Miscellaneous Ramblings

Will Used PowerBook Prices Drop When the iBook Ships?

Charles Moore - 1999.08.20 - Tip Jar

NOTE: This Miscellaneous Ramblings columnoriginally appeared on MacOpinion on August 20, 1999.It is republished here by permission of the author andMacOpinion.

"New Mac person" Jenny Benevento wrote to ask whether she shouldbuy PowerBook for school relatively soon or wait until the iBook ships and presumably drives usedPowerBook prices downward. (you can read Jenny's letter in the RW Mailbag section below).

This is an interesting question. In my estimation, the iBookcan't help but put downward pressure on the used PowerBook market,especially for older 'Books like the PB1400, 2400, 3400, and the early low-end G3 Series models.

Another factor that may depress 1400 and 3400 prices inparticular is whether UpgradeStuff.com or some othersupplier will begin shipping G3 processor upgrades for theseupgradable models again. If no G3 upgrades are available, watchprices of these PowerBooks take a nosedive.

Focus on MacHardware at About.com has posted an essay addressing this verytopic, LifeWithout PowerBook G3 Upgrade Cards, noting the ominousdeparture of Vimage from the Mac processor upgrade scene and NewerTechnology's quiet removal of PowerBook upgrade cards from itsproduct line. These developments have left PowerBook 1400 and 2400owners with no upgrade path, at last for the present.

However, the article suggests that the elimination of upgradeoptions for older PowerBooks may benefit Apple, especially with theimminent release of iBook. "The lack of an upgrade option may pushPowerBook 1400 owners to buy a new machine instead, particularly inlight of the features standard on the G3 such as USB, ethernet,video-out, a larger screen, etc. that were not included with the1400," it concludes.

As I have been saying for quite some time, Apple's decision tomake its post-2400 PowerBooks non-upgradable appears to have beenquite deliberate, which is OK for Apple but a downgrade in overallvalue for depreciation-plagued PowerBook users.

Also, with no more G3 upgrades available for the PowerBook 2400,the last G3 subnotebook option is eliminated, leaving nearly sixpound Lombard as the lightest,smallest G3 PowerBook currently available.

Focus on Mac Hardware's article echoes my contention that ifApple is not interested in engineering a subnotebook PowerBook atpresent, the least they should have done is continued to offer a G3version of the 2400.

As we reported last week, Dave Manning of UpgradeStuff.com isevaluating user interest in getting a group of resellers to sponsoranother build of Newer's PowerBook 1400 G3 cards. If you'reinterested, drop Dave an email at: 1400@upgradestuff.com.

Meanwhile, look for prices of 1400s and 2400s to softensignificantly as we move into the fall.

Some PowerBook Vital Statistics

Hard Drive Sizes (External Dimensions) For G3 Series 'Books

  • Lombard/'Bronze' models: 12.7mm
  • WallStreet models: 17mm

iBook

Width: 13.5"

Depth: 1.24-2.06"
Thickness: 11.6"
Weight: 6.7 lb.

Lombard

Width: 12.2"

Depth: 1.7"
Thickness: 9.8"
Weight: 5.9 lb.

Lombard is currently Apple's most "compact" PowerBook by aconsiderable margin!

New PowerBook Coming in August? Forget it!

The rumor mill has been coughing out speculation about a newprofessional PowerBook supposedly to be introduced at the SeyboldSeminars in San Francisco beginning 30 August 1999.

This is totally unfounded and unbelievable. Lombard isrelatively freshly minted, and Apple has plenty on its hands rightnow with the iBook launch. Remotely possible is a Lombardspeed-bump (to 450 MHz) announcement.

Don't look for the next Professional 'Book before Macworld ExpoSF next January (a very long shot), and more likely next May. When102 finally does appear, lookfor:

  • 450-500 MHz G3 CPUs
  • 4X DVD
  • no latch (like the iBook)
  • Ports on the sides
  • FireWire
  • smoke black and gray plastics

MacInterface Interactive CD Teaches Mac Users theFundamentals

MacInterface is a new interactive CD release that has beencreated to help beginning-to-intermediate Mac users easily learn totake advantage of all the cool features of the Macintosh operatingsystem.

Described as the cool way to get jump-started on your Mac,MacInterface features a series of tutorial lessons that use fullscreen captures, visual aids, navigation buttons and narrations toshow anyone how to become a better organized, more efficient Macuser.

A major feature of the MacInterface CD is a navigation systemthat lets the user control the entire process of moving through thelessons. The Introduction session shows the user how to switch tothe desktop to immediately practice any of the lessons.

"It's like having someone who really knows the Mac sitting rightnext to you, talking you through every lesson, except the userchooses what to learn and controls the pace of learning," saysMacInterface founder and publisher Peter DeArmond.

"MacInterface does not show any so-called system hacks or anythird-party software to accomplish the learning objectives. Thegoal is to help the user see it's easy to use the built-in featuresof the OS to customize your Mac to t your personal needs. It'sgreat to have the feeling of being total control of your computer.In the history of personal computing, there's no product that doesthis as well as the Mac," DeArmond said.

MacInterface is aimed primarily at the significant numberMac-users who are either first-time Macintosh buyers, or any Macowner who hasn't taken the time to explore the Mac's interfaceadvantages. However, people who are in Mac tech support positionswill find some timesaving value in giving the CD to new users, inlieu of formal training.

"For years I've been helping people with one-on-one sessions onhow to customize their Mac interface, both for improved efficiencyand personal preference, DeArmond said. It's amazing how manypeople still do not take advantage of this fundamental part of theOS. The Mac is unique in the way it can t the needs of so manydifferent people. It would be a shame if you had a tool like theMac but didn't take advantage of its built-in features."

DeArmond acknowledges that there are already plenty of books andWebsites offering detailed tips on using the Mac OS. "I've oftentold people to use them, he said, but the CD puts selected keylessons right on your desktop. And unlike other tutorial CDs,MacInterface has more controls for the user."

All of the lessons in MacInterface are based on built-infeatures of the Macintosh Operating System. Most of the lessons arebased on features of Mac OS 8.5 or later, but there are some thatapply to Mac OS 8.1 or later. Although MacInterface is intended forpeople who are somewhat new to the Mac, DeArmond says that some ofhis more experienced Mac using friends have told him they learnedsome new things on the CD. I also think this would be a goodtraining tool for some sales people who don't know the Mac verywell at some chain stores, he said.

Version 1.0 of MacInterface is priced at $39.95 per individualuser. The price for students or employees of K-12 education is$34.95 per user, and a K-12 school site license covering up to 500users is available for only $249.95. MacInterface is currentlyavailable only at the MacInterface website.

The website is set up for online credit card orders, butcustomers also can use a fax or mail form available at thesite.

DeArmond said plans already are underway for the next version ofMacInterface, and that the MacInterface website is encouragingsuggestions from readers for specific lessons and tips.

Outpost.com Now Taking Pre-Orders for SkyLine Wireless PC Card(AirPort Compatible)

Farallon's SkyLine Wireless PC Card for Cross-PlatformNetworking, compatible with Apple's AirPort, may now be pre-orderedfrom Outpost.com for delivery in "late August." Farallon guaranteesSkyLine's compatibility with Apple's upcoming AirPort line ofwireless connectivity products that were introduced along withiBook at Macworld Expo last month.

The SkyLine Wireless Notebook PC Card is priced at $298.95 [now$189.95, ed.] on the Outpost Web page, and supports both MacintoshPowerBook and PC notebooks, providing 2 Mbps [now 11 Mbps] accessto network resources such as file servers, email, printers and theInternet.

SkyLine Features include:

  • Type II PC Card (PCMCIA) with the Harris PRISM chip set foradvanced Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) technology in the2.4 GHz radio frequency band
  • IEEE 802.11 standard, including translation and encapsulationaddressing modes, for seamless integration with any Ethernetnetwork
  • Compatibility with 802.11 DSSS access points from manufacturessuch as Nokia (formerly InTalk), Lucent, Maxtech & Zoom
  • Control Panel with real-time signal strength meter (Macintoshversion), statistics & dynamic configuration
  • Multiplatform drivers for use in Macintosh PowerBooks &Windows 95/98, NT notebooks
  • Range is up to 1000 ft in open air; up to 300 ft indoors to anaccess point or other wireless device
  • Farallon test utilities & at-a-glance status LEDs simplifytroubleshooting
  • Support for peer-to-peer ad hoc networking
  • Free Dr. Farallon technical support & 3 year warranty
  • 802.11 Wireless Connectivity for Macintosh PowerBooks and PCNotebooks Roaming computer users such as on college campuses, wherestudents go from building to building, wireless connectivity meansanytime, anywhere access to network resources.

Through IEEE 802.11 DSSS compatible access points frommanufacturers such as Nokia (formerly InTalk), Lucent, Maxtech andZoom, as well as AirPort when it arrives, SkyLine users can connectto a wired Ethernet network. Additionally, SkyLine users can createan ad-hoc network between two or more portable computers. A robustControl Panel provides a real-time signal strength meter (Macintoshversion), network statistics as well as dynamic configuration,omitting the need to restart.

System requirements: SkyLine works in Macintosh PowerBooks andWindows 95/98 or NT notebooks with an available Type II PC card(PCMCIA) slot. SkyLine is certified for use in North America,Australia and Europe except France and Spain. Future certificationsto include France, Spain and Japan.

NetFinder v2.0.1b4 FTP Client Public Beta Released

NetFinderv2.0 is an ftp client by Australian developers Peter Li andVincent Tan, whose interface looks like the Mac OS Finder.

NetFinder's interface supports the MacOS 8.x theme, and a keyfeature of this ftp client is resumable downloads. Hooray!

NetFinder Version 2.0 Includes the following features:

  • Completely new "Partial File Window"
  • Appearance Manager Savvy.
  • Contextual Menu Support.
  • Navigation Manager Support.
  • "View Graphic" Window. (This feature along with View File andEdit in BBEdit makes NetFinder a really valuable tool for webpublishers)
  • Support for HTTP directory listings. (only certain sitessupported)
  • Support for downloading a HTTP URL/file
  • Resume download supported - you can continue downloading a filethat has been partially downloaded instead of having to downloadthe entire file again. This works even if you quit NetFinder oryour Mac crashes and you have to restart.
  • Support for FTP through a HTTP proxy. (only certainproxies)
  • Support for HTTP servers that require Basic Authentication.FILE Protocol
  • Supports viewing of files in the Finder in a NetFinder listingwindow
  • Most Finder operations can be performed in NetFinder - Copy,Move, Rename, etc.
  • Support for One Time Password servers
  • Support for configuring when NetFinder attempts to retryconnecting to a busy server
  • Improved directory caching mechanism
  • Support for "Recent Items", to access often visited sites.
  • Support for "URL completion", so you only need to type in thefirst few characters of your sites hostname, then hit connect
  • MacBinary III support.
  • Support for Apple's KeyChain Manager (encryption)
  • Support for viewing files as a Graphic
  • Full Drag and Drop support
  • download, upload, delete, rename and move files and folders aseasily as you would in the Finder
  • supports moving files to your Mac's disk and moving filesaround on a FTP site
  • the ability to save and open bookmarks of your favourite FTPsites
  • can work with Internet Explorer or Netscape
  • Internet Config savvy
  • Year 2000 (Y2K) Compliance

The latest NetFinderbeta v2.0.1b4 released this week incorporates a variety ofenhancements and bug fixes, including:

  • tweaked code so that GUI is a bit more responsive when NF isnot doing anything
  • improved One Time Password support.

Mobile Celeron Speeds now "Faster" than Pentium II (but the G3Will Still Toast Them)

John G. Spooner of ZDNet reports that Intel will release a 466 MHz mobile Celeron onSept. 15, making it nominally "faster" than the high-end MobilePentium II.

Consequently, the cheaper, Celeron-powered notebooks willappear to be faster than top-of-the-line Mobile Pentium IInotebooks - an analog of the same situation that pertains withApple's G3 PowerBooks being substantially faster than MobilePentiums, but having nominally lower MHz numbers.

However, a Mobile Pentium III chip is due to be released laterin the fall

Flat Screen Laptop Monitor Shortage

A Reuters story on CNET News.com reports that an industrywide shortage of flat-screen LCD computerdisplays could stem the supply of laptop computers, noting thatIBM was only able to meet 70 percent of its notebook productiontarget for August.

Dell spokesman T.R. Reid was quoted saying that the flat-screenshortage is not expected to disappear before the end of 1999.

It is not evident what effect, if any this supply crunch willhave on Apple's PowerBook and iBook production. Apple recentlyinvested $100 million in Korea's Samsung LCD division expressly tohelp avoid such shortages.

Road Warrior Mailbag

From David Chilstrom:

First of all, thanks for your article a while back "Lombard:Still the Mac to Have" on MacTimes.com. I've long been biasedagainst laptops because of the traditionally high cost toperformance ratio. Your article swayed me to purchase a Lombard 333and I now fully understand your preference for laptops. Even ayummy iMac seems clunky in comparison. I fully expected tofrequently hook up my PowerBook to a 17" monitor but don't find itthe least bit appealing unless I really, really need the extra realestate. Same goes for an external keyboard, though I am expectingto use a trackball for more intensive use. I find that I use thePowerBook on batteries more than I need to because of convenience.I estimate the cost is about 25 cents a charge (figuring 500charges per battery and a cost of about $125 a battery) so it's nobig deal. I understand the appeal of wireless connectivity as itfeels so much more natural to have the PowerBook untethered. Inthis regard, I think the minimal ports on the iBook are a sign ofthings to come and can't wait till the Ethernet and modem port arecompletely dispensable. Wireless USB and FireWireless would be fineby me also.

I like your Model T analogy of the current state of computerdevelopment. Henry Ford once said something to the effect that "Youcan have a Model T in any color you like as long as it's black". Iunderstand the desire expressed by a number of Mac users for asmoke iBook or in your case a blackberry iBook, but I'm doubtfulthat those colors fit into the psychology of the "i" series. Partof that psychology is that a computer can be "yummy", sensual andappealing, not just to the eye but to the touch and even to thetaste buds. It's no coincidence that Apple's "Yum" ads bear astrong resemblance to Lifesavers candy. More than one iBookcommentator has described the tangerine iBook as the "Creamsicle"iBook after the popular ice cream bar of the baby boomers youth.There's some powerful subconscious mojo in the iMac and iBookdesign.

Color aside, the iMac and iBook represent a return to the Macintoshvision of making a computer as simple and elegant as possible. Thesmall touches of the latchless iBook lid and the fact that theiBook wakes up when you open the lid are features that make it morenatural and intuitive. The rugged design and handle convey theimpression that you should feel carefree to grab and go with theiBook, whereas I gingerly pick up my PowerBook and carefully openthe back door when I need to hook up and am very conscious of itwhen I carry it from room to room. The Airport wireless technologyis a brilliant innovation for a laptop, as having a laptop is allabout the freedom to roam. Also, the battery recharging connectionson the bottom of the iBook suggest that some users might never usethe yo-yo cord, preferring to put the iBook on a charger (when onebecomes available) and always run it off batteries or while seatedon the charger base. Less cords and cables = more freedom.

I appreciate the fact that John Dvorak came right out and calledthe iBook "girly" because it touches on another part of the iBookpsychology, as it is clearly the feminine counterpart of the verymacho PowerBook line. I'm not saying that real men wouldn't carryan iBook, but rather that it's appeal is to our sensate, estheticand grounded side, whereas the PowerBook commands a cooler,abstract and more objective appreciation. I don't know whether theiBook will attract hitherto disinterested female buyers, but I amcertain that many men with a more concrete and tactile sensibilitywill find the iBook very appealing and satisfying to theirnature.


From Christian Mueller:

I enjoyed your well-written 12/98 column on the PowerBook 5300.I'm the sometimes-proud owner of a vintage 5300cs, with theflickering dual scan display. My major beef with the system is thatit cannot display 16-bit ("thousands") of colors, something I needin order to work with Photoshop. I inherited this machine from mygrandmother when she purchased one of the new PowerBook G3s.Although I've been working with Macs for over a decade, I've neverowned one prior to this: I've had various PCs since 1988. I'd beenlooking forward to migrating from my trusty Pentium, which I'd beenusing for Photoshop and web design work, to this machine forgraphics work. I realize that you're a columnist and not atech-support person, but I have had a few nagging questions aboutmy machine:

- is it possible to upgrade the VRAM (or something else) to supporthigher color depth?

- I have System Enabler 1.1 and the original 7.5.2 OS. Apple'swebsite says that the upgrade path is 7.5.3 then 7.5.5, which is mytarget. However, it says I need Enabler 1.2 to upgrade to 7.5.3,and I can't find anywhere to download a new enabler, if this iseven possible. I bought a PC-Card modem which, according to thebox, needs 7.5.4 or higher - I installed it anyway, and it works,but according to Viking Component's tech support, it will "workbetter" with a newer version of the Mac OS. Ack! Should I justspring the $100 for MacOS 8.6?

- Can I partition a 5300 drive? I have the 500 MB disk, and I waskeeping an eye on MkLinux, but I don't have the experience with Macpartitions (though I've done it on PCs)... also, 500 megs seems onthe smallish side in order to install a second operating system, soI may just have to buy an external SCSI drive as well. (Especiallysince I have a mere 23 MB free as of this writing! ;)

- I agree with your stylistic notes about the 5300. I've alwaysadmired its handsome lines, and the 3400/ first-gen G3 PowerBookspractically left stretch marks, whereas the new G3 PowerBooks aregratuitously swoopy, and the new iBook looks like a toilet seat.And Apple needs to rethink its model nomenclature, there are nowthree distinct models called the "PowerBook G3" (the original inthe 3400 case, the swoopier new one, and the thinned-down versionof the new one). Plus the model names no longer give a megahertzrating. How I long for the days of the 7100/80 !

Hi Christian;

I continue to be amazed at how much mail that 5300 columncontinues to pull in.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no VRAM upgrade availablefor the PowerBook 5300.

Gak! get something better than the wretched OS 7.5.2 - areal stinker version of the Mac OS in my estimation. (BTW, OS 7.5.4never shipped.)

The appropriate system enablers come with the OS upgrades. Yourcheapest (free) upgrade path is to download OS 7.5.3 and then putOS 7.5.5 on top of it. You have to do it that way, but OS 7.5.5addressed several problems specific to the 5300, and is a goodworking system.

I'm still using OS 8.1 on my 5300, and I think it is the idealOS for this model 'Book. I have a late beta of OS 8.6 on the driveas well, but am not partial to how it runs on the 5300 (works greaton my WallStreet), although some people report success.

You can certainly partition the 5300's hard drive. I have myinternal 500 MB drive partitioned into four smaller virtual drives,plus a VST 810 MB expansion bay drive. You will have to back upyour files somewhere to do the partition. However, I don't thinkMcLinux is a practical proposition for that small a drive,partitioned or otherwise. I would be fascinated to learn how Linuxperforms on the 5300 though. Any standard IDE 2.5" laptop HD shouldwork with the 5300 as long as it physically fits in the case. Maybea used drive from an upgraded WallStreet or Lombard would be a goodoption.


From Jenny V. Benevento

Me new Mac person....me need help.

Thanks for your columns, they are very interesting as well ashelpful to me, a PC user who is venturing into your scary Macworld. The last time i used Macs, it was mainly in logo, soooooo asyou can see I am befuddled by new Mac technology. :)

My main question is, do you think, when looking at buying aPowerBook for school (i.e. a 1400 or something in that price rangeor below), I should buy one relatively soon, or wait until theiBook makes its big splash on the market sending prices on otherPowerBooks downward. is this theory of PowerBook prices going downa half-baked pipe dream or worth holding out for in your humbleopinion?

Hi Jenny;

You use PCs and you think Macs are scary? ;-)

Re: your question, I do think that used Mac prices will take anincremental bump downwards when iBook ships, and unless you are ina big rush, it might be worthwhile to wait a month or two untilthat factor settles in. Another thing putting downward pressure onPB 1400 and PB 2400 prices is the question of whether G3 upgradeswill continue to be available, a question mark at this point.

However, as a general rule, trying to time computer purchases isa very tricky business, and whenever you take the plunge, sixmonths later you will be able to get something more powerful forthe same or less money.


Duncan Dixon in Japan, who wrote to The Road Warrior a while backabout problems he was having getting the display on his PowerBook5300 repaired under warranty by Apple Japan, sends us this update:

Some good news about my PB5300. After many email messages andletters to Apple USA and Apple Japan as well as calling the localsupport number, Apple Japan called me and told me to send them myPowerBook and they'd look into my complaints about the screen thatcame back ill after I had the bezel repaired under the extendedwarranty.

Yesterday my PowerBook arrived with a new screen so the bottom halfisn't like trying to read something that's under water.

Thanks for your help.
Duncan Dixon


Another PowerBook 5300 user, Joe Williams at NASA's Lyndon B.Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, also updated us on his DIYadventures in 5300 screen repair:

I'd like to update you on my PowerBook 5300cs self-repair toreplace the balky display ribbon cable. As you and your readersknow, this is one of the parts for which the 5300 series is knownfor, for causing all kinds of problems. I had this repair performedearlier this year by Apple for $120, and I'd be damned if I wasgoing to have them do it again. I decided to tackle itmyself.

Many thanks to you for forwarding the note from Dan Patnaude. Hisnote explained in great detail how exactly to disassemble thePowerBook and swap out the balky cable. With the new cable from SunRemarketing (about $45 dollars) in place, all is well with thedisplay on my PowerBook.

I'm also trying a bit of an experiment. I don't understand whyApple designed the cable they way they did, but to install thecable requires folding its two "arms" to make a 90-degree turn foreach, and it is these folds which cause the shorts that many folkshave experienced. To combat this problem, I purchased a 3/16" (5mm) diameter wooden dowel, and cut two small lengths from it. Iwrapped the cable around the two small dowels to make the 90-degreeturns. I'll be watching to see if I encounter any unwanted sideeffects of this bit of rigging. So far, so good.

Joe Williams

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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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