Charles Moore's Mailbag

Tips for Pismos, 10.3.9, Resetting a Stuck Modem, Using Widgets without Tiger, and More

Charles Moore - 2006.02.28 - Tip Jar

Tips for Resetting a 'Stuck' Modem

From Nick Minear


I recently read your article on Low End Mac (see Tiger 10.4.4 Update Cripples Pismo's Internal Modem).

I, too, use a Pismo. Actually, at work I bring my own computer, so I rotate between a TiBook, a G3/800 iBook and sometimes my Pismo. I have a wireless dialup account with a mobile phone provider that I use at work. I have a wireless cellular modem that I use with PPP to dialup to the Internet.

The modem I use now is a USB modem from Fujitsu that works well, but I've noticed problems recently. At least once a day throughput will completely zero out. Web pages won't load at all, and if I do nothing it'll take OS X a few minutes to realize that Internet connectivity is gone. Sometimes when I go to disconnect in Internet Connect, the programs stays on "Disconnecting..." forever. Is this the same problem you were having?

I use the Terminal to force quit PPP when it hangs like that. Perhaps that is what your daughter is referring to? In the Terminal I type "ps ax | grep ppp". This scans all the running processes for PPP. Then as root, I type "kill ###" where ### is the process number of 'pppd' Usually I have to enter the command a few times, but after the third time the "Disconnecting..." message disappears to be replaced with "Idle".

After doing that, I can usually dial back in again. If the problem persists, I find the number and kill the process again. I've never had to do this more than twice. I'm currently on 10.4.2. Also, I've found that by doing this, I don't have to restart when Internet Connect hangs. I hope this helps; if not I can be more specific.

I seem to remember reading somewhere on the Internet a while ago that OS X is becoming not the most dialup friendly operating system anymore. Too bad, really, since Classic Mac OS was a cinch to use in the golden days of dialup (I know, I used to work tech support for an ISP in Massachusetts from 1998-2000.)

Nick Minear

Hi Nick,

Thanks for the insights and tips. I've only had one hanging disconnect (in OS X 10.4.0), but continued issues convinced me to downgrade to OS 10.3.9, which works a lot better than Tiger on the Pismo (see Back to the Future: Downgrading My Pismo to OS X 10.3.9).

I fear your comment about dialup support is likely well-founded, although dialup on my G3 iBook has been generally reliable with Tiger up to at least 10.4.4.


Gut Feeling about Pismo and OS X 10.3.9

From Daniel Thompson

Hi Charles,

My wife has a Pismo and declares if I do anything to change [it] she will have my head. I upgraded it to 10.3.9, and it works flawlessly. I had decided to stop there as, well just a gut feeling - guess my guts were right. Why don't you just go back to 10.3.9 and let it perform without the hassle?


Hi Dan,

I Have done so, and I agree that OS X 10.3.9 is the optimum performance and stability system for the Pismo.


Pismo 'a Wonderful Friend'

From J R Zeigler


I, too, did a downgrade on my Pismo. I brought Panther to use on it as my version of Apple's OS X. It worked, but I found out that for better performance I really needed to upgrade my Pismo (hard drive, processor, etc.). And I seem to always have another use for my upgrade funds.

After, I bought a new desk top 20" flat screen iMac G5 in 2005, I found out it meet all my OS X requirements, and I then reloaded only OS 9.2.2 to my Pismo and have been very happy every since.

It was just like having a wonderful friend return.


Hi JR,

Compared with OS X, OS 9.2.2 really flies on these old G3 machines. My 233 MHz G3 WallStreet running OS 9 is a step up performance-wise in some respects (especially Finder response) from my 700 MHz iBook running OS X.

OS 9.2.2 really screams on my 550 MHz G4-upgraded Pismo and the iBook, but I have come to prefer OS X for them.


OS X 10.3.9 Is the Way to Go

From Katie B.

Thanks for this column. I haven't upgraded beyond 10.3.9 on any of my machines. From what you say, my hesitation is well warranted. I'll wait 'til I need a new Mac badly enough and get the OS that comes with before I'll see a new Mac OS, I think.

I have got the disks for Ubuntu Linux, though, and may try playing with it.

Katie B., occasional reader

Hi Katie,

Thanks for reading occasionally. ;-)

You didn't say what Mac models you're running. I think video support is probably more important than clock speed in the decision whether or not to upgrade to Tiger.

Tiger runs reasonably well on my 700 MHz G3 iBook with a Radeon 7500 GPU and 16 MB of VRAM. It's a disappointment on my 550 MHz G4-upgraded Pismo with a RAGE 128 Mobility GPU and 8 MB of VRAM.

Good luck with Ubuntu Linux. I had both SuSE Linux and Yellow Dog Linux installed on my 233 MHz G3 WallStreet several years ago. Interesting exercise, but not nearly enough to entice me away from the Mac OS.


Konfabulator Gives OS X 10.3.x Widgets

From Brian Uhde

Widgets under 10.3.9: I use 10.3.9 myself (I have never had a reason to upgrade yet). I also use Konfabulator [now known as the Yahoo! Widget Engine - ed] under 10.3.9. It was a free download a few months ago. It works great and offers similar functionality to Dashboard.

Brian Uhde
iMac G4 1 GHz

Hi Brian,

I figured someone would mention Konfabulator/Yahoo. :-) Indeed a solution for the widget-oriented running OS X 10.3.9.

Personally, while they're sort of cool, I've never really gotten into using them, so it's not a big issue for me.


Quicksilver Utility Recommended

From Frank C. Modica


I just read your recent article about problems with Tiger on your Pismo, but I was most interested in your experiences with various search and find utilities. Have you ever tried the Quicksilver utility? It is a search/find and launch utility that I discovered last summer, and I've been an avid fan ever since I downloaded it.

It will search for applications on your hard drive and also launch them when you type a few keystrokes. You can also program hot keys in the preferences for mouseless launching of programs. When you invoke Quicksilver with a simple keyboard combination, it can also launch URLs after a few simple keystrokes.

There are versions for Panther and Tiger on their website. I've used both versions and actually like the earlier (Beta 36) version for Panther over the Tiger version because it does better URL keystroke launches. I can't say enough good things about this utility; I find it a real time-saver.


Hi Frank,

Yes, I'm familiar with Quicksilver and have reviewed several versions (see Quicksilver 1.0b31 Launcher, Search Utility, Shelf, And Much More). It is a cool little utility, but my own search needs are primarily text searches of document contents, which is not a feature supported by Quicksilver.

EasyFind seems excellent so far, though.


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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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