Charles Moore's Mailbag

Best Version of OS 9, PowerBook Pricing, Power Mac Problems, Mac Market Share, and More

Charles Moore - 2003.08.18 - Tip Jar

Mac OS 9 Compatibility, Upgrades, and Resources


Hello Charles:

In your column referenced above, you wrote, "I use OS 9.1 as my OS 9 boot system by preference on my Pismo PowerBook, although the Pismo supports 9.2.2."

Can I ask: Is there a particular reason for that? Do you find 9.1 to be more stable? I keep going round and round trying to find the best, most stable 9.x system for my B/W G3-350 (upgraded to G4-550), 896 megs RAM - this has meant uninstalling and reinstalling each version several times. But I still keep getting corruptions, slow downs, drags, hangs, and freezes.

I'm back at 9.2.1, and it seems worse than 9.1, 9.2.0, or 9.2.2 - I'm just not in a place where I can go to OS X (simply have too much $$ invested in Classic software - and the learning curve is not something I look forward to even if I had the bucks).

I just can't find a groove with a 9.x system - and if I didn't have so much invested in Classic software (full Adobe Design Suite, Macromedia Suite, etc.) I'd be sorely tempted to go to a Windows platform which I hate, but use at several client offices and truthfully have been more stable than my Mac seems to have ever been, certainly the past couple of years. (I sometimes think that as Mac users we've swept a lot of annoyances under the rug in defense of our favored machines of choice that we never would have tolerated from a different situation.)

Could my G4 upgrade ZIF (from Other World Computing) possibly contribute to the problem? A friend said it might be unstable because things seemed to get somewhat worse after installing it, but I just don't know.

Also, is there a place/site/util (other than extension overload, because it doesn't really tell me what I need to know) what extensions seems to work best with what systems, hardware, etc.?

I hope you can offer some insight, especially your reasoning about using 9.1 - sure would appreciate it.

Much thanks,
Connie in CA

Hi Connie,

It's hard to generalize about these things. For example, OS 9.2.x was unstable on my 233 MHz WallStreet PowerBook, but it works fine with my 500 MHz Pismo. OS 9.0.4 was even worse on the WallStreet, but OS 9.0 was very stable, and OS 9.1 even better.

However, while there's not much in it with the Pismo, my gut feeling is that OS 9.1 is a smidge faster, and, since it's very stable too, I used it the most until I switched to OS X for production last spring. I use 9.2.2 for Classic Mode in OS X.

The bottom line is that an OS version that works well on one computer may not be as successful on another.

The fact that you are running an upgrade complicated matters considerably. While some users get excellent stability with upgrades, others have problems, and your upgrade could indeed be contributing to your woes, and combinations of software add to the number of variables. The fact that stability deteriorated after you installed the upgrade amplifies suspicion in that direction.

As for extensions, the cardinal rule is to run with as few as you can live with, but that will be different for each user and software suite. Use Extensions Manager and try turning off everything that seems superfluous (the descriptions in the Extension Manager window are helpful). You can't hurt anything by doing this. If something stops working, try to determine what extension it's missing and enable it again. It might take a bit of trial and error.

I understand your frustration, but I have it on good authority (my son spent a year doing Windows XP tech support) that moving to a PC would be jumping from the fat into the fire. I would suggest that a better alternative might be to think about replacing your old tower CPU with a more recent used or refurbished Power Mac tower - a faster stock G4. You could still use your existing peripherals and software, and you should realize enhanced stability as well as better performance. That would be a lot cheaper than switching to a PC setup.

Finally, I would encourage you to install OS X on a separate hard drive partition and begin climbing that learning curve at whatever pace you find comfortable. One thing you will love is that OS X is very stable, and you will probably find that most of your mission-critical Classic software will work fine in Classic Mode. I find that some of my Classic applications actually seem more stable and just as fast - if not faster - in Classic Mode than they do booted in OS 9.


PowerBook Pricing

From Jaime Hancock


I have been a fan of your articles for several years now. I have read many of your articles and even responded to a few. I have a question for you. I'm looking to sell my Pismo, and I'm a little unsure of what a fair price would be. I'll let you know what I've got and perhaps you could suggest a fair price.

400 MHz G3

768 MB RAM
30 GB HD
2 batteries
AirPort card installed
Weight saving module
Virtually no cosmetic wear
USB optical mouse w/ 2 buttons and a scroll wheel Targus carrying case
Madsonline power adaptor
Security cable w/ desktop attachment
All original software discs, plus all OS X discs including upgrades through 10.2
Ships in original box

I am considering upgrading this to a 900 MHz G3 from PowerLogix. How much value do you think that would add?

Although I love PowerBooks, I'm selling this in order to replace it with a 1.25 GHz Dual G4 tower, as I am doing a lot more DV projects for my church and need the extra speed, storage, and expandability, plus the SuperDrive that the towers offer.

I'm sad to see it go, it has been a very faithful computer. I even named it after my best friend's black Labrador, because it was such a faithful and fun machine. Crazy how we can get attached to our computers. Never had that problem with any of my Windows boxes. :)

I really appreciate any help you could give me in this regard. Thank you for your wonderful service to the Mac community through you excellent articles as well. It's good to see Christians being influential and helpful in non-church areas.

Grace and Peace,
Jaime Hancock

Hi Jaime,

Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for reading. That sounds like a nicely tricked-out Pismo you have.

To get a basic frame of reference for current pricing, which is a moving target, check out Pismo prices on these websites and adjust from there:

As you know, the prices of new iBooks and low end PowerBooks have been putting downward pressure on used prices, and regrettably the considerable investment you have made in upgrading and fitting out your machine will not likely be returned very satisfactorily in resale value. Since you like the Pismo, upgrading to a 900 MHz processor would certainly enhance its usable life span and performance, but you are the only one who can ultimately decide if that's a sensible plan for you.


Editor's note: Upgrading a computer for the purpose of selling it rarely pays off. It will cost more to add the 900 MHz upgrade than the amount it will increase resale value. If you're planning on keeping the computer, go ahead an upgrade, but realize that in the long term you won't recoup the cost when you sell the machine. dk

PB 1400 not reading a MacOS 8.6 CD

From Keith M King

I suspect that the reason for the PB 1400 not reading a Mac OS 8.6 CD (Miscellaneous Ramblings 8/4/03) is that the CD is formatted with HFS+, which earlier versions of Mac OS cannot read, because they know only the original HFS formatting.

Keith M King

Hi Keith,

That could indeed be the problem if the 1400 is running a system version earlier that OS 8.1.


Speeding up my Power Mac 7500


My name is Mike Anderson, and I have a question on speeding up my Power Mac 7500. I purchased a Power Computing 200 MHz daughtercard on eBay. I removed my 120 MHz card from my Mac, pushed the reset switch in, installed the 200 MHz card, turned on my Mac, and it's running great at 200 MHz. As soon as I turn my Mac off, and turn it on again, it's running at 100 MHz. What's going on? The only way I can get my 200 MHz back is to remove the daughtercard, push the reset button, and start up the machine. Any ideas!

My 7500 has 256 MB RAM, 4 MB VRAM, 256 KB L2 cache. I'm running OS 8.6

Mike Anderson

Hi Mike,

That one's a puzzler. Perhaps some of our more technically erudite readers will be able to shed some light.

At least you're faring better than my brother in law, who purchased a faster motherboard for his 7200 but has so far been unsuccessful in getting it to work at all.


Corel WordPerfect 3.5e Source

From David Whiteley


Regarding Corel WordPerfect 3.5e for Macintosh, available from our website, I'm pleased to let you know that as a courtesy to fellow Mac users, it and CorelDraw 8 LE can now be downloaded without requiring a Deakin username or password. The above URL is still correct.

David Whiteley
ITS, Deakin University

Thanks, David.


Mac "market share" thoughts

From Boris Herman


Time and time again I run into statements and estimates about Apple market share which, so everyone says, is currently about 3%. That would mean that every 33rd computer on this planet is a Mac. Sounds fine if you are a Windows user, but this is very misleading and untrue. What it actually means is that every 33rd computer sold this year is a Mac!

What's the difference, you might say. Well, everyone knows that Windows PCs last a lot less than Macs. To be totally specific - in the last 10 years I have bought 11 PCs and five Macs, which would statistically mean that in my household the PCs hold the 11:5 majority, right? Wrong! Out of those 11 PCs only two exist in functional form and are being used (only one on regular basis). The rest were either recycled or sit stripped-down in the attic.

You see, if you ever followed the PC evolution during the last 10 years you have learned and met all sorts of things. 30-pin RAM, 72-pin RAM, 168-pin RAM, DDR RAM; 286, 386, 486, and Pentium 1, 2, 3, 4 CPUs; MFM, IDE, ATAPI hard drives; AT, ATX, ITX, Pentium 4 cases and power supply; ISA, VESA local bus, PCI, AGP slots.

My point is that most of the components from one PC could not be used in the unit that was bought less than a year later, so the most "economical" way was to buy a new unit instead of upgrading the old one. On the other hand all of the 5 Macintoshes I have bought are still in function every single day! So instead of almost 70% domination Windows PCs are holding less than 30% "market share" in my household.

Macs just last longer than Windows PCs, thus evading the absolute necessity to upgrade or replace. My estimate, which is based on personal experience, is that Macs last at least four times as long as PCs and are still a viable tool long after they are technically obsolete.

I could go on and on about how I can produce DVDs on an almost three year old Mac G4 very effectively and run the absolute newest operating system on it (10.2.6). I could go and try installing Windows XP Pro on a PC of the same age (which would be a Pentium III say, 667 MHz) and, heavens forbid, try producing a DVD on that unit, but I know and you know that my work would come to a stall on that PC, thus wasting my productivity when even a bare operating system slows to a crawl on such a PC.

If I ever hear discussions about "market share" based on sales figures again, I will just turn my head away knowing that I know better. Macs are not a niche market, and Apple knows that well. Why do you think that Apple was paying users to turn their old Macs to Apple last year in favor to up to 400 euros rebate on a new G4? It was actually the only way to get the old 7200s, 8600s, 9600s and similar (most of them were still functioning perfectly) off the customers desks to make space for Apple's newest computers.

Just my two euro cents,

P.S. You see, I just finished my work on an old 7100 (yes, NuBus!). It was made in 1994, now runs Mac OS 8.1 beautifully, Internet Explorer 5, MS Office 98, and Outlook Express (all of this software was written years after the 7100 was introduced). This computer will be a great gift to someone who can't afford technology but wants some experience with computer and the Internet. What can I do with a 486/100 of the same era? Nothing except turn it into a Linux text mode server, which nobody needs/wants anyway.

Hi Boris,

I agree with your analysis. I've bought eight new or very slightly used Macs in the past 11 years and seven of them are still in the family, all but one in working order (and I think that one can be resurrected). We also have two old PowerBook 1400s, acquired well-used, that see useful service every day (the 1400 is technically a NuBus machine, too).


Editor's note: Market share is the established term for current sales, and it can be very misleading to those who don't know that. Apple estimates that there are 25-30 million Macs in use, and the number of personal computers in use worldwide is probably in the 300-350 million range. This means Macs represent somewhere around 7-10% of the installed base, which is the term used for all computers in use. dk

68000 Mac Mail Clients?

From Peter da Silva

Maybe we can get Apple to release A/UX for hobbyist use the way other companies have released their '80s era Unix platforms.

How would that help?

Well, A/UX allows you to run Unix on most Triassic Macs (those with at least a 68020) with a Mac OS emulation layer underneath it. It's only Mac OS 6, admittedly, but it would let you run Unix programs like fetchmail to suck the mail in and let your Mac software access it locally.

Another less traumatic solution would be to do the same thing under Tenon's Mach 10. Again, it would require getting Tenon to release their software under an inexpensive license.

The third alternative would be to switch mail providers. There's no law that says your mail service and your Internet service have to be the same company, and there are a number of cheap or free email services that can be accessed through old school pop clients or web browsers.

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the suggestions. Readers interested in free POP email service can check out my periodic updates on that topic in the Miscellaneous Ramblings archives here on Low End Mac.


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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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