Charles Moore's Mailbag

Dialup Dependability, Safari 4 and G3 Macs, the Best Mac Keyboard Comes from Apple, and More

Charles Moore - 2009.03.05 - Tip Jar

Dialup Is Slow but Dependable

From Richard:


One more reason still to have dialup technology: A week ago we had a very wet snow storm that eventually took out our power. So, guess what didn't work? The cable broadband, of course. When the repair dragged on into the second evening and my household was desperate for email (important job offer coming in), I fired up the modem in my eMac and made use of our dialup. Though it was painfully slow, it nonetheless saved the day. (And to think I have been recently contemplating canceling the "outmoded" dialup service.)

- Dick

Hi Dick,

Yes, dialup does have the advantage of reliability in virtually all weather. I gripe about the service I get here (mainly speed), but I really can't complain about downtime. The only time it has been offline that I can recall in the past 12 years is when a Dept. of Highways brushcutter clipped the main fiber optics line leading out of this county, and even then it was off for less than a day. I've been posting the news on since August 1999, and I haven't missed a single business day in that time, all over dialup.


Possible Solution to Eudora Problems with Dialup

From Stephen:

Hello Charles,

I've been reading LEM for some time and certainly enjoy your articles!

As for the problem with dialup, from what I understand, you're using the Apple USB modem?

One idea I have, which might work if it has something to do with the TCP/IP stack with the modem, is to have an external dialup-to-ethernet solution such as Apple's AirPort or a D-Link router with a serial port for connecting an external modem.

This is what I did when I moved out into the country. I went from cable broadband to good old dialup. Myself and my wife wanted to share the dialup connection, so I used a D-Link DI-804 router (I think is the model number) with an external serial modem. It worked great! Meanwhile I fought with the local cable company to get me hooked up to broadband. This took over a year....

Anyhow, it's just a thought of a possible solution.



Hi Steve,

Thanks for the input and suggestion.

Yes I am using Apple's external USB modem with the MacBook, however, I don't think the issue derives from the modem. SMTP support over this dialup connection is cranky with OS X 10.5 Leopard even from the PowerPC PowerBook's internal modem - it's smooth and unproblematical running in Tiger on the same machine through the same modem.

I have succeeded in getting SMTP email out working with Thunderbird 3b2, which is further evidence that the modem is not at fault. No Joy with Eudora 6, however.

At least you had a cable company to fight with. ;-). No cable TV here at all.


Editor's note: Apple has made several different AirPort Base Stations over the years, and recent ones no longer have a built-in modem. Models that include a 56k modem are the original 802.11b gray base station (M5757) that has 40-bit encryption and only one ethernet port, which is limited to 10 users; the white 802.11b "dual ethernet" base station (M8440), which has 128-bit encryption and supports 50 users; and two of the three versions of the round 802.11g AirPort Extreme base station - M8799 and M9397 have the modem, but M8930 does not. dk

My 333 MHz Lombard Is Faster than My 400 MHz Pismo

From Vernon:

Hi Charles,

I'm writing you from my screen crippled workhorse of a Pismo for any insight you might share on its apparently sluggish behavior. I have noticed since acquiring a 333 MHz Lombard that the Pismo can be sluggish! Strange, me thinks.

It's a 400 MHz bought used and not starting from shut down without a reset unless power-up is initiated just seconds after completing power-down (times may even have varied in trials). New PRAM battery, d-card reseat, RAM swaps improved it. So it's stayed powered for the majority of two years, either awake or asleep! It performs normally, I believe, and was a great upgrade to my 300 MHz WallStreet - until more than a year ago it smoked and spun up everything that could spin (I think) and sent the screen a-garbled. Oh no, smoke and the distinct smell of burning circuits. It was self-perpetuated freefall, it seemed and quickly I disconnected power/dumped the battery. I pulled out the smelliest of the RAM and went back to work shortly thereafter.

Then she did it again some days later, I think while unplugged. But this time, the screen went south altogether. After some time of fishing, I got her back in video mirroring mode from an external monitor. It has worked reliably as a desktop (with onboard UPS), staying awake or asleep ever since.

Enter Lombard 333 MHz with 512 MB RAM, 512 KB L2 cache (oh yeah, the Pismo's got 640 MB). I just now took the time to make the empirical test of opening an identical 35 MB Illustrator doc in 10.4.11 simultaneously on each, and who wins? The Lombard! Illustrator starts more quickly, too. With half the L2 cache, less MHz, slower data path, slower disk, it wins. I began scrutinizing task times when evaluating MAPublisher software. Now I have serious questions!

Yet the Pismo is completely reliable/operable despite it's cripples. What gives? I ran Tech Tool Pro 9.1, and all checks out. Everything. System profiler shows all the appropriate bits including 1 MB cache. I tried to make a disk of Apple's hardware diagnosis download for the 'Book but haven't been able to make it bootable as yet. I also swapped on a Lombard monitor to see if that worked, but nope. Tried the Lombard inverter and still it behaved the same. The backlight is fine in either case, either monitor, either inverter. And the external VGA monitor makes not a hint of any video card problems.

With this background, do you suppose there is anything to suspect something other than the logic board? If I had another daughtercard to test - although I'm not sure I'd lend me one - I would. If it were possibly a d-card, this would be incentive to get a G4 processor! So, is this workhorse staked to clamshell mode forever more? Where should I look for the apparent shortfalls in speed?

Your wisdom is very much appreciated in this regard. I'd like to divert this puppy from the e-waste stream for as long as is possible!

Vernon W.

Hi Vernon,

Relative speed can be subject to an almost infinite variety of factors and interaction. For example, one of my Pismos is noticbly faster than the other, even though thay both have 550 MHz G4 processor upgrades, and the one with more RAM is the slower unit - due presumablty to the fact that it has a 4200 RPM hard drive while the speedier one has a 5400 RPM drive with an 8 MB cache.

Also, given the ordeals your poor old Pismo has experienced, it's amazing that it still works at all. I would say that some sort of motherboard issue would not be unlikely uder the circumstances.

OTOH, it could also be a software issue - some sort of corruption in the system. Are both machines running the same version of the Mac OS? You didn't say whether you're still using OS 9 or have one of the OS X versions. OS 9 is faster on a Pismo than any OS X version.

Driving an external monitor also saps some video power, which is not in copious supply on the Pismo anyway. The clock speed difference from 333 MHz to 400 MHz is not great.

I admire your resolve to keep the old Pismo in service, but I'm skeptical that it's an ideal candidate for upgrading given its history. You can pick up used Pismos in good running order for under $300, and that would be my recommendation if you want an upgrade-ready system.


Hi Charles,

These are very subjective observations indeed. But, still, I contend these count in the objective reality! I would feel all things weigh in the advantage of the Pismo, though she's been through a lot. Add to that already mentioned both G3s are operating under 10.4.11; Pismo runs ATA4 5400 RPM 8 MB and Lombard handles ATA3 4200 RPM 2 MB. I suppose if I were to boot in OS 9 and run a speed utility, this could be a more reliable indicator of hardware function.

In your LEM Pismo guide you mention that running the 'Book in clamshell mode diverts video resources to the external monitor. Are there still some additional drains? I did a clean install to an expansion bay drive in order to put 10.4 on the Lombard, but I didn't make any effort to observe changes in the Pismo's behavior. 'think I tried this in the past, however.

Oh, and everything checks out hardware-wise on the Pismo with AHT. Booting AHT with the lid closed allowed me to view what was happening on the external monitor. I suppose I would not know if there was a fault found when running in open book mode, but all checks out with the test when closed.

Yes, as in all things I like, this Pismo is a hard worker with a lifespan may be not yet truly defined. I'd like to acquire another hard worker to spare from the scrap heap. At least there isn't clunker legislation for 'Books like there is for automobiles! I have my eyes on a well used unit at Dal Arch/Planning, but I think those guys know the good thing they got. To go new, I probably won't go Mac.


Hi Vernon,

Far be it for me to try and discourage you from getting more mileage out of the old Pismo!

Booting in OS 9 as a diagnostic sounds like a worthwhile exercise. I don't know if running in clamshell mode diverts any extra resources to the external monitor, but at least it relieves them from having to support the built-in display.

Wegener Media still has some Pismos at reasonable prices. My nicest Pismo is one of theirs purchased last year to replace a previous one I got from them in which I blew the Power Manager board with a dodgy AC power cord (not the Pismo's fault).

What sort of computer do you think you might get? PC prices certainly are enticing, and I hear that Ubuntu Linix is pretty good these days. I really love my new Unibody MacBook, though.


Safari 4 Beta on G3 Macs

From Damian:

Hi Charles,

re your article Test Driving Safari 4 Beta

I enjoyed your review and am always keen to hear experiences of others who squeeze maximum life out of low-end Macs.

The reason I approach you now is the hardware specs which you relay on Safari 4, particularly Firewire built-in. I realise Tiger itself is unsupported on configurations below that but wonder if you or any of your contacts have tried Safari 4 on 10.4.11 on G3 iMac 333 MHz or similar?

We have similar issues in NZ re dialup vs. broadband. I had hoped the proliferation of mobile devises would create new awareness of bandwidth economy, but apparently most coders have moved toward the 'city'. Consequently I'm reluctant to wait out the download only to learn it does explicit hardware checking or in fact has a specific hardware requirement.

Anything you or your people may know of this constraint would be appreciated.


Hi Damian,

Safari 4 works reasonably well on my 1.33 GHz G4 PowerBook, but as I noted in the review, contra the speed exploits being reported by folks on broadband, on dialup it takes a backseat in performance to Opera, Camino, and perhaps even Safari 3.

It also seems a bit overhead-heavy, and it has to take some cycles to run stuff like Top Sites and CoverFlow, so I haven't even been tempted to try it on my Pismos running OS X 10.4.11. I can't say, but my suspicion would be that it would challenge slower G4s and definitely G3s.


Help Tiger Run Better on Low-end Macs with ShadowKiller

From Ronald in response to Helping Tiger Run Better on Low-end Hardware:

Hi Charles,

I've got another suggestion for speeding up Tiger on older hardware: ShadowKiller

I'm not a big fan of haxies, but in my experience, ShadowKiller works well on older Macs.

Mac OS X with shadows disabled
OS X looks quite a bit different with shadows disabled, but it runs faster.

Tiger does get a bit less pretty without the shadows, but the increased interface responsiveness is more than worth the small cosmetic downgrade.

Best wishes, and thanks for the great site!


Thanks for the tip and link, Ronald. Glad you like LEM!


Editor's note: ShadowKiller is compatible with Mac OS X 10.2 through 10.4.11. It is not compatible with 10.5. dk

17" PowerBook G4 Memory Slot Problem

From Ian Bradford:

Hi Charles,

This comes to you from (not so) sunny Portsmouth in the UK.

With reference to 15" PowerBook G4 Lower Memory Slot Problem Revisited

It seems I too am a victim of the problem. I've a 17" 1.33 GHz AlBook purchased new from Apple around (best I recall) late 2003, supplied with Apple installed 1 x 1 GB RAM module. Second slot empty.

Whilst aware of the 15" Repair Extension Program, I paid it no heed (not the correct PB in screen size or clock speed & I had no inclination to increase RAM capacity), until now!

I should also mention I'm very conversant with Macs technically - anyhoo...

All has been well, so having recently obtained a second 1 GB module, I installed same in spare slot but not recognised.

  • Changed module positions but still not recognised.
  • Removed second module - all OK.
  • Placed original module in slot 2 and again all OK.
  • Placed 2nd module in Slot 1 - OK.
  • Placed 2nd module in Slot 2 - OK, module is fine.

Both RAM slots work regardless module inserted (provided only one module fitted).

Just to satisfy myself, I then fitted a 512 MB module (with a 1 GB module - alternatively Module 1 and later Module 2 in Slot 1), and this 512 MB too was not recognised.

Conclusion: RAM Slot Problem.

Apple of course are not interested!

Perhaps, assuming you do not now consider the issue now ancient history, you'd add my experience to "the database".

Best regards,

Hi Ian,

Sorry to hear of the difficulty. If I'm reading you correctly, your machine is a 17" rather than a 15" unit, and thus identical in spec to the PowerBook I'm typing on right now.

I hadn't previously heard of 17-inchers being prone to this particular affliction, but it certainly sounds like yours is, so it's an interesting development. Wonder if there are others. My rig has always worked happily with its 1.5 GB of RAM installed, although it would be happier maxed out at 2 GB of course.


Replacement Control/Alt Keys for Unicomp Keyboards

From Ruffin:

Was looking through your report, Return of the Best Computer Keyboard Ever?, and was interested enough to Google up a few reviews. One was from another Mac user, who mentioned that, for $10, you can get Unicomp to send over a few not exactly Mac keys, but at least good Windows key replacements to eliminate the awkwardness you mention in your report.

I've enjoyed my Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro for years, but I'm curious to re-experience the old Model M and might have to give it a shot. Thanks for the information. Wonder if I could get used to a built-in trackball?


Hi Ruffin,

Thanks for the info. I also had read somewhere in a review that the author thought Apple keycaps could be ordered from Unicomp, but I couldn't find any reference to that on their Website, so omitted mention of it. Those keycaps in the photos would certainly do the job nicely. Too bad they wouldn't offer it as a BTO option.

I've never been much of a fan of built-in pointing devices in keyboards. My most recent encounter was with the Logitech DiNovo Edge 'board, which has a small scrolling trackpad built-in, but it doesn't really appeal. Of course, I'm inclined to use a mouse, even with a laptop.


Apple's Current USB Keyboard Is the Best Mac Keyboard

From Richard:

The best keyboard ever is Apple's current wired keyboard.

Once used to laptop style keyboards, almost impossible to go back.


Hi Richard,

I agree about laptop-type keyboards, and the current Apple alumimum units are certainly nice, although I still think the Kensington Slimtype has the edge in typing feel and for some reason doesn't cause as much typing pain and fatigue as other 'boards for this user.


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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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