The 'Book Review

iBook vs. Pismo, Mini USB Optical Mouse, WallStreet Hinge Defect, InfoCase, and More

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2002.02.22

Except as noted, prices are in US dollars.

Foot Powered Laptops?


Remember those World War II movies where one guy pedals furiously on a stationary bicycle generator while his buddy gets on the old tube shortwave radio to call for reinforcements or whatever?

Well, the StepCharger™ is kinda like a modern iteration of that concept. Anytime, anyplace, anyone can create power with StepCharger. All it takes is a repetitious stepping motion with the heel of your foot. Anytime, anyplace, anyone can produce electricity for charging satellite phones, cellular phones, CBs, walkie talkies, laptops, digital cameras, video cameras, radios, or anything with a rechargeable battery.

StepCharger has a constant voltage circuit which will suppress loss of charge, and yields approximately 20 minutes of laptop power for each five minutes of brisk pumping.


  • Length: 5.46 Inches
  • Width: 2.3 Inches
  • Height: 1.56 Inches
  • Weight: 10.51 Ounces
  • Output Power: 0 to 6 Watts / 18 Volts Direct Current (DC18V)

StepCharger is supposed to be available for sale soon, and expected to cost about $150.

iBook v. Pismo

I've proposed that the 14.1" iBook is "Son of Pismo."

Insanely Great Mac's Remy Davison takes a different but complimentary tack with a shootout-style comparison of "Son of Pismo" with the real Pismo.

Remy notes that:

Now, with the 14.1" iBook on the market, Mac portable owners face a bewildering array of recent-model G3s to choose from....
Do you get a brand new iBook with all the fruit, or do you save a few hundred bucks on the Pismo and spec it up to the new iBook? Or, alternatively, should you get a base 12.1" iBook for roughly the same money as used Pismo?

Good question. I just got a used Pismo about five months ago, but that involved a trade for my erstwhile G4 Cube. If I were faced with the straight-up decision posed by Remy, I'm not sure what I would do.

Remy notes that:

The 14.1" iBook is well equipped and boasts 100 MHz superior processor speed, a 256K cache running at full processor speed, a built-in CD-RW/DVD (8x4x6x24) and a 20 GB hard drive. The unit also has a claimed 6-hour battery life.

The Pismo 500 has a bigger cache (1 MB) running at a 2.5:1 ratio and only a DVD-ROM. Early (pre-September 2000) Pismos had a 12 GB hard drive; the later revision had a 20 gigger. The Pismo has a battery rated at 5 hours (when new), although 4-4.5 hours depending on use would be a reasonable estimate.

Both have a 100 MHz bus, and the same graphics chip resides on both motherboards.

Remy says that:

In my side-by-side comparisons, the iBook's a little snappier in the Finder and application launches, while the Pismo retrieves info from cache a bit faster.

However, there are some significant differences that might prove the deciding factor one way or the other depending upon your needs.

IOGear Releases Mini USB Optical Mouse

IOGear's new USB Optical Mini Mouse is an excellent tool for mobile professionals and other road warriors.

The superior optical sensor tracks movement 1500 times per second, providing smooth precision tracking on Mini USB Optical Mouseany surface. It is small and portable, and saves the precious space in your mobile work area. The ergonomic contour design offers comfortable use on any surface. Includes a leather carrying case for travel.

This unit is USB ready, plug-n-play and hot pluggable. It is also backed by IOGear's 3-year warranty.

IOGear's USB Optical Mini Mouse sells for $29.95

WallStreet Hinge Defect Users Group

Kevin Barry is spearheading a users group pressing the claim that the hinges on WallStreet PowerBook G3 systems shipped in 1998 and 1999 are defective.

"I am picking up the problems with the G3 and other computers which Apple is refusing to admit there are serious design flaws," says Barry. "I have formed a group and have been in contact with Kenneth Ott [who has also ben active on this issue]."

Barry has met with a law firm about the possibility about filing a class action suit against Apple for these problems.

"I don't want people to think 'I hate Apple' because I don't," Kevin emphasizes. "I have owned Apples for more than a decade and even learned pilot programming on an Apple II in Jr High in the early eighties. And I will buy another Apple in the future. I just want to make sure Apple get back on course and provide quality and customer service as they used to.

If you want more info on this issue, visit the Website or you can email Kevin at <>.

Also see ATI Support Outrage And Screen Hinge Grumbles.

Portector for Dual USB iBook

The Portector is a molded strip that fits snugly over the expansion ports of your iBook.



  • Keeps out dirt and dust which may accumulates at the bottom of your backpack.
  • Paper clips or keys which find their way into the ports of your iBook can damage delicate pins.
  • Protects your investment simply and inexpensively.
  • Matte finish compliments the look of your laptop.
  • Soft urethane is flexible, yet durable.

Price: $12.50 (U.S.) plus shipping & taxes.

InfoCase Computer Cases

InfoCase makes a wide range of computer case solutions and have developed a $69.95 version of their ClassMate "Always On" carry case to accommodate the new 14" iBook.

InfoCase Inc. has been creating computer carrying case solutions for corporate and government programs for over 15 years.

Some InfoCase models include:

ComConnect Family Work Stations

Open the case and go to work. The portable PC and its other system peripherals are completely integrated, cabled, and powered for maximum efficiency and productivity inside the case. The case is designed to deliver the form and protection of a hard case but in a more practical, ergonomic sewn case format

No more distracting system setup in front of clients. Efficient in-vehicle workstation. All power supplies combined to a single power cord. System is always ready to go. Improved productivity. Unmatched system protection. Modular upgrades.

Always-On FieldMate & ClassMate Families

Compact, form-fit cases that stay on the portable PC at all times for substantially improved protection, handling safety, and frequent access convenience. This unique, patented design system not only allows access to all the PC's features but actually enhances PC use in walk-around and frequent access applications. Extended models protect protruding PCMCIA devices at all times. FieldMate and ClassMate cases have been thoroughly drop tested- on purpose in the lab, by accident in the field (and the classroom). Often eliminates the need for expensive ruggedized PC's.

"Always on but never in the way" provides many benefits for technicians, field service reps and students in particular. The PC is always protected. Various handle, shoulder strap, elastic arm grip, and harness options are available to provide the safest, most convenient handling for your application. The rigid, nonskid base not only provides a protected working platform but also blocks heat when used on your lap. Compact protective design improves portability and is well suited for safe storage inside larger cases.

ComFolio Family

Attractive, top access, expandable, portfolio (or brief) style business cases with excellent PC protection and organizational qualities. Classic external styling does not scream "computer case". Field-proven ergonomic and design features vs. mass-market oriented "whistles & bells". A variety of styles and materials are offered to meet a broad range of corporate program requirements. Most are easily adaptable for or include case-in-case protection and convenience. See our ShockMate accessory case family.

Smooth and easy access to all your stuff from the standing case. Most ComFolio models have sufficient capacity to eliminate the need for two carrying cases. Exterior convenience storage for quick access, even for your planner or a small clutch purse in some models. Advanced design features and enhanced ergonomics developed from considerable field-force feedback.

ComTache Family

Rugged yet attractive open-to-access attaché style business cases for portable computers and/or printers. Protection is generally passive. We avoid reliance on straps and other active devices like most cases that typically go unused. Most ComTache cases feature Custom-Fit insert models for extra protection or for semi-integrated applications. Most are easily adaptable for or include second device case-in-case protection and convenience. See our ShockMate accessory case family.

Whether rolling or carried, these designs deliver extremely reliable system protection and larger interior compartments for our custom-fit insert modules. Most ComTache class cases can be custom-fit for print-inside-the-case productivity or for your unique equipment storage requirements. Larger models have inline skate type wheels and quality telescoping handle assemblies. Most ComTache models have sufficient capacity to eliminate the need for two carrying cases.

ShockMate Family

Small, protective, removable accessory and case-in-case PC cases. Integrate well into various InfoCase models for protected transport but then are typically removed on-site for use away from the main case. Various handling and identification features available or can be readily custom-fit for your needs.

Most popular uses are for digital cameras and for the PC itself but we can adapt for other components easily. These case-in-case options allow you to safely carry valuable equipment away from the main system case. Great for applications where a good size system stays in the car or client's office but components are walked to different locations.

Custom-Fit ComShipper Family

Extremely rugged, highest quality water and air tight, molded ABS or polypropylene carrying cases designed to reliably withstand shipping hazards over and over again. Most models can then function as a system carrying case at the destination. Custom high density foam inserts are cut to your equipment's specific requirements. Special InfoCase convenience features like accessory trays and clear plastic forms storage create flexible additional capacity. Custom built. Many sizes with various handling and locking options are available.

Your valuable equipment will arrive at its destination intact and ready for use. These models were originally designed for insurance disaster deployment and for multi-PC training shipments. All system components fit into their custom-fit compartments. This not only insures safe delivery but also helps make sure you get everything back. Since our rugged polymer shells are so lightweight, choose ergonomic carrying options to create functional carrying cases at the destination. Larger models have inline skate type wheel and pull handle options.

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.

Small Dog Electronics

The PowerBook Guy

Power Max

Here's an interesting one: PowerBook 3400c with G3/250 Upgrade, 160/10 GB/33.6k/CD, $549

  • PowerBook G3/233 WallStreet, 32/2 GB/CD/12" Screen, $649
  • PowerBook G3/233 WallStreet, 32/2 GB/CD/14.1" Screen, $749
  • iBook 300 MHz, 96/3 GB/CD/56k, Tangerine, $799
  • PowerBook G3/333 Lombard, 128/4 GB/CD/56k/14.1" Screen, $999

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