The Low End Mac Mailbag

MacBook Air and the Future of FireWire, Crippled by iTunes 7.6, Panther on an 8600, and More

Dan Knight - 2008.01.28 - Tip Jar

FireWire and the MacBook Air

From Scott Cook:

Hey Dan,

I've been reading the complaints about the new MacBook Air. The thing that bothers me the most is the lack of FireWire. I sure hope this isn't a sign of things to come. Apple has a disturbing history of dropping their unique hardware in favor of standard PC hardware. If Apple drops FireWire in favor of USB, performance will be cut in half. I for one like the option of a fast external hard drive and other daisy chained FireWire devices. USB is slooow by comparison and requires a hub for more than one device. How come nobody is complaining about this?

FireWire ROCKS! (laugh)

Scott Cook


I sincerely hope that FireWire isn't going to disappear - and I honestly doubt it's going to happen. With the MacBook Air, it's a matter of power. One FireWire port is supposed to provide as much power as three standard USB ports, and I think Apple figured that the battery would have to be too big or battery life too short if they included FireWire.

FireWire is apparently going to be a big part of digital TV going forward, so it may end up becoming more common in PCs. I doubt it's going to disappear from the rest of the Mac line.


Can't Afford the MacBook Air, but It's Worth It!

From Josh Rutherford:

Dear Dan,

Thank you so much for the unbiased, open-minded coverage of the Macworld Expo and Apple's refreshed product lineup. I wanted to say a few words about the MacBook Air controversy.

First of all, I was a little disappointed too. I really wanted to see a 12.1" widescreen MacBook Pro as well, and it just didn't happen. However, the MacBook Air is definitely a beautiful piece of kit, and I think we should embrace it for exactly what it is: a complementary "field computer". For salesmen that have to travel to give presentations or need a lightweight computer with very little expandability, it would be a great machine.

I work as a computer service technician, and my job takes me all over the city repairing equipment. The Dell laptop that I've been issued, while a nice machine overall, is not a field computer. It's heavy, bulky, the wireless eats the battery alive, and it's not made for working in tight spaces. I would love to have something smaller and lighter to carry and still have the flexibility to pop in accessories when I need them. Of course, the Dell probably cost a quarter of the MacBook Air's price. Compromises, compromises.

I was really disappointed about not seeing a 12" MBP because typing on the MacBook's chiclet keyboard hurts my hands after even a short while. I really do not have a problem with the MacBook's size as many others claim they do. It would be a great upgrade to my 12" iBook G3. What I don't have is room on my lap for an external keyboard. I use my iBook a lot while away from my desk, and although its keyboard is no IBM Model M or Apple Extended II, it is quite tolerable.

Just my two dollars and ninety-six cents.

Josh Rutherford


Thanks for sharing your perceptions. I think the MacBook Air will be a wonderful machine for those who know its limitations and know how it will work for them. I hope those on the sales floor make it very clear to customers what the pros and cons are, as it will not be the right computer for a lot of users.


Crippled by iTunes 7.6

From Dan Skehan:

Ever since I updated to iTunes 7.6 I can no longer drag files into my music library, I drag and drop them and nothing happens. I can still import songs from CDs fine, but this doesn't work very well when I simply want to add one song to any of my three Macs. I also tried adding music through the file/import feature, still nothing happens. Do you know of a fix short of going back to 7.5, which requires using the Time Machine backup of all my songs (in 7.5, apparently when you upgrade it updates your library making it incompatible to go backwards) which is probably a month or more old. This has completely crippled me. I would advise anyone to not upgrade to 7.6 as well, movie rentals can wait. Hopefully you or someone can help, apple's forums just have people with questions no one I can find has provided an answer.

Dan Skehan


I haven't added tracks to my iTunes collection other than from CD or the iTunes Store in years, so I haven't run into this problem. Perhaps a Mailbag reader can write in with a solution.


Problems with Gain$aver

From Ryan Kelly:

Hi Dan,

I've been frequenting your site for several years now, and it is always the first place I go for info concerning any of my low-end Macs (I have quite a few). It's also the first place I check when I need a new computer, and though I've bought several from private sellers, a few have also come directly off of your "deals" lists.

So recently when my sister's boyfriend asked for help looking for a used PowerBook for her (so she can quit stealing mine all the time), I took him to LEM, told him what I thought was the best deal, and he promptly bought a reconditioned Al G4 from Gain$aver.

While I am generally a very prudent Internet shopper, I did not look into Gain$aver's reputation at all, for the simple reason (and I really mean this) that they are listed on your site which I trust very much. However, I wish I had done even a smidgen of research, because I would have found a wealth of horrible company reviews on Gain$aver, and I never would have suggested gambling with them.

The first computer they sent my sister looked fairly okay, but was behaving erratically from the start - unexpectedly freezing and failing to boot and the like. I advised her to send it back for a replacement, because even though it was still fairly usable, it seemed a little lousy for a "certified preowned" machine. To their credit: they were very easy about replacing the computer with no restock fee (though my sister paid return shipping). Unfortunately: the replacement arrived (after a long delay), and it has obviously been dropped very hard, the optical drive sounds like it is on its last leg, the screen sticks open and will only shut if you push quite hard and force it to make a horrible creaking noise (that's not going to last long), and the case is very poorly put back together after being opened, I presume, to replace the hard drive that didn't survive the fall. It works, to be fair, but seriously . . . you can't sell a beat-up computer without mentioning that it's beat up. So she's sending that one back too, and hopefully she can just get her money back and be done with it.

My real point is to just let you know, in case you haven't heard (in which case I recommend this thread:, that there are whole slew of Mac lovers who have had similar or worse experiences with Gain$aver, and since your site has always led me to think of you as a pretty standup guy, I'm not sure if you really want their ads on your pages.

Sorry if I got a little ranty up there . . . I'm kind of vicariously annoyed with the whole situation. And I really do love your site. Keep up the good work.



I've had no dealings with Gain$aver personally. We began listing them after someone wrote to suggest them as a good low-cost source for used Macs. I have since learned that in many cases they remove standard components, such as SuperDrives and AirPort Express cards, and charge customers to put them back in. They also charge a $25 fee if you want them to actually verify that the machine you're buying works, and they charge an extra $75-100 for a 90 day warranty (30 days is standard for them, while most of the industry give 90 days on used Macs).

We have received emails about their policies, and we've been sure to note them with the Gain$aver listings in our price trackers. Yours if the first complaint about the equipment they sell. It doesn't sound like they're really testing and refurbishing these old Macs. If we receive enough negative feedback, we'll stop listing them.


Who's on First?

From Paul Allen:


With all the talk of MS customer service issues of late, I am reminded of the old bit that was forward to me by an friend who manages IT issues at work. Maybe you've seen it before? If not, enjoy.

You have to be old enough to remember Abbott and Costello, and too old to really understand computers, to fully appreciate this. For those of us who sometimes get flustered by our computers, please read on....

If Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were alive today, their infamous sketch, 'Who's on First?' might have turned out something like this:


ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO: Thanks. I'm setting up an office in my den, and I'm thinking about buying a computer.


COSTELLO: No, the name's Lou.

ABBOTT: Your computer?

COSTELLO: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.


COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou.

ABBOTT: What about Windows?

COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?

ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?

COSTELLO: I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?

ABBOTT: Wallpaper.

COSTELLO: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.

ABBOTT: Software for Windows?

COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write proposals, track expenses, and run my business. What do you have?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?

ABBOTT: I just did.

COSTELLO: You just did what?

ABBOTT: Recommend something.

COSTELLO: You recommended something?


COSTELLO: For my office?


COSTELLO: Okay, what did you recommend for my office?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!

ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows.

COSTELLO: I already have an office with windows! Okay, let's just say I'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?


COSTELLO: What word?

ABBOTT: Word in Office.

COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.

ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.

COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?

ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue 'W'.

COSTELLO: I'm going to click your blue 'w' if you don't start with some straight answers. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: That's right What do you have?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?

ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.

COSTELLO: What's bundled with my computer?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?

ABBOTT: Yes. No extra charge.

COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?

ABBOTT: One copy.

COSTELLO: Isn't it illegal to copy money?

ABBOTT: Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.

COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?

ABBOTT: Why not? They own it!

(A few days later)

ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?

ABBOTT: Click on 'START'....

Paul Allen


That is priceless! Thanks for sharing it.


Panther Purring on Power Mac 8600

From Jonathan Haack:

I was close to getting Panther to install on my Power Mac 8600 with a Sonnet G3 500 when it suddenly crashed. I reinstalled Jaguar and waited. I theorized that Panther needed more RAM to install correctly. I contacted my father, who decided to pitch in for the project and bought two 128 MB modules for the 8600. Now, with the 8600 at 340 MB, I reinstalled Classic and overwrote the Jaguar system, updated Classic, then downloaded XPostFacto, and installed Panther from Classic. It took about eight hours from the start until everything was installed and updated 10.3.9, Photoshop, and more.

It runs much better than it did with Jaguar, plus it has the fast 70 GB SCSI drive my father also pitched in, in addition to the native 2 GB SCSI and another 20 GB SCSI. The Zip drive works, the [floppy] drive does not, the audio out is working for both RCA and for stereo. The 70 GB SCSI drive we have spins slowly, so when I power down or after a failure, it tends to boot into Classic from time to time on the 2 GB native drive. I can either go to Startup Disk X and restart in to X, or often, I can simply apple-control-restart, and it will start into to the now spinning OS X volume.

It works great, but a friend just gave me a Snow iMac that is even quieter and plenty strong at 500 MHz native. The 8600 needs a wireless USB adapter, if anyone wants to pitch in. As for the Snow iMac - anyone know if I can hack Leopard onto it?

Jonathan Haack


Congratulations on getting Panther running on your legacy Power Mac. It was a very nice version of OS X, and I stuck with it for a short while after Tiger started shipping. Now that I'm used to Tiger, though, it's hard to go back.

There is no way to run Leopard without a G4 CPU, and FastMac appears to be the only company offering a G4 upgrade for slot-loading iMacs. It's only compatible with some 500 MHz iMacs, and it costs $200, so it may not be an economically sensible upgrade.


Inflated Mystic Benchmarks

From Ronald Escano:

I am a real fan of your website. I have a question about your new article on the G4 dual 450. Why are the Xbench values so high? The submitted benchmarks on the Xbench website for this machine run in the 27 range not in the 80s. These values more closely reflect G5 benchmarks? Do you have some secret turbo charger hooked up to this machine?

Ron Escano


I just went to the Xbench website, downloaded Xbench 1.3, and discovered that it reports very different numbers than Xbench 1.1.3, which is what I've been using for years. On my G4/1 GHz dual, the CPU scores just under 120 on 1.1.3, just over 53 with version 1.3. I have no idea why the folks behind Xbench would make scores so different. To my mind, that's just confusing things.

I'll run Xbench 1.3 on the Mystic again after I remove the 1.8 GHz single processor upgrade I'm testing (it has an Xbench 1.1.3 score of 142, nearly twice as high as the dual 450 MHz stock configuration). Look for a review on the upgrade later this week, along with Xbench 1.3 scores for the Mystic.


Leopard Installed on 800 MHz G4 iBook

From Henry Harrison:

Hi Dan

Just thought I'd let you know of a successful install on an iBook 12" with only 384 MB of RAM

  • What unsupported Mac(s) have you installed it on? iBook 12"
  • How much RAM? 384 MB
  • How fast a CPU, and what brand, if it's an upgrade? 800 MHz
  • What video card does your Mac have? stock
  • Which installation method did you use, a modified installer or installing from a supported Mac? If so, what Mac did you use to run the installer? Installed from PB G4 12" 1.5 MHz using FireWire Target Disk Mode
  • What doesn't work? Especially check out Time Machine (which requires a second hard drive at least as big as your main one), DVD Player, Front Row, and VLC. Only has a CD-ROM drive (non-stock)
  • How does performance compare with Tiger subjectively and objectively? Just as good, until I use an emulator, where the emulator crashes more frequently than it does in Tiger.

Henry Harrison


Thanks for the data.


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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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