The Low End Mac Mailbag

Jaguar or Panther on Pismo?, Mac 128K Corrections, Installing OS X from an iPod, and More

Dan Knight - 2008.02.29 - Tip Jar

Jaguar or Panther for Pismo?

From David Lee:


I have been reading your articles on Low End Mac for a while, and though you've touched on this topic, I was wondering if I could ask you a question....

I have a Pismo G3 400 MHz with 512 MB RAM, and I am currently running OS X 10.3.9 with all the updates. Obviously it's a lot slower than my old 9.2.2.

I also have an iBook G4, so I only use the Pismo for web browsing, blogging, and simple things like that. My friend just gave me his old copy of 10.2.0, and I was wondering if I would gain any speed by dropping the Pismo down to Jaguar and then updating to 10.2.8?

David Lee


I have no OS X experience on Pismos, but in general Mac OS X 10.3.x is going to give you faster performance than 10.2.x on the same hardware. You'll also have to deal with older browsers and other software, so I'd vote for sticking with 10.3.9.

If you want more performance, a 5400 rpm hard drive can make a world of difference, especially one with an 8 MB or 16 MB buffer. And low capacity drives are pretty cheap these days....


Mac 128K Corrections

From David:

Mac on ByteI was reading the "Cautions" about using a 5.25" disk drive with [the Macintosh 128K] and noticed these two points:

"The 128K cannot access shared volumes on a network, although it can print to networked printers. More details in Apple TIL 5356."

This is true for AppleShare, however there are many third party solutions that do work, among them the popular XL/Serve and Sun Microsystems' TOPS, both extremely reliable early offerings (TOPS was even PC compatible). I realize this is a technical distinction, but one which further demonstrates the 128K's forward-thinking abilities in 1985. Also, XL/Serve and TOPS make for a fine vintage network instead of AppleShare which didn't even show up until 1987, especially today since none of these Macs can directly access a network volume with an OS X Mac at all.

"The 128K and 512K will not be able to read 400k disks in an attached 800k disk drive"

This is not true. The internal 800K drive mechanism (MFD-51W-10) that shipped with the beige 800K External Drive, will not read a 400K disk. However, the later drive mechanism (MFD-51W-03) that shipped inside the later Mac Pluses, SEs & Mac IIs, as well as the stock Apple 3.5" Drive (external), will read a 400K disk - not just read, but boot from one. (If used internally it requires the yellow ribbon cable.) In addition, the original MFD-51W (no vers. #), which first shipped in the UniDisk 3.5" external drive will also work (with the internal Liron interface board disconnected in the UniDisk) as well as internally in the 128K (with the red ribbon cable), but not installed inside the 800K external drive case. This drive mechanism was later shipped internally in the Mac Plus, and Apple differentiated it as the "internal" vs. MFD-51W-10 as "external". More importantly, using an 800K external drive with a 128K & 512K Mac will allow 800K MFS data storage. So not only can the 128K use an 800K drive as well as boot from it, it can also take advantage of all 800K storage capabilities and double the otherwise useable disk space.

My website [] details much of this, and eventually I intend to offer Mac 128K compatible networking software, once I have acquired and tested the configurations and compatibility with AppleShare.

Don't forget about the M0001 Registry.


Thanks for writing. I remember TOPS well, although I'm having difficulty finding anything about it on the Web using Google or Yahoo search. I've updated the Mac 128K and 512K profiles to indicate that the network volume issues only apply to AppleShare and that only one 800K drive mechanism is incompatible.

Thanks for all you do to keep these ancient Macs alive.


Believe me, I know, having tried to research it myself. Many of the details I have come from trade show publications and reference books. Both [TOPS] and MacServe were hugely popular at the time . . . they were the Macintosh Office for 5 years until AppleTalk Phase 2. It's like all record of their existence was wiped off the planet.

The less conspiratorial theory is that since both were basically pushed out by AppleShare before the Internet took off, anything not directly supported by Apple tended to get pushed aside, particularly when it comes to higher end business applications that did not have relevance to everyone and were left far behind by their respective companies. Both InfoSphere and Centram Systems West actually helped Apple develop AppleTalk AFP. In fact "Inside AppleTalk" makes reference to version 1.0 of AFP, which was codeveloped with Centram and never released. Interestingly both companies developed subsequent technologies such as commercial dialup network access over AppleTalk software long before Apple did. Makes you wonder....

Thanks for updating things so quickly. Such a request would have sat on my desk for a couple of months before I got to it!



I didn't use a Mac until late 1996, so a lot of this predates my experience. I'd love to find someone who could write about the third-party innovations of the first two years of the Macintosh era, when there were no fast hard drives, official ways to expand RAM, share files, etc.


My Old iMac

From Bruce Meek:

Hello, just found your site. Thanks for all the info in one handy place!

iMacDriven by a recent perceived slowdown of my connection speed, I have been playing a bit with my '99 G3 350 MHz 6 GB blue slot loader. Found some memory chips that seem to work fine to increase RAM (now at 128, going to try for 512) and found an article about changing out the hard drive (don't know about that one yet...).

I'd like to get to 10.2 so that I can be more functional on the current Internet, and found an outlet that offers the system for $60 including "Kitchen Sink". A tech mentioned upgrading the internal modem or LAN card to increase connectivity speeds, but have found nothing about this in my meanderings. Is this possible? A good idea?

Thanks for any advice. I know I should bite the bullet and buy into the new technology, but the way things are changing now, I'd like to wait a few years if I can get the old girl to stay in the game. I tend toward older, proven machines anyway.

Thanks, Bruce


You've got a nice little computer there. Dropping in a 7200 rpm hard drive will make it much more responsive, as will boosting RAM to at least 512 MB, especially if you're running a version of Mac OS X. You can check out recent prices on early versions in our Best Online Mac OS X Prices.

As far as upgrading the modem and networking are concerned, you're between a rock and a hard place. There are no replacement modems or LAN cards made for the iMac, as these features are built right into the computer. That said, it's got a 56k modem and 10/100 ethernet, which should be plenty fast for anything you'd do on a G3 iMac.


Thanks a lot for the come back. I've also been looking at picking up a Power Mac G4 tower and passing the iMac on to my kid (9). There seems to be a few around once in a while, and prices seem okay. From what I've been able to gather, these machines are easier to upgrade as well as being more powerful in all ways. Am I on the right track?

Thanks again, Bruce


Yep, you're on the right track. G4 Power Macs will let you expand memory to 1.5 GB or 2.0 GB, accept CPU upgrades to nearly 2.0 GHz, have room for several internal hard drives, can take a better video card - or a second one, and can take a USB 2.0 card in a PCI slot to bring them up to date for connectivity.


Optical Trackball for ADB Macs

From Tim Conroy:

In Optical Mice for ADB Macs, you discussed snags in getting optical ADB mice. Skating round the problem, don't forget that an early iteration of the Kensington Orbital trackball came with two cable endings: one for USB, the other for ADB. And the track rate of input can be tweaked in software.



Thanks for writing. I've tried a few different trackballs over the years, but I always go back to the mouse. It just fits my work style better.

Also, we're looking for something currently on the market. For the old Orbit trackballs with ADB connectors, you're pretty much limited to eBay.


Internal or External Hard Drive for eMac?

From Eric Halbert:

My wife currently uses a first generation eMac (700 MHz, 768 MB of RAM, this model has a Combo drive). While it feels slow to me (compared to my 1.66 MHz Intel Core Duo Mac Mini), she has been quite happy with it. However, spinning beach balls are starting to become more common in her work load. Plus, the 40 GB drive in the eMac is starting to look overfilled (which probably explains the slower performance).

I'm looking into faster hard drives, but in your professional opinion, which would be faster?

  1. An external FireWire drive (with 7200 RPM, 8+ MB cache, etc.)
  2. A faster internal drive (with 7200 RPM, 8+ MB cache, etc.)

I'm leaning towards getting an external FireWire drive, simply because the concept of getting inside the eMac kind of scares me....

But I also want to make sure her machine is as fast as possible, since there's not much else we can do to upgrade the machine beyond upgrading the hard drive and upping the RAM to 1 GB.

Thanks for the great site.



FireWire is at least as fast as the internal drive bus, and you have a lot of options with an external drive:

  • Keep a clean, bootable version of OS X on the internal drive for troubleshooting.
  • Partition the external drive so you can try Leopard on a second partition without having to wipe out Tiger (or whatever version you're using).
  • Move the drive to your Mac mini if you need to run drive diagnostics or copy lots of files - or install Leopard.
  • If the eMac dies, your files are safe on an external drive.

My advice is to buy a big drive with both USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 ports, as that will give you all the flexibility you could want going forward. I'm fond of the NewerTech miniStack drives, which also include USB and FireWire hubs.


Can You Install Mac OS X from an iPod?

Dear Dan,

I was wondering - if you have a Mac with a CD-R or CD-RW drive, could you install Mac OS X off of a USB iPod? Because I have a Mac without a DVD drive, and of course it can run [Leopard], but of course because of no DVD, well I'm outta luck.

-Seth Windoms


It should be possible to install Leopard from a disk image on an iPod. Problem is, PowerPC Macs aren't designed to boot into OS X from USB drives. It might work if you hold down the Option key at startup, which I've heard is the only way to choose a USB device as an OS X startup drive. (I have never tried it myself.)


TiBook 500 Running Leopard

From David Emmons:


It's been a long time since I posted about running a Radius Rocket and System 7.

Still in GR, but my Mac fortunes have moved up. Primary machine is a 17" iMac Core 2 Duo 2 GHz running Leopard, and I got hooked on Omnifocus, but work is Windows, so I went looking for a laptop to run Omnifocus. Enter a 500 TiBook I got off of eBay. It had 10.3, but Omnifocus needs Tiger, and the only Tiger disk I have came with the iMac.

I tried the various schemes to get Leopard on the beast. Target disk mode failed because my hard drive is too small. The program method just wouldn't work. Hacking the Open Firmware did the trick. So here I sit on the PowerBook typing this note through screen sharing so that my iMac can send it to you.

TiBooks Specs:

  • 768 MB of RAM
  • 500 MHz G4
  • 20 gig HD
  • 8 MB ATI Rage 128 video

I'm running 10.5.2 now, and DVD Player will not run. VLC runs but is choppy. I don't plan on using Time Machine, as this machine is basically a giant PDA and remote controller (Back To My Mac is cool). AirPort seems weaker than in Panther, though it seems to work all through my house and at work.

So here I sit with an older Mac running something it's not supposed to. It's just like the old days.

David Emmons


Thanks for writing. I had your TiBook's slower brother, the 400 MHz model. Got 5-1/2 years of use out of it before it was dropped and beyond repair. Putting in a 5400 rpm hard drive made a world of difference. Otherwise my config was similar to yours.

AirPort is always weak with the TiBook. Your best bet might be a PC Card or USB WiFi dongle. (I went the PC Card route.)


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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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