The Low End Mac Mailbag

New Mac Speculation, G3 iBooks as Road Apples, Hard Drive Warranties, and Touch Screen iMacs

Dan Knight - 2007.08.07

New Mac Speculation

Robert Blanton says:

Hello. I just wanted to add my guesses in reference to the new Macs coming Tuesday. I saw the new slim keyboard for the iMacs and realized that the mini uses the same combination of aluminum and white plastic. Maybe this is the new look for the Mac line, sort of half and half ( aluminum = Pro, white plastic = consumer). Maybe this means there will be a new computer that straddles the two lines, a pro-sumer computer, called Mac. We all know Mr. Jobs loves cubes, so that would be the form factor, and we all know Apple needs something between the mini and the Pro, so who knows.

Hopefully the mini will be updated, maybe redone and called the nano. Squish it flat like the Apple TV and the new AirPort base station.

I think the mini is a great little computer for people who don't really like computers, and if Apple finally offered a computer with some of the upgradeability of the Mac Pro without the cost and size, the people who complain about how hard it is to do anything with the mini will be satisfied.

How about a black iMac? Wouldn't that be great? The only question is glossy black or black brushed aluminum.

Anyway, thank you for this website. It is one of my favorites.


It seems a done deal that we'll see a redesigned iMac on Tuesday. The general consensus is that it will be more compact iMac, probably with an aluminum finish. Having used white Macs in the past (several eMacs) as well a "pro" notebooks, I'd prefer brushed aluminum to white - and black (matte plastic or anodized aluminum) to brushed metal.

Tomorrow is also the one year anniversary of the Mac Pro, so I wouldn't be at all surprised to see some changes there. A black anodized Mac Pro would rock, but it's most likely we'll see a speed bump, 2 GB RAM as the new minimum, and a speed bump.

As for the Mac mini, at the very least I expect it to become a Core 2 machine. I can't see it getting any thinner as long as it has a hard drive and optical drive.

At best, the mini will evolve into something better - maybe with an iPod/iPhone dock on the top, maybe with a bus for stacking add-on drives, hubs, tuners, and other peripherals. And maybe it will be supplemented or replaced by a Mac midi.


New iMac Speculation


Hi. What's your specifications prediction on the August '07 iMacs? Will it have Series 8 Nvidia cards without competing with the Mac Pros?

I think it will have a switch-key technology keyboard (I use this kind of keyboard on this PC-Mac already). Check btc keyboard for what it will look like. And I think it will have a thinner, aluminum case with anodized colors: natural aluminum, dark green, dark blue and dark red. It will look like a car's body paint I think. I wish I had time to 3D render it for Low End Mac. But what's your take? Gbu.


Looking at the current iMac and recent changes to the MacBook Pro line, here's what I anticipate:

  • Santa Rosa chipset with 800 MHz system bus
  • 2.0 GHz entry-level model, 2.2 GHz in the middle, 2.4 GHz at the top, possibly with a 2.6 GHz biuld-to-order option
  • 1 GB RAM on entry-level iMac, 2 GB on the rest; support for 4 GB maximum (better than current 3 GB, but not as good as Mac Pro's 32 GB
  • an eSATA port alongside USB 2.0, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800
  • 802.11n AirPort Extreme

I don't follow video cards enough to make a projection there, but I hope the entry-level "education" iMac will have something better than Intel GMA 950 graphics.

As far as the future of the 17" iMac is concerned, I hope Apple keeps it going. It's plenty for must users and will help keep costs down for schools.

I suspect the new iMac will be more "green" than the old ones, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see at least some of them with LED backlighting.

As for colors, I'd like to see that, but I'm not holding my breath.


Are G3 iBooks 'Road Apples'?

Dana Trantham writes:

The keyboards on G3 iBooks are easy to replace. I replaced mine in 10 minutes.

There is the well known logic board failure, but Apple fixed that for free with two day turnaround.

Dana Trantham


Thanks for your note. Unfortunately, I've heard of instances where G3 iBook owners had the bad motherboard replaced by another bad one - more than once.


Should the iBook G3 Be a Road Apple?

A reader we won't identify wrote:


I'm writing this as a sort of response about the iBook G3. I'd prefer it if this wasn't posted or pasted on the site, but anyway...

The iBook line has always been a budget line and has been aimed at families, students, etc. over the years. It's not a computer that is going to have a safe and happy lifespan on a desk protected from everything. On the link provided one can see that the Clamshells have an extremely low rate of failure. These were protected by heavy plastic and rubberized coverings, so that no doubt had something to do with it. The other iBooks are somewhat more fragile, and other than the motherboard problems of the Icebook series, I haven't heard of any major issues with them.

I disagree with the way the link tallied the numbers, as it seems to add up the percentages over the years without specifying if some of those were repeat failures. I know of enough people who own/use the G3 Icebooks to know that a 60-70% failure rate is a bit of a stretch. I'm not denying the Icebooks didn't have their own issues, but it wasn't 'that' bad as far as I can tell.

If the iBooks are to be called road apples due to the supposed failure rate, then you've got a lot of relabeling to do on the site, since apparently some of the Powerbooks didn't do a lot better. It's easy to call one product line defective, as John R. has done, and only list the flaws of that product he had a bad experience with. What becomes the cutoff point then? 50% failure isn't much worse than 46% failure and isn't a lot better than 60% or even 70% failure. I think it's silly to relabel even one line as road apples due to the data of 'one' study, since if you go by it you'll have virtually no mobile Macs left that aren't on the road apple list.

I think the road apple status should still apply to the merits of the computer, with at most a link to the survey results posted on the pages of every model listed as a footnote with the other links. John R. had a very unfortunate experience which no doubt tainted his opinion, but as has been said on the various articles on your site, you don't hear the complaints of a happy customer. I don't think it's fair that the reputation/name of the entire line be sullied due to this.

Sorry to sound so worked up over this. The G3 iBooks are great little computers that almost become a part of the family. I've owned a clamshell since January and wouldn't trade it for the world. It might be a little pokey sometimes, but it gets the job done and has survived things I'm sure would have killed one of the modern Macbooks. This includes a sudden trip off the desk onto a wood floor by my five year old nephew. If anything, the iBooks are endearing due to their ability to take punishment and keep working in environments that would have been the death of other, supposedly more capable, computers. That's the magic of the older Macs!

Thanks for reading this.

I hope you don't mind my posting your letter (without your name), as it's a great counterpoint. A 50% repair rate on the motherboard makes sense when you realize how widely publicized Apple's extended exchange program was on the motherboard. A lot of iceBooks had their motherboards replaced and went on to live productive lives.

That said, there were iBook owners who had their logicboard replaced with a problematic one, and anyone buying a used iBook probably has no way of knowing whether the one they are buying has been reliable from the start, has had the motherboard replaced, or has been causing intermittent problems and never had the logicboard replaced.

In the final analysis, there was a design flaw in the motherboard that impacted half of the iceBooks - and Apple did the right thing by offering an extended warranty replacement program.


Road Apples

John R. writes:

Hey Dan,

Ah, now the Road Apples label makes more sense. I thought it was referring to the more classical definition of "horse manure on the side of the road." I was wondering why the Color Classic got the label. I have one, and, aside from the underpowered aspect, it's never given me that much trouble. The hard drive died about a year ago & it was rather difficult replacing it, but I managed; and I'm not a big gamer, so the small screen size didn't bother me either.

Still, to replace a motherboard in a G3 iBook is no small task. It's bad not only for the customers who bought one & had the motherboard fail but bad also for the techs who had to replace them! That is one poorly executed Mac...


Nebulously Yours:
John R.


The "Road Apples" label is a bit of a word play that many don't understand. Just as the one is something a horse drops on the road, the other is a computer where Apple dropped the ball by designing a product with an artificial or short-sighted limitation. They're usually not horrible at all, just less than the could have (and should have) been.

Fortunately Apple put an extended motherboard warranty on these iBooks, so we can assume that the majority of troublesome ones (half of those made!) have been fixed.


Hard Drive Warranties

Steven Hunter says:

Most drive manufacturers do not cover their drives when used by a third party such as Apple, Dell, and most other PC vendors.

These units are usually sold in bulk at a steep discount with the understanding that Apple (or Dell or whomever) will provide whatever warranty service may be required.

However, you can quickly and easily check this by entering your drive's serial number into the warranty section of the manufacturer's website. It will tell you if you are covered by a manufacturer's warranty or not.

Steven Hunter

Touch Screen iMac

Will Cicola says:

Hi Dan,

This is response to Bob in Phoenix, who asked about a touchscreen G3 iMac. I was looking for a cheap G3 iMac to use as a webserver, and I found a decent 600 MHz Snow model on eBay for a good price. When it got here, I was confused by the USB device whose cord went into a hole in the case, so I checked it out using Apple System Profiler. The entry for this strange device showed "Hampshire C" as the manufacturer, with Product ID 0x0001 and Vendor ID 0x07dd. This, of course, was almost totally useless information, but I Googled "Hampshire C USB" and found the following site:


Apparently I had accidentally bought a system with a touch-screen modification added! I tried it, and sure enough, you can move the cursor around on the (original, built-in) screen using your finger. I haven't played around with it too much, and the seller of the system obviously hadn't known about this, so I'm afraid I can't be too much help, but this might be a good place to start looking at something like this.


Thanks for writing. I've forwarded your email to Bob.


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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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