Charles Moore's Mailbag

PB 3400 Opinions, Dual-core G4 Beats G5 for 'Books, Mac minis as Servers, and More

Charles Moore - 2005.02.21 - Tip Jar

PowerBook 3400c Solid but Heavy

From Scott Strungis

Hi Charles...

I too have gone from the high end to the low end. Over the Xmas holidays I sold my Nov '02 iBook. It had been repaired twice, and the Repair Extension Program was about to end, so I figured it was time.

With the proceeds I bought an upgraded G4 Cube and a [PowerBook] 3400c 180 144 MB to keep my hand in all things portable. It's a good little 'book - but way too heavy.

So far I have managed to get it connected wirelessly with a card from Wegener Media. A USB card is on its way to my house as well. That way I can use my Handspring Visor with it.

I use it for Web, mail, grading, and DTP with Illustrator 7 all under OS 9. Browsing is handled well with iCab and the Unofficial Mozilla for OS 9.

Just thought I'd back up that last fellow's claims.

Scott Strungis

"Hi Scott,

"You're a true low-end Mac guy, and the 3400 is a great old computer if you can live without OS X.

"Thanks for the report.


3400c a Waste of Money?

PowerBook 3400From Marcel

Dear Charles,

I have recently purchased a PowerBook 3400c/200 144 MB and a 10 GB hard drive, and all I've received from my older brother, a Mac nut, is that I've wasted my money. From what I have read they are a fairly good machine. So is there any CPU upgrade that a person can get so that I can upgrade this machine? By the way, his suggestion was a Pismo.


"Hi Marc,

"The 3400c is a great computer if you find the speed up to your needs and can live without OS X.

"Unfortunately, the 3400, like the current metal PowerBooks and the iBooks, is not processor upgradable - well, it is possible to swap in a motherboard from a PowerBook 3500 G3/250 if you can find one.

"The Pismo is definitely the most upgradable PowerBook with the most upgrade options, and it's a sweet machine - my pick for best PowerBook ever so far (I have one, with a 550 MHz G4 upgrade and an 8x SuperDrive)


External DVD Burner for OS 9

From Christopher Beaver

Hey, Charles -

I headed a similar note Dan Knight's way but wanted to bring you in on this as well.

I have a G4/867 processor with a SuperDrive. I use it to edit with Avid's Xpress v. 5.

I've been told by the reseller of the Avid that the Avid system uses only Mac OS 9.2 and does not like OS X anywhere on the computer - not even on another hard drive.

Earlier, with your help, we'd tried to locate the first iDVD for me so I could burn DVDs. This didn't work out. It may be my inability to manipulate the CDs that came with the system or something, but I could never locate a version of iDVD for OS 9.

So my question is this: Is there an external DVD burner that will work in OS 9.2 and comes with DVD burning software?

The more I thought about this, the more I also started wondering if external DVD burners might be a better way to go in general than the SuperDrive, since the technology of the drives seems to change more often (and at less cost) than the technology of the basic computer.

Any ideas for me?

Christopher Beaver

"Hi Christopher,

"Toast 5 Titanium software supports OS 9 and can burn DVDs. System requirements are Mac OS 9.1 or later or Mac OS X version 10.1.2 or later.

"DVD burners that support OS 9 and come with Toast 5 bundled are posted on the B&H Photo website.

"You can check out Macworld's December 2001 review of DVD burners for more information. Most work with either OS 9 or OS X.

"I think there is a strong case to be made for an external DVD burner, but internal is very convenient.


Re: Outboard DVD Burner for OS 9

From Christopher Beaver

Dear Charles -

Your note was extremely helpful. Extremely.

When I kicked around the web at the sites you suggested, I immediately settled on the LaCie d2. I've always had good luck with LaCie, even knowing that they basically repackage mechanisms from other manufacturers.

Thanks again for your help and for Low End Mac. I love it!!

Christopher B

Dual-core G4 Better than G5 for 'Books

From Peter da Silva

  • G5: 1.6 GHz, 800 MHz FSB, single core, 20-stage pipeline, 50+ watts.
  • G4 (MPC74xx): 1.5 GHz, 166 MHz FSB, single core, 7-stage pipeline, 10-50 watts.
  • G4 (MPC8641D): 1.5 GHz, 768 MHz FSB, dual-core, 7-stage pipeline, 15+ watts.

Once you get past that 166 MHz bus on the old G4, who the heck wants a G5?

"Hi Peter,

"Certainly sounds like a strong candidate for a PowerBook and iBook chip.


Opera 8 Preview Opinions

From Jamie Kahn Genet

G'day Charles.

After reading your article on Opera 8 Preview on Low End Mac, I wrote the following to the YourMacLife list. But I wondered if you had some thoughts? Why are we driven to try every option for browsers? After all these years is nothing so mature we can just be satisfied?

And anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Opera's RSS client. It seems very bare bones, or am I missing something? I don't suppose you could be persuaded to write a review of this, the Opera IRC client and email client as well? I'd love to know more without wasting days trying out another poor substitute for MacSOUP (I truly love it's threaded display - can't live without it). If not yourself, could you point me to any decent reviews?

Thanks for all your hard work on Low End Mac and Applelinks! I hope I'm not bothering you with all my questions.

------- Begin Forwarded Message -------

Low End Mac reckons version 8 isn't too bad, which is saying something given how awful some previous versions were (e.g., 6.0 *shudder*). Any opinions here? What about the Opera email client (I can't stop myself from asking)? The RSS feed display seems a bit primitive after NetNewsWire, but I've only used it for a few minutes. Can I not group similar feeds into folders?

I don't quite know why, but I've always been restless when it comes to browsers. Maybe it's worse over the last few years cause I really _want_ to use iCab as my main workhorse, but can't till it progresses some more (if ever). So everything else is a bit... second best. Even Safari which I've used in OS X 99% of the time.

Email's different. I've settled on the same client - MacSOUP - for seven years now with only the occasional wistful glance towards another option. But I can't stop myself from trying every single browser that passes by. Hell, I even used classic MacLynx for a bit. Weird, I know.

Am I so strange (well, I'm strange anyway, but...) or is this software wanderlust not uncommon? Why am I driven to this?

Jamie Kahn Genet

P.S. Maybe when Safari RSS arrives I'll settle down... yeah, right! :-)

"Hi Jamie,

"For me, the main attraction is speed, which Opera 8 has more of than any other Mac browser right now. See Browser Speed Comparisons and What's the Fastest Browser on the Mac? Across Platforms?.

"I have experimented with the Opera email client. It's slick to configure, and seems to work reasonably well in my limited testing, but it isn't quite up to challenging Eudora in my estimation.

"I have to confess that I don't use RSS clients, so I wouldn't have much of a frame of reference to comment on the performance or features of Opera's.


Free POP3 Email Services

From Chris Oakley

Hello Charles,

Just read your article about POP3 email services. I have a Bluebottle account, which is relatively reliable, but I recently upgraded my SoftHome account to one of the premium options, because the lowered transfer quotas were too low. Well, a current outage is into is third day, which has to be a record. I have the impression it's run by two guys in a shed somewhere in the Rockies....

Best Regards,

"Hi Chris,

"My wife uses SoftHome for her main email account, and the outage (caused I understand by a hardware failure) was a major inconvenience.

"To be fair, I've used SoftHome for more than five years, and this is the first time there has been a long term outage.

"They're up and running again.


Installing OS 9.0.4 on a Power Mac 7200/90

From jqix

I have tried installing OS 9.0.4 on a Power Mac 7200/90 with no result. It says it is not compatible. I currently have OS 8.6 and 256 MB RAM.

I bought a CD for an iMac DVD off eBay from a defunct iMac that says "iMac DV models". I tried to install with holding the the C key during boot up. All goes well until I try to install; then it says it is incompatible.

Any suggestions?

"Hi jqix,

"The problem is not that your Power Mac is incompatible with OS 9.0.4, but that Apple builds blockers into the CDs that ship with various Macs to prevent them from being used with other models.

"You need to get a generic OS 9 (I suggest OS 9.1 for your machine). Other World Computing has them at reasonable prices,


Trackpad Scrolling on a Pre-2005 PowerBook

From: Andrew Main


I've tried this briefly [see Trackpad Scrolling on a Pre-2005 PowerBook] on a new iBook G4, and it seems to work fine. Not on my Pismo PowerBook G3, though - I didn't expect it would. However, I've been happily using uControl for some time now and installing it on all portables I set up. Not sure, but I may even prefer pressing the fn key and scrolling with single finger to the two fingers required for Apple's scrolling trick. (On the rare occasions when I'm on a desktop Mac, I find myself looking for the fn key to scroll, and I'm frustrated that I have to go back to clicking in the scrollbar.) uControl also provides a lot of other neat possibilities, including, I believe, scrolling with an Apple mouse (haven't tried that yet, but it looks like it should work).


"Hi Andrew,

"I miss the fn key on standard keyboards too.

"Thanks for the report.


Editor's note: uControl was incompatible with Mac OS X 10.3.8, but version 1.4.6 (compatible only with 10.3.8) is now available. dk

Plasticsmith mini Skirt

Mac mini skirtFrom Peter da Silva

Okay, I thought this was a joke...

What's the point of this? Do you understand it? I sure don't.

"Hi Peter,

"According to Plasticsmith: "The Plasticsmith mini Skirt is a 3/4" thick flame-polished acrylic pedestal the size of the mini that gives it an even classier look."

"That's straight up I think. It's for looks.


Re: Plasticsmith mini Skirt

From Peter da Silva

It'd be classier if they put a USB hub in there.

"Good idea.

"I'll forward it to Kathi Beerbohm at Plasticsmith.


Real Costs of a Mac mini Server

From Peter da Silva

[re: Battle of the Puny Servers: iBook v. Mac mini]

  • 512M RAM, $75
  • 2 hr UPS, APC CS 150, $60

No display (it's a server - why does it need its own display?), $0.00 Mouse, keyboard - ditto (besides, you can get both for $10 if you really want them), $0.00 Airport? In a rack? Are you nuts? $0.00

Total: $635

"From Dean Shavit
To: Peter da Silva
CC: Charles Moore

"I am not nuts, just have a different opinion. I'd be happy to revise my estimates based your stats, but most of the folks I've been talking to want to use the mini as a SMB server, so rack mounting's really not the issue, but nearly all need a monitor. So, I will ignore the "Are you nuts" line if you'd like to come back and discuss again, otherwise, why should you care at all? I'm not steering them away from a Mac, but to a different Mac, which I think represents a different (and better) value.

"You know, I've been running the Mac Help Desk site for nearly three years, and have never been asked "Am I nuts?" Am I missing some important piece of information, or are you the founder of MacMiniColo?

Error in Mac mini Cluster Article

From: Jason Hogue

I noticed an error in your report on the Mac mini cluster. You reported that the cluster, utilizing only four Mac mini's, reached a speed of one (1) teraflop. This is simply not possible. So I checked the original article at Red-Lobster and found that it reports a speed of 0.25 teraflops, which is quite possible for this cluster.

As much as I would like to have billions and billions of people read your report, be totally amazed, and then buy as many Mac mini's as they can afford (boosting my AAPL stock price, too!), I simply have to set the record straight.


"Hi Jason,

"Actually it the article said both. The citations were quoted accurately.

"However, you're right, a couple of paragraphs farther on it says 0.25 teraflops. Perhaps it lost something in translation from Italian. Here are the pertinent bits again:

""According to the latest performance figures the Mac mini cluster, nicknamed Quarter Pounder Mac mini Cluster, the system is computing at 1 teraflop. That puts it basically behind every supercomputer in the world, according to the figures posted in a report at the top 500 supercomputers list."

""The Quarter Pounder Mac mini Cluster's performance figures have fluctuated as its performance is tuned. Early tests using only two of the cluster's 4 processors showed a higher estimated performance, while more recently the system reached 0,25 teraflops, which would have placed probably first, but in the slowest supercomputing list. Quarter Pounder Mac mini Cluster's goal was to build one of the world's five slowest supercomputers."

"Thanks for the heads up. Teraflops are beyond my frame of reference.


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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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