Charles Moore's Mailbag

Cooler Laptops, a G4 Recording Studio, a Fast Unicode Text Editor, and Phantom Email

Charles Moore - 2007.12.03 -Tip Jar

Cooler Running Laptops

From Russell:

Really liked your article on cooler laptops [The Case for a Quiet, Cooler Running, LowPowered MacBook]:

I guess I missed it when it first came out.

I am wanting a laptop and have been considering the 17" 1.67 GHz G4s, as the eBay price is down tobetween $800 and $1,000. I found some first edition Core Duo 17" for about twice the price.

The thing I have always said about laptops is "how much power do youreally need in a laptop? what are you going to do with it?"

If you need massive rendering power for computer generated graphics,then send it over to your muscular desktop, no need to burn out thelaptop doing that kind of stuff!

As you mention there are other needs for a genuine Laptop. I willadmit my only working Mac, a PowerBook3400, spends little time on my lap, but it rarely gets warm, thefan has only come on twice, even with a 20 gig hard drive and 144 megsof RAM.

However it is just too slow for everyday web use, can barely playweb videos, and has a hard time doing anything when playing MP3s iniTunes in the background, (though this is solved by using Winamp, which is less resource intensive Iguess).

Anyway, enough agreeing with you, here is my question:

What about Intel's much hyped SpeedStep technology? Itis supposed to be able to lower processor speed to less than 1/2 andeven turn one core off if not needed. Doesn't this help in the heatdepartment? Could it be a power management problem in OS X ratherthan anything else? The Core Duos make half the heat (and take half thewatts) of the previous Pentium 4s. Are there additional powermanagement utilities available for OS X?

I wonder if for the heat and battery issue I should lower my desiresand get a 1 GHz 17" PowerBook and save a couple hundred dollars inthe process? The main problem here is that savings would quickly beused in buying a larger hard drive and more RAM (which is quiteexpensive for older machines).

Thanks again.

Russell

Hi Russell,

Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the article.

Yes, the 3400c was a great machine in its day("fastest laptop on the planet" for a few months in 1997, before the G3revolution hit), but its day - and that of any pre-G3 machine - ispretty much past.

You have a point about the reduced processor speedoption in the OS X Energy Saver preference panel, and I should useit more than I do, as it does cut down on heat generation, and even a1.33 GHz G4 is well in excess of my needs for processor power much ofthe time. Too bad there is no button in the menu bar that couldconveniently toggle reduced CPU speed on and off.

For example, at this point in time I'm running in OS X10.5.1 Leopard, dialed up to the Internet, with "Reduced" processorspeed selected, and the PowerBook is running at a very tolerable40° C. The trouble starts when I need the power for stuff likedictation software - or in Leopard even checking and sending email withEudora, odd as that seems.

Based on my own anecdotal experience with this 17"PowerBook, I can highly recommend it. It's decently powerful and hasbeen completely trouble-free. I would encourage you to go to at least1.33 GHz (I've seen some in the $700-800 range), and if I were buying aG4 PowerBook now, I think I would want a 1.67 GHz unit. The newermodels also came with more RAM and higher-capacity hard drives, and, asyou note, older RAM types can be pricey.

Wegener Media hassome decent prices on MacBook Pros right now, with 2.16 GHz 17" unitsstarting at $1,459.99, and 1.83 GHz 15" models from $1,179.99.Personally, I would not be inclined to go for either a 1 GHz 17"PowerBook or a Revision A Core Duo MacBook Pro, and prefer to hold outfor the bugfix Revision B version (which is what my 1.33 GHz 17"PowerBook is) or later iterations.

My 2 cents anyway.

Charles,

Thanks for the response and advice about the first generationPowerBook 1 GHz and MacBook (or of anything - including OS X 10.5apparently!)

40°C is pretty good for a modern laptop. It is interestingreading about the new generation of 45nm Intel processors; theyevidently use about half the power to make the same speed (althoughthey will probably sell it as "twice the power" at the same blisteringtemperature!)

Hi Russell,

Yes. Even the second generation of Leopard (OS X10.5.1) is proving to be a mighty buggy customer, alas.

So far I haven't noticed any appreciable slowdownrunning the PowerBook in Leopard under reduced processor speed mode,and the temperature has been staying pretty consistently in the 40°neighborhood, which isn't bad, as you say - but of course I'm notgetting modern (or even middling obsolete as in this case) processorspeed either. Seems more than adequate for word processing and Websurfing, though.

Charles

My G4/OS 9 Recording Studio

From Eric:

Hello Charlie,

I first wanted to tell you that I enjoy reading your columns onOS 9. I really appreciate people still having an interest in thatOS.

I wanted to tell you about a project Power Mac G4 I'm putting together for a budgetrecording studio.

This Mac system will be 1.5 Gig RAM, Sonnet 1.4 Gig Proc on aG4.

The reason I chose this system was the availability of what 10 yearsago was very professional audio hardware. Namely, a Digidesign 001running Pro Tools 5.1, (2) Digidesign 32 voice/32 Meg Sample playbackcards, and a Yamaha SW1000XG card with a 64 voice/64 Meg integratedwave playback system.

My goal: to put together a very powerful recording studio based onthe Pro Tools software with only an external mixer and keyboard toenter MIDI information into Pro Tools. I've also got a good microphoneand preamps, so we'll see.

The end cost of this system will be approximately $850. 10 yearsago, the Digidesign hardware would set you back about $6K alone. I amhoping to write a column about this when I'm done getting it up andrunning and stabilized.

There is life in these old dogs yet.

Sincerely,
Eric Moore

Hi Eric,

Yes, there sure is, and one of the most seductivethings about using elderly computers is that you can get and utilizestuff that was very high-end not that long ago for bargain basementprices. If it will do what you need it to do, why not? I look forwardto reading your column on making it work for you.

My wife is still getting great service out of our oldWallStreet PowerBook running OS9.2.2. She could switch to my G3iBook, which is semi-retired these days and runs OS X 10.4Tiger nicely, but the old WallStreet still works so well and has a muchbetter keyboard - in my estimation the best one Apple ever put in anynotebook.

The WS is actually quite speedy in OS 9, and for somereason, Gmail in Web-based mode, which is what my wife uses, worksbetter (and substantially faster) on our dialup Internet connection inold Netscape 7.02 under the Classic OS than it does with any of theup-to-date OS X Web browsers on my faster machines under OS X10.4 and 10.5.

Charles

A Fast Text Editor with Great Unicode Support

From Sumeth following up on Tigervs. Panther Performance for Editing Text:

Hi Charles,

Interesting stuff about Tex-EditPlus, I used to try it once but didn't keep it, as my need could befilled with TextEdit as easily. I'll try it again to see if it runsfaster than most other applications I have tried so far; all seems tocrawl at about the same pace. English keyboard seems a little fasterthan the Thai one, but I can type much faster than the text wouldappear on the screen with my old external Apple keyboard. You must knowhow annoying this could be when you have to wait for your text toappear.

The classic version is out of the question, though, because theimplementation of Thai script is different. I believe Classic doesn'tuse Unicode, and my editor would have a hard time opening my manuscriptwith her MS Word for Windows. I'll try out the OS X version thoughand let you know how it goes.

Cheers,
Sumeth

Hi Sumeth,

I'll be interested to hear how you find Tex-Edit Pluson a second go-round.

In using it since the early 90s on machines from an8 MHz 68000 Mac Plus on up, I don'trecall ever being able to out-type it.

TE+ can save documents in Word (text) format.

Charles

Hi Charles,

Just to update you on Tex-Edit Plus. Well, the reason I didn't keepit was because it can't read Thai script, and that's the end of storyfor me. Lucky for me, though; I found a pretty nifty text editor whichseems to fly on my G3 iBook no less. It's called Diamond Document Editor byGeoffrey Alexander.

Granted that this app. has unusual UI and a few quirks of its own,but it is very fast and knows where to wrap the Thai words nicely atthe end of the line. I have done a number of pages on my manuscriptusing the app last night, and I think I'm gonna keep this baby, quirkyor otherwise.

Cheers,
Sumeth

Hi Sumeth,

I can understand how the inability to read Thai (Ipresume no Unicode support) would be a deal-killer for you with TE+,but I'm delighted to hear that you've found a satisfactory textapplication.

I've never heard of Diamond Document Editor, but I'mnow curious to check it out. I like quirky stuff.

Charles

Re: The Case for a Quiet, Cooler Running, LowPowered MacBook?

From Yuhong Bao:

Charles Moore wrote:

"Oh, absolutely, which is kind of my point. I'mdefinitely willing to trade off some power for quieter, cooler runningand longer battery life."

In fact, thanks to "performance per watt" you don't have to trademuch performance to get longer battery life. Of course, it will be moreexpensive.

Phantom Email in Mail 10.3.9

From Lee Shartau

Hi Charles

I have a poser.

In Mail OS 10.3.9 I have an unread email. It says so on the top ofthe pane, and there is a 1 in the red dot on the Mail icon in the Dock.I can't find this mail.

If it is a phishing or pharming mail I would prefer not to includeit in a back-up (overdue) B&W G3 400.

What to do.

Thanks

Lee Shartau

Hi Lee,

That is a poser.

I don't use Mail myself, so I have no experience ofwhat any issues in the program might be that would cause this. Now ifit was Eudora.... ;-)

Hard to say if it's malware or just some glitch in theprogram. I would be inclined to suspect the latter as being morelikely, but you never know.

Wish I could be more helpful.

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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