Charles Moore's Mailbag

Cheap USB 2 CardBus Solution, OS 9 and Kanga, Mobile Mac Value, and More

Charles Moore - 2009.09.09 - Tip Jar

Snow Leopard and LocalTalk

Cheap and Unobtrusive USB 2 CardBus Solution

From Scott:

Hey Charles,

I was recently looking for a USB 2 CardBus for my Pismo PowerBook. I saw the AKE BC168 on eBay for as little as $10 with shipping from Hong Kong included.

I searched for information to find out if the card was compatible with Mac OS X, but nobody knew. I decided to take a chance and order one myself. The AKE BC168 CardBus showed up in today's mail. It does work in my Pismo PowerBook running OS X 10.4.11 with all current updates. I'm not using the little USB power cord that came with the card, and yet the card is supplying enough bus power just through the PCMCIA slot to power a USB Bluetooth dongle and a USB 2 thumb drive simultaneously.

I moved files from the thumb drive to the internal hard drive through the USB 2 card, then through the built in USB 1 port on the back of the Pismo. The USB 2 card moves the same exact data almost 10 times as fast, so it's safe to say it is working at USB 2 speed. The card is completely internal, with no protrusion from the side of the Pismo at all. The face of the card fits flush against the side of the Pismo and the color matches like they were made for each other.

This is an elegant and unobtrusive USB 2 solution worthy of a beautiful old PowerBook. The casual observer won't even notice it - or feel it for that matter. This card provides two USB 2 ports. The bigger cards provide as many as four ports, but those big cards stick way out of the CardBus slot. Unlike a lot of people, I don't have many USB 2 devices. Most of my external devices are FireWire or USB 1. I guess that's because I own older PowerPC Macs. A USB 2 thumb drive and perhaps the occasional USB 2 Flash card reader will probably be the only USB 2 devices my Pismo will use.

Hope this review helps someone trying to make a decision. I'll write back if anything changes, but so far the AKE BC168 looks like exactly what I wanted.

Scott

Hi Scott,

Sounds like a perfectly ideal solution at a great price. You don't happen to have the supplier's URL that I could share with other readers and perhaps order one of these myself?

Thanks for the useful information.

Charles

Mac OS 9.x and Kanga

From Ron:

Hi Charles

I have one of these things. Kanga G3 PowerBook, M3553 (1997)

So it has [Mac OS] 8.5, and I can not seem to get on the Net with my new AirPort Extreme (direct wire).

Also want to upgrade the OS to 9.x Have a fav application runs only pre-OS X. What versions of 9 will this Laptop take? Net says maybe it can take 9.1. Is that true?

You say:

The PowerBook 3500 has the dubious distinction of being the only Apple G3 model that was never officially supported by any version of Mac OS X (not even the public beta). At a modest 250 MHz with a 160 MB RAM ceiling, that isn't a tragedy - OS X wouldn't perform very well on it anyway, and there is no processor upgrade path. It was also the only G3 PowerBook to sport the traditionally colored Apple logo; future PowerBooks would have a plain white logo.

What's the best way to get 9.x and get on the Net? Netscape 6?

Thanks,
Ron

Hi Ron,

Check out Low End Mac's Compleat Guide to Mac OS 9, 2008 Edition. I'm not sure how up to date some of the information and links are, but it should give you some clues as to what's possible.

As for web browsers, that's definitely the Achilles' heel for OS 9 holdouts. My favorite has been Netscape 7, but there's a new secure web browser for Mac OS 9 - a derivative of the Mozilla 1.3 browser called Classilla.

Charles

The Value of Mobile Macs

From Chris:

Hello there,

Join me once again, while I flutter to and fro in the world of used Macs.

Recently I bought two PowerPC Macs at almost give away prices, both on different occasions.

An iBook G3 600 MHz, with a 20 gig HD and a Combo drive. In raw specs, it just appears to be a minor upgrade form my other G3 iBook, a base 500 MHz model, with a plain old CD-ROM. But it's amazing how much difference a 100 MHz extra and 33 MHz extra [memory bus] speed makes. Let alone more RAMå (384 vs. 256 MB).

It's by no means a speed demon, but it chugs along nicely with Tiger. (And even better with Panther, but some of my open source software needs Tiger.) It plays video files with VLC adequately, and its battery life is just monstrous at 5 hours. It's a great laptop, and I have always been enamored by the small iceBook form factor.

The 12-inchers are a lot better than the 14-inchers, which in my mind are generally nothing more than the 12-inch form factor blown up. It's not the newest of the newest - already 7 years old - but it does what I want from it. Audio, video, playback, and word processing on the go, and that's good enough for me. Its price was a no brainer too, 100 Euro.

Today I picked up a whole different Mac. A 2001 Quicksilver 733 MHz G4 with two hard drives, 1 gig of RAM, and the only bad part of the whole machine - a rather pedestrian ATI Rage 128 16 MB video card, which has been replaced by an Nvidia GeForce 3 TI 200 with 64 MB RAM.

This machine was just 50 Euro - half the price of the iBook, but infinitely more upgradable.

I can upgrade the iBook's hard drive and CD drive (just don't ask how), but even then I'm still stuck with the same G3 CPU and the same 8 MB video card. While as long as I am willing to spend the money, I can upgrade this Quicksilver to a dual G4 1800 MHz with 1.5 gig RAM. A 250 gig HD, USB 2.0 DVD writer, and a 512 MB Vidcard running Tiger and/or Leopard. (Assuming I even want to run Leopard, which generally speaking I don't.)

Something the iBook will never be able to do. And it sells for less than the iBook, isn't that peculiar ? Just because the iBook is portable, it's worth more than a computer who is actually more.

Not that I begrudge my iBook, I love the little machine, both of them.

But the Quicksilver was just given away, it might be 8 years old by now, once it was $1,700, and now you can't even give them away any more.

The used market for PPC Macs has really bottomed out, and worse is to come.

Of course, for those of us who still use the PPCs, this is only good news. I'm not dependent on Mac OS 9 apps. I'm strictly OS X, but just because something is old does not mean it's useless.

Mac OS X Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, and Leopard won't all of a sudden stop running when Apple releases Snow Leopard and drops PPC support. We all knew this would happen, and they have given us 3 years to prepare for it.

PPC Macs are dirt cheap now. Now is the time to get the ones you want, even the mighty MDD's are relatively cheap.

The only PPC Macs that still command top dollar are - well, you guessed it, the laptops.

I'd like a 1200 MHz G4 alu 17 inch PowerBook once. But I wonder why I would need it. I'm a desktop user, not a laptop, and my iBook suffices in all my on the go needs. (Other then playing The Sims 2 )

Chris

Hi Chris,

Great deals on both machines. It is really difficult to compare value in any rational sense when prices get down into that range. It really depends on availability and what the seller is willing to part with the unit for.

Supply and demand plays a role as well. There is simply more demand for used laptops than there is for high-end used desktops. Many people are quite content getting along with a relatively underpowered laptop for the sort of things that they use a mobile computer for, but want a lot more power in a desktop machine. Not illogical.

These old PowerPC machines, provided you don't need any more power than they are capable of, can provide years of useful service yet. I intend to use my 550 MHz G4 Pismo for several years into the future, provided I can keep it running, and it's working flawlessly so far, plus I have a good supply of spare parts.

Actually, my main computer remains pretty well in desktop substitute mode virtually all the time, although it is convenient to be able to easily pack it along on road trips if I need to, and as I've mentioned many times in my columns, the ability to keep running under battery power (either built-in or external from a car battery and power adapter) can be priceless when you live in a rural area like I do and long power blackouts are not rare occurrences.

I'm somewhat tempted to get a larger external monitor, but so far have resisted.

Anyway, enjoy your new acquisitions. You've got a lot of computer there for very little money.

Charles

Hello there.

Yes, prices really have dropped out for users who don't need to have the latest and greatest, such a thing is off course excellent. Right now I'm seriously considering to buy a used MDD with 1.5 gig of RAM. Even these mighty machines are becoming cheaper and cheaper, and its just EU125. More than the QS, but quite worth it.

I am quite content with my iBook, but I wouldn't use it for anything more intensive then watching movies in Videolan and word processing with MS Word (I'm tied to Word; I have well over 20,000 MS Word docs).

I use my desktops for gaming (though I have a monstrous HP quad-core laptop with a 1 gig video card, and there is very little that machine can't handle, including Leopard. The upshot is that I don't dare to take that machine outside.)

My favorite Apple laptops so far are still the iceBooks, especially the 600 MHz models; I had one that served me faithfully for years, until I dropped it down 3 flights of concrete stairs.

I doubt even an eMate or a first gen iBook would survive that, and neither did my iBook sadly. But thankfully I got it back again (of sorts).

I live in the city with power generators and transformers all around, a power outage is rare here though it did occur in July. But for in the train, the 6 hour battery life of the iBook is simply amazing.

I view the iBook as a low-end netbook, it's small enough to be one yet fully featured with CD-ROM or CD-RW or DVD. Yes, it won't play a lot of games, but most netbooks won't either, not comfortably anyway. And with an AirPort Card or WiFi stick, the iBooks are perfectly capable of going online on the go as well.

Something tells me though you won't be able to resist that screen for much longer.

I did indeed got a lot of computer for very little money, especially the QS, whose poky ATI Rage I upgraded to a GeForce 3 Ti 200. No stellar card by any stretch of the imagination, but still good enough compared to what was in it.

Chris

Hi Chris,

I really liked my 700 MHz G3 iBook, and used it as my workhorse for just over three years, after which my wife took it over. It finally died (motherboard we think) at six years old. It was a nice little computer while it lasted, although I really disliked the keyboard and trackpad (not an issue for desktop substitute use, but rough on my neuritis-plagued hands and arms when using it on the road).

My daughter liked her 1.2 GHz G4 iBook too - used it through her last year of undergraduate studies at university, then on a scholarship in Germany, at which time she dragged it all over Europe and the UK. Then she took it to Japan for two years, and back to England for a post-grad year at Cambridge, where it finally died. It had an unceremonious end when she and a friend stripped it down to get the hard drive out, and sshe ays they had no intention of attempting to put it back together.

She replaced it with a 2.13 GHz white MacBook, which she likes very much.

As for me and the external monitor, maybe, but I just got an eyeglass prescription for bifocals, so that may keep me on the 13" screen for a while yet.

Charles

Snow Leopard and LocalTalk

LocalTalk Printin Options for Snow Leopard

From Joe in response to Snow Leopard vs. LocalTalk:

Dear Charles,

Jeany may still be able to use her LaserWriter 600 the same way I still use my Canon BJC2000 and HP LaserJet Series 2 printers with Gutenprint drivers or possibly with a native driver. Since the LW 600 supports HP LaserJet 2/ PCL4+ and Gutenprint has LaserJet 2 (and generic PCL 4) drivers, she could probably use a Centronics-to-USB or serial-to-USB adapter with CUPS drivers to print to her 600.

However, Apple's support website says 10.6 still includes the LW 600 Pro driver, so if you use a USB-to-Centronics/serial adapter, it maybe able to print with the native driver still. Apple says for AppleTalk only printers you can connect them to an AppleTalk capable print server which 10.6 can then use, so she has a few options to keep this printer alive. I use Gutenprint for a BJC2000 and LaserJet 2, which is slower than native drivers but works. The BJC2000 prints at a reasonable speed, while the LaserJet 2 I find takes forever (2-4 min per page), but the LW600 may be faster.

For the price of a cheap adapter versus a new printer she may find the slow speed acceptable. I actually use an old Epson branded Centronics-to-USB adapter that came with my brother's old inkjet, which he was going to throw out with the printer when it died, so she may be able to save even more money by locating one of these cables on eBay or seeing if someone she knows has one sitting in a box somewhere. No need to junk good equipment :-)

Joe

Hi Joe,

Thanks for this information. I've forwarded it to Jeany.

Charles

Using a LocalTalk LaserWriter with Snow Leopard

From Josh:

Charles,

I read about Jeany's beloved LaserWriter and her dying to scratch the ol' upgrade itch. I haven't bought Snow Leopard yet, but that's only because my local Apple Store is closed for renovation - until today that is. :-)

Anyway, brass tacks: per Apple's website, there is a driver included for the Apple LaserWriter Pro 600 in Snow Leopard. Jeany's best bet is to look into getting a "USB-to-Parallel" converter for her printer, since her 600 didn't include an AAUI port for network printing, but it does have a Centronics parallel port interface! It is possible that she might be able to get it working that way.

New printers run faster, yes. But I can vouch for her reluctance to get rid of that old dinosaur. We have an HP LaserJet 4 at work. It's slow, yes. But unlike the faster and cheaper inkjet and laser printers, it is much more ruggedly built and needs less maintenance. It's our ol' reliable backup, and some people send jobs only to it, because they know it will not be down unless it's out of toner!

The only reason I would change that printer would be due to the cost of consumables (refurbing a LaserWriter cartridge can't be cheap) or to save energy. Newer laser printers are more environmentally aware. I never had a LaserWriter (played with a StyleWriter a bit back in the day), but I doubt its standby mode was as flexible as a newer model's would be.

Feel free to forward my email to Jeany and see if it might help her out.

Regards,
Josh

Hi Josh,

Thanks for the comments and info. I've forwarded your message to Jeany.

My daughter used to have a LaserWriter printer that she picked up surplus for free somewhere. It worked nicely and did a great job. Not sure what happened to it in the end. These days I used a Canon inkjet printer and have found a mail-order outfit in Montréal called BlankDVD.com that sells Canon compatible cartridges for Canadian five bucks apiece. I'd like to have a laser printer, but I simply don't do enough printing to justify the cost.

Charles

AppleTalk Printers with Snow Leopard

From Darren:

Charles,

Two things that may be of interest to your Low End Mac readers:

  1. There are a few easy solutions to getting an Apple LaserWriter 600 running with Snow Leopard. LocalTalk will not work, but the parallel port provides an easy solution. Either a parallel-to-USB cable or a parallel port print server (wired or wireless) should do the trick. Note that these are getting harder to find, and some USB/parallel cables are not properly recognized by most versions of OS X - I have had bad experiences with the Rosewill cable in particular. Up until this summer, I used a Personal LaserWriter NTR with a wireless parallel print server with no issues whatsoever.
  2. I use an iMate with a Apple Extended Keyboard (circa 1989). No problems with Snow Leopard - works exactly the same as Leopard.

Darren

Hi Darren,

Thanks for the comments and experiential insight.

Charles

You Can Use AppleTalk Printers with Snow Leopard

From Peter:

Charles,

If you read the 10.6 support documents on Apple's page, you can use AppleTalk printers with Snow Leopard. You need an appropriate print server that is AppleTalk compatible, or simply put, another Mac on your network that is running Leopard or earlier. I have an HP LaserJet 6MP connected to my home network through an Asanté Ethernet/AppleTalk bridge.

It is true, SL no longer supports AppleTalk, so the printer is not seen by SL. However, there is a simple solution. My iMac G5 running Leopard is now set up to share the HP LaserJet 6MP, so now my SL iMac can see and print to the HP, using the 6MP driver included with SL. Since the woman has two Macs, one of them can run Leopard on her network and share her AppleTalk-based printer. Thankfully I don't have to give up my 6MP workhorse.

Peter

PS: Here is the support document which explains AppleTalk and Snow Leopard.

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the information and support page link. I have subsequently discovered that there are a variety of ways to make these old AppleTalk printers work with Snow Leopard. Here are some links to more information on the topic:

Charles

USB-to-Parallel

From Edmund:

"My network printer I use at home is an Apple LaserWriter 600 - a printer that has served me for most of my life. I've had it since I was a little girl, and it's currently on it's 9th computer!"

Could Jeany use a USB to parallel cable?

Edmund

Hi Edmund,

Evidently yes.

Thanks,
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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