The 'Book Review

Exploding Batteries, Replacement LCDs and Backlights, Double or Triple AirPort Extreme Range, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2004.04.02

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.

PowerBook Batteries Explodes

Remember the brouhaha over the supposed "exploding batteries" in the PowerBook 5300 back in 1995? The new Sony Lithium Ion batteries in two of the just-introduced 5300s overheated and caught fire - both in Apple test labs. The 1,000 or so machines in the channel at the time were recalled, and their batteries were replaced with safe and dependable Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) units.

No 5300 in consumer hands has been documented as catching fire, but it made a sensational story that morphed into an urban legend. Reportedly, the Sony plant that made those LiIon batteries later burned down.

However, that's not to say that Lithium Ion laptop batteries have a totally clean bill of health.

Check out these dramatic photos on the website.

Accompanying notes under the title: "Bad adventure: rare extremement... " it says [rough translation from the French]:

"You know all that in the batteries of our laptops are dangerous chemical components... Here is an illustration of an adventure clashing:

"But I reassure you, this is an extremely rare case, but ca surprises. The repair is taken under guarantee, and it there were no injuries. Therefore do not forget that the battery is never to be opened!"

On the topic, Isidor Buchmann's excellent Battery University Website notes

"If correctly charged, lithium-ion cell should never generate gases and cause venting. But in spite of what is said, the lithium-based cells can build up internal pressure under certain conditions. Some cells include an electrical switch that disconnects the current flow if the cell pressure reaches a critical level. Other cells rupture a membrane to release the gases in a controlled way. lithium-ion-polymer in a pouch cell sometime grows to the shape of a small balloon because these cells do not include venting. Ballooning cell are known to damage the housing of the portable device."

A PC World article, Mobile Battery Problems Explode, also addresses the issue.

Replacement LCD Screens for iBooks, PowerBooks

LCDS4LESS stocks all Notebook LCD Screens, and can assist in every aspect of your replacement needs. Please give us a call if you need assistance in determining the proper screen for your notebook as LCDS4LESS are product specialists in laptops. Our laptop LCD replacement services will yield a proper installation and handling throughout the process free of charge. Our service includes free shipping, installation and extensive product knowledge of laptops.

  • 12" or 14" iBook, $395
  • PowerBook G3 Series, 14.1", $395
  • PowerBook G3 Series, 13.3", $345
  • PowerBook G3 Series 12.1", $295
  • 12" PowerBook G4, $395
  • 15" PowerBook G4, $495
  • 17" PowerBook G4, $700

Replacement Laptop Backlight Lamps

One of the most common applications for Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps (CCFL's) is LCD backlighting in laptop computers. JKL Lamps have been used for replacements in laptops/LCD's manufactured by Apple, AST, Cannon, Compaq, Data World, Dell, DTK, Epson, Everex, Gateway, Goldstar, Hyperdata, IBM, Mitsubishi, Sharp, Swan, Texas Instruments, Toshiba, and Zenith Data Systems. To find your replacement lamp, JKL recommends that you measure the physical characteristics of your old lamp (see diagram on their website) and find the closest match on the Fluorescent Lamps Page or identify the manufacturer and the manufacture model number off the back of the LCD screen within the laptop and email it to .

JKL CCFl Lamps are available from the JKL Lamps Sales Department and Digikey.

XPostFacto 3.0a15 Helps Install OS X on Some Unsupported PowerBooks

XPostFacto is Ryan Rempel's utility, which helps to install and boot Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, and Darwin on certain unsupported systems. When Mac OS X installs successfully, its stability on unsupported systems appears to be excellent. However, there are cases in which Mac OS X is difficult to install, and there are a variety of problems you can run into. So read carefully.

New in this version:

  • Rempel has switched to Panther for day-to-day work and is now building BootX and the kernel extensions with XCode in Panther. This appears not to have introduced any new problems. See the updated developer notes if you are building the extensions yourself.
  • BootX has been updated to make use of additional memory in the boot process (it now assumes 96 MB of RAM). Rempel has also modified BootX to provide more useful diagnostic messages when it fails to boot properly.
  • XPF 3 now mostly works with 10.0 and 10.1, as well as 10.2 and 10.3. One remaining limitation is that the XPF application will not launch in 10.0 (but it can install 10.0 if you launch XPF from Mac OS 9). There may be other limitations that apply to 10.0 and 10.1, but it mostly seems to work.
  • Updates the PatchedBlockStorageDriver to deal with a potential issue with Mac OS X 10.3.3.

System requirements:

XPostFacto works with some unsupported machines, but not all of them. Here are the machines that XPostFacto can work with:

  • The PowerSurge models: These are the 7300, 7500, 7600, 8500, 8600, 9500, and 9600, as well as the clones that were based on one of these systems (the Umax S900 and J700, the Power Computing PowerWave and PowerTower Pro, and the Daystar Genesis and Millennium, among others).
  • The Beige G3s: The Beige G3s are working. However, the built-in video is not yet working with Panther.
  • The WallStreet PowerBooks: The WallStreet PowerBooks are working, with some video-related issues in some configurations.
  • Certain Other PowerBooks: These are the original PowerBook G3, the 2400 and the 3400. However, there are significant limitations in the support for these machines. The most serious limitation is that sleep does not work. On some models, the built-in ethernet connection also does not work. There are additional details below. Mac OS X is pretty slow on the 2400 and 3400. Also, the original 603e CPU is only supported in Mac OS X 10.0 and 10.1. The original PowerBook G3 is not working with Panther yet - the main remaining problem is that a new video driver needs to be written for it.

Mac OS 9 or higher

Mac OS X 10.2 or 10.3, or Darwin 6.x or 7.x, to be installed (3.0 does not currently support 10.0 or 10.1)

XPF now includes support for Panther (Mac OS X 10.3) on the 7300-9600 (and friends), as well as the WallStreet PowerBooks and Beige G3 (with some limitations related to video). The original PowerBook G3 (Kanga) is not yet supported in Panther, but Ryan will be working on it.

Built-in video is still not working on the Beige G3 in Panther. Rempel needs to do some more work to get this fixed. The Radeon 7000 works in Panther, as does the original Radeon Mac Edition, as well as some others. One option that you may find useful in Panther is the "Use old NDRVs" option, which sets up a boot argument which tells Panther to use the ROM-based drivers on older video cards that it would otherwise ignore.

There are some cases in which installing Panther on the WallStreet PowerBooks is not working - in those cases, the Mac OS X Installer complains that the computer is not supported, despite XPostFacto's efforts.

XPostFacto 3 now mostly works with Mac OS X 10.0 and 10.1, as well as 10.2 and 10.3. There are some limitations - the main one is that while XPostFacto 3 can be used to install Mac OS X 10.0, the application won't launch in Mac OS X 10.0.

XPostFacto is freeware.

QuickerTek External Antennas Double or Triple Wireless Range of 15" & 17" Aluminum PowerBooks

QuickerTek, developers of PowerBook antennas for all Apple wireless products, is now shipping the only external antenna for the 15" and 17" aluminum PowerBooks. It can quickly and easily double or triple the signal strength for PowerBook users. Overwhelming customer demand from the expanding PowerBook wireless user market prompted the development of this new antenna design.

This new external PowerBook antenna includes detailed installation instructions that will make it easy for most users to quickly improve wireless signal strength. QuickerTek also includes a CD containing software for wireless system performance measurement. This new wireless antenna doubles or triples the aluminum PowerBook's usable range as well as increasing throughput speed. This new antenna is ideal for those users who are in environments where obstacles and other characteristics reduce wireless performance.

These new wireless Airport antenna products are available for $89.95 for either aluminum PowerBook computer. PowerBook users can find QuickerTek antennas at resellers including; and

Customers who bought our other antenna products have been thrilled with the performance improvements," said Rick Estes, president, QuickerTek. "We have had several hundred customers request these antennas and after testing, we concluded that we could provide significant wireless network improvements in Apple's latest and most powerful PowerBooks."

Special Deals on AppleCare from LA Computer Company

From the LA Computer Company:

  • AppleCare for iBook, $175
  • AppleCare for PowerBook, $250

AppleCare for iMacs, eMacs, iPods, and Power Macs also available at a discount.

Waterfield Keyboard Case

WaterField Keyboard CaseYour PowerBook has replaced your desktop, but you still can't do without your full-size Apple Wireless Keyboard. Protect your keyboard with the Waterfield Keyboard Case, available from SF Bags. It's sleek, light, and compact, and it provides just the right amount of protection. The durable ballistic nylon exterior protects against scuffs and scrapes, and a soft, felt-lined neoprene interior gently cushions the delicate keyboard. Also fits the latest Apple (wired) Keyboard.

Dimensions: 17.25" x 5.13" x 1.25"

Keyboard Case sells for $29

Alchemy FW 800 CB PC Card Adapter

The Alchemy FW 800 PC Card is a cost effective way to add or upgrade FireWire connectivity on your PowerBook or PC laptop.

Supporting both FireWire 400 and 800 devices, it enables your fast 800 Mbit/s hard drives to reach transfer speeds of up to 50 /sec! Best of all, its dual connectivity allows the easy connection of old and new FireWire peripherals.

  • Easy installation - simply plug the card into a free PC-card slot
  • Upgrade laptop to utilize FireWire 800/400 devices
  • Optional power supply to allow bus-powering

Supporting both FireWire 400 and 800 devices, it enables your fast 800 Mbit/s hard drives to reach transfer speeds of up to 50 /sec. Best of all, its dual connectivity allows the easy connection of old and new FireWire peripherals.

Eric Ferraz, Product Marketing Director, Miglia Technology, commented: "FireWire is an incredibly effective technology. Many peripheral device manufacturers are equipping their products with this connectivity as standard, taking advantage of its speed and ease of use. Many laptop users still cannot access FireWire devices as they either do not have FireWire as standard, or they have the outdated FW 400 version. The Miglia Alchemy FW 800 CB laptop expansion card is a simple and cost effective solution that will bridge this gap."

Covered by a two year Miglia warranty, the Alchemy FW 800 CB is a great choice for those wanting to expand their system to the latest FireWire generation.

Mac Compatibility

  • PowerBook G3 (except G3/250) or G4
  • PowerBook G4
  • Mac OS 9.x (400 Mbps only)
  • Mac OS 10.2.5 and higher

Windows compatibility

  • Windows Laptop with free PC-Card slot
  • Windows 98SE, ME, 2000 (400 Mbps only)
  • Windows XP (800 Mbps pending release of updated drivers from Microsoft)

The Alchemy FW 800 CB is simply installed in a PC-Card slot of your Mac or PC.


Latest generation Texas Instrument Chipset: To guarantee the best compatibility and performance, the Alchemy card uses the latest TI chipset.

Two 9-pin bilingual ports: The two FireWire 800 (9-pin) connectors will run with all your new FW 800 peripherals as well as your existing FireWire 400 devices (with converter cable).

Single 6-pin port: A great feature of the Alchemy FW 800 CB is the single 'old-style' 6-pin FireWire port. No need to purchase expensive converter cables (9 to 6 pin) to run your FireWire 400 peripherals.

Optional Power Supply to allow bus-powering: If you want to connect bus-powered devices like 2.5" hard drives, you can use the external power supply for Alchemy FW 800 CB available as an option.

The Alchemy FW 800 CB features two connectivity standards: 9 pin, the 'new style' introduced with the launch of 800 Mbps devices and 6 pin, the 'old style' connector for FireWire 400 devices. Alchemy's dual connectivity lets you connect your existing FW400 devices with a standard cable, thus saving you the cost of an additional converter.

The Alchemy FW 800 CB supports 100/200/400/800 Mbps devices, like DV cameras, external hard drives, external CD burners, scanners, etc... This makes it an "all-in-one" FireWire host solution delivering the highest level of compatibility and performance, thanks to its flawless integration with any supported system.

The Alchemy FW 800 CB features a connector that can be linked to an optional power supply, thus allowing you to bus-power FireWire devices like 2.5" drives.

  • PC-Card (CardBus)
  • Two 800 Mbps IEEE 1394b ports, with support for 100/200/400/800 Mbps devices
  • One 400 Mbps IEEE 1394a port with support for 100/200/400 Mbps devices
  • Port connectivity standards: 2*9 pin, 1*6 pin
  • Two years limited warranty

Alchemy FW 800 CB sells for €79, $89, GBP £59

Optional external power supply sells for €29, $29, £19

SideTrack TrackPad Driver with Enhanced Features

SideTrack is a replacement driver for the trackpad (touchpad) found on Apple PowerBooks and iBooks. It brings many of the advanced trackpad features found on Windows laptops to Mac OS X.

SideTrack supports these features:

  • Vertical scrolling at left or right edge of pad.
  • Horizontal scrolling at top or bottom edge of pad.
  • Map hardware button to left or right click.
  • Map trackpad taps to no action, left click, left click drag (with or without drag lock), or right click.
  • Map trackpad corner taps to mouse buttons 1-6 or simulated keystrokes.
  • Compatible with uControl, including uControl's scroll emulation.

SideTrack can control Exposé using its corner tap functionality. You can use corner taps to generate mouse clicks for mouse buttons 3 through 6. These extra mouse buttons can be mapped to Exposé controls in Panther's Exposé preference pane. Alternately you can use SideTrack corner tap keystroke emulation to generate the Exposé control keystrokes (typically F9, F10, and F11).

SideTrack is completely compatible with MouseZoom. You can use MouseZoom's trackpad speed controls to adjust pointer acceleration for SideTrack.

SideTrack offers three acceleration curves:

  • Mac OS X trackpad acceleration - This is the standard acceleration curve used by the Apple trackpad driver.
  • Mac OS X mouse acceleration - This is Apple's standard acceleration for mouse devices. For most users this will feel "faster" than the standard trackpad acceleration.
  • Redmond switcher acceleration - This acceleration mimics pointer ballistics on the most recent operating system release from Redmond Washington. For most users this will feel "faster" than the standard acceleration with a noticeably more linear acceleration.

SideTrack is fully multiuser aware, different users on the same PowerBook can have different settings depending on their needs.

SideTrack is presently a public beta. As a beta release SideTrack may contain bugs and could potentially cause a kernel panic. Please exercise appropriate caution when testing SideTrack and be sure to read the FAQ for information on how to disable SideTrack if it causes problems.

This public beta version (0.8) of SideTrack will expire on June 30, 2004.

SideTrack is simply another driver for the trackpad. It uses the standard kernel interface for mouse drivers. This is exactly the same interface used by all third party mice. SideTrack does use the trackpad in a different hardware mode than the standard Apple driver, but this mode is fully supported by the hardware.

Hitachi Drive Gears Up for Hard Knocks's Ed Frauenheim reports:

"Shifting its focus from roominess to ruggedness, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies on Tuesday plans to announce a 40 GB drive for notebook computers meant to withstand more wear and tear.

"The company, which recently introduced massive 400 GB and 300 GB drives, hopes to build on its leadership in the fast-growing laptop drive market with the new 2.5-inch product, according to sources close to the company.

"Hitachi is focusing on features such as greater shock tolerance and better durability when it comes to moving the read/write head on and off the disk media, the sources said. The new drive, which spins at 4,200 revolutions per minute, is designed to tolerate a shock of 300 'Gs' for 2 milliseconds while operating. That's 50 percent higher than the tolerance of Hitachi's previous-generation 40 GB, 4,200 RPM drives. The new product is also built to handle 600,000 'load/unload cycles' without failure - twice that of the previous-generation Hitachi drives."

RAM Disk Creator 1.0 Beta

A RAM Disk is RAM that has been configured to simulate a disk drive. You can access files on a RAM disk as you would access files on a real disk. RAM disks, however, are approximately a thousand times faster than hard drives. They are particularly useful, therefore, for applications that require frequent disk accesses.

RAM Disk Creator is a tool to create RAM Disks. This feature was available in Mac OS 9 and below, but since Apple released Mac OS X, this capability disappeared from Macs. RAM Disk Creator brings them back.

It's pretty straightforward to figure out whether using a RAM disk is worth it. A RAM disk offers the possibility to have the fastest disk your Mac could ever have. Therefore, it's the best solution for applications that require frequent disk accesses.

Moreover, RAM Disk are very useful for PowerBooks and iBooks because using a RAM Disk instead of the hard disk means using much less power, therefore dramatically increasing battery life. For instance, a PowerBook can play a 2 hour DivX by placing the movie on a RAM disk because there will be only few disk accesses.

System requirements: Mac OS 10.3 or higher

Ram Disk Creator is $14.95 shareware.

iSkin Inc. Releases iSkin eVo iPod Protector

iSkin eVo iPod ProtectoriSkin Inc. has released the iSkin eVo, its new and improved protector for the third generation iPod that the company refers to as "proof of eVolution." iSkin Inc. has taken all the good stuff, like form fitting design, rear heat release pores, and elegant lines from its immensely popular iSkin eXo2 and combined them with new features and refinements to create the iSkin eVo.

For example, the iSkin eVo sports a completely redesigned rotary RevoClip that's made of a lightweight, non-shattering polymer that provides a secure connection between the iPod and its user. It also comes with an improved screen protector that maintains an ultra-clear view of the iPod's screen.

The new eVo allows devices like the iTrip to connect seamlessly while maintaining solid protection by featuring a new thinned down top surface with beveled edges. Last but not least, iSkin has increased the available color selection to include a series of Ultra-Glo (glow-in-the-dark) skin tones that are so cool, customer's will want them all.

The company believes that the iSkin eVo is testament to its open ear towards customer feedback, and it's latest offering shows they've been listening.

The iSkin eVo sells for $29.99. It is available online at and will soon be available at Apple Retail Stores and other fine iSkin resellers worldwide.

Panasonic Squeezes a Lot into Lightweight Notebook

Panasonic ToughBook CF-W2The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro says:

"Finding a laptop that weighs less than 3 pounds has never been particularly hard - just remove enough parts from the thing.

"The usual remedy is to take out the CD-ROM drive, making it an ejectable module, an 'expansion slice' that latches onto the bottom of the laptop or an external drive that plugs into an expansion port.

"A laptop that weighs less than 3 pounds with a CD-ROM drive, let alone a combination unit that burns CDs and plays DVD movies, is much more unusual.

"The Panasonic ToughBook CF-W2 is the first machine I've tried that accomplishes that trick - while delivering far better battery life than computers weighing twice as much. A few dubious details and a weak software bundle aside, this 2.8-pound, $2,200 machine is a remarkable piece of work."

Panasonic ToughBook CF-W2The ToughBook W2 is ultra-portable, super-slim and durable, compact and versatile, it boasts a full magnesium alloy case with a shock-mounted hard drive. Its executive styling and advanced features meet the high-powered demands of mobile professionals.

Product Highlights:

  • Full magnesium alloy case
  • Shock-mounted HDD
  • 2.8 lbs. lightweight, ultra-thin design
  • Intel Centrino Mobile Technology 

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.

Power Max

  • refurb 17" PowerBook G4/1.33 GHz, 512/80/SuperDrive, $2,795

Baucom Computers

  • PowerBook 3400/200, 48/2/floppy, no CD, $155
  • PowerBook Pismo G3/500, 320/10/DVD, $645
  • PowerBook Pismo G3/500, 320/20/DVD, $679
  • 15" PowerBook G4/500, 512/20/DVD, line in screen, $650

Wegener Media

  • PowerBook Pismo G3/400, 10/128/DVD, $ 599.99

The Apple Store Special Deals

  • refurb 12" iBook G4/800, 256/30/Combo, $949
  • refurb 15" aluminum PowerBook G4/1 GHz, 256/60/Combo, $1,599
  • refurb 15" titanium PowerBook G4/1 GHz, 512/60/SuperDrive, AirPort, $1,799
  • refurb 17" PowerBook G4/1 GHz, 512/60/SuperDrive, AirPort Extreme, $2,199
  • refurb 17" PowerBook G4/1.33 GHz, 512/80/SuperDrive, AirPort Extreme, $2,499

Small Dog Electronics

  • new 14" iBook G3/900, 256/40/Combo, AirPort, also includes .Mac subscription ($30 mail-in rebate with new Mac purchase until 6/26/04). Price before rebate: $1,170
  • refurb 15" aluminum PowerBook G4/1 GHz, 256/60/Combo, $1,799
  • new 15" PowerBook G4/1.25 GHz, 512/80/SuperDrive, AirPort, also includes Apple Airport Extreme Base station without modem & antennae port, $2,795

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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