The 'Book Review

PowerBook Wows Windows Guy, True Function Keys Return in 10.3.3, OS 8/9 Compatibility Chart, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2004.03.26

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

17" PowerBook G4 Wows Windows Guy

Australian IT's Ian Cuthbertson says:

"All right, I surrender: this is the finest looking notebook I've ever seen. As a dyed-in-the-wool Windows person, I'd previously believed the whole Mac empire was like an expensive pack of cards, likely to fall down at any time through marginalisation and lack of applications...

"Well, if you can't beat them, join them . . . widescreen DVD has never looked so good, or sounded so fine....

"Methinks I have seen the light - and I'm not talking about the power cord when it's plugged in."

Enable True PowerBook Function Keys with 10.3.3

Mac OS X Hints notes:

"With the 10.3.3 update, there's a new checkbox in the keyboard preferences pane labeled 'Use the F1-F12 keys for custom actions.' If you check it, then you get 'real' function keys, while holding down fn gives you the brightness, sound, etc. controls...."

Mac OS 8 & 9 Compatibility Chart Updated

Apple has updated its Classic Mac OS compatibility chart from which you can learn which versions of Mac OS 8 and OS 9 will run on which Macintosh computers.

That Damn Faulty Logic Board Again


"Lord 'a mercy - it started happening again. My constant companion, my luggable huggable laptop, my reliable iBook is not so reliable any more. Inexorably, apparently, my iBook's logic board has just taken a big ole' dump on the sofa and didn't even have the common courtesy to clean it up or at least spray some air freshener . . . any amount of pressure on the bottom and *KAFLOOEY* - the iBook gets funky lines across the screen and it's unusable until a restart....

"Anyway I finally get on the horn with Tech Support, and as usual, I get first-class treatment. In this case I only have to jump through one hoop to prove that it is indeed the logic board that's hosed. I don't have AppleCare, but Apple will be footing the bill since it's still under '3 years from the time of first retail sale'. They'll send me a mailer to get my iBook to Apple, and they'll fix it 'within 14 days' or more likely, as the support guy hinted, in 4 or 5 days....

"Once again Apple's Tech Support rocks! . . . the April '04 issue of Computer Shopper has a piece about a guy who's been going back and forth with Gateway about warranty work for over four years. Gateway finally told the guy they weren't fixing it and his only recourse is to pursue legal action...."

Logitech Announces Notebook Mouse

Notebook Optical Mouse PlusThe latest in Logitech's family of portable notebook mice, Notebook Optical Mouse Plus makes it easier than ever for busy professionals and casual notebook users to pack a mouse for the road - or just carry one to meetings.

The innovative, patent-pending cord wrap is the key to the design. When it's time to move, the thin cord winds into a track built in the base of the mouse. Once the cord is wrapped up completely, a snap fastens the USB connector to the bottom of the mouse, protecting the optical sensor. The result is a durable, all-in-one package without any fragile moving parts.

Notebook Optical Mouse Plus has a silver top framed by a black, shock-resistant base. No setup is necessary to use the mouse - it simply plugs into a USB port and works immediately.

"When we researched the needs of notebook users, we found that tangled cords are a huge hassle," said Ashish Arora, Logitech's director of product marketing, Retail Pointing Devices. "With Notebook Optical Mouse Plus, we've come up with a simple and unique solution for managing the cords and improving the mobile computing experience. We now have two fantastic products for notebook users to suit their individual needs - this new corded product and the very successful Cordless Optical Mouse for Notebooks."

The Logitech Notebook Optical Mouse Plus will be on retail shelves in Europe and the U.S. in April. The suggested retail price in the U.S. is $29.95.

New Bluetooth FrogPad Products the ROI Solution for Mobile Operators

FrogPad keyboardFrogPad, Inc. and its strategic Bluetooth solutions partner, Gennum Corporation conducted a demonstration to announce the general availability of the Bluetooth enabled FrogPad keyboard and headset at CeBit. The new Bluetooth keyboard incorporates FrogPad's patented algorithm and ergonomic layout designed around the 15 most-used letters in the Roman alphabet and the latest short-range wireless Bluetooth technology. The demonstration will be with Both Pocket OS and Palm OS PDA's, and Mac PowerBook's.

3g and 4g Mobile operators have demanded products that will offer PC capabilities in a PDA form factor. Miniaturized or folding keyboards are not fully functional or portable. Only the Bluetooth FrogPad can boast that claim of portability, compactness, full sized keys, and full functionality. With these new high end products, FrogPad helps "secure a place for Bluetooth technology at the wireless table".

FrogPad will provide the definitive White Paper that cost justifies employee training time and mass adoption rate. FrogPad can demonstrate to Organizations cost savings and increased revenue by giving its field service and sales force and executives access to databases, e-mail, and internal network resources. This alone will generate the kind of data transmission and revenues that Mobile Operators have longed for.

Pioneering a new global standard for data entry, the FrogPad continues to be first to market in technology that impacts the mobile computing. Unlike QWERTY, whose design was derived from the limitations of 19th Century typewriter technology, the FrogPad offers a logical key layout and design that encourages correct ergonomic posture. Additionally, given its use of full-size keys, the FrogPad offers users of mobile computing devices, an effective alternative to the script-based or mini thumb keyboard platforms currently available. After an average of 8 hours of training and practice, most FrogPad users can achieve input rates of the standard 40 words per minute, as compared to the average of 10-20 words per minute by the fastest thumb typists.

FrogPad, Inc. and Gennum Corporation will also be demonstrating its first Bluetooth Headset named FROGTALK, for use with Bluetooth-enabled cell phones, PC's, Macs, PDA's, and Gamers. Professional mobile warriors will find premium sound and vocal experience with the FROGTALK which features Gennum's patented FRONTWAVE technology. FRONTWAVE filters out background noise while simultaneously amplifying the voice of the user, providing a crystal-clear conversation environment.

In an effort to assist OEMs interested in developing their own Bluetooth-enabled FrogPad keyboards, FrogPad and Gennum will also unveil the licensing model of the single chip solution, which will incorporate FrogPad's unique algorithm with the Bluetooth™ Human Input Device (HID) profile. By incorporating the HID profile, FrogPad provides OEMs the assurance that their FrogPad products are Bluetooth-enabled out-of-the-box.

Leveraging Gennum's expertise in developing technology for hearing instruments, FROGTALK provides balance in the ear, making it comfortable to wear for hours at a time. The headset is configurable to fit on the left or right ear and was designed to be installed and operated using just one-hand.

The headset can also be utilized without a cell phone to amplify and improve the sound quality of live conversations, especially in noisy environments, such as in airports, conventions centers, and military applications.

The lithium-polymer battery in FROGTALK features up to 6 hours of talk time and 200 hours standby time. The FROGTALK will be available in the online store of FrogPad in June 2004.

The industrial design for the Bluetooth™ FrogPad, to be named the BlueFrog, is being done by Design Edge. Many exciting new products from FrogPad are on the horizon - left-hand versions of all products, a gaming version, a Chinese version, called BossFrog will be released on April 1st. For our Road Warriors, FrogPad will bundle their BlueFrog with FROGTALK along with Ziplinq's USB accessories for power and recharging.

firePod FireWire/USB Combo Car Charger for iPod

firePod FireWire/USB ChargerNow enjoy the portability of powering iPod (original, 3G and mini) in your car, the ability to use a single charger for many FireWire powered devices, and the convenience of charging cell phones, PDAs, other USB MP3 players and even Gameboy Advance SP on the road with a USB charger.

The firePod and fireCable provides a complete on-the-road Universal FireWire and USB power system. The Basic kit includes the firePod (12V USB/FireWire power adapter), and fireCable (FireWire pass-through power line). The Deluxe kit also includes FireWire AC/DC adapter, similar to Apple's iPod adapter.

The USB port is regulated to the strict standard of USB power specification, works with popular bus-charging devices such as USB link cable for popular portable devices (PDA, cell phone, etc.), and even works with USB lamp. firePod's FireWire port outputs a steady and regulated current that is identical to your Apple FireWire port, so you don't have to worry about battery-butchering power surge from accelerating and braking in everyday commute. firePod is also bundled with the fireCable, a unique cable that provides universal FireWire bus-power without occupying any precious FireWire data port, great for PC iPod user who is currently using a 6-to-4 Pin FireWire adapter.


  • Designed to match your iPod
  • Provides FireWire bus-power and USB bus-power
  • USB port works with iPaq USB charger, cellular phone USB charger, PDA USB chargers
  • Simultaneous usage for both USB and FireWire
  • Fits into any 12V automotive DC power source
  • Triplet LED to indicate power source, and bus-power usage
  • Computer-tested and regulated electrical voltage/current, for both USB and FireWire; prevent battery-life reduction
  • Fuse protected against over-current protection
  • Bundled with fireCable Universal FireWire Power System

fireCable Universal FireWire Power Supply for Hard Drives and Video Cams

The fireCable is a universal power adapter (and a charger, too) for any bus-powered FireWire device. It works by 'injecting' DC current into the power pins of a standard 6-pin FireWire connector without having to use any vendor specific DC connectors. The fireCable is designed with pass-through data port, and using fireCable does not block any FireWire ports on the bus-powered device.

fireCable is a great accessory for iPod or slim FireWire hard drive. The fireCable can provide the essential bus-power when bus-power is not available from the FireWire Host Controller, such as a CardBus/PCMCIA controller or a i.LINK port. This makes the fireCable the ideal companion for the Windows version iPod, older PowerBook users, and any bus-powered FireWire devices.

The kit includes one FireWire pass-through power cable, and one FireWire AC/DC adapter, similar to Apple's iPod AC adapter. Additional adapters are also available for USB bus, PS/2 bus, and automotive DC power source. International Power input 100-240VAC; DC power output is 12V 1.5A.

Older PowerBooks and PC Laptops: fireCable can be used to automatically enable iPod's FireWire-transfer-mode (and provide bus-charging), when the iPod is connected to PowerBooks with PCMCIA FireWire controllers.


  • Universal Power Supply for FireWire bus-powered devices
  • Provides FireWire bus-power without blocking any data ports on the device
  • Tested with iPod, popular 1.8" and 2.5" hard drives/enclosures, i.LINK, and PCMCIA FireWire controller
  • fireCable available in iPod white
  • Custom FireWire AC/DC adapter with diode to meet IEEE1394 (FireWire) power system specification

Windows Watch

IBM Ships 'Mandatory' ThinkPad HDD patch

The Register's Tony Smith says:

"IBM has issued a 'mandatory' software update for ThinkPad notebooks equipped with Hitachi-manufactured hard drives.

"According the company's support web site, the firmware update fixes what it describes as 'early reliability issues in some drives'...

"The drives in question have model number HTS726060M9AT00 with ASM part number 92P6550 and FRU part number 92P6551....

I wonder if any of these drives have found their way into Apple laptops?

HP's New Ruggedized Notebooks Can Take a Beating

PCWorld's Tom Krazit says:

"Feel free to drop this notebook on the floor, or leave it out in the rain overnight. Hewlett-Packard's first ruggedized notebook and Tablet PC are able to withstand those types of abuse by workers in demanding environments and military personnel.

"The HP Rugged Notebook nr3600 launched this week, alongside the HP Rugged Tablet PC tr3000. Both products were developed in partnership with Itronix, which has manufactured these types of notebooks for some time under the GoBook II brand....

""The notebook uses a 1.7 GHz Pentium 4 processor from Intel. Faster processors are available, but because the nr3600 is sealed to prevent rain from leaking into the unit, it needs to operate without a fan directly over the processor...

Both the notebook and the Tablet PC were designed to exceed U.S. military specifications for rugged products.... [which] involves dropping the notebook 26 times from a height of 3 feet onto a surface of plywood laid over concrete, and verifying the unit will operate in temperatures ranging from minus-23 degrees to 60 degrees Celsius (-10 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit).

Prices range from $3,500-$4,100.

Phoenix Offers Notebook Users No-Boot Outlook Access

TechWeb News reports:

"PC BIOS maker Phoenix Technologies on Thursday unveiled an update to its FirstWave Assistant technology that will let notebook users check their Outlook calendar, e-mail, and contact data without waiting for the system to completely boot up.

"Aimed at notebook vendors - who can add FirstWave Assistant to their Windows-based laptops to provide PDA-like response times for personal information - the expanded version includes read-only access to Outlook's data. Future versions will add preboot read-write capabilities so users can not only view Outlook information, but add new appointments or contacts, as well."

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.

Baucom Computers

PowerBook Guy

Small Dog Electronics

  • new 14" iBook G3/900, 256/40/Combo, AirPort, .Mac account, $1,170 before rebate
  • new 15" PowerBook G4/1.25 GHz, 512/80/SuperDrive, built-in Bluetooth & AirPort Extreme, Airport Extreme Base station (w/o modem & antennae port), $2,795

Wegener Media

For more deals on current or recently discontinued models, see our Best PowerBook G4 Deals, Best iBook G4 Deals, and Best iBook G3 Deals.

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