Charles Moore's Mailbag

PowerBook or MacBook?, Potential Rosetta Workarounds, Use Virtualization for DOS, and More

Charles Moore - 2011.05.24 - Tip Jar

Letters commenting on my article about Apple's rumored termination of Rosetta support for PowerPC applications in OS X 10.7 Lion continue to arrive. Some are posted in this Miscellaneous Ramblings Mailbag column. If you've written, either on the Rosetta issue or some other matter, and I haven't yet gotten back to you, I'm working through the backlog of mail in chronological order, and I will be replying.

In the meantime, TidBITS' Michael E. Cohen has posted an excellent commentary, Rosetta and Lion: Get Over It?

PowerBook G4 or MacBook?

From Daniel:


I'm a fairly long-time reader of yours and remember you having a 17" PowerBook a while back (did that ever lose its smell?), so I thought you would be a good person to ask this.

I am debating whether I should buy a MacBook (Aluminum), a 1.5 GHz 12" PowerBook, or a 1.67 GHz (not high resolution) 15" PowerBook, and have found that the 15" PowerBook should do nicely, but I'm not terribly sure if the difference in cost would make up for that lack of "futureproofing".

Which do you think would be preferable? I don't really have a lot to spend.


Hi Daniel,

We still have the 17" PowerBook, which served me well as my main production machine for nearly three years, and is still in daily use by my wife. Unfortunately, it never did gas off, and I was always obliged to use it in isolation case. Apple has evidently cleaned up its act in that department, because it took my current Late 2008 Unibody Aluminum MacBook only about a year to gas off to a degree that I no longer reacted to it.

As a general rule of thumb, my suggestion to you would be to go with the newest, fastest machine that fits your budget, whatever that might be. Personally I found it less of a traumatic adjustment moving down from the 17" machine to the 13", although my 17" was only 1440 x 900 screen resolution (the current standard on the 15" MacBook Pro and 13" MacBook Air), so it wasn't as big a shift [going to 1280 x 800] as it would be going from a current high-resolution 17" MacBook Pro to a 13" Aluminum MacBook. It's really a matter of what you think you'll be comfortable with.

I'm now pondering whether I could live comfortably with an 11.6" MacBook Air, and the largest, highest resolution display that I will have on my next system upgrade will be one of the 13" offerings.

Unless you need the extra graphics handling capabilities of the discrete graphics processor in the 15" and 17" MacBook Pros, the 13" models offer the best value for the money Apple has ever offered in portable computers.

Hope this helps a bit.


Another Casualty of No Rosetta: MacLinkPlus

From Richard:

Remember MacLinkPlus? It used to come free on Macs back in the day when file compatibility was not so great with our friends using Windows.

Even when Apple stopped including it - perhaps around the time of the transition to OS X, but I don't remember - I kept buying updates from DataViz. I don't use it much anymore, and I can't even remember the last time I had to use it on a file sent to me from someone else. However, I do still need it occasionally when I attempt to resurrect an old document of my own created earlier than about 15 years ago or so.

MacLinkPlus, which DataViz has not updated since 2007, is a hopelessly solid PowerPC program, having never been updated for Intel processors. It will run right now, but its days are numbered, just like AppleWorks. It's not important enough to me to keep me from upgrading [to Lion], but it will definitely create an extra hassle to have to move a file to an older Mac simply to convert it on those infrequent occasions when I need to do so. I contacted DataViz about possible updates for Intel processors, but they said it was a dead product, no longer in development.

That's too bad, because there's nothing else quite like it on the Mac. I have every computer file I ever created from 1988 forward. They are a mixture of MS-DOS, Windows, and Mac files of multiple versions. Some are irretrievable anyway. I've had thoughts of spending time converting the ones that MacLinkPlus could handle en masse, but I simply have too many files, spread across a complex system of folders that have been growing over the past two decades. It would not be an impossible task to update the majority of them with MacLinkPlus, but I doubt I'd have time to do it before Lion arrives.

While such things can be frustrating and inconvenient (admittedly to a minority of users), I don't begrudge Apple for this kind of stuff too much. Apple has historically differed from Microsoft in that the former regularly pulls the cord on older technology, not because they have to necessarily, but rather to move the platform along. This seems especially true after Steve Jobs' return. Microsoft Windows, meanwhile, which will still natively run DOS programs from the eighties and even 5.25" floppy drives in Windows 7, suffers with unnecessary bloat down at the very code level in the attempt to be Jack of All Trades to nearly any program or peripheral that was ever used on past machines.


Hi Richard,

Indeed I do remember MacLinkPlus. I used it a lot back in the day when I was experimenting with different word processor formats, and it also helped convince more than one PC-user that switching to the Mac was doable. I can't remember the last time I used it or when it was discontinued. I probably have a copy(ies) on a hard drive or Zip or floppy disk somewhere - possibly all three.

However, I've never been sorry that I switched from word processors with their proprietary file formats to text editors using generic plain text (or at most RTF) back in the late '90s, which is about as close to future proofing access to my archives as is conveniently possible. Bean, or even Tex-Edit Plus, support all the text styling and formatting I ever find myself needing.

I agree with your analysis of the respective philosophies of Apple and Microsoft regarding backward compatibility. Apple thinks different (even about grammar sometimes).


Possible Rosetta Workarounds

From Anonymous by request:


Sorry to be so late to the party.

I skimmed your recent Mailbag on The Implications of Losing Rosetta in OS X 10.7 Lion.

Much of the angst was about doing installs and upgrades - either because the installer used PPC code, or because it looked for an existing installation of a prior PPC version of the program.

As low-end Mac fans, we have all seen these transitional issues before. In fact, these issues are one of the reasons that we keep old Macs around, even after buying new Macs.

Before slitting one's wrists or, perhaps worse, going over to the Dark Side, one might think about using an Intel-based Mac running an earlier version of OS X to do the installation:

  • put the OS X 10.7 Mac in Target Disk Mode
  • connect the target Mac to a second, Intel-based Mac with Rosetta
  • install away on the OS X 10.7 Mac's hard drive
  • if the upgrade installer wants to see an existing installation of a prior PPC version of the program, install it first on the Mac with Rosetta, then install on the OS X 10.7 Mac's hard drive or, if that is not an option, install on the older Mac, then drag and drop to the OS X 10.7 Mac's hard drive.

Of course, OS X 10.7 Lion is not available for me to test this approach, but it is one that has worked in the past for many low-end Mac fans.


Hi Anonymous,

I expect this Rosetta party is just getting started!

Thanks for the tip about a potential workaround. Sounds like it could be the answer in many instances. A bit problematical for folks with machines like my MacBook that have no FireWire port and therefore no Target Disk Mode.



I haven't tried it, but you might not need Target Disk Mode. For example, you might be able to:

  • enable personal file sharing (or whatever it is called now) in the target Mac's System Preferences,
  • connect to the target Mac over an IP connection - wired or wireless,
  • mount the target Mac's Applications directory - probably need to be logged in as target Mac's admin user to do that
  • install away.

Worth a try before despairing. There always seems to be more than one way to skin a cat.


Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for the supplementary. Good advice.


Looking for a LaserWriter

From Stony:


I'm not sure if you or Dan are the best one to address this question. I was wondering about LaserWriters - which ones are good, which ones to avoid, which ones are still useful (if any) or any other laser printer (or StyleWriter, for that matter, I guess) that can be had cheaply and will work with both old school Macs as well as Snow Leopard.

I've wanted to get a laser printer for a while now, and I know that the older ones like the LaserWriters are tanks that hardly ever break. The same can't be said for newer ones. And toner is, I think, still available and sometimes cheaply for them.

Could you make some recommendations? Or possibly Dan? Low End Mac has some profiles, but they aren't complete, and I never could afford a LaserWriter back in the day, so I never kept up on it.



Hi Stony,

We had an Apple LaserWriter back in the '90s, and it was great, but my printer erudition is minimal, and I've been using a Canon inkjet for years now. I'd like to have a color laser, but I don't do enough printing to justify moving on from the trusty Canon. Someday I hope to get back into doing more photography, and a laser printer will be on my wish list.

I'll hand this one on to Dan.


From Dan Knight:


The entire LaserWriter II series of printers was built like bricks and could potentially run for decades. I have no experience with later models, but the ones that used the same Canon engine as HP did in its printers have a very good reputation.

The one to avoid is the LaserWriter 8500. Based on a Xerox print engine, it's fast but doesn't seem to have the long term reliability of Apple's other LaserWriters.

Dan Knight,

Repairing or Replacing an Original Mac Mouse

Original Macintosh serial mouse M0001From Ken:

I need to replace either the spring inside an original Mac mouse or the mouse itself. Lots of Mac II mice, but wrong connector. Enjoyed your article about how useful these machines are; want to turn my granddaughter loose on TurboTurtle and Mavis Bacon Typing, but no go without an effective mouse.

Any thoughts appreciated.

Hi Ken,

I'm assuming you mean the old Mac mouse with a DE-9 connector predating the ADB mice that Apple used for years (1987-1998) before switching to USB.

I have a vague recollection of the spring failing in the mouse for my daughters Mac 512K back in the day. I think she figured out how to repair it with some other spring, but can't recall how successful that was. I haven't a clue where you might look for a replacement mouse. Flea markets and yard sales I suppose, or they're actually maybe somebody that traffics in that sort of obsolete Mac hardware, but I have no light to shed on who that might be. good luck in your search!


Publisher's note: We Love Macs sells refurbished Apple Serial Mice for $50. dk

Try Virtualization to Run DOS Word Perfect

From Jay in response to Windows 7's XP Mode Isn't Perfect:

To Sam,

A simple solution to the need to run obsolete Windows & DOS Software is virtualization. VMware Player and VirtualBox are available for free for Windows and Linux - runs great on Windows 7. Parallels Desktop, and VMware Workstation are both excellent payware virtualization packages. Just install any OS from DOS to XP into a virtual machine (VM), then run your DOS Word Perfect on that. You could even create a master VM with Word Perfect all set up and deploy copies of it (following proper licensing techniques like sysprep, etc., of course).

This could also be an opportunity to switch to Macs and use VMware Fusion, Parallels, or VirtualBox (free) to run your VM.

As for obsolete Mac software, there are some hacks out there to run Tiger, Leopard, or Snow Leopard in a VM. This allows the use of Rosetta to run PPC apps. I don't know, but it may even be possible to use a Tiger VM to run Mac OS 9 apps via Classic Mode.


Thanks, Jay.


Giving Virtualization a Try

From Sam:

Thanks Charles,

I'm actually working on setting this up now, except there's still one issue. Microsoft has ended the ability to purchase Windows XP stickers, so it's a minor hassle to get licenses for all of these virtual machines

- Sam

Hi Sam

Let us know how it turns out!


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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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