Charles Moore's Mailbag

Apple's Business Orientation, 10.6 CPU Temperature, HFS+ File Compression in Snow Leopard, and More

Charles Moore - 2010.12.07 - Tip Jar

Apple's Merciless Business Orientation

From Jacek:

Dear Charles:

I am writing this with regard to your text Linux, Freedom, and Frontiers. As many times before, you simply read my thoughts. I am disgusted by the merciless business orientation/direction taken by Apple. I refuse to became totally dependent on business concept of iTunes as forced, necessary way of even simple connecting machines like iPhone and computer. Transmitting files via Internet or iTunes instead of connection by USB cable, or Bluetooth Send File? No, thanks. This is why I do not even think on buying iPhone, iPad, etc.

I am on the verge of making a switch - first in my life. After close to 30 years long time of using solely the Mac platform - machines and system - I begin to take under serious consideration my switch to Linux. Just have to learn on Linux; maybe the LEM would open/create a new place - a sort of shelter for Mac old-timers in our devotion to what Macs used to be, and, in our opinion, still should be.

I am pipe smoker, so let me present an analogy: The Dunhill briar pipes were famous because of their outstanding quality. Then the quality went down. Some former Dunhill employees - most skillful pipe carvers have formed small workshops of their own, stating that their pipes are "what Dunhill once were and what they should be". I speak on Ashton and El Wood also known as Ferndown; maybe for Mac users like ourselves the Linux will be playing such role ?

With kindest regards,

As always,
Jacek in Poland

Hi Jacek,

Great to hear from you. I'm rather fond of that piece myself, and it received some critical acclaim at the time in Claire Wolfe's Living Freedom blog on March 26 and again on March 29.

If you're serious about switching to Linux, that last link in particular should be of interest.

I've certainly thought about it, but at this stage of the game developing a whole new workflow ecosystem to replace the one I've woven in the Mac OS over the past 18 years seems a bit daunting, and there are some Mac features (e.g.: AppleScript) and applications that I wouldn't want to give up. Also, to the best of my knowledge, there is no voice software for Linux that is anywhere near being in the same league as MacSpeech/Dragon Dictate. Plus, I really love the current crop of Mac notebooks. :-)

Of course, if the Mac OS in the future gets too iOS-ified or locked-down for my taste, I may find myself obliged to reconsider.

As for your "shelter for Mac old-timers" suggestion, perhaps that's something Dan will consider.*

I like your Dunhill pipes analogy. Long ago, I was a pipe smoker, but a Dunhill was way out of my price range at the time, and then I quit smoking nearly 40 years ago.


* Publisher's note: Low End Mac has always been a "shelter for Mac old-timers", our reasons being that Macs have a long hardware life and become more capable over time as the Mac OS moves forward. For instance, Charles Moore is running Mac OS X 10.4 on a Pismo PowerBook from 2000 that shipped with Mac OS 9. One of my three G4 Power Macs is a dual 500 MHz Mystic, also introduced in 2000, that's running Mac OS X 10.5 just fine - as is my dual 1.6 GHz upgraded Digital Audio model (introduced January 2001). I also have a dual 1.25 GHz Mirrored Drive Doorss model running 10.4 Tiger (for Classic Mode, which 10.5 Leopard does not support). Thanks to OS X, which has improved with each major revision, these machines are all vastly more useful than when they were first introduced.

We have published quite a number of articles about using Linux on Macintosh hardware over the years, especially Ubuntu on PowerPC Macs. Linux is getting easier, but it's a whole different ball game. While some would rather run the latest Ubuntu build on their aging PowerPC Macs to have access to the latest browsers, a lot of us prefer the familiarity of the Mac OS and don't fret over using a version of Firefox or Safari that isn't the latest and greatest. As someone still using the Classic Mac OS (via the Classic environment in Tiger) daily, I fall in that camp, although I am not averse to fiddling with Linux now and then. dk

OS X 10.6 vs. 10.5 CPU Temperature

From AJ:

Hello Charles,

I agree with your assessment that 10.6.5 runs hotter than 10.5.8. I have an old Intel iMac 17" Early 2006 that I dual boot into both - and with Temperature Monitor app and widget. I can see that in 10.5.8 my CPU temps are upper 20's, and in 10.6.5 they are in lower 50's. I saw some forums that mention that GPU may be the cause, but the temps are within 2°C. I also checked activity monitor for CPU usages, and not much of a difference between the two. My only other complaint is when I use remote management with VNC, 10.6.5 gives me frozen screens once in a while and 10.5.8 is rock solid.


Hi AJ,

Thanks for the report.

On my MacBook, Leopard runs in the high 60°s to low 70°s C, while Snow Leopard typically hovers in the high 70°s to low 80°s if you're doing anything, which maddeningly is jut enough to cause the cooling fan to kick in.


Hello Charles,

80°s ? You're kidding, right? 20° within the boiling point of water (or max CPU temp)! Even my Mac mini does not run that hot. You may want to make sure that there is no dust bunny buildup in the ventilation route of the CPU. When I was an engineer at an industrial sound system design company, we tried to make sure our components did not go over 0.5 to 0.75 of the max temp. Semiconductor speed tends to slow down as the component is heated. Oh well, if the CPU ever fails, I consider that prime opportunity to upgrade the CPU and clean out the fan and heat sink. All my computers have had their CPU, hard drives, memory, backlight, and other components upgraded.


Hi AJ,

Nope, not kidding. In Snow Leopard after a couple of days of uptime with my usual suite of applications running the CPU temp as reported by the Temperature Monitor utility ranges between about 77°C and 82°C during normal use. In Leopard, the same machine with basically the same set of programs launched runs about 10° to 15° cooler. My old (now my wife's) 17" PowerBook G4 1.33 GHz runs in the mid to high 50°s.

On the MacBook, the cooling fan tips in at about 77° to 78° in Snow Leopard - somewhat lower in Leopard.

The ventilation ports are clear with no indication of dust buildup.


Hello Charles,

I am assuming you are not running a fan controller; you can try smcFanControl or something equivalent to see if there are any improvements. On my Snow Leopard Mac mini, it is set to 2800-3000 rpm (not much noise) to get it to iMac level. My iMac does not need it.

From what I read in some forums, some other users run the fan at 5000 rpm, which to me would be too noisy. The Mac mini fan running at 1500 is hardly perceptible. Well, laptops tend to run hotter, so I wouldn't worry too much, since the temperatures you mentioned are about the same as what I read in other forums. Besides, I think on the Apple laptops, the CPU are soldered on, so that allows a lower profile board (for better air circulation) and better heat transfer from the CPU to the board, so the board acts like an extra large heatsink (some people get angry at Apple for soldering the CPU rather than using a socket but there are reasons other than cost why Apple did this).

This is what we also did with amplifier boards to dissipate heat. Just looking it up, the true Max temp on the CPU is 125°C, and there is an internal CPU Temp shutoff at 110°C. So don't worry about your temperatures.

Running a fan controller will just bring Snow Leopard to Leopard temperature levels, if you wanted.


Hi AJ,

I forgot to mention that my MacBook most of the time sits on a CoolPad mini laptop stand that lets air circulate around the bottom of the machine, which I expect helps some.

I've considered fan controller software, but one of my priorities is keeping fan noise to a minimum, so goosing the fan to run more or faster does not appeal. Probably Snow Leopard's default settings are doing a good job of striking a compromise. What I want, of course, are Leopard internal temperatures without any fan activity at all. (I fondly remember my PowerBook 5300 and 1400c that didn't have internal fans at all.) I would probably opt for using a Targus Chill Mat or similar device with large, slow-turning, much quieter circulation fans if I went that route.

If this higher-temp issue was my only gripe with Snow Leopard, I would be a fairly happy camper. However, the Spaces hang and USB flakiness are driving me to distraction. Sigh. I notice that the USB has crapped out again this morning on wake-up, which will require another restart to restore normality (last restart was last evening). Meanwhile, I'm using Tiger on the anvil-dependable old Pismo.

I can appreciate that a hard-soldered CPU would result in more efficient heat transfer, but the inability to support processor upgrades certainly diminishes the long-term value of current Apple laptops.


Snow Leopard Problems: Try a Clean Install

From Tom,


Just as an experiment, you might want to try a clean installation of Snow Leopard on your MacBook Pro without the separate Leopard partition. The changes in Open Firmware between Leopard and Snow Leopard were massive (we're talking 32-bit vs. 64-bit and more). They are totally different cats, so to speak.


Hi Tom,

No doubt wise counsel, but with my hard drive ecosystem, it would be a major project that I just don't have the time, nor can afford the downtime, to tackle.

I'm limping along in Snow Leopard these days, but it's frustrating. Of course, if I get too frustrated I can always switch back to Leopard, which is a known quantity and an excellent performer on this machine.


Re: Mac OS X 10.6.5 Update a Step Backward

From Björn, following up on Mac OS X 10.6.5 Update: No Problems Here:

Strange, did you run AHT to make sure HW is healthy?

Sent from my iPhone.

Hi Björn,

I haven't as yet. There is no indication of any hardware problems, and the MacBook runs very nicely in Leopard.


Is It Possible to Disable HFS+ File Compression in Snow Leopard?

From Gregg:

Why would I want to [disable file compression in Snow Leopard*]?

For one, with today's inexpensive storage, there's no point to having an operating system wasting any amount of CPU power, no matter how efficient, on such compression/decompression.

Second, Windows has had this useless "feature" at least since NT4. Back when it made any sense at all, it was a noticeable performance hit, so most NT users, which were mostly businesses, upgraded to bigger and faster drives (or whole new computers) rather than trying to squeeze a few more megs out with file compression.

Thirdly, if Ars Technica has it right, the compressed files are packed into the files' resource forks. Just when I thought that which should never have been was going to finally be done away with, Apple brings it back. (IMHO, Apple invented Apple Double mainly to make it as difficult as possible to do anything cross-platform between Mac and AnyOtherOS.)

Why did Apple even bother with this when they could see that it wasn't being used by users of the "dark side" OS? To me it looks like someone at Apple finally noticed a really old Windows feature and decided just for the heck of it that OS X ought to have it too, and who cares if it's of any real use.

So how about an article on how to turn off all the less than useful and downright useless "features" of Snow Leopard, for users who want to get every last bit of performance out of their Mac? For example, Quick Look, from what I've read about it, I wouldn't even want it installed.

I've always optimized my Macs by removing the nonessential "Gee-whiz-ain't-that-kewl?™ stuff I never used. It was much easier with Mac OS 9.x and older; I want to be able to make Snow Leopard lean and clean too.

Every OS goes from "It'd be great if it had *this*." to "Why the bleep did they add that?" Snow Leopard has achieved the latter.


* Editor's note: Apple uses HFS+ File Compression for system files in OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and this new feature is unique to Snow Leopard. These files are installed compressed and expanded by the CPU as necessary. This allows smaller files, a smaller OS footprint on the hard drive, and faster file copying, making for a faster system install. This is completely transparent to the end user, and decompressing files is a much faster process than compressing them. I have not seen any data regarding the processing overhead of decompressing files vs. using uncompressed ones. dk

Hi Gregg,

If there is a way, I have no idea how. I'd never paid any attention to this issue before reading your letter. I checked out the Ars article, and if you haven't already seen it, you might find 10.6: Compress Files with HFS+ Compression on Mac OS X Hints interesting.

Gotta disagree with you about QuickLook, which I love, use many times a day, and miss a lot when I'm using my Tiger machines.


Another Method for Installing Tiger on a G3 iMac

From James:


I'm writing in response to the posted in your mailbag column, on LEM, from "Wade", about his experience in installing Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" on a G3 iMac 600 MHz. The timing of this article was in perfect synchrony to my own situation, where I was wanting to do virtually the same thing: Upgrade [from Mac OS X 10.3] Panther to Tiger on an external 3.5" dual-FireWire 400 drive, normally used to boot up a G3 Flower Power iMac 500 MHz. Wade's report gave me encouragement to proceed, so thanks!

Wade mentioned "Everything formatted on my Intel MacBook was unreadable on the PPC iMac in 10.3.9 - nothing made on the MacBook would show up on the older iMac as readable." This makes me wonder if Wade remembered to use the "Apple Partition Map" scheme rather than "GUID Partition Table" when he used Disk Utility to format the drives (you have to click the "options" button or something to find that option). Well, despite following his instructions, I was unable to prepare a functional Tiger disk startup image on a handy 2.5" FireWire drive (which is otherwise bootable, from experience).

Fortunately, my MacBook is of a vintage that actually has a single FireWire 400 port on it, so I had great success as follows: I put the Tiger install DVD into my MacBook optical drive and booted up in "target disk mode" (holding down T during restart). Since one of the two FW400 busses on the iMac doesn't work, I chained the functional iMac FW400 port to the external drive, and then the external drive to the MacBook. When I rebooted the iMac, holding down the option key, I was delighted to see the Tiger install DVD show up from the MacBook optical drive! I'd essentially turned my MacBook into a FireWire optical drive. I was able to boot from the install disc and successfully update the Panther system to Tiger. Hurrah! (Note that at one point the iMac reported an unreadable drive and offered to format it; fortunately I realized that it was seeing the GUID Partition of my Intel MacBook internal drive, and I cleverly chose not to format it!)

Hope this helps someone!


Hi James,

Thanks for the observations and tips. The GUID point is well-taken.

Your successful workaround is yet another testimony to the goodness of FireWire.

You have a Flower Power iMac G3! Now there's a real collector's item. I've never actually seen one other than in pictures.


Another Option for Installing Tiger on a DVD-Challenged Mac

From Sam:

Dear Mr. Moore,

I just read fellow reader Wade's description on how he installed Tiger on a G3 iMac; it made interesting reading, as I did the same only a few weeks ago.

The iMac in question was my parents' DV SE Graphite, and I hoped to get rid of Panther and put in Tiger. It refused to boot from the installer DVD disc, which I traced to the Combo Drive being somewhat tired. Luckily I have an external FireWire DVD±RW drive, so I used that to boot the iMac, wiped the hard drive, and then installed without a hitch. With two sticks of 512 MB RAM I got very cheaply off eBay (working pulls from an eMac) it is motoring along happily.

I believe a FireWire external DVD drive of some description is able to get me out of such predicaments, as it has done so before, apart from serving its intended purpose. I do suspect that if Wade had one, he might have saved quite a bit of labour and time too. This is especially true for PowerMac users, as they cannot boot from external USB devices.*

All the best,

* Editor's note: You can boot most Macs introduced since mid-1999 from a USB drive. What you can't do is select is at your boot drive in System Preferences > Startup Disk. To boot from a USB drive, hold down the Option (Alt) key during startup. You Mac will display an icon for each bootable device, including USB drives if your Mac supports USB booting. It won't be fast on USB 1.1 Macs (G3 iMacs and G4 Power Macs among them), but it is possible. dk

Hi Sam,

FireWire optical drives (and hard drives, for that matter) have saved my bacon more than a few times over the years. I have an old QueFire CD burner drive, but no FW DVD burner outside the SuperDrives in my computers, which can be employed in Target Disk Mode as external drives if you have a Mac that still supports FireWire. Unhappily, my MacBook doesn't, which is about the only thing I don't like about it. I do have a USB external optical drive though, as well as several USB external hard drives, and I've booted from them, although performance is poor compared with FireWire.


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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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