The 'Book Review

Worst Ever Laptops, iBook a PCMag Editors Choice, UK 'Book Sales Exceed Industry, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2004.08.06

This week's PowerBook, iBook, and iPod news

Bottom Ten List: Worst of the Laptops?

PC Magazine John C. Dvorak says:

"This week's column is in a way an exercise in futility, since information about long-gone laptops is scarce. We need a publicly maintained resource - such as a wiki - detailing the history some of these old machines. I put the list in this column together largely from the collective memory of myself and my colleagues. Some dates are missing, and I hope readers can make contributions. And so many machines made this list that I had to combine a few into categories. The word 'worst' can mean a number of things within the context of this list. It represents missteps as well as bad machines. Let's get right to it:

10. Gateway Handbook (circa 1992)
 9. Dell 320i (circa 1993
 8. Macintosh Portable (1989)
 8. Category failure: Various Unix laptops
 7. Category failure: Pad-based computers
 6. Category failure: Ultra-small full-featured machines
 5. IBM ThinkPad 701C "Butterfly" (1995)
 4. Compaq laptops with screen trackballs (circa 1994)
 4. Category failure: Windows CE-based laptops
 3. Apple iBook (1999)
 2. Zenith MinisPort (1989)
 1. The Gavilan (1983)"

No PowerBooks are on the list. John still can't get over the "girly" clamshell iBook

Note to John: The original PowerBook 100, like the Mac Portable, had a lead-acid battery.

You can read John's defense of his choices online.

12" iBook Makes PCMag's Editors Choice List

PCMag's Konstantinos Karagiannis says:

"The Velocity Micro NoteMagix B50 Campus Edition gets you the best bang for your buck, combining strong performance and high-end components, not to mention reasonable weight and battery life. For a smaller, lighter option, however, the Apple iBook G4 (12-inch) can't be beat - especially for the price. It, too, warrants an Editors' Choice."

Apple UK Notebook Sales Growth 'Exceeds Industry'

Macworld UK's Jonny Evans reports:

"UK shipment growth of Apple notebooks continue to exceed those across the industry, analyst firm IDC confirmed last night.

"Overall, UK industry shipment growth in the second quarter was at its highest level for almost four years.

"Figures released by the analyst company show that year-on-year Apple's UK notebook shipments grew 41.3 per cent across consumer and commercial markets.

"Average growth across PC manufacturers in the UK in the notebook sector (across consumer and small-to-medium businesses) was 24.3 per cent....

"Apple's success in the UK consumer notebook market is even more pronounced: year-on-year shipments grew 96.4 per cent in that sector"

SportFolio Extreme Case for 17" PowerBook

SportFolio ExtremeThe SportFolio Extreme laptop case offers rugged, high-tech neoprene construction with a built-in plastic shell for impact protection. The exterior features an easily accessible front pocket, a back zippered pocket and a vulcanized rubber bottom and sides for a secure grip. The case zips closed to hold its contents securely. The all-black interior features a soft, plush fabric, and a large pocket. A removable black shock-absorbing shoulder strap is included. All in all a great combination of features that make this case stand out from the crowd.

Case features:

  • Extra heavy-duty plastic inserts for maximum protection!
  • High-tech vulcanized neoprene front pocket
  • Carrying handles
  • Roomy, zippered back pocket
  • Large, secure interior pocket
  • Dual zippers for easy opening
  • Zipper is lined to protect laptop
  • Rugged 3 mm neoprene construction
  • Plush-lined interior with document pocket
  • Easy-grip bottom for carrying as a folio
  • Padded for all-around protection

Shoulder strap features:

  • Easy-grip, shock-absorbing design
  • Swivel clips prevent twisting
  • Adjustable length for maximum comfort
  • Easily removable

Inside case dimensions:

  • 16" x 10.5" x 1.25" or
  • 40.64 cm x 26.67 cm x 3.17 cm

Price: $57.95

PC Mag: All the Best... Computers

PC Magazine's Gary Berline writes:

"For years, we've asked you to tell us how the companies that supply your tech needs are doing. This year, for our '17th Annual Reader Satisfaction Survey', we wanted to know-and more than 8,000 of you told us-how happy you've been with computer makers. Now we've taken that feedback and rounded up reviews of the top products from your favorite vendors, letting you easily find the best systems from the best manufacturers.

Once again, Apple demonstrates that it knows how to please its audience. In both desktops and notebooks, users gave the company significantly higher overall ratings than the competition. Mac fans on a budget will appreciate the Apple eMac (SuperDrive), an all-in-one package that doesn't skimp on extras, but costs less than $1,000. And anyone looking for a desktop-replacement notebook can't help but covet the Apple PowerBook G4 (17-inch), with its cool design and high-end features like gigabit Ethernet."

Iomega REV Drive Stores up to 90 GB of Critical Data

Iomega REV DriveFor a fraction of the cost of traditional backup systems, the Iomega REV drive gives you removable storage with hard disk performance that's up to 8 times faster than tape. With compact, rugged 35 GB disks that can store up to 90 GB of compressed data you can back up all your files, protect your system and save everything.

Iomega REV drives allow you to back up and restore up to 8 times faster than tape, access files in seconds with drag-and-drop, and secure your data with password protection.

Files can be accidentally overwritten, deleted or become corrupt. Laptops can be stolen. System hard drives can fail. But with Iomega Automatic Backup Pro and Norton Ghost for REV Drive software, you don't have to worry about it! Iomega Automatic Backup Pro provides a 'set-it and forget-it' file backup solution, as well as file encryption and compression. Norton Ghost for REV Drive provides full system image backups and restores directly from your REV disk for the fast and easy backup of an entire system.

Iomega REV drives are the ideal solution for small- and medium-sized businesses and SOHO users who need a fast and reliable back up system, as well as for desktop and large file users who need a cost-effective and versatile backup and portable storage system.

The Iomega REV system is designed from the ground up for superior data integrity. Iomega REV disks deliver comparable reliability to a sealed hard drive in a removable form factor that costs less and is infinitely more versatile.


  • FAST: Back up and recover files up to 8 times faster than tape.
  • LOW COST: Iomega REV systems are a better value compared to traditional tape drives.
  • EFFICIENT: Retrieve files in seconds, versus minutes, with drag-and-drop (compared to linear access with tape drives).
  • RELIABLE: Proven hard disk technology for ultimate reliability.
  • HIGH CAPACITY: 90 GB compressed capacity to store and share large files, or back up an entire system on a single disk.
  • EASY: No cleaning or maintenance required; appears as a standard drive letter.
  • DURABLE: Rigid disks offer virtually unlimited rewritability.
  • SECURE: Password protect confidential data and encrypt your backups.
  • EXPANDABLE: Add capacity when you need it with cost-effective Iomega REV disks.
  • FREE: Iomega Automatic Backup Pro and Norton Ghost for REV Drive software included.

Port XTender Bridges Classic Mode and Internal Modems

Port XTender is a software serial port bridge between Mac OS X's Classic environment and the internal modem that is standard equipment on all shipping Macs.

In Mac OS X, applications which have not been updated to run natively instead run inside the Classic environment. Although Classic is much like a real OS 9 system, it lacks access to low-level hardware such as the internal modem. This poses a problem for applications such as MacAuthorize, which requires the use of a modem but runs in Classic.

Port XTender is a software bridge that allows these applications to use the internal modem.

You can download a demo of Port XTender for evaluation. The demo expires August 1, 2004, but is otherwise fully functional.

The price for Port XTender is $100. Download the demo first and make sure it works before purchasing. After purchase, you'll be sent a license upgrade (12K compressed) by email.

Configuring AirPort Express on a Wired Network

A new Apple Knowledge Base Article says:

"Even though AirPort Express includes a fully-functional wireless access point, it's totally legit to use it on a wired-only network for its print server and music streaming features. When setting up for a wired-only environment, you could get a bit confused by the fact that AirPort Express Assistant refuses to hook you up. This is because AirPort Express Assistant will only connect wirelessly from a computer that has a wireless card. Don't worry - you just need to use AirPort Admin Utility instead, as shown here":

Choose the Best Bag for Your Laptop This School Year

MacTeens' Francisco Tolmasky says:

"So you just got that brand new PowerBook you've been saving up for all summer (or that your parents have been saving up for) and are getting ready to head back to school, but you still need one more thing: a decent bag to keep it in to make sure it doesn't get dented or scratched. Before you go brush the dust off of that tired old Targus bag, compare it to two equally priced alternatives, the Crumpler Wack-O-Phone and the Timbuk2 Commute Laptop Bag. Both are designed in the messenger bag style and are currently available in a variety of colors (selectable on their respective websites).

AV PowerBooks: Is This What Apple Needs?

Insanely Great Mac's Remy Davison says:

"Digitimes notes that Dell and Asustek will launch 'AV' notebooks shortly to compete with Toshiba's range of Qosmio portables, The new notebooks will feature 'TV and audio' functionality, as well as DVD recording.

"The question is whether Apple needs to match this in its PowerBook line. Desktop Media Center PCs have become increasingly popular in recent quarters, reportedly having some impact on the sales of notebooks.

"No PCMCIA/CardBus TV solution for the PowerBook exists to my knowledge, although EyeTV and other USB solutions abound. Although an Apple-developed internal or CardBus TV card may not be a deal-clincher, it would add considerably to the PowerBook's already formidable array of multimedia support. With FireWire DV and DVD burning, plus DVDSP, iMovie and iDVD, Apple already leads the industry in many respects."

Diskology, Inc. adds Laptop Adapters to Disk Jockey Product Line

Diskology, Inc. added two laptop adapters to their product lineup. The adapters, known simply as "Fred" and "Steve" allow users to attach 2.5" IDE laptop drives to the Disk Jockey IDE hard disk cloning / diagnostic tool. By using the laptop adapters users can transfer data between laptop drives at high speeds, copy data from a laptop drive to a standard 3.5" desktop IDE hard disk drive or from a 3.5" hard disk drive to a laptop drive. By using Diskology's recently released serial-ATA (SATA) adapter as well, users can transfer data from a laptop drive to a SATA drive and vice-versa.

"During the first few months of the Disk Jockey's availability we received hundreds of requests from people who wanted to copy data to and from laptop hard disk drives using the Disk Jockey," said Tony Overbay, President and CEO of Diskology, Inc. "We've gone to great lengths to provide our customers with two options of laptop adapters based on their technical expertise, comfort level and budget."

The Disk Jockey is a Swiss Army Knife of a hard disk copy / backup / diagnostic tool. The Disk Jockey can be used on either a Windows or Macintosh computer or as a stand-alone device. The Disk Jockey mounts IDE hard disk drives via USB 2.0 and FireWire as well as mirrors, spans, copies, compares, tests and erases hard disk drives using either a 1-pass or a 3-pass erase per the National Security Administration (NSA) guidelines. Testimonials on how the Disk Jockey is being used by IT and MIS departments, as well as a variety of other computer professionals and hobbyists can be found on the Diskology website. The Disk Jockey recently received a 5 out of 6 star rating from PC Test Pro as well as a 4 mouse rating from MacUser UK.

"Fred" is the less expensive of the two laptop adapters and is described on the Diskology web site as being designed for the person "who likes wires and boards and things on your tech bench (to impress colleagues and hopefully impress the geeky guy/gal in the office, too)." Fred is essentially a board with a connector on one side for the Disk Jockey, a connector on the other side for the laptop hard disk drive. Fred carries an SRP of $10.

"Steve" carries an SRP of $35 and actually resembles a drive sled. With "Steve" the laptop drive is inserted into the sled and the sled then connected to the Disk Jockey.

"Fred and Steve were actually the products code names," said Overbay. "We used them so much that we really had a hard time changing them to anything else so for now, they have stuck."

The Disk Jockey is available for a suggested retail price of $329 directly from Diskology or it can be found at more aggressive prices from Diskology resellers worldwide.

Intego's WiFi Locator Can Find Wireless Hotspots in Less Than a Second

Intego, the Macintosh security specialist, has announced the launch of the WiFi Locator, a pocket-sized device to find wireless AirPort and WiFi networks. With the Intego WiFi Locator, the world's smallest WiFi hotspot finder, users can find available AirPort and AirPort Extreme (802.11b and 802.11 g) networks to get wireless Internet access for their AirPort-equipped PowerBook or iBook, WiFi-equipped laptop running Windows, Unix or Linux, or WiFi-equipped PDA or phone. The Intego WiFi Locator is small, discreet and easy to use, and finds available wireless hotspots in less than one second.

Intego WiFi Locator"Wireless networking has become commonplace", said Laurent Marteau, CEO, Intego, "and as many people know, hotspots abound. But the problem is finding hotspots when you need Internet access in a hurry. The Intego WiFi Locator is the smallest, fastest device for doing this."

When people are on the road, whether for business or pleasure, they may still need Internet access to check e-mail, send or receive files, or surf the web. With an AirPort-equipped PowerBook or iBook, WiFi-equipped laptop running Windows, Unix or Linux, or WiFi-equipped PDA or phone, they can tap into hotspots in many public areas such as hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, airports and more.

But to connect to a wireless hotspot, they first need to find it. Some hotspots are marked, especially in airports and coffee shops, but others are not indicated. These may be wireless connections offered intentionally by businesses, or simply open base stations that anyone can connect to.

Intego's WiFi Locator zeroes in on wireless network hotspots in a jiffy. One press of the button on this pocket-sized device, and its LEDs indicate whether there is a wireless network close enough to access and how strong its signal is.

The Intego WiFi Locator is ideal for finding networks in all kinds of locations:

  • In hotels: finds the optimal location for wireless Internet access in hotel rooms,
  • in lounges or in conference rooms In airports: finds hotspots in the airport, so travellers can check and send urgent e-mails, and browse the web,
  • before boarding their plane In restaurants and coffee shops: finds which one has the best signal even before users sit down
  • At home: finds the best location for a wireless AirPort base station, or the best place to access it
  • At the office: finds the best place to put a PowerBook or iBook to get network access - for network administrators, the Intego WiFi Locator helps find the best place to set up base stations, or detect unauthorized base stations in companies where security policies prohibit the use of wireless devices In the street: finds unmarked wireless hotspots inside buildings and stores

Intego WiFi Locator features:

  • Finds wireless hotspots in any location
  • Finds AirPort and AirPort Extreme (802.11b and 802.11g) WiFi hotspots
  • Four bright LEDs show the reception level: the more LEDs stay lit, the stronger the signal No more starting up a laptop to find a WiFi signal Directional orientation: if a user finds a hotspot, they can turn in different directions to find the best reception
  • Finds the best location to sit in a lounge or restaurant for optimal Internet access
  • Finds the best place at home or in an office to set up an AirPort base station
  • Finds AirPort Express base stations, if a user has forgotten where they are
  • Intego WiFi Locator doesn't get confused by telephones, baby monitors or microwave ovens, and doesn't interfere with such devices
  • Batteries included: start using it right away

Product specifications:

  • Compatibility: AirPort and AirPort Extreme (802.11b and 802.11g) Range: finds networks up to 300 ft away
  • Signal strength indicator: 4 steps with 4 LEDs Detection time: less than 1/2 second
  • Antenna type: internal dipole
  • User replaceable batteries: 2 x CR2032
  • Operating voltage: 2.7 V nominal
  • Power consumption:
  • Scanning: 20 mA
  • Locked on signal: 9 mA

Operating conditions:

  • Operating temperature: 0° to 50° C
  • Storage temperature: -20° to 75° C
  • Frequency range: 2.4 GHz - 2.462 GHz

Pricing (plus shipping, handling and any applicable sales tax): United States, $29.95; Europe, €29.95; UK, £19.95; Japan, ¥3995

HP Unveils Linux-based Centrino Laptop

ZDNet UK's Munir Kotadia reports:

"HP will unveil a new Centrino laptop that comes preloaded with SuSE Linux at the LinuxWorld Conference San Francisco on Tuesday, ZDNet UK has learned.

Details of the notebook leaked early when the company mistakenly published details of the notebook on its Web site.

"The HP Compaq Business Notebook nx5000, which starts at $1199 (£650) in the US, comes with either an Intel Pentium M or Celeron processor, between 256 MB and 2 GB of DDR SDRAM and a 15-inch display that can handle a screen resolution of up to 1600 x 1200 at 100 Hz."

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

Wegener Media


Baucom Computers

Power Max

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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