classic Mac OS games that will run well on it, but aside from that, I can't think of anything that may run only on OS 9 and still be viable in my environment.

May I ask your recommendations in terms of sprucing up OS 9? (Also, this isn't just for you, Charles - anybody who reads this on the mailbag at Low End Mac can respond. That's what I like about the site - it's a whole community, more than just the main article authors!)

-Chris

Hi Chris,

I'm not sure what the deal is with that hard drive's incompatibility with Target Disk Mode. Puts you in the same boat with me and my FireWire-less MacBook. You might want to look into getting a USB 2.0 CardBus adapter for a substitute faster data transfer interface.

As for OS 9, my favorite nonstandard tweak was (and still is in Classic Mode) a little scrolling utility called Scrollability ($10 shareware).

Aside from that and TypeIt4Me, which I also use with OS X, my standard practice with OS 9 was to disable as many extensions and control panels as I could get along without (there are a lot of them) using the Extensions Manager. Here are some resources on doing that:

The biggest challenge these days with OS 9 is browsers, which as you said Classilla looking the most promising of what's currently available.

Charles

PowerPC Macs in the Age of Snow Leopard

From Brian:

Hi Charles,

You make some good points. I remember that I bought my first generation G5 iMac refurbed in Sept. 2005 - right as the Intel was about to hit. I debated whether to wait for an Intel iMac or just go ahead, but I've never regretted the decision I made.

I just hope that Apple continues support for PowerPC code in iTunes and QuickTime for a few more years.

Brian

Hi Brian,

I think they will continue to support the core iApps on PPC for a long time yet.

I bought a 17" G4 PowerBook about a month after the first MacBook Pros landed and never regretted it.

Charles

DVD-less Mac Tiger Install and System-Specific DVDs

From Adam Rosen:

Hi Charles,

Was just reading your latest Miscellaneous Ramblings column and noticed your followup with Nancy about getting Tiger installed onto her DVD-less iBook. I covered this situation recently in my own article on LEM, Tips & Tricks for Installing and Reinstalling 'Tiger'.

The use of an Intel-equipped computer as an external DVD drive (booted in Target Disk Mode) will indeed work to install Tiger on a PowerPC Mac. I used this technique recently with my MacBook to reinstall Tiger onto a client's iMac G4 and just reverified that this works using the MacBook with my own iMac G4. I don't think finding a PowerPC Mac with a DVD will make the difference here.

I didn't see the earlier parts of your thread, but Nancy may be using a system-specific (bundled) install DVD for Tiger, rather than a full retail installer. Those system specific discs do not boot all machines and can cause the type of kernel panics and installation messages that she's receiving. Might this be the source of the problem?

Best,
Adam

Hi Adam,

Thanks for the comment and suggestions.

I know it will work, because I used the method to install Tiger on my G3 iBook from my Pismo via Target Disk Mode back in the day.

I overlooked an obvious possibility of it not being a standard Tiger install disk. Nancy didn't say what sort of install disk she was attempting to use, but plenty of people have run afoul of that issue.

Charles

Response to Tiger on DVD-challenged Mac Problem

From Chris:

Greetings, Charles:

I just read the latest mailbag post on LEM, topped off by Nancy's problems with installing OS X Tiger on an iBook through an Intel Mac and FireWire Target Disk Mode.

The fact that she's using an Intel Mac with a PowerPC Mac is indeed the problem. I noticed this when I attempted to install OS X Tiger on my Pismo through Target Disk Mode through the neighbors' MacBook and iBook G4s (the Pismo's DVD drive is unreliable, as you may recall). You have to have a PowerPC Mac in order for the install to work on the iBooks; the gray Tiger discs that shipped with Intel Macs are Intel-specific, whereas with gray PowerPC discs, you at least have a shot of getting other PowerPC systems working if they support FWTDM. (I'd still only recommend using retail Tiger discs if you have them, though.)

However, FWTDM also passes off a Mac's optical drives, not just its hard drives. You can use this to get Tiger installed on the iBooks, but only if you have a retail Tiger disc.

Normally, if you choose a disk with not enough space to install the OS, it should give you a list of features to remove. Taking out the printer drivers and extra languages will save some precious gigabytes, as will cutting out iLife and iWork if you don't use them.

Would you please forward this information to Nancy? I think she would appreciate it, and after all, this is part of what makes Low End Mac - a community beyond just the article authors, all willing to help.

-Chris

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the info and insight. I've forwarded your note to Nancy.

Charles

iTablet with Bluetooth Keyboard

From Oliver:

Hi Charles,

Thanks for your reply. Let's put it this way. I'm such a fanboy I think that I might buy whatever Apple puts out.

On the other hand, I would be really averse to buying an $800 10" Touch with a touchscreen keypad, external keyboard compatible or no. That is, unless it had the Kindle-like capability of giving me free Internet access anywhere. Otherwise, I'll just pick up a used 13" MacBook Pro somewhere down the line.

So it looks like we have a point of disagreement. We'll see what happens within the next six months if not sooner.

Cheers.

O.S.

Hi Oliver,

That we will. I'll have to wait as well to see if this is something I would seriously consider buying. The 13" Unibody is just about as perfect as a computer as I've experienced so far, and mine isn't even a Pro.

There's a lot of substance backing up fanboyism. ;-)

Charles

Power on the Road

From Brian:

Hi Charles,

I'm about to embark on a road trip across several states to Glacier National Park and got to thinking (perhaps too late) about power sources for my 'Book while on the road. I haven't decided yet whether I will be taking my MacBook Pro or older iBook, but in either case, I find myself wondering whether packing a surge protector will be sufficient.

As the Road Warrior, and having read about your recent experience with electrical issues on your Pismo, do you have any thoughts?

Thanks,
Brian

Sent from my iPhone

Hi Brian,

Actually, carrying a surge protector on the road is something I had never given much thought to, although it doesn't sound like a bad idea. Off the top of my head, I don't know whether anyone makes dedicated surge protectors for mobile computer users are not. You could certainly carry along a standard power bar with a surge protector to hotels and whatnot.

The power manager board failure in my Pismo would not have been prevented by a surge protector, since it appears to have been caused by a faulty extension cord arcing and wasn't really blamable on the power source. I have since scrapped that cord!

Power issues on the road are more often associated with finding a place to plug in the 'Book to recharge. In that context, the PowerPC books have a convenience edge, since they will work with third-party Auto/Air 12 volt source power adapters like the ones made by Kensington, and Apple has not seen fit to supply a automobile power socket compatible MagSafe adapter for the Intel 'Books, nor have they licensed anyone else to produce them. There is a company called Mikegyver that does conversions of Kensington adapters to MagSafe connectors.

Charles

RSI and Pointing Devices

From Vickere, following up on Eudora 8.0 Keyboard Shortcuts:

"Interesting that trackballs would cause RSA, when they're touted frequently as a RSA prevention/workaround."

De Quervain's tenosynovitis is inflammation of the thumb tendon from incessant clicking.

"As for foot mice, I just use some old Apple 'hockey puck' USB mice (exclusively for clicking) with the tracking balls removed and the aperture taped over."

Oh, that's a good idea. I don't know if I have the USB port to spare, with both left- and right-hand mice, but maybe I could put a one-button mouse on the floor. No shin splints?

I'm pretty fortunate to have no wrist pain, but actually, I fell off my bike and broke my wrist (and elbow) and the soft tissue in my wrist is still significantly inflamed from the hard impact, so I might have to right-hand mouse only for a while, even when I can start adding my left hand back to typing. Maybe will be problematic.

Vickere

Hi Vickere,

Thanks for the explanation about De Quervain's. Makes sense now for sure.

As for the foot mouse, I would be sunk without USB hubs. I keep two hooked up to my production MacBook in my office and still sometimes run out of ports. Apple's parsimoniousness with USB ports is perversely idiotic. Even $300 PC netbooks usually have three.

Sorry to hear about the bike crash and injury. Makes me feel even more thankful that I survived my own bike crash last Saturday without serious injury. I dropped a front wheel into a culvert cutout that was obscured by weeds while pulling over to let a truck pass and went over the handlebars. Some scrapes and bruises, and then a lot of stiffness set in for several days, but nothing broken. Glad I had a helmet on. Not the sort of acrobatics for a guy who will be 58 in a month!

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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