Charles Moore's Mailbag

Clamshell iBook Viability, Problem Reading CD-R, OS X Unstable with Video Compression, iCab 3.0.3, and More

Charles Moore - 2006.08.21 - Tip Jar

Clamshell iBook Still Viable

From Tom Gabriel

Hey Charles,

Your article on the clamshell iBook (Getting the Most Out of the Clamshell iBook) hit the mark with its up-to-date info and practical assessment of this model's usability today - much as usual with your work, if I may say so.

I own a 366 MHz FireWire iBook model which I got on eBay - barely used, the listing said, and it turned out to be true - with 192 megs of RAM and a 10 GB 4200 rpm drive, plus a good battery and yo-yo power adapter, for $220.

My impressions:

First, it runs OS 9.2.2 very speedily, and I will install 10.2.8 "Jaguar" after a memory upgrade without the slightest doubt that it will handle that OS nicely (if not at breakneck speed).

Second, the keyboard on the clamshell is excellent, key placement and so forth superior to the keyboard (iMac style) that came with my G4. Palm rest on this one is very ergonomic and comfortable (no discoloration, either).

Third (I've never seen this remarked anywhere), the colored sections of the case on this laptop appear to be made of some compound of rubberized plastic, which would make them extra impact-resistant. Coincidentally (?), if the iBook is carried by its built-in handle, it would most likely land on these sections if dropped. (The other sections of the case appear to be made of standard high-impact plastic.) This rugged casing, I am sure, contributes to the iBook's somewhat heavier-than-usual weight, but is, IMHO, justified by the extra protection it affords.

Fourth, I don't have a problem with the 800 x 600 screen resolution, and I use older versions of Photoshop and Quark Xpress regularly. Granted, a big screen and higher resolution would be better, but this does work.

Fifth, battery life and charging times, even with the original battery, are superb and, as you point out, would be even better with the newer batteries available.

Oh, and one more thing: Its usual operating temperature, as reported by Gauge Pro, falls between 26-30° Celsius.

Conclusion: still a viable machine if not a screaming (or mooing) OS X powerhouse. Personally, I love it. Thanks for your attention to this unique and still-viable Mac!

God Bless,
Tom Gabriel

Hi Tom,

Thanks for the comments. Excellent points all.

My WallStreet has a 12.1" 800 x 600 display, and, as you say, it is usable, but I do find it cramped.

I encourage you to go with OS X 10.3 "Panther" rather than OS X 10.2, as, based on my experience, Panther is a much quicker cat on older G3 hardware than Jaguar is.


Addressing Bizarre iMac G3 Startup Problem

Responding to Bizarre iMac G3 Startup Problem, Mat Schulte says:


Thank you so much for your reply.

I tried the reinstall (from the Panther CD) with "OS 9 Drivers" checked; I still have the same problem. I am wondering if OS 9's Disk Utility might work differently somehow, but of course I can't reinitialize the drive unless that way unless it's not the startup disk, and I can't start up from the OS 9 CD....

So, should I try FireWire target mode maybe, and wipe the drive using OS 9 Disk Utility from a different computer? Or do you think there would be any point in it? (Maybe I should just find a new drive, and start completely over....)

- Mat

Hi Mat,

Please see Steven Hunters note below.


Re: Bizarre iMac G3 Startup Problem

From Steven Hunter

"My guess is that you didn't select the 'Install OS 9 Disk Drivers' checkbox option in Disk Utility when (if?) you reinitialized the hard drive before installing OS X."

That box is checked by default IIRC, and that shouldn't prevent him from booting from an OS 9 CD in any case. But....

I would suggest doing an NVRAM clear in Open Firmware []. Then boot holding Option to enter the Startup Manager, insert the OS 9 CD, and try to boot that way. From the CD you should be able to use the Disk Utility to update the OS 9 drivers without formatting the disk (under Functions -> Update Driver). You could also put the machine into Target Disk Mode and update the drivers the same way.

It's also possible that he simply has a 9.0 disk whereas the DV+ requires 9.0.4 or higher.

Thanks for the advice, Stephen. Forwarded to Mat.


Beige G3 Unable to Read CD-R

From William Doty

Hi Charles

Last week at our local auction, I bought a beige G3 minitower 333 MHz for the princely sum of $2.50. It said "no hard drive" on it, but I had one at home. The monitor and LaserWriter 4/600 (page count: 8200) added another dollar to the tab.

When I opened the G3/333, I found it had 256 MB of RAM, a SCSI card, and a 16 GB SCSI hard drive. The old girl was too good to junk for parts, so I reformatted the drive and loaded OS 9.1. Then the monitor went "ping" . (I'll get another one for a dollar this week.)

I'm not in the computer business, but once in a while I "adopt out an orphan from my little Mac orphanage". They are great for school kids and folks who don't want to run Internet.

I burned a CD of some Epson printer drivers. (I buy these printers for $1 each.) I did this with my G4 and used a CD-R disk. The Beige G3 tower wouldn't read the CD. It gave an error message asking if wanted to reformat the disk as PRO DOS.

I have a System 8.5 CD from my old beige G3, as well as the 9.1 CD. Where can I get the drivers to make the G3/333 read a CD burned from my G4?

Bill Doty

Hi Bill,

I'm really out of my depth on this question. I know that the CD drive in my WallStreet, which is about the same vintage as your beige G3, won't read burned CD-RWs, but it has no problem with CD-Rs. It's running OS 9.2.2.

To the best of my knowledge, the necessary drivers are included with the Mac OS.

Could it be a defective drive?

Perhaps someone else will be able to shed more light on this.


Editor's note: Older CD-ROM drives (2x and slower, if I recall correctly) predate widespread use of CD-R and are generally unable to read them. dk

Does iBook G4 Run Hot?

From Derek Parker

Hi Charles,

Would you expect the 1st revision (933 MHz/1 GHz) iBook G4s to run cooler than the last revision (1.42 GHz)? I'm trying to decide on a 14" 1 GHz Apple refurbished or brand new 14" 1.42 GHz.

Why are some iBook G4s still full price; shouldn't they be reduced now that the MacBooks are out?


Hi Derek,

They might possibly run cooler, but not necessarily. I haven't heard any complaints about late revision iBooks running excessively hot, and my daughter's middle revision 1.2 GHz machine doesn't seem to run any hotter than my 700 MHz G3.

As to prices for leftover new iBooks, I suppose it is whatever the market will carry. There is very little dealer margin on these lower-priced units, so any substantial discount will be a loss to the retailer unless Apple were to rebate some of the wholesale cost.

Personally, I would go with a last revision iBook (possibly an Apple refurbished one), as the feature set is substantially more attractive and they have 512 MB of RAM soldered to the logic board.


To Upgrade WallStreet or Not?

From Leo Titus LeBron V

Hello Mr. Moore.

I wrote to you several months back about my lovely little PowerBook G3 WallStreet that I got from eBay for $50. I put in a 20 GB hard drive I had as a spare and used it for a good while with Mac OS 9 on it.

Then when I switched back to Ubuntu Linux on my main machine (Power Mac G3 B&W 400 MHz, 512 MB RAM, 120 GB hard drive), I decided to load it on my PowerBook to have a uniform work environment, and so I didn't have to juggle OSes (but I had to keep a small OS 9 partition on the drive for bootx on the PowerBook, so if I ever needed it...). Well, about this time, the 20 GB drive I put in the machine gave up the ghost, so I trashed it (cheap IBM Travelstar I bought, then it stopped working, but mysteriously started up again in my PowerBook. Maybe it liked Macs more?), and then I put the original 4.9 GB Fujitsu back in and loaded Ubuntu on it without nary a hiccup.

Then, last week, the original hard drive died, and one of the original problems I mailed you about (fan not coming on), the fan started working, and now it runs constantly, giving me a much cooler machine. I think that's because I actually let the machine sit shut off with it plugged in to the wall for a whole week while I was on vacation the previous week. I have heard letting it sit like this recharges the PRAM battery, so maybe that was the issue. Well, for whatever reason, it works. But now I am dead in the water as much as hardware goes.

This is where I am at. Should I upgrade the 8-year-old PowerBook with a new hard drive, or should I sell it for whatever it's worth and get a new(er) machine, budget permitting.

Note this: I have very limited funds for this. To supplement that, I do have a few old computers (non-Macs) that I have been trying to sell, so if that brings in anything, I can dedicate it to that.

Also, I have found the PowerBook (as slow as it is by modern standards) to be plenty fast for my needs. Also note that despite getting the hard drive replaced, it needs a new CD-ROM module, and a new (hopefully 14") LCD, as it's problematic 13.3" LCD is flaky at best. So there will go some additional funds right there.

So, what do you think?

Hi Leo,

I think that, given its manifold problems, it's time to say good-bye to that old WallStreet. You could look around for another on eBay or elsewhere and use the one you have as a parts mule.

Personally, I think that a 500 MHz or 600 MHz white iBook probably represents the best value in low end laptops that still have decent power.


Power Mac 9600 No Longer Jinxed

Following up on Jinxed 9600 Kills ATI VR128, David Harpe writes:

I had some good news, for a change. Before I gave up on the ATI card, I tried plugging an old Apple monitor into it, and it worked - but it still would not work with the PC monitor. Then I tried checking the extensions on the 7200, the machine I was testing all these cards in, and found out that the FireWire and USB extensions were off. I do that with any that I don't think are being used, but I forgot. I turned them on and tried the cards again, and they worked. Duh.

Once I put all that stuff back in the 9600, it worked there also. I just use the Apple monitor on the 9600 now, and it seems to be okay. The cause of the whole problem seems to be the ATI card no longer working with the PC monitor for some reason. When there was nothing on the screen, and with no card seeming to work in another system, I blamed something common to everything, the power supply.

The PC monitor works when connected to something other than the ATI card.

I don't get that, but as long as it works, I guess I won't worry about it. The ATI card still can record video, so (almost) all is well.

My latest discovery, an ATA interface called the eXrack Serial ATA/ATA133, does not work accurately and makes bad files way too often. I will try to find a better card for this, such as one of those "Tempo" cards. I had experience with them, and they are very reliable, but they don't make them any more, except the very expensive "Trio". By the time I have the money for one of them, it may be discontinued as well. The reason I have "low-end" Macs is because I have a low-end budget. [Editor's note: The Sonnet Tempo Trio is a PCI card that supports ATA133, FireWire, and USB 2.0. It retails for US$149.)


Thanks for the report, Dave.


OS X Unstable with Video Compression

From David Harpe

Hi Charles

More about "classic" video. I have a small group of fans who have been coming to places I play for years, and one of them gave me an amazing gift just a week ago. (I am not a rock star, I just have a small number of fans like this . . . oh well.) It's a G4 dual, the one called "Mystic".

I was impressed by the beautiful monitor and packaging in general, and when I started to work on it, I found that this case is just as easy as the one for the 7200 and the beige desktop. (I have worked with the 6400 tower, so I know all about pain in the ass cases.)

I added 512 MB of RAM and a second drive, and then I loaded System 9.1. It had 9.0.4 before and could not read my ADS FireWire hard drives for some reason; 9.1 fixed that. Then I went out and bought an ADS video device that imports just about any kind of video to a DV stream. Expensive toy, but it seems to work very well. I tried it with Videoshop 4.5 and iMovie, and it's just as good either way.

By the way, where do you find a FireWire digital camera these days??? Nobody seems to make them any more. They're all USB 2.0, and that won't work with a Classic system as far as I know.

The bad news is stability. My experience in the past has been that the "G2" Power Macs, running 9.1 are the most stable of everything I have used, and that's still true now. The G4 usually crashes during a long compression job, and a G2 hardly ever does, even if it's a 7200 and it takes a week to do it. The people who gave me this dual G4 told me that it will work really well with system X, and I am tempted to try it.

It won't be for a while, because I blew all my play money on the stuff I already added. Also, they tell me it should have a GB of RAM for optimum performance with system X. More money.

For now I think I will try recording directly to a FireWire drive and then plugging it into the 9600 for compression. I have not tried the DV converter with the 9600 yet. It just might work with Videoshop, but probably not with iMovie.

Once I tightened all the plugs and cables, the 9600 seems to work very well.

The FedEx gorillas didn't kill it after all. They sure tried.

Hope I am not boring you with all this.

Dave Harpe

Hi Dave,

Not at all. I find it all very interesting.

The point about the FireWire cameras. Frankly, I have no idea whether there are any available. However, there are many that work with USB 1.1, which is definitely supported by the Classic OS. My Digital Dream camera works just find with my WallStreet and a Macally USB PC card adapter.

I strongly encourage you to try OS X on that G4 machine. One gigabyte of RAM will give you optimum performance, but you can get away with as little as 512 MB and still get very decent results. I have 640 MB in my Pismo and iBook.


Re: MacTV Value

Mac TVResponding to MacTV Value, Andrew Main writes:


I usually check eBay to get an idea of the market value of an old Mac, especially something like the MacTV, which would be a collector's item. I did a search and found two MacTV's have been sold in recent weeks. Both were complete with keyboard, mouse, and CD tray; one went for $199.99 (1 bid, I assume a Buy It Now deal), the other, which the seller says doesn't start up, for $56.

LEM's Swap List might be a place for the reader to offer his MacTV.

Here's the search for MacTV completed items (you have to register with eBay to complete the search).

There aren't any for sale at the moment.


Thanks Andrew.


iCab 3.0.3 for Mac OS 8.5 to Mac OS 9.2.2 and OS X

From Walter J. Ferstl


The new version 3.0.3 of the iCab web browser is available for download. As usual, there is a version for Mac OS X as well as one for Mac OS 8.5 to Mac OS 9.2.2.

Also, there are a lot of language versions (German, English, French, Spanish, Danish, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Norwegian).

The most recent version of iCab for pre-PPC (68k) Macs is v2.9.9

Thanks to Alexander Clauss (Darmstadt, Germany) and his team.

Thanks to both of you [this was also emailed to LEM publisher Dan Knight], too, for the good work.

Best regards,
Walter J. Ferstl

Hi Walter,

Thanks. Please see: iCab X 3.0.3 Released; Mini-Review Update - Browser Watch


Dead Pixel Fixed - Thanks!

From Luigi Suardi

Thanks! Reading your article on dead pixels (Dealing with Dead Pixels in TFT Displays), I ended up fixing my dead pixel on my Presario v4000 laptop . . . just by hitting the display a little from the back.


Luigi Suardi

Hi Luigi,

Cool. Glad the article was helpful.


Questions about PowerBook RAM

From JD

Hi Charles,

I did decide on getting a PowerBook. Now I'm looking in getting more RAM. Any suggestions?

I have a PowerBook 12" 1.5 GHz, Mac OS X 10.4.7. I'm currently running on 512 MB RAM. I'm looking to buy more, possibly put in a stick of 1 GB RAM. I was wondering:

  1. What is the best brand of RAM for compatibility?
  2. What brand of RAM do you recommend?
  3. What brand of RAM does APPLE use?
  4. How much am I looking to spend for 1 GB of RAM?
  5. What are your past experiences? performance?
  6. Any good deals on RAM out there (I don't want to be paying $300 for it)?

Thanks in advance! have a great weekend!


Hi JD,

Congrats on the PowerBook purchase.

Your questions:

1. Any brand that is certified and guaranteed to be Apple compatible (IMHO).

2. Whatever reputable brand I can get cheapest. ;-)

3. I think they shop around too.

4. RAM prices are a moving target. One good place to check out and compare current prices is

5. Well, lets see: I have scrounged RAM in my WallStreet; a real mongrel mix in my Umax SuperMac S900, OEM and Other World Computing RAM in the Pismo, RAM purchased from (I forget which brand) in the iBook, and a 1 GB stick from TechRestore (Kingston, I think) in the 17" PowerBook. I've never had any issues with RAM incompatibility, but the original 1 GB stick that I purchased with the big AlBook was defective (and replaced promptly by TechRestore). The replacement works fine.

6. Check out ramseeker


OS 9 Column View, PB 1400, Used iBooks

From James Pearson


For Donald Johnson and others looking, there is an OS 9 browser / application-launcher out there somewhere that uses column view. I can't remember what it's called, but it was a shareware program that worked well with minimum system overhead. I'd love to find out again myself.

On another note, after years of faithful service, my daughter wants to upgrade from her (formerly my) PowerBook 1400. If anyone is interested, the listing is on eBay.

Finally, a funny observation. With the low-end shifting to Macs that will run OS X, it seems like the dual USB white iBooks are the best used value. My biggest concern is getting one used on eBay only to find it has the dreaded video/motherboard issue. I'm hoping that the bad ones have worked their way out of circulation or been repaired. Would you say that these machines are a safe buy now?


James Pearson

Hi James,

I don't recall that OS 9 column view application. Perhaps someone else will remember what it was called.

I agree that the dual USB iBook (and 12" PowerBook) represents the best used value in low-end PPC laptops. However, especially with the G3 models, there is an element of dice-rolling in purchasing one for the reason you cite.

On the other hand, my late 2002 700 MHz G3 iBook has never missed a beat and is now closing in on four years old. Since it is statistically of one of the worst cohort, it at least anecdotally proves that the problem was not universal.

Incidentally, I recently posted a column on this topic over at PBCentral, Hotrodding the Dual USB iBook.


From James Pearson

Hi again,

Got lucky. Here's a working link to a page with the OS 9 browser:

GB Greg's Browser 2.7 (385k)

Posted: 6/21/2000

Displays multiple folders in a single window, Greg's Browser lets you simultaneously see the contents of a folder, its parent, and a subfolder, providing a quick and easy way of moving both up and down through your folder hierarchy. Greg's Browser can even browse inside StuffIt archives as if they were normal folders. I used to use this back in the 1993 when it first came out, but stopped using it after a while (I don't know why). This recent release is compatible with Mac OS 9 is rather useful. Version 2.7 adds a number of cool features, including StuffIt 5 integration.

Take care,

James Pearson


Ah, now I remember it.

Indeed, my first hands-on experience with column view was in Greg's Browser. I had forgotten. Thanks for the reminder.


Question about Wegener Media

From Ernie Covino


Enjoyed reading your columns and am thinking about upgrading a G3 Pismo. I had two 400s [with] 576 MB - sold one for $300, still have one, and want to take the money I got from the sale (plus add some) and use it to upgrade it to G4/550 with 1 GB and a SuperDrive to keep as a backup to my G4/1.5 PowerBook. I agree that the Pismo is one of the best PowerBooks Apple ever produced, and it can still boot into 9.2.2.

I started with an Apple IIe many years ago and have been running two businesses on Apple/ Macs for many years. My computer history: Apple IIe (2); SE/30; IIci; Quadra 650; Performa 630; G3 beige (minitower); iMac (Bondi); G4 Digital Audio 533; G4/867; PowerBooks 190cs 1400c, 3400, and the two G3 Pismos (one of which ran as my secretary/bookkeeper's desktop when her iMac was stolen).

Currently Al G4 PB 1.5 w/1.25 MB with a SuperDrive (I agree - a great machine will go down in Mac lore on par with the Pismo) running at home with Samsung 19" LCD and a G5/2.3 dual at work (nice machine, fast).

While doing some research about upgrading the Pismo, I ran across this: Scary Customer Service Tales : Attack Of "The Waygoner": Bad Customer Service @ Wegener Media [UPDATED]

Which is about Wegener Media, who seem to have the best price on the upgrades I am considering. Do you have any info or have you heard of similar experiences? Or is it possibly just completion or other who have a grudge? Would appreciate any info you can share.

Ernie (the old IIe guy)

Hi Ernie,

I haven't been able to get the link you provided to come up, but I think I recall reading an article, perhaps that one, that fits the context of your query.

All I can say is that what business dealings I've had with Wegener Media has been positive, and I have also had a number of positive reader reports over the years. Maybe a few grapes as well, but the former definitely outnumber the latter by quite a wide margin.

Any business is almost certain to have a few unsatisfied customers, sometimes for reasons beyond their control.

Based on my experience over the past six months of with this 1.33 GHz 17" AlBook, I agree with you about his potential to be but one of the great Apple portables of all-time.


AIM for Ancient Macs?

From Ruffin Bailey

Charles -

Saw your post on "Old Versions of AIM" where you link to sources for a 68040 Mac, but recently in the Vintage Macs List we had a request for one for 68020s, where even AIM version 2 says it needs a 68030.

What are the IM options for a Mac that old, AIM or otherwise? Though I only have one Mac with less than a '030, an old LC, I thought it was an interesting question for which nobody had a quick answer.

Thanks for your help!

Ruffin Bailey

Hi Ruffin,

To the best of my knowledge, which is far from encyclopedic, there are no AIM solutions for Macs older than the ones cited.


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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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