The Low End Mac Mailbag

Compact Flash with SCSI Macs, PB 1400 CD-RW Upgrade Problems, and Web Incompatibilities

Dan Knight - 2006.06.16

Compact Flash in an Older Mac or PowerBook

After reading Compact Flash for Vintage Macs in Tuesday's mailbag, "Goff Family" writes:


You might want to look into this: ACARD AEC-7720UM Ultra SCSI-to-IDE Bridge, Supports IDE devices attached to SCSI bus, for Mac.

Compact Flash cards are IDE devices, so a simple SCSI to IDE adapter should do the trick. This card plugs into the SCSI controller on your Mac motherboard, and then you can plug IDE drives, including a Compact Flash Card, into the IDE connector.

I haven't used this product, but I may consider picking one up for my PowerBook 170. It would be very cool to run a 1 GB Compact Flash card in the laptop.

On a similarly related topic, I've been looking into the possibility of upgrading my old 800 MHz iLamp iMac by swapping out the motherboard with an Intel Core Duo Mac mini motherboard. The Mac mini board is small enough to mount in the iLamp case. If I ever get around to actually performing the experiment, I'll let you know how it works out.

Acard makes some clever hardware. Designed to work transparently and make an IDE or ATA device work just like a SCSI drive, it looks like the US$70 AEC-7720U connects to a standard internal SCSI cable (the AEC-7720UW uses ultrawide SCSI) and plugs into the IDE port on the new drive.

You'd also need to add an IDE to Compact Flash adapter, such as this US$20 IDE Compact Flash Adapter with Mounting Plate, and then cross your fingers that you'll be able to format it as a bootable drive.

For about $90 plus shipping and the cost of a CF card (assuming you don't already have one floating around), this might work. Both devices claim to be transparent and require no drivers.

Keep me posted on your Intel iLamp project.

Cost Effective SCSI to CF Adapter Solutions

Darren Fleishman writes:

This actually shouldn't be so hard to do, given the persistent compatibility of old standards.

SCSI PCMCIA MCDISK Card Reader/WriterHere is probably your best bet. The site says it's new, but I think it's used - but only $35 + the cost of a PCMCIA-CF adapter (usually $10-15), it's probably a slam dunk. It's external, so just plug it into the SCSI device chain, plug it in, and it should be ready to go. Good luck with reterminating the SCSI chain, and make sure you get a PCMCIA based adapter - a CardBus-only adapter might not work.

Other similar options:

This one actually says it works with System 7 on one of the Web pages, and the company actually makes (made?) both internal and external versions - use w/ a PCMCIA-CF card, and you should be all set (in theory anyway). I believe the first version from oswaltsystems is actually a repackaged version of these - so the System 7 compatibility should apply.

Here's another option very likely to work although I bet this is a bit of overkill:'SCSI%20PCMCIA%20adapter'

You could also use a SCSI-IDE adapter in conjunction w/ a IDE-CF adapter. Could work....

Drivers shouldn't be an issue, as the Mac should see it as a SCSI device waiting to be formatted. (I say this without any way to test it.) Power to all three devices could be a problem, however - the SCSI-IDE and IDE-CF adapters usually need a PC style floppy power source, and the draw of all three devices may be too much for a standard old Mac Plus power supply if you could get the pinouts to work. Pulling a cheap ATX power supply would be an option to power everything up - you probably could salvage one out of an 1997-1998 vintage PC from a thrift store. The whole thing is probably doable, but it seems like lots of work and kind of expensive (at least $100 for the whole thing) when the other alternatives are seem very simple to use - but potentially could be used internally if you can get the wiring right. Stealth mod, anyone?

You may be tempted to use virtual memory (VM) with this setup. If it works, it will be very fast with VM speeds that far exceed access times on a disk-based swapfile, but this approach could "wear out" your CF card quickly.

Most flash memory is rated for about 10,000 write cycles, which is plenty for pictures, MP3s, and other more or less static files. However, VM does many writes as it pages out memory to disk, so depending on usage patterns, those 10,000 writes may get used up quickly. The solution should be fine for basic storage needs, but you shouldn't use it as a cache or swap file if the life span of the card is important. In a pinch, it would be a fine solution to use VM to run a memory hog program on a limited machine, but constant reliance on this as a solution will lead to the reasonably quick failure of most CF cards.

Some cards may not be limited this way - if VM is important to you, it would be worthwhile to look into this issue.

BTW, Windows Vista actually includes paging out to flash memory as a feature to enhance performance. However, Vista uses the storage as a cache for a swapfile on the hard drive - not as a swap file itself. If the cache gets corrupted due to the write cycle issue - no big deal, the VM system just pulls the info off the drive. Older Mac VM systems are not nearly this robust - another reason why VM on the CF card isn't the best idea.

Also, CF and other flash memory tend not to be the most durable storage mediums - so you should consider backing the card up to conventional storage regularly.

At US$35, the Mosaic device sounds like the best option yet. External with its own power supply, very affordable, and it looks fairly compact. The only possible drawback is that it mentions a 64 MB address range (see below). Even that would be plenty for use with a Mac Plus, SE, etc.

It looks like the MCDISK-D-3S should be able to access up to 4 GB, if the following link is true...

The key is "PC-ATA" compatibility. The C version may also be able be compatible, but it is not specified. If you are ordering this, you probably should go with the D version.

As long as the PCMCIA-CF card emulates a "PC-ATA" card, 4 GB should be the upper bound w/ the D version (I think all of them do). I believe the 64 MB limit comes into play with the older flash PCMCIA cards--like the cards used in the Newton.

Thanks for the info. 4 GB should be plenty for almost any vintage Mac or PowerBook. I remember when a 40 MB drive on my Mac Plus seemed positively huge....

Compact Flash, Macs, and PCs

Darren Fleishman writes:

Sorry to keep bugging you w/ this, but I've gotten interested in doing this with my IIcx and LC.

Here's something that will be very useful to transfer the card between Mac and PC's. It's a patch for PC Exchange to allow PC formatted cards to be read by the Mac. I'm not 100% sure this is necessary, but its nice to know its available.


PowerBook 1400 CD-RW Upgrade Problems

In response to Replacing or Upgrading the Optical Drive in Your PowerBook G3 or 1400, Nick Vetter says:

Dear Sir:

Just read an article by Mr. Rivera, however, I would like to know if anyone knows of specific models of CD-RW that will work in a PowerBook 1400 for DVD/CD-RW capacity.

He states that any will work, but I can assure you that having tried, that is certainly not the case.

Nick Vetter
PB 1400 die-hard

Please reread the article. Rivera never says every drive will work. In fact, he only says it "should work" in general and that "chances are" a drive pulled from a Windows laptop will work.

I haven't experimented with this myself, but Daniel Kraeuter (Macdan) states: "PBs 1400 and Lombard/Pismo are capable of easily upgrading their original Apple optical EBMs to CD-R/W, combo DVD/CD-RW and DVD-R/W/CDRW drives." And further that it must have Micro 50 ATAPI connector.

Macdan also reports that while all the drives he tried worked as readers, neither of the CD-RW drives he tried would burn discs with Toast, Disk Burner, Disk Copy, or iTunes 1 or 2. He has heard reports that B's Recorder Gold software should do the job, but he hasn't been able to buy a copy.

Rivera tells me this worked for him, and I've emailed him to ask for more details. However, since he is in the armed services, he may not be able to respond for a while.

Web Incompatibily Problems

Nick, a.k.a. Sonic Purity, writes:

Topic #1

I believe you (Dan) wrote:

There's one huge problem on the Internet - website developers who believe making things work for 80-90% of their visitors (Internet Explorer on Windows) is good enough. Almost every month you'll see an article on the Web about yet another bank that has updated its online access and locked out Mac users.

The problem is compounded by a multitude of platforms: Windows 98, Linux, the classic Mac OS, different versions of Netscape and IE, alternative browsers (FireFox, Opera, iCab, OmniWeb, etc.), and so forth. Site such as PayPal, banks, and credit unions need to be very secure, and no all platforms are secure enough.

In the end, we can't expect the Net to stand still and continue to support outdated, less secure browsers forever. While old Macs may last and last, security is a far greater concern today than it was 5 or 10 years ago, and most old software will never be updated to meet today's security needs.

I don't know exactly what's going on with PayPal and your credit union. Odds are they don't have a classic Mac OS computer and iCab for testing purposes; they may not even test on a modern OS X Mac for that matter. If they follow industry standards, it should be possible to create a website that works with virtually any platform, but too often they just want to make it work for most users and don't have the resources to support older platforms like iCab on the classic Mac OS.

Responding to the readership, I now type:

Welcome to one of my very favorite rants! Fortunately, I find there is good news:

1) Many Windows users are abandoning IE for the more standards-compliant Firefox (so I have read). So those sites too lazy/stupid/ignorant to follow the W3C standards and who design for the majority are being pushed to support Firefox which, since it is fairly standards-compliant, means the sites have to do more things correctly, and should work better in other standards-compliant browsers like iCab.

2) Alexander Clauss continues to develop iCab and seems to be doing pretty well supporting at least the latter incarnations of the vintage Mac OS and the Macs that use it. (True, the current iCab 3 beta is dog-slow on this 9600/350 and similar hardware, yet I remain hopeful that the eventual speed optimization will restore usability.) I have found him to be very receptive to continuing to fine-tune iCab to work as well as possible in the ocean of horrible HTML out there. In my testing, I have found that, with the exception of some font and text entry box issues, whatever problems iCab Classic has with certain web pages will also be problematic in the same way with iCab X, which increases the odds that the problems will be fixed.

Hopefully others besides me have politely and gently driven home the point to Mr. Clauss that while iCab may be a 4th or 5th string player in OSeX Land, it is The Only Game In Town in Vintage Mac OS Land, and iCab's overall success is tied in to its continuing to support as many Vintage Mac OS configurations as it reasonably can. For those who are not already registered iCab users, registering and paying for iCab and including a message that you are doing so thanks to iCab's Vintage Mac OS support should help our cause . . . and let you use slow, yet more functional, iCab 3 betas.

As one of the legion of iCab beta testers around the world, I can report that all the recent iCab 3 betas have been very stable and usable on this 9600/350 running OS 9.2.2 (with some updated components from OS X Classic installs) via OS 9 Helper. Painfully slow, yet it works in places where iCab 2.latest will not.

While neither of us in this household have made the exact transaction Clarisse needed to make, PayPal has continued to work for us.

As part of trying to make the world better, I often will write a kind and polite message to the webmaster of a site with unusably bad HTML. Using my position and knowledge as a Mac consultant who specializes in helping folks keep older Mac systems viable, I point out that 1) Following W3C standards is best for everyone, and 2) If they must keep coding for specific browsers, their job is now easier for older Macs: Support iCab. Forget the rest. I think my last client/friend/family member that was still using MSIE 5.1.7 had to give up recently, due to that final Vintage Mac OS version being no longer suitable for some sites they needed to reach.

Nearly all of my clients/friends/family have been thrilled to use iCab once they find how much better it works than the IE or Netscape they were formerly using. But you folks know that....

Topic #2

I find it sadly ironic that the LEM pages I visited today make iCab frown. I did not bother to check whether the errors belong to LEM or to linked entities.

Topic #3

I was reading the biography of Ted Hodges and noticed that he wrote that you seemed to have a dearth of writers writing about the older hardware. Do you need any more? This 9600/350 running 9.2.2+ remains my "daily driver" for the near-term future, at least. Any topics you want me to write about? (Oh, I worked at Apple for about 1-1/2 years, from summer 1996 to winter 1997. QA: Mass Storage Integration Quality, Cupertino.)

I admit to not being a regular LEM reader these days . . . I stopped years ago, probably around the time you decided to start obfuscating the email addresses with the ampersanded character entity strings. I was still using Cyberdog 2 as my primary browser browser then, and those strings of entities trip a Cyberdog bug which makes it hurl. It remains sadly ironic to me that a low-end Macintosh site has (?had?) HTML that breaks low-end browsers.

While it is weeks between times I power up my Mac Plus, it remains hooked up on tertiary standby for Internet and word processing purposes. There are a good 8 to 10 (maybe more . . . I have not counted recently) beige Macs around here, plus some PB 1xxes. In fact, there were no computers from this millennium in this household until last November, when my True Love bought a new 15" PB G4 DL, and this March when I wound up being paid in part with a Sawtooth.

Thanks for your dedicated efforts keeping LEM going for so long. May you and it continue to do so for a long time to come!

Best Wishes,
Sonic (known to his brother as Nick)

Thanks for your comments, Nick.

I'm glad to hear that iCab is working so well for you, and I hope more will become paid up members so they can use iCab 3.x with their vintage Macs.

Yes, I realize that LEM's design is broken in iCab 3.x - but it works in Safari, Firefox, Opera, IE for Mac, OmniWeb, Konqueror and some other Linux browsers, and IE 6 for Windows - the reason I bought a WinXP laptop a year ago. It even worked in Cyberdog when I was fiddling around with it a few months back.

Low End Mac's design is a bit of a kludge. The basic design was started in Claris Home Page, modified to use CSS, converted from HTML to XHTML, and cleaned up a bit by hand in the process. The core pages are pretty much standards compliant. What's tripping up iCab is the ads, and I have no control over the way they're coded.

As for protecting email addresses, we've tried several different things over the years. One some of the older pages, we still have "mailto:" instead of "mailto:" links, but we switched to using JavaScript over a year ago. I hope that doesn't trip up Cyberdog.

As for writers covering the low end, we made a big effort to find new writers last fall, adding about a dozen to our roster. I'm very excited to see the renewed focus on pre-G3 gear, and I'm very tempted to try to get a flash drive-based setup going for my ancient Mac Plus, SE, or SE/30.

Nick also writes:

As for protecting email addresses, we've tried several different things over the years. One some of the older pages, we still have "mailto:" instead of "mailto:" links, but we switched to using JavaScript over a year ago. I hope that doesn't trip up Cyberdog.

It is no help to Cyberdog, because Cyberdog lacks JavaScript entirely.

However it is a huge improvement over the ampersand entities: at least Cyberdog displays the page with the JS method, even though there is no way to get to the address. I think that is better than not being able to see any LEM page (with the ampersand entities)!

Thanking you for your reply and celebrating the email change that once again allows Cyberdog to read LEM,


Chooses aggressive spam filtering over obfuscating his website email addresses.

Problem with Google Groups Defaulting to 'No Mail'

After running into problems with Google Groups and reading the FAQ for our Vintage Mac list, Peter Falus writes:

Dear Dan,

Sorry to contact you about not a Low End Mac question (although I write from a Mac).

I also use Google Groups, and a few month ago the default subscription option was changed to 'no email' as you described. Of course it is very annoying that the users sign up, then they do not get emails. How can i change this setting?

Again sorry to contact you about it, but no other page mentions this issue.

Thank you,

Go to the group and click on "Manage".

Click the "Invite or Add Members link".

This is the page that causes the problem. Every time I use this page, it wants to set the default to "No Email"! Change that, and you're all set until the next time you manually add someone.

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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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