Charles Moore's Mailbag

Feeling Like an iChump, Lombard and Pismo Praise, Being a Late Adopter, Classic Mode, and More

Charles Moore - 2007.09.17 - Tip Jar

Pismo and Lombard Comments

From Travis Jay Patocka:

As an additional response to Edwards questions about which laptop to get and why the Pismo is so popular, let's not forget about repairs. Last summer I had to completely disassemble my Lombard to change the A/C sound card, and it was nice having a machine that was simple to take apart, have room for your fingers, and be able to repair with little to no frustration.

Face it, when you purchase an older machine things can and usually will go wrong, but if you can repair it yourself for little to nothing, that makes the deal even sweeter. I just checked the guides from ifixit.com and found them to pretty above average in terms of usefulness. I have never taken apart an iBook G3 or G4, but according to the IT people at the school that I teach at, it is no walk in the park to disassemble an iBook.

Thanks!

Travis

Hi Travis,

Good points. I certainly appreciate the relative ease with which one can do surgery on the G3 Series PowerBooks' innards.

I haven't had occasion to repair very much on my WallStreet and Pismos, but it certainly is a snap to change hard drives and remove the processor card (which is necessary to get at the lower RAM slot).

According to MCE Technologies:

"The hard drive in the iBook is not end-user, or even dealer/service center, upgradable. Just accessing the hard drive bay is a job involving the removal of over two-dozen screws, hex-nuts, plastic parts, and very small, sensitive, electronic components. If the proper level of anti-static protection is not maintained and the take-apart procedure not properly documented then a successful upgrade is nearly impossible...."

Charles

Say It Isn't So!

From Adam Goff:

Good Evening Mr. Moore,

How are you my friend? It's been a while since we've last spoke, so I hope that all is going very well with you. I just caught your interview with Tommy Thomas on LEM; it was a very good piece, and he seems to be making great strides with his writing. It was also nice to learn more about the (in)famous Charles W. Moore!

There was one section of the interview however, that left me both speechless and in need of further clarification:

"The Macs I liked the least were the 5000 Series All-in-One desktop Performas and Macs of the mid-90s. My least favorite laptop would be the PowerBook 150, with its poverty of ports, no video out, and oddball IDE hard drive."

While I agree that the 5200s were seriously hobbled by Apple and an overall disgrace to the family name, the later iterations - the Power Mac/Performa 5400 & 5500 were fine little machines. I do so very much hope that your comments were directed solely to the 5200.

Regardless of each version's respective internals, I always felt that the entire 5000 series were handsome, well proportioned machines. I may even go as far to say they were the most attractive Macs from the beige-PowerPC era, especially compared to the "clunky," cobbled-together look of their immediate predecessor, the 68K 500-series.

Aesthetics aside, the upgraded components of the 54-5500s made them very respectable machines, the 5500s in particular. While I have no direct experience with the 5400, I still have a running 5500, and it remains an excellent platform for the Classic OS. A 250 MHz 603e running on a 50 MHz system bus (with available G3 upgrades), 128 MB of RAM, standard IDE hard drives (currently a 5400 rpm 20 GB drive), PCI expandability (mine is occupied with a USB card), built-in CD and floppy (mine has been upgraded to a CD-RW), and built-in ethernet, all of which is designed around an ingenious slide-out motherboard.

Of course this could all be nothing more than personal bias, as this was the first Mac that I ever "hot-rodded." However, the old gal is rock solid running 9.1 and she remains my main Classic machine. Every one of the upgrades I have installed on the machine were done so effortlessly, and I still have the option of installing a G3 processor via the L2 slot; all of this speaks to just how great of a machine these old all-in-ones really are.

If you still conclude that the entire 5000 series line were horrible machines, then I must humbly, yet wholeheartedly, disagree with your opinion. If so, it would be a momentous occasion, as I cannot really think of a time where our opinions on a particular Macintosh were in stark contrast to one another.

Either way, you know that I always respect and value your opinions and sincerely appreciate all of the kind words and advice you have given my way. I do however hope that your comment was mainly directed at the 5200 and that you see the later versions as the fine machines I believe them to be.

Take care, God Bless, and have a wonderful weekend!

Adam M. Goff

Hello Adam,

Thanks for your note.

Yes, it seems that I may have answered Tommy's question too quickly and with less qualification than would have been appropriate.

Indeed, I was referring to the 5200 series AIOs, and it appears as if I may have slandered the later models in the 5000 series, of which I have no direct experience. I should have said 5200 and been done with it.

The 5200 was horrible - slow and cranky - and I've never been a super-big fan of the 603e experience, but from your description it looks like Apple fixed the 5200's most egregious deficiencies in the later 5000s.

I agree with you that the 5000 AIOs were a lot better looking than the earlier 500 series (I still have an LC 520, and it was a faithful old workhorse, but a homely one to my sense of aesthetics. However, I've never been terribly smitten with the styling of any of the CRT AIOs since the original compact Macs, which were a graceful and sublime piece of industrial design. My fave AIOs for looks are the "gooseneck" iMac G4s, although I do quite like the new Aluminum & Glass iMacs.

The slide-out logic board (first pioneered on the Color Classic, and used in the 500 series AIOs and 6xx series headless Macs had it as well) was indeed one of Apple's better ideas - a stroke of genius that they abandoned with the introduction of the iMac, and things have gone more or less steadily downhill from there. The Alu-Glass iMac is reportedly a nightmare to work on. Too bad.

Charles

Hawking Card on PowerBook G3

From Alejandro Manara:

Dear Charles

Could you please tell me if this item would work on a PB G3 WallStreet (#4753): Apple Mac Wireless PCMCIA PC WiFi Card OS X 10.1-10.4 Hawking

The seller insists it does, but you wrote in Low End Mac about the Netgear WG511T...

many thanks

Hi Alejandro,

This item is listed on the Rokland eBay Store, along with the system requirements specs. The listing say that it is also compatible with Macintosh operating systems 10.0 through 10.4, so if you have OS X installed on your WallStreet (which officially supports up to OS X 10.2.8), it should work. It appears that there are no drivers available for Mac OS Classic.

You will need to download OS X drivers for this card from Hawking.

Charles

Maximal Apple Price Cut Ratio

From Steven Edwards:

Hello Charles:

In regard to your 2007.09.10 Low End Mac column concerning price cuts and early adopters, I note that the original Apple 23" Cinema Display was first priced at US$3,499. I bought one (no regrets, it has been in use for nearly six years), and not too long afterward the retail price dropped nearly 43% down to US$1,999. I think that's the record.

I enjoy reading your columns; keep up the good work.

Steven

Hi Steven,

Yes. that's pretty extreme - a 43% price cut. I think I would have been a little disgruntled.... ;-)

Charles

Feeling Like an iChump

From Brian:

Hi Charles,

As a faithful reader of yours and an early iPhone adopter, I wanted to share my thoughts. Normally, I try not to get ahead of you on the technology curve, but circumstances goaded me into buying the iPhone about three weeks before the September kerfuffle. With a phone contract up and a need for a new phone, I took the plunge.

I expected a $100 cut for the holiday season, and perhaps a doubling of storage space. That seemed to be a reasonable early adopter penalty for me. A $200 reduction is an order of magnitude greater than expected. Plus, it made me feel like an iChump when people started asking whether I bought the thing before the price cut. Imagine the once proud owner of an iPhone actually hiding it from view. That's certainly not want Apple wants.

But I have to say, I must be easily bought, because I am satisfied with the $100 store credit. Apple made a quick recovery, but this was a marketing blunder. I have bought Apple products through thick and thin, and I have even been known to buy accessories from the Apple Store just to support the company. I'm going to think twice before doing that anymore. My brand loyalty was tested the other day. Even though Apple loyalists have no other choice, I doubt their marketers will try a maneuver like this again.

Brian

Hi Brian,

Thanks for the comment.

Under the circumstances, the $100 credit seems reasonable. As you say, you were expecting a $100 price cut before Christmas, although I don't think anyone thought the discounting would start just 63 days after the initial release.

Sometimes events beyond our control do influence purchase timing.

On his way home for Christmas 1999, my son's 14 month old WallStreet was stolen on the bus by a couple of young punks. Both we and the police knew who had taken it but couldn't prove it. I digress.

Anyway as soon as the insurance settlement came through, my son bought a new Lombard, even though he knew the Pismo was coming soon, and it did arrive about a month later. He was working for an Apple reseller at the time and so got a good deal on the Lombard, which turned out to be an excellent computer, but I think he had a bit of buyer's remorse, especially after OS X was released.

Charles

Hi Charles,

Thanks for your reply.

Your story about your son's stolen laptop reminds me that the single biggest factor weighing my Mac buying decisions these days is my own family's needs. I have tried the "hand-me-down" method, wherein I purchase a new laptop (PowerBook G4), and and let my wife use my old one (iBook G3). Well, after several months of feeling limited, she handed down the G3 to my 12-year old and bought herself a MacBook. We are all running Tiger right now, though we have not achieved complete parity, as some of my boys' favorite games need a G4. With two boys (12 and 9), the buying calculus is getting more complicated. I'm trying to figure out how not to get shellacked in the future.

One strategy I have learned is to tamp down temptation by not bringing my family to the Apple Store, ever. I'm curious about other Mac owners turned IT managers for their families. Perhaps a topic for one of your columns?

Cheers,
Brian

Hi Brian,

Yes. My My wife inherited my old LC 520 first, then switched to a PowerBook 1400. When I got my 17" PowerBook, I demoted the Pismo to serving as my number two machine and handed off the WallStreet to her, which she is still using running OS 9.2.2, but an upcoming work related requirement means she is going to need an OS X computer, so I'll switch her to my G3 iBook, and use one of my two Pismos as my "road" computer.

My kids are grown up, flown the coop, and on their own in computer provenance now. ;-)

Thanks for the article suggestion. I'll ruminate on it and see if anything gels.

Charles

Professional iBook Video Chip Repair Company

From Robert Eye:

Charles,

I don't know if you are aware of this company or not, but I thought I'd pass along the info to you.

There is a company called First Phase Technologies in Tempe, AZ (USA) that does board-level electronic repairs. Specifically, they do reflow and re-balling of the video chip on white iBooks for a very reasonable fee.

http://www.firstphasetech.com/ibook-repair-g3-g4.html

There was a lister on the LEM Swap List who offered two iBooks for sale recently who had this repair done to both units; he seemed very happy with the results. This is how I heard of the company (I have had no personal dealings with them, and I am not affiliated with them in any way).

You might wish to pass this along to your readers. Getting an otherwise working iBook back up to speed for a reasonable cost (especially if they can do the logic board removal themselves) might be worth the investment.

Regards,
Robert Eye
Dallas, TX

Hi Robert,

Thanks muchly. I hadn't been previously aware of this service. Looks like a good alternative to scrapping a misbehaving iBook or paying through the nose for a new logic board.

The sticking point of course for most people would be getting the logic board out. iBooks are mean to work on. However, someone reasonably handy and with the assistance of iFixIt's teardown guides should be able to do it with care and patience.

Charles

I'm a Late Adopter

From Michael:

Thanks for the great article (The Costs and Dangers of Being an Early Adopter)

I too decided to go with a refurb G4 PowerBook (15" & 1.67). A large factor in my decision to go with the G4 chip was my copy of Adobe Creative Suite, first version. I'd read that PowerPC software ran slowly on the Intel chips. I didn't want to have to spend the money to upgrade all my software, too. I upgraded from a Snow 600 MHz iMac.

I read Low End Mac every day and find it both encouraging and depressing. Encouraging because there are other people out there who are trying to really use the full life of their computers; depressing because it seems most upgrades are graphic glitz that require, unnecessarily, much more processing power with no more functionality.

Keep up the good work.

Hi Michael,

Thanks for the comment and for reading.

I'm still very satisfied with my 1.33 GHz PowerBook, and I'm still very happy that it supports Classic Mode and has an internal modem, which the MacBooks don't.

Yes, graphics support is the bottleneck factor these days, and the reason why Leopard probably won't be a very satisfactory performer even on the slower supported machines with modest graphics cards and VRAM configurations.

Charles

Easy Cruising in Technology's 'Wake'

From Steve Gordon:

Thanks for the good column today. As the owner of a Pismo and a Sawtooth, I too enjoy easy cruising in technology's 'wake'.

Keep up the good work!!

Steve Gordon

Hi Steve,

Glad you enjoyed the column, and glad to hear you're still getting good use out of those machines.

Charles

PowerBook G4 and Classic Mode

From DFS:

Is that PowerBook you bought from TechRestore aluminum or titanium?

I bought my iBook G3/700 from them.

Also, are you using Classic under Tiger. I like the old machines, writing from a G4 DA right now, but Microsoft Word 5.1a keeps me with Power PC and Classic. I bought iText/Lightway Text, and it may do all I need. The problem will be translating to and from the new Microsoft doc package, the Mac version of which I guess isn't out yet. It doesn't look like MacLink Plus translators will be updated anymore, either.

Best,
DFS

Hi DFS,

My PowerBook is a 1.33 GHz 17" aluminum unit - the second generation of 17" PowerBooks that was introduced at Macworld Paris in September 2003, and I think superseded by the 1.5 GHz model in April 2004.

I absolutely am using Classic Mode with Tiger on the PowerBook G4, my two Pismos, and my G3 iBook 700 MHz.

Incidentally, Word 5.1 seems to work just fine in Classic Mode running from Mac OS X 10.4.10. I don't use it a lot any more (I work mostly in Tex-Edit Plus), but it's handy for opening my old Word documents.

Charles

Data Exchange with PowerBook Duo 2300c

From Seb Payne:

A PowerBook 2300c Duo has just landed in my lap in pretty good condition. Few scuffs on the case but no dents or breaks in the casing. One leg is missing off the back, but that's it. I was wondering, Charles - what would you recommend to exchange data with an OS X machine with? I have no Duo Dock - would you suggest getting one, or can the built-in serial port be used? I have a PowerBook G4 and MacBook Pro 17". Thanks!

Seb Payne

Hi Seb,

Email works for smallish stuff if you can get the Duo online.

Back in the very old days, I used to network 68k Macs using the serial ports and a printer cable, however, neither of your newer 'Books has a serial port (and throughput was awfully slow anyway, as I recall, even with contemporaneous small files. Email might be nearly as fast).

Another workaround would be to upload your stuff to an Internet storage site and then download it with the newer machines via broadband, if it's available. That would speed things up a bit.

Ethernet would be ideal, but for that you would need either a dock that supports ethernet or a PC Card ethernet adapter. You probably need at least OS 8.6 and possibly OS 9 installed in order to network via AppleTalk with the newer notebooks.

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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