Charles Moore's Mailbag

$999 iBook Pros and Cons, Kanga Whine, FireWire Cards,WallStreet and OS X, and More

Charles Moore - 2002.11.11 -Tip Jar

Back to all-Mac topics this week!

Not recommending the $999 iBook?

From anonymous


Your Low End Mac article shows you are still basing it based onexperiences you've had with less than 16 MB of VRAM machines. What 16MB of VRAM machines have you run with Jaguar? Turns out 16 MB of VRAMis just enough for Jaguar. Carefully reading the text on this page<>will reveal that:

Quartz Extreme functionality is supported by the following video GPUs:Nvidia GeForce2 MX, GeForce3, GeForce4 MX, or GeForce4 Ti or anyAGP-based ATI Radeon GPU. A minimum of 16 MB VRAM is required. "

While 32 MB is recommended, 16 MB is sufficient.

And so, I recommend you edit your article accordingly. Many peopleare running Jaguar just fine even on an 8 MB of VRAM iBook. Eitheryour machine is having a technical issue, like when you said inApplelinks you set your partition too small, or you didn't archive andinstall and fix the permissions.

I wrote the FAQ on Mac OS X speed:


Hi anonymous,

I'm fully aware that 16 MB of VRAM will provideminimum support for QE, but Apple has stated that *full* supportrequires at least 32 MB, and who knows what they will spring on usnext?

As What to expect from Quartz Extreme? notes:

If you have a laptop computer, you need one ofthe following graphic cards: ATI Radeon Mobility GPU (while Apple firstsaid that 32 MB of VRAM were required, they stated later that anylaptop with 16 MB of VRAM would benefit of QE)

There are mainly two reasons which will preventyou from using QE on your computer, and they are both hardwarelimitations of the graphic card you may have.

  1. Older graphic cards, such as the unfamous Rage 128 Pro which hasbeen widely installed with older G3s and G4s doesn't support texturesthat are not sized as power of 2 (i.e. 2, 4, 8, ... 256, etc.) Sinceyou don't expect your windows to be limited to power of two sizes, youcan't expect to have QE enabled on these cards.
  2. Older graphic cards have as few as 4 MB, 8 MB to 16 MB of videoRAM. This is very little compared to what QE needs. Let's do the maths. A 300p x 300p in 32bits color depth window will need 300x300x32x2= 5760000 bits (the latest 2 comes because of the fact that windows aredouble buffered in Mac OS X. Correct me if I'm wrong). 5760000b isequal to approximately 700kB. Now imagine that your Mac resolutionis at least 1024 x 768, and that you have almost always about 10windows, a lot of icons in your Dock, etc. and you'll understand why8 MB is really useless for Quartz Extreme, and 16 MB is theminimum supported by Apple, but as the 128 MB minimum RAM required byMac OS X, they are very inadequate. When VRAM is not availableanymore on the video card, the same thing that happens when you don'thave enough RAM happens for your video card: your computer swaps,everything goes so slow that you can take a nap before that windowfinishes resizing.

Emphasis mine.

I think my advice is sensible. With the $300 moreexpensive machine you not only get the full 32 MB of video RAM but alsoa combo drive, a 10 GB larger hard drive, and a 100 MHz fasterprocessor. Seems like the good value for the money to me.


Re: Not recommending the $999 iBook?

From anonymous


There is no doubt the $1,299 iBook is a good value, but let's take alook at it from this standpoint . . . the processor and GPUof the $999 iBook is the same* as was in the $1,599 iBook before. Theonly difference being the combo drive. The fact remains Apple is tryingto get into the $999 market with notebooks for the first time. Tooutright dismiss those machines is to prevent them from getting intothat market. They are great machines, and most anyone switching isgoing to switch to Mac OS X and avoid 9 altogether. Think at itfrom the standpoint of a switcher who loves the features of MacOS X and will never run Mac OS 9 or Classic.


* Editor's note: The GPU in the new $999 iBook isnot the same as in the just discontinued $1,199 and$1,499 iBooks. The older models had ATI Mobility Radeon, but thenewer ones have ATI Mobility Radeon 7500, the same GPU used in the just discontinued DVIPowerBook G4.

Hi anonymous,

I don't disagree that if all your budget can stand isthe $999 for the base iBook, it's a lot better then getting no Mac atall. I just think that if one can manage the extra 300 bucks, the 800MHz machine with the combo drive, bigger hard drive, and twice as muchvideo RAM is a lot better long-term value.

The better video performance afforded by the 32 MB ofvideo RAM should be particularly appealing to OS X users.


Kanga whine

From Dan Finegan

Hi Charles -

My daughter is spending the school year in China. I'm forwarding youan email she sent me concerning her G3 Kanga PowerBook, hoping you oryou readers might be of assistance.

Many thanks.

Dan Finegan

Hi Dad,

Don't know if it's the dust in a fan (I've been trying to keep Kangaclean!) or a speaker feedback problem, but Kanga is making the mosthorrid whiny screeching sound out of the right hand speaker wheneverit's turned on! muting or turning volume down does nothing.

I taped a wad of tissue on top of it before piercing any eardrums,but it's still pretty wretched. Any clues? I tried blowing any dustout; one person suggested disconnecting the speaker, but I don't daretry...

Just playing a Radiohead album on top of it to sort of mask thescreeching...

Hi Dan,

Beats me. Disconnecting the speaker would get rid ofthe noise if that's really the source.


FireWire PC Cards etc.

From Ross Cottrell


I have just installed an IBM Travelstar 40 GB GNX in my 300 MHzPowerBook. It is much quieter and somewhat faster than the 20 GBHitachi that it replaced. The quietness is what I really like about theIBM drives. There is no sleep wake up problem in Jaguar. So far therehas been only one sleep failure while booted into OS 9.1 out of about 8attempts. It sure is nice to have some extra quickness injected intothe old 'Book. I've maxed out the RAM at 512 MB, too. Jaguar needs allthe help it gets, but I find it usable and stable.

So it's a great drive and worth the $147 I paid to day FedEx was 50 cents.

Here's my problem though: OS X 10.2.1 won't recognize the FireWiredrive I just assembled with the old Hitachi. It's a new OWC MercuryExpress enclosure. The drive is recognized in OS 9.1 and worksperfectly, but Jaguar can't see it at all. I have a NewerFirewire-to-Go CardBus, which has been suggested to me as the potentialsource of trouble. The card does work in Jaguar in that I can import DVinto iMovie 2.

Do you or any of your readers know of problems with these cards andJaguar external FW drives? Any recommendations on a 2-3 port FireWirecard that will work in a non-bus powered situation? I am consideringthe SmartDisk and OrangeMicro cards. Thanks!

Ross Cottrell

Hi Ross,

I'm not aware of any PC Card FireWire adapter thatwill support bus-powering. I suspect that the problem is a combinationof Jaguar and the PC Card not talking to each other successfully, sinceit works in OS 9.


PowerPad High Capacity Laptop AccessoryBatteries

From Bob Friede


Considering how many of us are still using older Macs, I thought youshould know about this...

Though I understand you might just be a wee bit partial to helpingout Canadian companies (!), US reseller retail prices for newElectrovaya external laptop batteries are considerably lower than thosebought directly from Ontario-based Electrovaya. For example, (where I bought mine) the 120-C is selling for US$330.70 and the 160-C for US $441.74, compared to Electrovaya's $429and $529, respectively - a significant difference. Also, CompUSA willbe selling the batteries soon, so maybe prices will fall evenfurther.

Bob Friede

Hi Bob,

Nope, I go for the best price! Free trade, y'know.Thanks for the info.


WallStreets and X!

From Scott Strungis

Hi Charles

Just wanted to follow up with you on my emails. I finally got myWallStreet fromWegener Media and am tapping this out on a fresh 10.1 installation aswe speak. It is a really nice machine and should serve me well for awhile. I do have a bone to pick, as the machine was shipped without anAC adapter, battery, or invoice. Luckily, my PowerBook 2400c's AC adapter worksreally nicely. The installation went off without a hitch.

My question for you is: Which of the two PC card slots is CardBuscompliant? Or are both of them? Can I do wireless?

Scott Strungis

Hi Scott,

Glad the WS is a success.

Both slots are CardBus compliant.


iBook hinge

From Basilio Gonzalez

Hi Charles,

This is in reply to Tom Raworth's email about the iBook's (dual USB)hinge problem. Unfortunately, TiGlide does not work if it is appliedexternally. Removing the iBook's cover and then applying the TiGlide tothe hinge seems to cure the problem. I did this two months ago when Ireplaced my CD drive with a combo drive (which, by the way, is not aneasy procedure due to the many screws involved) and so far all is well- knock on wood.

B. Gonzalez

iBook hinge

From Scott Newman

Mr. Moore,

Regarding iBook (dual USB) hinges, what worked for me was going to abicycle shop and buying a nonpetroleum-based lubricant. It willprobably be wax-based and for use on bike chains in dustyenvironments.

Anyway, lube the hinges using that, and it should work. I don'tthink there is any way to overlube them to the point that the screenwon't stay up. It worked best to stand the iBook on one end and lubeone hinge so that the lubricant could drain down into the hinge itself.Then turn onto the other side and lube the other hinge.

I did this about two months after buying a new dual USB iBook inJune of 2001 and the hinges still function perfectly today.

Scott Newman

BlueChip ending

From Aron Nelson


This is a in reference to the PowerLogix BlueChip problems mentionedin the following link:

Thanks to Other World Computing (Larry in particular), many of thepeople that I have been in contact with did receive replacement units.Some of the replacements worked correctly, and I am happy for thepeople that did receive working units.

Unfortunately, others are still waiting, and others have written mesaying they are "giving up." For the people waiting, they are receivingthe same answers as detailed on the above link.

I hope that the remaining people (that are still waiting) do receivereplacement units.

As for myself and a few other people, we have "working boards," butunfortunately the boards are incompatible with previously working RAM.In one case, a customer paid Apple certified technicians to findany RAM that would work with the BlueChip board, only to findall RAM tested to be incompatible.

So now I have a board that "works" but is incompatible with my RAM.Even though this RAM has worked with previous PowerLogix boards andstill does work with the original Apple board, PowerLogix says my RAMis "all of a sudden" incompatible.

I think, if anything, the replacement board I received is"incompatible" not the RAM.

As of 10/15/02, the email address willbe closed due to the .mac deadline.

I wish everyone the best and hope that the remaining issues getresolved.


Wireless PowerBooks

From Andrew

Hey there,

After seeing your mention of a new wireless card for PowerBooks, Ithought I should mention this site which has wireless drivers for manymany wireless cards that don't normally have Mac drivers:

I got their driver for my (cheap) Linksys wireless PC card a fewweeks ago and it works like a charm, and it lets me just swap the cardbetween my Lombard and my Dell laptops without having to shell out foran AirPort card. Super handy, but it was a fluke I found that page; noone seems to know about it.


LCD test

From Peter Monaghan

LCDtest link is now at <>

It Works!

From Lorne Shapiro

Mr. Moore,

How are you? I just wanted to thank you for passing along that lastsuggestion; it works! I bought the camera (Canon A-40), bought theSanDisk PC Card Adapter for CompactFlash, and I can now slip the cameracard into the PC slot through the adapter and get my pictures onto mycomputer. Of course, one day I hope to have some kind of USB port totake full advantage of my camera's functionality, but the mostimportant thing right now is to get those pictures. Many thanks. Theonly service that I can offer you in return is that if you ever needsome kind of music question answered, just ask.

Thanks again,
Lorne Shapiro

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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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