Miscellaneous Ramblings

Macworld Expo and Other Miscellaneous Ramblings

Charles Moore - 1999.01.08 - Tip Jar

NOTE: This Miscellaneous Ramblings column originally appeared on MacOpinion on 1999.01.08. It is republished here by permission of the author and MacOpinion.

First a correction. A couple of readers noted that in my column on the PowerBook year ahead last week, I mentioned that the PowerBook 3400 could run BeOS.

I had been under the impression that Be would run on any PCI Mac. At least that's what it said on a BeOS demo disk that crossed my desk a while back, and I had assumed that included PCI PowerBooks. However, a check at Be's website list of compatible Mac systems informed me that I was mistaken. The BeOS supports no PowerBook models.

Thanks to Bob and Matt for catching this blooper.

Macworld Expo SF Roundup

There are precious few doggies to lasso here. Macworld Expo was a disappointment for those of us hoping for news about new PowerBook developments from Apple. Nothing much notable was revealed that wasn't already known.

Reportedly, Steve Jobs had a couple of P1/iBook prototypes at the show in a back room - one heavily nuanced on the eMate form factor, the other a sleekly conventional "business-style" sub-sub-notebook. Apparently the final configuration has not been decided.

My advice to Apple would be to go with both, if the cost wouldn't be prohibitive. If they want to attract the business traveller, something along the lines of an eMate (which I always thought was graceless and plain plug-ugly) in candy-colors is going to be a thudder.

Of Lombard/101 there was noting said, although we can assume on the strength of the new Yosemite G3 desktops that Firewire and USB connectivity is a lock, and SCSI will be out on the new professional 'Books. Whether Apple will retain an ADB port on Lombard, as they have on Yosemite, seems a long shot.

As I noted last week, I am not totally thrilled with Apple's strategy of dumping SCSI, serial, and ADB connectivity, along with floppy drives, all at once. Several significant issues pertain.

  • On the Yosemite, FireWire is now the only audio/video input/output mechanism (except for mini-stereo audio jacks).
  • You cannot boot from USB devices, and without a floppy you're left with the CD-ROM drive (or external FireWire drive) as your only alternate boot options.
  • No serial ports means no LocalTalk compatibility or ability to use conventional external modems, printers, and MIDI devices.
  • The lack of SCSI support means that you can't connect samplers [or CD-R].
  • No floppy means that you can't install copy-protected software.

Musicians especially will be turned off by these roadblocks to connectivity. The world does have to advance, but the transition could be phased in rather than cold turkey.

I also would caution Apple about getting too radical about the appearance of Lombard. There are already rumblings that potential business customers are off-put by the iMac-like appearance and bright colors of Yosemite - ominous news from a customer constituency that Apple needs to attract. My suggestion would be to make all of Apple's "professional" machines sleek and black and somewhat tastefully understated. Yes, the IBM Thinkpad looks like a flat box with its Bauhaus minimalism, but that motif will attract far more conservative business people than bright colors and avant-garde form factors.

The Mac community has struggled hard and long to throw of the unfair and inaccurate "toy computer" innuendo, and Steve Jobs, brilliant as he is, should, I think, exercise more caution than he is with respect to making the Mac look too, well, frivolous.

In The Meantime

Meanwhile, Apple's decision to stand pat for the present on PowerBook announcements is testimony to the strength of the current G3 Series range. Except for the lack of a subnotebook, the PowerBooks still simply eclipse everything else in the laptop market even nearly nine months after their debut - an amazing performance.

The G3 Series is the best portable computer ever - period.

As for you road warriors hankering after a Mac subnotebook, the P1/iBook sounds like it's worth waiting for. In the meantime, if you already have or can find a refurb or good used 2400c, Vimage announced at Macworld Expo that will soon start shipping their Vpower PowerBook 2400 G3/320 MHz CPU upgrade card (which has been available in Japan for several months). The 320 MHz upgrade incorporates IBM's new copper PowerPC chips, which run cool enough to make them practical for subnotebook use, allowing CPU and backside cache bus speeds. In fact, the 320 MHz processor pretty much maxes out the highest the 2400's internal bus limits, but will give you the fastest (CPU) PowerBook for now.

Vimage also still offers 240 MHz upgrades for the 2400, and 233 MHz cards for the 1400. A 320 MHz copper upgrade for the 1400 is rumored. Newer Technology offers 250 MHz upgrades for the 1400, and 240 MHz for the 2400.

If you already have a 1400 or 2400, or really need a subnotebook, one of these upgrades is worth looking at, although I continue to question the cost-value relationship of upgrades versus buying a new computer.

More PowerBook Service Woes

Jan from Florida writes:

I just read your opinion on PowerBooks and thought I would ask you about a problem I am having with the logic board on the G3 PowerBook I just bought 2 months ago. It just died on me and would not start up at all. Right now it is in an Apple service shop for the next 3 weeks waiting to be repaired. Has this been a common problem and are there any other problems I should expect?

My PowerBook is a G3, 233 with 14" screen and a floppy drive with CD ROM but no internal modem and no backside cache. It worked for 2 months and then would not start at all even though the battery was fully charged. Hitting the reset keys did not help. I bought it at Outpost over the internet for $1999. It was a great buy!

Believe me, nothing will sour me on a Mac! I was just surprised it had to be fixed already and thought I read somewhere that some G3 PowerBooks had that problem."

Apple should count its blessings in having so many loyal customers like Jan, because there are too many horror stories making the rounds about the execrable state of Apple's parts and service infrastructure these days. For some more sobering anecdotes, pay a visit to this page on Rick Ford's Macintouch Website.

I would be very interested in seeing some actuarial data on the repair frequency for Apple computers, which I expect is fairly low, which is good news, because when they break, lotsa luck getting them fixed!

This is simply unacceptable, especially when you compare it with the glowing reports of superb service from PC competitors like Dell, who actually seem to gratefully appreciate the people who cough up thousands of dollars to buy their products.

Apple makes the coolest hardware and the best all-round OS for most of us, and, like Jan, I have no intention of defecting to the dark side. However, it would be nice to feel a little bit acknowledged and appreciated for being a loyal and repeat Apple customer.

Which Segues To....

My "local" Apple Dealer, Innovative Systems Ltd. of New Minas, Nova Scotia (who is actually 200 miles away - that's how far out in the boonies I live!), emailed me this morning to say that my new G3 Series 233/12.1" TFT PowerBook is being shipped to me today. Needless to say I am excited. If all goes well, I'll have more to report in next week's The Road Warrior.

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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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