Charles Moore's Mailbag

Thumbs Up for Logitech V550, Picking the Right MacBook, WiFi Networking Tips, and More

Charles Moore - 2009.12.03 - Tip Jar

'Serious Thumbs Up' for Logitech V550 Wireless Mouse

From Miguel:

Hello, Charles,

Just wanted to share my two cents with you and other Low End Mac'ers about some of your recent musings on wireless mouse alternatives - especially for those of us who are frequent laptop/PowerBook/MacBook users, a group I number myself among. My current laptop is a 15" G4 1.67 GHz - the last PPC PowerBook made and still, IMHO, one of the nicest Mac laptops ever made (especially because of its gorgeous 1440 x 960 display and its matte texture screen, which I prefer a million times over the MacBook glossies - but also because of its wonderful-to-use and responsive keyboard, perhaps one of the best ever for Mac laptops).

On my desktop (a Mac mini), I am a fond user of a slightly ancient Logitech wired USB mouse with a responsive scrollwheel and an exceedingly comfortable (ergonomic) shape for my medium-to-larger sized hands - but the only wireless mice I had tried were too small, too "tinny", and too unresponsive. Then, recently, inspired by reading a column of yours in which you touted the virtues of Logitech's V550 - the model with a tiny plug-in USB receiver - I decided to take a chance and purchase one "blind" - and I'm seriously glad I did. The mouse is truly superb - responsive, quick, simple, and functional - and it fits my hand and feels "right" in a way few mouses I've ever used have. In fact, I like it so much I am attaching the tiny plastic clip to the top of my PowerBook so I can keep it permanently attached - another cool feature.

BTW, the only downside, interestingly enough, is that out of the box the V550 refused to function or be recognized at all by my PowerBook (on which I am currently running Leopard 10.5.8). That gave me a few moments of irritation and panic - since my instinct is usually to use Apple's proprietary/built-in/default mouse drivers - but it was strictly a No-Go with the V550 until I downloaded Logitech's Driver Software (I think they call it a Logitech Control Center) - and then got instant functionality, as well as the ability to customize such things as scrolling speed (a real plus). The other cool thing about this mouse is the weird little button on top just beneath the scroll wheel which allows the user to instantaneously toggle back and forth between any open windows - a feature which seemed frivolous to me initially, but which I am growing to appreciate.

So - I am giving the V550 a serious thumbs up - and my thanks to you for your column in which you touted its virtues.



Hi Miguel,

Thanks for the comments. We're definitely on the same page regarding the V550, and I'm very happy that my review proved helpful. In appearance it's nice but nothing particularly special, but it has a "feel" I like better than any other mouse I've ever used. I was interested that Macworld's Rik Myslewski included the V550 among the three favorite mice mentioned specifically in the latest Macworld Mice Buying Guide, having this to say:

"The Logitech V550 Cordless Laser Mouse for Notebooks is a wireless RF mouse that does everything right. The ambidextrous V550 is the right weight and the right size, and has the right tracking accuracy, the right software, the right features, and the right accessories to make it the go-to mouse for notebook users."

His full review of the mouse is even more effusively enthusiastic:

"I desperately wanted to hate Logitech's V550 Nano Cordless Laser Mouse for Notebooks, but I instead found it to be the best notebook mouse I've ever used."

Interesting about the driver issue you encountered. The V550 works fine with the OS X default drivers in both my 1.33 GHz 17" PowerBook and my Late 2008 Unibody MacBook. Logitech Control Center is installed on the PowerBook, but I don't think it's activated right now, and I don't currently have LCC on the MacBook.

I like my 17" PowerBook's keyboard too, but wouldn't rate it quite as highly as the ones in my various G3 series PowerBooks, although I definitely prefer it to the "chiclet" 'boards in newer Mac laptops.


Too Early for Apple to Abandon PowerPC Macs

From Pete:

Hello again, Charles -

Your response jogged my brain a bit, and I thought I'd check the Mac profiles page for something. It looks like the last of the Power Mac G5 machines shipped in 2006. With some companies still religiously sticking to 5-year refresh cycles, I'd imagine Adobe/Apple would be leery of leaving customers in a lurch without software support. With some luck, we might have updates for the PowerPC platform through 2011. That still falls within your suspected timelines, though.

- Pete

Moving Down to a 13" MacBook

From Andrew in response to Thoughts on Downsizing from a 17" 'Book to a 13" MacBook:


Excellent piece, as always. I had a similar adjustment last year when I ditched my 15" MacBook Pro in favor of a 13" MacBook Air. Like you, I value esthetics a great deal.

Strangely, I don't use Spaces all that much, though I am a fairly heavy Exposé user, a habit I picked up back in the [Mac OS X 10.3] Panther days and still miss when I use my Windows machine. Speaking of which, my Windows machine, a 14" ThinkPad T400, has that same 1440 x 900 resolution as the 15" MacBook Pro, but is directly in between the 13" and 15" Apples in size and weight, precisely as one would expect a 14" model to be.

All of your observations about living without FireWire apply doubly to the Air, which only has a single USB port. I find USB booting and operation slow, as you do, but since it is really only an emergency tool (I have a 10.6.2 installation on a USB) for data recovery or drive repair should something happen to my internal drive. Given that I don't actually use the USB system for productivity, the lack of speed isn't really an issue.

Ironically enough, my external USB boot drive of choice is a 160 GB iPod classic, which, of course, also has enough room to carry whatever movies I want to bring on a trip with me. As an added bonus, if the Air runs out of juice on a long flight or layover, the iPod makes a nice backup for watching movies despite its much smaller screen. That it is also my emergency recovery drive is just an added bonus. ChronoSync even keeps my document folder backed up, while an installation of Office 2008 on the iPod allows me to easily update my Exchange calendar and email archive. It's slow to run the Air off of the iPod, but more than usable in an emergency.

Hi Andrew,

Thank you for the approbation and the interesting observations.

My experience regarding Exposé versus Spaces is the diametrical opposite of yours. I've almost never used Exposé, even in Panther, but as I said in the article, I became a total Spaces junkie within about half an hour of installing Leopard. I have nine spaces activated, which gives me separate ones for the three or four browsers I usually have running, plus Spaces with nothing running for a clear view of the Desktop, which I still use as my home base for works in progress, downloads, and so forth, which eventually get filed elsewhere, but pretty much everything lands on the Desktop first. Windowshade X, which is another of my user interface addictions, also helps massively. Anyway, different strokes.

Using a 160 GB iPod classic for a backup and emergency boot drive sounds like an excellent solution. The compact size is, of course, a big plus in itself.

Unfortunately, the only iPod we currently have in this household is a 2 GB second-generation Nano, which would hardly be up to the job. ;-)

The beauty of FireWire as an alternate boot volume system is that it works with essentially the same performance as an internal hard drive. A year or two ago the operating system on my 17" PowerBook somehow got corrupted to a degree that it needed a reinstall that I didn't have time to do right away, but I was able to boot from my Carbon Copy Cloner cloned system on an external FireWire drive and continue production without any inconvenience until I was able to reinstall Leopard on the PowerBook.

I must get around to upgrading to Snow Leopard one of these days. Leopard 10.5.8 is working so well that it's not giving me much incentive to disrupt things with a major system upgrade. Perhaps I'll grab a copy and make the transition over Christmas.


Which MacBook Should You Transition To?

From Dan Bashur:


I read your article "Thoughts on Downsizing from a 17" 'Book to a 13" MacBook" and must say that you summed it up well. The 13" MacBook (both the new Unibody Polycarbonate and previous Unibody Aluminum versions) indeed are both missing the critical FireWire port we have all come to love, but it may or may not be something you can do without if you want to make the change from a 17" 'Book to a 13" unit. I would personally suggest going for the 13" MacBook Pro that retains the FireWire port and includes the built-in SD Card slot. You can always sell your Unibody MacBook on eBay and go to the 13" MacBook Pro, but if you've been getting along just fine without FireWire, there's no real need to change now.

Another alternative for those considering switching is to go with a refurbished January 2009 or May 2009 MacBook White. You still get the GeForce 9400M, FireWire 400, and a removable battery as an alternative to the built-in batteries Apple has transitioned to. You can have all of that for just $749 plus tax (for the Jan. 2009 model), and $849 plus tax (for the May 2009 model) from Apple.

Speaking of the GeForce 9400M, in terms of gaming and other uses, your friend Peter Cohen is right about its performance. The GeForce 9400M is not a powerhouse, but it's very capable, especially for an integrated graphics solution. Here's a great example for comparison purposes of just the graphics:

XBench 1.3 Graphics Results
Xbench 1.3 graphic results reported by The Register.

As you can see, the difference between the 2007 Mac Mini using the feeble GMA 950 and the March 2009 Mac mini with GeForce 9400M integrated graphics is night and day (the difference will be even more pronounced with the just updated Mini that came out a few weeks ago).

At any rate, great article and good points. I haven't personally made the transition to an Intel Mac yet (I'm typing this on my Hi-Res 1.67 GHz Aluminum PowerBook G4). When I do, I'll probably go with the previous generation 15" MacBook Pro (probably a 2.53 GHz unit) with its 512 MB dedicated GeForce 9600/GeForce 9400M combo, removable battery, FireWire 800, and ExpressCard/34 expansion (for future USB 3.0). You can get one refurbished right now for $1,449 from Apple.

Dan Bashur

Hi Dan,

Thanks for the comments. We're pretty much on the same page on these issues.

Despite the aggravation of having no FireWire, I otherwise love my Late 2008 Unibody MacBook, and it's been such a flawless performer over the past six months that I would be leery about selling it and starting again with the new machine right now. However, I've learned my lesson (I think), and would be very reluctant (never say never) to buy another computer without FireWire support, at least until USB 3 is on stream. But as you say, some folks may be able to get along without FireWire.

I'm less enthusiastic about the idea of buying a previous generation white MacBook, partly because of their spotty reputation for developing case cracks, partly because of the lower quality CCFL backlit display, and especially if it was one of the models with a GMA X3100 graphics chipset instead of the GeForce 9400M, although the latter two revisions of the old-school MacBook did have the good chipset.

Thanks for the link to the Mac mini review and performance charts. Apple claims that the 9400M graphics support is up to five times faster than the Intel unit it displaced, so that one is a slam dunk.

I think your plan to go with a Late 2008 15" Unibody MacBook is an excellent choice if you can't live with a 13" screen. Personally, I think I would find the 13" MacBook Pro for $999 (Apple certified refurbished) pretty much irresistible because of its handsome proportions and tremendous value for the money, but my provisional plan is to stick with this MacBook until 2012.


WiFi Networking Tips

From Paul:

Hello Charles,

Since I have experienced wireless problems with older generation Mac laptops (G4 Macs), let me give you some tips.

Here are a couple of tips to resolve the wireless problem with your Belkin router:

  • Update the firmware of the router to the newest version. Please be sure to use a wired connection when updating your router and disable the wireless temporarily.
  • Access the router using your browser and change the wireless channel of your Belkin router to 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, or 10. Do not use auto, 1, 6, or 11 when testing for the best channel.*
  • Check to see if a wireless 2.4 GHz phone or electronic device is interfering with your router.


* Editor's note: To reduce interference from other WiFi routers, avoid using channel 6, because it is the default setting for most WiFi routers. Likewise, most users will choose channel 1 or 11 if they change from 6 because there is no signal overlap between channels 1, 6, and 11. dk

Hi Paul,

Thank you for the suggestions.

My tech-consultant daughter walked me through the channel-changing (with no remedy, alas) and also advised disabling our 2.4 GHz wireless telephone experimentally to see if that was an issue (didn't seem to make any difference).

I'll look into the firmware update matter. The router was purchased new in September, but I suppose the FW could have been updated since its manufacture.

However, unlike the Belkin unit, the (older) Linksys router my daughter sent for me to try has been working beautifully with the old Pismo and its Buffalo G54 WiFi CardBus card.


Belkin Router Problems

From Dan Bashur:

Hi Charles:

I had one of those junky Belkin routers myself, and mine quit altogether about three years ago (after using it for roughly one year). Thankfully, I received a Buffalo wireless 802.11g router for a Christmas present from dear old Dad shortly after the Belkin router quit and have never had a major issue since.

At any rate, I'm glad you figured out that it was that lousy router, rather than your trusty Pismo. The only thing you will notice with the Pismo using an original AirPort Card - you can't use WPA-2 WiFi settings, just WPA-TKIP (still adequate though for security). In OS 9, you can only use WEP security (very low level security - but something is better than nothing I suppose).

Good Article!

- Dan Bashur

Hi Dan,


My daughter and her significant other, both of whom work or have worked doing wireless LAN tech support, say the Belkin routers don't have a very good reputation in the IT support industry.

Where I live, security settings are not a major concern. The wireless broadband service installer noted that while they have security protocols that can be applied or configured, it amounts to a needless complication in this neck of the (literal) woods (he lives in the area). This is one of the least densely populated and lightly-traveled areas of Nova Scotia - a large county (second-largest in the province) measuring roughly 25 miles by 100 miles with a population of fewer than 10,000.


Linksys Kudos

From Dan Knight:

Congrats on getting past the problem. I've had great luck with Linksys, okay with USRobotics and Netgear, not so good with Belkin.


Dell Truemobile 1350 WiFi Card

From Dean:

I've set up 333 MHz Lombards for family and friends with a Dell Truemobile 1350* in the PC Card slot for school work and surfing. The OS (10.4.11) sees it as an AirPort Card and just works. It seems the original AirPort cards were somewhat weaker in reception and slow. I've tried the AirPort Card in a Titanium against the 1350. Downloading the same OS update was 480 kbps for AirPort, and 900 kpbs for the 1350. Just an FYI.


* Editor's note: The Dell Truemobile 1350 is an 802.11g card, which has roughly 5x the bandwidth of Apple's original 802.11b AirPort Card. It was made in CardBus (PC Card) and Mini PCI formats, and it is no longer available from Dell. dk

Hi Dean,

Since I switched to the LinkSys router, it's been clear sailing with the Pismo running OS X 10.4.11 and the Buffalo G54 PC Card in the CardBus bay. The OS (which evidently was never the problem) thinks the Buffalo card is AirPort and behaves accordingly (just works).


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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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