Charles Moore's Mailbag

'Snow Leopard' MacBook Insomnia, Webmail vs. Desktop Email, Penny a Minute Dial-up, and More

Charles Moore - 2009.09.30 - Tip Jar

'Snow Leopard' Insomnia on Late 2007 MacBook

Hi Charles,

I've been a fan of your "Ramblings" for years now, having found much helpful information in them about a variety of Mac problems. I can't be the only late 2007 MacBook owner who has this problem, can I? I've Googled and read lots of forums, but there doesn't seem to be much talk about this. I have Wake for network access disabled, no USB devices plugged in, Bluetooth is off, and yet still the Mac randomly wakes. Sleep worked fine before Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard". 10.6.1 update didn't fix it.

I am suspicious of Little Snitch and iStat Menus, but there doesn't appear to be anything in the console logs. Sometimes the Mac sleeps for a few hours, rarely all night. Surely, someone else has this problem and knows what to do about it?


Hi Mike,

That must be frustrating. I haven't heard from anyone else on that or seen anything on the forums that I recall.

It might be a conflict with some other third-party software.

Something to try as a diagnostic would be to create a new, fresh user account and run in that for a while to see if the behaviour manifests. If it still does, it may be a bug in Snow Leopard itself - possibly unique to affecting your particular MacBook model.


My G3 iMac Died

From Frank:

Hello Mr. Moore,

I emailed you a while back about deleting applications, and your advice helped, thank you.

I just wanted to say congratulations on the broadband and to update you on my Macs. Well my iMac G3, 600 MHz, 40 GB, 256 MB RAM, OS X 10.4.11 has died. It started to randomly shut down and got to a point where it would come on for minutes at a time. So I had to store it away and use one of my Indigo iMac G3s as a replacement.

Recently, as of yesterday, I was given a Power Mac G4 (Digital Audio), which is my first G4, and I have to say I see a huge difference from the G3. I can now watch MP4 encoded with H.264 without the stuttering. I can't wait to get it online and see how it works with Flash video.

I got the Power Mac G4 with OS 9 installed, and when I did the firmware update (4.2.8), the G4 wouldn't recognize the Apple branded keyboard. OS 9 wouldn't recognize the keyboard, so I just erased and installed OS X Panther. It's a shame, because I wanted to keep OS 9 in Classic. The iBook Dual-USB, which I'm sending you this email with, is chugging along and is the most used Mac that I have. Well I have no real questions right now, and I just wanted to update you on my Macs.

Frank B.
Navajo Reservation

Hi Frank,

Thanks for the greeting and update. I'm delighted to hear that you're still getting a lot of useful service from those old Macs. The G4 is quite a contrast with a G3 in some respects, especially with AltiVec optimized software.

Not sure what's up with the firmware update and keyboard. Not a problem I've encountered.


The Practical Approach

From Denny:

Hi Mr. Moore -

I like the approach you take in your columns, where the idea is to keep your laptop as long as it works for you. It is very practical. I've kind of been following them for years, partly because you had a 700 MHz iBook and I have a 900 MHz model that I was pretty much getting done what I needed to.

However, as technology progressed, I was thinking at some point it would be right to change. So when you bought a Unibody MacBook, I started eyeing the MacBook line. Long story short, I picked up a 2 GHz model for $750 when it became available at the Apple refurb store. (Thanks to you, I also learned to stay away from the Intel video chip models.)

I'm really glad I got it, too (even though my iBook still works fine). The interesting thing is that it has changed my computing habits, so that, for example, in addition to my regular work on it, I also mess around more with video and music. And I've been able to add more power-hungry apps that I couldn't use before, and the Web is faster now.

I followed your example and made do with what I had, but when the time came to upgrade, I went for the best deal (the Unibody would have been nice, but I went for lowest $). I'm happy with it.

So I made the technology leap, and I'm glad. Keep up the good work.


Hi Denny,

Thanks for the feedback, and I'm delighted that my musings have been helpful to you.

I haven't regretted upgrading to the Unibody MacBook either. It's a peach of a computer - on track to be my favorite I've owned so far.

Upgrading the RAM to 4 GB proved to be icing on the proverbial cake.


The End of Flash 9 Support on the Web

From James:


Glad to hear you successfully connected to broadband service. In a way, I'll miss your rants about dial-up. They were a good progress-marker for how efficiently Mac web technologies were working.

Speaking of efficiently using old technology, I have an observation that may affect some of your readers.

I reassigned my G4 mini to the living room last winter. We canceled cable and began using the mini as a media hub, thanks in large part to Hulu and a half dozen other sites. The G4 handled video decently using Flash 9. Firefox 3 was the browser of choice and delivered more frames per second than Safari 3, Camino, Opera, or any of the others I tried. Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" was far more efficient at delivering video. I'm using past-tense, because all this somehow changed.

Sometime over the last month, Hulu, YouTube, and other Flash intensive sites stopped working well with Flash 9 on the Mac. They now only deliver extremely choppy video. I've done complete reinstalls of the OS, programs, drivers, etc., and no improvement. The only recourse has been to upgrade to Flash 10 but the G4/Tiger combination isn't great for this.

I'm now using the G4 mini with Leopard, Flash 10, and either Hulu Desktop, Safari 4, or Stainless. With reduced video quality settings and more RAM, it's a useable alternative. Now that you have broadband, you might consider it too. At the very least, you should revisit web-radio services through iTunes. This could be the subject of a few new articles.

Best wishes,

Also from James:

Hi Charles,

Last winter, I decided Hulu and a half dozen other sites had caught up enough to cancel cable. We did some shuffling of the house machines and ended up with a G4 Mini in the living room as a general media center. Flash 9 through Firefox 3 on Tiger delivered very acceptable results for Hulu and YouTube when allowed to buffer a little.

This summer I tried out Hulu desktop, which has steeper CPU and RAM requirements. Great interface. It runs very well on my Intel Mini but stutters on the G4 Mini even in low resolutions mode. "Good thing to remember when we upgrade," I thought and returned to using Firefox. Unfortunately, Flash 9 has never worked properly again on the G4.

After many attempts to uninstall Flash, switch browsers, reinstall the OS (including downgrading to Panther and upgrading to Leopard), I began to suspect support for Flash 9 had been dropped. This was easy to verify, because we have two other G4 machines in the house, both PowerBooks. I tested all three with various versions of the Flash 9 plug and different browsers using Hulu and YouTube as references. All three had been used daily for watching video up until midsummer without problem. Given the results across the board, it now seems obvious that Web support for Flash 9 has been dropped. I can only guess it was a low priority compared with the need for more efficient video compression and higher quality video streaming for those services.

This leaves us with perfectly good G4 machines that can't stream video, an extravagance at one time that has become a primary function of computers for myself and others.

After more testing, I settled on the G4 running Flash 10 through Stainless on Leopard. I can't say enough nice things about Stainless but even this isn't enough to over come the limitations of the CPU. Leopard runs Flash 10, but ironically has much poorer video performance on the G4. Some say this could be improved a little with more RAM, but the G4 Mini has dedicated video RAM, so I'm skeptical. Of course, the paltry 512 MB of RAM I have in there is laughable, but then again, the resale value of the whole machine has plummeted over the last couple of months so as to make any more investment unwise.

Given my recent experience over the winter with the Lenovo s10, I think I'll be rotating my Intel Mini to serve as our entertainment center and buying another s10 as a modular solution for the studio. The Intel Mini should have a longer life with 2 GB of RAM, USB 2 for large fast external hard drives, faster system throughout, and Apple Remote - much better package than the deliberately crippled Apple TV.

No real question here, although suggestions are welcome. I think we all know the answer. I just can't believe I'm in a position to say that a G4 Mac isn't good enough to do what I need to do.


Hi James,

Thanks for the congrats and reports/commentary.

I haven't yet been able to more than scratch the surface of what's now available to me via broadband. Time constraints as usual the inhibitor. I'll gradually acclimatize. :-)

Flash was largely terra incognita for me throughout my long tenure as a dialup captive - I pretty much avoided video (often still images too), which was just too excruciatingly slow at 26,400 bps. A whole new world, now, at least on the Intel Mac.

I'm pleasantly gratified at how well my old Pismo does on broadband, but Internet speed was formerly my biggest bottleneck that compressed the performance gap between the old 550 MHz G4 and the 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo. Released from that constraint, the performance contrast is highlighted.

Internet video is still pretty bad on the Pismo - the RAGE Mobility 128 GPU with 8 MB of VRAM likely more of a handicap than the G4 CPU and modest 640 MB or RAM, but that rig, much as I love it, would simply no longer be remotely adequate as a primary production machine, although it still is very acceptable for the stuff I do with it and gets three or four hours use most days.


Benefits of Webmail

From Alan Zisman in response to Do You Trust Your Email to the Cloud?:


While I appreciate the arguments for desktop-based email clients, I've moved entirely to webmail over the past few years (I forget when exactly I made the switchover).

I'm also a Gmail user. For a long time, I used Eudora, mostly on Windows - when I moved to the Mac, I found I didn't care for the way Mac-Eudora handled HTML-formatted messages (the Windows Eudora used Microsoft's IE engine behind the scenes, which offered more browser-like display than what you got in Mac-Eudora), so I moved my mail to Apple Mail, using it for several years and several OS X versions.

But I work on multiple computers - computers at home, at work, and when traveling, Macs, WIndows systems, more and more Ubuntu systems, etc.

And by using Gmail exclusively - and the web interface exclusively - all my mail is always available. I like the way contacts are integrated into it, though I don't like how the Gmail contacts get cluttered with seemingly everyone who has emailed me or received mail from me. I exported what had been my Mac Address Book into Gmail without too much problem (there is always clean up required after this sort of export, I've found). And using Google Calendar completes the set.

While I'm aware of the potential dangers of storing all this stuff on a remote (and US-based) server, I also suspect Google does better backup than most individual users. I had one iBook that went through three hard drive crashes, and it took me most of that time to learn to keep my backups up to date.

Of course, relying on webmail and other cloud services assumes broadband and always available Internet access, something that has been pretty true for me for quite a while. If I were in a rural community requiring dial-up, it wouldn't work at all!

The point, of course, is that no single size fits everyone - for me, Webmail & the cloud lets me access what I need on any computer running any operating system wherever I happen to be. And that trumps keyboard shortcuts and the rest.

Alan's website

Hi Alan,

Thanks for the comments.

Yes, HTML rendering was pretty awful with Classic Eudora on the Mac. I'm a plain text kinda' guy, so that never troubled me overmuch, but good HTML support in Eudora 8 is no hardship.

I'm still adjusting to the Internet being available all the time without having to dial up.

As you say, "different strokes..." The hybrid system works for me.

I guess I've been fortunate, but in 17 years of using Macs, I've never had a hard drive die in any of my computers, but I do back up regularly.

I may get into using more of the Google Web apps as I acclimatize to broadband.

Gmail, is great, for all the reasons you mention.


Webmail vs. Desktop Email

From Dan Knight:


A few more items you could have included in your email piece.

With desktop email, you don't have to wait while Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, or whoever scans an attachment for malware that can't do anything to your Mac.

With desktop email, you can access mail in several different accounts at the same time. With webmail, you need to run a separate browser for each Gmail account you want access to at the same time. (Another benefit of so many good Mac browsers!)

Gmail offers the best of both worlds with Web, POP3, and IMAP support for free. I use several Gmail accounts with POP3 access. (I tried to like IMAP, but synchronizing files between desktop and cloud can be a slow process. Back to POP3 for me.)

For my use, the question boils down to this: Is there any benefit to having these messages on my Mac? If I might want to access them in the future, want Spotlight to index it, or it includes a download, I prefer desktop email. For the rest, Yahoo Mail and Gmail suit me just fine.

Dan Knight

Hi Dan,

We're on the same page I think.

Frankly, I just couldn't get along with just one browser, even if it were not for the multiple Gmail account issue. I have a minimum of three browsers running at all times, but it's one reason why I also maintain Yahoo! and Hotmail Webmail accounts.

Some folks profess to love IMAP, but the attraction has always eluded me.


My Webmail Addiction

Hi Charles,

Personally, I have come to rely on ubiquitous access to my email accounts. The one I'm mailing you from is the one I use the most, but I also have two Gmail accounts; one is a spam catchall I use for website memberships, and the other is strictly for family and friends. I have IMAP enabled on this one and the main Gmail account so that I never have to worry about synchronising my email clients.

Speaking of, I use Thunderbird on Windows, Evolution on Linux, on Macs, and my BlackBerry's push-IMAP for mobile access. When all of the above fails (as happened briefly here in Northwest Georgia during the flooding Monday), I can get to them from any computer using the web interface. I've found this is the best solution for me to stay connected, especially during disaster-relief efforts.

One more thing; welcome to the world of broadband! I just switched from 3 Mbps DSL to 16 Mbps cable and cut my bill by $30 per month in the process! The speed difference isn't quite as dramatic as what you are experiencing (I've been there, too) but it's still a welcome change.

All the best,

Hi Morgan,

Yes, the ubiquity of Webmail is seductive. No bother with synchronization. Convenient for me since I use three different 'Books on a daily basis.

Since switching to the Core 2 Duo MacBook as my main production machine, I've been happily surprised by how much I like Eudora 8.x, which as you probably know is a Thunderbird clone and uses the T-Bird application folder. Works essentially like T-Bird with Eudora interface nuances. I'm a convert.

I heard about the floods in your area and saw some pretty alarming news footage on the TV news. Don't know how widespread that severe flooding was, but I hope things are drying out. My sis-in-law lives in Tennessee and probably got the same weather system, but she's in a mountainous area, so likely didn't get flooded. We haven't heard anything, anyway.

I'm enjoying the speed!


Broadband and Power Outages

From Jeff:


I live in town and find that generally my broadband (via cable co.) stays up during outages unless it affects a very large area for a significant problem. I had a tech tell me that most of their equipment is either on generators (main office) or industrial UPS (local hubs). So it takes either a fairly prolonged outage or extremely widespread one to cause a problem. I have had brief (5-10 min) outages during some storms. YMMV :-)


Hi Jeff,

I hope there is some sort of UPS is in place, but I'm not optimistic. The tower is way out in the boonies (as am I) and serves a relatively small customer base, so I expect its a pretty low-budget installation.

Stands to reason that a cable operation in a middle-sized city like yours (population 124,009 according to Google) would maintain backup power. I live in a county measuring roughly 75 x 25 miles with a total population of about 9,000. ;-)

We had a 19 hour power outage here in late 2007.


Penny a Minute Dial-Up

From Phil:

I have broadband and keep a small dialup account for when it goes out, or when I bring my iBook to my aunt's and want to check email. - 1 penny per minute, $10 lasts all year if you don't use it.



Hi Phil,

Thanks for the tip. Looks like a great emergency dialup service.

The nearest local access number is an exchange 150 miles from here, so there would be long distance charges attached for me, but even so probably cheaper than maintaining a backup dial-up account for the amount I would use it.


I Also Have Pismo Target Disk Mode Problems

From John:


I was just reading the note from Chris on Low End Mac, in which he relates his experience with Target Disk Mode (TDM) on a Pismo. I had the same experience when I had a Pismo. No matter what I tried, pressing the "T" key produced a shutdown instead of taking the computer into TDM. I was trying to transfer some files from the Pismo to the 17" PB G4 that replaced it. I ended up doing a workaround by booting the G4 into TDM and then moving the files from the Pismo to the G4 on the screen of the Pismo. I never could figure out why the Pismo wouldn't go into TDM.

John Black

Hi John,

Thanks for the tip.


Peroxide for Sanitizing Keyboards

From Cath after reading How Concerned Should We Be about Computers and Phones as Disease Vectors?:

Hi Charles,

Just read your article from last year. My immunity is shot, and I have to start using a public computer lab soon. I like the idea of peroxide - I can't do Clorox or alcohol either.

But what mixture do you use? Just straight 3% peroxide or diluted, and if so, how much?

I really appreciate your help.

Thanks much

Hi Cath,

I think 3% drugstore hydrogen peroxide would work fine. There is also peroxide-based laundry bleach that I use for bigger jobs.

On the keyboard, actually what I use personally is 33% food grade hydrogen peroxide cut 11:1 with distilled water, which I think works out to something like three or four percent. I wouldn't use any dilution milder than that.

It's very important to apply the peroxide with a damp cloth and make sure none gets down into the circuit boards below the keys, which could permanently damage the keyboard. Use at your own risk, of course.

Another disinfectant agent that I sometimes use on keyboards is colloidal silver, which also has no odor. It's relatively expensive to buy, but I have a small colloidal silver generator and make my own. The same caveat applies about making sure not to get any liquid down into the circuit boards.


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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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