Charles Moore's Mailbag

Flash Makes Macs Hot, Thermal Paste Blues, Benefits of Old Technology, and More

Charles Moore - 2010.03.31 - Tip Jar

Pismo Thermal Paste Blues

From Jesse:

Hello Charles,

I had previously emailed you last Christmas regarding Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard on G4-upgraded Pismos. I guess Easter is a good time for another letter - unfortunately this time it is a cry for help. I am hoping you can help me with an accident I had while upgrading my Pismo from my original 256 MB to 640 MB. It will no longer boot, not even the start up bong! It was working perfectly dual-booting OS X 10.4 Tiger and Ubuntu.

A friend gave me a working 512 MB RAM stick for my Pismo. Taking it apart was not hard (duh), as I had previously installed a new PRAM battery. I did not have trouble changing the RAM chip on the bottom, as I used the tutorial from iFixit for installing RAM on a Pismo.

My problem is that the thermal pad came off the heatsink, so I thought it would be a good time to replace it with a fresh coat of thermal compound. (Famous last words.) I used the thermal compound page in the iFixit website.

Pismo CPU with excess thermal pasteI used standard PC compound Arctic Silver 3 that my brother had for his PCs. Unfortunately, I did not notice that the bottom part of the tube was damaged. When I squeezed the tube to put some on the CPU, it also came out the bottom end. Well, it got smeared on the smaller little squares surrounding the center CPU on the G3 chip (see picture). The compound pages suggests to use rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab to remove from the CPU, but does not say anything about my problem with it all over the chip. Part of that was caused by me trying to remove it. The website recommends GooOff 2; is it significantly better?

I carefully reassembled the Pismo after trying to clean it but did not get a working computer. No start up sound, no OpenFirmware or Yaboot prompt. I hope you or another reader has solution to my problem. I really want to save it without having to buy another CPU. I only have it as a convenience, not a necessity, so I can't really see spending more money in these times. Otherwise I might have to sell it for parts, since it would not be very cost efficient to spend money on it.


P.S. A quick note to Dan Knight, I have white-listed LEM on Adblock Plus.

Hi Jesse,

Sorry to hear about the accident.

I have zero experience with this sort of issue, and indeed had never run across it before, so any opinion I can offer will be purely deductive.

I would guess that the silver content in the thermal paste would make it electrically conductive, and the concern would be that with it smeared all over the CPU as it is, it might have caused a short circuit and fried the chip, although that is speculation.

I had never heard of GooOff (perhaps it's not sold here in Canada), but looked it up, and it looks like useful stuff. However, unless some is conveniently at hand, my inclination would be to try alcohol and then let the chip dry thoroughly before applying power.

I hope you are able to revive it, but if it has shorted, it may be a goner.

The happy aspect is that the processor daughtercard in the Pismo is really easy to replace, and if you want to revive the old machine, you should be able to pick one up inexpensively. Hopefully, if there was electrical damage it did not affect the RAM or other circuitry.

Thanks for whitelisting Low End Mac.


Missing WindowShade

From Steve:

Hi Charles,

Just a line to say how much I agree with your sentiments posted on Low End Mac regarding the current unhappy situation of our beloved WindowShade.

Some weeks have gone by since your fine piece was published, and still not a word from Unsanity regarding the state of play.

Unlike you, I did go ahead with the upgrade to OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and am, in all other respects, very happy that I did so but, dear oh dear, how I miss WindowShade! Like you, my work as a photographer, web author, and historian requires my having lots of windows, bits of text, and images open at once, and working, as I must, in the cramped screen space of my MacBook Pro, it just drives me nuts.

I've written to Unsanity on a number of occasions, and I've even written to Steve Jobs, pleading with him either to recreate Apple's version or buy Unsanity and incorporate theirs into the system - needless to say, without hearing a word back from either. I seem to spend more and more time posting increasingly vitirolic messages on sites carrying reviews of Unsanity's products. Not healthy, I realise. Am I becoming obsessed? Sometimes I think it's just me, so it was most reassuring to read your article. Keep up the pressure!

We'll probably be onto 10.7 before Unsanity get their unreliable fingers out far enough to release an upgrade for Snow Leopard! I am frankly amazed that there aren't rivals marketing their own versions of this indispensable feature. There would seem to be a fair bit of money to be made by whoever manages it. I'd certainly prefer to hand over my hard-earned to anyone but Unsanity!

I was greatly cheered, however, to discover another great favourite from the past I never thought I'd see on my Mac again - the wonderful FinderPop - has just been re-released for SL as 'pint-ware' ("buy Turly a beer"). So it is possible.

Kind regards,

Hi Steve,

I agree. I simply can't comprehend why there is not irresistible demand for windowshading support on all platforms - not just the Mac.

However, in fairness to Unsanity, at least they've sustained windowshading support into the OS X era, which is more than Apple has done, and as I understand it they are a small operation with presumably limited development resources dealing with not only non-support but opposition from Apple, at least as fas a Application Enhancer is concerned.

I did order a copy of Snow Leopard last week, as I finally encountered a software application I need to review that requires it, but my provisional plan is to install it on my hard drive's second partition for executing such testing while continuing to use Leopard as my production OS until such time as windowshading is once again supported.

And yes, it's great to see Turly's FinderPop available again.


Flash Heats Up Macs

From David:

Hello Charles,

My brother just me hooked on a Flash-based game (Bloons Tower Defense 4 at that really heats up my Macs. I have a Late 2006 MacBook Pro that quickly hits 98°C even when the game is idle. Activity Monitor shows Safari using about 37% CPU and the Flash plugin using 76%.

I tried loading the same game on a dual 2.0 GHz G5, and Activity Monitor showed processor usage north of 180%. The introductory graphics were noticeably lagging, so I didn't even bother starting a game.

I do permit Flash on the shared family computer, because most children's content is Flash-based. I do a lot of my browsing and article reading there, so I see my fair share of ads, even though I've got Flash blockers on my work machine.

I don't really mind advertising and have even purchased products from web ads, but complex audiovisual productions annoy me. If I'm reading, I don't want something just off centre of my vision that's constantly changing. Ads with sound have me either hitting mute or my browser's back button.

Message to advertisers: If the ad is intrusive, I'm likely to remember you - on my personal black list.

Message to ad-supported sites: If you display intrusive ads, I'll think twice about ever coming back.


Hi David,

Wow, 98°! The hottest I've ever seen on my 1.33 GHz PowerBook G4 is around 70° and on the MacBook 81° although the PB typically runs in the low-mid 50s and the MacBook in the mid-upper 60s.

I agree with you about complex AV ads and ones with music. Both are a turnoff. Are you listening, advertisers?


Tiger vs. Leopard on a G4 PowerBook

From John:

Hey Charles,

I've gotten quite adept at managing my PowerBook's temperature, as I vaguely remembered discussing with you a couple of years ago. Google to the rescue, and here's the Miscellaneous Ramblings link: Is Leopard the Best OS for a 12" PowerBook?.

The advantages to Leopard I spoke of at the time have reduced since Snow Leopard came out, so I went back to Tiger a little while ago. My G4's not getting any faster. Or any more Intel. But I suspect I've grown so used to this handy little Mac that I'll keep coming back to it, much like you do your Pismo PowerBook G3s. It was my first one, after all.


Hi John,

As long as it does what you need it to do, keep hanging in. The things I miss most running Tiger on the Pismos are Spaces and QuickLook, but I still love using those old machines.


Benefits of Old Technology

From Dean:

Hello Charles,

I recently read your articles about the value of older technology and loved it. We have a standard land line telephone and three cell phones. Most of my neighbors, who laugh at my "quaint" land line have given up their land lines.

Well, it turned out during a recent power outage everyone's cell phones didn't work, because the cell towers had no power. Guess which phone was still working. It seems that my "quaint" land line wasn't so old fashioned anymore.

On another note, I have been reading about people having trouble with their Mac laptop built-in batteries failing. It appears that Apple considers batteries consumables and doesn't cover replacement of them. This is the reason I bought two MacBooks with removable batteries (another old technology) just before their production was discontinued. As I recall, my now officially 10-year-old and still working Pismo has removable batteries too.

Keep up the good work.


Hi Dean,

We seem to have similar taste in laptops. My current fleet consists of two ancient Pismos and a removable battery Unibody MacBook.

I much prefer having a swappable battery.

Power outages are the bane of the wireless infrastructures. My broadband Internet service is likewise afflicted during power blackouts, as the tower has no backup power supply. But I still have access to dialup, which keeps right on working as long as the laptop batteries hold up (another point in favor of swappable batteries).

Being in somewhat agreement with Ambrose Bierce's definition of the telephone "an invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance," I would be fascinated to know what he would have said of cellphones and texting, etc. (He disappeared in 1913, so we'll never know), but I suspect it would have been choice. Having only land line phone service myself, I take some satisfaction in becoming relatively unreachable by simply leaving the house. ;-)


Apple's New Ad Technology

From Larry:

At least until they implement this stuff: Apple Wouldn't Risk Its Cool Over a Gimmick, Would It?

"But the application shows, at the least, that Apple has invested in research to develop what it calls an 'enforcement routine' that makes people watch ads they may not want to watch."

Once that happens, you will see a lot more problems with website losing customers....

Have a good one

Hi Larry,

Thanks for the link.


Broken G5

From Lee:

Hi Charles

As I am rapidly getting older and creakier, I had hoped that my Blue and White and my Pismo would see me through to the end.

When I began pricing parts to keep both up to date, it seems that it is time to retire at least the Blue and White.

The Pismo, while long in the tooth, is still worth repairing possibly maybe. But it is starting to be unreliable too. May have to start going to the library for my email?

G5 Power Macs are now going in the range of $300 US. It appears they were designed to be more user-serviceable. I bid on a 1.8 GHz single processor one. Billed as "the fastest single Apple has ever built", but it turned out that I was dealing with Mortimer Snerd, not Edgar Bergan?

Why people take on the representation of selling other's goods without the ability to make decisions I shall never understand.

Anyway, I bid on a DP 1.8 GHz PowerPC. I requested that it be shipped by Courier. They shipped USPS, and it was damaged in transit. The SE number on this is XB3462T0QES M9393LL/A

  1. Does anyone have an 800 number for eBay customer service. I am using Safari 1.3.2. I cannot get through by email. Have no idea what gecko is. It stalls, and I get timed out before ever getting an answer.
  2. On Tiger 10.4.x. If this is a 64-bit OS, how is it that it seems to work fine on G3s, which are at best 32-bit hardware. I am not a programer, not even close. All I know is that every thing somehow gets converted into 0's and 1's, these are either on or off? and magically it all somehow works.
  3. Most importantly: The hard drive in the lower bay broke loose in transit, taking out (breaking) the the wider of the two connectors - power supply end of the cabling. I swapped the drives, and the drive seems okay using Target Disk Mode, as I don't have a DMI to VGA adapter. Don't know if this is what I need to connect an older CRT to the monitor outlets on the G5. Have to wait till I pay this off. My local authorized Apple service technician says that this part is no longer available, to get one I have to buy a whole case! (planned obsolescence)

So does anyone know what the part number and/or description of this cable is. I need one.

Thanks, Charles.


OBTW Old Age Pension permitting, I like the looks of the iPad. I do not own an i-anything. No iPhone. No iPod. Somewhat of a Luddite.

But this has me curious. Decent organizer? Game machine? Able to do budget? Play music? Neat!

Hi Lee,

I wish I could be of more help with this, but being a primarily laptop guy, my ignorance of parts availability and repair processes for G5s is pretty encyclopedic.

My bro-in-law has a G5 iMac that he likes and that has been a reliable performer for a log time (in the context of computers) now.

This page may be of some help with the eBay phone numbers.

I'm too much of a programming dunce to answer your question about Tiger and 64-bit support.

The iPad is still a bit of an unknown quantity, but I think many folks will find it to their liking. You may as well, and if you do, that's great. Personally, in that price range I would be inclined to opt for either a used Mac laptop or a PC netbook and run Ubuntu on the latter. The lack of a real keyboard, limited connectivity, and the fact that it doesn't run the Mac OS would be the main iPad deal breakers for me. If I can't run my Mac applications, Linux is a lot more capable OS than the iPhone OS, isn't locked down, and seems a more attractive alternative, IMHO.


Editor's note: Ars Technica has a good explanation of 64-bit support in Tiger. The G5 was the only CPU with 64-bit support, and there wasn't much use for it. dk

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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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