Charles Moore's Mailbag

Fixing a Narcoleptic PowerBook G4, the Future of Tiger Support, Spam Filtering, and More

Charles Moore - 2009.10.28 - Tip Jar

Fixing a Narcoleptic PowerBook G4

From Kellie:

Dear Mr. Moore:

I got your name from a nice fellow at LEM who called you the "PowerBook guru", so I imagine my email is making it to the right person!

We have a Aluminum PB G4 1.67 GHz with the sleep problems widely discussed on message boards, etc. It has, according to hubby-user, been happening since he got it. Why he didn't make an issue while it was still under warranty defies logic, but he didn't, and now of course Apple can't help in any meaningful way, as we do not have an Apple Store nearby and tech service on the phone they acted like I was asking how to change the carburetor on a Model T when asked them about it.

We get this problem - described accurately on Wikipedia.

"There has also been a rash of reports concerning sudden and pervasive sleeping of 1.5 and 1.67 GHz models.[5][6] Symptoms include the PowerBook suddenly entering sleep mode, no matter what the battery level is or if it is plugged in. One cause is the ambient light sensing, and associated instruction set coding, with possible keyboard backlight and sleep light issues accompanying the so-called 'narcolepsy'. Another cause is the trackpad heat sensor monitoring the trackpad; system logs report 'Power Management received emergency overtemp signal. Going to sleep.'

"To correct this, service groups will often replace the motherboard or power converter, but the actual fix (depending on the model) for the first cause is to replace or remove the left or right ambient light sensors; and for the second cause, disconnect, remove, or replace the heat sensor, or the entire top case which holds the trackpad heat sensor. Alternatively, there are reports which detail success in() call; though permanent solution of the sleep issue in this manner is little documented." (italic text added by me to address our particular issue)

In particular, I noticed this Power Management issue in the logs, and that is what I think is the problem. Even if the laptop is stone cold, it will go to sleep, and I cannot start it up without pulling all the power and waiting a few minutes. I can't keep a good log, because I have to pull the battery and reset the PMU just to get it started again, but I have noted this alert in the logs several times when the laptop was cool or just started up. FYI - because LEM guy thought this might be of note - File Vault id "off" and I have set the laptop to "never go to sleep." Yet it sleeps.

Of course, this is not a feasible way to continue using this laptop - pulling all power, waiting, resetting PMU, restarting, resetting clock, etc., every time I try to start up. If I keep it out of sleep mode, I can use it, and it will restart if I shut down completely at the Apple Menu, but if it goes to sleep or if I sleep it, the cycle of not starting up begins again.

It is a good and serviceable laptop when it is not dead asleep! Any ideas about how a regular person can fix this? I do not write code or understand how to mess with "kernel extension," but I need to know how to fix this myself or at least what to tell a service person to do so they do not lead us astray.

Any ideas? I hope I have given you adequate info and that is is not too jumbled up.

Thanks so much!


Hi Kellie,

Actually, changing the carburetor on a Model T Ford is a piece of cake compared with addressing this problem. ;-)

I haven't personally encountered this issue firsthand (my PowerBook G4 is a 1.33 GHz unit), but Google tells me plenty of folks have (c. 80,000 hits to PowerBook sleep problem).

One discussion and potential workaround is here with detailed instructions on how to proceed: PowerBook Sleep Problem Fix

However, the author also notes that "The best solution yet is to get Apple replace the defective trackpad sensor." That would be expensive, though, now that the machine is off-warranty.

I would suggest enquiring with one of the third-party outfits that does mail-in repairs on Apple laptops, such as TechRestore or iResQ as to what they would charge to diagnose and fix the problem properly.

Hope this helps. Let us know how you make out.


Charles W. Moore wrote:

One discussion and potential workaround is here with detailed instructions on how to proceed: PowerBook Sleep Problem Fix

Hey Mr. Moore-

I tried this, and it seems to be working . . . small victory dance scheduled. However, I have two questions: 1) Do you think there is a downside to this simple fix? I am no programmer and have no idea what I am doing when it comes to this sort of tinkering. I was very nervous about doing it but went ahead and followed the instructions carefully - and lo and behold, it is working. However, could it cause problems down the line? Also, 2) What do I do with that folder the instructions said to create as a backup for those extension files? I saved the copies as instructed. Can I just trash them now?

Also, I installed a small program called Caffeine, which seems to prevent auto-sleep when enabled (changing system prefs did not stop auto sleep even when set to "never"). However, unlike before the "fix," when I do put the laptop to sleep manually, it does wake up promptly and with no restarting,or battery pulling, etc. Any ideas as to a downside using this program?

Thanks so much. I cannot tell you how many hours I spent diagnosing/researching this issue. We have no Mac support within an hour of here, and then it is only sporadic, so your help is very much appreciated.

Thanks - Kellie

Hi Kellie,

Delighted to have been of service - and to hear that the "fix" seems to be working, although I can't take any credit for figuring the workaround out.

So long as you keep your important files backed up (which you should under any circumstances), you should be okay. You could just tuck those saved extension files away somewhere for future reference if necessary, but you won't likely need them, and I can't see this fix (or Caffeine) doing any harm, with the caveat that I'm not a programmer either.

I can identify with being far distant from Mac support. My nearest Apple authorized dealer and service outlet is 150 miles away, although the university in the nearest town to here (50 miles) recently switched wholesale to Macs, and I understand that one of the computer service firms there has begun working on Macs.


Have you seen or tried InsomniaX? Would it work for narcolepsy problem?

Thanks - Kellie

Hi Kellie,

I can't speak to your question with any authority, but my guess is that it wouldn't help.

However, it's freeware, so there should be no downside to giving it a try.


How Much Longer Will Apple Support Tiger?

From John:

Charles -

I've been wondering something recently. How much longer will Apple support Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger"? This is an important question for many LEM readers, since A) Tiger is often the best - and often only! - choice for many older systems and B) security patches/repairs are probably a good thing, particularly now that the Mac OS is becoming more popular.


Hi John,

Good question. I think it's safe to say that the phase-out of support for Tiger is already underway, and unless some sort of security patch is urgently needed, the current version (10.4.11) will remain the ultimate version of Tiger for posterity.

While Apple did release an OS X 10.4 version of Safari 4, browsers are something of a special case, and I expect development of updates for other 10.4 versions of Apple software has already been terminated, and indeed it won't surprise me if Safari 4 is the last version of the browser that will support Tiger.

On the other hand, I doubt that a minimum of support for Tiger in the form of information being available will be cut off any time soon. Interestingly, Apple still has a support page for OS 9 posted, but any serious attention Apple gives to development of PowerPC OS support is already primarily focused on Leopard.


Mac OS Leopard 10.5.4 Install Disc

From Anthony, following up on Leopard on a Digital Audio Power Mac:

Dear Charles,

Thank you for getting back to me so quickly! Okay, what I've got here is a CD install disc for Mac OS X version 10.5.4. We've determined that I need another RAM chip, as I only have 256 MB built-in memory.

Thanks for all the Macpertise!

very truly yours,
Anthony J. Connors

Hi Anthony,

You definitely need more RAM.

I have 1.5 GB in my PowerBook G4, and I only consider that marginal for running Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" half-decently.

I'm getting along with 640 MB in the Pismo running Tiger, but finding it not enough.

I'm still confused about the OS X 10.5.4 install disc. To the best of my knowledge, Apple only sold the generic OS X 10.5 install disc as OS 10.5, and users are expected to download the combo updater to bring it up to whatever (10.5.8 is the ultimate).

If it's specified to have 10.5.4 on it, it must be a software restore disc that was originally to ship with a specific model Mac, so even if you get more RAM, I'm skeptical that it will install on your machine, although I have heard of such installs occasionally working.


Eudora and Disappearing Features

From Bob, following up on Useful Eudora Feature:


Thanks for the reply!

Computer technology generally seems to move ahead, but it sure is irritating when a wonderful feature that one has grown to depend on is "lost" in the march forward.

I too still have a Pismo that works great - it may one day be the computer that my Eudora archives live on for posterity's sake after I have been forced (kicking and screaming) to move to another email client.


Hi Bob,

I agree unreservedly about the missing/disappearing features. There are still a number of aspects of Mac OS 9 that simply haven't been replaced adequately in OS X - and probably never will be.

One cool thing about Eudora archives is that you can open them in any text editor to get at the content.


Spam Filtering in Eudora 8

Hi Charles,

Are you satisfied with the handling of spam in the Mozilla version of Eudora? Personally, being on Thunderbird 2, as long as SpamSieve does not support Thunderbird 3 - or Eudora 8 - I am reluctant to try.


Hi Leif,

I use mostly Gmail these days, and they do such an effective job of spam filtering that it's not an aspect I've explored with Eudora 8 (actually, I never bothered with the spam filtering features in classic Eudora either).

If you like SpamSieve, you might want to check out MailSmith, which has recently gone freeware, and which has integrated support for SpamSieve.


Portable Thunderbird

From Steven:

There's a portable version of Thunderbird for PC and Mac, though the OS X version is sorely out of date.

Not exactly what the OP wanted, but it's something.


Thanks Steven.


HTML Markup and UTF-8 Encoding

From Brian in response to Using Tex-Edit Plus and AppleScript for HTML Markup:


You say: "bullets aren't handled gracefully by Web browsers, so my next step is to convert bullets to •"

You should not be using that character entity for a bullet, since you declare in your HTML page meta-tags that you are using UTF-8 encoding. Ampersand-hash-149-semi-colon is only a bullet in Windows-1252 encoding.

What you should be using, if you're declaring (and serving) your page as UTF-8 is "•".

However, proper HTML markup - i.e., a unordered list - would be better still.

I think this kind of thing is what happens when people use these sticky-paper and string, long-way-around, methods. I could never put up with all that. I just use TextMate.


Hi Brian,

Dan Knight does the markup and posting for Low End Mac, so perhaps he'll want to comment on your observation about the bullet coding (over to you, Dan).

I found the Web page link you sent very interesting and will keep it around for reference. Thanks.

My own coding needs are for another site, whose posting engine seems happy with the • tag, which renders bullets as desired there.

I tried TextMate several years ago and can appreciate its appeal to serious coders (which I am emphatically not), but for my purposes it was overkill.

The thing that I love about Tex-Edit Plus is that it does pretty much everything I need a text application to do - basic word processing, text-cleaning, the HTML markup functions I use, printing, and so forth - in one program.

Bur different strokes....



The hoops we jump through!

Our writers submit articles in a host of formats: Charles sends Tex-Edit Plus documents, some use Microsoft Word, a few submit HTML or RTF, and some just send their columns in the body of an email. My job as editor is to open those documents, massage them using TextSoap (this cleans up curly quotes, en- and em-dashes, extra spaces, and a whole lot more), and then paste them into Claris Home Page.

Unlike Charles, I use two WYSIWYG HTML editors, Home Page and KompoZer. I do all of my writing and most of my editing in Home Page, which hasn't been updated since 1997, is comfortable, and runs fast. It runs just fine in Classic Mode, which is why I have to have a Tiger machine as part of my production flow. Home Page doesn't produce standards compliant or up-to-date HTML, but it does produce HTML that works across a wide range of browsers - and, interestingly, it uses • as its encoding for a bullet.

KompoZer is a work in progress that's built on the shoulders of Nvu, itself built on the foundation of the Communicator module in Netscape. I use KompoZer 0.7.10 to update our price trackers and apply Cascading Style Sheets, a technology too new for inclusion in Claris Home Page. It works very well, and it's pretty stable. It also "updates" the HTML produced by Home Page, so the bullet, formerly encoded at • becomes &#bull; - much more meaningful than some obscure 4-digit number.

From there, I open the document in TextWrangler and apply Tidy to XHTML in the Services menu. This adaptation of Tidy HTML converts the code from Home Page and KompoZer into XHTML (XHTML 1.0 documents are for the most part backward compatible with HTML 4, and all modern browsers handle it well).

We use UTF-8 because it is well supported and widely supported, as well as being backward compatible with ASCII. In addition to supporting that standard character set, it also supports Unicode, the international standard for encoding over 100,000 different characters and symbols from various languages and sciences.

In the end, we should end up with pages that are well handled by most browsers on most operating systems, although there will be some issues with older browsers that don't support Cascading Style Sheets. It's not a perfect process, but it comes close, and the final step is going back to Home Page so I can uses its site manager to upload new and changed pages to our server.

This is a time consuming process, but I believe that taking the time to proofread, edit, and add links and images gives Low End Mac a quality missing from too many websites these days. I do hope to someday switch to a content management system, specifically Joomla, but there's a steep learning curve. However, in the end, it will allow our entire staff to submit, edit, proofread, and publish articles online instead of everything having to go through my hands.


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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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