The 'Book Review

Low Cost RAM for Older 'Books, More iBook Problems, Incredibly Compact Windows Portables, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2004.02.13

Except as noted, prices are in U.S. dollars, bold links are to outside sites, and regular links lead to 'Book profiles on Low End Mac.

Windows Watch

Bargain 'Books

Cheap Low-end PowerBook Memory

Reader Ed Hurtley writes:

Hi, a store in my city that specializes in computer memory is currently having a sale on memory for older PowerBooks. I thought your readers should know. (I have no affiliation with them other than I buy memory from them on a regular basis.)

MemoryTime in Portland, Oregon.

Their current special is: (listed on their website.)

  • Apple PowerBook 190/190cs, 16 MB, $38
  • Apple PowerBook 2300c, 16 MB, $48
  • Apple PowerBook 3400, 128 MB, $78
  • Apple PowerBook 5300, 48 MB, $35
  • Apple PowerBook G3 Kanga, 64 MB, $52

They also carry Mac 5V EDO DIMMs, 72-pin memory, and (although their online price list doesn't mention it) even 30-pin SIMMs. (Even 16 MB modules, for use in upgrading that SE/30 or IIci to 128 MB of RAM!)

iBook Logic Board Failures Possibly Linked to Resin Defects?

In "IC Failures Linked to Resin Series?," Nikkei Electronics Asia's Motoyuki Oishi, Motonobu Kawai, and Motohiro Shirakura report:

"'This IC isn't using EME-U encapsulation resin from Sumitomo Bakelite, is it?' There has been a sudden flurry of such questions posed by equipment manufacturers to IC vendors since Fujitsu Ltd. of Japan announced defects in a personal computer (PC) internal hard disk drive (HDD) and began free replacement.

"Originally the issue was thought to be affecting only HDDs, but more recently similar defects have begun appearing in a range of other equipment, including set-top boxes, PC main boards, IC test systems and industrial machinery. The issue is developing into a major problem, and has rapidly come to involve a host of equipment and IC manufacturers.

"The prevailing industry position is that the primary cause of the IC failure is the EME-U series of encapsulation resins containing red phosphorus, developed as part the halogen-free environmental product program at Sumitomo Bakelite Co., Ltd. of Japan. (Red phosphorus is a reddish-brown, odorless solid, an allotrope of yellow phosphorus. The flash point is +250 to +260° C.)."

"White Spots" on iBook G4s?

An Apple discussions forum thread reveals that apparently some iBook G4 owners are encountering a white spots on the display issue similar to the one that plagued early examples of the 15" aluminum PowerBooks.

G5 PowerBook "This Year"?

Macworld UK's Jonny Evans says, "Microprocessor experts expect Apple to release new G5 Power Macs soon and posit the release of a G5 PowerBook 'this year'.

"IBM has already revealed that the 970fx offers power-management features, meaning a processor capable of speeds of 2 GHz could be clocked down, in order that it generate less heat in use."

Apple's UK PowerBook and iBook Sales Grew 40% in Q4 2003

ITFacts reports, "Apple Computer shipped 25% more Macs in the UK in the Q4 2003 than the previous year, according to marketing intelligence firm IDC. An analyst for the company believes consumer interest in Apple's iPod portable music player helped to spotlight its Macintosh PC and benefited sales. For the full year, Apple had a 7.5% growth giving the company a 2.3% market share overall in the UK. Desktop shipments declined 8% while notebook shipments of the PowerBook and iBook grew 40%."

Death of a Lombard (and Other Logic Board Stories)

Insanely Great Mac's Remy Davison says:

"My Lombard died last week. Actually, it'd been dying for over 6 months. First, the logic board started playing up. It would only boot attached to a terminated SCSI bus (that was a new one to me as well). Which meant that my trusty CD burner became an indispensable part of my booting armory.

"Then, last week, the daughtercard died. Completely. Kaput. No, it wasn't the infamous L2 cache failure (which leaves the processor operable, albeit at greatly-reduced speed).

"So what? you say. Time for a new PowerBook. Or iBook. Fact is, I was waiting for the still-mythical G5....

"Then there was the investment in the Lombard. Expansion bay drives. Almost-new main battery ($130). New PRAM battery (not at all cheap at $40). RAM. The 12 mm 30 GB hard drive I might not be able to take with me... Then there's the new keyboard I bought (more $$$) when I killed it with coffee.....

"This Lombard was a December 1999 build... Now, barely 3 years after purchase - and barely 4 years after it was built - it was toast.

"This is not your father's Mac. I've certainly seen plenty of Macs die in my time, mostly through owner abuse. But not one of my own Macs has died...[until now]

"A couple of years ago, I wrote an piece called Has Apple Quality Control Bitten the Dust? Given the less-than-isolated cases of iBook logic board failure, an issue Charles Moore at MacOpinion has written of extensively, there is some evidence that Mac quality - for so long taken for granted - has finally gone out to lunch. And it's never come back."

Remy eventually decided to resurrect his Lombard, with a replacement case, display, logic board, and 400 MHz processor into which he swapped his modem, keyboard, hard drive, expansion bays, battery, PRAM battery, and RAM.

"Reply to Charles" Column Launched on PowerBook ReadMe

PowerBook ReadMe's Ryan Vetter says, "On another note, I have started a new section on http://www.pbreadme.com called Reply to Charles. I will be, periodically, writing articles in response to your articles, offering opinions here and there and other little tidbits. I have already posted the first Reply to Charles Moore's The Road Warrior Article: Pismo Withdrawal."

Willow Design Announces Closure, Final Close Out Sale

I was saddened to learn that the Canadian manufacturer of some of the coolest and most innovative cases, backpacks, and covers for Apple computers, Willow Design - which has been producing laptop, notebook and larger computer carrying cases since 1988 - has announced that it has started a final close out sale of all its cases and dust covers before closing its doors on February 29th. The closure has been a very difficult but necessary decision for the company, based on the economics of offshore competition.

We have featured many Willow Cases here in The 'Book Review over the past several years.

"All Willow cases are hand sewn in small batches by individual seamstresses. This has guaranteed superb quality, but this has been an expensive way to make the cases. With increased competition of offshore made cases produced at labor rates of 22¢ - 30¢ per hour, we found we just couldn't compete," commented Willow Design president Nigel Peck.

The only two options were to either decrease the quality of the cases or shift production offshore as well - neither of which option was acceptable. "So we decided to just stop making the cases instead," said Peck.

"Stopping production was a very difficult decision as we have always been very proud of the cases we make and have really cherished the wonderful communication we've had with Willow case users around the world," said Peck. "Missing that feedback and interaction is going to be the hardest part of giving up the business - we want to express our thanks to everyone who we've met over the years."

The sale includes all Willow products so it gives the Mac community one last chance to get the quality, protection and durability of a Willow case at a substantial savings.

The Willow Final Close Out Sale is Effective to Feb 28, 2004. Case models & colors are subject to availability, and all sales are final. This sale is your last chance to get the quality, protection, and durability of Willow cases at huge savings. I have several Willow cases and can attest that they are superb. The list of what's available will be reduced as they run out of colors and models.

Laptop Hard Drives to Reach 300 GB by 2007?  

IDG News Service's David Legard reports:

"The standard desktop PC of 2007 will have a hard disk drive with capacity between 500 GB and 600 GB, according to Mark Geenen, managing director of research company TrendFocus Inc.

"Notebook computers will be fitted with 300 GB drives and small drives which can be used in mobile phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants) will be able to store around 20 GB, Geenen said.

"Speaking at a briefing organized by the International Disk Drive Equipment and Materials Association (IDEMA) here Monday, Geenen said there were no serious competitors to current hard disk technology for cost-effective data storage."

Windows Watch

Vulcan Mini-PC Micro-Notebook

Vulcan Mini-PCThe Mini-PC is a concept from Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen's Vulcan, Inc. designed to deliver desktop-power computing to mobile professionals and consumers in a form factor that can be carried effortlessly everywhere.

Unlike many other ultraportable computers, the Mini-PC is a complete PC with sufficient internal storage, processing power, and display resolution to effectively run Microsoft Windows XP and its applications. This solution eliminates tedious data synchronization common to less capable PDA devices while retaining familiar PC support mechanisms used by corporate IT staff.

Wireless connectivity allows users to collaborate with customers and colleagues reducing response time and achieving higher productivity when away from the office. Web access, email, instant messaging, and access to corporate applications and data is as simple as with a desktop computer.

Users no longer need to compromise between portability and functionality, the Mini-PC provides access to all standard PC applications and is expandable via standard interfaces, expansion ports and an available docking station.

Highlights

  • Truly portable PC weighing about 1 lb.
  • Runs Microsoft Windows XP and applications
  • Integrated state-of-the-art wireless connectivity
  • Optimized battery-life allows full day use
  • Perfect for mobile professionals and consumers

Mini-PC Unit Specifications:

  • Processor: x86 compatible
  • Memory: 256 MB
  • Mass Storage: 10-30 GByte 1.8" Hard Drive
  • Large Internal Display: 5.8" (15 cm) LCD with 800 x 480 resolution
  • Keyboard: Standard laptop keyboard with hot keys for most used applications (email, contacts, calendar, etc.)
  • External Display: Supports external VGA with standard resolutions
  • Expansion: Integrated 802.11b/WiFi wireless
  • Supports USB 2.0
  • Possible expansion options:
    • 2.5G Wireless Data: GPRS or 1xRTT (CDMA)
    • Bluetooth
    • 1394
  • Software Support: Microsoft Windows XP and Office BIOS with full power savings modes
  • Entertainment: Full MPEG1, MPEG2, and MPEG4 support
  • Standard AC97 with microphone and speaker phone

It's not a Mac, but it's pretty cool, and it could make a nice little Linux laptop.

Sony Vaio X505: The World's Smallest Notebook Computer

Sony Vaio X505PowerPage's Jason D. O'Grady says:

"I had almost the same reaction to the Sony X505 ultra notebook as I did with the original 505 five years ago - Oh my God! The machine itself looks like a razor-blade, and at only 1.7 pounds it's easy to see why the X505 is worthy of your lust. The Sony X505 is the only PC notebook that I would buy if I had to carry one around on a daily basis, it's combination of Industrial design and raw sex appeal are second to none.

  • Intel Centrino 1 GHz processor
  • 10.4" TFT LCD, 1024 x 768 pixels (XGA)
  • 20 GB HDD
  • 512 MB RAM
  • CardBus PC card slot
  • Windows XP Professional

"The X505 is so thin that the motherboard is only about two inches square. It occupies a tiny space just above the keyboard between the hard drive (left) and the PC card slot (right). Sony built a custom motherboard to get the CPU and hard drive in the right position for cooling.

"The X505 measures 10.07 x 8.19 inches (256 x 208 mm), and slopes from .38 in/9.7 mm thick in the front to .86 in/21.9 mm in the back. About half the thickness of Apple's thinnest notebook computer. The X505 weighs a paltry 1.73 pounds (785g) to 1.82 pounds (825g) depending on the model."

Bargain 'Books

There are two different versions of WallStreet running at 233 MHz, the cacheless MainStreet version and the later Series II with a level 2 cache. It's not always possible to determine from the vendor's listing which is being offered, so we've included links within this paragraph to the two models. The same goes for the PowerBook G4/667 (Gigabit Ethernet/2001) and G4/667 (DVI) and the titanium vs. aluminum 15" PowerBook G4 at 1 GHz.

Small Dog Electronics

  • new 12" iBook G3/800, 128/30/CD-ROM, AirPort, $799
  • new 12" iBook G3/800, 256/30/CD-ROM, LaCie FireWire Pocket CD-RW, InCase Small Laptop Sleeve Soft-Tech, $999 (specially configured build to order machine)
  • new 14" iBook G3/900, 384/40/Combo, $1,069
  • new 12" PowerBook G4/1 GHz, 256/40/Combo, Apple Bluetooth Wireless Mouse, 256 MB Macally USB Flash Drive USB 2.0, $1,759

Wegener Media

  • refurbished 15" PowerBook G4/500, 384/20/DVD, 60 day guarantee, $969.99
  • Upgrade to 1 GB of RAM, $189.99
  • Add 512 MB of RAM, $99.99
  • Add an AirPort Wireless card, $54.50 installed

PowerMax

ExperCom

PowerBook Guy

For more deals on current or recently discontinued models, see our Best PowerBook G4 Deals and Best iBook Deals.

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