Charles Moore's Mailbag

The Unibody MacBook, MacBook Pro Sound Problems, Welcome to Macintel, and More

Charles Moore - 2009.02.11 - Tip Jar

Congrats on Your New 'Book

From Elaine:

Will be interested to see your response to your new MacBook. Like you, I just upgraded but to a Black 13" Feb 2009 MacBook because I wasn't willing to give up FireWire, which I'm happy to have if only to troubleshoot with Target Disk Mode. I also wanted a smaller monitor to tuck into my purse and connect at home to a 26" HDTV as my monitor when it wasn't functioning as a TV in our family room.

I was really unhappy about the glossy monitor and planned to affix a matte screen filter to reduce the glare. However, within a few days I learned to tune out the visual noise of reflected images and love the depth of color and perspective that the glossy monitor creates . . . a very pleasant surprise.

Best of all, however, is that I love being able to use the trackpad as a static trackball. I've become quickly hooked on tracking just by dragging a finger in whatever direction I want to go without having to hit the "button". In fact, when I launched my old G4 PowerBook, which my husband is now using as his iTunes radio tuner with a complex sound system, I was frustrated the I couldn't use that trackpad similarly. (I know there is software that allows the same option on older 'Books, but I didn't have luck with the app.) Also surprised at how slow the PPC 'Book is - even with 1.5 Gigs of RAM and 1.5 GHz processor.

Recently booted my WallStreet that you and I "shared" and was dismayed to see how clunky that trackpad is by comparison. It is still usable for browsing and correspondence but way too slow now that I'm accustomed to better.

Bottom line, enjoy your new Mac, and may it serve you as well as your others.

Best regards,

Hi Elaine,

Thanks for your comments.

Unibody MacBookI'm liking the MacBook a lot so far. Still getting it configured and set up for production use. The glossy display is easy to like. I think I would still prefer matte given my 'druthers, but this one will be no hardship as far as the glossy goes, although going down to a 13" 1280 x 800 with take some getting used to. On the other hand, I used a 12" iBook for production for three years before switching up to the 17" PowerBook, and Leopard Spaces makes working on smaller monitors much more convenient and livable.

I'm still partial to the responsiveness of my Pismo's (and the old WallStreet's) trackpads compared with the 17" PowerBook's or this newfangled one in the MacBook. I'm not enchanted with the buttonless idea, but I'm getting on to it. I expect I may get used to the gestures as well, although I'm inclined to use a mouse and external keyboard for production work anyway, with the 'Book on a laptop stand, so it may take me a while.

It is hard to go back after getting used to more speed, although I love the feel of the Pismos so much I'm fairly content to live with the slower performance for light-medium duty stuff and portable work.


Forgot that the newer MacBooks have the buttonless trackpad, which I didn't much like when I tried it either.

However, give yourself some time with two fingers on the trackpad, and you'll find yourself doing something like what I did last week at the Apple Store: trying to give a two-finger stroke on the table below the keyboard to move down the open window on the monitor. When I use my old G4 'Book now, I get irritated that I can't scroll vertically and horizontally on its trackpad.

Love My Refurb iMac

From Ken:


I can't believe you'll finally have an Intel Mac, and one of the current models even....

I bought an Apple Store refurb myself about one year ago, Feb. 2008.

My first Intel Mac. But it's a white 17" Intel iMac released in 2006. It's has Core 2 Duo at 2.0 GHz with discreet graphics, so it should remain viable for many years. It was quite an excellent buy for $849. I actually wanted the smallest iMac, because I have a favorite 1600 x 1200 display attached to it as my main display; I use the iMac's display as secondary. I suppose I use my iMac same way you might use your MacBook if you connected it to an external display. It was my way to get around the lack of a BYOD Mac model between the Mac mini and Mac Pro. In terms of bang-for-buck, it's the best Mac I have ever owned (by far).

Anyways, I hope your refurb works as well as mine has for the past year.

- Ken

Hi Ken,

Thanks for the good wishes.

So far, so good. I'm gradually getting it set up and configured as time permits. It's a gorgeous machine. Glad I went for the Unibody.


Sound Problem with Unibody MacBook Pro

From Chris:

Hello Charles,

I read your article on LEM and saw you had ordered a Unibody MacBook.

These MacBooks are amazing little machines, and they're mighty quick. You dodged quite the bullet by not going to the plastic MacBooks. They aren't very durable, as my old MacBook's palmrest kept cracking.

But the point of my email is that I wanted to drop a warning about the Unibody MacBooks/Pros. I just bought a 15'' MacBook Pro (of the unibody variety), and it's been nothing short of amazing, but a day after I bought it, it suffered from a strange problem. After I had plugged my iPhone's earbuds into the headphone connector, it had gotten stuck into Digital Out mode! The internal speakers were completely dead, and the MBP would only output to whatever was connected to the headphone jack. Nothing plugged in? No sound at all. Volume controls disabled completely. (If you're a YouTube kind of person, I did make a video of the whole thing.)

Apple replaced my computer twice for this same exact problem. I'm now on my third replacement MBP, and so far, all is well.

I'm pretty sure your MacBook will perform admirably and will probably not suffer from this problem. But I thought I'd just like to point it out. The headphone jacks on the MBP's are quite flimsy. I'm not so sure about the MacBooks, but since they are built very similarly, I wouldn't imagine there'd be much difference between the two.

I hope you enjoy your MacBook! May it be free from any problems that I have experienced.


Hi Chris,

Thanks for the report. Something to look out for. It would be good to hear if others have had the same issue or if you've had a run of exceptional bad luck (doubtful).

I imagine the same jack is in the MacBooks. Shades of the wretched AC adapter jacks that kept coming adrift from the PowerBook 5300 logic board. plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. I'll try to be gentle plugging in earphones.

I'm enjoying the MacBook so far, but of course it's early days yet.


Welcome to Macintel

From Craig

Saw the "great unveiling" of the Unibody refurb. Hope you enjoy the new system, and welcome to the Mac-Intel camp. My Black MacBook is my workhorse, and it works well even with the "vampire video". With more and more time being done with non-CAD related info, a netbook is my likely next machine. Even if it is a "hackintosh".

Grace and Peace

Hi Craig,

Thanks! It's a lovely little machine.

Can't argue with your reasoning on the netbook. Apple really needs a machine like that. I'll be discussing the prospects in my 'Book Mystique column on PBCentral today.


Pismo 1 GB RAM Question

From Christopher:

Hello, Mr. Moore,

In your recent Compleat Guide to the PowerBook G3 Pismo, when referring to the Pismo's maximum RAM specs, you made a statement to the effect that "there are some minor limitations that adhere with 1 GB of RAM installed." Would you elaborate on this, please? I've never heard of any issues with that configuration, and several Google searches turned up no problems or limitations that I could find.

Having another 512 MB module already on the way from a reputable vendor to match the other one in my Pismo which works beautifully, I'd sure like to know!

Thank you, and I always enjoy reading your columns.


Hi Christopher,

The limitation, and it's a relatively minor one, is that Apple declined to officially recommend more than 512 MB of RAM due to concern that the internal PRAM battery would not be up to supporting more live memory than that during battery swaps.

I've been running 640 MB in my Pismo for years and have been able to swap batteries just fine, but your mileage may vary. I've never heard this cited as a serious problems by Pismo users, many of whom are running 1 GB of RAM.

Thanks for reading.


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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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