Charles Moore's Mailbag

MacBook Air Upgradable Enough?, Lombard Cache Problem, and More on the Liberal-Conservative Debate

Charles Moore - 2008.02.04 - Tip Jar

The Unimportance of Upgradability (to Most Users)

From Scott Selby:

Mr. Moore,

Once again, I hear the call of the unrealistic "its features and size are comparable to the Air's, but it can still be upgraded." Let's get real for a second. Just how many people in the world actually use the expansion that is built into the systems of the world?

I will admit that my B&W has got several aftermarket add-ons. But these are actually replacements for the built-in USB and FireWire ports that have died on the motherboard. The computer is running on the original parts with the exception of the hard drive. Our mini, G5, and iBook have had no additions with the exception of replacing the dead hard drive in the iBook.

I would say that better than 90% of the people in the world - including my mother, mother-in-law, brother-in-law and more than few others - never go inside of their machines. Of course, this is why I am running three Macs. I would rather work with the machine than work on it.

Scott Selby

Hi Mr. Selby,

I also prefer using my computers as productivity and communication tools rather than tinkering with them, and you're probably correct that a strong majority of users never upgrade their machines beyond perhaps upgrading the RAM.

However, I'm loath to give up expandability and connectivity. My Pismo PowerBooks would have been relegated to the boneyard long ago if I hadn't been able to upgrade their memory, processors, hard drives, optical drives, add PC CardBus adapters, and so on. Because those enhancements and upgrades were possible, they are both still productively useful computers at eight years old.

The MacBook Air, on the other hand, is limited to the standard RAM capacity and a hard drive of 80 GB capacity, the latter due to aesthetics. This strikes me as function following form, and I'm a form follows function kind of guy.

I don't dispute that a substantial proportion of MacBook Air buyers will be happy within the machine's limitations, but I would not be.


Pismo and Lombard Cache Problems

From Charles:

Hi Charles,

Regarding the Pismo processor problem, I have a Lombard, and I wonder if they might have similar problems.

I didn't know it was a "known problem" until it happened to me, but the Level 2 cache on the Lombard is known to fail. When it does, the Lombard won't boot up after being shut down, and it won't restart, unless you reset the PMU, which you have already said to do by pressing the button on the back.

To confirm the problem, he should look at his System Profile and look at the default Hardware menu. Mine is below. What you don't see is a Level 2 cache entry (should be 1 MB).

I wonder if he could confirm the problem this way.

By the way, my Lombard works great without the cache for the usual word processing and web surfing, email, etc. I always sleep it, so I don't often have to press the reset button.

Hi Charles,

Thanks for your suggestion. I've forwarded it to Mike.

I haven't heard of the Pismo being afflicted by cache failures, but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen.


Need WiFi Drivers for Netgear WG511T

From Daniel:


Per your [WiFi Card for OS X PowerBooks with PC Card Slots], I ordered and am attempting to install a Netgear WG511T.

Contrary to your remarks, this card did not ship with any Mac OS X drivers, nor are there any drivers to be found for OS X on the Netgear web site.

Would you please send any links to drivers that you may have?


Hi Dan,

The Netgear WG511T sold by Wegener Media does ship with Mac drivers, so I'm guessing you didn't purchase the card from them.

They might be able to help you out. You can contact them from links on their website.

OrangeWare also offered a Mac driver that they say supports the WG511T, and it is available as a free trial download.

I hope one or the other will sort out your problem.


A Bit More on the Conservative/Liberal Debate

From Brian in response to Thinking Different about Liberal vs. Conservative Mac Users:

Hi Charles,

I enjoyed your piece very much, and though I tend toward the liberal end of the spectrum, I too found the mischaracterization of conservatism facile and offensive.

With regard to PCs and Macs, I tend to associate PCs with totalitarianism. That is, companies that I have worked for that use only PCs seem to impose a top-down IT strategy. They care not a whit about personal preferences, including cognitive profiles and working styles of their employees. And totalitarianism, as we know, can emanate from either end of the political spectrum. Now I suppose that one could say the same thing about Mac-only companies, but then again, I am happy to submit to such repression.

Call me inconsistent.


Hi Brian,

The Mac has traditionally let the user choose among a variety of ways to do things, whereas the Microsoft operating systems, as you say, have a more totalitarian motif, and particularly drive me nuts by wanting to do things for me (their way, of course) or just chivvying and kibitzing annoyingly.

If you will indulge me in an observation, conservatives tend to be individualists who like to do things their way, which is why, at least here in Canada where I live, conservative political movements and parties have generally tended to be more internally-fractious than liberal/lefty ones.

Consequently, I don't find it surprising that I know a lot of philosophically-conservative Mac-users.


Mac User, Prius Driver Correlation?

From Prius Driver:

I live in Liberal-bastion Portland, Oregon. (I honestly believe this town is more liberal than San Francisco.) I am a rather common political beast here. Fiscally rather conservative (definitely to the right of center, Reagan would be happy) but socially very liberal (Jerry Falwell probably prayed for my damnation daily, and Pat Robertson probably still does. :-P )

I have noticed that, at least here in Portland, there seems to be a high correlation among coffee shop patrons of Mac ownership and Prius ownership. (i.e. I see a lot of Priuses in the lot, and pay attention to who walks to them, and they seem to be largely the people in the coffee shop that use Macs.)

Of course, Portland has both a high Prius ownership rate and a high Mac usage rate, too. So the two might be completely uncorrelated, just a coincidence of Portland-ness.

(You can probably guess that I'm both a Prius driver and a Mac user.)

Hi P.D.

Hey, I'm a Toyota fan too, although I don't have a hybrid. Our fleet includes a '90 Camry and an '89 Corolla, both of which get really impressive fuel mileage and are awesomely dependable. In the dependability context, Toyotas are very Mac-like. :-)


Liberal Mac Users

From Edward:

I agree on your article stating that all Mac users are not liberal, however an odd sign/interesting fact concerning the argument are a pair of videos on YouTube. They popped up last year and are basically the classic Macintosh ad from 1984, based on the book of the same name. Two altered versions can be watched, one with Hillary Clinton in the place of Big Brother, and the other with Barack Obama.

Is it just coincidence that they would use an Apple ad to attack a fellow Democrat/liberal?

Hi Edward,

Riffing on Apple's advertising themes is pretty common for politicians and their supporters, and not just Democrats.

I think Howard Dean may have been the first to do it in 2004, but this year Mike Huckabee's "Switch to Huckabee" YouTube series pays homage to Apple's ads, and there are the two (unauthorized) YouTube "1984" videos you mention targeting Clinton and Obama respectively parodying the famous Apple 1984 Super Bowl commercial.

Apple just has great advertising ideas.


Liberal? Conservative? Green?

From Gerald:

G'day Charles,

I empathise with much of what you say.

In my late school-days (c 1972) I had an enlightened school-teacher. He introduced us to ideas of ecology and environmental impact - Malthus, "Limits to Growth", and so on.

Inspired, I sought to live my life in a sustainable fashion - avoiding greed and waste, re-using whatever was not yet junk, recycling what was. I sought to adopt principles of good "husbandry" - now a neglected word. This wasn't so difficult then in England. The privations of the two World Wars, and their aftermath, meant that generations of folks still knew how to make do and mend. However, post-1980, I found myself out of step with the zeitgeist. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, peoples' focus moved to conspicuous and often selfish consumption. Mrs. Thatcher's children came to believe her opinion that there is no such thing as Society. We now have a generation of well-to-do who've never had to save, to conserve, to sacrifice, to go without. So although they talk green, at heart they have no true understanding of what this might really mean. (Sustainable living does not mean everyone having a new Prius.)

Trying to live "green" when the rest of the world just thinks you're barmy is not career-enhancing. I gave it up. I think the climate is showing substantial change, largely wrought by the growth of mankind through the fossil-fuel age, and it's out of our collective control.

The market is a great leveller. Ultimately, market forces will settle many things. F'rinstance - in Eastern England, there are some very desirable beach-side towns, where the sea-front houses cost millions, as holiday homes for the rich from London. It's highly likely that within a few decades, the sea will be inside their front doors. You'd be surprised how much this reduces the market value of the houses...

In our family, we don't do green as a matter of principle any more, but instead we do it indirectly, by just minimising our bills. We turn things off to reduce the electricity bill; we save water to reduce the (metered) water-bill. As I have charge of the electrical things, I'm very conscious of their running costs. In general, if it has a heater, or a motor, or a fan - it's costing you. I find this a most helpful principle to apply to things like routers, servers, desktop computers. Does it make a noise? Does it need fans to cool it? It helps that my wife can't stand background noise, so that encourages me to seek out silent, efficient equipment. She's just had a smart new iMac for Christmas; not quite as quiet as the Cube it replaced, but nearly as good, and much less temperamental.

For the world, I fear we have bloody times ahead. War, pestilence, famine, etc. Death and destruction on a grand scale. Probably some will survive. Probably some cultures will survive. If not; well perhaps it's time the ants had their turn.


Hi Gerald,

Sounds like you and I are pretty much on the same page as regards these issues.

I'm more of a passive than an active green these days, and as you say, being thrifty and cost conscious is a great facilitator of minimizing one's environmental footprint. We use mostly compact fluorescent light bulbs, which save money (especially if you shop for discount and sale prices for the up-front costs), and try to cut down on energy waste (and cost) by air-drying laundry most of the time (but using the dryer once in a while), taking shorter showers, walking rather than driving when we can, and so forth.

One advantage of using notebook computers is that they are energy-efficient, as quiet if you can keep the fans from cutting in (I share your wife's aversion to noise).

I also share your pessimistic outlook as to the likely outcome of all this. The market, as you say, is a great leveller. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is an even greater one. The universe is getting more chaotic with every energy transaction, so active effort to fix things, as opposed to passive conservation, just ultimately contributes to making the situation worse.


Liberal and Conservative Mac Users

From John:


I think you are correct that most people place too much emphasis on political labels. Whenever anyone says "Liberals are like..." or "Conservatives think..," I roll my eyes and laugh at the gross generalization of a poorly defined term applied to people that disagree amongst themselves on key policy issues. To say nothing of the fact that using a term such as "conservative," without noting what the person is conservative about (such as "social conservative," "fiscal conservative," etc.), is almost always inaccurate.

My problem with your article is that the purpose and target of your writing is a marketing study. This is where I think most of our problems start. A marketing company is looking for data to sell to clients. They are the last people we should look for to debate political issues, because in general they do not clearly think about or define these issues. Marketing surveys are designed to show slight differences in the buying public so that advertisers can have a slight advantage as they decide where to spend millions of dollars to get us to buy a product. They are not the ones to look for to define people's political stance.

And in light of the marketing study I must chastise you for making an erroneous assumption. They used the word "liberal," and you assumed they meant political liberal, when it appears they were referring to personality types. The words "liberal" and "conservative" have dozens of meanings and shadings, many of which do not refer to politics. In reading the original blurb it appears they were referencing personality types, not political leanings. They mean "liberal" in the sense of "open to new ideas," rather than politics. I think you assumed they were talking about politics, and then knocked down the straw man you created. I agree that to assume that "open to new ideas" is contrary to political conservatism is probably wrong, but there is in no way that the original blurb made that connection. Everything they talked about referenced personality types, not politics.

Although I agree with your overall article, I do not think the marketing report is referring to politics, not should its finding be taken seriously outside of an advertising office.


Hi John,

Well, in fact I actually was thinking more in terms of philosophical outlook than electoral politics, although I suspect you would agree that there is an awful lot of crossover.

The Mindset Media "Openness 5" category describes (liberal) folks who "tend to seek rich, varied and novel experiences . . . believe that imagination and intellectual curiosity are as important to life as more rational or pragmatic endeavors . . . are receptive to their own inner feelings and may experience life with more emotional intensity," the implied corollary being that conservative types do not share these interests and qualities.


Politics on Low End Mac

From Adam:

Low End Mac is not a place for politics. It is one of a few places online where users from all political, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds can get together and nerd-out about Mac computers, past and present.

Comments such as, "Politeness and humility are conservative traits" belong in political chat rooms where people type at each other in all capital letters, not on LEM. Posting comments like these take away from the sense of commonality of purpose and interests that I have long identified with as a LEM reader.


Hi Adam,

I wouldn't like to see LEM become a nexus for routine political debate either, but my article was commentary on a topical news issue in the Mac community, namely Mindset Media's assertion that Mac people are allegedly more liberal, less modest, and more assured of their own superiority than PC-users and/or the population at large.

Strictly speaking, my comments were more in a philosophical than a political context, as was Mindset Media's survey orientation, and, of course, Apple itself riffs on this with its "I'm a Mac - I'm a PC" ads.

The article was a big mail generator, and so far yours is the only response I've received protesting its inclusion, but your input is appreciated and duly noted.


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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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