Charles Moore's Mailbag

iPad Pros and Cons, EMF Protection, Mac OS Performance Historically, and More

Charles Moore - 2011.07.18 - Tip Jar

Pros and Cons of iPad Ownership and OS X Lion

From Alex:

Uh oh. I knew it was coming. Once you boarded the iPad bandwagon, I had to jump on it too, and God found someone who was desperate for a full blown (even if older) Intel Mac. So I gave them the old Early 2008 White MacBook with some key software, and got an original iPad (but like yours, it's a 16 GB WiFi only model), but since the original you could get in any color you wanted "as long as it's black", I wound up with a black one. It's handling iOS 4.3.3 remarkably well (in regards to both speed and overheating, which I expected iOS 4.3.3 to be remarkably guilty of.

I find that an iPad was something I wanted (or should iSay iWanted iT) every bit as much as you needed it. I hope to get quite a long time out of it, but you and Apple's sudden insane drive for a Post-PC Era (and supposedly post-Mac too) that, from what I've seen, belies three years of "Get a Mac" advertisements lasting from the tail end of the Tiger era all the way through the snout end of the Snow Leopard era that, when combined with the iOS 1 to 3.1/3.2 Apple iDevice paradigm, was the best combination of car and truck computing I have ever seen.

Apple had me in the palm of their hand during the Leopard era and would have had me for Tiger had processor, RAM, hard drive space, optical drive, and build quality requirements been met. Then they listened to rich and/or ignorant hotheads and lost me.

I want what I had in 2010, just with this 1G iPad integrated into the mix. Not all this iCloud/Lion/iOS 5 car computing for the future stuff. In 2010, the future was most bright. In 2011, the bottom seems to be falling out.

Alex Harris (the last major iPad holdout)

Hi Alex,

I wish I didn't agree with you as much as I do. Now a month into iPad ownership, I'm no more optimistic about an iOS future than I had been. It's a clever little device of limited usefulness compared with a real computer like a Mac or (dare I say it?) even a Windows 7 rig.

I have to say I'm apprehensive about the future, or for that matter the imminent present what with Lion being download-only - probably the tip of a very nasty iceberg.

Nor will Windows 8 be much of a foil against this touchscreen, fullscreen onslaught by appearances. Will Linux survive as a real personal computer OS?


I love the way an iPad 1 works, which Apple positioned as a supplementary device instead of the computer replacement the iPad 2 is touted to be. 10.7 for my Intel Macs is a no go, as it replaces the foreign language support dating back to the first Macintosh 128K systems with the impossible for me to do right iOS method, so if I upgrade, there goes the justification for my Intel Macs even being here, and I have gotten far too used to having useful for school Intel Macs that work just the way I need and want (except in regards to the iTunes Store's annoying restrictions). So does the iPad, when you don't put truck computing expectations on it. I would never have an iPad if I hadn't gotten to the point I could trade a truck computer that I wanted to replace anyway for one.

My Aunt Freddie got an iPad 1 in late summer 2010, one of the Verizon MiFi bundled models, and at that point I had to go check one out in the stores, and once I did I knew the iPad wouldn't replace a MacBook Pro for the foreign language studies in college (nor would an OS X 10.7 Lion 2011 13" MacBook Pro low-end model due to the aforementioned 10.7 foreign language usability downgrade to be fair), but for everything else my iPad 1 16 GB WiFi only giant iPod touch model has surpassed my every expectation when used even remotely as intended. I can only imagine what a dual-core iOS 5 iPad 2 could do.

Of course, iOS 5 will probably require 10.7, so I may just not have to worry about it.

Sincere kind wishes (and truck computing is still king for full usability),

Hi Alex,

I'm happy to hear that you're enjoying your iPad. I'm sure your realistic/low expectations help with that.

I expect there are many ramifications of the Rosetta dump from Lion, like your foreign language support, that will be deal breakers for many. I'm definitely going to keep a bootable Snow Leopard partition on my HDD for the foreseeable future. The crunch will come when it's time to upgrade hardware. Presumably anyone buying a new Mac model that is released after the Lion release, probably including the refreshed MacBook Airs, will be stuck with Lion and up only. That thought is making a refurbished 13" MacBook Pro look enticing.


Thunderbolt Makes G4 Cube Resurrection Less Likely than Ever

From Dan Bashur in response to Looking Back at the Power Mac G4 Cube Ten Years On:


My late father and entrepreneur in graphic design and publication, George Bashur, was also a proud Cube owner. After five years of service, it was replaced with a 2006 Core Duo Mac mini. Unfortunately, both machines are now sitting idle after failed logic boards. Someday I plan on resurrecting both machines to become part of an Apple/Mac Museum that has now spanned over thus decades thus far (80s-00s).

Power Mac G4 CubeThe Cube was certainly a piece of Apple history we will never forget. I, for one, always envisioned the Cube coming back as something between a Mini and a Mac Pro in this Intel era. I even had an article on this very subject published in 2009, Re-imagining the Mac Cube for the Intel Era.

Now, with the advent of Thunderbolt, such a machine is looking less and less likely. Graphics upgrades, additional storage, and other devices will be contained within external housings. This will give next generation Mac mini owners even faster performance than the 6.0 GBps performance of SATA, yet with expansion possibilities, and not the processing power overkill (at least for the average user) of a Mac Pro.

- Dan Bashur

Hi Dan,

Thanks for the comments. I agree with you about the portent of Thunderbolt on the future of desktop (and, to some degree, laptop as well) Mac development.


EMF Protection

From Anu:


I am very sensitive to EMF exposure and wonder if you have suggestions for my home office - working in my office for very long I do notice the effects of EMFs and want to reduce my exposure if possible. Equipment I need and use is: a flat screen desktop Mac, also a cordless landline phone, a printer, a portable heater - all in a small room. Any suggestions for shields or other types of protection for any of my equipment?

Thanks so much,

Hi Anu,

I'm only an interested and somewhat informed layman on this topic, but my inference is that we're fighting a losing battle as the computing and communications worlds go more and more wireless.

Since you need a desktop Mac, I'd suggest that as a rule of thumb - the smaller the better, so a Mac mini would be the best available choice. Use a hard wired USB mouse and keyboard.

Do you absolutely need a cordless landline phone? We have one here in the house, but whenever possible I use a corded model. The printer shouldn't be a problem, as it probably connects by USB and can be turned off most of the time.

Not sure about the heater. Probably one of the oil-filled radiator type units would have the lowest EMF profile.

Try to position your wireless router in a less frequently occupied part of the house if that's possible.

The best way to vet this sort of issue out is to get a gaussmeter to determine how much EMF you're being exposed to and test workarounds. You can get one for as little as $24.95.


Hi Charles,

Thank you so much! The info you shared is all very helpful to me and I'm going to get a gaussmeter - great website!


Hi Anu,

Delighted that I was of some assistance.


Model Garage

From Tim:

Heavens Charles,

I thought I was reading from Gus and the Model Garage*, until you mentioned those sliding door Bedford vans.

There was a particularly vicious subspecies in London used by the Evening Standard to deliver the papers. Crewed by east-Enders they warranted giving a wide berth.

I am in mourning: Ay 10-yr old Alfa 147 - with only 35k on the clock - self-immolated itself. For its age it was in excellent condition.

Anything else of that age had 80k, 120k, and the rest . . . Helas.

I still check in to Low End Mac, but - like you have an Alu MacBook - and iPad 2: very good deal here in London with three - £200 for a 24m contract and then £15/m for 15GB/month. Pretty well all you can eat.

I was worried a while back - Couldn't close the MacBook battery bay easily. Found the battery was swollen; took it in to the Westfield Apple Store; got a Genius appt. and, no quibble, even though it was well out of warranty got a new battery. It had only done 197 charge cycles. (You do know of Coconut Battery?) Moral of story: Do not be led down the garden path of hooking MacBook to LED Cinema Display and just leaving it on mains power.

Best wishes - Tim

* You have found the anthologies of stories on the Web?

Hi Tim,

I do fondly remember the Gus Wilson's Model Garage short fiction stories in Popular Science, but I hadn't thought about them for years until I got your email. I have now found the anthologies. :-)

I doubt that Gus (or, more accurately, his author(s)) would have encountered any Bedford vans. I don't think any significant number were imported to the US, although they were a modestly successful seller here in Canada - popular for urban delivery because of the sliding door feature.

Condolences on the Alfa tragedy.

Thanks for the tip about MacBook batteries and external monitors, and I do use Coconut Battery. Your experience, and relative ease of rectifying it, reinforces my dislike for non-swappable batteries in laptops.


If Tablets Are Cars, Smartphones Are Motorcycles

From Guilherme:

Hello Charles,

Thanks for your reply on my previous email regarding Xcode 4. In fact, I've read lately that the reason Apple is charging for Xcode 4 is the same reason behind the previous charge to unlock 802.11n on certain devices, only to have the update shipped for free with a new AirPort Base, apparently something related to the accounting practices, which I'm completely ignorant about. So it's likely that Xcode will be shipped free with Lion, however, I highly doubt it'll be able to compile PowerPC binaries or even Intel binaries supporting anything older than 10.5. One more nail on the PPC coffin.

Regarding your excellent Of Cars and Trucks, iPads and Macs article, while not everybody needs a truck, everybody has been in a situation when a truck is needed. To be honest, I had the opportunity to try an iPad at a department store lately, and I still haven't found enough reason to purchase one, given the fact that most of my mobile computing needs are nicely served by an Android smartphone, and the remaining ones wouldn't be served by an iPad either. So I guess if computers are trucks and tablets are cars, a smartphone might be a motorcycle as well.

To finish it off, since I've upgraded my Mid 2010 13" MacBook Pro to 10.6.8, it doesn't go to sleep anymore when I close the lid and also when I choose Sleep via the keyboard shortcut or after pressing the power button, it stays unresponsive for about a minute before the screen turns off and the case LED starts pulsating. I wonder if any other fellow LEM readers are facing the same problems; I've never had any issues after updating Mac OS or firmware in any of my Macs, and I've always updated via Software Update, except when I formatted a Pismo and downloaded the 10.4.10 Combo Update on my Mac mini to save time.


Hi Guilherme,

I like your smartphones/motorcycles analogy. Makes logical sense.

I'm enjoying my iPad more, especially since I've discovered how well the Dragon Dictation app works. However, now in my fourth week of iPad ownership, I still don't perceive it as a gotta-have-it device in the way that laptops are for me. I doubt that it ever will be.

As for OS X 10.6.8, it's turning out to be so buggy in a whole spectrum of ways that some experts are recommending sticking with 10.6.7 until just before it's time to upgrade to OS X 10.7 Lion. I'm still running 10.6.7, and at this point have no intention of upgrading to 10.6.8 until there is an intractable compatibility issue.

I do hope (unfortunately it's not a terribly lively hope) that Apple will issue another Snow Leopard bugfix update to stand as the definitive version going forward for those of us disinclined or unable to upgrade to Lion.


Mac OS Performance Historically

From Simon Royal:


I was there for the transition from classic Mac to Mac OS X, and early versions of OS X were terrible. OS X 10.3 was faster than 10.2, and 10.2 was faster than 10.1

Tiger (10.4) was a massive break through for OS X. It was a massive improvement over 10.3 in terms of features, stability, and speed. It was even faster than 10.3 on machines that didn't officially support 10.4. I ran it on two Lombard PowerBook G3s - a 333 MHz and 400 MHz - and they ran Tiger better than Panther.

Leopard (10.5), however, wasn't faster. I benched it on a number of machines at 4% slower than Tiger on the same machines, but the extra features such as QuickLook made up for this. (see Is Tiger or Leopard Better for Sub-867 MHz G4 Macs?)

I haven't much experience with Snow Leopard, but being Intel only and supposedly streamlined. I can't see Lion and its new features being much of a memory hog, after all it will require a Core 2 Duo anyway.

500 MHz Titanium PowerBook G4 running Mac OS X 10.5.8, 10.4.11 & Mac OS 9.2.2. -
iPhone 3G running 4.2.1

Hi Simon,

Thanks for the insights. You have lots of company in your experience of Tiger being faster than Panther.

I love Tiger, but personally I don't recall being blown away by a dramatic speed boost when I moved up from Panther, although there were plenty of things that did impress me.

Leopard works well on my wife's 1.33 GHz PowerBook G4.


Sounds of Silence with OS X 10.5.8 Leopard

From Bill:

Greetings Charles,

I've been perplexed by a vexing problem with intermittent sound on my 1 GHz PPC TiBook under 10.5.8 and been trying to get to the bottom of it for nearly six months to no avail.

Hoping fervently that you and/or the readership can supply the magic bullet which Internet searches and laborious testing have failed to produce.

Sound cuts in and out at apparently random intervals and has kept me from upgrading my (83-year-old) father's identical machine from 10.4.11

My findings thus far:

1. Internet search does get (older) hits; typical "remedies" recommend e.g.:

  1. resetting PRAM
  2. correcting permissions
  3. sticking a toothpick into the headphone jack (!)
  4. reinstalling QuickTime
  5. deleting "AppleDallasDriver.kext"

Some of these "solutions" provide transient relief; none are permanent [and note: the sound issue is not present under 10.4, 10.3, or 9.2.2, each of which exist on separate partitions of both our TiBooks.],

2. Empirically, I have observed the following (chronologically over a month or more):

  1. Turning off "Folder Actions" seemed to alleviate frequency of occurrence
  2. "" gets altered at shutdown time (not upon "Restart"), which predisposes the machine to dropped audio at next start [this after flawless performance, sometimes for days on end)
  3. Navigating to certain Internet content (e.g. YouTube) fairly reliably can then resurrect sound; occasionally navigating to a "bad" site will cause it to fail again.

Suggesting that my Dad navigate to some such "restorative" site (as I now do) is just a bit too obtuse. He really needs to be on 10.5 to stay in the game on this architecture. This is the first major CPU issue I have been unable to resolve and I can't believe it isn't documented somewhere.

Lest I come across as a Luddite: We also own a MacBook Air under 10.6 (and SheepShaver is providing quite good classic access on both PPC and Intel).

Soundless I remain.

Grateful for your time and consideration & hopeful of ultimate resolution!


Hi Bill,

I wish I had some light to shed, but I haven't experienced this issue on our old 1.33 GHz PowerBook G4 running OS X 10.5.8, although occasionally the volume control slider will turn itself down to full mute. I don't think that used to happen when that machine was running OS X 10.4 Tiger, but I can't say for sure.


Upgrading My Power Mac G3 to G4

From Levi:


I was wondering if you could help me out a little. I've got a Blue & White Power Mac G3 that is nearly a bare bones machine. I was looking around on eBay for a processor upgrade when I noticed the logicboard out of what I believe to be a Sawtooth G4. I was wondering if it was possible to put a Sawtooth logicboard in the G3's case to replace the original board? This would be a great upgrade, in my opinion, as it would give me a whole range of new opportunities that a Rev. 1 G3 can't satisfy.

Hi Levi,

Unfortunately, it's reported that this is not a viable swap.


Webcam, Pismo & Skype Still a No Go

From Jerry:

Last February I asked you about information for using a Pismo, webcam, and Skype for a sister-in-law. I'm reporting on the progress (or lack of) in the case.

The iCubie, even with a USB 2.0 port, doesn't seem to work with Skype, though the Mac recognized it (Skype did not however).

Nor iSight (requires a G4), nor Macally's IceCam (a USB 1.0 webcam). I suppose there may be some new webcams that work, but not the above three!

The good news is Skype 2.6 seems to run okay, just no video possible. It makes me wonder if there are any free phone Internet applications one can use overseas in any case!

I'm still investigating what will work....


Hi Jerry,

Thanks for the report.

I'm wondering if the Pismo puts enough power through a USB 2 adapter for the liking of some peripherals. Have you tried the USB 1.0 IceCam directly in a USB 1 port?


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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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