Charles Moore's Mailbag

Netscape 7 for OS 9, Compact Flash Faster than Hard Drive in PB 1400, MacSpeech Dictate, and More

Charles Moore - 2008.05.28 - Tip Jar

PowerBook 1400, Flash Memory, and Netscape 7

From Pete:

Hello, Charles:

In response to various items posted lately about 1400s - I have found it possible not only to run virtual memory but also boot off MMC cards with a PCMCIA multi-format card reader. However, my better 1400 has a NewerTech CPU upgrade, and I find the machine runs warmer with the PCMCIA card reader. Additionally, the better 1400 (I have two . . . for now...) also has a fast Toshiba 20 GB hard drive in it. I do not see much improvement in performance using MMC over the hard drive.

In other items - I find Netscape 7.0 to be the most compatible of the modern browsers on OS 9, even given that it is a resource hog. iCab just doesn't cut it for me on a fair number of sites. Now if someone would just port the open-source Flash-compatible player over to OS 9, we'd all be set! :)

Thanks for humoring my two cents,

- Pete

Hi Pete,

Thanks for the experiential info on various alternative boot modes. Life in those old 1400s yet.

I agree about Netscape 7 being the best trip in a Classic Mac OS browser. I love the new, OS X only iCab 4.x, but I agree that the Classic version of iCab, much as I appreciate it still being available, is not up to the standard of Netscape 7, which I also prefer to Mozilla 1.3.


Compact Flash Faster than Hard Drive in PowerBook 1400

From Tom:

Hi, Charles.

You're absolutely correct about the speed advantage with Compact Flash, especially over the old, slow hard drive that shipped with the PB 1400.

I have not timed it, but copy and save operations are noticeably faster, as well as silent. Startup takes a while in any case, though Marc Moini's Startup Doubler control panel has helped shorten it, even when starting up from the hard drive.


Pismo Graphics Upgrade: VTBook

From Carl:

Hi Charles,

I too loved my Pismo but decided to buy an iBook in the end only because of the graphics limitations. I don't regret my decision, since I was able to sell it for $500 and then buy my iBook G4 for about $1,600.

Shortly thereafter, I saw this product: The VTBook. If I still had my Pismo, I think I would have gone for this. 32 MB of video for a Pismo!

Probably the least marketed product in the world I think, at least to the Mac world.


Hi Carl,

Yes, the VillageTronic VTBook PC Card add-on provides PowerBook users with as high as 1920 x 1440 resolution at millions of colors on an external monitor, and it supports both OS 9 and OS X.

The drawback, of course, is cost ($249), combined with the fact that it doesn't help you with video support on the PowerBook's built-in monitor.

I think if they had been able to get the cost down out of the stratosphere, they could have sold a lot of these,

My iBook has now been passed on to my wife (who loves it), but I'm still using my Pismos ;-)


Editor's note: VTBook supports one or two displays on PowerBook G3 and G4 models with CardBus - that's WallStreet and newer. It works with Mac OS 9.x as well as OS X 10.2 and later (exception: not compatible with Mac OS 9.x and the original PowerBook G4 when USB devices are connected). In the US, you can order it online from Club Mac, MacMall, Small Dog Electronics, We Love Macs, and Harmonic Inversion Technology, among others. dk

Network Solution for 2 Macs, 1 Monitor

From Marcel:

Hi, you give switch for answers . . . but the simple way to go is to put all computers in a network and use VNC for accessing the others computers....

I use my panthers iMac silver to connect to my old Mac and to my old PC. Just dedicate a space for VNC and very simple to use one monitor with the 3 computers....

Just a way to go....


Hi Marcel,

Sounds like a plan if you have access to a network.

Thanks for the suggestion.


MacSpeech Dictate Hardware Requirements

From Jim:


I am thinking about purchasing MacSpeech Dictate.

Do you have an opinion on how useful and effective it is?


Hi Jim,

I'm still using a PowerPC based Mac, so I haven't been able to check out Dictate yet, since it only supports Macs with Intel chips, but everything I've heard about Dictate is pretty positive. It's built on the Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech engine, which is acclaimed as the best voice recognition software in the industry.

My colleague at MacOpinion, Marc Zeedar reviewed Dictate a couple of months ago, and you might find checking that out helpful. The two parts of the review are Writing With Speech and Dictate, Round Two.

I have been using MacSpeech's PowerPC dictation product since the early betas nearly ten years ago, and have found it very good, but by all accounts Dictate is even better.

You can find my review of the latest 1.8 version of iListen on Applelinks.

I don't recall which model Mac you have. Apple started releasing transitional models in January 2006. If it's older than that, it's definitely a PowerPC and can't run Dictate. Make sure which platform you have before you purchase.

I'm hoping to be able to upgrade to a new Macintel system later this year and look forward to switching from iListen to Dictate.


Thanks for the prompt reply, Charles.

Here are the specs on my G5:

  • Machine Model: iMac G5
  • CPU Type: PowerPC G5 (3.0)
  • Number Of CPUs: 1
  • CPU Speed: 1.6 GHz
  • L2 Cache (per CPU): 512 KB
  • Memory: 512 MB
  • Bus Speed: 533 MHz
  • Boot ROM Version: 5.2.2f2

I guess, from what you say, I do not qualify for dictate.

Do you know if there an inexpensive way for me to upgrade this machine?

I suspected possible limitations when it would not run this year's version of Turbo Tax.

Thanks again,


Hi Jim,

Your G5 is one of the last of the PowerPC Mohicans, so you're in the same boat as I am with my PowerBook and unable to run Dictate.

While Apple's customary backward compatibility (for example, the copy of MS Word 5.1 that I bought for my prehistoric Mac Plus back in 1993 still runs fine in Classic Mode under OS X 10.4.11, which was released last November!) has made the Intel transition mostly painless for us PowerPC holdouts, there is an inevitability that we are going to be getting shut out of more with the passage of time, now nearly 2-1/2 years into the Macintel era.

Actually, Dictate is the first piece of software I've wanted to run but couldn't. The reason is that the Dragon speech engine was never ported to PowerPC. MacSpeech's other speech recognition product, iListen, is based on the Philips speech engine, which is a completely different piece of software.

Unfortunately, there is no hardware upgrade path to convert PowerPC Macs to Intel machines, so the only recourse is to trade up.

In the meantime, iListen is still available and should run great on your G5. Dictate is a superior product, but might not be enough reason to change computers if the G5 is otherwise serving you satisfactorily, although if you're serious about using dictation software, I would strongly recommend that you upgrade to at least 1 GB of RAM and preferably more than that. I have 1.5 GB and could use more.


Thanks for all of this very useful information, Charles.

I am beginning to see where our government rebate check is likely to go.


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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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