Charles Moore's Mailbag

Stone Dead Pismo, iPhoto 11 Issues on 24" Late 06 iMac, Why No Blu-ray for Macs?, and More

Charles Moore - 2011.03.23 - Tip Jar

Pismos Are Capable of 1 GB of RAM!

From Ivan:

Hi Chuck,

I really appreciate your columns and perspective! I too, own a Pismo PowerBook, a October 2000 model. Mine was bought about a month before the Titaniums came out. It had AirPort, 2 USB, and 2 FireWire ports for the first time. I started out with a G3/400 and later had it upgraded to a Daystar G4/550, and I love it! Maybe the last of the Pismos could take more memory. I saw OWC prove that it can accept 1 GB of RAM. I run [Mac OS X 10.4] Tiger on it (w/768 MB of RAM), because it can handle Tiger better than Leopard.

That Pismo is so great and flexible (CD/DVD drive-Zip drive-empty slot-extra battery) that I didn't feel the need to buy a new machine for 10 years! I love it and still use it,even though I bought a 17" MacBook Pro in April 2010. I can't imagine a laptop being better than the Pismo! My 2010 MacBook Pro has more modern capabilities, but for how long it lasted,the new ground that the Pismo broke (FireWire, USB, AirPort, interchangeable modules ), it was and is the greatest laptop I ever used, and it was way ahead of its time!

Thank you for your great columns, and for explaining to Mac users - and computer users in general - that as long as your Mac does what you need it to do, you don't need a new Mac!


Hi Ivan,

Thanks for another Pismo review from a satisfied user 10 years on.

Both of my Pismos (May 2000 and October 2000) support 1 GB of RAM happily, although I'm running 768 MB in one of them because I had a bad 512 MB module with an intermittent fault that had me scratching my head for a while. To the best of my knowledge, all Pismos can support 1 GB of memory.

Like you, I have a newer Intel Mac, but I still spend about 2/5 of my computer time on the Pismos.


Stone Dead Pismo

From Dieter:


I was delighted to find your article on the Pismo PowerBook. I have one that I want to revive, but it is stone dead, even when plugged in. Do you think there is any hope for it? I'm thinking it might be the PRAM battery.

Such a shame that a fine machine that cost almost $5000 would become junk like that for want of a battery.


Hi Dieter,

Try unplugging the PRAM battery from the motherboard. It's located just inboard and to the right of the trackpad once you remove the keyboard. For illustrated instructions, see iFixit's free teardown manual.

A Pismo should be able to boot up just fine with the PRAM battery disconnected, although, of course, your settings will be lost when you shut it down. If it does start up with the PRAM battery disconnected, you know you need a replacement PRAM battery.

If that doesn't work, if you haven't already done so, try a power manager reset:

  1. rear of Pismo PowerBookIf the computer is on, turn it off.
  2. Press the reset button located on the rear panel of the computer between the external video and modem ports.
  3. Wait 5 seconds.
  4. Press the Power button to restart the computer.

Note: Resetting the power manager also resets the date and time. After the reset, the system clock is set to 12:00 a.m., 01/01/1904.

Other less likely possibilities are a fault in RAM or the hard drive, or possibly even the motherboard and/or processor daughtercard. If it's the motherboard, it's probably game over, but the likelihood is that it's something else.

Whatever, a computer is just a collection of parts, and if you can determine which one is causing the issue, you should be able to bring the Pismo back to life.


iPhoto 11 Issues on 24" Late 2006 iMac

From John C.:

I would recommend that anyone with an iMac that has a GeForce 7300GT [note: only the Late 2006 iMac has this GPU] not upgrade to the newest version of iPhoto. There are serious graphical glitches that cause strange artifacts to appear in the active window, and that's not even the worst part. It manages to make the entire OS hang once the program freezes. It's not uncommon to wait 5 minutes just to use anything on your computer once it decides it is going to freeze on you.

This problem documented in Apple's forums for iPhoto 11, but there seems to be no updates that will fix the problem. Apple should be forthright about what systems are supported so that people can make informed decisions about purchasing their software. I do not feel that people have a right to have their platforms supported indefinitely, but they do have a right to know if their system will meet the requirements demanded by the software. Reading the forums (it's about 2-3 pages in the iPhoto 11 installation & general use forum), it looks like a lot of people bought the software under the reasonable assumption that it would work and then ended up having to downgrade, which was time consuming in particular if they did not back up their '09 libraries. While this speaks to the importance of backing up, it does seem to be a case of blaming the victim, which I feel is all too frequent on Apple's message boards. Apple can do wrong, and we should hold them accountable by either demanding software updates that will remedy these graphics/freezing issues on their supposedly supported machines, or ask that they state explicitly which machines are supported on their software.


Hi John,

Thanks for the head-up about this issue.

This sort of thing is one of the reasons why I am inclined to primarily use third-party software solutions - in this context Photoshop Elements.


PS: I found this on Hardmac and thought of you.

How to Solve the Graphics Card Problem on Some iMacs

"Many Mac users have had problems with the graphics card in the iMac, especially with the 7300 and 7600 GT that came in the last white 24" iMac. Phillipe, one of our readers was able to repair his own quite easily...."

You can find more details about it on his blog. It is in French but if you are interested, we can provide you with a "translation.


Why No Blu-ray Support from Apple?

From Dan Bashur:


Thanks for the reply. Indeed, those third party solutions are available, but unfortunately even with those drives installed, you still cannot achieve commercial Blu-ray playback in OS X. The software is still Windows only. There is a workaround with Intels, but it involves ripping the .mkv files off your own disks, and playing them back in OS X using VLC. Google it and check it out.

I also wrote a very popular article* on commercial Blu-ray playback in OS X a while back, Blu-ray Playback in Mac OS X: Will It Ever Happen?

Unfortunately, everything in the article is still valid today, unless things change with the next wave of machines that will ship with OS X 10.7. Why can't Steve Jobs just make the call to unlock HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) in OS X? The hardware itself is HDCP compliant. One of the theories behind Steve calling Blu-ray "a bag of hurt" stems from a feud between Intel and Apple over HDCP, among other things. Intel owns the patent rights to HDCP and likely wanted a bit too big of a piece of the pie. Another theory is that piling on additional DRM would further cripple system performance. I suppose that theory is dead too with the new Sandy Bridge chipset. This ongoing feud seems to have cooled off (case in point - Intel HD graphics, Sandy Bridge, early adoption of Thunderbolt).

So why the holdout over playback in OS X still? It just doesn't make sense. I'm sure Apple wants to sell more HD downloads on iTunes, but if I already paid for a commercial Blu-ray and want to take that with me and watch it in full HD on my new MacBook Pro, shouldn't I have that ability? The competition offers this capability. Wouldn't this be another good selling point for buying a Mac?

To me, as a media junkie and gamer (as much as I love OS X and everything Apple), a Sony Vaio continues to be more and more appealing. I can run Remote Play software and access my PS3 (to do a variety of things) that is sitting at home from anywhere in the world where I have access to WiFi. I can also use my LocationFree base station with a Vaio, since the PC client is readily available (the Mac client is out of print, not available for download and very hard to find from a reputable seller). In addition, many Vaios have a Blu-ray drive with commercial playback. You get everything multimedia with one machine!

Apple was always proud of itself for greatly exceeding the expectations of those who purchased its products. For the higher cost, you were given technology that was on the cutting edge with unparalleled design, and it could do almost anything a PC could do faster and better. It seems that today, Apple is more concerned about pushing its own proprietary content. Not a terrible business idea, but I can't help but feel a bit alienated, when in 2000 (at a time when DVD was relatively new), all Apple products embraced it. The Pismo had both an expansion bay and a CardBus slot to support additional devices. I suppose those simpler times when Macs were something a bit more than exquisite are gone now that Apple is slowly becoming king of the mountain. Long live capitalism!

Off my soapbox.

In summary, if Apple doesn't want to provide the drives as OEM, that's fine. Just provide the support through OS X in 10.5.8 Leopard and later (universal binary) so we can use Blu-ray in a variety of machines new and old.

- Dan Bashur

* Publisher's note: I haven't shared the details of our Popularity rating with our readers. It's designed so that every article should achieve a score of one after less than two days online, and it marks articles as new when they've only been up a few days. Most articles will score two or three within a day or so. Each additional represents twice as many hits as the previous one, so anything with five or more is very popular - and with a popularity score of seven, Dan Bashur's article is very popular indeed. dk

Hi Dan,

I've long since given up bending my mind trying to fathom what motivates some of Apple's arbitrary perverseness about compatibility with certain technologies. Flash, USB 3, and Blu-ray all spring to mind as exemplars.

However, I think you said a mouthful with your observation: "It seems that today, Apple is more concerned about pushing its own proprietary content."

Not always, however. Apple has been in the process of throwing FireWire under the bus for some time now, and it's one of its homegrown technologies, but they're embracing Intel's Thunderbolt I/O technology with open arms.

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Apple to support Blu-ray with OS X, but you never know.

As a general observation, however, I perceive that we Mac OS veterans are going to be frustrated and disappointed with the changes in course likely coming for the platform. Hopefully, there will be some mitigating desirable aspects as well.


Safari 4.1.3 and Hard Disk Access

From Patrick in response to Safari 4.1.3 for Tiger: Fast, but Not Perfect:

Mr. Moore,

Are you sure that the disk access you're seeing in Safari isn't the phishing database (SafeBrowsing.db) being updated? I've seen behavior like what you describe (disk chattering a few moments after Safari launches, stops when Safari quits) if I open Safari on a computer where it hasn't been run in a while. You could use fseventer to confirm.

The disk access caused by updating SafeBrowsing.db is a lot less noticeable on a faster computer (less effort to download and process the file, the disk is acoustically quieter, etc.).


Hi Patrick,

Thanks for the observations. I've downloaded fseventer. Interesting tool, although I've barely scratched the surface with it yet.

Meanwhile, I've discovered that I jumped the gun a bit in giving up on Safari 4.1.3 after only two days over the hard drive background activity issue. Upon giving it another chance I've discovered that the busy-busy in the background finally resolved itself, and while I'm not giving it a clean bill of health until I establish that the issue doesn't return, I think I'll be using this build of Safari to take over the stuff I've been doing with Opera 10.63 on the Pismo.

I'm still not sure what was causing the activity, but it may well have been updating SafeBrowsing.db as you suggest. I hadn't used Safari for some time on this machine, and had done a system reinstall in the interim.


Publisher's note: As Charles reported yesterday, he is now living with Safari 4.1.3 as the default browser on his pair of Pismo PowerBooks running OS X 10.4. dk

Safari 4 Hard Drive Issue

From Matt:

Hello Mr. Moore,

In your article titled "Safari 4.1.3 for Tiger: Fast, but Not Perfect", you said that Safari 4.1.3 was busy on your computers. I have also experienced this issue on my iBook G3/500 and my iMac G3/600, but [also] with previous versions of Safari. So this problem is not unique to the latest release, but I'm disappointed to hear that it still has not been fixed. I feel that Safari 4 is the best overall choice for my old machines, which are so slow that any speed increase is welcome. Safari 4 was the fastest 10.4 browser I tested, both in terms of application loading and page load times. Therefore I decided to find the cause of this issue so that I could make Safari my main 10.4 browser.

After turning off different preferences and disabling plugins to no avail, I turned to a web search. Eventually I found a suggestion to uncheck the option "Warn when visiting a fraudulent website", which is in the "Security" tab of Safari's Preferences. It worked like a charm on both of my computers, and I have now been using Safari as the main browser on both my G3s for several months. Of course this is a stop gap measure (and one that fills me with some unease), but until I find a way to actually fix the problem this is how Safari will remain on my G3s.

Hope that helps,


Hi Matt,

I think it does, but can't be sure, since the hard drive background activity issue resolved itself before I had a chance to try your suggestion as a fix, but I think I'll keep that security option disabled from now on with the G4 machines.

Safari 4.1.3 is now the fastest browser I've tried in Tiger, although, as you apprehend, I expect it will be an ephemeral answer to the OS X 10.4 browser support erosion. Safari 4.1.3 could very well be the last Safari version offering OS X 10.4 support, and with WebKit moving on to Safari 6 (with OS X 10.7 Lion?) and Mozilla having dropped Tiger support with version 4 of Firefox, it's an open question as to how long browsers like OmniWeb, Camino, and SeaMonkey will continue to offer Tiger-compatible versions.


Safari 4.1.3 Isn't a New Update

From Dan:

I'm rather disappointed with Charles Moore's latest article (yesterday) on LEM.

"Apple takes a lot of stick from users of older Mac hardware for dropping support for their machines from later versions of the Mac OS - and for older Mac OS versions from the latest software."

Well deserved "stick", IMO.

"However, I want to salute Apple for just releasing one more update of its Safari browser for OS X 10.4 users. Version 10.4 is not supported by the current Safari (version 5), but along with the latest Safari 5 security update release, Apple also issued a Safari 4.1.3 update for us holdout Tiger users, and it seems to be a very decent browser - possibly the best left among the diminishing handful of up-to-date browsers that still support OS X 10.4."

Folx, can you please double check me on the version of Safari? AFAIK, Apple has left us Tiger users with our pants hanging open - there just is no corresponding security update for Tiger, to go with the 9 March 2011 release of Safari 5.0.4.

Safari 5.0.4 update references Safari 4.1.3 for Tiger, dated 18 November 2010.

"until I noticed that there was a lot of hard drive activity going on in the background even when I wasn't doing anything. I tried closing tabs. Still no joy.

"However, quitting Safari 4.1.3 ended the background busy-work Starting up Safari caused it to resume. Bummer, that doesn't happen with Opera, OmniWeb, or SeaMonkey, all of which I use regularly on the Pismo."

This has been covered on the LEM lists repeatedly, I believe. Safari is updating the Top Sites & its site preview images. If you turn off the Top Sites, that background traffic goes away.

"...the need to use an installer and restart the machine after installation instead of just dragging the application into the Applications Folder...."

Again, covered on the lists: Safari is not a self contained app. It is an app plus a bunch of shared frameworks (WebKit, et al). The only way to complete the installation of those frameworks is to make everything accessing them - other apps and system components - let go, which is most cleanly done with a reboot. Now, if you want, I'm sure Apple could provide a stand-alone version of Safari. Then you can deal with all the wasted memory from having non-shared sharable libraries.

- Dan

Hi Dan,

Sorry to disappoint you. You may find the follow-up column I posted this week more agreeable.

The Safari version is 4.1.3, and you're right, it's the one released along with Safari 5 last November. I dropped the ball in assuming that because it was linked from the Safari 5.0.4 update page, it was likewise a new security update build for Safari 4 and overlooked the date of release posted on the Safari 4.1.3 page.

I actually hadn't tried any version of Safari 4.1 for PowerPC until a couple of weeks ago. My bro-in-law tried it on his G5 iMac early on, had problems of a nontrivial nature, and that made me wary, although it turned out that his iMac was circling the drain at the time. It's since been replaced by a Core i3 iMac. However, I hadn't hear any other horror stories about Safari 4.1.3 in the ensuing months, so coming very late to the party, I finally got around to downloading and installing the required OS X Security Update 2009-005 and then the browser. I still don't like the Safari user interface as well as Opera's, but as I noted in the column, Opera 10.63 has some serious issues running on PPC Tiger, although lack of speed is not one of them.

I appreciate that Safari's integration with the Mac OS is what we have to thank for attributes like Safari's swift startups. I just detest doing installer-based software installs.


PPC Browsers: Try TenFourFox

From Michael:

I'm sure I won't be the last to mention it, but a great PPC browser in TenFourFox. This is my main browser on my Quicksilver 2002 running 10.5.8/10.4.11.


Hi Michael,

I tried a beta of TenFourFox some time ago, and it wasn't quite ready for prime time, as they say. I'll have to take another look.

Thanks for reminding me.


Publisher's note: I've been running TenFourFox on my production Mac - under 10.4.11 on a dual 1 GHz MDD Power Mac G4 and 10.5.8 on a dual 1.6 GHz (upgraded) Digital Audio G4. It's been working reliably for me, although it's not my default browser (Camino is), so it doesn't get the workout it would as my default. dk

Getting Lion on an Early 2006 Mac mini

From John:

Hi guys,

Dan Knight wrote [in a personal email]:

"It's my understanding that the motherboards on the Core Duo model are different enough that they can't support 64-bit operation, which I'm guessing is Apple's reason for not supporting Macs with Core Duo CPUs in Lion. I suspect you will need a model that shipped with Core 2 Duo [to install the OS X 10.7 Lion Beta]."

Certainly my Early 2006 Mini won't boot into the 64-bit kernel in [Mac OS X 10.6] Snow Leopard let alone [OS X 10.7] Lion, but that's true of many factory shipped Core 2 Macs. 64-bit apps meanwhile run on it just fine. It was the dual boost from a much larger L2 cache and a good bit of extra clock speed that tempted me to swap the 1.6 GHz Core Duo for a 2.0 MHz Core 2 Duo a few years back. But the thought of 64-bit apps was also appealing, as was upgrading my dad's 1.5 GHz Core Solo with my spare chip. It was a nice move all round.

I'll write back once I've nagged the factory-shipped Core 2 Duo Mac mini owner to let me try my boot disk. My curiosity is piqued as to what's really different and whether there's potential for an artful hack.

Thanks guys

- John

Morning fellas,

Yup, turns out it is just a motherboard lock. The native Core 2 Duo mini starts Lion just fine, even with precisely the same model of Intel CPU as its upgraded brother. Lion presumably relies on the chipset to inform it whether a Mac is supported or not, rather than the processor.

Looks like my old mini's locked out unless an XPostFacto comes along.

- John

Lion Product Activation

From Alex:

I read in the second most recent Mac News Review that the 10.7 developer preview comes with Microsoftian activation measures. And then you have the Recovery HD thing. Those are the two secondary reasons I bought three Intel Macs, and were things Apple harped on especially in the Leopard/Vista timeframe. This may make them more money from unsuspecting users, but if Apple really does utilize those two features come 10.7 general availability, I will have to reevaluate my standing with my three Intel Macs, because a familiar method of Spanish character input alone is most likely not going to do it to allow me to continue to justify purchasing Intel Macs.

I love what my three 10.6 Snow Leopard Macs can do, especially with iLife '09, iWork '09, and Microsoft Office 2008 Home and Student, but iLife '11, iWork '11 (when it is released), and Microsoft Office 2011 have me most disparaged, and I don't want 10.7 to thoroughly disillusion me by removing MobileMe access from my three Intel Macs. I am a devoted defender of MobileMe even with the $99 price, because once you have three Intel Macs, two PCs that are connected to it, and even one iDevice( in the shape of a 2G 16 GB iPod touch) like I do, MobileMe can lubricate everything.

Instead, it looks as if Apple wants to replace an affordable $99 a year subscription into an unaffordable $4,000+ and outfitting costs every three years at most to keep three Intel Macs up-to-date, and that is a power grab this longtime Mac fan (much less since OS X and the Intel transition though) can't ever begin to justify.

I don't know about you, but I'll be sticking to Snow Leopard for as long as possible with my current application mix, and when that gets unable to do the Internet, I'll have to do one of three things I can't stand to do.

I apologize, if I need to, that 10.7 is being turned into this club that I feel is being used to bludgeon me, by obsoleting three of the best Intel Macs a person could ask for, but it may be that I am just not worthy of being a Mac person. I don't like that thought, but I don't know what else to do.

From the iMac 2.8 GHz's purchase to the day the 10.7 paradigm shift is complete, my Macs have been fun, and my Mac OS 9.2.2-running G3 and G4 Macs are still excellent most (save for the iBook's AC adapter jack messing up despite my incredibly great care in protecting it.)

To me, an Intel Mac requiring activation and only shipping with a Recovery HD partition is too much a PC just with an Apple logo on it to justify.

I just thought you could benefit from my thoughts or that the readers could if you're kind enough to publish it.

Kindest regards and largest blessings,

Hi Alex,

Thanks for sharing your musings on these topics.

I too am apprehensive about what logistical changes may be coming with OS X 10.7, being one who has not gladly embraced the Mac App Store paradigm shift.

We'll really have to wait and see what actually happens. If the new regime is not tolerable, at least Snow Leopard should remain a capable platform for a good long time yet.

And, of course, there's always Linux. At this stage of the game, I have little enthusiasm for switching to a different platform and starting from scratch developing a production ecosystem, but sometimes change is thrust upon us whether we like it or not. Philosophically, I am far more in harmony with the Linux way of doing things than the way Apple appears to be going with their "walled gardens."

However, I'll keep my powder dry until I know for sure what I'm going to have to deal with.

We'll see.


Ribbons for ImageWriter II

From Jeany,


Do you know where I can find ImageWriter Ribbons? Can it be safe to assume that they stopped making them?

It's for a retro 80's art project.


Hi Jeany,

See this blog:

Other places listing Imagewrter II ribbons:

Good luck with your project.


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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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