Charles Moore's Mailbag

Pismo CPU Upgrades, Mac OS Versions, and Printers; WallStreet Troubles with OS X, and More

Charles Moore - 2004.05.17 - Tip Jar

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Pismo Upgrade Article

From: Mark Nigara

Thanks much for your extremely helpful article on Pismo upgrades. I'm probably going to upgrade my own in a few months, and this was the most informative article I've read yet. I was wondering if you could answer a couple more questions related to the topic?

  1. Is there any more data available on comparing the G3/900 vs. G4/550 upgrades? I'm a book editor who uses Word and Photoshop regularly, and I'm just not sure which one would be best for me.
  2. I loaded OS X on my Pismo (10 GB hard drive) about a year ago, and after two days, I wiped it clean and reinstalled 9 again. The G3 just couldn't handle OS X's memory use. After upgrading the processor, will OS X run smoothly, or would I need to upgrade the hard drive, too?
  3. Finally, I know that CPU speed isn't everything, so I've been considering upgrading my hard drive. My 10 GB is good, but I think a 40+ would improve the speed even more. Any comments on this? Should I upgrade the hard drive at the same time? Can you recommend a good place to buy and/or install Pismo-compatible hard drives?

Thanks much,
Mark Nigara

Hi Mark,
  1. I don't know of any benchmarks comparing the G3 (PPC 750) Pismo upgrades (now available in 900 MHz and 1 GHz) with the G4 550 MHz. I expect you would be happy with the performance of any of them, although if you do a lot of Photoshop work, the G4 might have an edge for some tasks. On the other hand, a 1 GHz G3 should be a screamer on the Pismo.
  2. I wonder how much free space you have on your 10 GB HD. OS X really likes a lot of headroom for creating swap files. I found Panther reasonably zippy with my 500 MHz G3 processor and 640 MB of RAM. OS X really likes RAM. I don't find 640 MB any too much. [Editor's note: 512 MB is comfortable on my TiBook, but my heavily used and shared with several users - who may be logged in simultaneously - eMac 700 would definitely benefit from 1 GB instead of 640 MB. The more programs and/or users you have running at once, the more RAM you want. dk]
  3. I would encourage you to upgrade the HD to a 5400 RPM, 40 GB unit. I have a Toshiba 40 GB drive with a 16 MB buffer cache. I got it from Other World Computing, and the price has dropped by about $15 since then to $112.95.

    Installation is pretty simple (about 5-10 minutes) so long as you have a Torx T-8 screwdriver.


Early Pismo OS

From Eric Matthieu

I read with some interest your recent exchange on Miscellaneous Ramblings (May 3) with George Farris re: his Pismo upgrade questions. One minor point that you and he spoke of: Which version of OS 9 came with the original Pismo (as you said, Macs don't boot into earlier versions of the OS than they came from the factory, and George said he wanted to boot into 8.6).

I purchased my Pismo 400 new with Mac OS 9.0.4 installed about four years ago. A year or two later I upgraded it to 9.1 and have had no qualms since. 9.1 has served me quite well; not sure which bugs or quirks in 9.0.4 were quashed, but it is definitely more stable than its predecessor.

I've really had no reason to upgrade to 9.2.2, although I understand it's even better in terms of speed/stability. I've also heard that some apps of the System 7 era don't work as well with 9.2, even further weakening any resolve for me to move past 9.1. May sound silly to some, but I digress.

Since George is going to have Panther installed, that, more than anything else, should determine which version of 9 he installs. What version of 9 is the minimum to coexist with Panther? Would 9.1 possibly work? If memory serves, wasn't 9.1 the first flavor of 9 to accommodate OS X (that is, reorganizing the HD for dual-booting with OS X, classic mode, etc.)?

Too bad there's no combo/universal updater for 9.2.2. Assuming George currently has 9.0.4 on his Pismo, he'll need to download the 9.1 update (approx. 70 MB). Then, if he wishes to move up to 9.2.2, he'll need to first download the 9.2.1 updater (80+ MB), followed by the one for 9.2.2 (approx. 21 MB).

Finding the downloads on is not as easy as it used to be - not too surprising since 9.x was left behind some time ago (still, for those like me who haven't migrated to X, it would be nice if it were easier to find; glad I already have the 9.1 and 9.2.1 updaters downloaded and burned to CD). If anyone needs links for these downloads, save your time and search for "OS 9 update" or something like it, on VersionTracker. While I'm at it, might I suggest adding links for these updates to the Low End Mac OS Download page?


Hi Eric,

I was quite satisfied with the performance of OS 9.1 as a production system on both my Wallstreet and Pismo. However, for OS X Classic mode, OS 9.2.2 seems to be a smoother trip, although 9.1 is the minimum, and I'm also using 9.2.2 as my main OS on my Wallstreet as well (which doesn't have OS X installed).

See <>, which lists Mac OS versions and builds included with computers since 1998.

You're right about the multiple updaters. I just downloaded them and keep them in my application installers archive.

The download links are a good idea.



Editor's note: A good idea indeed. I've just updated the Classic Mac OS Downloads and Updates page to include links for updates to 7.5.3, 7.5.5, 7.6.1, 8.1, 8.6, 9.1, 9.2.1, and 9.2.2. dk

Color StyleWriter 2200 with Pismo?

From Andrew Main

I was a big fan of the SW 2200, which I used for several years with several PowerBooks, but when I got my Pismo, rather than trying to make the SW 2200 work with it I just replaced it with a Canon BJC-85, which is a later generation of the same thing, faster, with USB and a scanner option. (The SW 2200 was basically the Canon BJC-70 with an Apple label on it and Apple serial port and software.)

I've used one of those Keyspan adapters to connect a LW 300 to a TiBook; workable but troublesome and not recommended except for desperate cases. The BJC-85 also works with OS X (with the included Canon drivers or download the latest from the Canon site).

Andrew Main

Hi Andrew,

I agree. Printers are so cheap these days that it's really not worth the hassle of fooling around with adapters unless you have a piece of hardware that's mission critical.


Wallstreet Problem

From Ben Brenker

Hi Charles, writing again to help out Matthew Junker and his Wallstreet II. The problems he's encountered sound exactly like the ones I (and many others) have gone through with the workhorse WallStreets. After going through mine, replacing the inverter board, the backlight, and ribbons, I was at wit's end until I read an article from someone else that had gone through this. Time has lost the link to my memory, but the procedure to fix it is simple and easy - and something that doesn't seem to make any sense.

Assuming the symptoms are identical (boot normal, login window screen is dimmed, won't light up after waking from sleep) the solution is to boot into OS 9. Shut down the machine from OS 9. Boot back into OS 9 again, pick OS X as your startup disk, and reboot the machine. I've never heard a reason why this works as it does, but it does.

I've had three WallStreets as of this writing, and have moved on to an iBook 500 which is itself becoming low-end, but all three experienced this problem. It seems to stem from removing power to the unit while there is no battery in it. Judging by Matthew's story about not using a battery, and the fact that he only uses it plugged in makes me wonder if he's been pulling the power to shut it down, or if maybe he's got an AC power board going south, but that's another repair I've had to go through on each of my WallStreets! Good luck, and keep it up!

-Ben Brenker-

Thanks for the helpful info Ben.


Apple Store Buys

From Patrick Jendraszak


I enjoy your column immensely, and I watch the low-end prices on iBooks and PowerBooks, especially when it's time to buy one for either work or home. I thought I would suggest another source for "low end" and "slightly used" iBooks - the physical Apple Store.

At the Indianapolis store, the last weekend of the month is clearance time. When my wife outgrew her original blueberry clamshell iBook, it was time to pass on my G3 dual USB iBook to her and buy another one for myself. I waited for the monthly clearance in April and was able to get a demo 12" iBook G4 256/30/Combo with AppleCare and a year of .mac - all for $799! Perhaps readers should check their local stores for buys....

Patrick Jendraszak

Hi Patrick,

An excellent suggestion.


PowerBook as a DVD player

From rueyeet

I was kind of surprised to read Apple's extensive instructions on hooking up a PowerBook to the TV for use as a DVD player, because all I've ever done was plug in the red, yellow, and white RCA cables, change the PowerBook's display resolution to NTSC-compatible, and pop in the DVD (though I did find that you can't change the display resolution if the DVD Player is already running). This is using a TiBook 667 DVI with Combo drive, with both the PowerBook and the TV already on.

Now, granted, I couldn't get it to work that way without mirroring the display, even though Apple claims you can't watch a DVD on both the internal display and the TV at the same time, this was the only way I could get it to work! Maybe you'd have to do it Apple's way if you wanted to use spanning rather than mirroring?

In any case, I thought you might be interested to know that the whole PowerBook-as-DVD-player thing might not be as complicated as Apple makes it sound.

Thanks for the info.


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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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