The Low End Mac Mailbag

Backing Up, USB Drivers for Classic Mac OS, Backup Hardware, Macs and PC Culture, and More

Dan Knight - 2003.05.05 - Tip Jar

More on External SCSI Backup

Responding to my comments in Backing Up to SCSI, Peter da Silva writes:

My next project is to do an unsupported installation of OS X on my SuperMac J700 backup machine so I can set up two of these drives as a 160 MB RAID array, since Retrospect backups are limited to a single volume. Just need to make sure I have enough RAM and a big enough hard drive before I get started....

Man, I looked at the price tag for Retrospect and just about puked. What does it do that "ditto" or "hfspax" doesn't? Or rsync. Shouldn't be too hard to modify rsync to handle resource forks and types....

Dantz must have cut a deal with Apple to disable the native support for tape drives in Darwin. Because who the hell is going to spend hundreds of bucks for Retrospect when they can integrate Macs with cheap Unix backup software for free?

Somewhere there's gotta be the necessary stuff that'll let me build my own Darwin kernel for OS X, so I can hook my SDT7000 up to my 7600. In the meantime patching the Amanda client to use hfspax instead of tar is at the top of my list.

On the other hand, for those with older Macs that still use SCSI, there are some phenomenal deals out there - like the current link on dealmac for a refurbished 23 GB Seagate drive for US$9.95!

Heh. I bought the 47 GB SCSI from them for $40. They must be having trouble shifting these big old 5.25" drives. That FireWire adapter? It'll plug right into that drive, and a PC power supply for it is gonna be close to $10....

I've been using Retrospect to back up networked Macs since the System 7.1 era. I have no idea what ditto, hfspax, or rsync are, but none of them sound like Mac applications.

Retrospect is able to fully back up and restore Mac volumes for both Mac OS X and the classic Mac OS. It works over a network. It's fast, powerful, and just works. It's probably as dominant in the Mac world as Microsoft Word is in word processing.

I have no idea about "native support for tape drives in Darwin." If it's there, I can't imagine that Apple would have deliberately disabled, but of such comments are conspiracy theories built. There is still a heck of a lot of hardware without Mac drivers; I'd guess any lack of OS X support for tape drives would be because the vendors haven't created drivers for OS X.

But it's really a moot point, since I need software that can back up both OS X and classic Mac OS machines. Retrospect does the job, I know how it works, and I already own it. The only question is whether I want to do an unsupported install of OS X on my backup machine.

Drivers for USB PCI Cards

After reading Ben Gravely's question in No USB Card Support in Mac OS 9.2?, Peter da Silva sent this:

I had the same problem installing a USB card under vanilla 9.1 (not 9.2 even) on my 7200. The driver that did it for me was this USB PCI card driver... from Apple!

Thanks for the link. Apple has so much stuff on their site that's difficult to locate....

More on Clocking a G3 All-in-One

Following up on comments in Clocking the G3 All-in-One, Boltzero writes:

Another weird combination is 1, 5, & 7 on yielded 270 MHz. I don't know if these jumper combinations are unique to the G3 AIO or not. Some of the clocking combinations for other G3's do not produce the same results. I'm sure there are some variances and different chipsets but there is a definite baseline to work with.

You're right about the bus speed running at 70 MHz; 80 MHz will not run at any jumper configuration.

Another interesting note is this G3 AIO came out of Roswell, New Mexico. Scan tag on the right reads City of Roswell. Probably came from a school in Roswell. I asked the seller who I purchased it from. and he stated that he believed it came out of Area 51 (?).

As far as I know, the jumper settings are the same for all versions of the beige G3 motherboard, whether used in the desktop, minitower, or All-in-One enclosure. I've still got to find the time to work on my G3/266, which has already been upgraded with a 333 MHz CPU.

A Backup Computer System

Responding to my thoughts in Low End Mac Religion, Peter Wagner writes:

I originally wrote regarding your article How to Survive While Your Mac Is Gone for Repair. You wrote back last week and posted the letter and response shortly thereafter.

I read enough of Low End Mac to be familiar with your (and the site's) financial problems. I can see, though, that I didn't make myself clear. My point was that any serious computer user needs to have a spare in the budget. If the budget can't afford a spare at the desired level, you might need to go down a peg.

You wrote that you rely on OS X Mail for your work. That might be your problem, and you might not be financially ready for OS X if you want to have any kind of disaster preparedness. If I remember correctly from other articles, the reason you moved to OS X was the rules and spam filtering. Rules per se are not that unique to OS X Mail. While OS X Mail was the first with Bayesian spam filtering, it is not the only one. SpamSieve ($20 shareware) works great with Entourage and a number of other email clients under OS X. I also read of an open source competitor to SpamSieve, but I can't find it at the moment to see if it also works under OS 9. If so, that might be your solution. The bully pulpit of Low End Mac might be enough to find or inspire an OS 9 port of Bayesian mail filtering.

P.S. eMacs w/regular CD-ROM drives and no modem have been popping on and off the Apple Refurb Store at $599 with no shipping. While the RAM is inadequate at 128 meg, that's quite the machine at the price. The ability to run Quartz Extreme is a wonderful boost to the 700 MHz speed. On the other hand, they are not portable, either to take to the office or across the room. Worse than the fact that they weight 50 lbs, there is no place to pick them up. Would it have ruined the aesthetics to give us some handles?

I'm a long term Mac user, and I expect my hardware to work reliably for a long time and not need hardware support. I've never had to make contingency plans for being without a Mac for more than a couple days - the joy of a good service department at my local Apple dealer.

But having to part with my TiBook for up to a week means I need something to replace it. At this point I'm leaning toward a Rev. 2 300-350 MHz blue & white Power Mac G3 as the most practical solution. I've seen deals as low as $300 - and I have a credit with MacResQ that would further reduce my out of pocket expense. Add another $65-70 for 512 MB of RAM, drop in one of the spare IDE hard drives, add a decent 17" monitor, and I should be able to come in somewhere around the $500 mark.

On the other hand, I have seen refurbished CD-ROM eMacs from the Apple Store for $649. Add $70-75 for 512 MB of RAM (shipped), and you've got a $725 system. Over twice the MHz speed, the G4 velocity engine, Quartz Extreme, more drive space than I'd know what to do with, a one year warranty, and an integrated 17" display. It's tempting, especially since Apple has already hand tested the refurb machine before offering it for sale.

You're winning me over to the idea of buying an eMac, which would relegate my 400 MHz TiBook to use in the field or when I need a backup. It's tempting, especially since that would postpone the day I decide that I need a faster PowerBook.

Thinking through another step, the Combo Drive eMac is only $749. That would let me sell my external FireWire CD burner and watch the occasional DVD. It may not be Apple's prettiest computer ever (okay, I think the eMac is ugly), but when you look at the whole picture, it seems to be one of the most practical solutions to my problem.

Hard Drive Advice

Jack Long writes:

I have been reading LEM regularly for nearly 4 years and have found it to be very thorough and useful - I am thankful to have it as a resource. I do have a question about something you may be able to help me with - I thought I saw this topic addressed once on LEM, but if so I can't seem to find it anymore.

I have a Performa 636 as well as a Performa 6360. I would like to replace the stock IDE hard drives (250 MB and 1.2 GB respectively) with considerably larger ones. However, I thought there was some limitation on how large of a HD could go into these machines. I can't remember if this constraint was the result of certain versions of the OS not being able to address a HD over a certain size, or because the HD had to be formatted a certain way, or some other reason. Is there any physical or system limitation as to how large a HD can be used on either machine? Or can I just put in the largest IDE HD I can find?

I am running 7.5.5 on the 636 and 9.1 (somewhat sluggishly) on the 6360, if it matters. (On a similar subject, I'd also like to upgrade the stock CD-ROM drive on the 6360 to a CD-R drive - I found an internal SCSI one, but it says it requires a 50-pin SCSI connection - is that the right SCSI for me?)

Anything you know about this would be a big help, if you have the time. Thanks.

As far as I know, there is a 128 GB maximum drive size for IDE/ATA standards slower than Ultra/133. However, there's no practical reason to go anywhere near that large on your Performa 636. I believe the maximum partition size supported by System 7.5.5 is 4 GB, and up to 8 partitions are supported, so it wouldn't make any sense at all to buy a drive larger than 30 GB for that computer.

With Mac OS 8.1 and later, partitions of in the terabyte range are supported, although the IDE bus on your computers is incapable of working with more than 128 MB of drive space no matter how you partiton things.

All things considered, I'd suggest you put the 1.2 GB drive from the 6360 in the 636. That's nearly five times the storage - and it won't cost you a cent. Then pick a nice big hard drive for the 6360. I've been very impressed with the 7200 RPM 80 GB Western Digital with an 8 MB buffer, and it's often available for about US$80 after rebates.

I'm no expert on SCSI CD burners. Your best bet there is to check out the reader reports at Accelerate Your Mac! These will help you determine which drives are compatible, reliable, and economically sensible.

The Impact of Aqua

Responding to A More Positive Tone, Peter da Silva says:

I don't think dropping Aqua's look and feel would have a significant impact on Aqua's performance. The architecture is extremely aggressive, based on a typeset-quality Raster Image Processor, and just switching to a Platinum look and feel isn't going to make that go away.

That aside, I agree they should allow you to change some of the more processor-intensive aspects of the UI. The details of the look and feel seem to be as well isolated from the app as they were in Classic - the fact that you can switch Safari's appearance from Metal back to Aqua demonstrates that (if only I could do that for iTunes). You can already turn off the drop shadows with programs like TinkerTool, so it's quite possible that more of the UI can be customized once people find the right knobs.

I've turned off drop shadows. It speeds things up, but sometimes the edges of your windows become invisible. Although it improves performance, it's a visual mess. I'd like to see Apple offer maybe a 1 pixel gray shadow as an alternative to the nice soft edges in Aqua or no shadows at all (which requires a third-party utility).

Then again, if ever there was an Interface Nazi, it's Steve Jobs. He did his best to kill alternate appearances in the classic Mac OS and now seems to be caught between the original Aqua appearance and the newer brushed metal look as the OS X interface. I doubt Jobs will ever let the user choose on or the other, let alone pick from a range of alternatives.

I like the Aqua look and feel, I never did get into Kaleidoscope, but it sure would be nice if Apple made it easy for the end user to have a bit more control over the computer for nonconformists....

I Use Macs and PCs

Responding to Vampire Video on the Dark Side, Eric McCann speaks up:

I've got to play devil's advocate with a few things in the article:

"I have several friends who have bought cheap PCs. At the time, they thought they were getting a great deal. Eventually, though, I'll get a call because something is irrevocably screwed up. Faulty hardware, viruses, spyware, you name it. And, because I like to help people out, I'll truck on out there and help fix the problem at no charge."

Okay, true. Macs have fewer virusses (virii?) and spyware problems. However, that's like blaming Pioneer because you bought a CD player for your car and someone stepped on and cracked the CD you wanted to listen to.

I'm writing this from a PC. I have no virus problems - but I also am careful as to what I download, don't open unexpected email attachments, and have a virus scanner (updated weekly) running constantly in the background.

As for faulty hardware, that's both a plus and minus - if you change it to "cheap" hardware. Sure, PC users can get the latest-and-greatest from multiple vendors. Don't want to pay $200 for a GeForce 4? Find another vendor selling it for $150. You just have to watch the cheaper vendors - there's a reason, after all, that they're cheap. The hardware may be fine, but support is nonexistent (for instance). Very much a double edged sword.

"If I did charge them for the time I spent on their PCs, their 'cheap machines' would suddenly cost a few hundred dollars more."

No argument there.

"In addition to the repairs to their machines, my friends seem to buy new ones every 18-24 months. That adds up, especially considering that I have a seven-year-old Mac that's still good for basic email and word processing."

Great first part. Second line trips you up, though. I can wander down to my mother-in-law's 486 and do word processing and email. It's more than 7 years old as well. The point isn't that a 7 year old PC can't do these things, it's that PC users don't keep them around long enough.

It's not because of parts - the same 30 or 72 pin SIMMs my Quadras and Performas use can be used in 386-486-early Pentiums.

It's not reliability - as I've mentioned, the 486 downstairs is still usable. No reliability issues (despite it being, of all things, a Packard Bell).

It's not a matter of speed - you can't really surf the 'net effectively on a Power Mac 7100 (one of the networked machines here) - it works, but it's sluggish, though, again, email is fine. It just "feels" slow or has problems processing "modern" (read: often gimmicky or "feature" laden) websites.

This, I think, is a matter of culture. The PC "culture" is one of disposability, fed by ever increasing "feature sets" (read: bloat) in applications and operating systems.

The Mac "culture" is one that sees the machines less as "a computer" and really tends to personalize the beasts - the best thing I can think of is that old, comfy pair of jeans. Sure, they might be a little worn now, but they fit "just right."

"And don't forget the warranty! If you don't buy a chop shop PC and get one with a decent warranty, you're covered, right? Maybe. How much is your time worth? How much is your data worth? The time you're on the line getting something fixed under warranty is time that could be spent generating money or doing something pleasurable."

Can you really use this as an argument? Time is time, whether it's calling Apple or Dell (or emailing, searching for updates, etc.)

"And I won't even mention lost data. It goes without saying that lost data can be major expense."

Again - same argument as virii and spyware. It's the user's responsibility to back up their data. With CD-Rs as cheap as they are - and standard in most PCs and Macs - anyone who doesn't copy their important data over is just asking for trouble. You can't really use this as an argument for Macs or PCs. Data is data, and losing it is just as frustrating regardless of platform.

I use both.

I won't pretend to be platform agnostic. I recognize that people are productive using Windows computers, that they are not the unreliable monstrosities some of us remember from 1990s versions of Windows, and that they're simply more affordable up front than Macs.

I have a lot of reasons for choosing the Mac OS over Windows, and the price of hardware, the availability of unimaginable amounts of software, and the general reliability of the machines are not factors that sway me. It's culture: I'm not a conformist, I don't like monopolies, I do like underdogs, I don't like Microsoft's business practices, I like the way Apple handles copy protection (mostly by ignoring it), I don't like draconian digital rights management, I like the tighter hardware/software integration of the Mac, and I don't like the idea of disposable computers.

You've really hit the nail on the head. Old Macs retain value as personal computers, but old Windows PCs, for the most part, are simply cast aside. It's very much a matter of culture, and Apple is at odds with the dominant American consumer culture.

Declining Power Mac Sales

Responding to Why Power Mac Sales Are Down, Travis Grundke muses:

Interesting take on the second hand market affecting the sales of new Power Macs - you make a very salient argument. I believe that the majority of the reason for poor sales is the absolutely terribly price/performance ratio of these machines as compared to the overall market at the moment. While Apple has made great strides in rectifying this situation in recent months, a PM Tower is still well overpriced for the comparable performance, particularly in light of good ole' Moore's Law, which as we all should know - governs the expectations of the marketplace.

The good is the enemy of the best, and the good enough is the enemy of the upgrade - especially in tough economic times. Although the price/performance ratio improves with every speed bump, the economy is in the dumpster, and until that changes, people and businesses are going to postpone new equipment purchases as much as possible.

I see that as a much bigger factor in the low level of Power Mac sales than the used market.

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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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