Charles Moore's Mailbag

The Next G3, Emailer vs. Spam, Mac OS 9 Stability Tips, USB Voodoo, and More

Charles Moore - 2003.08.25 - Tip Jar

New G3 Gobi chip

From Todd McQuiston

Question on that one:

This smacks of the way Intel overengineered the Celeron so very long ago - a 1.2 GHz G3 with a 200 MHz bus would, in non-AltiVec apps, give the 867 MHz G4 a serious run for its money. Serious enough that Apple would have to spice up the PowerBook line substantially before even considering to allow the iBook this kind of power.

Especially as it appears that, due to power and heat issues, the G5 is not destined for notebooks, at least not in its current incarnation. And from my personal experience, the 1.2+ GHz G4s have the same problem. They run quite hot, and in a metal-cased notebook, that's asking for trouble, I'd think.

Ya know, what with The Steve proclaiming this "The Year of the Notebook," other than Lapzilla, Apple hasn't done much that was staggeringly innovative. PC laptops have been running DDR for a while, and AirPort Extreme is just an evolutionary step, really. The only thing that pulls me towards Apple notebooks right now is OS X, not any significant hardware superiority.

Thanks for a great column,
Todd M. McQuiston

Hi Todd,

Heck, the 900 MHz G3 750FX already gives the G4 867 a run for its money in non-AltiVec tasks. And the next generation (750HX?) will reportedly have some sort of vector engine - i.e.: AltiVec by any other name. At which point perhaps Apple should switch the PowerBooks back to the G3.


Claris Emailer and

From Christopher Gill


I've been reading your columns on LEM for a while, and you seem to be the email guru, in terms of things like free POP/SMTP access, etc. I found out on /. yesterday about, and I was able to work with the guy running the place to get Claris Emailer to work with it.

The simple solution is to set Emailer's "Email account" field to something like "". This "%"-handling kludge was added to their POP handling in the wee hours this morning in order to solve this specific issue.

For those who have labouring under the deluge of spam, may be worth a try.

Hi Christopher,

It may indeed. Thanks for this helpful information.


Re: Mac OS 9 Compatibility, Upgrades, and Resources

From Connie in LA

Dear Charles:

Thank you very much for your insights and suggestions. It's all such a mysterious thing to me. I especially love the suggestion that I partition one of my drives and start learning OS X - I thought to myself - wow, what a concept! I haven't heard, read, seen that anywhere, much less thought of it myself - so thank you for a great suggestion! I also think I will keep my eye out for some good deals on refurb/used G4s, especially once the G5s are out so that I will have the power to run OS X effectively so I can start learning.

Again, sure do enjoy and appreciate your columns and thanks again for your rapid response and gracious help.

Connie H. in LA

Hi Connie,

Glad you like the idea for easing into OS X. That's how I did it. In the meantime, several readers have responded to your dilemmas with what sounds like good advice. See below.


Mac OS 9 Stability - Possible Remedy

From Ken Watanabe


In your column on Low End Mac, I saw the letter from a reader with Mac OS 9 stability issues. I recently found what I'd call a "maintenance procedure" that has greatly improved the stability of my Mac OS 9 system. It's nothing new, actually, but it's not mentioned as much as "run (insert favorite utility name)," "optimize your hard disk," "rebuild your desktop file," "disable unneeded extensions," or the classic "try zapping the PRAM."

The procedure is "purging" the preference files in the Preferences folder (the one inside the System Folder). There have been utilities that attempt to selectively "weed out" preference files that are not being used, but I think that's only part of the problem. I suspect that some key preference files can become corrupted or set improperly (either intentionally or by accident). This might lead to some of the instability experienced by users in the classic Mac OS and/or applications.

My old "legacy" desktop Mac was running fine, but I experienced occasional freezes or "Finder quit unexpectedly" errors (which are almost always unrecoverable). The problem seemed to be getting worse. After trying the standard remedies, I suspected that maybe my G3 upgrade was overheating and I even installed an extra fan to blow over the G3 card. Unfortunately, no noticeable improvement.

Looking through my System Folder, I found I had over one thousand files in my Preferences folder. Many of the files were for programs I tried just once or from old programs I stopped using long ago. Even if this was not a problem, I wanted to get rid of all those unnecessary files. I came up with and used the procedure outlined below to do the "big purge" in a way that was easily reversible, if necessary.

  1. In the System Folder, find the Preferences folder and copy it elsewhere, that is, make a duplicate of the entire Preferences folder. If it is on the same volume, be sure you are not moving the Preferences folder.
  2. Record key Control Panel settings, such as for remote access and network configuration, if this info is not already recorded or memorized.
  3. Back in the System Folder, rename the Preferences folder "Preferences Old" or any appropriate name. Later, if you need to "undo the purge," you can simply rename this folder back to "Preferences."
  4. Now create a new (empty) folder in the System Folder and name it "Preferences" (make sure that it's plural).
  5. Optional step: If you have any system/application configuration settings that you absolutely do not want to have to replicate - or - if you do not want to dig up the registration numbers for applications require them, find the relevant preference files in the duplicate folder and copy them back into the new Preferences folder. Use your duplicate folder to ensure keeping the "Preferences Old" folder intact, so that you can "undo the damage" if necessary.
  6. Restart the Mac.
  7. Fresh preference files related to the Mac OS and Finder should be created automatically. Adjust Control Panel settings as needed.
  8. Run your frequently used applications. Allow them to create fresh preference files. If some applications need licensing information and you don't want to go find those old registration cards (or emails), find the relevant preference files in the duplicate folder and copy them back into the new Preferences folder. Use your duplicate folder to ensure keeping the "Preferences Old" folder intact, so that you can "undo the damage" if necessary. [As much as possible, allow the OS and applications to create fresh preference files.]
  9. Run your system to ensure it works properly. If there are problems and you need to revert to the old preference files, just delete the new Preferences folder and rename the unchanged "Preferences Old" folder back to "Preferences."
  10. If everything is fine (or better), you can eventually delete the "Preferences Old" folder and the duplicate Preferences folder. Or just keep them around until the next time you decide to do a preference file purge.

After purging my Preferences folder (about two months ago), my system has been absolutely stable running Mac OS 9.1. In fact, this system has not been so crash resistant since I installed my G3 upgrade, about the same time as my upgrade to Mac OS 9.x. No freezes, no "Finder quit unexpectedly" errors, and fewer application crashes. Additionally, instances when my system appeared to "hang" for a few seconds have disappeared, which may have been caused by the OS rifling through the 1000+ files in my old Preferences folder, looking for a specific file. I wish I had tried this earlier.

Feel free to use anything in this email at your discretion. I enjoy your writings.

- Ken Watanabe

Hi Ken,

I'll use it all, thanks. This sounds like an eminently sensible exercise in system maintenance. I know that many times I've instantly cured a misbehaving application by trashing its preferences and letting it create new ones. It stands to reason that an accumulation of small corruptions in various preference files could cause system and program instability.

As my son says, "when in doubt, first trash the preferences."


Re: Mac OS 9 Compatibility, Upgrades and Resources

From David Klaus

I just read your column, and I think you might have missed the core of the problem. Connie has a G3-350 upgraded to a G4 with 896 MB of RAM and states, "things seemed to get somewhat worse after I installed it," referring to the G4. If this had been any of the PCI Power Mac (73, 75, 76, 85, 86, 95,9600) machines, I'd be very confident that there is a problem with the RAM in the machine. As it is, I'd still suggest running RAM checks, especially Newer's RAM check in it's Gauge Pro software. I like Newer's in that it writes from one end of memory to another then reads it all back. This is good check of memory I/O under a heavy load, writing then reading back at the limit of the chips and/or bus.

David Klaus

Tip For Connie in CA

From Chris Kilner


You may want to tell Connie in CA to check her RAM - bad RAM can make any system unstable. The other tip to pass on to Connie is that the Rev. 1 B&Ws are known for HD corruption with larger capacity replacement drives or slave drives due to a faulty onboard IDE controller. She should use a PCI IDE controller card to solve the problem.

Chris Kilner

Hi David and Chris,

Good advice. Thanks.


USB voodoo...

From Eric L. Strobel

Just when you thought connection voodoo was left behind with SCSI...

Lessee, can't attach this drive to my unpowered hub (because it wants power from the bus), so it must get attached directly to a built-in port. Okay, but why not try a powered hub? Nope, must not be enough power to allow it to work. Well, surely my digital camera, which is independently powered, can hook up to the unpowered hub. Nope, sorry, needs direct connection to a built-in port (for no apparent logical cause).

Hmmm - so, this is the USB that's supposed to make attaching peripherals so easy and convenient. Brainstorm! Double check the driver situation. {opens Extensions Folder} Yup, there's between one and three extensions present for each device (and a double handful of other USB extensions installed by the OS, Silverlining, Toast...).

Now, what was that I was thinking about??? Oh yeah, going out and getting a USB scanner and a new printer that uses USB....

- Eric

Hi Eric,

While USB is not nearly as cranky as SCSI, it is far from trouble-free or foolproof. Personally, I've found that the relatively few instability problems I've experienced with OS X have mostly been USB-related. USB input devices are not as reliable as ADB ones were, and I detest USB audio.


UPS gouging

From John Stefani

Well written article on UPS brokerage fees. Unfortunately, UPS is such a huge monolith that I believe they just don't care if a few Canucks won't deal with them. The solution? Spread the word so it's not just a few....

I have a web page I started last year regarding this subject, you may be interested in reading it?


Hi John,

Thanks for the thoughts. I agree. Great Webpage!


Rant on confusing Windows(?) terms...

From Ed Hurtley

Okay, I use both Windows machines and Macs (having just bought my first 'brand-new' Mac ever, a 12" PowerBook, to go with my collection of 20-some-odd 'low-end' Macs.)

And I'm also very into computer hardware and software (I've worked for Intel, along with a few other Internet and software companies before starting my own business doing on-site consulting,) and keep up with all the latest hardware for both PC and Mac.

But, it always irks me when people try to assign technobabble to PCs only, when the exact same technobabble applies equally to Macintoshes.

Case in point, the letter in your 8/18 column by Mr. Herman.

While I have to agree with his statements about the Mac's greater longevity (before my new PowerBook, I used a stock [plus memory upgrade] iMac Rev. B, yet my PC from the exact same year has been upgrade numerous times, and it's never even been my 'main' PC!) and the related 'market share' argument, I have to take offense at his implication that only PC people have had to deal with a myriad of changing names and technologies.

He uses a ten year timeframe. Ten years ago, I purchased my first self-bought computer, a 486 at 33 MHz. It wasn't even top of the line; that honor was held by the just released - but yet to be actually seen on the streets - 66 MHz Pentium chip. The ISA bus was the 'old standard', with VESA local bus the high speed champ. (PCI and AGP were yet to come, but the writer did forget to mention the short lived MCA and EISA busses. If you're going to complain about choices, at least include them all.)

Yes, I'm sure 386s were still available, as was the venerable 68000 in the Mac Classic. So a proper comparison for the last ten years would have to include (on the Mac side) the 68000, 68030, 68040, PowerPC 601, 603, 604, G3, G4, and now G5; to the 386, 486, Pentium, Pentium MMX, Pentium II, Pentium III, and Pentium 4. (While you could include Celeron, Xeon, and all of AMD, Cyrix, Via, and IBM's clones, they are really just modifications, clones, or similar competitors to Intel's lines.)

Likewise, he talks about 30, 72, 168-pin, and now DDR memory confusion, yet the Macintosh has used the exact same spread of memory technologies. Also he mentions MFM, IDE, and ATAPI hard drives. Sadly, that is what really made me cry 'foul'. MFM had been long abandoned by 1993, and IDE is just a slang name for ATA hard drives! (ATAPI refers to non-hard-drive devices on the ATA bus, such as CD-ROM and ZIP drives.) Yet the Macintosh has had both SCSI and ATA in the same time. Say what you will about old-school ATA (before UltraDMA), at least it was simple to configure.

Finally, his comparison of a Power Macintosh 7100 (a fine machine) to a 486 is also slightly flawed. The PowerPC 601 processor is more akin to the original Pentium than to the 486 (which is a contemporary of the 68040). An original Pentium (with sufficient RAM, just as the 7100 would need more RAM to survive using more modern applications) is perfectly capable of running Windows 98 or 2000 competently, including Internet access and office software. Until my son discovered the joy of 3D games, he was perfectly happy with his circa-1995 Pentium computer. (Then the upgrade madness started.)

P.S. I did find a use for a 486/100 a couple of years ago. I installed Windows 3.1 on it, put it on the network, installed Microsoft's 'Remote Desktop Client', and used it as a graphical terminal for my Windows 2000 system. (It sat in the basement, where it was cool, while the Win2k machine sat in the hot main level of the house, this was before Windows XP made the procedure more simple than it was on 2k.)

Ed Hurtley

Hi Ed,

Can't disagree with your facts. However, I would contend that the Mac journey has been less fraught with user-adaptation. While the specs have changed, the user experience has smoothly evolved. It's really quite amazing how similar using OS X is to System 7 (which we are still using on our old LC 520. I find it virtually transparent switching between my PowerBook 1400 running OS 8.6 and my iBook running OS X 10.2.6 (except for the speed!)


Re: Rant on confusing Windows(?) terms.

From Ed Hurtley

To me, that's odd. I find the Win95 to WinXP experience very similar (moving from DOS or Win 3.1 to anything newer is obviously a major change), yet I found System 6 to 7 a big change (although a welcome one), as was 7 to 8.5+, and any pre-X to X. I didn't find any of the changes to be a 'chore', but I have found that Mac OS <=9 to Mac OS X a larger change than any Win9x to WinXP. Partly because of keyboard shortcut changes. I'm a big keyboard user, so having Cmd-N not be 'New Folder' still throws me for a loop. That, and their have been reasonably big (to me) changes just between versions of OS X! (From 10.0-10.1's Cmd-Opt-keys for the 'Go' menu to 10.2's Cmd-Shift-keys...)

Hi again Ed,

These sort of impressions are always subjective.

I agree with you about Command-N in OS X, especially since the task now assigned to the old command is something I find essentially useless.


Regarding Mike Anderson's Power Mac 7500

From Kevin


I also have a similar setup, but with no problems. If I remember properly, the installation order is a little different. Turn off the Mac, remove old daughter card, install new one, then press reset button on the motherboard. With a 200 MHz CPU, the bus will run at it's maximum of 50 MHz. I had a 1 Meg cache DIMM that would crash at that speed, so I had to go back to the factory 256 KB cache DIMM.

My PM 7600, 250 MHz 604e Power Computing, 288 Meg RAM, ATI Radeon, USB card, OS 9.1 I have since upgraded to a XLR8 ZIF carrier with a 400 MHz G3 and have no problems. I still have the 250 MHz PC card if he wants it; maybe his 200 MHz card is just bad? For the $ I think a used G3 daughter card is the best bang for the buck!

Low End Mac and your articles are some of the best info on the Web. Keep up the good work.

Kevin Cramer

Thanks, Kevin,

Perhaps this is the info Mike needs to get his 7500 upgrade working.


Random odd cable

From Brandon Starkey

Hey again, Charles.

A friend of mine recently came to me with a rather odd looking cable, and I'm assuming it's a Mac cable, since it has a old-style serial port. One end of the cable has a 25-pin female end (SCSI?) and then the other end - well it has two. It has a shorter serial cable coming out of it, and then a longer RJ-11-ended connector.

SCSI to ethernet? Modem cable of some sort? I'm confused, and I've never seen anything else like it before. The SCSI connector has 600-1210 on one side, the other side has CR5 on it. Both numbers are on the plastic.

Any ideas?

-Brandon Starkey

Hi Brandon,

Not a clue, but I'll bet somebody out there in readerland can identify this cable. Sure sounds like an oddball one.


Sleep of Death as a backlight problem

From Bryan Bruns

A few points on the sleep of death bug, at least as it appears on my PowerBook G3.

  1. Upgrading to 10.2.5 does not solve the problem, which still happens every time the machine goes to sleep.
  2. On startup, pressing the brightness button does still allow access to the login screen.
  3. The PowerBook actually wakes up from sleep, but the backlight does not come back on. If you shine a strong light on the screen you can see the screen and cursor (and could save data before restarting).

Bryan Bruns

Hi Bryan,

Have you tried resetting the Power Manager? You didn't say which PowerBook G3 you have. I'm guessing Pismo, but here's the PMU reset instructions for all three G3 Series machines:

PowerBook G3 Series (WallStreet)
  1. If the computer is on, turn it off.
  2. Simultaneously press Shift-Fn (function)-Ctrl (control)-Power.
  3. Wait 5 seconds.
  4. Press the Power button to restart the PowerBook computer.
PowerBook G3 Series (Bronze Keyboard) (Lombard)
  1. If the computer is on, turn it off.
  2. Press and release the reset button on the rear of the computer. The reset button is located between the external video and modem (RJ-11) ports.
  3. Wait 5 seconds.
  4. Press the Power button to restart the PowerBook computer.
PowerBook G3 Pismo (FireWire)
  1. If the computer is on, turn it off.
  2. Press and release the reset button located on the rear panel of the computer between the external video and modem ports.
  3. Wait 5 seconds.
  4. Press the Power button to restart the computer.
You could also try upgrading to OS 10.2.6, which is a better build of Jaguar.


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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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