Charles Moore's Mailbag

Another Way to Run WeatherBug, Aspire One Runs OS X, 17" MacBook Pro Hi-res Display, and More

Charles Moore - 2008.11.25 - Tip Jar

A Fourth Way of Using WeatherBug

From Jerry:

Hi Charles,

While enjoying my Pismo G4 surfing the Web for my astronomy presentation, I caught a chill in the house and wanted to check my WeatherBug Lite menu item for the outside temp, and it wasn't there!

Then I remembered, shucks, I recently reloaded a fresh version of Tiger on my hard drive and forgot to load WeatherBug Lite. I then wandered around the Internet, and before I downloaded it, checked with Low End Mac and your column. How timely, I thought, you were writing about the thing I was gonna download - or did you?

Nope, you musta missed it, because it's the fourth way to get the weather, and you don't need to run a browser, just put it on your menu bar!

PS- I'm still waiting for Apple to bring out the Son of Pismo! What are they thinking, eliminating FireWire! Really, the only thing I miss is a superfast processor and a brilliant LCD for heavy duty stuff like Photoshop and Keynote and maybe some games besides Diablo II. Uh, okay, I wouldn't mind backlit keys either. Do you have any pull at Apple? Why can't they just update the Pismo layout?

Sorry for continually asking you. Oh well, maybe the next model will be it.

Best Regards,

Hi Jerry,

I somehow missed WeatherBug Lite. Thanks for the tip. I was introduced to the WeatherBug service in Navigator 9, and I guess I had browsers on the brain. I'll check out WeatherBug Lite.

As for Son of Pismo, I wish! I still use my Pismos (one or the other) every day and am not loving them any less. As you say, the display could be better, but it does the job.

I have no drag at all with Apple but sure wish they could be convinced to build a retro but updated Pismo (sort of like VW has done with the New Beetle and Ford did with the late lamented most recent iteration of the Thunderbird) with a Core 2 Duo processor, a modern video accelerator with enough VRAM and LED display, illuminated keyboard, and SATA hard drive, but leave pretty much everything else as it was including the keyboard (especially), the ports, updating the USB to 2.0 (well, I wouldn't kick if they dumped IrDA), expansion bay and card slot (upgraded to ExpressCard), and the form factor, although I would happily live with a rejigging to a 14" widescreen. I bet they'd sell a bunch of them even if it carried a premium price.

I love my 17" PowerBook G4, but not as much as the Pismo (other than the better screen and performance).


Acer Aspire One Runs OS X

From Karsten in response to Netbooks Tempting, Cry Out for Mac OS X:


The Acer Aspire One (1 GB RAM, 160 GB HD, 8,9" LCD) works perfectly with OS X 10.5.2. It doesn't look as Mac-like as the MSI WIND, but it it is more compact and with boot132 it runs smoothly.

Installation is for absolute beginners (see for details).

As a MacBook user and a Mac addict since 1991 (SE/30 and LC II), I can truly say that this machine is very "tempting".


Hi Karsten,

Yes, these netbooks are indeed seductive. Thanks for the link. With an 8.9" display, we're getting down to screen dimensions of the original PowerBook Duos, albeit with a higher resolution. For folks who really get off on miniaturization, I can see the attraction, but for my purposes I would lean toward the 10.2" displays in the larger netbooks.

Incidentally, Computerworld's Greg Keizer is reporting that Technology Business Research Inc. analyst Ezra Gottheil is predicting that the rotten economy will oblige Apple to introduce a lower-priced and lighter-weight laptop in the first half of 2009 to compete in the netbook category. I hope he's right!


17" MacBook Pro with Higher Resolution Screen

From Neil:

Thanks for the article "Just Right: Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear MacBooks" on LEM on 20/11/08.

Having just picked up a 17" MacBook Pro, I thought it worth pointing out that it now comes with the upgraded resolution of 1920 x 1200 as standard, rather than 1680 x 1050 you mention. Which is even better, if your eyes can handle such a high dpi! :-)


Hi Neil,

Thanks for the heads-up. I should read the press releases more carefully.

My poor old 1.33 GHz 17" PowerBook has a screen resolution of just 1440 x 900 (the same as today's 15" MacBook Pros), and it's pretty decent, so the resolution on these new MacBook Pros must be awesome.


Just Right Notebooks, Cars, and Trucks

From Andrew:

As usual Charles, loved your Goldilocks article.

Unlike religion and politics, I think we agree pretty well on cars and laptops.

I had a 15" PowerBook for a very little while and got rid of it because I just liked the 12" better - and still do. I've never had a 17" laptop, but they sure are impressive. Even with my MacBook Pro sitting on my desk, I still used my 1 GHz 12" PowerBook to write to you.

I am so with you on cars, especially the big/stripped and small/loaded idea.

My regular car is a 2005 Mercedes C230 Kompressor, a car no bigger than a Corolla that is rated at 32 MPG highway (I get 34). I like the tight, cozy interior that surrounds me with high-quality trim and is just a blast to drive.

It is fast, quiet when cruising, loud (in a good way) when you nail the throttle, and so solid that it feels like the new MacBooks; carved from a solid block of metal. I like these so much that it is my second C class Mercedes, my first a 2001 C240 that I drove for 140,000 nearly trouble-free miles. Small, but very good quality.

My other car is the opposite, a 2007 Ford F-150 pickup. Like your old Detroit iron, it is a stripper. I couldn't find a stick on any lots (they do sell them), but I got the V6, vinyl seat, crank windows, and manual everything.

The only options were the towing package, long bed, automatic that I didn't want, air conditioning, and the CD player (base is just AM/FM). It too is a blast to drive, in a very different way. Everything is plastic and clearly built to survive heavy use by tough, dirty guys with lots of gear. I feel invincible when I drive it and would actually like it less if it had all of the luxury stuff.

It does have an excellent seat and a very smooth and quiet ride, however.

My wife is more middle of the road and drives a 2007 4-cylinder Camry.

Strangely, the Mercedes gets better mileage than the Toyota despite having massive tires, more weight, and a smaller, though much more powerful engine. Even adding the cost of the required premium fuel, the Mercedes is actually cheaper to drive, more so with its 13,000 mile service interval.

Factoring in the fuel, service, and payments over 5 years and 120,000 miles (I actually drive a lot more), the Mercedes only comes out about $1,000 more than the Camry, despite an almost double purchase price.

I honestly think that Apple nailed it on the new MacBooks and will likely do so again when the new design 17" comes out. I like my 15" MacBook Pro a great deal and can honestly say its the best laptop I've ever owned, but it doesn't have the magic that the 12" PowerBook still holds. When I take my two week family vacation in Korea next month, I will bring the 12" with me, as I have for the last five years. I would bring the new MacBook had I gone that way instead of the Pro, but after my MacBook experience in '06, I just can't go for Rev. A anymore.


Hi Andrew,

Thanks. Glad you liked the article.

We do seem to be pretty much on the same page with cars and laptops.

My Camry is old - a 1990 model that we've had for more than a decade, during which we have had essentially zero problems. It's an amazingly dependable car, a four cylinder with a five-speed manual that gets excellent fuel mileage. I also have two Corolla "project cars" - an '89 and a '01.

My other vehicle is a '94 Mazda B-4000 4x4 pickup with a 4 liter V6 and an automatic (that I also didn't want), but purchasing used you don't get a choice. It's smaller than your F-150, but probably doesn't get much if any better fuel mileage. It's basically a badge-engineered Ford Ranger, built in Edison, New Jersey, if I'm not mistaken, and has the old Twin I-Beam front suspension and a very solid feel on the road. Handles surprisingly well for a 4x4 pickup.

I'm still happily using my 17" PowerBook G4, which is giving me little incentive to upgrade. Maybe I'll wait for Snow Leopard to come with the new and refurbished 'Books. It's easy to procrastinate, given what's going on the the economy.



A 1.33 GHz G4 is still quite a nice machine, so in your shoes I wouldn't be in any hurry to upgrade until something no longer worked. I absolutely love my 12", and it is quite a bit slower than yours. I would recommend boosting its RAM to 2 GB though, which will make a huge difference under Leopard, as would a faster hard drive. My 12" has its max of 1.25 GB, and at that amount works far better in Leopard than it did with 768 MB. A 7200 RPM drive is also a big help.

Believe it or not, I get 20 MPG highway in my F-150 using regular unleaded - and 16 MPG city. I actually looked at a V6 Ranger, and the F-150 was only 1 MPG worse in the city and actually 1 MPG better on the highway.

You have a great car in that Camry. My daughter's friend's family has two of them, an '89 and a '91, each with over 200,000 miles. They are not poor people and can buy new cars whenever they wish, but won't until their old cars give them a reason to. So far just routine maintenance and a new transmission on one, a valve job and a new radiator on the other.

Our 2007 Camry will go to my daughter in two years when she starts to drive. It's only a year old now, but already has 40,000 miles on it. My truck has almost 50,000, and my Mercedes, which I bought used three months ago with 40,000, already has 54,000. My office and home are 120 miles apart, and the courts I visit are all over the Western US, so I drive over 5,000 miles per month, and since my wife is my office manager, she isn't too far behind at about 3,000 miles per month. Good cars are essential.

I am looking forward to Snow Leopard more and more. Leopard hasn't been too bad, but it doesn't feel as robust as Tiger or Panther did. Apple seems to have slipped in '07 and early '08 for stability of its products, but if what Jobs says is true about Snow Leopard being a plumbing upgrade, they should fix that. I can hope.


Hi Andrew,

Yes, I have 1.5 GB of RAM in my 17" PowerBook, and it could definitely use more running Leopard. The 4200 RPM hard drive is not that lively. I have a 5400 RPM drive in one of my Pismos, and it really does make a difference. However, I'm not sure I want to spend any serious money on this machine, with Snow Leopard in the offing, since PowerPC will not (at least is not expected to be) supported by OS X 10.6.

On the upside, the 80 GB drive is still very quiet despite the gazillion hours on it.

I would guess that you're getting as good if not better gas mileage with your F-150 as I am with the B-4000. The weights may not be that different due to my 4x4 stuff, which is quite heavy. Our last truck was a '90 Dodge Dakota 2wd, and things I miss a lot from it are the 8' box (6-1/2' on the B-4000) and the power and torque of the 3.9 liter Chrysler V6, slightly smaller in displacement than the Ford V6 but a lot more gutsy. OTOH, the B-4000 has an extended cab, which is very convenient.

The '90 Camry made me a Toyota fan. I like the styling better than later model Camrys, and our only serious complaint is that it doesn't have a lot of room inside despite being nominally midsize - really not much more than the Corollas. But it sure is dependable. In ten years plus we have replaced the battery, one muffler, two rear exhaust pipes, done the brakes once, and replaced the gas tank straps (rusted) and three of the struts. Pretty impressive. I should add that we lay it up under cover during salted roads season or there is no way it would have lasted this long. The truck gets the brine bath. The Camry's nice to drive as well. The shifter is a bit notchy, but not bad for a cable linkage.

I agree with your evaluation of Leopard. Tiger 10.4.11, which I'm still running on the Pismos, is a rock of stability by comparison. Hopefully Snow Leopard will fix what ails Leopard, but alas not for us G4 users.



I actually wouldn't be shocked if 10.6 supported some PowerPC models, though perhaps only newer ones than ours. I can see it being 64-bit only, thus allowing in the G5, or perhaps setting a minimum at a 1.33 or 1.67 GHz - or even 64 MB of VRAM. My 12" barely made the cut for Leopard, so I am sure it will be out. Yours is likely out as well, though I just cannot see Apple leaving behind quad-core G5 workstations or even the last 1.67 GHz G4 PowerBooks, which had rather powerful CPU and GPU components. They certainly wouldn't benefit from most of the Intel goodness, but I don't see why they couldn't benefit from a cleanup and improved use of graphics processing.

I have the 8' bed in my F-150 and really appreciated it when carrying a huge sofabed and some bedroom furniture recently. I am moving my office in a few weeks, and it will come in handy again then. The 4.2 liter Ford V6 is an old tech OHV engine, unlike your 4.0 which is a faster spinning OHC unit with more power, but less torque. The big old-fashioned V6 engines pull like a traditional V8 and can get decent fuel economy. It is a delightful engine that pulled a 6,000 pound trailer up and over a 4,100 foot mountain pass last year with little drama and no need to slow down much. It is also a very smooth and quiet engine that, while gutless when revved, has great low-end grunt and cruises smoothly and quietly. It almost feels like a luxury car engine when cruising on flat roads at moderate speeds.

I think mileage would be even better had Ford used a modern transmission. Toyota, GM, and Dodge, I believe, had 5 and 6 speed automatics in their high-line trucks, but Ford only had a 4 speed automatic for the F-150. It does just fine, but I could imagine with taller gearing getting better economy. Of course, I have towing gears, so that hurts too.

The 2007 Camry is a wonderful, though dreadfully boring, car. Even with the 4 cylinder, it is smooth, quiet, and adequately fast. The car has more wind and road noise than the Mercedes, but not a lot more, and the engine is actually quieter. The Mercedes is only noisy because it has a sporty exhaust note. At cruise you can barely hear the burble, but it really snarls when you rev it. I am very disappointed that Mercedes and BMW both dropped their 4 cylinder engines in the US, especially with expensive gas prices. Both companies supposedly have small diesels coming out that should be very efficient, and I'll check them out in a little under two years.

Sadly, with all of the miles that I drive and the consequences of not showing up for court, I cannot keep a car very long and must buy a new (or certified used) one every other year. At least the truck makes an excellent backup if something should go wrong with my car.

I've actually had two kernel panics with my MacBook Pro, which I've never had on the 12" PowerBook. My old MacBook was also slightly less reliable than the old PowerBooks were, so I'm not really sure if its a Leopard issue or an Intel issue, or perhaps even some other software or even RAM. I had a Lombard that was very flaky until I removed one of the RAM modules, and since then I've always thought of defective RAM first when a computer crashes. I had a troublesome RAM module in a ThinkPad as well.

Since you use more than one computer, it would likely make sense to upgrade your PowerBook drive, as I am sure you will keep on using your PowerBook even after you move to something newer. I've found that like cars, some computers are simply gems, while others are lemons. If something was going to give you trouble on your PowerBook, it would have already, and since you like the form-factor, why not keep it going and maximize its functionality. I've opened and upgraded a 15" PowerBook before, and as long as you take your time, you really can install a larger and faster drive yourself. This is also a performance boost beyond the RPM rating, as higher capacity drives also have higher areal density. I moved to a 320 GB 5400 RPM from a 160 GB 5400 RPM drive in my MacBook, both Seagate drives, and the speed difference was dramatic despite the drives having the same rating. I am considering a a large 7200 RPM drive for my MacBook Pro, or one of the massive 500 GB 5400 RPM drives.


Hi Andrew,

I hope you're right about the possibility of there being some sort of PowerPC support in Snow Leopard.

Eight foot pickup beds rock. Six-and-a-half foot ones don't. I also have a bed box on the Mazda most of the time, which makes it even shorter.

Actually the four litre V6 in my truck is the original 4L pushrod iteration of Ford's Cologne V6, a 60° jobbie that traces its roots back to the old V4s used in the Ford of Germany Taunus back in the 1960s. That V4 was also used in the SAAB 96 after their three cylinder two-stroke was obsoleted (mercifully) by the early exhaust emissions regulations.

Ford reengineered the Cologne V6 in 2001, converting it to a single overhead cam configuration but retaining the four-litre displacement, but mine being a '94 is a pushrod version. As you say, your 4.2 litre V6 is downsized from a V8 design rather than upsized from a V4, and is a 90° unit with lots of torque, as was the 3.8 litre in our old Dakota. I test-drove two Dakotas back-to-back when we were last truck-shopping - one a V6 and the other a V8, and could discern little if any difference in grunt.

The only kernel panics I've had with the 17" PowerBook were caused by weird stuff like having it networked with an ailing Pismo that crashed and took both machines down.

You make a strong case for upgrading this old machine. I am planning to keep it, but I still have two Pismos on the go, so how much use it will get after I upgrade is an imponderable at this point.


I believe that my truck engine is the "Essex" from Ontario, Canada. I just learned on Wikipedia that the 2004 to 2008 F-150 with the 4.2 liter V6 is the most reliable American pickup in history, according to Consumer Reports. Good to know!

Never drove a Dakota, though I did have a long-term rental Dodge Durango with the same V6 engine in the late 90s, and it was nice enough. I don't know why, but I've never been much of a Chrysler fan. They have and continue to make some interesting vehicles, but I just never thought about buying one.

I'm just guessing on Snow Leopard and PowerPC, but with the G5s so recent and so powerful, I just can't see Apple leaving them behind. Even left behind machines, however, aren't really left behind this upgrade cycle, as Apple isn't pushing this as a major feature release. Yes, the plumbing changes will be nice, but I'm guessing the look, feel, and basic function will not change much from 10.5, and thus any machines running 10.5 will remain current.

Actually, if I remember right, Apple billed 10.4 as a major "plumbing" upgrade release and pitched it as the underpinnings of future versions. That does make sense, as current browsers, iTunes, and just about everything else continues to run just fine on Tiger systems, while Panther has been totally left behind by Apple and third party developers.


Hi Andrew,

Sadly, the V6 version of the F-150 has been discontinued with the redesigned twelfth version F-Series for 2009, along with any manual transmission option. Only V-8 automatics, although Ford claims the new base 4.6 litre V8 gets better fuel mileage than last year's V6. Be that as it may, I'm sorry to see the six go and really miffed about the manual transmission biting the dust.

The only Ford F-Series I've actually owned was a 1953 F-250 with a 239 CID flathead V8. It was an awesome truck - the flatties were amazingly quiet and smooth, and it had a nice three speed manual shifter (all you needed with all the flathead torque). Nice on the highway too. The '53-'56 third version of the F-Series is my favorite truck model ever. A friend of mine had a '53 F-100 with a 261 CID Chevy six swapped in (it had worn out the original flathead) that I drove a lot.

Ford of Canada is dumping 2008 F-150s (the base model you have) for C$13,999, and it's mighty tempting.

Hmmm. I am a Chrysler fan, more than a Ford-head, notwithstanding my respect for the F-Series. I had a wonderful Dodge D-100 Club Cab with a 318 in it that I used for several years as a tow vehicle when I was in the sail-yacht business (selling California-built MacGregors). We used to drive up to Hamilton, Ontario, and tow them down here on their own trailers - a 2,300 mile round trip. The Dodge pickup was a great highway hauler, but it could have used a bit more grunt than the 318 offered in the hills of northern New Brunswick.

My fave Dakotas are the original series built from 1987 to 1996. Not as enthusiastic about the more recent ones, but they're good trucks.

I'm still running Tiger on my Pismos, and so is my wife on her G3 iBook, but I do miss Leopard stuff like Spaces, the better spell checker, the Quick Look previews, etc.


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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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