Charles Moore's Mailbag

PowerBook 1400 Upgrades, Expansion Bay Combo Drives, Death of a Free Email Provider, and More

Charles Moore - 2003.03.19 - Tip Jar

PowerBook 1400

From: Andrew Main

Tom MacDougall wrote:

"I have a PowerBook 1400 which is presently gathering dust because as of late I use my iMac (500 MHz) for most of my work. I miss using my faithful companion, so I was thinking of buying the 466 MHz upgrade card from Sonnet. But before I put out $500 Cdn, I wanted to read the reactions of people who have opted for this upgrade. If you can help me in my search for information, I would appreciate it."

You wrote:

"The 1400's internal architecture (which is based on the even older PowerBook 5300) is getting pretty long in the tooth . . . no video-out jack for an external monitor was included with the 1400. An internal expansion slot could accommodate video-out or Ethernet upgrade cards (no standard Ethernet either), but not both. Ethernet could also be supported with a PC Card, which is also the only choice for an internal modem with the 1400. ... unless you really, really like the 1400 (and there's plenty to like), you might be better off putting the Can$500 toward a more up-to-date PowerBook or iBook."

The 1400 was one of the best PBs ever made, very sturdy internally and socketed CPU makes it upgradeable. However, it is pretty old now. I have a very nice 1400 which I keep as a spare and for working in older OS (7.6 and 8.x). I have a 250 MHz Newer G3 upgrade in it, which makes it quite comfortably fast for what I do with it. Wouldn't put anything newer than OS 8.6 on it.

I also have an Apple 8-bit video out card in it, so I can use it for testing monitors, though I think it may not work with anything larger than 15". (Newer made a 16-bit video card for the 1400.) And I have a Global Village modem/Ethernet PC card, so I can connect it to either the Internet or my Pismo.

I also use it for printing out PageMaker files (which I transfer from my Pismo via Zip disk) on my laser printer; it "just works" without having to get into Ethernet, USB-serial adapters or whatnot.

But I would agree, "maxing" a 1400 at this point is mostly for hobbyists. Generally I'd recommend moving to an iBook if possible; but some do have ca. $2-300 and don't have $7-900.

As a second computer for word processing and email, the PB 1400 could be nice, though battery life is poor at best (only NiMH batteries available, and they wear out). I wouldn't invest $500 (even Cdn), but used 1400 G3 cards appear frequently on eBay (go to PowerBooks and search for "1400 G3"); the 250 MHz Newers go for about $150, which might be reasonable to speed it up into comfort zone. I also have a 400 MHz Sonnet card, but I'm selling it (some hot-rodder will want it); the 250 MHz Newer is fast enough.

One caveat: If you have or want to have a video out card in your 1400, I'd be wary of the Sonnet G3 cards. Some of them seem to fit with the video card; some don't. Lengthy correspondence with Sonnet never cleared up this issue for me; like too many computer mfrs, they made it clear they thought I was an idiot, which didn't help. See a thread I started on Apple Discussions for some info, 400 G3 Upgrade + Video Card: Incompatible?

For a good collection of user reports on 1400 upgrades, see: <> - In "Step 1: Select a Mac Model Category," pick PowerBook 1400.

A great PB 1400 FAQ can be found at <>.

Andrew Main

Hi Andrew,

Yes, the 1400 is a great computer. My daughter uses a 1400cs/133 for her university computer, and I have a 1400cs/117 that I'm using as a portable text crunching platform (see PowerBook 1400 Revisited on Mac Opinion) I paid CAN$225 for the 117 MHz version with a 56k PC Card modem. My daughter has a Motorola Mariner Ethernet/Modem PC Card in hers for connecting to broadband in her dorm.

Thanks for the links.


Sonnet Upgrade to PowerBook 1400

From Kristian Bjornstad

Just a note of my experience . . . which isn't the best...

The first 333 chip I got worked great for about three weeks - after which it quit working (just froze and wouldn't work at all). Sonnet replaced that chip twice, because for some reason I just haven't been able to get the replacements to work with the L2 cache extension.

When I would get the new chips, they would work for a few boots and then they would start to freeze up constantly (even without any extensions except the L2 enabler). Sometimes it seemed that I would get a reprieve of crashes for a bit if I would do things like reseat my memory or video out cards. The worst of it is that I have two PB 1400s, and I couldn't get those chips to work on either of them. Right now I am just running the 400 MHz Sonnet chip with 9.1 without the L2 extension, and that at least enables me to do what I need to do at a somewhat reasonable speed - but I really miss the blazing speed of the L2 and how fun it was! If someone has experienced this or knows a fix for this, please let me know. All the tricks Sonnet tries to give me haven't worked.


Hi Kris,

Sorry to hear about the problems. I haven't a clue as to what the problem might be.

Check out the links in Andrew's letter above.


PowerBook Expansion Bay 16x/10x/x24 DVD/CD-RW Combo Drive

From Andrew Main


I was certainly most intrigued to read about this item in your LEM column [The 'Book Review, 2003.02.28], as I've been wanting one of these for my Pismo for some time. As it happens, after watching eBay for several months and seeing only one or two that went for about the same price as MCE (hitherto the only mfr of this item) was quoting for new ones on their website, I went ahead and bought one from MCE - spurred on by the fact that when I first looked they were out of stock, and MCE responded to my inquiry saying that the next shipment expected was already nearly all sold.

So I experienced a little buyer's remorse when I learned of Wegener's new offering, which is $80 less (the price had gone down $20 since you posted the note). I assume Wegener has made use of the DIY instructions that have been floating around for a while and bought up all the dead CD/DVD drives they could find to start producing this ready-made product, which appears to be a good deal.

One difference, however, between Wegener's and MCE's products should be noted: I discovered when mine arrived that [the MCE product] is now a slot-loading drive, rather than tray-loading as previously. I'd had no warning of this, since MCE's pages still show the old tray version (and the included documentation also refers only to that version). At first I was a little nonplussed, but I've grown to like it: In a crowded workspace, I was a little tired of having to move the Pismo to make sure there was room for the tray to come out. Now all my expansion bays - Zip drive, SuperDisk and DVD/CD - are slot-loading, a nice consistency.

I also note that Wegener's 16/10/24 drive seems to be faster than MCE's 8/8/24. This doesn't make a lot of difference to me, as I don't expect to be burning a whole lot of disks. Curious, though, since MCE tells me they've been having a hard time sourcing mechanisms, but Wegener seems to have found some DVD/CD-RW units that are as fast as MCE's plain CD-RW offering.

I still don't know if either of these drives works with the CD-RW burning software I mentioned in an earlier note; I have queries out to MCE, Wegener, and Software Architects.

Andrew Main

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for the user report. I haven't tried either of the drives (if Wegener or MCE want to send me a test unit, I'll be delighted to review it ;-) )

I don't mind tray-loading drives, which is good, because all my 'Books have them. The coolest slot loader I've used was the one in my Cube. Reminded me a bit of the old "slurp" floppy drives on early compact Macs.


subDimension Free Email Bites the Dust

From: Chris Lawson

Check out their home page. Looks like poor anti-spam policies (probably on their part and on the part of their upstream) have cost them their hosting.

Free email there is no more.

Free & Cheap Email

From Hardy Menagh

I just read your article on LEM. Just to let you know, I have been unable to access my subDimension accounts for days or get to the site. Today their "Drop Point" page has been replaced by a gone out of business page. Nice of them to warn users in advance.

All the best,

Hardy Menagh, Hardsdisk Ltd.,
a branch of the Abandoned Computer Shelter.
Sponsored by

Hi Chris and Hardy,

Yes; very sad. This must have just happened, as I checked their website not log before I posted the article.


iBook HD Replacement Tutorial

From Jody Hewell

I was reading your 'Book Review for 2/28/03 and couldn't find the link for "iceBook Hard Drive Upgrade Tutorial." The bold text did not have an embedded link.

Can you please provide me with the link?

Jody Hewell

Hi Jody,

The link in the article has been fixed, but if you haven't found it yet, here it is:


WordPerfect 3.5e Source

From John G. Clark

A while back you reviewed WordPerfect 3.5e. I have used it for several years. Recently my hard drive crashed and burned, and I seem to have misplaced my back up copy of 3.5e. Do you know of any place from which I can download a copy? Or an email attachment would be fine. Thank you for any assistance you can provide.

All the best,

John G. Clark

Hi Mr. Clark,

Try here:
or here:

This place - - still had it the last time I looked, but you need a student password to initiate the download.


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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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