Charles Moore's Mailbag

WordPerfect Questions, Logitech Cordless Mouse Problems, Flirting with Retro PowerBooks, and More

Charles Moore - 2002.12.09 - Tip Jar

Questions about Free Download of WordPerfect

From Nancy Egner

Dear Mr. Moore,

My college student son is asking (for X-Mass) for word processing software for his Mac iBook (OS X) that has spell and grammar check. Will the free download of WordPerfect 3.5 work with OS X?

Nancy Egner

Hi Nancy,

Unless you have a lot of WordPerfect documents or another compelling reason to use WordPerfect, I would not consider it an ideal choice as a Mac word processor these days.

WordPerfect 3.5 should run okay in Classic Mode in OS X, but there has been no development done on this application since 1997, and it is essentially obsolete. On the other hand, it costs nothing to download from one of the sites I linked to.

I would suggest that a better choice for a word processor with grammar checker would be Nisus Writer, which is under active development with an OS X version coming in the new year. In the meantime, Nisus Writer 6.5 runs well in OS X Classic mode, and I'm guessing that there will be an inexpensive upgrade path to the OS X version for people who buy version 6.5 between now and the OS X version release.


Logitech Cordless Mouse and More for Mr. Moore

From Niels Vølund

I've had some problems with my Logitech cordless mouse. I bought it on sale and kind of expected it to be a monster, as most of the USB things I've added to my Umax S900 and 8200/8500 has been unstable from time to time. The mouse was no exception. After trying various drivers, the mouse came with a CD and a driver way under the current driver number, and it would lock up after 10 minutes of use.

The scroll wheel didn't work, either, but after fiddling around, trashing various preference files, and reinstalling USB update 1.4.1, it seemed to work acceptably. It would stop working after an hour or so, but nothing a restart couldn't cure.

Last week I gave my 8500 (which is the Mac with the USB card right now, also my print server) the monthly cure of fresh copies of System, Finder and system resources, plus trashing preference files (MacTCP DNR, Apple menu, ASLM, Finder Expansion manager, Mac OS preferences, generelt (don't know the name in English), and TSM.

After a restart the mouse worked great a week, scroll worked all the time, and I was quite pleased with myself - until today when I found that Virtual Memory was turned on. I'd forgotten to turn it off when I trashed Mac OS prefs, so I turned it off - and the mouse didn't work, or it did, but the control panel didn't recognize it, and scrolling was done by clicking, not turning the scroll wheel.

I trashed the Mac OS pref again, but before restart I turned Virtual Memory off, first restart the mouse didn't work properly, second it did.

Thought this might be of interest to other people, as I read on the package that some millions of these cordless wonders are sold, and other Mac users, on OS 9.1 like me, would be using them too.

Sorry to hear bout your trouble with the phone company and ISP, but I guess you have a far better view from your window than you would have in a city with ADSL and all.

I have a question. I consider trying the 9.2.1 upgrade on my unsupported S900 and 8500, only I seem to remember reading about some trouble with the firmware (ROM) upgrade not allowing the user to go back to OS 9.1 should that be preferable after the upgrade. Can you confirm my suspicion ??

Thank you for a very good column !

Niels Vølund

Hi Niels,

It's just a thought, but I'm wondering whether your USB troubles might not be related to the USB PCI card you're using. I mention this because a friend of mine with a Power Mac 6500 had horrible stability and peripheral support problems with a Sonnet combination USB/FireWire PCI card in his machine. I suggested that he try another brand and type of USB card, and when he installed a relatively cheap Belkin unit, all of the problems he had been having disappeared and have not returned.

I have a Macally PCI USB adapter card in my S900, and it has worked flawlessly in both OS 9.0 and 9.1.

I don't really see much advantage to upgrading to 9.2 unless you are using it for Classic Mode in OS X. I have both OS 9.1 and OS 9.2.2 installed on separate partitions on my Pismo PowerBook hard drive and have had no problems. However, I'm quite happy with the performance of OS 9.1 on the S900.


Re: Logitech Mouse

Hi Charles

It could be the card, there seems to be a difference between the two ports, the left one works okay, but the right one gives trouble. One of my Mac friends in DK suggested I try cleaning the cable and the port with some tape head cleaner, as I have used reel to reel machines a lot I have a very good product called Caltron that I am going to try later. If that doesn't do the trick, I might try another card - they sell pretty cheap in dk

I take your not mentioning the ROM trouble I suggested as that it is nonexisting, so maybe I'll give it a go sometime. The guy who makes the patch for installing 9.2 on unsupported machines says the network and Finder are far better than in 9.1, but as I read your mail it is not so significant. I guess it depends on who one asks, as is often the case. One guy might feel quite comfortable with a "fast" upgraded S900, and another will cry out for more speed in his G4 1.1 GHz DP. If it works for me, then its okay.


Hi again Neils,

Re: the ROM issue, I have never heard of it, but can't say categorically that it is a myth.

I find any difference in performance between OS 9.1 and 9.2 on my Pismo negligible.


Flirting with Retro PowerBooks

From Bernard Blander

Dear Charles,

I live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Just two days ago, I happened upon someone at a cafe who had a PowerBook 1400. I had never seen one before, and found it very beautiful. Its owner was kind enough to give me a guided tour of the machine. I thought the transparent cover for mounting wallpaper very charming.

I just happen to be interested in procuring a Mac portable. I like the current iBook, but my budget won't allow it. I currently use a Performa 5200 (75 MHz/64 MB/1 GB), and despite it's all-in-one design I still find it's form factor bulky. It has served me well, but I'd like to switch to a portable Mac - something I can put away in a drawer or take with me on an outing. Based on some research I have done, I think that a PB 1400 or PB 3400 would meet or exceed my needs - and probably perform better than the 5200. I also think they would be in line with my small budget.

Thing is, how do you find good ones that have been well taken care of on the inside as well as on the outside. Cosmetics as well as functionality are important to me. Cracks, scratches, bad scuff marks, broken latches or hinges, and manifestations of other forms of less than gingerly treatment turn me off. So how do go about finding one of these machines? Of course, I took a look at offerings on eBay, but found 1400s in mint condition scarce. Any tips?

Also, the 3400 has built in ethernet, which I need for DSL, but the 1400 doesn't. Is there a PC card for the 1400 for ethernet functionality. Which PowerBook would you recommend, the 1400 or the 3400? I know the 1400 - unlike the 3400 - is G3 upgradable, but I would only do that if it made economic sense. How much should I be prepared to spend while keeping in mind that these machines and their underlying technology are already quite old and. I'm thinking $200 to $250 (US dollars) as a budget.

Thanks for your thoughts,

Hi B2,

Used PowerBooks are where you find them and vary widely in condition. I would suggest that the individual price and condition of the machine may be more important to consider than the model in the context of your question.

Both are nice computers. I prefer the form factor and keyboard of the PowerBook 1400, but the 3400 is a substantially better performer - the difference is a lot more than the nominal clock speed difference would indicate. The 3400 has a faster system bus and is a PCI-based machine, while the 1400 is based on the old NuBus motherboard architecture.

You can get ethernet PC Cards for the 1400. My daughter uses one in hers very successfully. However, they are a bit hard to find these days. She got hers used from a friend of my son's.

Also note that there is quite a range of relative performance in the 1400 models. The 117 MHz version is pretty slow - probably about the same as your desktop 5200 in real-world performance. The 133 MHz and 166 MHz models are much livelier, not just because of the increased clock speed, but also because they have a level 2 cache, which the 117 MHz version does not.

I think Wegener Media still has some PowerBook 3400/180 models available for US$209.

Happy hunting,

CompactFlash RAM cards

From Eric L. Strobel


There have been several articles on LEM of using CompactFlash RAM cards as supplemental storage in PowerBooks - as virtual memory, for example. As I'm getting a 3400 soon, I started looking into this. Some folks claim CF will be "slow" (but no comparison as to what it is slower than), although one said that grabbing pics directly off a CF card is quicker than a USB transfer. But the biggest issue raised thus far is that of the supposedly limited number of writes that Flash RAM has. The claim is that one could rapidly wear out their CF card by using it as virtual memory or any other disk-like use that does lots of writing. Since the LEM articles were written quite some time ago, I wonder if it's time to do a check back and find out people's experience.

- Eric

Hi Eric,

Personally, I have no firsthand experience with these products. Dan Knight recently wrote a column on the topic.

Remy Davison of Insanely Great Mac has covered the topic frequently.

If anyone out there has information or experiences to share, let us know.


1400 Using a Flash Card

From Thomas M Barclay

Hello, Charles,

I've been looking into the use of Compact Flash as well, for use on my (new to me) PB 190cs.

I believe your reader's problem was that he was trying to get a read-only device (he describes a CF reader) to both read and write.

Most people whose notes I've read on the LEM PowerBook list have been using Sandisk CF media inside a PCMCIA Card adapter manufactured to allow simplified downloads (reading) and uploads (writing) of data for cameras, MP3 players, and so on.

Tom Barclay


From Bruce Robertson

Though I suppose it is good of you to mention mini-drive USB products (a.k.a. pen drive, thumb drive), it is really a substantial disservice not to note that most of these drives offer terrible performance. They are DOS formatted, and in OS X deliver write rates of about 1 MB/minute.

Editor's note: I haven't seen any of these benchmarked on the Mac yet, but Bare Feats compared USB and FireWire Compact Flash card readers and found that the USB reader limited performance to 0.6 MB/sec. I suspect solid state USB drives would offer similar performance - and that these drives would provide better performance reformatted as Mac drives. dk

More on "Kanga Whine"

From Gregg Eshelman

The "yo-yo" AC adapters should not be used with any of the cord wrapped up. (IIRC, they store the cord in a slot around the perimeter? If I'm misremembering, ignore this. ;-) That can concentrate any heat from the cord, and if an AC cord is tightly coiled it can get very hot, catch fire even, from induction heating.

Ford Motor Company found that out the hard way with an electric car that had a built in recharging cord reel. People were only pulling out just enough cord to plug it in and when most of the cord was left on the reel, *FOOM*. The "fix" was a warning label.

Tightly coiled cords with AC current or fluctuating DC current can also produce radio frequency and electromagnetic interference. For lots of technical reasons, other electronic circuitry can pick up and amplify that interference into audible sound.

So if your Mac's AC adapter has a coilable cord, don't try to be "neat" or save space by leaving any of the cords partially coiled, especially the AC cord.

Hi Gregg,

I expect you may have a point about coiled AC cords, but in the case of the Apple yo-yo power adapter, it is the DC output cord that goes to the computer's power adapter port that coils into the slot in the yo-yo disk.

The AC input cord is just a standard, non-coiling power cord.

I haven't noticed any unusual heat buildup while leaving most of the DC cord coiled in my Pismo's yo-yo adapter.


Rural ISP

From George Mogiljansky


Glad you made it, and in the dead of winter. Call it ''ISP anxiety attack''. Around this time of year (1999?) the freebie ISPs went under - remember They were Mac compatible, req.8.6.

Serial port busy - I remember seeing that on my 3400 recently. You have to go to FreePPP and turn off the something or other because it hogs that modem port (which doubles as a printer port on a 3400) and then the LaserJet with PowerPrint cable will print.

George (Montreal)

Hi George,

Yes, the ISP registration software I used does install FreePPP. Guess they haven't discovered the superiority of Apple's Open Transport PPP/Remote Access.


Inexpensive Combo Drive Upgrade for Pismo, Lombard - Not

From Andrew Main


I've been wondering when I might feel flush enough to buy MCE's rather expensive ($350) DVD/CD-RW drive for my Pismo (not anytime very soon, alas), so at first I was excited to read about the "Inexpensive Combo Drive Upgrade for Pismo, Lombard," which appeared to offer a bargain alternative for the even slightly handy.

Noting that the linked Web page was headed "Pismo CD/DVD Mod," I prepared to download the instructions, and went to take a look at the the $74 drive unit at Upgrade Solution - which was when I discovered that it is a CD-RW drive only, not a "Combo" (i.e. DVD/CD-RW) drive like the MCE. This would be fine for those who don't mind losing the ability to view DVDs, but that's not me. It certainly is cheaper than MCE's $300 CD-RW-only drive, or even than the old VST CD-RWs (not OS X savvy, I gather) that have been going for well over $100 on eBay lately. But it won't do DVDs - just when I'm beginning to think about getting some of my favorite films to watch on my PB. I looked on Upgrade Solution's CD/DVD page, but didn't see anything that combined both DVD and CD-RW.

If anyone knows of a real "Combo" DVD/CD-RW drive alternative for the Pismo/Lombard, I'd sure like to hear about it.

Andrew Main

I'm sure others have pointed this out...

From Tod Abbott

... but the inexpensive Sony drive being used to upgrade the Pismo/Lombard in your recent item is not a combo drive, but a plain ol' CD-RW. I see that the linked page is titled "Pismo CD/DVD Mod" but that presumably refers to the fact that the Pismo had either a CD-ROM or DVD drive and that whichever you have, this is what will be modified.

That's a big difference for those of us with a DVD drive who might not want to lose the ability to watch movies on the plane (or let the kids watch them in the car).

Tod Abbott

Hi Tod,

My error. Brain fade, I guess.


Combo drive in Pismo

From Tim Harmon

Just read the report on adding a Sony CD-RW CRX700E to a Pismo. Does iTunes recognize the drive, or do you have to use Toast?

Tim Harmon

Hi Tim,

Unfortunately, I have not used this drive myself, so I can't vouch for whether it works with iTunes or not.

As noted above, the combo drive headline was an error. It is a plain CD-RW drive, without DVD support.


USB 802.11b for Mac?

From Ed Hurtley

Okay, I've tried searching, I've tried a couple newsgroups, but I just can't find any information on it.

I've got an iMac Rev B, and I want wireless network access. I know that there are 802.11b PC Cards that work with pre-Pismo PowerBooks, and 802.11b PCI cards that work with pre-Sawtooth PowerMacs, but what about 802.11b USB adapters for the tray-loading iMacs? (Or, for that matter, for my USB upgraded beige G3, which doesn't have a free PCI slot.)

Thanks in advance.
Ed Hurtley

Beats me, Ed.

Can anyone in readerland help with this?

Charles Moves to a New Home

From Ray Barber

Hi Charles,

I wanted to send this to you in hopes your readership may find interest.

We are delighted to announce our new forums @ While we are working hard to bring the archives back online, the board is now available to the scripting community.

Our new bbs offers a much better user interface, with a feature set that is very approachable-one that we feel compliments Scripting and AppleScript specifically. In addition, we will be adding more scripting centric features in the very near future.

Surf by and leave us feedback, as your comments/ideas do matter to us.

Thanks in Advance
& Kind Regards

Ray Barber

New User? Please register here.

Our goal is to provide a well balanced scripting resource for the applescripting community and the evangelism of AppleScript, now and into the future. Look forward to seeing you there - - News, SOTW, ScriptBuilders, Links, etc ... - BBS - Scripting Additions
DataBase hotline:// -

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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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