Charles Moore's Mailbag

Best Browser, Touchpads for Older Macs, iBook G4 GPU Repair, and Berry Etymology

Charles Moore - 2010.08.18 - Tip Jar

Which Browser Is Best?

From Luke:

Having been lately forced to use Windows for work (a quad-core system with dual-boot Win XP and Vista) I am currently using pretty much everyday either Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Safari. I never willingly choose IE unless its for some Microsoft-related online training.

From my view, I prefer Firefox.

For several months, however, I was ready to kick Firefox to the curb. Version 3.6.x would crash for me at random, sometimes five times a day. Removing it and reinstalling it got to be a daily chore. During the months of total instability of Firefox 3.6.x, I was using Safari 5.0.1 for Windows. For me it seemed pretty robust, but it was a slow as heck sort of beast. Page loads and plugin or extensions would slow it even worse.

I have to admit I barely use Google Chrome 5. Its look & feel, although different, is sometimes too different for me. However I've been told that Chrome is very secure. After dealing with total crappy failures of Firefox, I wrote Mozilla and told them how I felt. A tech led me to their version 4 Beta. I said why not. And for the last month I've been testing Firefox 4 Beta. Wow, no crashes in a month! Links working, fast page loads! I used Beta 2 for a couple weeks and now am on Beta 3.*

I just hope the final Firefox 4 is as stable as the betas. I still use pretty much everyday my classic PPC Dual G4 Mac for Photoshop graphics scanning and printing type work. It has Mac OS X 10.5.8 and also an install of Mac OS X 10.4.11. When in Leopard, I use Safari 4 and Firefox 3.6.3. When I am in Tiger, I've been using Opera and sometimes Firefox.

The funniest thing for me is Firefox 3.6.x on the Mac is extremely stable! Never had a crash like I did on Windows XP or Vista.


* Editor's note: I've been using Firefox 4 Beta almost daily on my Power Mac G4 with Mac OS X 10.5.8 since it was first announced. I have to agree that it has been completely stable and fast, although I continue to use Camino as my default browser. dk

Hi Luke,

I like the Firefox 4 Beta as well. I never had any stability problems with Firefox 3.x on my Macs, but version 4 is faster.

I routinely have three (sometimes four) browsers running, although not always the same ones. Opera is pretty much a constant on both my Intel and PPC/Tiger machines, and Chrome is now always open on the Intel 'Book. I used Safari 5.0.1 for several weeks after it was released, roped-in by the Reader feature especially (see 2 Weeks with OS X 10.6.4 and Safari 5), but I switched back to Firefox to try the new tabs-on-top interface. I liked the performance so well I never switched back.

I currently use SeaMonkey and iCab as my second and third browsers on the PPC machines.


Chronic Neuritis and Input Devices

From Mike:

Hi Charles,

I just read your article 2 Wireless Alternatives to Apple's Magic Mouse from a while back.

I'm a big tendonitis sufferer who has day to day problems with using my Mac.

I'm very interested in the new Apple Magic Pad with all its gestures - but I'm a vintage user. My OS X 10.3 Pismo and my wife's 900 MHz iBook are the business.

So I was looking for third party alternatives to the Magic Pad that may run on earlier systems (I would switch to 10.4 if needed). This is when I stumbled across your article, and I'm most interested in what you have used and what you are currently using (in terms of input hardware). And did you ever try the Mighty Mouse? Any good?

Anyway, thanks for the article.


Hi Mike,

Sorry to hear about the tendentious. Good on you for keeping that Pismo and iBook in service. Two of my three Pismos are going strong, and the third could be restored to usability.

Regarding a gesture-supportive freestanding trackpad alternative to the Magic Trackpad for users of older hardware, the Wacom Bamboo Touch comes closest. It doesn't support as many gestures as Apple's new trackpad, but it does support OS X 10.4 and up, so you can use it with your Pismo if you upgrade your operating system to 10.4 (which is nice to have for a bunch of other reasons as well).

MacInTouch has an excellent comparison review, Magic Trackpad vs. Bamboo Touch.

Cirque's Smart Cat freestanding trackpad supports Macs back to OS 8.5, but it doesn't support gestures.

I'm not a big fan of low-profile computer mice like the Magic Mouse, as I find them uncomfortable.


Editor's note: See Moore's review of the Cirque Easy Cat on PBCentral for more information.

iBook GPU Resolder

From Rob:


Read Adam's account of attempting repairs to his G4 iBook. I can confirm it is possible to repair the broken connections, having resurrected several. The key is having a 0.25 mm solder iron tip, a steady hand, a small amount of solder on the iron, and only hold it on for a few seconds. Also, you need to do pins 1 and 2, and I always undid the logic board mounting screws slightly to allow the board room to move under thermal expansion.

Hope this helps somebody!


Thanks, Rob,

I expect it will.

Forwarded to Adam.


iBook GPU Reball

From Tracy:

Hi Charles,

I'm writing about your column regarding the iBook G4 GPU failures. My son's 12" iBook G4 GPU failed about a year ago. I'm not as brave as some of your readers to repair the motherboard myself. I sent the entire computer to GPU Medics who, for $75, removed the motherboard, reballed the motherboard, tested the computer, and returned the repaired computer. All the repairs were completed and the computer returned within a week.


Hi Tracy,

Thanks for the information. That sounds like an excellent repair service.

Forwarded to Adam.


Smultron, Fraise, and Berry Etymology

From Andrew:


"Even the name (fraise is French for strawberry) is a tribute to Smultron's wild strawberry application icon."

Actually, not just the icon; smultron is Swedish for strawberry, so Fraise is simply Smultron translated into French.

Google Translate first gave me wild stawberries for smultron (although from my vague memory of studying Swedish 50 years ago, the word doesn't have a plural ending, which would probably be smultroner).

This reminded me of the old Ingmar Bergman classic, Wild Strawberries, Whose name is actually "multronstället or The Wild Strawberry Patch (the -et suffix is the definite article). So apparently Google Translate also made the same association, as when the word is decapitalized it gives simply strawberry.

Hmm. Translating strawberry to Swedish gives a different result, jordgubbe, which looks cognate to an older English alternative, eorðberge (earth berry) - only gubbe is actually old man or oldster.

Perhaps a reference to the rough surface of the berry?

While wild strawberry gives smultron, so apparently smultron is wild as distinct from garden-variety strawberry.

Language fun for today.

His other two apps were also named for berries are Hallon (raspberry) and Lingon (lingonberry).


Hi Andrew,

Being fascinated with etymology, I greatly enjoyed the fruits of your researches.

I have to admit that this one had totally eluded me. The "tron" suffix in Smultron sounded vaguely techno or science fiction (e.g.: the movie series with Jeff Bridges), and I had inferred that it might have been in that vein. Thanks for setting that straight.

Another berry name in IT is, of course, the RIM BlackBerry.

Incidentally, wild strawberries grow on our property here in May and June, and we're at the height of annual berry season right now, with an overlap of wild raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, the latter two being my berry favorites, although I prefer raspberry flavoring in white or green tea.

When the subject of berries comes up, there are inevitable discussions about favorites. Personally, I don't really have a knockout favorite wild berry. I like them all, and they all have their own distinct and delicious personalities, although I'm perhaps a bit partial to blueberries.

Raspberries have the most obvious and unsubtle flavor and sweetness. They are exquisite in moderation, but I find that I get my fill of their flavor sooner than with the other late summer berries.

Blueberries are a more complicated mix of flavors with their combination of tartness and sweetness, and their unique texture and colour - one of the few blue foods. I never get tired of them. Also excellent flavoring in tea, and it's been declared a potent antioxidant "superfood". It's not hard to imagine why blueberries are the Canadian province of Nova Scotia's highest value fruit crop, accounting for approximately 25% of North America's total commercial blueberry production.

Blackberries have the most complex taste and texture of all, with their smooth, almost liqueur-like flavor, as well as being a rarer delicacy than the others and having the most luxurious and attractive appearance in my estimation - the king of the wild berries, if you will.

Still to come: the cranberry and its relative the foxberry - a North American Thanksgiving dinner garnish for turkey.


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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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