Charles Moore's Mailbag

WiFi Adapters for OS 9, Safari 4 on Pre-FireWire Macs, and Paper vs. Plastic Bags

Charles Moore - 2009.03.11 - Tip Jar

Motorola WN825G WiFi PC Card for Pismo

From Steve:

I read your article this afternoon [$40 802.11g CardBus WiFi Card for OS X 10.3 and Later] and thought I would toss in my two cents. I have been using a pair of Motorola WN825G WiFi PCMCIA cards in my two Pismos for the last two years. No problems and completely plug and play set up. Works every time. Best of all they were only $10-$20 on eBay. Reads just like an AirPort Card.

Here is the Amazon page with some reviews.

Thanks for the report and link, Steve.


External Wireless Adapters for Mac OS 9

From Andrew:

Two questions:

  1. Is it possible to use a Zonet ZEW2000PF USB wireless-network adapter under OS 9? I get a "driver not available" message when I plug it in, and Google shows no official drivers.
  2. If not, can you recommend another external adapter that's reasonably cheap?

The computer is a 2000 iBook G3/366 FireWire, in case that matters.

Hi Andrew,

I didn't know, so I kicked this one over to Dan Knight, who responded:


I don't know of any USB WiFi dongles that work with the Classic Mac OS, although many of them will work with modern versions of Mac OS X.

Every iBook that runs the Classic Mac OS can use Apple's AirPort Card with Mac OS 9.x. They are not cheap, selling for US$50-100 plus shipping on the used market. Low End Mac owns one of these cards, pulled from our PowerBook G4/400 when it was dropped and destroyed. I would be happy to sell it to you....

Dan Knight, publisher,

Editor's note: We followed up on Andrew's question by publishing WiFi Adapters for Desktop Macs Running Mac OS 9 on Tuesday. It's adapted from the Mac OS Wireless Adapter Compatibility List compiled by MetaPhyzx by his kind permission. We've also produced these other pages covering WiFi adapters:

Could Steve Jobs Save Even One of the Big Three?

From Stephen:


When I read the headline in your recent "Ramblings" column, I had to chuckle. Immediately an image came to mind of a car with only one control for steering, brakes, and gas!


Excellent point, Stephen! :-)


Safari 4 Runs Well on Pre-FireWire Macs

From Matt:

Hi, I just read Damian's email in which he asks about the Safari 4 beta running on pre-FireWire Macs. I can confirm that Safari 4 installs painlessly on my G4 upgraded all-in-one beige G3 with 10.4.11. The only thing that stopped me at first was that I hadn't installed the latest security update. After that, it installed with no issues at all - and it actually renders faster than Safari 3 did!

It is worth mentioning that the "top sites" feature is disabled, perhaps due to the Radeon 7000 (that's not a typo, I did the internal video mod on my AIO) not having Core Image support. If I still had my Pismo, I'd definitely give it a try.


Hi Matt,

Thanks for the info.

I've personally switched back to iCab, now at version 4.5, for my WebKit browser. For some reason, Safari 4 is slower on my dialup system, and after a day or so of uptime it just grinds to a halt, requiring a quit and restart to get it working again. (PowerBook G4/1.33 GHz, Leopard 10.5.6)


Problem with Safari 4 for Windows

From Gordon:

Charles, were you able to drag the icons for "home" or "autofill" or "text size" or "print" down into the Address and Search blank below?

I refer to going to View and down to Customize Toolbar....

It looks easy. The icons appear to be going to the right spot, but once they are released, they jump right back to their original place above the Address and Search blank.

Any solutions?


Hi Gordon,

My ignorance of the Windows version of Safari is fairly encyclopedic.

On the Mac, after I used the Terminal command to restore the blue progress bar to the address field, the little spinning wheel activity thingie disappeared, but I was able to use the Customize Toolbar palette to put the old school Stop/Reload button back where it belongs with no problem.

Perhaps someone in readerland with Windows Safari experience will be able to help.


Plastic Bags Are the Better Value

From Stephen:

Dear Charles,

I strongly agree with your position on plastic bags. There's a real problem in being charged above cost for plastic bags in supermarkets; if you're paying above cost for something there's a profit involved. The argument that the price has to be higher to appreciate the costs involved on an environmental scale only helps if the money actually moves that way; I'd really like to see a breakdown of the charges companies make for green moves - and if any of these happen to pad the bottom line.

The fact that paper bags are less useful is extremely important, the handles that a plastic bag can sustain are one example. This is cutting off our noses to spite our faces. The fact that there's more environmental effect in producing paper bags is a very, very good point. The replacement that people are encouraged to use is much better made "reusable" bags, obviously falsely implying that you can't reuse regular plastic bags. I keep a canvas bag in my backpack if I need to carry something unexpectedly; the energy cost in producing that was higher than a plastic bag, but it evens out over the lifetime of its use, and that seems sensible. If I was to throw that canvas bag away the first time I used it (it was free with a purchase), then clearly that would be a much higher energy cost. Paper bags are only used once: if they get wet (even condensation from chilled bottles can be enough) they're spoiled and you're left with goopy pulp that's useless and hard to get into a recycling bin. The main use of a paper bag once it's home is to line bird cages and for paper maché.

That said, I happen to quite like getting my groceries in a paper bag (on dry, sunny days), because it's something that happened in the old days before I was born, but that's nostalgia and not ecology.


Hi Stephen,

We seem to think along parallel lines. I get nostalgic about paper bags because they remind me of the old days too, only I lived in them (the old days, not the paper bags). For the first 30-odd years of my life, paper bags were what we brought the groceries home in.

Plastic bags were a quantum functional improvement, handles being a case in point, and I find them immensely useful beyond the original use.

I enthusiastically support using fabric bags whenever practical, but by banning plastic we're throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater, or, as you observe, cutting off our noses to spite our faces.


Plastic Bags and Biodegradability

From Brian:

Hi Charles...

The real problem with plastic bags is not their carbon footprint but, rather, their non-biodegradability in landfills. There are plastics available that will degrade in a matter of weeks but they are more expensive. It would make more sense to use those materials (for garbage bin liners also) and charge folks 5 cents a pop.

Any rebuttals?


Hi Brian,

Actually, I don't think biodegradable plastic bags are really much more expensive than the conventional sort, and if they became the norm, I would expect that economies of scale would take care of any cost difference.

The problem with biodegradables is that they mess things up when they get put in the conventional recycling stream with regular plastic bags - a logistics and education issue.

Conventional plastic bags are also eminently recyclable. Here in Nova Scotia, Canada, where I live, 45% of all retail shopping bags already recycled, and last year the provincial government agreed to invest Can$21 million to assist a private enterprise in a project partly focused on recycling plastic bags into diesel fuel.

The impact of plastic bags on landfill volume is often vastly overstated. According to studies by the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, plastic bags l represent less than 1% of landfill contents, and a 2005 Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour study showed plastic bags aren't even a top 10 roadside litter item.


Potential Environmental Danger from Plastic Bags

From Andrew:

I'm not worried about plastic bags and climate; I'm worried about microscopic synthetic plastic polymers in water and food. I don't think a paper bag would irreparably harm wildlife or mess with my hormones. (So long as it's not treated with lots of toxic stuff.) In any case, I take a backpack shopping with me. The older and more beat up, the better. Anyone turns up their nose at a backpack needs to pull their head out of their behind and join the rest of humanity!


Hi Andrew,

Personally, I think there are vast congeries of environmental pollutants that merit more concern than the breakdown residues of plastic bags (and, of course, one of the drums plastic bag critics like to beat is that plastic bags take "thousands of years" to break down - I have no idea whether that is accurate). On the other hand, biodegradable plastic bags are 90% cornstarch.

Ever live near a paper mill? I have, and I would much prefer close quarters with a plastic bag plant. There is nothing environmentally benign about paper production.

Backpacks are great. Good on you. My wife and I have a stack of seven (which seems about right for us so far) cloth grocery bags that we keep on the transmission tunnel of the truck, which makes them reasonably easy to remember (we live 50 miles from the nearest supermarket), although about two times out of five we'll still forget to grab them and have to make a return trip to the parking lot. They're great, but where they're not adequate is for stuff like meat that might have fluid run out of the packaging during transit (yuck!). I don't think you would want that in your backpack either! Disposable plastic bags still rule there.


Yeah, I still use plastic bags for meat, and then use them to take out my garbage. It's practically a full-time job trying to stay ahead of what's bad or less bad for the environment. My grocery store started selling cloth grocery bags - they stink of some nasty chemical and have "Made in China" tags on their undersides.

Actually I grew up down the street from Appleton Papers in Wisconsin, but I always thought much of what they did was just the cheap and easy way out, that they could have been more responsible. The Fox River is full of the PCBs they dumped for decades until the EPA told them to cut it out, yet they still miraculously make paper and profit without dumping anymore. We just need to make it clear to companies that there's profit in doing things the right way.

I'd be more frightened if plastic didn't break down. When it does break down, it's still there, just so small we can't see it. Doctors have a hard enough time figuring out what's wrong with us without having to track tiny polymers through the food chain.

- Andrew

Hi Andrew,

I've been battling severe Multiple Chemical Sensitivities for the past 20 years (and less severe ones since I was a teenager), so I'm pretty tuned in to the topic of pollution and environmental degradation - and doctors who don't have a clue as to what's causing the problems.

What bugs me most about the plastic bag thing is that it's one of a number of essentially "feel-good" divides that people employ to kid themselves that they're doing something to help the environment without actually altering their lifestyles at all in any substantive way. Plastic bags are a relatively trivial contributor to the problem compared with harder or more inconvenient things that actually might make a positive difference.


Paper Grocery Bags Are the Best

From Karl Seitz:


When it comes to computers, I appreciate your opinions and knowledge, but you lost me in your piece on plastic bags. It's not the environmental argument. I remember a report several years ago that found little difference between plastic and paper bags in their overall environmental impact. I've long accepted that conclusion. Your sources are pro-plastic. I'm skeptical, but that's not what I object to.

It was your attack on paper grocery bags that made my blood boil. My opinion is just the opposite. I find plastic grocery bags the worst thing that has happen to the grocery business in my 65 years - note that I'm talking only about grocery bags, not those at other stores. Unlike you, or perhaps you as a child, I find paper bags so superior that I refuse to shop at grocery stories that don't have paper bags available.

Each paper bag holds as much as two or three plastic bags, meaning fewer trips between car and house. Paper bags are easier to carry and probably more ergonomic. Just wrap your arms around two of them and hold them against your body. You can't hold the plastic bags against your body. They'd spill. Holding plastic bags by their handles puts extra pressure on your shoulder joints. Plastic bags get tangled up in the car. Paper bags don't.

As for your objections to paper, I seldom have bags out in the rain long enough for wet strength to be an issue. And my wife has all sorts of uses for paper bags.

Karl Seitz

Hi Karl,

I admire your spirited advocacy of paper grocery bags. I don't agree with your evaluation of their functionality as superior, but I do remember them (for about 30 years of my life) with nostalgia. I can usually lug four or five full plastic bags at a time in from the car, and the handles make them much easier and more secure to carry, IMHO. Also, if you're on a bicycle, it's no contest.

As an aside, I keep a wad of plastic grocery bags stuffed under the seat of my bike for any carrying tasks I may encounter en route, and they're also a lot more useful than paper bags would be for keeping grease off your hands if the chain comes off and needs remounting!

I'm fascinated that you can actually find grocery stores that have paper bags any more. I think it must be 25 years or so since they disappeared from supermarkets and smaller grocery stores here in Atlantic Canada where I live.


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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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