The Low End Mac Mailbag

Misleading Hard Drive Capacity and the WD Settlement, Long Term Mac Value, SCSI Drive Upgrades, and More

Dan Knight - 2006.07.05

Misleading Hard Drive Capacity and the Western Digital Settlement

Hi. Have you heard the Western Digital drive case on minus 7% capacity? No wonder my drive on the my PC, says 75 GB instead of 80 GB. New Macs have this brand, I think. Is it a good choice to opt out for the settlement of Retrospect software or just accept it? They should really define 1 GB as exactly that. Western Digital has a point there, though.

Also, I'm looking for a digicam. What's a good cam that's not too much, that you've tried, that had sharp pictures? As far as I know sharp pictures are not dependent on how much resolution, that the bigger resolution you take, the larger the pictures but not necessarily the most detailed. I heard that dpi should be more considered than the MP. Is this accurate? At least this is what I know from reading the tutorial on Photoshop and Illustrator. I want to digicam now so I can photograph my room, the design in it, other innovations, some inventions maybe, I designed to be submitted to manufacturers online. Thanks.

God bless,

Alvin, there has always been a discrepancy between hard drive capacity when measured in millions or billions of bytes and when rated in megabytes or gigabytes.

For better or worse - and I agree with you that it's worse - drives are always advertised using MB or GB that are decimal, not binary. That is, an 80 GB hard drive has 80 billion bytes of capacity. That's decimal capacity. In binary, a gigabyte is more than a billion bytes - 1,073,741,824 bytes to be exact. Thus, 80 decimal GB = 74.5 binary GB (which is what most computer's operating systems report), and all the hard drive boxes I've seen in stores clarifies this.

Is it deceptive? Are you being cheated out of 7% of your storage space? Not really. It's an industry standard, so whether you're buying a Western Digital, Hitachi, Samsung, or other brand of hard drive, all 80 GB drives will give you 80 billion bytes of storage.

The lawsuit over this discrepancy is a perfect example of what's wrong with the legal system today: The lawyers get rich ($500,000 richer in this case), the companies offer something that benefits them and is nearly worthless and scarcely related as compensation (favorite example: old Kodak settlements that gave you discount coupons for Kodak film), the end user is no better off, and the industry changes from one standard way of measuring things to another, as in the TV/computer monitor suit of some years back, which only serves to confuse the market for older product.

If you want a copy of Retrospect and are eligible to claim it, by all means go for it. Me, I'd rather pay for and use SuperDuper any day of the week. (I say this as someone who use Retrospect for 10 years.)


Long Term Mac Value

Dear Dan and Low End Mac folks:

I love Low End Mac. I'm often teased by my G5/Core Duo-wielding friends, but they just don't get it.

I wanted to tell you about something I realized regarding Macs and costs - and ask if it still holds true.

At my university ('student worker') I have a 400 MHz G4 Sawtooth in my cube. The graphic design group said it couldn't keep up, had hardware issues, and wouldn't work under OS X. I really doubted this. So when I had a chance, I installed Panther on this well over six year old machine. "Lucy" is faster than my 1.33 GHz iBook! Or at least it sure seems like it to me! It is more than capable at running modern programs, and I haven't had any issues so far. It works too good - the graphic design group wants it back.

The question is, do you see current Power Macs offering the same life span and six years from now running a (future) modern OS?

If so, would you say they represent a far greater cost value than high-end PCs or other less professional Macs?

Also, your page on the Sawtooth was a great find to tell me more information on this machine - not even can match the information on this site.

The one suggestion I have is the creation an area of the site that correlates computer specs to OSes. For example, I knew OS 10.3.9 would install on a Sawtooth, but I didn't know how well it would run: Should I even try? Should I try for Tiger? Or even just try Jaguar? Would I need a more powerful CPU or more RAM?

Thank you very much,

Thanks for writing, Clint. Low End Mac has been a labor of love for over nine years now, starting back when there were still a fair number of compact Macs and a lot of Mac II family machines still in use. Except for high-end work (video, huge Photoshop projects, and the like), almost any Mac should be very useful 5-6 years after purchase.

As for the future, there are three factors: The first is the Intel transition, which means we may start seeing peripherals and software created specifically for Intel-based Macs. Apple assures us several years of OS X support for PowerPC Macs, but in 5-6 years OS X could become Intel-only and some commercial apps may leave PowerPC behind. That said, there's a wealth of stuff you'll be able to run even if it won't be the latest and greatest.

The second factor is new hardware features. Just as older Macs didn't support USB 2.0 at all while Intel-based Macs can boot from it and Serial ATA (SATA) has replaced Parallel ATA, we will continue to see improvements in hardware and new technologies. There may be important technologies that can't be retrofitted to PowerPC Macs, and the phasing out of Parallel ATA in favor of SATA may make it harder to find parallel drives in 5-6 years (however, there are already PCI SATA cards for Power Macs).

The third factor is the computer itself. Apple has tended to use quality components that don't degrade quickly, so the life span of a Mac may be 5-10 years. But some of the newer Macs can get pretty hot inside, which could accelerate component failure.

In the end, no Mac you ever buy will become less capable than when it was built - and most Macs can be readily upgraded with more RAM, bigger hard drive, and (especially in the case of the Power Mac G4 models) faster CPUs and better video cards.

Your Sawtooth experience bears this out. The fact that it seems faster than your 1.33 GHz iBook tells me the Power Mac probably has a lot more RAM (512 MB is a realistic minimum for decent performance, and more RAM helps a lot) and a faster hard drive. For instance, despite my ongoing advice, one of my sons has a three-year-old 12" PowerBook G4/867 with just the base 256 MB of RAM and stock hard drive. My five-year-old 15" PowerBook G4/400 is much perkier with 10.3 and 10.4 - it has a 5400 rpm hard drive and 1 GB of RAM to help unleash OS X.

As for the usefulness of Low End Mac, I decided early on that LEM would be different. Where Apple and a few other sites are great at listing specs, and where some individuals do a great job profiling one model or family of Macs, LEM would include specs plus personal experience plus collected wisdom plus advice plus warnings plus useful links to those great pages put up by experts in certain areas.

On top of that, we have several columnists sharing their thoughts and also manage about 30 different Mac-related email lists, which are a great searchable and interactive resource supported by very helpful communities.

That would be the best place to ask for advice, such as how well 10.3 or 10.4 would run on a 400 MHz Power Mac G4. We try to offer some general guidelines, but with OS X performance is as much tied to installed RAM and hard drive throughput as to CPU speed and video performance. There are few easy answers with this many variables, and all we can say is to first address whatever bottleneck is impacting your work.


Color Classic/LC 575 Upgrades

Hi, it's hard to get rid of the CC. I'd like to upgrade it for not that much. What is the largest hard disk capacity that it's compatible with. Is it possible to put two 200 MB SCSI in say the LC 575 or Color Classic? Thanks.

God bless,

As you may know, you can put an LC 575 motherboard in a Color Classic, giving it 33 MHz 68040 power. My son Brian has done the mod, and it only requires a small, simple software patch to enable the 512 x 384 resolution of the CC's small display.

As for maximum hard drive size, all versions of the Mac OS that support hard drives can handle up to 2 GB per partition, so a 200 MB drive won't challenge it at all. I haven's spent any time inside a CC or LC 575, so I don't know if there's room for a second hard drive. I think it would tax the CC's power supply if it did fit, but it may be feasible with the LC 575.

Hard Drive Advice for a Classic II

Howard L. Salter writes:


I have tons of software on CD-ROM from OS 6/7 vintage that I'm not able to adequately use. I just inherited a Mac Classic II to compliment my son's Performa 6400. We are a vintage family!

Anyway, I need to know what kind of 50-pin drive I should get to upgrade the Classic II. What's the max size?

I read this article, How Can I Upgrade a Classic II or LC II?, but it doesn't address any of those issues. Please advise: Mounting bracket? HD size?

And where can I get a version of the OS from that vintage (OS 6). I heard that Apple has it on their website, and when I downloaded it on to my OS 9 machine I had some trouble getting it to actually decompress on a 720 KB floppy from my Beige Desktop G3.

Howard L. Salter

Almost any 50-pin SCSI drive under 2 GB (yes, gigabytes) will work in any Mac with any OS that supports hard drives with no trouble at all. If you should find a SCSI drive larger than that, you would need to partition it for use with System 6 or early versions of 7. Each partition should be no larger than 2 GB.

Later versions of System 7.5.x support 4 GB per partition, and you can have up to 8 partitions on a hard drive. All of this is probably overkill for your Classic II, which originally shipped with 40 MB and 80 MB hard drives.

I suggest you check on our Swap List for a used drive in the 160 MB to 700 MB range.

You can download System 6 and 7.5.3 from Apple. System 6.0.8 is available in both 1.4 MB and 800 KB versions; the Mac doesn't normally support 720 KB floppies. For simplicity, I suggest using the 1.4 MB floppies, as System 6.0.8 only requires two disks.

You should have no problems at all doing this on your beige G3.


Low End Mac Survey

After visiting our current demographic survey (in which you can be entered into a drawing for a free iPod nano), Christopher Sandberg writes:

Dan - I very much like your site, but I want to note my objection to the survey you are currently running. A "mandatory" question is family income - this seems to be a data item with no purpose other than to mark a survey respondent's email address as a prime target for email advertising if the income is over a particular level. I will not be participating in the survey, and I will look more carefully at links and materials on your site in the future. I think you have made a serious mistake in this promotion.

- Christopher K. Sandberg

Thanks for writing.

We are not conducting this survey ourselves, nor will we have access to the email addresses received or the specifics of any individual survey.

I can assure you that this data is only being collected for demographic purposes. There will be no targeted emails based on family income or any other factor. The email addresses are being collected only so Backbeat Media can choose a winner for the iPod nano and contact that individual.

I am forwarding this to Backbeat with the suggestion that they move email address collection to a second page and include a note that this information will not be used except for the iPod nano drawing.

Thanks for sharing your concerns.


Dave Hamilton of Backbeat Media writes:

Hi all!

Thanks for your emails, concerns, and suggestions. I did want to clarify two things, since it seems like you overlooked a few very important details before deciding there was a problem.

  1. Dan's right: The email addresses will not ever be used for targeted email campaigns or, frankly, for anything other than selecting a winner for the nano. In fact, you can choose to leave this 100% completely blank, and no one will mind.
  2. With income level, we have given you the option of choosing "Prefer not to state" and plenty of people have done so, as expected.

Hope this clears things up.

Kind regards,

He followed up with this:

After I sent that, I realized I neglected to address yet a third misconception: We are collecting income level (from those who choose to answer it) because that is one of the prime questions advertisers and agencies have about a site on the whole (and in the aggregate). Knowing this sort of information about a site's overall readership allows us to find the right advertisers for that site, keeping the advertising both relevant (for the site and the reader) and lucrative (for the site publisher, so they can continue to provide you with the content you've come to know and love).

Hope this helps clarify things for you!

Have a great day!


iPod Hard Drive Upgrades

Hi Dan,

After reading about your experience purchasing an older iPod, I went out and did the same. I won a 2nd generation iPod on eBay that had been immaculately looked after. It works perfectly with my OS 9.2.2 clamshell iBook and I'm very happy with it.

A couple of weeks ago I purchased a replacement battery from Sonnet as I was getting about 4.5 hours use out of the original. The process was very easy and while I was changing it I could see the little hard drive peeking out behind.

My question is, is it an involved process to replace the HDD? Is there anywhere that sells these little drives? I imagine people must go to places other than Apple to have their damaged iPods looked at, and if it's just a little ribbon cable that needs disconnecting/connecting then I'd be very interested in having a go.


Yes, Matt, it is possible to replace the iPod's hard drive. I am far from expert in this area - Low End Mac is primarily about Macs, not iPods - but I know that some services offer higher capacity hard drives.

I did a Google search for "replace iPod hard drive" and learned that you need to make sure that the new drive has the same physical dimensions as the one it's replacing. Full sized iPods use 1.8" hard drives, and I'm not sure where is the best place to start looking for them.

As to what's possible, iPod Mods offers 10 GB drives for the 1G iPod, 20 GB for 2G, 40 GB for 3G, and 60 GB for 4G. Higher capacities may be available elsewhere.


Selling iPods vs. Apple's Recycling Program


Could you please let me know whether Apple is still giving discounts for used iPods like you stated in your article on 06/22/2005 (Bring Out Your iPods!). I would also like to know if you have heard of any online locations that buy used iPods (mostly dead).

Your article was very well written and the tone of voice used made it seem like I was having an actual conversation. I never write to writers, but your article seemed like it was written by someone with a fresh thought... V

Tony V.

Thanks for your kind words, Tony. I try to maintain a conversational style when writing.

At that time I had hoped to start a Low End iPod website and launch a used iPod store. We never got past the iPod profiles, and I suspect that eBay would make it difficult to launch a successful service that buys used iPods, verifies their usability, cleans them up a bit, and resells them.

My frustration with the Apple trade-in program was the ridiculously low value they offered - whatever iPod you had to trade was worth just 10% of the value of the iPod you wanted to buy. Sure, it's a great way to get rid of a dead iPod and maybe even one with a dead (or nearly so) battery, but it's a lousy deal for a working iPod.

I don't know if Apple has continued the program. With refurbished iPod shuffles selling for as little as US$49 and the top-end 60 GB video iPod retailing at US$399, a $5 to $40 trade-in just doesn't sound worthwhile for any working iPod.


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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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