Charles Moore's Mailbag

Leopard vs. Snow Leopard MacBook Heat, Keyboard Lockout Fix, Pismo Upgrade Woes, and More

Charles Moore - 2010.05.26 - Tip Jar

MacBook Heat: Leopard vs. Snow Leopard

From David, following up on WindowShade X on Snow Leopard:



I am using Snow Leopard at this time. Had to launch it to do a few software updates. I have two browsers (Safari & OmniWeb) and Mail running. I did notice a quick rise in temperature, but not that much. I'm not using any Flash block.

This environment is not the same as what I have running under Leopard, where my MacBook does get very warm. I am using a single browser, Firefox, with many tabs, and Flash is blocked. The other main application is Thunderbird. From time to time, I would open Safari as a second browser.

Though my situation is not a good apples-to-apples comparison, I'm seeing that my Snow Leopard environment is about 20° Fahrenheit cooler. The rise and fall in temperature happen more often under Snow Leopard.

BTW, I am a long-time reader of your articles. From Wallstreet PowerBook to Unibody MacBook, the Odyssey to OS X, and a memory trek of Kodachrome. Thanks for sharing your photographs.

Warm Regards,

Hi David,

Thanks for the report. After spending three weeks or so in Snow Leopard, I have to say I'm happy to be back running Leopard. Peaceful without the fan cutting in all the time, and general lack of drama.

My MacBook definitely runs much cooler in Leopard than in Snow Leopard with the same suite of applications. I generally have Opera, Chrome, and Firefox up and running, along with Thunderbird or Eudora 8, and these Internet applications are the main offenders in spiking temperature, although MacSpeech Dictate also heats things up.

Thank you for your readership.


Fixing the Keyboard Lock Out in 10.6.3

From Patrice:

Hey Charles,

Thought I was the only one experiencing this, and I also noticed it happening in 10.6.3 once in a while, not consistently. I found an easier fix than rebooting, however, which is killing the Dock (it will restart automatically).

I found some time ago that app switching and workspace switching is handled by the Dock app. So when the keyboard gets stuck when switching Space, it's the Dock that doesn't let go (hence the little grid showing the spaces stays on the screen), and killing it is the only option.

Hoping 10.6.4 fixes this.


Hi Patrice,

Exactly! When it happens on my rig, usually the little grid image gets "stuck" and won't disappear. Never thought of killing the Dock. As you observe, a lot less painful than rebooting.

Thanks for the tip!


You're welcome! I've learned to live with it, hoping to catch what is causing it exactly or that 10.6.4 fixes it before then. Keeping my fingers crossed lol.



Mac OS Versions Older Than Hardware

From Scott:

"Generally (and perhaps comprehensively - there may have been the odd exception I'm not aware of) Macs have never supported Mac OS versions earlier than the one they shipped with."


There are actually a few odd exceptions out there, most of them older machines.

  • The Plus, SE, SE SuperDrive, and Classic can all run as far back as 1.0 despite their original shipping versions of 3.0, 4.0, 6.0.3, and 6.0.6 respectively. (The Classic even has 6.0.3 on its ROM disk.)
  • The LC II can run 6.0.7 or 6.0.8 despite shipping with 7.0.1. (Most everyone lists 6.0.8 as the minimum version for an LC II, but it does work with 6.0.7 contrary to popular belief - I actually just used a 6.0.7-equipped LC II the other day.)
  • The PowerBook 100 can run 6.0.7 or 6.0.8 despite shipping with System 7.0.1.
  • The PowerBook 145 can run 7.0.1 despite shipping with 7.1.
  • Some Power Mac G4 towers were capable of running OS 9 natively even after the rest of the line had stopped supporting OS 9 booting. From what I understand, this was actually intended, perhaps for the professionals still relying on OS 9-based applications (keep in mind it took forever for Quark XPress to be updated for OS X).

This is all I can think of. Shame they had to eliminate floppy support in Snow Leopard - although the hard drive space savings was enough for me to keep it. (I am still using 10.6.0, have not experienced any real problems, and have not updated to the newest double decimal point update; I have heard there are some problems specifically with 10.6.3.)


Hi Scott,

Thanks for the mini-tutorial on OS compatibility.

I think you may be on to something by avoiding OS X 10.6.3, but my inference is that it's worth going up to 10.6.2. I'm back in good ol' reliable 10.5.8 awaiting version 10.6.4.


Why New Macs Can't Generally Run Older Mac OS

From John in response to Can I Use 10.5 on New Macs?:

Hi Charles,

As a rule, a Mac cannot run any version of the OS earlier than what it shipped with. There are good reasons for this. Apple makes no effort to ensure that any earlier version of the OS is aware of newer hardware. That would be impossible.

In most cases the hardware will not boot from a version of the OS earlier than what it originally shipped with.

If it does boot, it will have buggy, unpredictable behavior, even if all seems well initially.


Hi John,

That squares with my impressions, and I appreciate that the burden of assuring compatibility with older OS version would be problematical. However, in instances of protracted, unresolved bugginess, such as with OS X 10.6, it would certainly be convenient to be able to downgrade to a stable version for owners of the latest hardware.


G4 iBook Won't Boot from Cloned Drive

From David:

Do you know what it is about the iBook G4 that makes it so system specific? My iBook G3 hard drive finally bit the dust. I have always (last five years) booted the computer from an OWC On the Go 7200 rpm FireWire drive. Worked beautifully and kept the internal drive less active.

I can boot my upgraded G4 DA machine just fine from this FW drive, but no go on the iBook G4. Couldn't even clone the existing Leopard system from the internal hard drive to a FW drive - Carbon Copy Cloner did everything fine to a clean partition on an external FW drive, so it seems, but the computer won't boot off it. I have Tiger and Panther system disks bought off eBay, but neither will install on the iBook G4.

I have Leopard on way from Apple, but I really want to run Tiger on this iBook G4, even Panther, ideally Jaguar.

It is a mess to lose all these years of emails. I still use Classic all the time - won't give up on Microsoft Word 5.1a, PageMill, or Classic Spell Catcher. I once tried to run the iBook G3 under Panther, but Mail just wouldn't work. Actually, Classic seems to work beautifully under Tiger.

Any help appreciated.


Hi David,

I'm not sure why you're unable to boot from your cloned system via FireWire, if it's a system version that's compatible with your iBook. With very few exceptions, modern Macs won't boot from OS versions older than the one they shipped with. I can't recall whether any G4 iBooks ever shipped with Panther, but they were generally of the Tiger era, and models that shipped with Tiger would not be able to boot Panther, much less Jaguar.

I'm wondering if the Tiger disk you purchased on eBay is a generic shrinkwrap installer disk, which should work with any Tiger compatible machine, or perhaps a Software Restore disk that shipped with somebody's Mac.

As a rule, Apple's bundled Software Restore disks are machine-specific, as Apple restricts them via a software block to work only with the model they shipped with.

Classic works great in OS X 10.4.11 on my old Pismo PowerBooks.


More astounding. Booted my dying iBook into OS 9 - and Software Update suggested some new stuff!!! This is the Apple I admire.


Getting Data from 800K Mac Floppies

From Troy, following up on 800K Mac Floppy Data to Modern Macs:

Unfortunately, I have only Intel Macs in the house, so unfortunately those are not options for me. I live in a PC dominate area (Microsoft is just four hours north), so not many Macs around that I can find that are older. Even the local colleges are selling surplus computers, and they are G5s.

So I will just hold out hope that either an SE PDS or one of those Asante devices that plug into the SE's SCSI port. Thanks Dan and Charles for the ideas though!


Hi Troy.

I also live in a Windows-centric area. I doubt there are more than a dozen Macs within a 25 mile radius other than my own, and that's probably an extravagantly high estimate.

On the plus side, the "local" university (50 miles) went Mac a couple of years ago, so one of the computer stores in that town that caters to students sells Macs.


AppleTalk, Ethernet, and Old Macs

From Henry:

For Troy:

There are ethernet cards for the Mac SE, but they are sought after and bring high prices on eBay. To connect an old Mac via the printer port to an Ethernet network, you are looking for an ethernet printer adapter like the Dayna EtherPrint or Mini EtherPrint, or one of Farallon's adapters. These are really bridges between AppleTalk on Ethernet and AppleTalk on LocalTalk (printer port). Your new Mac will need to support AppleTalk, which means OS X 10.4. OS X 10.5 has problems connecting with classic Macs, and Snow Leopard doesn't support AppleTalk at all. It's actually easier to network an SE to a Windows box than to a new Mac.


Thanks, Henry,

Forwarded to Troy.


Pismo Upgrade Woes Revisited

From Jesse, following up on Pismo Thermal Paste Blues:

Hi Charles,

A quick note regarding my "Pismo upgrade woes" from March of this year.

I tried one last time to clean out the G3 chip (thermal paste smeared around the chip), but no luck. Since the G3 400 MHz chips are cheap, $20 US, a quick trip to eBay solved the problem. I decided against buying a G3 500 MHz, as those cost almost $100 US and are not much of a speed gain over the 400. And the G4 cards would cost more than what I paid for the Pismo. LOL

Since I thought I might be replacing the Pismo, I looked into alternatives. I now have my eyes on either a used IBM or Dell (Linux friendly brands) to use as my main laptop and load Ubuntu. PPC Linux on the Pismo has proved to be a bit of a pain because of the ATI Radeon video card it uses. G3 iMacs (my other extra Mac) also have the problem, since the built-in monitor uses nonstandard horizontal & vertical refresh rates. It can be done, but you still are hampered by the same thing on OS X, the anemic video and no Flash support on Linux PPC. Steve Jobs might have a point on the Flash problem, as PPC Linux is otherwise useful on newer G4 & G5s.

But I will either keep the Pismo or pass it down so that it can be used, since it is so practical. Since I have been using the laptop for more video and less writing, it was reaching its limit in that capacity.

BTW: Linux has windowshading by default as an option on most distros, in case you want to dip your feet in Linux. Take a peek at the new Ubuntu 10.04, it is very Mac-like.


Hi Jesse,

Thanks for the update, and the intelligence about windowshading support in Linux, which I had wondered about.

Keep us posted on how things go with Linux on a PC laptop as a Pismo replacement.

I'm definitely a vicarious (so far) fan of the looks of Ubuntu 10.04, which to my eyes is more handsome than Snow Leopard.

I haven't installed a Linux distro since SuSE 7.something and a build of Yellow Dog Linux on my old WallStreet back in the early oughts, but I'm more and more intrigued these days.


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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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