The Low End Mac Mailbag

G3s and Leopard, SuperMac Help, and More on 30 Mac User Mistakes

Dan Knight - 2007.05.04

It's been quite a week for email. We try to answer everyone, but sometimes Yahoo's spam filter erroneously moves legitimate email to the "bulk" folder - which we usually empty without looking. Well, we found one of the below emails there.... - Tip Jar

More 30 Mac User Mistakes Letters

Supporting G3 Support in OS X 10.5

Dr. Björn Steiner writes:

Hi Dan,

I just read your comments on G3 support and totally agree. One has to take into account of which machines we are talking. As far as my knowledge goes, G3 machines were discontinued 99 (Power Macs), 02 (iMac), 01? (PowerBook, can't remember when that was exactly), 03 (iBooks). So these are somewehere around more than 5 years old. In my experience almost everything over 5 years is not used for any serious work. The iBooks are a bit different, but I guess that most of these consumer machines dont see much updates anyways.


Hi Björn,

Your memory is pretty good. The Power Mac went G4 in August 1999, the PowerBook in January 2001, the iMac in January 2002, and the iBook in October 2003, so except for the iBook all G3 Macs were discontinued over five years ago. My suggestion (500 MHz or faster G3, at least 16 MB of video RAM) would draw the line in 2001 - and I think Leopard would be pokey on those Macs.


SuperMac Help

Umax J700Christy Finstad writes:

I got a umax J700 from some one, and I hook it all up and the screen shows a floppy needs to be inserted. What do I need to do to make it work.

If you could help it would be great - or just point me in the right direction.

Hi Christy,

The floppy with a blinking question mark means your computer needs to have a copy of the Mac OS installed. The question mark means it can't find one. If you didn't get a Mac OS install CD with your SuperMac, good resources are our Swap List, eBay, and some of the sites that advertise here.

I used a SuperMac for a few years, and you don't need the special SuperMac version of the Mac OS. If you don't mind an older version of the Mac OS, you can download System 7.5.3 and the System 7.5.5 update free from Apple. See Making Floppies and CDs for Older Macs Using Modern Macs, Windows, and Linux PCs for more details on making a bootable floppy or CD for your SuperMac.

I had good luck with Mac OS versions through 8.6 on my SuperMac before I retired it, and several users report good luck with OS 9 as well. You might also want to join our SuperMacs group for further support.


Another Internal USB/FireWire Hub Option

After reading Sabrent USB 2.0/FireWire 400 PCI Card and Internal Hub, Dennis Smith writes:

Hi Dan,

I bought a similar USB 2.0 only device on clearance at Radio Shack four years ago. It is a Compaq brand and has four rear and four front ports, all powered. I have used it in a Beige G3 and G4 Sawtooth and QuickSilver. It required no drivers and has worked flawlessly in each machine.

I also found that an LS120 SuperDisk worked in the Beige connected internally to the ATA cable in the bay formerly occupied by the Mac floppy drive (no longer supported in OS X). I used it strictly to read 1.4M Mac and DOS floppies, and it was recognized by OS X (10.2 and 10.3, I believe). Again, no drivers were needed to make it work on the Mac.

Dennis in Buffalo


Thanks for writing - and the tip about the Panasonic SuperDisk floppy drive. With USB floppies down around US$30, a used SuperDisk drive could be a good alternative.


Advice about Joseph Burke's 6500 Upgrade

VRic says:

In response to Joseph Burke's project of upgrading a 6500 to OS X:

As a former 6400 happy user (5400/6400/5500/6500/TAM are very similar), I have mixed news for him: Despite truly remarquable upgrade paths for supposedly "closed" and "consumer" machines, they won't run OS X easily, nor well.

Here's a summary of his options based on my experience:

  • It is unlikely that his 7200-specific processor upgrade card would run or fit in a very tight 6500 (Sonnet's 7200 card apparently uses a PCI slot and tons of room for its additional memory slots, whereas the 5x00/6x00 family shares faster L2 slot processor upgrade cards; even if the 7200's card could be made to work in a 6500, wasting a PCI slot in those Macs would be a bad idea considering the alternatives and other PCI upgrades needed, some crucial for OSX, which craves big fast drives, video cards and processors)
  • The "6500 with 512 megs" user he mentions must have mistaken RAM for L2 cache (the 6500's L2 cache memory will report 256, 512, or 1024, but those are KB of course)
  • Max RAM on 6500/5500: 128 MB (2 x 64), no known alternative and no room for fancy tricks anyway (64 MB DIMMs already tend to rub an L2 processor card's radiator), so OS X would be swapping constantly, especially 10.4. On the other hand, systems 7.5.5 to 9.2.2 will fly (I even used spare RAM for a bootable RAM disk on my 6400, using a highly optimized hand-made System Folder - you can't beat booting a streamlined 7.5.5 or 8.1 from RAM)
  • Max RAM on 6400/5400: 136 MB (2 x 64 DIMMs + 16 soldered on motherboard)
  • Max proc upgrade on 6500/5500: 500 MHz G3 with 1 MB cache (as a daughter card plugged into the L2 cache slot)
  • Max proc upgrade on 6400/5400: the same cards, but running at 400 MHz (10x bus speed, motherboard bus speeds being 40 MHz and 50 MHz respectively)
  • Max network upgrade: Maybe some OS 9-compatible Gigabit PCI card, if there is such a thing, but this would waste one of the PCI slots, which are in short supply unless resorting to external PCI expansion chassis
  • Best network upgrade: Farallon Fast EtherTX-10/100 Comm Slot II card (replacing the OEM Comm Slot II Geoport "software modem", which doesn't like G3 upgrades anyway; removing the internal Geoport adaptor enables the otherwise inactive Geoport serial port for a faster external bus-powered modem, so not much is lost)
  • Storage upgrade: any ATA-133 or FireWire hard disks and optical drives, through a PCI controller card
  • Best controller upgrade: Sonnet Tempo Trio PCI card (ATA-133/FireWire/USB on a single PCI slot - note: no USB 2.0 support under OS 9 means USB 2.0 peripherals run at USB 1.1 speeds, pretty useless for storage, so avoid recent USB-only iPods)
  • Best video cards: Same as other PCI Power Macs (ATI Radeon 7000 and 9200, which require Mac OS 9.2.2's OpenGL drivers), and secondary monitor on the integrated video (the TV tuner is hardwired to this port)
  • Most recent OS without hairy involvement: 9.1 (8.6 or older would suit some setups better in the absence of G3 upgrade and to use some OEM features - Geoport modem, Apple telecom software, Avid Cinema card)
  • Most recent OS: 9.2.2 via easy tricks
  • Mac OS X can be made to work slowly, but it's difficult (Sonnet ceased work on its once promised OS X support for Crescendo/L2 G3 upgrades and competitors had already quit before OS X became an option), and you lose existing hardware features (for instance, some cards and the floppy drive won't have OS X drivers)
  • Other OS known to work: LinuxPPC and BeOS (G3 upgrades put those among the fastest PowerPC-based BeOS workstations)

For tons more info on this Mac family, including useful take-apart instructions, see Thomas Koons's website and forum:

Most of the information there applies to various related models, which include the 5400/6400/6360/5500/6500/Twentieth Anniversary Mac and clones from Power Computing, Umax, Motorola.

- VRic

Wow, VRic, thanks for all the info!

The 6400 Zone is quite a resource, definitely one of the best niche hardware sites covering a limited range of Macintosh models out there.

Any tips on where someone might find a copy of BeOS for Macintosh these days?


More 30 Mac User Mistakes Letters

History of Backspace and Delete on Apple Keyboards

Scott Baret says:


The Backspace key was never an issue on the original Macs. The 128K, 512K, 512Ke, and Plus came with the old fashioned keyboard that had a Backspace key.

The problem arose with the ADB keyboards. Apple II computers used keys that read "Delete", as did the new ADB keyboard for the Apple IIGS in September 1986. When the Mac SE and II came along six months later, they had their own ADB keyboards but the key that had been "Backspace" on the earlier Macs became "Delete" to provide compatibility with both the Apple II series and the Mac, as well as for Apple II emulation purposes (Apple seemed to have envisioned expansion cards to do this, though it would take three years for them to make one for the Mac LC).

This is also what brought the control key, escape key, and open-Apple symbol to the Mac. All have hung on (though with the extended keyboards, the control and escape keys would have come anyway).

Apple seemed to be anticipating emulation of the Apple II and MS-DOS on the new Macs (SE and II as well as their successors) with these keyboards (especially the Extended) and also seemed to be toying with the idea of keeping the Apple II line going. Books such as AppleDesign seem to support this idea, and if the line had been going they undoubtedly would have used ADB. This theory has one glitch, however. The Apple IIGS already had its own ADB keyboard, a separate entry from the Mac's two options. If they really wanted the Mac to remain consistent, they should have kept the "Backspace" designation and if they really wanted to use the "Delete" name, should have made it a smaller print on the key, similar to how "alt" is printed on the option key.

Long after the Apple IIGS was discontinued, the open-Apple and "Delete" designation remained on ADB keyboards.

When the USB keyboard came out with the first iMac in 1998, Apple should have changed the name of the key. (Keeping open-Apple was almost mandatory, as many Mac users began to refer to the command key as such, especially if they had previously been Apple II users). What I believe prevented this was the fact that so much existing software referred to it as the "Delete" key, despite the fact that Apple was producing exclusively extended keyboards with forward delete keys by this point.

Virtual PC and other PC emulation programs should have provided a good enough reason to rename it. Today, Boot Camp makes it an even better idea, as well as the fact that "Delete" is wrong on any other keyboard if placed there.

Scott Baret

Thanks for the history lesson, Scott.


More on the 'Backspace' Key

Steven Hunter writes:

Compaq's split space bar keyboardA friend of mine in college had a Compaq keyboard that had a split spacebar. One side was space, and the other side was backspace. (

To paraphrase the Comic Book Guy, "Worst . . . keyboard design . . . ever."

And despite that, it still had a backspace key in the normal position. Why would anyone ever want this configuration?

Steven Hunter


I have no idea. Of all the stupid ideas in keyboard design, this one takes the cake.


The Power of Keyboard Shortcuts in Windows

Kurt Cypher writes:

Regarding your comment:

"I can't quite fathom what Microsoft was thinking by making single-clicking an icon and then hitting Return or Enter do the same thing as a double-click. Seems inefficient."

Back when I owned a Windows laptop (before it died and I bought an iBook), I would use a lot of keyboard shortcuts to get things done. Once you knew all the shortcuts and got used to them, you could be very efficient without even touching a mouse or trackpad.

There were times where I could open certain application faster by using keyboard shortcuts to get to the app's icon and hitting Enter than I could by using the trackpad. So the "hit Enter to start the app" function can be useful for power-users who hate to mess up their rhythm by taking their hands off the keyboard, but not quite so useful for your average users who always use their mouse to navigate around the screen.


One More Mistake Mac Users Make

Eytan Bernet

You left out the one I see most often....

Dragging an icon (like a CD or disc image) out of the sidebar to eject it and then not knowing how to get it back the next time they insert the CD (or mount a disk image).

I think this one should have an alert that says something like:

"I noticed you dragged an icon out of the sidebar. Were you trying to eject it? If so click on the eject icon to the right of the disc icon. Dragging it out of the sidebar makes it not appear in the sidebar but does not eject it. See your Finder preferences to remedy this situation."

However, I think the proliferation of these types of alerts that you mention in your article would be the bane of the Mac and as intrusive as Windows. If anything, maybe a "learning" mode that could be enabled that gave you this kind of coaching and was asked about when you created the account.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Eytan.

My suggestion was that messages like this be designed to pop up the first time a new user account does one of these "problem" actions - and that the dialog box include a checkbox saying "Don't show me this warning again." I think it would provide the hand holding some switchers need to get comfortable with the Mac way.


Yes, I agree, but I still think it should be optional to have them at all. While they may seem simple enough to us who use computers every day, long worded dialogs with multiple options confuse the novices. I have been in computers for years and write educational software, and I am completely amazed that smart, intelligent, computer-using people fail miserably with even the simplest of instructions.

Again, not saying not to have these alerts, but to have a mode that even presents them (as in, have them "pre-checked" as "don't show again" before they even start.

Make sense?


Any KeyPerhaps the first "dialog for dummies" window could include the option to turn off future tips.

Then again, we have to remember that some people are still looking for the "any" key on their keyboard....


Eytan responds:

...and some people place their mouse on the screen when it says "Click here to continue"....

Too Many Ways to Do Things in Windows

Andrew writes:

What do Windows users expect to happen when they single-click on an icon and then hit the Enter or Return key? Double-clicking an icon is the standard way of launching an app in either Windows or the Mac OS.

In Windows XP, users can elect to have their desktop function as a giant web page. What this means is that a single-click will open or launch something. Even in Windows 2000, you can set the File Explorer to do the same . . . "enable web content in folders" and "single-click to open an item (point to select)".

I believe some Windows XP installs came with that defaulted to on. At least, I have run into it from time to time.

Apple has been slammed in the past due to making their UI more inconsistent and not following their own old UI conventions. However, it's not as though Windows is any better - they offer a multitude of painful options that change how content is displayed and accessed. Ok, so there's at least 4 that I can think of off the top of my head but they are pretty major.

So that may be why some Windows users are expecting a single click to launch an application. In their experience with Windows XP/2000, it did. The answer to your question is actually, "who knows?" because Windows has it both ways in regards to what a single click will do versus a double click. Fun!


Click & Drag Instead of Double-Click


One thing I've seen on all platforms is that some people learning to use a mouse will do a click-drag-click when trying to double-click. It seems to be a reflex thing that they have trouble isolating clicking and moving the mouse. The result is that instead of a double click they get a selection.

The list of 30 items was interesting. Most of them I'd never heard of. I've used a Mac for about 17 years but never knew you could hit Enter or Return to rename a selected icon. Who knew?

Take Care,
John Konopka

Hi John,

Yeah, that one was news to me as well. I've learned a lot about switchers over the past week....


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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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