Charles Moore's Mailbag

A Dying Modem, More on the Dead iBook, Burning DVDs in OS 9, Refurb Quality, and More

Charles Moore - 2004.07.12 - Tip Jar

GV PC Card Modem Problem

From Don Kolstad


I have been happily using a PB1400c/217 MHz G3/64 MB RAM for four years. It was a present from my children trying to drag me out of the Stone Age. You, Charles, have helped me overcome various problems while I learned how to use this PB on my own. Thank you.

Recently the Internet connection speed has abruptly dropped from a reliable 44 Kbps on dialup to as low as 3.2 Kbps using a Global Village model A956 56 Kbps v.90 PC Card Modem. Now it will barely connect, if at all.

I have replaced all phone lines, had the outside line checked by the phone company, and checked for line spikes or lightning recently (none). I tried various modem scripts without improvement, went to the GV site to check for any ROM updates (none), tried some other scripts from GV, and changed the modem compression and flow control using each variable in turn and changed init strings, too. No luck!

Finally, I borrowed another PC Card modem, and it works at the usual speed. I can only conclude that either the GV is dying or that I accidentally deleted the correct modem scripts. If the delete part is correct, can you point me toward a source for such scripts? Otherwise I will be in the market for a new modem.

I have become a regular reader out of necessity for my sanity and survival. Glad you are there. Thanks.

Don Kolstad

Hi Don,

Based on your description of what's happening, my guess is that the modem is on its way out. You seem to have covered pretty much all the other possibilities, and the fact that the other modem you tried works properly virtually confirms that your modem is the problem.

If you would like to experiment with some alternate modem scripts, some of the MacaRa Modem Magic suite of scripts are available as a free demo package.

You should be able to pick up a used PC Card modem for a reasonable price.


Re: Dead iBook

From Andrew Nagy, following up from advice offered in last week's column:

I tried the Power Manager reset, and it didn't seem to do anything.

My dad said the eBay question was unclear, but I didn't realize it at the time. The concept I was thinking of is that the laptop exists, and the seller/thief ships it, but there's also a rightful owner I should be looking for.

Hi Andrew,

Sorry to hear that. Try removing any RAM upgrades and reset the PMU again.

If that doesn't work, indications are that you have a sick iBook. The symptoms you are experiencing sound virtually identical to the way my WallStreet behaved when its processor died a couple of years ago. The cure for that was a replacement processor card, but with the iBook you would be looking at a logic board replacement.

It might be more sensible to pick up another used iBook from a reputable reseller and keep the dead one for parts.

OS 9 DVD Writer

From Christopher Beaver

Hi, Charles;

It's always a delight to watch an inquiry processed by the Low End Mac folks.

Thanks for walking us through my inquiry about iDVD for OS 9. Look to find iDVD 1 on the system restore disks for Macs that boot into 9 was the answer - but not the solution for me personally. I don't fall into that category.

This leads me to another Low End Mac question.

In lieu of iDVD for OS 9, what recommendations do folks have for DVD programs that would write to a SuperDrive under OS 9?

As always, many thanks for your thoughts,

Christopher B.

Hi Christopher,

I wasn't able to come up with any, but that doesn't mean that there are none.



FastMac SuperDrive 1x

From Robert Washburn

Hi again.

Your columns continue to be must-read. As you may remember, I upgraded my Pismo with the DayStar 550 G4 and the 60 GB 5400 HD.

Again, I've bought something you recommended.

I really didn't want to get involved with driver software, so to replace the ailing original DVD drive in the Pismo (DVDs wouldn't play correctly), I bought the FastMac 1x SuperDrive.

It wasn't as simple as I expected, though. Not plug-and-play at all.

I had to buy a set of Philips screwdrivers ($6.99 at Radio Shack) to replace the old drive with the new. There was an installation manual on loose-leaf, and a CD with its PDF file. It seems that the drive in my Pismo isn't the same one they show in the pictures! I figured it out, but installation was delicate (one of the screw holes wouldn't line up easily).

Eventually all went well; the slot-loading drive is now installed and works fine. I've used it to play DVDs, including videos my son made of my granddaughter's first year, and to record CD-RWs, which work just fine on my main machine (G4 Dual 1 GHz). I haven't recorded to DVD yet, though.

When I've travelled with the Pismo before, I've had to take along my LaCie burner. It'll be great to be able to leave it home in future!

There were some unadvertised CDs in the package: OS 9.2, OS X 10.1 & 10.2 w/upgrade, and iLife 1.0. I run 10.3.4 (family licence) and have no immediate use for the earlier versions of OS X, but we'll see when I get the time to look at iLife how that works out.

Thanks for the reviews and keep up the good work!

Robert Washburn

Hi Robert,

Thanks for the report. I tested the 4x FastMac SuperDrive in my Pismo, but have not tried the 1x version. The 4x unit just slides into the expansion bay - no tools necessary. It does, however, require a software driver install, which I understand the 1x unit doesn't.

Anyway, glad to hear that you have the drive up and running and that it's doing a good job for you.


Re: Question about Refurbished iBooks

From Andrew Main


Thomas asks:

"My question is if any of your readers have had experience buying refurbished production directly from Apple."

I've bought a lot of refurbished Macs over the last dozen years, for clients and for myself, and have not noticed any cosmetic differences between them and new ones. I think "factory-refurbished" (as opposed, perhaps, to what a dealer does when they clean up a secondhand machine) means if it comes back with any significant flaw, mechanical or cosmetic, it's fixed to work/look like a new one.


Question about Refurbs

From Jeff Wiseman

I noticed a question about the condition of refurbished Mac products, and maybe I can help. I have purchased three Apple refurbished products and have had very good luck with them. They were:

  • G4/400 AGP Sawtooth: I would never have known it was not new, as it was in perfect condition.
  • eMac 1 GHz: Same as above
  • 12" iBook G4/800: Purchased about a month ago, and it had only a couple of tiny bottom scratches. They are only visible when you tilt the iBook when holding it upside down.

Jeff Wiseman

Thanks Andrew and Jeff. Also see Marc Zeedar's recent Less Tangible column on MacOpinion, Buying Used, Part Two, which addresses this issue.


Editor's note: We bought a refurb 700 MHz eMac from the Apple Store last summer. There are some roller marks on the face of the enclosure that could probably be buffed out, but other than that it looks like new. dk

My Pismo and PBFixit

From Robert Russo


I really enjoy your column. I wanted to let you know about my experience with PBFixit.

PowerBook G3I have a Pismo 400 that I upgraded to a FastMac G4/500. It is my primary computer, and I carry it with me most everywhere.

The LCD suddenly went bad. I replaced the screen earlier with one I bought off of eBay, which was trouble free for some time. I was able to connect an external monitor to the computer and noticing a crimp in the display cable, so I diagnosed the issue was the cable.

I called local repair shops and searched the Internet for one of these cables. PBFixit had a good price on the cable and, more importantly, was able to send the cable right away. It turned out this wasn't the problem, neither was it display inverter or LCD. It turned out to be the motherboard.

Luke at PBFixit was willing to take back all the parts and send me a motherboard. There was no restocking fee - he didn't even charge me for the motherboard while he waited to get the parts back.

I highly recommend PBFixit.

Bob Russo

Hi Bob,

It's always great to hear positive reports about companies I write about.


WallStreet Screen Swap

From Jason Gorst


In response to your recent article regarding a WallStreet screen swap, I just wanted to comment that it is possible.

A couple weeks ago I acquired an orphaned 233 MHz/0 L2 cache/12" passive LCD WallStreet. I'd been wanting a low-end backup to my 17" PowerBook G4/1 GHz, so I threw in a 10 GB IBM TravelStar hard drive and a couple of 128 MB SODIMMS that had been salvaged from a dead WinBook someone gave me. Thanks to XPostFacto, OS X 10.3 installed on it without a hitch. Slow, but it worked. Only I couldn't tolerate the dark, fuzzy display and 800 x 600 maximum resolution.

A quick search on eBay turned up a 14.1" TFT WallStreet screen for $75. Swapping the screen was remarkably simple, thanks to the take-apart guide I found at PBFixit and the elegant case design of the WallStreet series. (I've had the misfortune of replacing the hard drive and DC-in board on an iBook 500.)

After removing the keyboard and clutch cover, it was only a matter of disconnecting the two ribbon cables and the four screws securing the lid to the lower case, then popping the new screen on in its place.

The 2 MB VRAM on the low-end MainStreet motherboard limits the color depth to 16-bit (thousands of colors), but the screen looks great in both OS 9 and X.

If I can find an inexpensive WallStreet II motherboard, I'll probably swap it in for the 4 MB VRAM and Rage Pro chip. That and one of the inexpensive CPU upgrades from Wegener Media would make it a decent performer again.

I obviously can't guarantee that this will work with every WallStreet motherboard, but I'm pretty optimistic that if it works on the lowly MainStreet, it would work on a WSII 12".

Jason Gorst

Hi Jason,

Thanks for the hands-on report. Your practical experience trumps my deductive misgivings, although what concerned me was mainly the lack of video RAM. Glad to hear that it still can work.


Radeon Enabler

From Jeffrey Harris

Hi Charles

Do you know what features Radeon Enabler unlocks for the iBook? The only one I can think of that counts is using higher res than 1024 x 768 on an external monitor.


Hi Jeffrey,

Know I don't. I downloaded it and the ATI support software, but I haven't gotten around to installing it yet.


Re: DVD-R Drives & Panther

From Bill S.

Your reader wants the Pioneer DVR-107, as it is the most compatible (native with 10.3.3)

Other World Computing sells the DVR-107, with links to the patches for OS 9 and Jaguar:
(scroll down to "Mac OS System Support").

Re: DVD-R Drives & Panther

From Gene Osburn

Hi Charles,

You might also ask Steven if he's checked out Other World Computing's Clearance Sale page. Last year's 4x Pioneer SuperDrive (106) is on sale.

Gene, a.k.a. G-Man

Thanks for the tips, guys.


DVD-R Drives and PM G4/500

From Michael Gambuzza

Re: Do you know of any place that maintains a list of DVD-R drives compatible with Panther and/or iDVD?


I have owned PM G4/450 and 500 DP machines, and using Panther and Jaguar I was able to use Cendyne DVD-R drives with iDVD and iMovie to burn DVDs. Looking at some of the other offerings these days, other drives can be had for at least 50% less than what I originally paid for the Cendyne drives. They were reliable and easily installed items. Highly recommended for owners of older Macs who don't want to splurge for new machines and technologies.


Thanks for the info, Mike.


Re: DVD-R Drives + Panther?

From Steven Hunter

Yes, thank you! The link was exactly what I was looking for.

Thanks again!

Help Putting OS 8.6 on a B&W G3 without 8.6 CDs

From Colin Kerr

It sounds like Anna Vinding has other Macs that will run Mac OS 8.5.

If this is the case:

  1. Install 8.5 on an available Mac, then update it to 8.6.
  2. Burn the OS to a bootable CD or put it on an external HD.*
  3. Use that CD or HD to boot the Blue & White G3
  4. Copy the OS from the CD or HD onto the G3's HD.
  5. Select the G3's HD as the startup disk
  6. If the G3's HD does not show up or is unselectable, rebless the System Folder (To rebless the System Folder, drag the "Finder" and "System" files out of the System Folder, close the System Folder, and then put "Finder" and "System" back into the System Folder)
  7. Try selecting the G3's HD as the startup disk again.
  8. By this time it generally works (in my experience you generally do not need to rebless the system folder**)
*You can also pull the G3's HD and throw it into another system then put it back when done. **doing this from CD can make reblessing necessary but if that is the case the CD generally isn't bootable.

I haven't installed 8.1 in ages. I just grab an old SCSI with a fresh 8.1 installed on it and get going.


(Duos forever!!)

Hi Colin,

I think Anna got things sorted out much as you suggest.


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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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