Charles Moore's Mailbag

SuperMac Upgrades, 9.2 on a Clone, StarMax CD-ROM Drivers, and How Apple Can Grow Its Market

Charles Moore - 2002.08.14 - Tip Jar

Umax S900

From Tom Gabriel

Dear Mr. Moore,

I've been reading your columns with interest for some time, and your story of the unfortunate loss of your PowerBook and subsequent use of your Umax as a backup computer was especially interesting.

I'd like to address the possible upgrading of this machine and its potential advantages. Firstly, the Umax was (is) Umax S900La notably reliable workhorse of a computer, one of the best Mac clones. It has, I believe, a 50 MHz system bus, which means it would take a G3 conversion very well. It ain't likely to break anytime soon.

With regard to the hard drive, you can more than double hard drive capacity and bump up the RPM speed for less than $100 - Operator Headgap Systems, has drives in this speed and price range.

You also know that memory DIMMs can be had for not much money these days - you could double your memory (or more) for less than $100 - sometimes way less. Check out Ramseeker for best prices.

Video cards can also be had for reasonable prices these days, depending on what you want. A card to run well in a G3 conversion shouldn't be all that much.

For something in the neighborhood of $250-300, you could have a computer that would run fast, last indefinitely, and probably be eligible to pass on to someone else when you feel like going for a newer one. You would definitely get more than $250-300 worth of use out of it.

Upgrading, done properly, is practical and cost-effective!

I personally have a Power Mac 7300/200, which I've no intention of giving up for a long time. I don't see why, in a practical sense, I should. It gives me excellent service now and shows every sign of being upgradeable enough to continue to do so for quite awhile. Besides, I like it.

Just some food for thought!

Tom Gabriel

Hi Tom,

Yes, there is much in favor of upgrading the S900 and using it for my backup or even production machine for a while. For one thing, it's almost new in terms of hours - less than 1,000. For another, it works really well, although the 200 MHz 604e is not up to one of my requirements, dictation.

I definitely giving this option serious consideration.



From Niels Vølund

Hello - I enjoy your ramblings a lot and would just tell you that my main machine for the moment (mostly due to lack of cash ) is a G3 upgraded Umax, and most of the time it works very well. I use it for recording music, Cubase, and common office work - Claris, Word, and netsurfing. If you can get a 400 MHz upgrade for $100, it would be worth considering, as you already have a fast drive in the machine? Mine really enjoyed an 18 GB 7200 rpm IBM. I look forward to reading your next rambling

Niels Vølund musician from Denmark

Hi Niels,

I am considering buying a G3 450 MHz Sonnet upgrade from Other World Computing for $150. My drive is currently a 5400 RPM Quantum 4 GB, but OWC has 9.1 GB IBM 7200 RPM units for $54.


G3 upgrade?

From Roger Harris

Hi Charles,

The Umax may not be worth an upgrade. I have bought four G3s in the last few months. Two G3 desktop 266, 512k cache with 4 gig drives, 24x CD, and 64 MB RAM for $200 each. I bought one G3 desktop 300/1 MB cache for $220. And the best buy was two weeks ago, when I Yosemite designlanded a Blue & White G3/350, Zip, 6 gig HD, 128 RAM for $300. In the same purchase as the B&W G3, I bought two Rev B iMacs for $200. each. All of the above Macs came with keyboards and mice.

The G3 desktops were from swap lists, and the iMacs and B&W 350 were from a local used computer place.

I have several 7500, 7600, and 7300s with G3 upgrade cards. In side by side use, the G3 desktops at 266/512k are faster than 350/512k on the older PCI Macs. The hard drives in the PCI Macs are very slow compared to the G3s.


Hi Roger,

In theory, I am inclined to agree that original hardware is superior to upgraded stuff. OTOH, my Umax is nearly new in terms of use (less than 1000 hours on it) and has USB and FireWire PCI cards installed. I can also get a 9.1 GB IBM 7200 RPM drive from OWC for $54. The Umax has all those RAM slots (8) and PCI slots (6), and I like the old thing. :-) Still not sure, though.


Re: G3 upgrade?

Hi Charles,

I forgot that your Umax is fairly new as far as use. 9 gigs is a real good size and at a good price. How is the speed on your video card for what you want to do? I personally never need the fast game cards, just fast screen draws. The new G4 500ish upgrades are only about $250, and the 500+ MHz G3s are only $200. Those are good prices. I do understand "I like the old thing." I'm that way about B&W G3s and 7100s. A B&W G3 was the first shockingly fast experience I had on a computer. And even a G4 dual processor 500 and G4/800 didn't give the surprise the B&W G3 350 did.

The 6100s and 7100s I had were indestructible. I have quit using them, but they still run well.

PS: I enjoy your columns and can't get over how you put out so much work; email included.


Hi Roger,

My video card is pretty pedestrian, but I can live with it. I'm not a gamer and don't do any video or high end graphics work. My son thinks he has a line on a Voodoo video card that might work, which will be great if it pans out.


9.2 for Mac Clone?

From Dan Rose

Dear Mr. Moore:

I am trying to find out whether I can upgrade to 9.2.2 on my Mac clone, a PowerCenter Pro 210 (presently running 9.0.4) without incurring problems . . . but there doesn't seem to be any info on that in . . . any thoughts on that?

Dan Rose

Hi Dan,

To the best of my recollection, the pre-G3 PowerMacs, including your Power Computing machine and my Umax, are not supported by OS 9.2. I believe there have been some hacks that will make OS 9.2.2 run on these machines, but I'm not sure what they are.

I'm quite satisfied with the performance of OS 9.1 on the Umax, and indeed I am using OS 9.1 on this Pismo PowerBook right now, even though it supports OS 9.2.


StarMax Drivers

From Jim Iaccino

Hi Charles,

A customer who seems to have Muscular Dystrophy or something, called me and said he had a second hand StarMax 4000 that he couldn't revive because he couldn't get the CD drive to work. (Can't download drivers, he said, because he can't reinstall AOL from the CD.) I remember that something like FWB was used to operate the drives or something like that. Can you tell me what I may be able to do for him. (We are not in the same location . . . he asked me to snail-mail him a disk - his floppy works.)


Jim Iaccino
Apple Sales Rep. CompUSA 269

Hi Jimmy,

This issue is beyond my expertise. I'm hoping some readers may be able to help.


Editor's note: The StarMax email list has nearly 300 members. I'll bet someone there could help.

Suggestion to Apple to get back it market share

From Alvin Chan

Good morning, thank you for hearing my suggestion. Should Apple once again review the old lawsuit on Microsoft copying GUI idea from Apple, Apple can increase the well deserved market share stolen from it many years ago by buying Think Office's compatibility technology on the MS document formats and integrating that into AppleWorks, which has a better brand and a better user interface.

This will make AppleWorks 100% compatible with popular document format like .doc, .txt and .xls, as Dataviz's translation is terrible.

This will make PC users switch, because it is OS X and it looks good, but it is also 100% compatible with their documents. It's the document compatibility that scares the PC users - and the hardware prices - but I'm sure Apple will find away to reduce prices to PC [levels] - be it branded or assembled clones.

How to possibly reduce the Mac price?

  • Integrate Think Office's compatibility into AppleWorks instead of Dataviz's
  • advertise to investors more, find out what they want, because it all goes down to how much shares Apple has
  • still keeping the quality of materials and design, be more aggressive on who supplies the raw materials by having manufacturers bid the lowest price but the highest quality to target the price of a PC clone
  • gather old PCs and Macs as donations with a little pay or incentive and melt them all to be given to who ever won the materials bid, including paper materials

How to attract more PC users and retain Mac users

  • let the email in .mac be free
  • let Mac prices be equal to PC clones by the said bidding strategy
  • continue on with great industrial designs
  • continue on with OS X
  • donate or exchange for a small fee on PC and Macs and other computers so that it will reduce the cost of a new Mac which will be reduced further without sacrificing quality as Apple takes the liberty for them to be melted by the bid winners of materials who will build Macs from recycled plastics, metals, paper, etc.
  • make a partnership with environmental orgs to promote exchange/donate, recycle to reduce Mac prices but explain that the bid winners have the highest quality materials still.

What we really need is a gaming Mac that won't break the bank, has a 17" monitor, and the newest video card from ATI, the Radeon 9700 to play the new and most anticipated game, Doom 3.

How not to break the bank:

Possibility 1

  • 17" True Flat, highest resolution would be whatever ATI Radeon 9700 can take @ 60 fps consistent
  • ATI Radeon 9700 built-in, no need to expand for a long time with TV in/tuner to use the monitor for the Gamecube, PS2
  • 10 GB hard drive, this is enough for games and easily maintainable when defragging or checking for viruses
  • Think Office for .docs and .xls, no AppleWorks
  • possibly eMac's casing
  • two button dual optical lens mouse
  • Laptop smooth, laptop thin keyboards, but has the size of a regular Apple keyboard
  • 700 MB RAM DDR
  • Doom 3 OEM
  • Combo Drive (games people will watch Anime DVDs)
  • Altec Lansing or cheapest branded name surround sound speakers
  • still Apple's industrial design

Possibility 2

Same as Option 1 except:

  • 15" to 17" Plasma display (not LCD)
  • iMac "Lamp" casing

Possible names:

  • xMac (another name for extreme entertainment)
  • gMac (g for games)
  • eMac (e for extreme entertainment)

Possible bundle offer:

  • Gamepad with force feedback
  • Nintendo Gamecube, special pricing
  • Playstation 2 with special pricing
  • Shattered Steel, OEM from Capcom (presently an X-Box game) with propriety Shattered Steel controller as option
  • Resident Evil Code: Veronica
  • other Resident Evil title

Preferred date of release: Now and/or on or before Christmas in time for Doom 3.

God bless,
Alvin (Parts 1 and 2 have also been suggested to Apple)

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at and a columnist at If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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