Charles Moore's Mailbag

Apple on Mini CDs, 74 Minute CD-Rs More Compatible, iBook G4 Reliability, and More

Charles Moore - 2007.05.14 - Tip Jar

Mini CDs and Slot-loading Drives

From Ed Hurtley

The slot-load "gumdrop" iMac G3's optical drives support mini (8 cm) CDs just fine. I wouldn't put any funny shape (business card,) discs in, but I put standard 8 cm mini CDs in one regularly.

And, yes, any tray load drive should support 8 cm discs. (And most support odd shaped discs as well, as long as they stay put in the 8cm dent.)

Hi Ed,

Thanks for the empirical observations. I don't disbelieve you, but you're braver than I.

I do have a good old slot-load QueFire! FireWire CD-burner that reads mini-disks just fine.


From Ed Hurtley

It's interesting, Apple has two views on it.

Probably for simplicity, they have an article that basically says "tray-load only for funny discs" ( but they also have an article specifically for the slot-load iMac G3s that says 8 cm discs (they call them 77 mm) are fine ( the note at the bottom.)

The Cube manual (, page 76) also states compatibility with 8 cm discs, as does the Gigabit TiBook's manual (, page 58) but on the TiBook, only the DVD-ROM drive supports it, not the CD-RW drive. (The later Combo and SuperDrives also do not support it.)

So, in general, it appears that slot-load CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives work, but not CD or DVD writers. (The slot load iMac article specifically refers only to the original generation of slot-loaders, before CD-RW drives.)

74 Minute Discs Solution to CD-R Reading Problems

From Thierry Raoul in response to Clamshell iBook Unable to Read Some CD-Rs.

Hello Charles,

The CD-R problem with my old iBook was what I suspected: burning 74' CD-R, I can read on my iBook what I could not read when burnt on 80' CD-R.

I think it's an interesting experience to share, but I don't know what is the best location to share it.

Now another question: Do you have any idea of where I can find the specifications of the iBook motherboard?

I'd like to know if I can install a faster CPU, a faster [hard drive]?

Best Regards,
Thierry Raoul

Hello Thierry,

No vendor has ever offered a CPU upgrade for any iBook. While I assume it would be technically possible, as it is with the Titanium and Aluminum PowerBooks (which also have their CPU soldered to the logic board), the inherent low cash value of used iBooks makes the economics unpromising.

With a clamshell, it might be possible to swap in a logic board from a 466 MHz iBook SE. WeLoveMacs offers them at just under $400.

But in my estimation that would be the outer limit of what is practical, and it would probably be better to just look for a good used SE.

You can find the Apple Developer Note on the Clamshell here: Macintosh_CPUs-G3/iBook30Sept00/iBook.pdf

A faster hard drive is no problem, other than the major hassle of installing it, which involves a major teardown, which is not easy with the Clamshell. You can check out what you would be in for on iFixIt.

You might find my column on upgrading the Clamshell helpful: Getting the Most Out of the Clamshell iBook.


From Thierry Raoul

Hello Charles,

Thanks a lot for the advice and the wonderful links. Now that I know that iBook CPU are soldered . . . There is still room for an HDD upgrade, and even I may try the optical drive upgrade.

Best Regards,

How Reliable is the iBook G4?

From Tom Gabriel

Hey Charles,

Did you see the new problem with iBooks, this time with the G4?

Check it out at Better Late than Never: Danes Find iBook Design Flaw.

First the G3s, now these - I was thinking of getting an iBook G4 and am now reconsidering.

What do you think?

God Bless,
Tom Gabriel

Hi Tom,

Well, don't hold it against me if you do buy a G4 iBook and have trouble, but here's what I think.

In the MacInTouchiBook and PowerBook Reliability survey (which is not scientific since respondents are self-selected, but with more than 10,000 readers reporting on 41 models is more than broad enough to give a fairly reliable statistical indication of relative reliability), the G4 iBook scores from middle-of-the-road to better than average - doing roughly as well as the PowerBook G3 Series, which is widely lauded for reliability, and substantially better than the PowerBook G4 Titanium models. If there was an extraordinary defect issue with the G4 iBook, it's difficult to fathom why it did not show up in this survey, which conversely showed that these computers were significantly better than average in repair incidence in their second and third year of service.

In terms of logic board defects, the area of focus in the Danish report, MacInTouch survey respondents who reported on the eight respective iBook G4 models referenced (four 12" variants and four 14" variants) logged repairs in this category at rates of 10%, 6%, 3%, 2%, 12%, 7%, 6%, and 4% respectively, which is as good as or better than any other Apple laptop during the period of the survey's scope save for the ultra-reliable original G3 Clamshell iBooks. Aside from the white G3 iBooks, which required logic board replacements at rates of 30-55%. No other model showed particular problems in that category; most ranging from 6-12% needing replacement.

But then, the G3 iBook was statistically the least reliable Apple laptop of the 1999-2005 era, with the absolute nadir being the 2003 models, one of which I happen to own, and which has given essentially flawless service now for more than four years.


Re: Another iBook Internal Problem, This Time the G4

From Tom Gabriel

Hi Charles,

Quite the opposite from holding anything against you, I appreciate this "second opinion" and in fact had hoped with this communication to gain a different perspective from a trusted source, as indeed I now have. Your documented evidence here gives me good reason to take a hard second look at the whole question, which is a service I regard as valuable.

One of the things I like and respect about your columns is that I get information that in some cases mirrors my own experience, and in others adds knowledge that I didn't have and can readily make use of.

Thanks and God Bless,
Tom Gabriel

Installing OS X on Pismo Using Target Disk Mode

From Shawn Moore:

Mr. Moore,

I attempted to install OS X 10.3.5 to my G3/400 MHz Pismo using my G3/500 MHz iBook to do the work. Everything went smoothly, restarted smoothly, and I can access the Pismo just fine in Target Disk Mode, but when I fire up the Pismo on its own, I get a kernel panic "you must restart your computer screen". I have tried forcing it and doing all of the steps to overcome the panic, but to no avail. Any thoughts, or do I just need to go back to OS X 10.2? I appreciate any help or direction you can offer.

Thank you,

Shawn Moore

Hi Shawn,

This is peculiar. I infer that you ran the Installer CD from a DVD drive in the iBook with the Pismo mounted as an external volume in Target Disk Mode, which is the way I did my own Tiger install on my CD-ROM only G3 iBook running from my Pismo, as described in Installing OS X 10.4 'Tiger' on DVD-Challenged Macs Using FireWire Target Disk Mode.

Worked fine for me, however, some suggest that the better way to proceed is to run the install from the destination machine, and just use Target Disk Mode to access the DVD-ROM drive on the second machine for mounting the installer disk, and that's the way I indent to go if I ever need to reinstall Tiger on my iBook.

More on this in Using FireWire Target Disk Mode to Install OS X on Macs without DVD Drives.

It might be worth a shot trying a second install using the alternate method to see if that would prove the charm.


From Shawn Moore


Your assumptions about my install were correct. In doing a little more research, I think that I failed to unmount the Pismo's disk from my iBook while it was in target mode. Could this be the source of the problem? I'm thinking that I should try another install and make sure that I unmount the disk before turning of the computer.


Hi Shawn,

Improper disconnection of a FireWire device can definitely cause problems or even data loss.

It's worth a try doing a reinstall and them properly dismounting the target computer before restarting.


Partitioning and Hard Drive Maintenance

From Lee Shartau

Hello Charles

I have read your thoughts on partitioning. I find I have as many questions as answers. Now you state that you have two operating systems on your (main?) drive.

This makes much sense to me, as it seems that during the optimizing process following running updates your "Boot"? volume may become corrupted. I'm guessing that if the system startup cannot find the OS that you have chosen as "startup disk" it will seek another?

Do you have an external drive running full time while working so you can dump corrupted volume and replace on the fly so to speak?

I had purchased a larger [hard drive] to install in Lombard. The Lombard drive died before I had [the] new drive, so I had [the] larger capacity drive put in an external case.

Lombard will not recognize any of three I tried to put in. All work fine in WallStreet 233 MainStreet. - ATA 5? So I assume that there is something wrong with ROM in RAM. Motherboard or Daughtercard? Seems both are for sale on eBay.

On External.

Like your thoughts:

I split a 40 GB drive into 5 pieces. All Mac OS Extended ( Journalized )

  1. OS 10.3.9 Base volume prior to updates (archived )
  2. Current up to date up graded with all current packages ?
  3. OS 9.2.2
  4. Work 1
  5. Work 2

Question on Carbon Copy Cloner

Don't know if this is a bug, but, I transferred a folder from one Mac to another using CCC. Now to put something into that folder, I have to type in my password. This is acceptable in OS only partition but not so great with a folder/file that is ongoing. Any way to defeat this "feature" ?

Does the same thing occur with SuperDuper?

I tried Dantz Retrospect Express once. Found that I could not access folders/files from backups, so it was useless to me.

I would like to have two Macs, in my case G3 PowerBooks running and synchronized as much as possible. One never knows....

(Desktop acting up!)

It seems to me that having a small drive in your PowerBook/iBook/MacBook and a larger back-up drive to archive to/from would in effect force one to backup regularly?

P.S. has refurbished Targus ChillHubs available for C$24.99. I hope this does not discharge towards me. Don't tolerate drafts well. Fibromyalgia is a B--ch.



Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without.

Hi Lee,

I have multiple operating systems on various partitions on the hard drives of all my computers, as well as on an external FireWire drive. For example, on my G4 PowerBook I have both OS X 10.4.8 and OS X 10.4.9 installed (plus OS 9.2.2 for running Classic Mode). You can have OS X and OS 9 happily cohabiting on the same partition, but not two copies of OS X.

On my Pismo PowerBook, I have four partitions: OS X 10.4.8 on one and separate copies of OS 9.2.2 on two of the others. The Pismo will of course boot from OS 9.

In 15 years of Mac computing, I've never had a corrupted volume and very rarely have done system reinstalls between version upgrades. I don't keep an external drive running routinely, although I have three of them (one FireWire and two USB 2.0). I do frequent backups, but not daily, and as often as not to one of the other computers, which I like to keep synchronized. I do manual backups mostly and global automated backups to a 500 GB USB 2.0 drive less frequently. The best backup strategy is the one that works best for you. The important thing is to do it.

Sounds like there's an issue with your Lombard. Could be either the daughtercard or the logic board. The daughtercard is the likelier suspect - and the easiest to replace.

Your partition map looks logical.

The Targus ChillHub and ChillMat are good products. I have a ChillMat. The discharge is toward the back of the computer, away from you, and it's not a high-volume blast anyway. My full ChillMat review is on PBCentral: PowerBook Mystique Review - Targus Notebook Chill Mat (and Notebook ChillHub)

Fibromyalgia sucks big-time. I'm having a rough spring with it myself.


'Two Reasons to Go OS X: Browsers and Email'

From Christopher Laspa in response to The State of Mac OS 9 Compatibility, Upgrades, Resources, and Hacks in 2007:

Hello Charles,

In reading this page, I find it a rather sad statement about our "age of technology" that perfectly good hardware & software - which at one time cost a small fortune - can get completely sidelined by a couple of bits of free software.

Browser, email, Flash plugin.

Christopher M. Laspa

Hi Christopher,

Philosophically, I agree, and I'm anything but an early adopter.

However, the laws of supply and demand and the economies of scale do inevitably apply, and we're starting with a minority platform from the get-go.

I just hope that software, especially mission-critical Internet stuff like browsers and email clients, will remain adequately supported for a few more years.


Google Tool for Simplifying Web Pages

From Andrew Main


A post from today's MacInTouch might be of interest to OS 9 (and earlier) users frustrated by the complexity of today's Web:

[from Gordon Hawley]

For those of us still using Mac OS 9, the biggest problem I have is Web browsing. I am currently using Internet Explorer 5.1.7. For me it is the best browser, although it does have problems with many sites. I recently found a great Google tool online which is designed to make Web pages viewable on mobile phone browsers.

Enter the URL you would like to view and you will quickly see that most of the page formatting has been stripped out, leaving a very simple, single-column page. This is a great resource for viewing pages which cause Internet Explorer to crash. And the best part is, it strips out all the online ads from the sites I want to read.


Hi Andrew,

Thanks for the tip and useful link.

My wife is using Netscape 7.x (forget which exact version) with OS 9.2.2 and finds it good. IE is still there too in a pinch, but she rarely runs across anything Netscape can't handle, and wouldn't want to put up with no tabs for day to day browsing.


'OS X Likes 1 GB Per Core'

From Ed Hurtley in response to Intel Core CPUs 'Really Open Up' with 1 GB per Core:

It's not so much that OS X likes 1 GB per core as much as it likes 2 GB of RAM, regardless of how many cores you have. (It also really likes "at least" two cores.) OS X generally "feels" the same on my 2.0 GHz (dual-core) MacBook Pro with 2 GB RAM as it does on my brother-in-law's 2.66 GHz (four core) Mac Pro with 4 GB RAM.

Obviously, if you are going to be doing heavy-duty data processing that wants more than 512 MB of RAM per core, then you want to make sure you have that. (For example, I run a "distributed computing" program on my MacBook Pro, and each thread really wants 768 MB of RAM. If I were to run the same program on an eight-core Mac Pro, I would need at least 6 GB of RAM to run all 8 threads decently.)

Ed Hurtley

Thanks for the comment, Ed.


Which WiFi Card for WallStreet?

From Alan Lance Andersen in response to AirPort Card for WallStreet:

Uhm - I thought we were talking about Buffalo and PCMCIA. This is the first I've heard of Netgear. Which one is that?


Hi Alan,

The AirPort Super G speed PCMCIA card is made by Netgear.


From Alan Lance Andersen

Of the two, which would you recommend? And which link do I use to order that one? Thanks.


Hi Alan,

I have no firsthand experience with either card, but I would probably lean toward the Buffalo, as it's 10 bucks cheaper and requires no drivers or software for AirPort support.

Ordering info here:

One caveat would be if you're running OS X 10.2.2 on your WallStreet, OS X 10.2 is compatible, but requires minor scripting. Wegeners include instructions for 10.2, but don't offer technical support for 10.2 with this card. It's completely compatible with OS X 10.3 & 10.4.

The NetGear (AirPort Super G) card supports all OS X versions, but requires driver installation.

Or just call David Wegener or one of his staff at 803.926.1555, fax 212.857.4931, or email


AirPort Card for WallStreet

From Alan Lance Andersen

Do any of these support OS 9.x?


Hi Alan,

As far as I've been able to discern, no. You need OS X.


Canadian Copyright Law

From Andrew Bobyn in response to Is Canada a 'Haven for Pirates' or a Sovereign Nation with It's Own Copyright Laws?


Thanks for taking the time to write that intelligent response. Keep up the good work.

Andrew Bobyn
Vancouver, BC

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for the comment. Glad you liked the article.

The Media Rights Technologies (MRT) / "cease and desist" letter to Apple, Microsoft, and others last week is an emblematic example of why Canada should not go near anything as perversely against the common good as the DMCA.

An issue that merits a letter to the Heritage Minister. You can email the minister at


Copyright Must Expire

From Steve Gordon

Thanks for the good article.

I think it is really important that copyrights be allowed to expire. Many times you hear of royalties going to the grandchildren and even great grandchildren of an artist; I find that just wrong, I don't take issue with anyone inheriting some cash, but to pass down intellectual property is just morally wrong.

Many community theaters and not for profit theaters perform Shakespeare because the price is right; imagine if they had to cut a check to the estate of Wm. Shakespeare, would we be really better as a people?

Hi Steve,

Thanks for picking up my central point in this discussion, which is that today's excessive copyright restrictions are culture-chillers, even culture-killers.

The lopsidedly commercialism-oriented copyright regime of the past century or so is unprecedented in human history, and not to the advantage of culture building.


Canadian Piracy

From Steven Hunter

If Canada is such a den of thieves and rampant with copyright infringement, why don't the member companies of the IIPA just stop selling their products there? Clearly they're not making any money under the current system and are merely being charitable to the three or four Canadians who buy music and movies legitimately.

Steven Hunter

Hi Steven,

Actually, last week, Warner Brothers announced that it is canceling all "preview screenings" of its summer film releases in Canada.

This is just sabre-rattling. Warners and the rest of big movie biz will huff and puff, but they're not going to stop screening of their films in a market as large as Canada, whatever. I'm not defending illicit camcording and commercial bootlegging. I've never bought a bootleg movie and have no interest in crummy camcorded dubs at any price, but the "cure" will be worse than the disease if reactionary legislation from Ottawa comes in the form of a Canuck DMCA clone law.


Non-Microsoft Word Processing on a PC

From Marc Orlando

I am looking for a basic word processing program I can download free as an alternative to Microsoft. The program should be easy to use, intuitive, with a tutorial included.

Thank you

Hi Marc,

You say "for PC," so I'm assuming that you're running Windows.

I'm not terribly (actually at all) familiar with the Windows shareware/freeware scene, but one logical possibility would be OpenOffice, which is free, powerful, and supports MS Office file formats. is free to download, and includes the following modules:

  • Writer - a word processor you can use for anything from writing a quick letter to producing an entire book.
  • Calc - a powerful spreadsheet with all the tools you need to calculate, analyse, and present your data in numerical reports or sizzling graphics.
  • Impress - the fastest, most powerful way to create effective multimedia presentations.
  • Draw - lets you produce everything from simple diagrams to dynamic 3D illustrations.
  • Base - lets you manipulate databases seamlessly. Create and modify tables, forms, queries, and reports, all from within
  • Math - lets you create mathematical equations with a graphic user interface or by directly typing your formulas into the equation editor.

Operating systems currently supported include Microsoft Windows (98 - Vista), GNU/Linux ("Linux"), Sun Solaris, Mac OS X (under X11), and FreeBSD.

User documentation can be downloaded from the OpenOffice Website.


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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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