The Low End Mac Mailbag

Is Apple TV a Mac?, Upgrading a Power Mac G4, Troubleshooting a Beige G3, and More

Dan Knight - 2007.04.12

Is Apple TV the Lowest Cost Mac?

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes:

Off the record....

I've seen that there is a lot of hobbyist activities surrounding the Apple TV, especially in 1) using the custom OS in a Mac mini, and 2) using full OS X in the Apple TV unit. With the Mac mini now costing at least $600, twice that as the Apple TV, can one consider the Apple TV running traditional OS X as the truly cheapest new Mac (with some limitations, such as memory)?

Not wanting to offend other Apple aficionados, please refrain from posting my name....


Yes, you can run OS X on Apple TV, but from what I've read, it's very slow and very limited. No USB support. No graphics acceleration. No drive for CDs and DVDs. More limited than the iPhone IMHO, but you could definitely call it a Mac once you hack OS X onto it.


10th Anniversary Feedback

Christoph Trusch writes:

Hello Dan Knight!

Congratulations to 10 years of publishing. I've been with you since 2003, and this is still my favorite Macintosh website. You were asking for donations when I joined, and I'm glad you made it (I donated a bit, too). LEM is, in fact, the only website I've whitelisted in my adblock filter, so this really means something.

Best regards, and keep on the good work,
Christoph Trusch


Thanks for supporting LEM - and whitelisting our ads. :-)


Eric Matthieu writes:


Thanks for all the hard work you've put in over the years at LEM. I love the site, am a frequent visitor, and recommend highly recommend it as an essential resource in the Mac orbit. Here's to another ten years!

Regards, Eric

P.S. Good job on LEM's new and improved look. Very nice.


Thanks for sharing LEM with others. I'm pretty pleased with the new look - brighter colors, a bit more streamlined, still comfortable to longtime visitors.


Accessing Data on Old Floppies and Old iMacs

Jill Rapaport writes::

Hi, Low End Mac,

Wondering how to get help with retrieving/archiving/converting old data that currently resides in several places:

  1. on old PC floppies (mostly WordPerfect for DOS), currently readable on my old LC 550 but need to burn to CD, which I can't on that computer
  2. on the LC 550 hard drive and backed up to 3.5" floppies
  3. on an older (fruit-colored) iMac where the files can be opened perfectly in AppleWorks but need to be removed to CD. The data is thus scattered and voluminous, sometimes also existing in folders, subdirectories, etc.

I am not experienced with list serves and find them difficult to navigate. I'm a prolific writer who needs help with this. I don't have a lot of money, and even if I do buy a new Mac for the new writing, I still want to archive and preserve the old writing in a way that I can access and work with it.

Any ideas or referrals via email would be gratefully accepted. Thanks!

J. Rapaport


My solution involved an external USB floppy drive (about $30 these days) and a flash drive.

  1. Plug in flash drive and convert to Mac format using Disk Utility (they always ship ready for Windows PCs - and if you want to work with Windows, you can leave them formatted that way, but Mac format is better for Mac files & avoids drag-and-drop problems some people see with flash drives).
  2. Connect floppy drive to any Mac with USB.
  3. Insert floppy disk.
  4. Double-click floppy icon, select all contents in window, drag to flash drive.

Repeat steps 2-4 as necessary. You'll be able to access your files on any Mac with a USB port, copy them to your hard drive, burn a CD, etc.


Upgrade Sawtooth or Buy New?

Kate writes:

I have had my G4 (Sawtooth) since May of 2000. I added a 160 GB hard drive, and it continues to do most of what I want. After 7 years of service, I wonder about upgrading this or getting an iMac.

Right now the G4 isn't fast enough, and it is starting to freeze occasionally. I only have 192 MB RAM right now, and I am running the OS 10.2.8. It is running the 400 MHz, and some of the programs I am looking at require more speed.

If I decide to upgrade, I will need a faster processor, more RAM, and a newer OS. In addition, I am interested in recording onto the computer to burn CDs (just voice or old tapes).

Any suggestions of what to consider?



Assuming you're happy with your monitor, drive space, graphics card, and the ports in your Power Mac, try to stick with it.

Memory is cheap these days - as low as $8 for a 128 MB stick, so first see if upgrading to at least 512 MB of RAM doesn't unleash the power of your G4. Four 128 MB sticks should set you back no more than $32 shipped (check out

Also check out LEM's Guide to Power Mac G4 Upgrades for a list of available CPU upgrades for your Sawtooth. You should be able to buy a 1.2 GHz G4 for under $200 and 1.5 GHz for about $250. With enough RAM (anything less than 256 MB is a bottleneck for 10.2.x, and more is always better), you should see a huge improvement.

It's hard to recommend going with an iMac without knowing what size screen you currently use, and the iMac will be much less expandable than the Power Mac.


Troubleshooting a Beige G3

Kenneth Davis writes::


Love your site. I was wondering how it may be possible to get a Beige G3 up and running for editing video. I have so far added:

  1. Sonnet 733 G4 CPU upgrade
  2. 32 ATI Radeon 7000 Video Card
  3. 80 GB Drive
  4. FireWire/USB Card
  5. OS X 10.2.8

When uploading, it will work for about 2 sec. before locking up and displaying I/O error. Any suggestions?

Kenneth Davis

Try removing one upgrade at a time to see which one is causing the problem. I'd start with the FW/USB card or whatever upgrade you added last.


Satisfaction the Answer to Wasteful Consumerism

Hey Dan,

Great article, a common sense response to the rampant, obsessive mania with always having the latest & greatest, whether it be computers, music players, TVs, cars, or what-have-you. Yes, it's good for the economy since the economy is based on the most people buying the newest things whether they can afford them or not (enter the credit card providers, and the economy gains further while the people whose purchases support it suffer paying outrageous interest rates, or suffer further the difficulties and pain of bankruptcy).

I made my decision awhile back, deciding to buy smart instead of compulsively buying everything that came out as soon as I could, and it's paying off, since at the moment I could only buy the latest & greatest via credit cards or contracts, and I refuse to use either.

At the moment, I own a dual-processor Power Mac G4 desktop tower, an old one (Gigabit Ethernet), and a Pismo PowerBook G3, all tricked out with lots of RAM and running OS X Panther, and each fits my needs and requirements exactly, even though they are "legacy" hardware. Many other things in my possession are old but still very serviceable, and I see no need to replace them until this is no longer so.

I think Apple is an industry leader in its support of older hardware and operating systems, obviously seeing that if you build good product and have a solid reputation, you do not have to force consumers who really can't afford & don't need newer products, to buy them through what I would call "forced obsolescence" (see Windows Vista hardware requirements).

Way back in the '50s, automakers began to use what was called "planned obsolescence", building new features & style (especially style) into newer models, as well as seeing that their automobiles would only last a certain number of years before starting to break down. Then along came the likes of VW and Toyota, whose year-to-year sameness and reliability soon siphoned off a lot of careful buyers.

We don't need it. And a healthy, robust economy needs to be based on selling less of what we don't need and more of what we really do.

Until then, well . . . my Macs are doing fine. So is my 13-year-old Sony TV, and so is my 197,000 mile Toyota.

Thanks for the well-expressed common sense.

All the Best,
Tom Gabriel

Thanks for your kind words, Tom.

I see LEM as the most "anti-consumer" Mac website out there. New is great. Apple needs to sell new to survive. But the installed base is mostly older Macs that keep going and going.


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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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