Charles Moore's Mailbag

Truck Computing, the iPad Experience, Does OS X Get Faster with Each Version, and More

Charles Moore - 2011.06.27 - Tip Jar

I Love How Truck Computing Worked

From Alex:

Dear Charles,

I have this odd feeling the reason you bought the iPad is because your Intel Mac was now quite quaint. And also that replacing it with an up-to-date MacBook Pro 13-inch would bankrupt you at this moment. My problem is that it may be a couple of years before my college tasks are iPad-friendly, and I feel let down. I needed you to remain a happy 13-inch aluminum unibody laptop user. Please tell me when Lion comes out you will buy the upgraded Early 2011 MacBook Pro so I will know I'm not the only person who prefers truck computing to car computing.

I love how truck computing worked, until Apple decided it was too old hat. I can't afford to upgrade all my Macs to Lion, let alone totally replace everything I bought to help me. Yet Apple expects me to do that - shoot what I bought in the foot in terms of fitness for school or option B is to replace what I have that used to work with one of two replacements that don't. This depressed me enough that I wound up buying Windows 7 for my MacBook Pro and iMac, but that doesn't satisfy either.

I love truck computing, and I need it too. Apple turned an as loyal as justification and finances would permit customer into a frustrated and disappointed customer, and I am not very likely to buy Apple products anymore.

Why did this have to happen?

Sincere thoughts and kind regards,

Hi Alex,

Some great observations here, and we're pretty much singing from the same hymn book. I love truck computing too, and if nothing else, buying the iPad has made me appreciate my wonderful Late 2008 Aluminum MacBook even more than I did, and I already considered it pretty well above reproach other than the lack of FireWire.

Actually, I bought the iPad to a considerable degree of curiosity. It's one thing to play around with someone else's machine or a store demo for a few minutes, and quite another to live with it day-to-day. I wasn't feeling the love based on occasional dabbling, so I decided to dive in. I guess it was a necessary exercise, and educational, although an expensive lesson given the amount of practical use I will probably get from the iPad. I'm now kicking myself a bit for not waiting for the next 11.6" MacBook Air, which is rumored to be getting a price drop to $899.

On the other hand, that wouldn't have addressed the need for having an iOS machine for professional purposes. I needed a new iPod anyway after my ancient 2001 original iPod died, and the iPad at least makes a very decent iPod substitute.

I don't know how many Macs you have, but probably one OS X 10.7 Lion $30 upgrade fee will cover your fleet, if you decide you really want to have all your machines running Lion. I have two partitions on my MacBook, and whatever I decide, one of them will continue to have Snow Leopard installed.

As for why this had to happen, I suppose that the incredible popularity of the iPad with consumers speaks for itself. Apparently Steve Jobs tapped into a need or desire that a lot of people didn't know they had until the iPad materialized. I have a good friend who used to be the CEO of a software development company and who never gave Macintosh computers a sideways glance, but he just raves at how much he loves his iPad. Personally, as I related in the column, I still just don't get it, but I guess we have to chalk it up to different strokes.


Thanks a lot. Our biggest problems with upgrading to Lion are bandwidth usage cap-related followed by "If my Intel Macs are supposed to become giant iPads, then why not buy a real iPad, except for the fact that my college hasn't adjusted to the iPad, thus leaving me in a spot where I need the effective functionality of Snow Leopard plus Windows 7 (since my current college still insists on PCs, except for a very few courses of study that require far more artistic capability than I possess.

Good to hear that it was your job that made you get it. I feel like I might not have to go to a mental hospital now. :-)


Your iPad Review

From Lee:

Charles, are the last person I would expect that would actually like using an iPad.

I've owned an iPad since the day they were released last year. I've recommended the device to dozens of people, and I'm currently working on a concept to add a class using iPads to my kids' school. Given that, you are the last person I would expect that would actually like using an iPad.

If you were a customer of mine, I would have strongly cautioned you to give serious consideration of what you might actually want to do with the iPad. I've been reading your column for years, and I've even corresponded with you in the past. Given the body of work available, it's clear you determine the usefulness of a device by the ease at which it will integrate into your workflow. Suggesting an iPad for you is akin to suggesting a fish would enjoy swimming in the Sahara. And, with 11-year-old laptops, you are not really ready to change your workflow to fit the device. With an iPad, you must be open to that requirement.

To me, the iPad is simply a resource for data I have curated with my desktop. My job doesn't require typing significantly, but does require access to data that I've accumulated over the years. I carry it with me everywhere, and use it for consuming RSS feeds, accessing my Evernote and Dropbox accounts, and clipping information to my Evernote account. Email responses are limited to a paragraph or two at most. I don't believe the iPad was ever meant to be a laptop or desktop replacement for a power user with serious writing requirements.

The iPad isn't the "best" device for all people. But, for me, it has provided a simple means to read a book, maintain my serious addiction to RSS feeds (which I consume articles at the rate of 25k a month), a portfolio for my pictures, and an email reader that doesn't cause eye strain (like my phone frequently does). While I can use a couple of different applications to remote into a customer computer, it's not something I do very often, but I appreciate the ability. My favorite feature of the iPad isn't even the software; it's the crisp screen and the 10+ hour battery life. Not to mention the fact that it weighs 1.5 pounds. Given the fact that I might help 3-4 customers in a day; not having to lug around a 6+ pound laptop, and charger, is a huge plus.

So, if you really want to find out what the iPad can do for you, try using it for something fun, not work related. Maybe then you will find a use for it. And then, you might find a way to integrate it into your work flow in a way that you haven't even imagined.

If not, well, I'm looking to purchase another iPad or two for my children. :-)


Hi Lee,

Thanks for the thoughtful comments and observations, and I'm flattered that you have me cased so accurately. Indeed, computers are primarily a work tool for me.

I also don't dispute in the slightest that a lot of people have found the iPad an ideal device for them, and I have no quarrel with that.

What does perturb me is the prospect of the "truck computing" qualities of the traditional Mac OS experience being displaced and subsumed by iOS ways of doing things, which for my purposes would be a big step down in terms of functionality and efficiency.

Buying the iPad was a more an exercise in curiosity than filling any perceived need. I wanted to find out whether there was something about it that I hadn't twigged to vicariously. As it turns out, there isn't, at least so far as I've been able to discover as yet.

That said, I am making an effort to keep my work habits and tools as up-to-date as I can without substantially compromising efficiency. The curtain is undeniably falling on the to 11-year-old Pismos, and in an effort to squeeze a bit more service life out of them, I've stopped using Classic Mode and switched OS X native applications, but even some of them are Carbon apps, so their future is murky. My 2-1/2 year old Unibody MacBook running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard remains a joy. At this point I think I can safely say that it's the best computer I've ever owned, although I'm highly skeptical that it will have the astonishing long service life that the Pismo PowerBooks have provided.

Perhaps I'll find a niche for the iPad with increased familiarity and iOS proficiency, but you're right, as a work tool and production platform, it's crippled compared to even a modest Mac.


About Your iPad Experience

From Donald,

Good afternoon, Charles.

I just wanted to drop a quick note about your recent LEM article on your iPad experience. I'm sure you're going to hear this from many others, but it looks, from your article, that you're really expecting way too much from it. Even Apple realises that the iPad is primarily a consumption device and not a creation device.

I actually sold my MacBook Pro to buy my iPad (and coincidentally, I wound up giving my iPhone to my son, although it had nothing to do with my iPad purchase) and find that I don't miss either device one little bit. My primary use of the iPad (and my iPhone before it, not counting actually using it as a phone) is for Bible study/reading, and for this it absolutely excels. I use Laridian's PocketBible and Olive Tree's Bible Reader with my iPad, which I do take to church instead of a paper Bible, and find that these programs function exceptionally well for mobile use - far better than the small screen iPhone version did.

But aside from that, as a consumption device, I find it marvelous. I can steam videos and music from my iTunes library using Home Sharing, and I actually carry my entire Aperture library on my iPad synched from iTunes (of course, my library is small, and I'd never dream of editing photos on the iPad). I even use it for light document editing using Pages and Documents-to-Go in conjunction with Dropbox and/or iDisk.

I think the key is realising that the iPad is not a Mac! Think of it as a subset of OS X and recognise that within its limitations, there really is a lot you can accomplish. Although I don't use my Macs in anywhere near the manner you do (how in the world do you keep up with so many open tabs?) I also realise that some tasks really are better just done on a "real" computer.

I should also mention, that like you, I have a severe aversion to smeary screens, so I use a Targus Stylus and a nifty Kensington keyboard case for those times I need a keyboard (and it's a pretty good case to boot).

It'll be interesting to see how you adapt to using an iPad, but the key really is to realise that it's an adjunct to your Mac and not a "real" Mac!

Stay well and God bless.


Hi Don,

I really didn't know what to expect, although I confess that I had hoped I would like the iPad better than I do so far. Given the way things are going, I figured that I needed to find out for myself.

It sounds like the iPad fits your portable computing needs superbly, and good on it for that. I don't doubt that there is much one can accomplish on an iPad with perseverance and increased proficiency that comes from regular and frequent use, but for me it seems a bit like setting your hair afire and then putting it out with a hammer. The Mac is just so much slicker for almost everything I do with computers.

The flipside of your tabs query is that I find it hard to imagine how people get along without browser tabs, which have revolutionized my use of browsers (not to mention Spaces). I usually have 10 or a dozen or more projects on the go simultaneously, so multitasking and multiple workspaces make life so much better.

The thing that has surprised me most about the iPad is that from my perspective, aside from the obvious attributes of small size, light weight, instant wakeup, and long battery life, the advantages of which I don't dispute in contexts where they shine, I haven't yet found anything I do with computers, including content consumption, that I find superior on the tablet compared with on the Mac.

I must get one of those tablet stylus thingies. I'm told that they also make text selection a lot easier and more precise as well as helping to minimize the screen smearing.


Thank you for your response, Charles.

BTW, I did run into a program yesterday that may address your issue with tabs in Safari on the iPad. It's a browser called Terra and may be just what you need. I've not played with it much, because I did just discover it yesterday, but it's free and worth a look.


Hi Don,

I'll definitely check out Terra.



Lion on MacBook Air and Mac OS Performance Historically

From Stephen:

Dear Mr. Moore,

My main question is about the performance of current Apple hardware with the new OS. I've been very conscious of buying my current computer in the shadow of a major update: I bought a MacBook Air 11" (1.4 GHz, 64 GB) a week or so after its release due to a perfect storm of computer failure and a final-year undergraduate dissertation. I literally went to the shop the morning after my old computer gave up the ghost (a bad fall down stairs in my bag), applied my backup, and was back to work by the afternoon. I think that in itself is quite a good point in Apple's favour, because I did not expect to be sitting back in front of my notes so quickly. One of my concerns about the shift to online shopping is that there's fewer and fewer ways to rush out and grab something you need quickly after the previous one falls down the stairs. Apple can add "panicking students with deadlines" to their retail strategy.

I'm very happy with what I can get done with Snow Leopard and have been trying to get a sense of how Lion will compare with the previous version to do an informed upgrade. I hit the forums and found strident claims that Mac OS only ever gets faster, even on the same hardware, when it upgrades, which my marketing sensor dismissed as too good to be true (if each OS update really made your computer faster, why would you ever buy a new one?). However, one particular claim seems slightly more credible to me and stated straight off:

  1. 10.2 Jaguar was way faster on the same hardware than 10.1 Puma.
  2. 10.3 Panther was way faster one the same hardware than 10.2 Jaguar.
  3. 10.4 Tiger was way faster on the same hardware than 10.3 Panther.

These assertions seem extremely verifiable and, if true, very impressive. My experience of Mac OS is 7.5 - 8 and Mac OS X 10.2 - 10.6, so I wasn't around for the Puma -> Jaguar -> Panther -> Tiger -> Leopard upgrades, but it occurred to me that LEM absolutely was. Could you please comment on that? The extreme case particularly interests me: Do Macs run faster with Tiger than Puma?

NDAs on solid information about Lion aside, my gut tells me that there's nothing in Lion that's going to drag down the performance of a computer quite as new and spritely as the MacBook Air but, because it is the low-end model, it's a bit of a concern for me. If it's going to slow it down, I'll just delay upgrading until it's necessary for me, because using Snow Leopard is hardly a trial.

I'm a long time LEM fan and wish you the best of success for the future.


Hi Stephen,

Sorry to hear about your computer accident, but you got a nice one to replace it, and, as you say, getting up and running again on a Mac is pretty simple if you have a reasonably up-to-date backup to work from.

I agree with your concern about online shopping. I do a lot of it (and not just for computer related stuff) because I live out in the boonies, but I generally prefer to buy locally and support local businesses if there is no cost penalty. I just bought my iPad 2 from the local (50 miles) dealer.

As for your question about Mac OS version upgrades being typically faster than the preceding build, in terms of experience with the examples you cite, I can affirm that OS X 10.2 Jaguar was significantly faster than 10.1 Puma, and I found the difference even more dramatic when I upgraded from Jaguar to OS X 10.3 Panther (in those instances on a 500 MHz G3 PowerBook Pismo). However, I wouldn't say that OS X 10.4 Tiger was generally that much faster than Panther in my experience, even with an upgrade to a 550 MHz G4 processor on the Pismo that was done around the same time, although the exact sequence of events it eludes me in the haze of time. If someone had asked me, I would've said there was little if any different speedwise with that upgrade, although I never did any time testing for comparison.

I also didn't notice any notable speed up when I upgraded from Tiger to OS X 10.5 Leopard on my 1.33 GHz PowerBook G4, and Leopard might actually have been a little slower, although there wasn't much in the difference. The same goes for upgrading from Leopard to OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on my 2.0 GHz aluminum MacBook, and if there is any difference in that instance, I would say that performance has diminished slightly with Snow Leopard, and stability significantly.

However, given that OS X 10.7 Lion will be jettisoning even more legacy code with the termination of Rosetta and so forth, I would speculate that there is a reasonably good chance of Lion being faster than Snow Leopard on current machines capable of supporting it. I expect your MacBook Air will run just fine.

Thanks for reading, and best wishes to you as well,


MacBook Air or iPad with Keyboard Case?

From Robert:

MacBook Air or iPad with keyboard case? Yeah, that's a tough choice. In my opinion, the external keyboard for the iPad is necessary. Maybe it depends on how badly you want a touchscreen.

I did buy one of the base model 11" MacBook Air refurbs myself a few months ago and am happy with that plus the iPod touch. If I carry a briefcase with me, I'll take the MacBook Air, and if I want to go out leaving my hands free, I'll put the iPod in my pocket.



Moore's iPad Adventure, Part 1

From Bob:

The iPad requires a mental adjustment - you have to stop thinking about what it is not.

It's not a desktop or laptop replacement, but it has it's own strengths.


Hi Bob,

I don't dispute what you say. However, the iPad would be a lot more practically useful, at least to me, if basic stuff like copying and pasting weren't so lame.


The Future of Tex-Edit Plus on the Mac

From Mac:

Hi Charles,

Re: The Future of Tex-Edit Plus on the Mac

I too am a slow-adopter. Still happily using Eudora (on OS X 10.5.8), and I have just noted that I have something over 5k flies in Tex-Edit Plus. A great many of these contain graphics in their resource forks, so if Tom does not upgrade TEP, then I'll eventually be looking for an easy way to convert those files to RTFD.

I will be very interested to hear about any thoughts or leads you may have on that subject.

With thanks,
- Mac

Hi Mac,

I don't have really any more light shed on this than what I mentioned in the article. Tex-Edit Plus will save documents as RTF files, but not RTFD unfortunately. You could try opening your Tex-Edit Plus documents that contain graphics in other text editors like Apples TextEdit, but I wouldn't doubt that you've already tried that and not achieved success.

Let's hope that Tom Bender comes through with a Cocoa-based rewrite of Tex-Edit Plus.


Hi Charles,

Thanks for these comments. I'll write to Tom with my best encouragements.

Tex-Edit files open as plain text in almost anything, but any formatting and included graphics are lost. So the best kludge I can think of is a script to batch process Tex-Edit files into PDFs. Not at all the same as the originals, but still a lot less work than reconstructing the same layouts as RTFD.

I've not tried VINC, but still have an old WallStreet running OS 8.5, and it probably has a version of DataViz's now defunct MacLinkPlus, so those may be a couple of options too.

Sigh. "Progress."

- Mac

Of Cars and Trucks, iPads and Macs

From Stephen:


I read with interest your Low End Mac article "Of Cars and Trucks, iPads and Macs" and have a few observations and comments. A bit long winded, perhaps.


I live in coastal Alaska, which has a lot of similarities to Maritime Canada. Here big trucks reign supreme. But as a closet greenie, I just kind of scratch my head at the big truck mania. I got rid of my Ford F-150 years ago. The best it ever did was 17 MPG, driving downhill on a windy day.

Now we have a Honda Fit (Jazz to all you outside the US). The other day I pulled up to the gas station (where gas is currently $4.55), and there was a Big Ford Pickup on the other side of the pump. The truck guy started making comments about the little car. I told him we fill it up every 10 days, and then it's only 7-8 gallons. He put $100 of gas in his truck, which he does every 3 days, then complains about the high price of gas. This is a personal transportation device, mind you, not a work truck. All I can do is scratch my head in wonder at that kind of waste, and why folks are so eager to give so many of their hard earned sheckels to make oil companies and executives richer when they could surely use the money for better things.

And on the work front, I don't care how hard Ford advertises, you just aren't going to get many crab pots on the back of an F-350. And it would blow out the suspension if you put your drag gear (trawl to the rest of the world, especially writers from the lower 48!) on the back.


I do look fondly back at some of the old rigs I've had over the years. I was really partial to Willys Jeeps and Volvos.

For a while I drove a 1952 M38-A1 Jeep. For those of you unfamiliar with this beast, it is a military model, Air Force to be exact. So it had a 24 volt electrical system like all the old airplanes had. Two 12 volt batteries in series. Couldn't go over 45 MPH, but put it in 4 wheel low range, and you couldn't stop it. Even with the wimpy little 4 banger F-head engine. But it took a quart of oil every 100 miles so I traded it for a shotgun.

My favorite Volvo was a 1972 145-E. It was one of the first with the Bosch electronic fuel injection. It would get 26-32 MPG back in 1972. I don't understand with all the new technology why passenger cars today don't do much better. Anyways, it was rear wheel drive but had incredible traction, I remember pulling a buddie's Subaru out of a ditch when we were a bit further off the road then we should have been . . . Ah the Good Olde Daze!


Hi Stephen,

I enjoyed reading your observations and comments. I tend to get a bit prolix myself when I'm talking about cars.

The current Ford F-150s get a lot better gas mileage than the older ones did. Ford engines in general, I guess. I have a 2000 Mercury Grand Marquis with a 4.6 L V-8 that gets astonishingly good gas mileage for the size of it. The official EPA rating for highway is I think 34 (Imperial) miles per gallon, and in my experience it matches that if you keep a reasonably light right foot. My wife's Toyota Camry doesn't do much better.

The smallest Honda is also known as the Fit here in Canada. Great little car with an amazing amount of room inside for the size of it outside. I tend to like my cars either really big or really small. Our current winter beater is a 1991 Corolla with a five speed manual. We paid 300 bucks for it; spent about another 500 getting it roadworthy, and it never missed a beat in daily driver service all last winter. Has about 300,000 km on it.

We call them draggers here in Nova Scotia too. Funny you should mention blowing out a truck's rear suspension hauling fishing gear. I recall encountering a brand-new Dodge pickup on the Eastern shore number seven highway one night back in 1973 that had been grossly overloaded with a big capstan winch off some sort of large offshore fishing vessel and had hit a major whoop-de-doo frost heave, and the rear axle housing had collapsed like a banana, bringing everything to a grinding stop.

I've never owned a Jeep or a Volvo, although my half-brother had a real Army surplus World War II vintage Willys Jeep when I was a kid that was very cool - probably very similar to your old '52 model, and I've admired Volvos - my favorites being the old humpback PV 444 and 544 models that looked a bit like a '40 Ford, and the 122S that replaced them.

I one time had an English Bedford Van that used so much oil (a lot of it was running out of bad rear main bearing seal) that I just carried gallon jugs of crankcase drainings courtesy of the local garage and could pop open the engine housing, which was between the driver and passenger seats, and dump oil in without getting out of the truck. The coolest thing about the Bedford Van was that it had sliding front doors that you could leave open while cruising down the highway - the next best thing to a convertible on a summer day. No seatbelts then, either.

The good old days indeed!



Somehow your Bedford story reminded me of the crazy guy across the street when I was but a wee laddie in suburban New Jersey. He was an ex-Air Force fighter pilot. He still flew weekends with the National Guard out of Fort Dix. He was working as a pilot for Mohawk Airlines, remember them?

When he was stationed in France, he bought a Renault Dauphine and brought it back to the States on his return. Same thing, he just poured oil into the thing. Then the starter motor went out. The old Renaults had a hole in the bumper and came with a starting crank. So he used to hand crank his Renault to start it!

Wish I had that option with the Fit, but the engine is probably too high compression and tight.


Hi Stephen,

I think I have a vague recollection of there being a Mohawk Airlines. I don't think they ever flew into Atlantic Canada, however.

As for that old Renault Dauphine and its hand crank, I owned 17 assorted Farina-styled Austin Cambridges and Morris Oxfords, of model years 1959 to 1967. I always considered the '61's the best of the bunch, but I digress. Anyway, these cars also came with a hand crank, or "starting handle" as it was referred to in the owner's manual, as standard equipment, complete with a crank hole in the front bumper and a set of one-way dogs on the engine's crank pulley. The starting handle actually worked surprisingly well and got a fair amount of use. A good stiff third of a turn was all it would take to light the engine if there were no hard starting issues. I also found it helpful on very cold winter mornings to take a few turns with the hand crank with the ignition turned off before taking a crack at it with the electric starter. It would virtually guarantee a start if the battery was dead. It was also fun to use the crank with an audience in parking lots and such. Another handy use for the hand crank was for turning the engine when you were adjusting the valve clearance or setting the ignition timing, which on that British Motors B Series engine was done statically with a feeler gauge and 12 volt test light rather than dynamically with a strobe and dwell meter. A lot more convenient than tugging on the fan belt with the spark plugs removed or sticking a screwdriver in the number one spark plug hole to determine what you hoped was top dead center.

Another interesting trivia tidbit, the Austin/Morris B Series engine/transmission combo was a simple drop-in replacement for corresponding MGB and MGA components, being the same block, albeit with lower compression and a much milder camshaft, but still a low-budget fix if your MG's engine was knackered and you were short on funds. However it was necessary to hacksaw the crank dog off the crank pulley in order to clear the steering rack.

When British Motors Corporation pioneered the transition to transverse engines and front-wheel-drive with the Mini, and the larger 1100/1300/Austin America and 1800 series, they still used the old A and B Series engines that dated back to the early 1950s but just rotated them 90°, but of course it was no longer possible to insert a crank handle. The company literature at the time seemed somewhat apologetic about this, and suggested as an alternative for manual starting that one could jack one front wheel clear of the ground, then put the transmission in top-gear and give the front wheel a healthy rotational tug. I never actually tried this. The odds of hurting yourself seemed substantially higher than when using a proper handcrank (although with the latter, it was wise to remember to keep one some on the same side of the handle as your fingers in case of kickback, and I did get whacked in the wrist one time when starting a car whose crank dogs were rusted up a bit and sticky), and of course it was a lot more inconvenient.



Ah yes, the old Austins. I'm really surprised that Volkswagen never picked up on the hand crank idea. The crazy guy across the street replaced his Renault with a cabriolet Beetle.

Boats are almost (maybe more so) fun than cars. We recently had an old 38' wooden double-ender with the original 1946 Chrysler Crown gas engine. The thing was so well worn, there was absolutely no friction left in the thing. It also had a hand crank, but we never could get it to roll over that way. It was a big six banger, all the valves in the block. You'd adjust them with a feeler gauge, then have to "fine tune" them with a stethoscope. It had an updraft carburetor, which means it was hanging down on the side of the engine, and would dump gas into the bilge and blow you sky high if you weren't careful.

And all the Jimmy (GM) diesels. Like the 6-71 that has a hose go bad and spray raw salt water into the air intake. I was running the boat from the bridge and heard the engine just very gradually slowing down. Went down in the engine room, saw the problem, fixed it, ran another 8 hours to port. Needless to say the engine was toast, but it got us home!

I think I stopped working on my own cars with the coming of the transverse engines and electronics. My hands are just too big.


Hi Stephen,

Yes, the old VW flat four would've been an excellent candidate for use with a starting handle.

I like boats too, but am a sailor, and the biggest auxiliary engine I've ever owned was a 9.8 hp Mercury outboard. I did live aboard an 85-foot ferrocement schooner for a while, and it had a big six-cylinder inline Caterpillar diesel that had originally seen duty as a backup engine for a electrical utility power plant. I have a vague and possibly faulty recollection they put out some 250 hp. The vessel also had to dedicated electrical generators powered by three cylinder Ruston diesels that were made in India.

However, I'm definitely familiar with those old Chrysler flathead sixes in cars, albeit with downdraft carburetors, and I do recall seeing them in the odd boat, although General Motors six cylinders were the most popular boat engines in these parts until diesels took over the market. John Deere is the popular choice locally, although there was a big Ford six-cylinder diesel that sold relatively well in the 1970s and 80s when I was in the boat and marine equipment business. GM diesels are rare in marine applications on this coast, but the Chevy 292 gas Inline 6 was once the most popular boat engine by far.

I found that a lot of the pleasure goes out of working on cars with transverse engines. I have relatively slim and and long fingers, but I still find stuff hard to access. Of course, it's no cakewalk on most cars these days, what with all the electronics and emissions control plumbing and so forth cluttering up the under hood area.


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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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