The 'Book Review

Spotty iBook Reliability, You Might Be a Mac User If, Faster and Dual-Layer SuperDrives, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2004.12.17

Tech Trends

Bargain 'Books

Spotty iBook G3 Reliability

NEWS: MacInTouch reports:

"A school with a large installation of iBooks is looking for feedback from similar organizations about failure rates:

"We purchased a large number of 14" 600mHz/256/20/Combo iBooks almost three years ago for use by our faculty and some administration. Within that time we have seen failure rates of: 20% for the Hitachi/IBM 20GB hard drives, nearly 20% failure on logic boards . . . and nearly 100% on the laptop batteries.... This is in comparison to a similar sample size of Dell Latitude D600 laptops where we have seen zero failures within the first two years of use."

You Know You Might Be a Mac User If...

OpEd: LinuxInsider's Paul Murphy says:

"Listen to the people who made the PC versus Macintosh decision for themselves and it's pretty clear that the PC people get heavily vested in their knowledge of the machine and whatever Windows variant they have or aspire to, while the Mac people tend to assume the machine and talk about what they do with it. That's a very big difference, but what's behind it?

"What differentiates a Mac user from a PC user, assuming the usage decision is uncoerced by an employer?

"My wife, a reformed PC user (always the most merciless of evangelists), answered that question with a list straight from Jeff Foxworthy:

  1. You think virus protection is what you get a flu shot for.
  2. You actually make a conscious choice in selecting your Web browser and presentation software.
  3. You have suppressed a smile at the sound of another user rebooting their computer for the fifth time that day.
  4. You dress up in a black turtleneck and jeans to go out at Halloween.
  5. You've never sworn about a service pack.
  6. You have a Bush-Cheney sticker on your Volvo.

"OK, one of those is a ringer - but the question itself is interesting: What individual characteristics differentiate the two communities?"

Fastest SuperDrive DVD Burner for Apple Laptops, Cube, and iMac

PR: FastMac announces availability of the fastest internal slot-loading DVD/CD burner for Apple PowerBook and iBook computers, allowing DVD burning that is 8 times faster than Apple's original "SuperDrive."

Power to BurnFastMac's 8x DVD±RW drive is compatible with all Apple PowerBook G4, iBook G4, PowerMac G4 Cube, iMac G3 Slot-Loading, and iMac G5 models. Designed to replace Apple's original optical drive, the FastMac 8x DVD±RW drive takes full advantage of popular DVD and CD creation software such as Apple's iDVD, iTunes, and Disc Burner, as well as Roxio's Toast Titanium and Popcorn.

"Our new 8x multi-format burner, with included iLife software, offers the ultimate DVD and CD recording experience," said Michael Lowdermilk, Business Development Manager for FastMac Performance Upgrades. "With it, you can burn a complete 4.7 GB DVD in under 10 minutes."

The FastMac 8x DVD±RW drive burns DVDs at 8x speed and rewrites DVDs at 4x speed. It also writes to DVD-RAM discs at 3x speed, CD-Rs at 24x speed, and CD-RWs at 10x speed.

"FastMac is very excited to be the first to market this product," added Lowdermilk. "Our 4x drives have been incredibly popular with users whose laptops didn't initially come with a SuperDrive. But now with the availability of the 8x drive, owners with 1x and 2x SuperDrives will see a dramatic increase in performance, making it a worthy upgrade."

In addition to being the fastest DVD Burner for Apple laptops, the FastMac 8x DVD±RW drive is also the easiest to install, with FastMac's new, easy to understand, fully illustrated instruction manuals included with purchase of each drive.


  • Write to DVD-R: 8x Speed
  • Write to DVD+R: 8x Speed
  • Rewrite to DVD-RW: 4x Speed
  • Rewrite to DVD+RW: 4x Speed
  • Write to DVD-RAM: 3x Speed
  • Write to CD-R: 24x Speed
  • Rewrite to CD-RW: 10x Speed
  • Read from CD-ROM: 24x Speed
  • Read from DVD-ROM: 8x Speed
  • Buffer underrun Protection

Warranty: 1 Year

FastMac's 8x DVD±RW drive, priced from $259 for most models, is compatible with the following Apple computers:

  • PowerBook G4 Titanium (all models)
  • PowerBook G4 Aluminum (all models and screen sizes) iBook G4 (all models and screen sizes)
  • PowerBook G3 Pismo and Lombard
  • PowerMac G4 Cube
  • iMac G3 Slot-Loading (all models)
  • iMac G5

FastMac designs and manufactures innovative upgrade products that add value and extend usability of Apple Macintosh computers and iPod music players. FastMac's line of optical drives and CPU upgrades are available through an international network of dealers, distributors, resellers and consultants.

  • SuperDrive 8x for iBook G4, $229.95 
  • SuperDrive 8x for PowerBook G3 Pismo, $229.95 
  • SuperDrive 8x for PowerBook G4 400, 500, 550 & 667 MHz, $299.95 
  • SuperDrive 8x for PowerBook G4 667 MHz or Higher, $229.95 
  • SuperDrive 8x for PowerMac G4 Cube, $299.95 

You can read my review of the FastMac 4x SuperDrive Pismo PowerBook module at Mac Opinion.

MCE 8x SuperDrive Upgrade for PowerBook G4 with Double Layer Support

PR: The MCE 8x Internal SuperDrive Upgrade with Double Layer support is the most technically advanced optical drive ever created for the Apple PowerBook. Recording at 8x to both DVD-R and DVD+R media the MCE 8x Internal SuperDrive upgrade brings the PowerBook G4 on par with even the fastest drives Apple offers for their Power Mac G5 towers... even more amazing is that the MCE 8X SuperDrive upgrade has true Double Layer support which means you now have the ability to record up to 8.5G B of data on a single side of a Double Layer DVD.

The additional storage capacity of the DVD+R Double Layer disc enables you to record up to 4 hours of DVD quality video or 16 hours of VHS-quality video, without the need to turn over the disc. You can now archive up to 8.5 GB of computer files on a single disc, which almost doubles the storage capacity compared with the 4.7 GB for the single-layer DVD-recordable discs currently available.

The MCE 8x Internal SuperDrive Upgrade is a dual drive and records to both DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW media. It also reads and writes standard CD-R/RW media and is compatible with all of Apple's iApps including iTunes, iDVD, iPhoto, and Finder Burning.

MCE's new 8x Internal SuperDrive Upgrade for the PowerBook G4 offers unprecedented media interchangeability and twelve times the capacity of CD-R and CD-RW. The MCE 8x SuperDrive with Double Layer support reads industry-standard DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, DVD+R DL, CD-ROM, CD-R/RW, CD-DA, Photo CD, and Video CD media.

You may install it yourself or, if you prefer, you may have the MCE 8x SuperDrive upgrade professionally installed into your PowerBook G4 by MCE Technologies or one of their worldwide Authorized Upgrade Centers.


  • 8x DVD-R and DVD+R recorder
  • 4x DVD-RW and DVD+RW recorder
  • 2.4x DVD+R Double Layer recorder
  • Convenient slot-loading mechanism
  • 2 MB Cache Buffer
  • Buffer underrun protection
  • Bootable
  • Compatible with iDVD, DVD Studio Pro, iTunes, Disc Burner and Apple DVD Player

The New MCE 8x Internal SuperDrive Upgrade is compatible with the 12", 15", and 17" Apple PowerBook G4. Whether you have Aluminum or Titanium, this upgrade is compatible with your PowerBook G4.

The Double Layer DVD+R system uses two thin embedded organic dye films for data storage separated by a spacer layer (see figure). Heating with a focused laser beam irreversibly modifies the physical and chemical structure of each layer such that the modified areas have different optical properties to those of their unmodified surroundings. This causes a variation in reflectivity as the disc rotates to provide a read-out signal as with commercially pressed read-only discs. Did you get all that?? It just means that there are two recording layers inside the DVD instead of just one... two layers means twice the recording capacity! Now wasn't that easier?

Not every disc is created equal. The MCE 8x SuperDrive Upgrade for PowerBook G4 implements an onboard liquid crystal tilt/thickness compensator... the first time ever in a portable form factor. This cutting edge technology provides accurate, reliable read and write performance with a variety of disc characteristics, even with irregularly curved or thick / thin media. This technology is also effective in recording DVD+R double layer media.

The MCE 8x Internal SuperDrive Upgrade with Double Layer support is seamlessly compatible with all of Apple's iApps including iTunes, iDVD, and iPhoto. In addition, it is compatible with Finder Burning and DVD Studio Pro, Apple's professional DVD Authoring software.

Imagine being able to record 4 hours instead of 2 hours of the highest quality DVD video on a disc. Or to store 8.5 gigabytes, equaling about 12 fully recorded CD-Rs, instead of 4.7 gigabytes, on a single sided DVD. With Double Layer recording technology, now you can.

If the MCE 8x SuperDrive Upgrade with Double Layer Support does not live up to your EVERY expectation just let us know within the first 30 days. We will cheerfully refund your purchase price!


Write Support: DVD DVD-R*1, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW,DVD+R DL, CD CD-R 700(type 80), 650 MB(type 74), CD-RW, Ultraspeed CD-RW, Highspeed CD-RW

Read Support: DVD DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW & DVD+R DL*2, CD CD-ROM(Mode 1&2), CD-ROM XA, CD-DA, Video CD, PhotoCD, CD EXTRA, CD-Text, CD-R, CD-RW

Write Speed:

  • DVD-R 8x
  • DVD-RW 4x
  • DVD+R 8x
  • DVD+RW 4x
  • DVD+R DL*2 2.4x
  • CD-R 24x
  • CD-RW 24x

Read Speed

  • DVD Max 8x CAV
  • CD-ROM Max 24x CAV

Data Buffer (size) 2 MB

Dimensions (W x H x D) 128 x 12.7 x 129mm

Weight 200g

Supported Media:

  • DVD-R (Version 2.0 for General), 4x-speed DVD-R, 8x-speed DVD-R
  • DVD-RW (Version 1.0, 1.1, 1.2), 2x-speed DVD-RW, 4x-speed DVD-RW
  • DVD+R, 4x-speed DVD+R, 8x-speed DVD+R,
  • DVD+RW,4x-speed DVD+RW
  • DVD+R DL
  • CD-R, Multi-Speed CD-RW, High-Speed CD-RW, Ultra-Speed CD-RW
  • (*) DVD-RAM and Ultra-Speed + CD-RW are not supported.

Media is manufactured with different levels of quality. Please note this product does not guarantee writing at write speeds specified on media.

Mod of the Week: Apple iTablet

NEWS: MacMOD has posted a tutorial on turning an iBook into a tablet PC:

"Apple has made is quite clear that the tablet PC and PDA markets are not areas in which they see a viable market for themselves. While that may be the true, there are still mac users out there who need a pen based mobile computing solution. Instead of turning to Windows or waiting around for Apple to introduce one of their own, MacModder Joseph DeRuvo Jr. decided to take matters into his own hands. The results were amazing. The iTablet, a seriously modded ibook, retains its style and major functions but features a troll-touch touch screen, dual hard drives, integrated bluetooth, additional firewire ports and a built in flash card reader."

Performance Comparison: eMac G4, iBook G4, and iMac G5

NEWS: MacInTouch reports:

"With several of Apple's low-midrange computers in hand, we decided to compare performance using our standard benchmark test suite, finding surprising speed in the new eMac and iBook G4 models...

MacInTouch Test Systems

  • iBook G3/900 MHz Combo: 12" iBook G3, 640 MB of RAM (512K L2 cache), standard 40 GB Hitachi hard drive; Mac OS X 10.3.5; tested at "Auto" and "Highest" processor settings
  • iBook G4/1.2 GHz Combo: 12" iBook G4, 768 MB of RAM (512K L2 cache), optional 80 GB Toshiba hard drive; Mac OS X 10.3.5; tested at "Auto" and "Highest" processor settings
  • eMac G4/1.2 GHz SuperDrive: 512 MB of RAM (512K L2 cache), optional 160 GB Seagate hard drive (ST3160023A), Mac OS X 10.3.5
  • iMac G5 20"/1.8 GHz SuperDrive: 1 GB (2x512) of RAM (512K L2 cache), standard 160 GB ST3160023AS hard drive; tested at Auto and Highest processor settings
  • Power Mac G5/1.8 GHz: original single processor G5 model; 512 MB of RAM (512K L2 cache), dual ST3160023AS hard drives configured in a striped RAID, using Disk Utility.

"The iMac G5 is a wonderful system, and we'd rather pay a few hundred dollars over the cost of an eMac to get one, but all the Apple hype about the G5 falls a little short when you see the low-cost eMac, with its slower G4 processor, pushing the iMac G5 in performance....

"PowerBooks are nice, but pricey. The biggest advantage you get for the extra cost of the 12" PowerBook is the ability to drive a larger external screen in dual-display mode (up to 2048x1536), although the built-in screen has the same 768x1024 resolution as the iBook.

"The 15" PowerBook is an ideal mobile machine.... This laptop costs almost twice as much as an iBook G4, however, making it an expensive option for part-time portability, and it's not as compact as the jewel-like 12" models."

Screen Spanning with Your iBook, iMac, or eMac

NEWS: Use an extended desktop with your iBook, iMac or eMac with Screen Spanning Doctor. This program is for educational purposes only and you are responsible for everything you do with the given information. The information published here may not be used for commercial purposes without written approval from

The new iMac G5 can do screen spanning after being patched with Screen Spanning Doctor.

The same is true for the speedbumped iBooks released in October (no surprise here, since the architecture of the iBook hasn't changed).

Disable iBook LCD Display

NEWS: A MacOS X Hints contributor says:

"While trying to patch my 600mhz dual USB iBook to run in dual display mode /clamshell, I ran across this by accident. Apparently, it is possible to use only an external display at a much higher resolution than available to the iBook's built-in display....

"The Displays panel now only detects my external display, and runs it perfectly as my primary display. This should resolve any heat-dissipation issues that result from running the iBook in clamshell mode."

Full details at MacOS X Hints.

Other World Computing Signs Distribution Agreement with PowerLogix

PR: Other World Computing (OWC) has announced it has signed a distribution agreement with PowerLogix giving OWC the right to sell and distribute PowerLogix' entire line of Macintosh upgrade products.

"PowerLogix has long been one of the leading providers of after-market Macintosh upgrade products, so we're very pleased to be able to deliver PowerLogix products to our tens of thousands of customers around the world," said Larry O'Connor, president of OWC.

As part of its distribution agreement with PowerLogix, OWC has also agreed to provide fulfillment and distribution services, as well as back the enduser support, for PowerLogix products found at <>.

"We are very excited to complete these two agreements," said PowerLogix founder, Robert Jagitsch. "Customers need to know that the PowerLogix product line will be fully supported. Customer service and support are at the very top of our priority list as we move forward with a solid basis for continuing our tradition of innovative products."

Selected PowerLogix products are available immediately through OWC via its website.

In addition to PowerLogix, OWC also offers its own full line of OWC Mercury Processor upgrades as well as upgrade products by Sonnet Technologies and other brands.

"This latest expansion of our product line puts OWC in the best position to serve customers' needs with the best selection of upgrade solutions for nearly every Mac model out there," O'Connor said.

Tech Trends

What to Consider When Considering a Laptop Computer

OpEd:'s David Radin says:

"The perfect notebook computer would be light as a feather, compact while in transit but with a full keyboard and huge, bright screen when in use. Never losing its charge, it would be able to run even the most power hungry applications without breaking a sweat, and would connect a user wirelessly to any network.

"Unfortunately, that notebook computer does not exist.

"So if you plan to purchase a notebook computer for a gift, you're going to have to make trade-offs - and to make them well, you'll want to keep in mind the way the person to whom you're giving the gift will use the notebook."

The Evolution of Scrolling: Reinventing the Wheel

OpEd: Writing for TidBITS, Joe Kissell says:

"All modern computer operating systems are based on some form of graphical user interface (GUI) that assumes the presence of a mouse (or comparable pointing device) to move a pointer around on the screen. Most of us have become so accustomed to using a mouse that we don't even think about it anymore. Although it's possible to use most GUI programs with a keyboard alone, it's much more cumbersome - and the whole point of modern interfaces was to be less cumbersome than their keyboard-only predecessors.

When it comes to scrolling, however, most GUIs don't make it easy for ordinary mice....

"One solution, certainly, is to use the Page Up/Page Down keys on your keyboard to scroll. But that requires moving your hand back and forth between your pointing device and your keyboard, which can also be tedious. Another approach, which has been an option in Kensington's MouseWorks software for years, is called 'Scroll With Mouse'....

"...This mechanism was almost immediately embraced by consumers, so that within about two years scroll wheels were the norm on almost all mice - except, incomprehensibly, for those made by Apple, on the grounds that anything more than a single button makes mice seem too complicated."

"...Notwithstanding Apple's outstanding click wheel design, input devices on Macintosh computers remain behind the times. My current laptop, an Apple PowerBook G4, has a trackpad with no built-in scrolling capabilities (and, frustratingly, just one button). Fortunately I was able to find a wonderful $15 piece of software called SideTrack, which turns the edges of the trackpad into a highly configurable scrolling device much like the WebRacer touchpad - and many Windows-based laptops. This is a great enhancement, because target acquisition is even more difficult with a trackpad than with a mouse."

Researchers Warn Laptop Users of Infertility Risk

NEWS: IDG News Service's Laura Rohde reports:

"Laptops should be used as desktops if men want to protect their reproductive health, according to a new study published Thursday.

"A combination of the heat generated by a laptop and the position of the thighs that is needed to balance the computer leads to higher temperatures around a man's genitals and over time can result in decreased sperm production, according to the study 'Increase in scrotal temperature in laptop computer users,' published in the U.K. journal Human Reproduction."

Sounds reasonable. Diminished sperm counts due to higher scrotal temperature associated with wearing tight jockey briefs rather than boxers or spending too much time soaking in hot tubs has been long documented. Another argument in favor of using a laptop stand or lap desk.

Notebooks as Popular as TVs this Season

NEWS: While some time-honored holiday traditions never change, the 2004 holiday season is increasingly going digital with notebooks amongst this season's brightest sellers.

According to consumer retail figures from The NPD Group, notebooks are becoming as popular as TVs. During "Black Friday," the name retailers give for the day after Thanksgiving, consumer notebook sales exceeded the sales of all types of TVs.1 Analyst firm Gartner expects both U.S. and worldwide fourth quarter consumer notebook shipments to be up almost 22 percent each over 2003.2

Technology gifts are certainly top of mind with holiday gift givers. Seventy-six percent of Americans plan to give a tech gift these holidays, according to this year's Best Buy Holiday Trend Index.3

Key factors gift givers are seeking in tech products are personalization, mobility and the ability to connect with other products as well as with friends and family. Fitting the bill, Intel Centrino mobile technology-based notebooks are morphing into all-purpose entertainment devices you can take anywhere with entertainment features such as wide screens, TV tuners, personal video recording capabilities, and remote controls.

Laptops are also gaining popularity thanks to the growing availability of wireless Internet access or "WiFi", which allows WiFi equipped laptops to connect to the Internet wirelessly at home, work, and public hotspots. More than 43,000 hotspots worldwide are verified for interoperability with Intel Centrino mobile technology. Notebooks with Intel Centrino mobile technology have WiFi capability built in and deliver breakthrough mobile performance while enabling great battery life in lighter, easier-to-carry notebook PCs. Some models of Intel Centrino mobile technology-based notebooks are available for under $1,000.

Holiday shoppers can get great deals on laptop PCs with such special offers as CompUSA's Mobile Entertainment Starter Kit. Shoppers purchasing an Intel Centrino mobile technology-based notebook at any CompUSA store until Jan. 31 will receive the kit, which includes a free trial of Real Network's Rhapsody premium music service, free downloadable audio books and magazines, six months of free file sharing service, a discount for Movielink online movies, and more. Details on this and other notebook PC holiday offers are available at <>.

Consumers will also get a chance to preview soon-to-be-released laptop PCs with next-generation Intel Centrino mobile technology (codenamed Sonoma) at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Jan. 6-9.

  1. Source: The NPD Group/NPD Techworld, "How green was Black Friday 2004?" Analyst Report.
  2. Source: Gartner's Global PC Forecast and Shipments Quarterly Statistics-Database Dec. 3, 2004.
  3. Source: 2004 Best Buy Holiday Trend Index, a survey conducted by Click IQ, which polled a representative sample of 1,595 people ages 15 to 55, and has a margin of error of +/- 2 percent.

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.

Apple Store Special Deals: Apple Certified

Free shipping.


Small Dog Electronics

Baucom Computers

  • 14" PowerBook WallStreet G3/233, 192/4/CD-ROM, $209

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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