Charles Moore's Mailbag

Pismo G4 Upgrade, Display Spanning, Keyboard Spills, OS 9 Booting, Panther, and More

Charles Moore - 2004.02.02 - Tip Jar

Pismo G4 Upgrade

From Jim Dickey

Hi Charles,

I just read your Low End Mac reader's column where you mentioned:

"My precious Pismo is about to be shipped the way to Georgia for a 550 MHz G4 injection. I already have a reasonably fast G3 in my iBook."

I am very interested in how this goes for you; I also have a Pismo, the 400 MHz model, 768 MB RAM, 30 GB hard disk, 10.2.6. Since I live in Japan, I will wait until this summer when I return to my home in, yes, Georgia! I might even personally take my Pismo to the DayStar office for the upgrade. Anyway, I will look forward to your report on this upgrade to a G4 in the Pismo. I've had my Pismo for 2-1/2 years now, and it is about the best PowerBook/iBook I've ever had; especially the durability, easy access to hard drive, etc., plus the expansion bays.

Looking forward to your report...

Jim Dickey
AGMF Japan

Hi Jim,

I will definitely be reporting on it.

My Pismo is definitely my favorite Mac that I've ever had, and I thought hard about it before sending it off for the upgrade. I'm hoping that the performance boost will extend its useful lifespan by a couple of years.


iBook/eMac Display Spanning

From Eric Matthieu


A belated Happy New Year to you! I saw this on MacInTouch today and thought it was quite interesting...

"Our recent links to several eMac hacks turned up a very useful utility, as Christian Volk notes:

"You published a link to a website that talks about hacking the eMac with various upgrades and tweaks, but the real revelation was the mention of a free (donations accepted) Applescript called Screen Spanning Doctor that can allow your recent-model iBook to span dual displays rather than just mirror.

I've tried it and it works conveniently and flawlessly on my iBook G4, allowing me to drive my 21" VGA monitor at 1280 x 1024 in millions of colors alongside my iBook's own 1024 x 768 LCD display!

Think about it: This simple Applescript removes one of the key unique selling points of the 12" Powerbook over the much-lower-priced iBook G4, and I imagine Apple's marketing won't be happy if this easy-to-use hack becomes common knowledge to potential buyers trying to decide between those two models.

The link for Screen Spanning Doctor is <>.


Hi Eric,

Yes, I checked that out.

My inference is that monitor spanning is deliberately disabled in the iBook for marketing reasons, and that there is no technical impediment to supporting it. Guess that's what these hacks work around.


iceKey Redivivus

From Terry McCune

Hello Charles

My wife spilled water on my standard Mac keyboard, and I thought it would be a simple job with a hair dryer to sort things out. Being follicularly challenged, I had no idea that hair dryers put out the amount of heat that they do. I bent the spacebar.

I tried heating it more and rebending it. I broke the spacebar. I bought a new iceKey keyboard as a replacement and loved it. One day, while I was using canned gas to clean up the keyboard, the escape key did - escape that is.

Sleuthing turned up the fact that my four-year-old grandson had been using it as a quit key when he became frustrated with whatever CD game he was playing.

On a whim, I wrote a nice email to the Macally folks, and lo and behold, in the mail, free of charge, came the fixin's for not one but three keys.

MacAlly has vaulted past Apple and Hewlett Packard on my list of great people to do business with!

Terry McCune

Good to hear it, Terry.

I have always had good luck with MacAlly products, including keyboards, mice, and USB/FireWire upgrade cards - both CardBus and PCI.


If I Spill Something Corrosive on a Keyboard...

From Peter da Silva

If I spill something corrosive on a keyboard and I care about it at all then it gets washed. Right away. Distilled water by choice, but shoving it under a tap or running it through the rinse cycle [of a dishwasher] by itself is the next best thing, and if there isn't any distilled water handy, don't wait until you get some.

I mean, if there's anything in there that'll be hurt by the treatment, it's already too late!

I agree, Peter.


Questions, Questions...

From Gary

I found your recent article helpful, but I'm not sure your link answered the question:

"If a used G4 15" PowerBook costs roughly the same as one or the other 12" new iBook/PowerBook, but the 15" used model is out of warranty, should buying used be considered an alternative, given the probability of an expensive potential repair?"

I'd like to hear the answer. My situation's a little similar, I'm shopping for a new, used or refurb 'Book of one sort or another another. I don't need a high end machine with lots of features, just a reliable 400+ MHz G3 or G4 with FireWire, and cost is a factor.

After all of the logic board problems I've read about, I'm ruling out the iBook - they're cheap, but AppleCare seems mandatory, and I can't stomach going through some of the repair hassles I've heard about. Right now I'm leaning towards a used Pismo - I've seen them for $599 and lower, they seem easier to self-repair if necessary (e.g., screens are cheap and easy to install), and if there's a $3-400 problem along the way, it would still be cheaper than a refurb iBook with Applecare.

Am I missing something? Are used TiBooks (which are also rapidly falling in price) a good bet, reliability-wise? Or is the iBook not the guaranteed lemon I think it is - and is there a dual iBook that isn't as problem prone (e.g., the original dual 500 MHz doesn't seem to come up that much on Blackcider's site or in Apple's discussion threads)

Thanks. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Gary,

Personally, I would rather have a Pismo (and do) than an early-generation TiBook. Just got my Pismo upgraded to a 550 MHz G4. The Pismo is a great machine. However, it doesn't support OS X Quartz Extreme, and the mid to late variant TiBooks do, are faster, and have a higher resolution screen. On the other hand, they will be expensive to repair when something goes wrong, and they're relatively fragile.

I wouldn't rule out the G4 iBook. I think there's cause for optimism that Apple has the logic board failure problem under control, and they have just announced an extended repair program for the G3 iBooks. My G3 iBook is 13 months old and hasn't missed a beat.

The 12" PowerBook is a very nice piece and has has no major reliability issues.

However, if you're really strapped for cash, a nice Pismo is still a great computer - with the caveat that they're getting a bit old.


OS 9 Booting Benefit

From Jim Dickey

Hi again Charles,

I forgot to mention, but I noticed that the Genius Bar guy booted the 14" iBook into OS 9 to do diagnostics on it. Makes one glad to have 9 booting ability... Hopefully, X only booting will come along to take up the slack and eliminate the need to boot in 9; but as you have been saying, glad to have 9 booting for now!

As always, I really appreciate your work for us.

Jim Dickey

Hi Jim,

Yup, I wouldn't want to be without it yet.


Linux on a Mac Laptop?

From Peter da Silva

Someone's been smoking wacky-weed.

The Apple laptops are prettier, maybe, but the IBM Thinkpad has a better keyboard, a higher resolution screen, better fit and finish and (by all reports) reliability, and it costs less.

The low resolution screens on the Apple 'Books are particularly frustrating for me... my aging 14" thinkpad has 1400 x 1050 resolution, but a 14" iBook is only 1024 x 768, a 15" Powerbook is only 1280 x 854, and even the 17" iBook is barely competitive at 1440 x 900.

I wish Apple would get IBM to make a professional quality 'Book for them. In the meantime, running Linux on a 'Book is a sinful waste of a Power PC that should be running Mac OS X - now that the Mac OS is Unix-based, I can't think of a single thing I'd want to do on a notebook that OS X doesn't do at least as well and generally better.

I can't argue with you on this, Peter. You're right.


iTunes Libraries: From iPod to Hard Drive?

From: Guenter Plum

Hi Charles

I wonder if there's any way to save the music I had previously downloaded from a few CDs of mine to my hard drive and iPod to a new hard drive - the old one crashed. I can still listen to that music on my iPod but can't find a way of getting it into a new library I'm setting up with iTunes; all it seems I can do is wipe what's on the iPod when I connect it to my iBook.

Since my iPod is also set up as a hard drive, I was wondering if there was some way of overcoming Apple's limitation? I can't see any of the music files, so they're obviously invisible. The "Advanced: Consolidate Library..." command doesn't seem to address this issue. (I'd re-download those CDs, except that they're in Sydney in storage, and I'm in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand...)

As I recently lost the music I had downloaded to my hard drive due to an irreparable disk crash, is there any way I can save the same music from my iPod to the iTunes Library I'm now creating from a different set of CDs on my new hard drive?

iTunes also gives me the option of updating the iPod, which results in everything on it under iTunes being wiped. My iPod is also set up as a hard disk, but of course there's no obvious way of seeing the music files on it, except under iTunes.

Many thanks for any tips.

Many thanks

Hi Guenter,

I don't know. My son has told me in casual conversation that there is a way, but he didn't elaborate.

Perhaps I can talk him into doing a column on the topic.


OS 9 and Panther

From Alvin Chan

Thank you for your time. I've just upgraded to Panther, first time I used OS X. I did a complete erase on the disk, no partition, and updated Panther. I've tested, adjusted everything, tried out stuff for days. Like everything ease of use is an illusion, it's really if you're used to it, lol, though once you've gotten used to it it's easier than Windows (even if you've mastered that as well). Then I was gonna' install Appleworks 6 Carbon, which was the installer that came with the iMac 350, but it said there's no OS 9 or something?

How can I install Appleworks on Panther?

God bless,

Hi Alvin,

Appleworks 6 should run in Clasic mode at least with Panther. It may not be supported in OS X 10.2.3 natively.

To install it, I would suggest booting into OS 9 and running the installer there. Once it's installed, you should be able to bring it up in Classic mode, or if you're lucky even in Panther.


Bible Software for the Mac

From Brian Smith


I have been using a PC for years and have only recently become a Mac user. To my surprise, Quickverse does not work on my system. I do not want an online service, because I do not want to have to be online in order to use it. Can you please steer me in the right direction. I am looking for a consolidated Bible program along the lines of Quickverse.

Brian Smith

Hi Brian,

Welcome to the Mac community.

There are several good Bible software programs for the Mac. I recently did a column on the topic, Bible Software For The Mac, which you can read on Applelinks.


6320 Upgrades

From Stuart Bell

Dear Charles,

This issue has been well researched by people putting PPC motherboards into Colour Classics.

The answer is this:

  1. 5400 and 6400 boards need a 3.3v supply and therefore cannot be used to replace 63xx boards, unless the PSU has a 3.3v output. Some late model 63xx models did. The 6360, being effectively a 6400 in a desktop case, is fine.
  2. 5500 and 6500 generate 3.3v on-board from the 5v line for their own internal use, so they can be used in 63xx machines whatever the PSU. Note that PCI cards that need 3.3v may well not work. Comm Slot II cards seem to work in many situations.

The fact that x500 boards don't need a 3.3v line, but x400 boards do, confused many of us for a long time until a Japanese Mac enthusiast alerted us to this fact!

best wishes,
Host of the Colour Classic Forum.

Thanks for the report, Stuart!


Daystar 550 is Really an Upclocked 500

From Avakil


Just thought you should check on this info before sending your Pismo off.


Yup. I was aware of that. As Daystar says in their FAQ:

Motorola doesn't list a 550 G4 7410. How do you ship it?

We purchase the low-power, 5th generation of the 7410 CPU at its highest rated speed. This is the an improvement of the mask used on the 550-600 higher-power, 4th generation of the 7410 CPU version of the 7410 CPU. We spec the CPU to the 550 MHz core power and multiplier as recommended in the Motorola PowerPC settings for 550 MHz. This chip actually performs well at 600 MHz. We ship at 550 MHz.


FW-800/USB-2 Combo PCI

From John Helms

Hi Charles,

I know this is out of left field and not really your cup of tea, but here goes. Why doesn't anyone manufacture a FW-800/USB-2 controller on a single PCI or PCMCIA card? There are tons of USB-2/FW-400 cards and tons of FW-800 cards out there. It seems to me that there are huge numbers of computers out there (like all three of mine, for example) that have USB 1.1 and FW 400 built in, so what we really need is a USB-2/FW-800 card. What gives? Is this a market driven issue or a technical thing? That is to say: Is there a reason that you can't make such a card, or is there just no profit making motive for doing so.


Hi John,

I'm a computer engineering dunce, but I'm doubtful that there is any technical impediment to making a card like that. It would be a matter of market demand, as you specualte. There aren't a whole lot of FW800 peripherals out there yet.


Re: 7x00 + Upgrade Card versus Beige G3

From Peter

You wrote:

"I don't dispute your point about the 9600 vs the Umax S900. With these old machines, availability is always part of the equation. The old S900 is still a pretty impressive piece of work, now of available cheaply (about 60 dollars), but a 9600 would be even more desirable, I agree."

I think you're looking at the wrong side of the question. I wasn't trying to put down the S900 compared to the 9600. I just had to question the wisdom of spending real money on a pre-G3 Mac.

Since you can get a Beige G3 for less than an S900 or a 9600, I don't really see any point to buying a machine that doesn't have a G3 in it unless you can get it pretty close to free. Sure, you can use an S900 as a server, but you can buy a cheap used PC for less money and stick Darwin on it and get an even better server.

"I think probably the next cutoff for OS X support will be machines that shipped with FireWire. That will eliminate the early iBooks, the Lombard PowerBook, early iMacs, and whatever Power Mac towers didn't have FireWire."

According to MacTracker, the only towers without FW were the beige boxes, and they're already out of the running.

Pity, I'd like to upgrade to a B&W or Yikes.

Did you see the article on overclocking the eMac?

Me, I think 800 MHz G4 is plenty fast. What's holding me back from the eMac is that really crummy CRT. Why couldn't they have sprung for a Trinitron?

Hi Peter,

I've seen S900s advertised recently by Baucom Computers for $69. It seems that it is easier to get Panther working on a Tsunami Mac than the beige G3 with XPostFacto, but I'm not speaking from experience.

I did see the article about eMac overclocking. The eMac is built to a price, and I expect a quality CRT like a Trinitron would be too expensive.

An 800 MHz G4 would be a step up for me.


Editor's note: I use a 700 MHz eMac as my main production machine, and I find it plenty fast unless there's something processor intensive going on in the background (like another user leaving iTunes set to a radio station). The quality of the CRT is excellent, and I only wish Apple supported 1280 x 1024 in addition to the 1280 x 960 setting that I use. dk

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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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