The Low End Mac Mailbag

Make Your Own Intel Mac, Using Zip to Move Data between Macs, Some SuperDisk Work with OS X, and More

Dan Knight - 2007.07.18

Fill Apple's Gaping Hole Yourself

Adam copied me an email he sent to Tommy Thomas in response to The Gaping Hole in Apple's Desktop Line.

Hello My Friend,

While I do agree with you to some extent, I believe that this is more hype than a outright necessity, and here's why. Apple is all about being simple, from their actual products and services, to their lineup. Until the mini splashed onto the scene, Apple's product matrix was a clean little quadrant - Consumer Portable, Consumer Desktop, Professional Portable, Professional Desktop. Very nice indeed.

While the argument can be made for a "pro-sumer" machine, as you have rather nicely, it doesn't fit in with the general groups into which most people fall. One group of people is those who buy a machine, never upgrade it, and buy a new one a few years down the road. The people don't really care about processor speed, dedicated graphics, etc., and only ever upgrade the RAM and/or hard drive when a tech-savvy "a.k.a. geek" friend/family member comes along and suggests such. The other group mainly consists of those who make their livelihood on raw processing power and the ability to store massive amounts of data on their computer.

Then there are people like you and I (those tech savvy, geeky, individuals), whose livelihood does not necessarily depend super fast computers, but like being able to tinker with, upgrade, and extend the useful lives of our computers. We can't justify the cost and/or power of a Mac Pro, yet the consumer machines leave us wanting a little bit more, hence we feel our needs are not being catered to. However, in the grand scheme of things I do believe we are in the minority. Despite this, our rather unique position provides a caveat....

From this point on, things get confidential! Although Apple does not give us the machine we so desire, their switch to Intel has finally given us an advantage, one which I am positive those in the company surely realized. Since Apple did not give me what I wanted, I finally decided to just do it myself!

I had an old B&W tower that had recently passed to the great computer repository in the sky. It really was too old to spend the money needed to repair it, so I was resigned to the fact of taking the old gal to the dump. It was just as I was putting her in the back of our Grand Wagoneer when the whole idea dawned on me. I went online that night, ordered all the parts I needed through PriceWatch vendors, as well as a secondhand copy Intel-Tiger off of eBay. A week later, after some creative sawzaw surgery and a little BIOS/EIF tomfoolery, I had myself a sleeper B&W Mactel, and my goodness is she fast! She's sporting a 2.4 GHz "Conroe" Core 2 Duo, 2 GB of RAM, 128 MB graphics, and a 160 GB, 7200 rpm drive, all totaled everything came in at a little more than $600!

Granted, I don't get a warranty or tech support, and I realize some people may have ethical/legal issues doing something like this, but I am of the mindset that I purchase the license, so I can darn well install it on whatever machine I so choose.

My point of all this is this - those who feel left out by Apple's product line are the very same people capable of doing this very same thing. Now I realize you can't go online and suggest that people do this, but they can still do this nonetheless! After a little bit of money, work, and ingenuity, I was able to transform a once glorious machine into a brand new one. Best yet, if Mr. Jobs were to ever come to my home (a stretch of the imagination, I know), he would be none the wiser!

Best wishes and have a wonderful weekend!



Thanks for writing. Yes, we're aware that there's quite an underground in hacking stock PCs to run Mac OS X. This is especially popular in niches Apple has ignored - tablet computers, ultralight notebooks, and midrange desktops. As far as I'm concerned, once you've paid for a licensed copy of the OS, it's yours to use as you please - and that goes equally for running Vista Home in a virtualized environment.

What Tommy and a lot of us are looking for is a full-fledged Apple solution, not a cobbled together system. We want something that works out of the box, no geeky hacking necessary. And we believe that there is a real market for such a product.

As long as Apple ignores these market segments, there will be a legitimate reason for people to hack OS X and get it running on an ultralight Sony VAIO, a Toshiba tablet PC, or a desktop they've put together for their own use.


Using Zip Drives to Move Data Between Old Macs and New

Aleta Watson writes:

I've move data using Zip disks, with a SCSI Zip drive on my older computers, and a USB Zip drive on my newer computers. I have accumulated lots of hardware (since using Macs in 1985), so I have both SCSI and USB Zip drives. Zip disks work well for the amount of data transferred from older computers.


Thanks for the suggestion. I used to use Zips constantly in the old days and even have my own SCSI and USB Zip drive - but it never occurred to me!


Re: Moving Data from an Old PowerBook to a New Mac

Chris Eastland follows up on to Moving Data from an Old PowerBook to a New Mac:

Thanks Dan,

What kind of a Mac might act as the "intermediate" here?

I will probably go with Zip, as I have a few kicking around. Finding the drive is the hard part - eBay? Also, would a 100 MB Zip connect with my PowerBook? I would most likely need a vintage one, right?

Finally, on a related note, I have a bunch of floppies that were originally IBM 1.44 MB. I used them, in the late nineties, with one of the original Sony Mavica floppy drive digital cameras:


Now, when I use a SmartDisk USB floppy drive to view the pics, it not only takes ages for them to load, but also some of the pictures are completely dead. I pray that this is a problem with the reader and not the data. Any ideas as to what may be going on here? I am told by the SmartDisk website that the drive requires no additional software: plug and play.

It seems insane that 99 percent of the files are eternally ruined.

Any ideas?

Thanks for your time Dan.


An "intermediate" Mac could be a Mac IIcx or IIci with a NuBus ethernet card - very cheap when you can find them, although you will need a keyboard, mouse, and monitor as well.

eBay may be a good source for a SCSI Zip drive to use with your PowerBook (avoid the combination parallel port/SCSI Zip drive, as many Mac users have reported problems with them), as well as the special SCSI cable or adapter to connect to the PowerBook's unique SCSI port (unique to PowerBooks, that is). You might also try our Swap List.

I'm not familiar with the old floppy Mavica, but my understanding is that it uses standard DOS format floppies. If the disks are unreadable in the SuperDisk, try them in another computer. If that fails, the images are probably history.


Newer Imation SuperDisks Work with OS X

Cory Tobin writes:

Dan, I think you misunderstood Randy's email.

I'm currently frankensteining a bunch of my old Macs right now (reliving my days of yore, now all I need are my 2400 baud modem and my Hermes BBS back up and in business, har) and have been moving data from my Power Mac G5 to my Power Mac 7600, Quadra 650, and Mac IIci I'm toying with. Above we've established he's going 800K DD floppy -> CD.

Now you were correct in saying the DD drive in the original SE won't recognize the high density ones. But all 1.44 meg floppy drives are backwards compatible with the double density 800K disks. If I remember correctly, they are not compatible with the single sided 400k floppies from the pre-Plus days. Also, the DD floppies don't have the high density hole punched on the other side, so that's how the parents' Power Mac will (actually the only way) it'll recognize its size. If someone mistakingly punched the HD hole into the 800K floppy, then Randy would need to cover it up.

My 7600 with its original 1996 high density floppy drive will joyfully read my double sided disks (and even write images to them, I just floppy'd the 800K version of System 7.0.0). In fact, it was the easier way for me to move the data to my IIci, which of course lacks a CD drive and me lacking any usable external SCSI storage (I need a Centronics-style terminator to use my Jaz drive, currently don't have one). My first instinct was to burn a CD, which I did. Problem is, Toast 8 isn't the happiest at making HFS standard volumes depending on the files you have in the disc you're making (it scans each file and gets pissy on some, not sure if it's UniCode translation issues or what, I had to many files to deal with using process of elimination). The way around that was longer and specific, using Compact Pro to make self extracting archives. Reason being, I noticed that some of my uncompressed items and even some compressed StuffIt archives were getting their resource forks stripped even using the proper file system (HFS Standard) in Toast. I'm running 7.6.1 on the 7600 (surprisingly it works perfectly fine with a Sonnet 375 MHz G3 upgrade with System 7.6.1, though I haven't popped in the cache software yet) so I cannot read HFS Extended/Plus volumes.

But while I was dealing with all that, I was using my Imation USB SuperDisk to put segmented self-extracting Compact Pro archives of my goodies onto floppy. But wait, you say those Imation drives won't work under OS X? Actually, I thought the same with the first one I got from eBay. Turns out the earlier ones, the big fat Imation drives that look like clear and Bondi blue Disk Images (Finder-style ones) are apparently natively parallel while the provided cable (that big funky looking thing) is the parallel->USB adapter/cable combination. That's the main (and probably only) reason there were even OS 8/9 drivers made for it. It's not a true USB Mass Storage (heh, mass storage, on a floppy ;) device - not even a true USB device - so the driver is actually for the cable/adapter and, unfortunately, Imation never made an OS X driver and it will not function under OS X (well, Tiger for me). That's with the power supply plugged in, even. So where am I going with this? Well, another eBay auction I happened upon included yet another Imation SuperDisk drive, yippee. I wanted the software, so I bid and won.

Turns out the Imation drive supplied was the newer, slimmer model that was natively USB. Cable integrated, no drivers needed. How do I know? I've been using it for over a month with my Power Mac G5, plugged into the front USB 2.0 port, and moving my 68k and old PPC goodies to and fro. Thanks partially to Spotlight, mounting and unmounting of the USB floppies (which are considered regular removable media, not floppy disks, by Mac OS X) takes much much longer than usual. Usually 10 seconds or more until an inserted disk (800K or 1.44 meg) appears in the Finder. Much longer than that to eject, sometimes including a message about the volume still being in use (Spotlight) and unable to be ejected. A second eject does it, but still about 10 or more seconds until it's truly unmounted and safe to eject without the USB Disconnect message.

Yeah, that was a lot, but this really should help lotsa folks. I'm rebuilding my collection of Classic Mac software (mostly the games but also utilities and HyperCard junk), and I've practically got all the necessary compression and imaging software if people need (I mean I even found a copy of DART 1.5.3, remember that? First compressed disk images!), feel free to utilize me as a resource. The Classic Mac shall never die; these machines will probably outlast my PM G5 and PM G3. Their old SCSI drives have already outlived the SCSI and IDE drives I had in the G3 that's now a SATA beast. Actually, it seems disk I/O is the main bottleneck on the 100 MHz bus machines. It runs 10.4.10 like a dream with a gig of RAM and is no longer a total slow poke like it used to be (under the same conditions, but running off the ATA/33 bus).

For splits and grins, the three "happy" machines right now are:

  1. Mac IIci 8/210 MB, Radius Rocket 25 with 32 megs of interleaved RAM, RasterOps Prism GT video card, Asante serial/BNC/RJ-45 ethernet card. Running System 7.1 with System Update 3.0, but the Rocket seems to not be too happy with it, going to try 7.0.1 and keep backtracking down to 6.0.8 til I find its happiest spot (for my games, of course!).
  2. Quadra 650 36/1 GB, has a tray-loading CD-ROM in it, unfortunately all the NuBus slots are empty. It's currently running System 7.1 with System Update 3.0, basically what it would have originally shipped with. I'm going to try System 7.1.1 Pro on it to bring me back memories of PowerTalk.
  3. Power Mac 7600/132, 544/4 GB, running System 7.6.1, Sonnet Technologies 375 MHz G3 Crescendo card. Its PCI slots are empty for the time being.

With a standard extension set, the Quadra boots fully from the Happy Mac to the Finder in about four seconds. The IIci, even with the double-reboot due to the Radius Rocket, still boots faster than my Power Mac G5 (which is booting from a RAID 0 off of a PCI card). What a difference time makes; networking and communication have really bloated our operating systems, don't ya think?

Last tidbit, After Dark is still my all-time favorite screen saver. Nostalgic modules of yore! That's all for now, hope the info helps, Dan. Oh yeah, and forward all old Mac gear ya don't want to me ;)



Thanks for writing. Randy was reporting two problems - being unable to read 800K floppies with his USB floppy drive and the Mac SE no recognizing high-density floppies in its 800K drive, offering to reformat them, and then formatting them using the 800K format that his USB floppy can't read.

His parents' Power Mac should be able to read the 800K floppies, but if they are created on high-density disks, he needs to cover the HD hole or the Power Mac will not recognize them and will want to format them - just like the SE.

The other half of the problem is that vintage Macs and modern Macs don't share any ports. In the old days we had SCSI for drives, ADB for mice and keyboards, Apple Serial for printers and LocalTalk. Today we have FireWire and USB for drives, USB for mice and keyboards and printers, and ethernet for networking. By using an intermediate Mac with a HD floppy drive, Randy can copy his files from an 800K disk that the USB floppy drive can't read to a 1.4M disk that it can.

Sounds like you have some nice computer systems up and running.


Networking Power Mac 9.1 and 9.2 Machines

Ken Freeman writes:

How can I network the two together?

Where can I find the old AppleTalk connector?

Also, where can I find a power cord for the Apple AirPort Base Station (circular base with power, USB, ethernet ports)?

On an iBook G4 that starts having classic start up issues, is it safe to reinstall 9.2 from the original disc on the iBook that has all my applications and data? I have nearly 30 Gigs of stuff on this 40 gig hard drive, and my classic start up now hangs up and freezes.

I was told to remove the System Folder reinstall 9.2, and reboot. Is that safe for my other files?

Keep the Focus on whose you are,
Ken Freeman


Any Mac running OS 9.1 or 9.2 should have ethernet as a standard feature, so there should be no need for the much slower AppleTalk connectors. First generation Power Macs has an AAUI port on the back - marked <··> - and require an AAUI-to-ethernet adapter. You should be able to find both on our Swap List, which might also be able to help you with the power cord for the AirPort Base Station.

I would recommend against removing your System Folder completely, as there are probably some preferences, fonts, and other things you'll want to keep. Instead, open the System Folder and delete Finder and System, then run the installer. You only want to completely delete the System Folder if it doesn't work after that.


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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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