Charles Moore's Mailbag

Belkin Router Reputation, ATA Notebook Drives, YouTube on G4 PowerBooks, and More

Charles Moore - 2009.12.16 - Tip Jar

Belkin Router Reputation

From Dean:

Hello,

As a frequent Low End Mac visitor, your recent columns about your Pismo and your experience with the Belkin router and your current Linksys router interested me. I also had the same issues with a Belkin router, and as a former IT person in another life, I can tell you that your daughter is correct about the Belkin router's reputation.

My Linksys router works perfectly. I have a Pismo upgraded to a 550 MHz G4 with 1 GB of memory, an internal AirPort Card, a 120 GB hard drive, a dual-layer DVD burner, a USB 2 CardBus, and a mini Bluetooth module. This computer is almost 10 years old and was upgraded over the years when I had parts from working on other Macs.

The hard drive is partitioned into three partitions with OS 9, OS X 10.4.11 (Tiger), and OS X 10.5.8 (Leopard). I installed Leopard via FireWire Target Disk Mode. Most of Leopard works fine, with the exception of things mostly related to online video and DVD interaction. Since I don't use these very often, I don't care. If I need full functionality, I boot into Tiger.

I also have Virtual PC and Windows XP installed for the occasional Windows-only item I come across. Mostly I run Windows XP from Virtual PC 6 under OS 9 because of OS 9's less resource demand on processor and memory for this purpose.

The whole point is that this almost 10 year old machine is almost as capable as much newer laptops and has the ability to swap batteries and DVD drive in a few seconds.

Everyone also mentions the Pismo's video. Yes, by today's standards it is very inadequate, however when it was designed, much of the video and graphics we see today didn't exist. Considering it can still run modern web browsers and does very well in the mostly text-heavy web pages I spend my time in, that is pretty amazing.

You have also mentioned your Buffalo wireless card. To free up your CardBus slot for USB 2, I can send it to you. However, if you install it, you have wireless B capability (all original AirPort Cards are wireless B). I think your Buffalo card is wireless G; you may want to stick with it.

Thanks for your time,
Dean

Hi Dean,

Thanks for your interesting and informative comments. Your Pismo is even more extensively hot-rodded and upgraded than mine.

I entirely agree that it seems almost boorish to complain about the Pismo's modest video support given how amazingly well it still works on most websites, happily runs Photoshop Elements 6, and is generally so satisfactory as a light-to-medium duty production platform. It's absolutely amazing for a laptop computer nearly 10 years old, and a testimony to the vastly increased value of machines that can be upgraded.

Since I posted that article, I installed a second 512 MB RAM module from Other World Computing and an internal AirPort Card in one of the Pismos. Both are working great. (See 1 GB of RAM Gives Pismo PowerBook Another New Lease on Life.)

The internal AirPort Card does appear to work really well, pulling in a stronger signal from the Linksys router than the Buffalo 54G card does - presumably because of the larger antenna mounted in the Pismo's display bezel, and perhaps other things.

Charles

Source for ATA Notebook Hard Drives

Dear Charles,

I have some Pismos and a Lombard that I have set up a part of a mobile lab at school. The Pismos have 1 GB memory each, while the Lombards have 256 MB. They seem to be more finicky about the type of RAM, as they only recognize a 256 MB stick as 128 MB. Oh well.

Anyway, I was wondering if you might know of a good supplier for new hard drives for the PowerBook G3? I do see them at Wegener Media, but $80 for a 5400 rpm 40 GB is rather pricey. (Of course, that comes from looking at it from seeing the prices on the SATA drives and the larger capacity.) Any thoughts would be appreciated, as well as a good addition to a Pismo article.

Thanks.

Ed Harris

Hi Ed,

Great to hear that you have a fleet of Pismos still providing useful service.

ATA hard drives of what is now low capacity (i.e.: 100 GB or less) are getting hard to find through conventional retail channels. I'm sure there are a lot of used ones out there, and perhaps even some unused old stock items, but they would be where you find them. eBay and Craigslist would be potential sources.

Over the years, I've been very happy with the service I've gotten from Other World Computing for hard drive and RAM upgrades. However, the lowest capacity, least expensive ATA hard drive they currently have listed is a 160 GB Western Digital "Scorpio" 5400 RPM 9.5mm SuperSlim IDE/ATA Notebook Drive w/8 MB Data buffer for $79.99.

Charles

Editor's note: We also have a small list of 2.5" ATA hard drives in Low End Mac's Amazon.com Store. Prices start at $55. dk

Pismo Battery and Startup Problems

From Michael

Dear Sir:

Your email address was given to me by Scott Cook, who thought you might be able to help me with two problems I am having with my Pismo G3 PowerBook. Here are the details.

  1. My machine no longer charges the main battery. I put in a new power-board, but it still will not charge the battery. Would a new PRAM battery help this issue? My PRAM battery has been dead for months now. I have tried several different AC adapters and two different batteries, but the machine simply will not send a charge to the battery at all.
  2. I cannot turn off the startup chime even though I have muted my internal speakers. I have to hold the mute button on the keyboard every time I start up the machine. Someone at the local Apple Store said the dead PRAM battery may be causing the machine to play the startup chime even though the audio system is muted in the system preferences. By the way, I am running Tiger on the Pismo.

I look forward to hearing from you. Have a wonderful holiday season!!

Best regards
Michael

Hi Michael,

It's the kind of thing you can only diagnose for sure by substitution, but the symptoms you describe definitely point to some sort of hardware issue, and the PRAM battery would be a likely culprit. These machines are getting on in years.

How are the date and time settings on your Pismo holding up? One symptom of a bad PRAM/BIOS battery is losing that setting.

Wegener Media has new (manufactured in 2008 - not pulls form other machines) PRAM/BIOS batteries for the Pismo for $18.99 with a 60 day warranty.

The no-charge issue sounds identical to what happened to a Pismo of mine last year after an unfortunate incident with either a bad extension cord, a faulty "flying saucer" power adapter, or both. I replaced the entire case and chassis, including motherboard and power board. However, unless you've had some sort of electrical connection malfunction, its probably not the same thing with your machine.

Good luck and lest us know how you fare.

Charles

Editor's note: I've been using StartupSound.prefPane on my G4 Power Macs to mute the startup sound. It works on OS X 10.2 and later. dk

Using Spaces to Enhance Productivity

From Bikalpa:

Hello Charles.

You did tell us about the utility of Spaces feature in Leopard (and Snow Leopard), but you did not tell much about how you have been using it. Like how you assign a particular Space to a specific task and what goes to your Spaces from 1 to 9. When I read about you finding 9 spaces as the best balance, I thought I might as well try the same.

I do work with multiple applications at the same time, and I could put 9 Spaces to use. But I did not find it easy to assign applications to a space and switch between Spaces all the while, more so because the number was now 9. I doubt it has done much to "enhance productivity", so to say.

And I find Exposé something that I cannot live without. It's so easy to switch windows with a 4-finger gesture when on the trackpad or with the mouse (I have the middle button configured to invoke Exposé along a hot corner that shows me the desktop) or with the keyboard shortcuts. Since you have 9 Spaces to organize your application windows, you might be missing the whole window-sorting utility of Exposé.

That's it for now. Thanks for reading.

Yours Sincerely
Bikalpa
Nepal

Hi Bikalpa,

It may be that for folks who find Exposé to their liking, Spaces won't be a mode that suits their particular tastes and habits. Personally, I never got into using Exposé much, but I just love Spaces. I think you have to integrate Spaces into your normal work routine to really appreciate and get the best from it.

You can assign a particular application to "stick" to one Space in the Spaces System Preference panel, although I don't do this.

Here's how I have my Spaces organized:

Charles

YouTube Playback on G4 PowerBooks

From Seth:

Hello,

I was on LEM and saw your article about your 17" PowerBook G4. I'm looking into purchasing one myself, and I went on a Mac forum to ask about YouTube on a 1.3 GHz or 1.5 GHz model with at least 64 MB of VRAM, but no one answered, so I decided to email you. So on your PowerBook, do you use YouTube? Is it choppy?

Hi Seth,

I've recently handed off the 1.33 GHz 17" PowerBook to my wife, who watches a fair bit of stuff on YouTube and other video on it; she finds it very good. I was watching some YouTube video on it yesterday and detected no "choppiness". I suppose it depends somewhat on the speed of your Internet connection.

Charles

Working Around the Google Chrome Bookmark Import Bug

From Cormac:

Charles

I read your article on Google Chrome for Mac, and I have found a solution to the bookmark import bug. What you need to do is:

  • Quit Chrome
  • Go to ~/Library/Preferences/Google/Chrome in finder
  • Delete the file named "First Run"
  • Open Chrome again, and you will have the first run screen again.

Hope this helps,
Cormac:

Hi Cormac:,

Thanks for the tip. I'll keep it filed for future reference.

Charles

Incomplete Browser Review

From Todd:

A more complete and respectable list would be

Best of luck on the revised update with these included. Some actually deserve attention.

Hi Todd,

I'm guessing that you're referencing 4 Mac Browsers Updated Recently, which is my most recent Miscellaneous Ramblings browser review piece. It was never intended to be a comprehensive profile of every Mac OS X browser available, but specifically four recently updated applications. It's always a moving target,

Of the browsers you listed, at one time or another I've reviewed all of them except for Flock, Fluid, KidZui, Prism, Radon, and Songbird - the only one of which I'd previously heard of being Flock.

I typically have three - and sometimes four - browsers up and running (Spaces in OS X 10.5 and later is great for this; I use the Hide Others command when running in OS X 10.4).

Which three or four get used also depends partly on what machine I'm on. On my Intel MacBook running Leopard, Chrome and Opera are always going, along with one of the Mozilla menagerie - Firefox, Camino, or SeaMonkey the most likely. Right now I have Camino 2.0.1 on the go. Also sometimes called off the bench are Stainless, iCab, and Cruz.

On the two hot-rodded Pismo PowerBooks I still have in production service running OS X 10.4.11, Chrome isn't supported, nor is Stainless, so it's Opera as number one, either Netscape Navigator 9, Camino, or SeaMonkey as number two, and for number three either iCab or, yes, Safari 4, which for some reason I find I'm happier with in its Tiger version than the Leopard build.

Welcome Video for New G3 iMac Owner

From Stephen:

Dear Charles,

I am preparing a 500 GHz G3 iMac with Tiger installed, together with some freeware and all the updates. Is there a way to give him the new Mac user experience of the welcome video and setup assistant when he turns it on? He hasn't had a computer for some time, and I think it would be a nice experience for him.

Thanks in advance for any help or direction on this.

Stephen

Hi Stephen,

The only way I can think of would be to do a clean system reinstall from a Tiger Installer or Software Restore disk.

Charles

ImageWriters on Ethernet

From Kurt:

Re: Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and Older Electronics

Hi, Charles.

You quoted me in the above as follows:

"Don't use a serial; she's running it on her Wallstreet via Ethernet (OS X sadly turns the Serial Port off of the WallStreet. I tried to recompile a driver for it a long time ago; hours later, I gave up)."

Actually, these instructions do work - they are the instructions for getting an ImageWriter II working on an ethernet network as an AppleTalk device.

The main instructions are as follows:

[This is in Print Center/Printer Setup Utility/Print and Fax in 10.2.x to 10.5.8]

Okay, this should be easy to fix

  • delete the three ImageWriters currently in Print Center and option-click on "Add" to begin adding a new printer.
  • select "Advanced"
  • for "device" select "AppleTalk Printer Access Protocol (pap)" for "device name" enter "Ingrid" for "device URI" enter
  • "pap://*/Ingrid%20the%20ImageWriter/ImageWriter" (note: in the output from atlookup that you sent me the spaces need to be converted to %20).
  • for "printer model" select "Apple" and "Apple ImageWriter, FooMatic + iwhi"
  • click "Add"

[To find the AppleTalk Devices (the ImageWriter II) on the network and find its exact name, one needs to do an atlookup in Terminal. An example of how that will look is presented in the link:

ffd2.f9.8a Ingrid the ImageWriter:ImageWriter
ff00.47.8a Isabella the Imagewriter:ImageWriter

Sadly, the instructions for recompiling a driver for the serial port are long gone - I cannot find them. I assure you, however, that the link in your article for "recompile a driver" is not for that, and happily, those instructions do work for adding in an ImageWriter II to an OS X wireless/Ethernet network.

Take care!

Peace,
Kurt

Hi Kurt,

I'm not sure what happened here. I've just been rechecking, and there seems to be some sort of cut-and-paste incompatibility/failure somewhere between your incoming email message in Thunderbird and what got posted in the article.

Purely unintentional.

Thanks for clearing it up.

Charles

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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 Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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