The Low End Mac Mailbag

Really Wiping a Hard Drive, OS X and the Beige G3, Viruses, a Mac that Won't Shut Down, Flash Memory PowerBooks, and More

Dan Knight - 2003.03.05 - Tip Jar

Drive Setup to Clear a Drive

In response to Wiping a Hard Drive Completely, Stan Mayfield writes:

In your column on 2/26, you referred to Norton Utilities but only discussed Speed Disk. My version, albeit somewhat dated, comes with Wipe which can do a DOD wipe of the hard drive using either numeric or alpha characters. I think this would be as effective as Speed Disk, assuming it is still available.

Norton 6 and 7 do come with Wipe Info, something I've never used. It only runs under the classic Mac OS. It is not available when running Mac OS X (I just tried), nor is it compatible with classic mode.

Printing from a USB-challenged Mac

After reading Printing from an LC 475, Don Johnson suggests:

You told Gabriele to look for Mac dealers who carry Mac serial printers. I have had relatively good luck finding Mac serial printers (usually Apple brand, but sometimes some of the HPs as well) at my local Goodwill stores (the Portland/Vancouver area has many).

Also, instead of an Apple-only serial printer, an ethernet-capable printer would work, provided she has an ethernet card in her LC 475 PDS slot or a SCSI-to-ethernet adapter (or how about those LocalTalk bridge products?).

And, of course, the old serial-to-parallel converter trick. Probably hard to find, but most printers with USB ports also have parallel ports.

I can't extoll the virtues of Goodwill for Mac scroungers enough. I managed to find a 6' SCSI cable for my wife's scanner, mice, keyboards, a StyleWriter 6500, VGA monitors, cables, NuBus ethernet cards, and a brand new Krups espresso machine (7 bucks!).

I'd have second thoughts about buying a secondhand inkjet printer; I've seen too many wear out over just a few years of use. Low-cost ethernet capable printers are few and far between, although old tank-like Apple LaserWriters with LocalTalk are reasonably priced on the used market.

The cost of a Mac serial-to-parallel converter plus drivers isn't generally attractive, although I worked that way with my Mac Plus and HP DeskJet 500 a decade ago.

Although thrift stores can be a real mixed bag when it comes to Macs (I've only seen on, a vastly overpriced Mac Classic, in any local thrift), Goodwill has a pretty good reputation among the low-end Mac crowd in some areas.

Mac OS X and a Beige G3

After reading Mac OS X and a Beige G3, Clyde Kahrl suggests:

I read your article "Mac OS X and a Beige G3" dated 10/21/02. I had a similar problem installing a 120 GB WD Caviar drive in my G3. I found that the key (I think) was to change the IDE jumper, not to slave, master or cable select as you noted but to set it to neutral - which on a WD means pulling the jumper out altogether or putting it sideways from 4 to 6 (which does nothing but keep the jumper until you need it).

I'll pass the tip along in the Low End Mac Mailbag.

Mac OS X and Viruses

After reading OS X and Viruses, Bill Doty writes:

I read with interest your article on OS X and viruses. I would like to share my ideas.

I would like Apple to bring out a virus checker for OS X. In late August I bought a G4 tower with 10.1, and a SCSI card. I connected an Iomega SCSI 250 Zip drive. Then I loaded Norton, and all hell broke loose (kernel panic met major crash).

When I called Apple, the tech guy and I figured out the Norton had crashed the computer when it hit the driver software for the Zip drive. Apparently, I had not turned off the Norton [Anti-Virus] properly when I installed the Zip drive.

The tech guy said he had had no reports of viruses on OS X. I got the 10.2 upgrade, left Norton off, and everything is fine . . . except I run Internet a lot, and when the first virus hits, I have a feeling its going to be ugly all over again.

I don't want anything Norton on my computer. I gave the program to my niece for her beige G3 (hand me down from me). Its fine on that (9.1) OS.

Apple gave us a good email program, and I like the new Web browser. So why not a basic virus checker? Something like the old Disinfectant. A basic manual scan type that could be ran once or twice a month.

I have checked on Tucows and have not found a shareware checker.

I have Disinfectant, Norton Anti-Virus, and the virus scanner that comes with a .mac subscription on my TiBook. I never use any of them. I try them for a few days, get very tired of the delays the impose, and turn them off because they never find anything. Never.

In a world with tens of thousands of Windows viruses (60,000+ last time I paid any attention), the classic Mac OS never had 100, and OS X is at a big fat zero after almost two years on the market. Apple is also very good about using Software Update to patch potential vulnerabilities, such as the sendmail issue discovered over the past week.

I have mixed feelings about an Apple antivirus program. On the one hand, all the viruses it finds will be Windows viruses in email attachments, which will constantly remind us what an insecure platform Microsoft has created. On the other hand, there are no OS X viruses and very few classic Mac OS viruses for it to find - and some of the classic Mac viruses won't even run on a PowerPC chip, let alone inside the classic environment.

On the gripping hand, there is the peace of mind of knowing that your computer is virus-free and working to stay that way. If Apple were to do this, users should have the option of letting iNoculation in the background at all times, as part of the daily OS X cleanup routine run during the night, or as a scheduled task once a week. Leaving it as something the user has to run manually could be an option - but how many users would neglect to run it?

I don't like the intrusive way virus checkers work. If Apple could address that, they'd have a powerful tool for Mac users and one more strong argument to attract switchers. And one more reason for Mac users to upgrade to the latest version of OS X - so they could have iNoculation.

Mac Won't Shut Down

Perplexed by the behavior of his recently acquired Mac, Garret Thompson writes:

I have a question about a Power Mac 8100/100av (Mac OS 8) that I received from a friend. I am a Windows person and have only just recently discovered the Mac platform; I like Macs but know little about them.

After I first hooked up the monitor, keyboard, and mouse, I plugged the computer into the wall, and it started booting up without me pressing the power button. When I shut it down from the Special menu, the OS shut down, and the monitor went blank, but the computer itself stayed on.

Pressing the power button had no effect, and the only way to turn it off completely was by turning off the surge protector.

The next time I turned on the surge protector, the computer again turned on immediately. Instead of using the Special menu to shut down, this time I just pressed the power button; the computer shut down the same way as before, but still did not turn off.

This may be some problem with an obvious solution, but I know nothing about Macs. Do you have any idea of what the problem may be or who else I could ask about it? I appreciate any help you could give me (and continue the great work done on Low End Mac!)

The power switch on the back of some Macs, such as the ancient Mac IIcx and your Power Mac 8100, has two positions. In the normal position, you can shut down the computer. Pushed in and turned 90°, the power button will not allow a complete shut down. This is ideal for servers, but not so good for users who want to shut down the computer.

To solve your problem, hold down the power button on the rear of the computer and turn it 90° in whichever direction it lets you turn it. This should let you shut down any time you want to without ever touching the surge strip.

Flash Memory Really Boost PowerBook Performance

In response to Flash Memory Improves PowerBook (2002.11.14), Richard Waterfield raves:

Flash [memory] sure does improve PowerBook performance. I have used it on a PB 520 and a PB 540, and it works. System 7.5.5 or 8.1. 32 or 64 MB CF (Compact Flash). I can boot from CF in a garden variety CF adapter slid into a Rev B card cage. Mileage may vary with Rev A or Rev C card cages - I've no experience with them.

Also, there are some CF cards that simply won't work and cause a crash whether they have a boot system on them or not. Those same ditzy CF cards usually work just fine in a PB 3400.

But those CF cards that do work result in faster boot, faster running, slightly faster Internet access, and the HD can be dropped into the trash for longer battery life. Everything you said - except you noted that it wouldn't work in a 540 or 520. Works fine. I'd love to try it with a 256 or 512 MB CF card and never need my HD.

Thanks for the field report. It would be interesting to figure out why some CF cards work in the 520/540 and others don't.

Memory prices are coming down, and CF speed is improving. I read earlier this week that one of the companies (Delkin?) now offers a line of "extreme" CF cards twice as fast as their old ones - and at under US$400 for a 1 GB card. And less, of course, for the 256 MB and 512 MB cards.

I'd love to find a way to inexpensively adapt CF cards to SCSI, which could make for a whisper quiet Mac Plus and hard drive performance, a really low power consumption PB 100, a much lighter Mac Portable (only half kidding - the 10 hour battery life and active matrix screen are great, but the clunky old 3.5" hard drive is pretty pathetic), etc.

IDE adapters are cheap, since the CF protocol is directly related to IDE, but SCSI is another store entirely. A SCSI to IDE to CF setup would cost $100 or so - a bit steep for use with ancient Macs.

Where to Get Claris Home Page

The Jimster writes:

While it may be difficult to find any kind of copy (demo or commercial) of Claris Home Page 3.0, such is not the case with CHP 2.0, which is about as good. To find it, you must get Google off the brain and scut around. The MacAddict "the disc" for April 1997 has the CHP2 demo on it. It also has the CHP1 to CHP2 updaters for those with a legit copy of the earlier product. There's only about a half million of those disks out there.

But there's an equally easy source. Anybody who bought the ClarisWorks 5 install CD has a CHP2 demo in the tryout folder. There's probably only a million of those out there.

You're starting to scare me, Dan. I've come to rely on your Mac advice as gospel. Surely you knew where this stuff was?

Surely you jest. Why would I have any idea what MacAddict put on their CDs six years ago? I don't think I ever subscribed to the magazine, and the only MacAddict CDs in my collection are from the August 1999 and August 2000 issues - probably picked up for free at the Macworld Expo in New York.

Ditto for ClarisWorks 5. I never saw any reason to upgrade from 4.0, which was practically perfect in every way. The only reason I'm using 6.x today is that my wife got an iBook, and I needed to be able to work with her AppleWorks files.

I was trying to find a source for Home Page that anyone with Web access could use. Even if I'd known about the demos on the MacAddict and ClarisWorks CDs, these may not be items the average Mac user will be able to lay hands on readily.

You scare me, Jimster. Nobody should be so preoccupied with their computer that they know the contents of every MacAddict CD. ;-)

Where to Download Home Page 2.0

Todd Ronnei found what I was unable to:

Here's a site where the CHP 2.0 demo can still be downloaded:


Thanks! Interested readers can download the 2.6 MB file and try one of the finest WYSIWYG webpage design programs ever.

Wants to Swap so He can Switch

So as not to embarrass him, I won't use Gary's last name. He writes:

First let me say I love your site. Low End Mac has taught me a great deal about older Macs and Macs in general.

I need your help with a problem. Due to job requirements, I'm considering switching from the PC to the Mac. currently I have an Emachine 1.7 GHz desktop with 384 meg RAM and a 40 gig hard disk. Modem and ethernet built in. Plus a high speed external CD-RW. And, of course, keyboard and mouse.

Do you know anyone who might be willing to do a straight across trade for an iBook in the 466-500 MHz range?

You're looking to swap a cheap Wintel clone system for an iBook worth in the ballpark of $700? I don't think it's going to happen, but if anyone out there is interested in following up on such an offer, please email me. I'll forward your reply to Gary.

Beige G3 a Very Good Buy

In response to The Value and Limitations of the Beige G3, Matt Olson comments:

Good call on the beige G3. When my daughter bought a G4/450, I inherited her old G3/233 and decided to give the upgrade path a try. I figured that I could get the computer running at 400 MHz with a G4 ZIF processor and a Rev. C ROM for about $200.

I discovered, however, that this is trickier than it might appear. In my experience, getting a 400 MHz G4 to run stably with the backside cache enabled is no cakewalk. The machine, to its credit, seemed to run fine with the cache disabled, but the loss of the cache didn't seem worth the gain of 167 MHz.

When the cache was turned on with either the PowerForce Cache Profiler or the XLR8 Speed Control Panel the machine would soon lock up. I suspect it was a RAM incompatibility, but I didn't feel like taking the time and, quite likely, the expense of replacing RAM modules on what was supposed to be $200 G4/400. Nor did I want to spend days researching the various possibilities which may have produced the problem if the RAM wasn't the culprit.

I am not technically inclined in that way; if it isn't truly plug-and-play, I'll probably take my ball and go home. To make a long story short I am getting rid of the processor and ROM and will be saving my pennies for an Apple G4/450 like my daughter's. It has proven to be very stable, comes with better video, a DVD-RAM, and is OS X ready.

This machine, as I have noted by following your price lists, has also experienced a large drop in price over the past month or so. Thanks, as usual, for a timely and informative site.

Thanks for the kind words. We have a beige G3 with a faster CPU, USB card, Ultra66 drive controller, and faster hard drive. It's an interesting learning experience, and at the time (a year ago) the beige G3 seemed like a pretty good deal.

In retrospect, although it makes for some great upgrade articles and a lot of practical hands on experience, a blue & white G3 would have been a better choice, as I explained yesterday. Then again, this is Low End Mac, and I did want to work with one of the least powerful machines that supported OS X. It's done that.

You don't mention what brand of G4 ZIF you're plugging into your beige G3, which leads me to suspect it's an Apple module. If so, it's specifically designed to run on a 100 MHz system bus. Most of the third-party G4 upgrades were designed to handle either the 66 MHz bus of the beige G3 or the 100 MHz bus of the blue & white. Since Apple's CPUs were never designed for use as upgrades, there is no reason for them to support the slower bus speed on your beige G3. Since the cache is probably designed to only work with a 100 MHz memory bus, that's probably why you're experiencing crashes when you enable it.

Selling your G4/400 to someone with a blue & white G3 would also be problematic due to the oft decried firmware upgrade that removed G4 support from the b&w G3. You might be stuck with that G4 processor.

Until you're ready to go for a Sawtooth G4 (which we'll be praising in tomorrow's Mac Daniel column), try overclocking your G3/233 by adjusting settings on the J16 jumper block. You can probably run it at 266 MHz (a 14% boost) and may find it stable at 300 MHz (29% more power).

Your Paean to the Beige G3

Also in response to The Value and Limitations of the Beige G3, Joseph Ballo contributes:

In 1968 I bought a DT 233 MHz G3. I have upgraded it over the years with:

  1. an XLR8 450 MHz G4
  2. 768 meg RAM
  3. an LDG combo drive
  4. various hard disks, both SCSI and IDE
  5. ATI 7000 so I can watch DVDs
  6. a combo USB/FW card
  7. an Initio Miles Ultra wide SCSI card and lots of extra bits and pieces.

I will probably keep it until the IBM 970s appear - or whatever Apple serves up as a modern CPU replacement. No real problems. A very satisfied customer.

However, I read:

"But the Rev. A ROMs of the earliest beige G3s doesn't support slave drives, a problem that can be solved with a ROM transplant. With the Rev. A ROM, the beige G3 only supports 2 IDE devices; with Rev. B and later, it supports 2 masters and 2 slaves."

This is certainly so in OS 9 and before, but it is certainly not so in OS X. At boot time the initialization routines patch the ROMs and allow the presence of slave devices on both of the IDE/ATAPI buses [0 and 1]. This is not a maybe thing, it is real, and I can attest to it, since the Rev A beige DT before me has an IBM 45 gig as master on 0 and a 55 gig WD as slave on 0, and my LG CD-R/RW/DVD is master on 1 and the original 4 gig WD does yeomen duty as slave on 1.

There were initial rumors about data corruption by putting 'unsupported' drives as slaves on rev A beige machines, but I have never seen this in multiple machines that I have set up. Just don't put anything on the slave drives that you might need if you boot into OS 9. While the drives are there in classic [mode], they are certainly not there in stand-alone-boot in 9.

Thank you for a very nice article about a machine that I regard as the SE/30 of the 90s.

Thanks for raising this point. I know I'd read it somewhere before, but it didn't come to mind while writing Monday's article. I'll be sure to note it when I write an "almost a best buy" profile of the beige G3 for our Best Buys section.

Also thanks for explicitly noting that the ROM patch is a temporary thing that only functions while booted into OS X. Beige G3 owners who attempt to use slave drives when booted in OS 9 (such as from a Disk Warrior or Norton Utilities CD) will have no access to those drives.

"The SE/30 of the 90s," eh? It's an interesting image. The SE/30 was the most powerful b&w compact and the last to use the SE enclosure. The beige G3 was the most powerful Mac in a normal desktop case, the last to use the case designed for the 7500. The SE/30 could be accelerated with a next generation 68040; the beige G3 supports a next generation G4. The SE/30 suffered from "dirty" ROMs; the beige G3 suffers from the slave drive issue and pedestrian IDE. The SE/30 had very limited onboard graphics; the video in the beige G3 is also a drawback in the age of OS X.

I think your analogy has merit. I originally thought of the Power Mac 7500, but that's more like the legendary Mac IIci - three expansion slots, easy access to the insides, more CPU upgrade options than you can shake a stick at, decent onboard video that could really be improved with an add-on video card. So, yes, we'll call the beige G3 the SE/30 of the 90s.

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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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