Charles Moore's Mailbag

Transitioning from PowerPC to Intel Macs, No Atheros WiFi Drivers for Classic Mac OS, and More

Charles Moore - 2009.03.18 - Tip Jar

iBook G4 to MacBook Transition

From Rich:


I've been following your move to your new MacBook with some interest, as I'm about to, if not follow in your footsteps, at least proceed on a parallel path: I'm transitioning from a 12" G4 iBook (1.27 GHz reported) to one of the new 2.0 GHz Nvidia MacBooks. I read both yours and Dan Knight's articles on this machine when it came out (in fact, that's how I found out about it in the first place).

I opted for the WhiteBook because of the retained FireWire, which I'm not ready to try to do without. The sub-$1000 (US) price was nice too, although mine ended up several hundred dollars more with the addition of RAM, larger hard drive, and AppleCare. Yes, I know that the RAM and hard drive would be cheaper anywhere else and are relatively easy to install on this machine, but I opted for the built-to-order route because this way they're also covered under the AppleCare.

My experiences with 12" iceBooks (both G3s and G4s) have convinced me that AppleCare is a good investment when it comes to the 'Books. I've had four 12-inch iBooks, and all four have needed major repairs (read: circuit board and/or hard drive replacement) along the way. I've done this myself on the machines I picked up secondhand, but the AppleCare paid for itself on the 1.2 GHz machine, which went into permanent sleep a week before the AppleCare ran out.

A few comments: I use Hotmail for nearly all of my personal email, so I've no suggestions for your Eudora difficulties. I too like the magnetic power adapter, as the round plugs used by the iBooks were very susceptible to damage. While the "chiclet" keyboard is reminiscent of a hobbyist/down-market machine from the '80s (does anyone remember IBM's PCjr?), it's no worse than the one on the 12-inch iBooks, and maybe even somewhat better. I also am not too keen on the glossy display; I find the reflections annoying - as I type this, I notice that I'm waving my head back and forth to avoid them (MacBook aerobics, anyone?).

I've run SETI@home on my Macs for years now, and this really demonstrates the processing speed differences; I thought my G5 iMac was fast until I got the new MacBook. The G5 iMac can finish a work unit in half the time of the G4 iBook, and my new MacBook does them in about half the time as the G5 - and it does two at once! However, that does raise a question: On the PowerPC machines, the Energy Saver Preference allows me to select processor speed as "Automatic, Highest, or Reduced". The new MacBook doesn't seem to offer that option, and so it apparently runs full-tilt all the time. Running the SETI program generates enough of a load (apparently) that the fans run most of the time - increasing noise and power consumption. Are you aware of a solution to this, or have I maybe over looked a system setting somewhere? This is my first experience with OS X 10.5 (I'm running 10.5.6 on the new machine); the iBook has 10.3.9 and the iMac 10.4.something.

Enjoy your work!


Hi Rich,


I hope your new MacBook will prove more reliable than those iBooks did, as I am hoping that this unibody machine will continue my string of never having needed a major repair within the three-year envelope. That said, our old G3 iBook finally bit the dust a couple of weeks ago. It just quietly died and has resisted all efforts to revive it. Six+ years is not too shabby, though, and it has a ton of hours on it.

For the sort of stuff I mostly do, I'm not noticing a big speed advantage with the Intel 'Book compared with my 1.33 GHz G4 PowerBook, but the faster booting and application launches are pleasant. I don't doubt that for really processor intensive or graphics heavy stuff there is a substantial improvement.

I am not minding the glossy display, except I note that it needs more direct viewing.

There is a fan adjustment utility called CoolBook that lets you modulate fan activity somewhat in these machines.

My MacBook has been here for five weeks, and the fan hasn't come on yet, so I can't speak to that from experience.


17" PowerBook a Great Computer

From Brian:

Hi Charles....

I enjoyed your article in today's LEM.

Goes to prove the old adage - the best computer is the oldest and cheapest that still does everything you want reasonably well.

I guess that can apply to anything really!


Hi Brian,

I'll drink to that!

When I bought the 17" PowerBook back in 2006, I calculated that I would probably use it for 18 months before getting a Macintel. However, it is such a great computer I was able to double that, and if it weren't for the fact that I really need to be able to test Intel-only software, I could quite happily keep using it.


The Computer You Have May Be All the Computer You Need

From Kent:

A very interesting article that points out something I have feared in my own dealings with Macs. There comes a point, a high water mark if you will, when the computer you have is really all the computer you need. But all too often you only realize this when you've gone past that point. You realize it when you spend too much time getting your old workflow to match, and work with, your new equipment. And at this point, if you have to change the way you work too much, to match that new computer, you've gone backwards.

I think I discovered this in working to get my email, calendars, and address books all to sync with my computer, a server, and my iPhone.

It has caused me to consider that quite possibly my old 12" G4 PowerBook combined with a pencil and paper Franklin Day Planner was my high watermark.

Love the articles. Keep up the good work.


Hi Kent,

Thanks for the comment and kind words.

I agree in general with your premise. I don't want to sound too negative about the MacBook. It's a lovely computer, and I expect I'll get into the swing of being efficient on it.

However, if it were not for some work-related exigencies I could have been content going on with the old 1.33 GHz PowerBook for some time yet, and I still spend several hours of my workday using a G4 hot-rodded Pismo.


Making the Switch from a G5 iMac to an Intel iMac

From Eric:

Hi Charles,

Been a while, but only because the duties of parenthood have turned me into more of an observer of late (a 3-year-old and 6-month-old will do that). Your latest update on LEM really piqued my interest. Best of luck as you work out the kinks with your new system.

I'm currently awaiting delivery of my first Intel Mac. Specifically, a refurb 2.4 GHz iMac. While I'm making the transition, I'll also be tasting Leopard for the first time. Hopefully things go smoothly. My hurdles will be different than yours, especially since I use Mail and not Eudora. For as long as I can recall, I've been downloading and using Universal versions of all my software whenever possible and hope that will make a difference. The whole reason behind this purchase is my G5 has been having numerous kernel panics the past 2-3 weeks. It was in once for a new power supply followed later by a new motherboard. Since it's no longer under warranty, I figured it wasn't worth the hassle of getting it repaired and will instead part it out and recycle it.

BTW, I originally had my eye on a refurb 2.66 GHz Penryn (previous gen iMac) for $999. But when I went to pull the trigger and get it, was out of stock. After some consideration, I chose the 2.4 GHz instead. It was only $849, and the difference covers me maxing out the RAM to 4 GB and then some. (Memory for these is dirt cheap! I am awaiting a 4 GB kit from OWC that cost only about $50.) It could also cover a big chunk of AppleCare, but I'm on the fence on getting that. Offhand my only regret is that I couldn't wait until Snow Leopard was included.

Here are the few differences between them...

  • CPU: 2.66 Penryn vs. 2.4 GHz Merom Intel Core 2 Duo
  • RAM: 800 vs. 667 MHz
  • System Bus: 1066 vs. 800 MHz
  • Cache: 6 vs. 4 MB shared L2 cache at full processor speed (maybe the biggest performance hit)

Otherwise, both are very similar...

  • Both have the same 7200 rpm HD: 320 GB
  • Both have the same max RAM capacity: 4 GB
  • Both have 20" screens
  • Both have same double-layer SuperDrive
  • Both have the same ports
  • Both have the same graphics card (ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO w/256 MB)
  • Both have the new aluminum keyboard
  • Both only weigh 20 lb. (5 lb. less than my G5)

Yes, it would've been nice to have the slightly better specs, but saving $150 is also very nice. I just have to remind myself that I probably won't notice the difference, especially for how I use the computer. And it will be a vast improvement over my current setup. My G5 iMac had a production run of May-October 2005 (picked up refurbished around Halloween that year), while the "new" iMac was produced August 2007 to April 2008. I'm curious to know exactly when my new iMac rolled off the assembly line.

I've never looked so forward to St. Patty's Day before!


Hi Eric,

Great to hear from you and thanks for the report. It's been twenty-odd years, but I remember well the preoccupations and joys of parenting young children. It goes by altogether too fast!

I expect you'll be happy with the iMac. Let us know how you like it when you get settled in.

I had been using Leopard since a couple of weeks after it was released, so that wasn't part of my reorientation, and actually I'm surprised at the relatively few applications that broke coming over to Intel, although Eudora was an über-biggie for me.


Time for a 'Book, Need Guidance

From Owen Strawn:

Hi Charles,

Went to Best Buy last weekend, and wifey fell in love with the MBA. Her Flower Power iMac is growing long in the tooth anyway, and it seems like a laptop might be a good choice for an upgrade. I've never paid much attention to them though (except for the usual 2400 lust), so I am really at a loss where to start.

Budget is really tight, of course, but we are not power users by any means. I have had excellent luck with used and refurb (Apple's $1,000 refurb MBA looks like a smoking deal, but I've heard the 1st generation has heat problems). So a cheap used laptop would be fine as long as it was adequate for 10.5, web surfing, and word processing. I'd be disappointed if it didn't have DVD support. My G4 1.25 GHz iMac is still running really strong, so I wouldn't be afraid to buy the equivalent in a laptop, as long as the price was right. I like the clamshells, but they are way too expensive for such low-powered machines, as far as I can tell.

$800 for 4 years old (for example) won't cut it when I can get new for $1k. Or will it? There may be a compelling argument to be made feature-wise, but I don't have a clue.

Can you give me any guidance here? Or at least point me to an iBook/MacBook/etc. guide to the different models?



Hi Owen,

I agree that it doesn't seem to make much sense to pay $700 or $800 for a used laptop when you can get a brand new MacBook White with a Core 2 Duo and Nvidia GeForce 9400 graphics for a thousand bucks with a warranty, but I have had good luck with Apple Certified Refurbished stuff, including my 17" PowerBook which has been a stellar and virtually flawless performer, a couple of iPods for family members, and I just got an Apple Certified Refurbished Unibody MacBook 2.0, which sells at the US Apple Store for $1,099. The one I got seemed to be as new, and a friend of mine got a similar machine a couple of weeks ago and is delighted with it. No problems with any of them so far, and they come with the same one year warranty and AppleCare eligibility as a new Mac.

The recent white MacBooks are selling refurbished for $700 to $800 and represent an excellent value for the money, but IMHO the Unibody models are in a whole different dimension, so long as you can live without FireWire.

I'm not a big fan of the MacBook Air for functional reasons, especially the single USB port and no built-in ethernet, as well as the non-swappable battery - and I'm still skeptical about the iPod-size hard drives. They look great but are too compromised for my taste. However people that have them seem to like them, although, as you say, there have been heat issues and also problems with the lid hinges not being as robust as they should be.

I've been quite pleased with the performance of my 1.33 GHz 17" PowerBook running Leopard, and the big ones do have a lot of cool bells and whistles, but I think you'll thank yourself going forward if you go Macintel at this stage of the game.

I hope this will be of some help in your deliberations.


Atheros WiFi Drivers for the Classic Mac OS

From Ryan:

Hi Charles:

What I am interested to know is if anyone has gotten an Atheros based CardBus WiFi card to work under OS 8 or 9. The card I have has a flush antenna, so I am very much interested in getting it to work. At present, I have not been able to find any drivers for Mac Classic for Atheros-based chipsets.

Here are the details of the card:

  • 3Com Wireless 11a/b/g PC Card with XJACK antenna
  • Model: 3CRPAG175B
  • Chipset: Atheros AR5414
  • Driver supported:

I believe the original Apple AirPort Card 802.11b has a Broadcom chipset, as do later models, which is what Apple's native AirPort software supports. As such, if you have a third party WiFi card with a Broadcom chipset, it will likely work with Apple's software.

The now pervasive Orinoco Lucent WaveLAN cards (Silver and Gold most notably) use the Prism chipset, and there is an open source driver for it for OS X, and I think it just works under Mac Classic with AirPort installed, or else you can use the Proxim WiFi driver and control panel under Mac Classic . . . I have a copy somewhere, but it seems hard to find on the Web now.

Anyway, Atheros chipsets with CardBus WiFi cards and OS 9 . . . Any ideas, anyone?


Hi Ryan,

I have no frame of reference on that. My first encounters with WiFi in this neck of the woods came well after I had switched to OS X.

Hopefully someone in readerland will be able to answer your question.


Editor's note: Based on data compiled by MetaPhyzx in WiFi PC Cards for PowerBooks Running Mac OS 9, no Atheros-based PC Cards have Classic Mac OS support. dk

Safari 4 for Windows: Confusing

From Gordon:


I finally figured it out myself. I was trying to drag the icons onto a picture of the toolbar! Once I dragged the icons onto my actual toolbar, they stayed in place.

This is a very confusing design however!

Stopping a page from loading is done by clicking on the spinning thingie that you mentioned.


Hi Gordon,

Glad you got it sorted out. It isn't the most intuitive process.

I did know about clicking on the spinning thingie to stop loading, but when I restored the blue progress bar the spinner was no longer, so I had to add the Stop/Resume button to the toolbar from the Customize palette.


One-Control Automobile

From Derek:

Stephen wrote:

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!


A control which accelerates the car when you push forward, decelerates/brakes when you pull back, and steers when moved from side to side....

Seems like an excellent idea! Prevents people from trying to accelerate and brake at the same time....

Easier for people with physical disabilities....

It would probably improve regeneration efficiency in electric/hybrid cars.

What is not to love?



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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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