The Low End Mac Mailbag

Digitizing Video, Unpaid Rebates, Low End Mac Gaming, Handheld PCs, and More

Dan Knight - 2007.10.09

Digitizing Video

From Dave Garton:

I read your recent mailbag page about VHS to DVD.

I've tried some conversions myself, having used a standalone Pioneer DVR as well as a Datavideo DAC-100 analog-to-DV bridge.

Here is a bookmark I've saved with loads of input, it might add to your arsenal of information, or serve to further confuse you. I hope it's the former!

What I've come to realize is that a Time Base Corrector is essential for good capture from weak sources. Some standalones have it built in, while other high-end VCRs have it as a feature. Full-frame is the most desired, as I understand it. There are also half-frame TBCs.

Hope this gives you some more information to pass on, and hopefully use.



Thanks for the info. I'll be sharing it in the mailbag.


Making DVDs from Videotape with Sony's VRD-VC Series

From Mark McCormack:

I second/third/fourth using the Sony VRD-VCxx for basic video copying; I've been using one for years. If you need to do any editing or want fancy DVD menus, you obviously need to go the Mac iMovie/iDVD route (or Toast), which I've done many times for personal videos. Note that the Sony can burn continuously to dual-layer DVD, an extremely valuable trick which no other unit on the market could do at the time I purchased mine. Obviously this means that you can record nearly 2 hours continuously at the highest quality. I assume this means that the unit has several GB of internal flash-memory for buffering to accomplish this sophisticated trick. The only downside to it is that you have to hover over it to hit the Stop button when the source finishes. It has a small LCD display that shows the video as it runs, as well as the elapsed time.

The Sony senses copy-protection in the source and will refuse to continue. I discovered that if I routed copy-protected source video through my Dazzle Hollywood DV Bridge to the Sony via its FireWire input, it just "happened" to bypass this problem, most of the time.

Mark in Seattle


Thanks for weighing in. I'm hoping to avoid spending any more money on this project, but I'll keep it in mind.


Leasing Computers Makes No Sense for Schools

From Björn Steiner:

John [Hatchett] was asking: "The biggest questions that should be answered is why are school systems buying computers? Most businesses lease equipment."

The reason businesses lease equipment is mostly due to accounting. If equipment is bought, it is financially asset and there are some pretty strict depreciation rules with long term bindings, which can ruin your financial statement or share holder value. If equipment is leased, the use of it is not asset but consumables on costs.

As long as schools not even work on common business mechanics for their own business needs, there will be no change.



Thanks for writing. I don't think schools are overly concerned about depreciation and book value on their old computer inventory. I suspect it's just an argument for doing nothing, as it's cheaper to keep these old machines in storage than pay to have them recycled or take the time to prepare them so they can be given away or sold cheaply.


Dealing with Unpaid Rebates

From Steven Hunter:

Mr. Cook would do well to first address his complaints to the manufacturer, but he should follow that up with a call to the Federal Trade Commission, his state's Attorney General's offce, the Attorney General's office of the state where the manufacturer does business, and

the Better Business Bureau.

For more info, see Rebates: Where to Complain.

- Steven Hunter


Thanks for the info. I'll post it in the mailbag and forward it to Scott Cook.


What of Low End Mac Gaming?

From Bryce Wilson:


Sure enjoy reading your site, thought of an article idea, or maybe already written?

After reading about Bungie and Microsoft parting ways, I was thinking how fun it would be to scap around for an onld OS 8 or 9 based Mac as a classic game system.

But I have no idea which models would be a good choice or even where to find the games...

- Bryce @ Home


Back in 2000/01, we had a Low End Mac Gaming column written by Brian Rumsey. It covered 68030, 68040, and early PowerPC Macs. Nobody has taken up the mantle since, although it's a topic I'd like to see us cover here at Low End Mac.


UMPCs a Threat to Apple?

From Travis Jay Patocka:


I don't know if you have been looking at some of the UMPCs [Ultra-Mobile PCs] that are out there, but ASUS will be releasing it own kind of ultra-portable called the eeePC 701 within the next month or so. Supposedly this computer runs its own version of Linux and will start at $199 (in a very basic form); for around $250-$350 you get a machine that comes with 1 GB of RAM, at least a 4 GB hard drive (flash memory), Open Office and other applications, and WiFi. I see this machine as that third computer that Apple should have released long ago: Something that is cheap enough and small enough that you can easily leave that desktop and laptop behind and instead take this with you on the road. I'm not trying to be an ASUS fan-boy, but the idea of this machine and its potential and bargain price will make me a buyer. Any chance we could load 10.5 on this machine? I believe that it comes with a 900 MHz Intel processor. Thanks!

- Travis


I was in Sam's Club over the weekend and very impressed with some of the smaller Windows notebooks, probably 10" screens (I didn't look too close). I'd just love to have a notebook computer that small, especially one that could convert into a tablet and have multitouch features like the iPhone and iPod touch. I really want something I can use in the field as a handheld, and regular laptops just don't cut it there - and the iPhone/iPod touch screens are awfully small for real work.

As for the ASUS eeePC 701, it specifies "Intel mobile CPU & chipset" but doesn't give any more details. Is this a Core Solo? Core 2 Duo? Something older? How fast does it run?

Since it can run Windows XP, it should be possible to hack an OS X installation on it. How well it will run is something I couldn't even guess at.


Dan, here are the states that I got from, which got the information from a Russian website who tested an eeePC model 701. It is a mix of Russian and English, sorry about that.

- Travis

[Editor's note: We've removed the Russian.]

  • Processor: Intel Celeron M ULV 900 MHz, 256 MB of L2 cache, 400 MHz FSB
  • Operating system: Linux
  • Logic System: Intel NG82910GMLE/NH82801FBM
  • Memory: 512 MB DDR2 400 MHz
  • LCD Display: 7" widescreen, 800 x 480
  • Graphics and video: integrated Intel 910GMLE Express
  • HDD: 4 GB flash
  • Optical drive: none
  • Communications: 10/100 ethernet, 56K modem, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g
  • Dimensions, mm: 225 x 165 x 21 ~ 35
  • Weight, kg: 0.89


Thanks for the info. My research says this is pretty low tech stuff. The single-core CPU came out in January 2004, and 900 MHz is poky by Wintel standards. I doubt it will be a decent Linux computer. (I just parted with a 1.4 GHz Celeron M notebook, and I found it unacceptably slow with both Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux. My old 400 MHz PowerBook G4 was a lot more responsive. Time to work with virtualization on the MacBook Pro....)


Death of the Palm Foleo

From Steve Geary:

Hello Dan,

Again, I really do enjoy Low End Mac. Thanks for such a wonderful website!

In reading the most recent "The 'Book Review" - just, who does this "James R. Stoup" think he is?

Back on May 31, when you mentioned that Palm was going to release their Foleo UMPC, the more I read about it, the more interested I became. Many times I find I need a small, extremely portable computer to do menial tasks. Rather than drag a laptop around, I could buy a PDA, but I would like a regular keyboard and more screen real-estate.

I own a Compaq Aero-8000, which was exactly that in terms of 1999, but it is extremely limited in what it can do in this day and age. I had difficulty getting it to work with a 10Base-T ethernet card, let alone get an 802.11b card to work. Windows CE is so . . . Windows. It is full of bugs and stupid quirks as well as Pocket Internet Explorer 3.01, which is terribly out of date.

What I want to do is:

  • check email and browse the Web, either by wifi or through a cell phone connection (Bluetooth or USB)
  • read PDF documents
  • read, create and edit text files, spreadsheet files (Word, Excel or plain text)
  • edit HTML files
  • view images
  • possibly resize/edit images.
  • upload files to a website
  • download images off a camera

and other small tasks.

But Palm has scrapped the Foleo just as it was ready to ship! After all the development costs and production (I'm sure they had an inventory ready to ship), it's scrapped. I worry that Palm won't be around much longer with that kind of waste.

So I've been looking at possibly an Asus Eee PC, but if Apple would introduce something similar, I would be right there ordering it! I'm sure there are many others who would want such a device!

8-10" 1024 x 600 screen, normal keyboard (even if its slightly reduced in size), no optical drive, and enough power to do such simple tasks.

Asus' Eee PC as well as Via's Nanobook 7" screens are nice, but 800 x 480 is a bit cramped, but useable. I've seen Sony's UMPC with a 4.5" screen at 1024 x 600, and it was quite sharp and readable.

I suppose I'm one of those "non existent" people who wants a Macbook Mini.

- Steve


You and thousands of others! Today's high resolution (high pixel density) LCDs make it practical to have a 10" 1152 x 768 display, which was wonderful on the first- and second-generation TiBooks. Let's call it 8.4" wide, 5.6" high, 135-140 pixels per inch (the iPod nano is 204 ppi!), LCD backlit for longer battery life.

You could have a decent keyboard, about 90% of usual. Make an optical drive a strap-on option for those who want to watch DVDs in the field or rip their CD collection into iTunes. Give it a flash drive instead of a hard drive and enough battery power to last an eight hour day. Hinge the lid so it can function as a tablet computer with the same multitouch capabilities as the iPod touch and iPhone.

This would be a hot premium item that so fits into Apple's niche. People would gladly pay $1,500 - maybe even $2,000 - for something like this, and all the better if it can also run Windows.

PDAs are disappearing, being replaced by smartphones and the iPod touch, but they can't hold a candle to a real computer. UMPC is promising, except that it's locking you into the malware infested world of Windows or the less than polished open source world of Linux. Apple needs to go there, and between the Newton, iPhone, iPod touch, and PowerBook Duo, they have to background to do it better than anyone else.

We can dream.


Wildly Misleading Headline

From Tim Harbison:

I'm not one to complain (most of the time), but the headline of the article iPhone Update Even Breaks Authorized Apps is wildly misleading. There is no such thing as an "authorized" app for the iPhone. It simply does not exist.

The text of the article uses the word "unauthorized", which is accurate. The headline on Low End Mac only serves to fan the flames of what, in my opinion, is a debate that shouldn't even be happening.

I've explained it this way to friends: You go out and buy yourself a new car. Then, being unhappy with the performance, you decide to make a bunch of modifications to the engine. Then you complain when it blows up in your face and the manufacturer won't honor the warranty.

Do you really believe that there will never be an officially sanctioned developers kit? If you do, then why the heck are you complaining when a firmware update wrecks the phone on which you modified the firmware? If you feel that strongly about being able to hack the thing, just don't update it!

(please note, this rant is not directed specifically at Low End Mac or the editors, but at all those complaining that their iPhones have been bricked because they took it upon themselves to mess around under the hood and got burnt)


Thanks for writing. According to Apple's Greg Joswiak, as reported by GearLog's Sascha Segan:

"...Apple takes a neutral stance - they're not going to stop anyone from writing apps, and they're not going to maliciously design software updates to break the native apps, but they're not going to care if their software updates accidentally break the native apps either."

Thus, Apple has given the green light to software developers to create native apps for the iPhone, while at the same time not releasing a Software Developer Kit and warning that iPhone firmware updates are very likely to break third-party software.

Using the word "authorized" was overly broad. While Apple has "authorized" third party developers to create native iPhone apps, it has not authorized any of the apps themselves. We have changed the heading on that article to iPhone Update Breaks Third Party Apps.


Problem with Addonics Adapter and CompactFlash

From Bob Casper:

Hello Dan

Thank you for the previous articles on Low End Mac about replacing a Mac's hard drive with a flash-based solid state disk. I am interested in this because I have a graphite clamshell iBook SE with a noisy 6 gig hard drive. It was very irritating to hear this constant whirring noise when the iBook was on, so I didn't use it very often. Plus I had been thinking for a while about getting a larger drive for it.

I decided to replace the hard drive with a flash drive to experience a totally silent main storage device. I bought the Addonics CF/IDE adapter and a CompactFlash card. The flash card is a Transcend CompactFlash 16 GB, Ultra Speed 133x, supporting Ultra DMA 4 (fixed disk mode). I could have bought a faster 233x speed 8 GB card for the same money, but opted for the larger storage capacity. The adapter and card together cost about $157.

The installation took a few hours, but was manageable thanks to the excellent iFixit guide and screw chart. I booted from the original OS 9.0.2 installation CD and did not see a disk icon for the flash card. Opened the Drive Setup program and found the flash card. Initialized it using "Mac OS Standard" format, and this created an icon. Then I proceeded to install OS 9, updated it to 9.2, installed OS X Panther on top of it, and upgraded to version 10.3.9 using Software Update.

I am happy to get this far, because I wasn't sure this would work at all! However my first impression of flash is that it's much slower than a hard drive. It is silent, of course, which was my motivation in doing this. But running a software update that took about an hour before now takes most of an evening. When I am using the computer it is very sluggish and often freezes for a few seconds (spinning beach-ball) even when doing simple things like opening the drop-down Apple menu or moving the slider on the right side to show more contents in a window. Web browsing with Safari is slower than it was with my old hard drive, probably because it takes time to write lots of temporary files to the flash memory.

Do you have any idea for increasing the performance? In the System Profiler it says the drive is now formatted as "Journaled HFS+". I tried switching off journaling, but that didn't make a difference. Is there another disk format which works better with flash? Should I have gone for the faster 233x flash card?

I value your advice.



The iBook has an Ultra ATA drive bus, which tops out at 33 MBps. 133x flash memory works out to 20 MBps, or a bit over half the maximum throughput on that bus. On top of that, reading flash memory (which is what the "x" measures) is faster than writing, so if you're depending on virtual memory (always on in Mac OS X), performance is going to be below the rated read speed - just how much varies somewhat. Increasing system RAM will help there, and the clamshell iBooks all support a 512 MB upgrade (as little as $59 nowadays).

Most hard drives have high speed buffers than can send cached data at full bandwidth, so it's not surprising that the old hard drive may have been more responsive. To take full advantage of the bus speed in your iBook, you'll want 233x or faster memory.


OS 9 File System

From Alvin:

Hi. I can't find anything about the filesystem of OS 9. I'm trying to revive an iMac by installing OS 9 to its hard disk because it might have installed OS X PowerPC without upgrading the firmware. I'm trying to use OS X 86 and an OS 9 emulator called SheepShaver, which needs a Power Macintosh ROM to work, which could be found in a System Folder. The iMac's hard disk may still have the System Folder intact wherein I could extract the ROM to hopefully fix it, if it was a firmware + OS X booting issue. I'd also need to know the file system that OS 9 uses just in case I need a software for OS X Intel that can read the hard disk's filesystem. Would you know if OS 9 formats hardisks to HFS or to another filesystem? Thank you in advance.

God bless,


Mac OS 9 uses HFS+ as its default operating system, and you should be able to format the drive in your x86 Mac using Disk Utility. Make sure you check the box "Mac OS 9 Drivers Installed" or you won't be able to mount it outside of OS X.

That firmware stuff on older Macs is a pain, as it's too easy to install an updated version of Mac OS X that doesn't work with the firmware you've got. Some versions of the Mac OS check for this first, but not enough of them.


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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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