Charles Moore's Mailbag

Lion USB Modem Options, PowerPC Already Left Behind, 'Real Work' on Tablets, and More

Charles Moore - 2011.08.10 - Tip Jar

The bulk of this week's emails come in response to Lack of USB Modem Support Could Be a Lion Deal Breaker, which points out the problems for users worldwide when Apple stopped supporting its own USB Modem when releasing its newest version of OS X.

If you need a dial-up USB modem, the USRobotics 56K USB Faxmodem ($43 at, Zoom Model 3095 V.92 USB Mini External Modem ($46 at, and Best Data Smart One 56Kbps Mac External Serial V.92 Data/Fax Modem #16160 ($60 direct) explicitly support Lion.

Apple USB Modem 'Really Badly Designed'

From Romeo:

Dear Charles:

The Apple USB Modem is a really badly designed USB Modem. Many of them have failed for me when using them to receive faxes on my Macs using PageSender. Apple's USB Modem is well known for being poorly made and prone to failure.

On the other hand, the US Robotics USB Faxmodem and the Zoom USB Faxmodem are both OS X 10.7 compatible, as described in their respective manufacturers' websites. Zoom even gives you detailed information for setting up the modem in Lion.

These two third party USB modems are much much more robust and stable for daily use in my office for receiving faxes. They should be very robust for dial-up Internet connections.

Apple did not remove USB modem support in Lion. Apple just eliminated support for its own bad product.


Hi Romeo,

Yee-hah! This looks like the cure for my modem woes.

Thanks for the information. I used USRobotics modems back in the day and found them excellent performers.

I've never had any problem with the Apple USB modem, but I don't do a lot of faxing, and dial-up speed here maxes out at 26,400 bps on good days.


Best Data Modem Supports Lion

From Scott:


I'm out of town on business right now, so I can't check, but what do you know about the Best Data line of USB modems? I have one in a closet that I can try out with Lion when I'm back home. I need to, because I still have a dialup account for emergencies. The Best Data modems were real hardware modems that only used a simple script (that I still have). They ran off the USB power but won't work with a USB hub.

I bought one when I learned that the modem in a 12" 1.5 GHz PowerBook was essentially a software modem. Using [the internal modem] for anything used 20% of my CPU and made it run really hot even if I wasn't doing anything else. The Best Data modem solved that problem. Since it's a hardware modem, in theory, it should work in Lion as long as you have the script.

Finally, I just checked, and Best Data seems to still be selling the Mac version of its USB external modem: Smart One 56Kbps Mac External Serial V.92 Data/Fax Modem #16160 ($60)

Another choice would be to find a used graphite AirPort Base Station with the built-in dial-up modem.


Hi Scott,

Thanks a bunch for the information and tips.

I'm eager to hear how you fare checking out the Best Data modem with Lion. If it works, it looks like the answer to my dilemma.

Hadn't thought of the AirPort Base Station workaround. Plan B.


Best Data 56k USB Modem Works with Lion

From Jeff:


Just read your article about Lion not supporting the Apple USB Modem. I have used a Best Data 56k modem as a backup for several years here in Malawi. It is model "Smart One", or 56USB-SP/56USB-SPMAC/56USBP. I am happy to report that I plugged it in, it was immediately recognized, and I was then able to connect and have access to the Internet through our local phone company.


Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the report and information.

Are you running Lion? If so, I'm guessing that you didn't download it via dial-up.



I have Lion on two older MacBooks. I have Lion installed on an external drive, which I have tested on my 2009 Mac mini, which now boots up the 64-bit kernel. Once Lion gets up to 10.7.2 or .3 and my company's Juniper network VPN is stable, I will move the mini to that too.


Apple USB Modem Support Broke with 64-bit Snow Leopard

From Kev:


This has actually been coming for a while. If you booted OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard into 64-bit mode, which is the default for the Mac Pro, it would not work with Apple's USB Modem. I found this out when I wanted to use one in order to add fax functionality to a server I set up for a client. I did get another modem (US Robotics, IIRC) that looked like the Apple one with a pituitary problem. It worked immediately on plugin, since it was controller based.


Hi Kev,

It's looking like USRobotics, Zoom, and Best Data all have modems that reportedly work with Lion, so that crisis is averted, albeit with more hardware expenditure.

However, it hasn't been explained to my satisfaction why Apple couldn't have accommodated folks like me who bought its USB Modem not so long ago by including support for it in Lion.


I have to agree, they were extremely uncommunicative about the issue in Snow Leopard. Thankfully, I didn't irrevocably buy the Apple modem


Apple Dropping Legacy Modem Support

From Joseph:

Mr. Moore,

I read your article on Low End Mac, and I wanted to share my 2 cents with you.

In 1999 I was exposed to my first Apple computer, a G4 used for Photoshop, and then a year latter we added an Avid video workstation. Both of these machines used OS 9, which I quickly learned my way around. Having been exposed to Windows and Amigas, I knew that all computers did the same thing pretty much. Just different names/words and methods. In the early 2000's we added a couple of Final Cut Systems running on OS X 3 & 4.

In the last 10+ years I've seen Apple go from OS 9 to OS X, PowerPC to Intel, and now into the iOS/Lion. Each change Apple has made a determined cut of support for "legacy" items. From a business perspective, I understand what they are doing in pushing forward, and I agree that one of the problems with Microsoft's Windows has been the constant support for legacy hardware and software. At some point you have to have a cut off of older equipment, but here is where I take exception to what I'm seeing in the industry as a whole.

For many people that live in the large cities where high speed Internet is readily available then and they have disposal income then the constant change is not a problem. But there are still numerous places in America and the world where there is no high speed or at the most limited high speed Internet. So for the Apple App Store, it becomes a burden to download large files. I live 16 miles from the capital of the state that I live in, and only in the last 4 months did we get a cable modem. For the last ten years that I've lived in my house, I had to use dial-up and then a cellular air card - neither of which is great for large Internet usage. The air card is expensive and now limited to 5 GB a month. While I don't blame a company from moving forward with technology, when it starts to become more difficult to maximize the usage of a product, then I am more likely to stop using it. Prior to our cable modem, my wife and I made several decisions to bypass products simply because they didn't work in our household.

...Tiger did everything that I needed it to do.

Also, for many small businesses the price to replace hardware and software every two years or so is expensive, especially when the old stuff is still usable. I know I've read forums and had discussions with people that bemoan people still using G3/G4s and even OS 9 or even OS X 3/4. I held off upgrading from Tiger to Snow Leopard for the longest simply because Tiger did everything that I needed it to do.

I still have a large collection of CDs and DVDs (okay, albums, 45s, and VHS tapes also), and while I am excited about the advances in technology, I'm in no way ready to abandon what I have just to stay up to date. I appreciate your columns and some of the real world insight that you and the rest of the contributors to Low End Mac give.


Hi Joseph,

I agree pretty much comprehensively with your observations and analysis. It's also interesting to hear that folks who live less far out in the boonies than I do still have challenges with up-to-date Internet connectivity. I'm 50 miles from the nearest (smallish) town, and my wife and I seriously contemplated moving towards the end of the dozen years I spent being a Web worker using 26,400 bps dial-up. Thankfully, we've had access to wireless broadband for nearly two years now, so I don't complain too vigorously about its sometimes spotty reliability, so long as I can fall back on dial-up as an emergency option.

I have nothing against moving forward with technology so long as it represents an objective advance, or at least a perceived improvement. I do have an iPad 2, but I also spend four hours a day or so on my old G4-upgraded Pismo PowerBooks, running OS X 10.4 Tiger. What I strenuously object to is gratuitously enforced obsolescence of perfectly good technology that still has practical and productive applications. I'll concede that Apple probably had some good reasons for going to 64-bit only with OS X 10.7 Lion, but I remain to be convinced that the termination of Rosetta PowerPC emulation for legacy software and support for Apple's own (albeit discontinued since September 2009) USB Modem were not gratuitous examples of technological elitism and snobbery.

Of course, I still have a bunch of long-play albums and music on compact cassette tapes that I still listen to, and I still use a VHS tape recorder for television time shifting.

I'm willing to be persuaded about synergizing iOS with OS X, but only so long as it doesn't interfere with my productivity, and unfortunately, at this point in time, the Rosetta issue does, although information I'm hearing from readers indicates that modem support is still available - just not from Apple.


Lion's Lack of Modem Support

From Owen:

Hello Charles,

My DSL "modem" is upstream of the router; the computer has no control over it. Isn't there any equivalent for telephone modems?

Something like the 3Com 3C886 OfficeConnect 56K LAN Modem maybe.


Hi Owen,

Thanks for the link. Yes, I've now learned that there are several non-Apple telephone modem solutions available that support Lion.


The nice thing about the one I linked is that it establishes & maintains the connection without any computers attached or even running. Pricey though.


What About Using an AirPort Base Station?

From Wayne:

Read your articles for many years, and truly respect your views on most every topic - especially faith!

Do you know if anyone has tried connecting with Lion through an old AirPort Base Station set up as a modem? I have my MacBook Pro (with 10.6) set up to access one of those units (a white one) - used only for my backup Earthlink dialup account when my cable is out. Actually, any of my machines in the house access it that way, so it's quite convenient. I have not installed Lion yet.


Hi Wayne.

Thanks for the kind comments and for reading!

I don't have any AirPort Base Stations, or for that matter Lion installed on my one Mac that will support it, so I can't positively confirm that Lion will connect to dial-up Internet through an ABS, but it seems likely that it would.

Hopefully, someone will be able to confirm this yea or nay.


Question about Lion and PowerPC Software

From Lance:

Hi Charles,

I've just read your article of May 9 on Low End Mac, The Implications of Losing Rosetta in OS X 10.7 Lion. Many thanks for your research into the matter of Lion's incompatibility with Rosetta.

I would appreciate if you could clarify something for me.

You've stated that the incompatibility issue will occur for those who load programs on any new Mac running Lion. What about Macs already loaded with Snow Leopard or previous and running Rosetta?

If Lion is download onto those Macs, will those older programs including Rosetta still run well, or will their be compatibility issues in that scenario as well?


Hi Lance,

If you're booted into Lion on any machine that supports it, there is no Rosetta, so applications with residual PowerPC code will not work.

However, there is the option of partitioning your drive and being able to have Leopard installed on one volume and keep Snow Leopard available for alternate booting on the other for access to older software that requires Rosetta (however, you'll have to quit one OS to run the other).

Also note that the Lion install from the App Store is essentially an upgrade of your existing Snow Leopard installation, so you'll need to either make a bootable clone of your Snow Leopard volume and install that on the partitioned drive, or go with a fresh install of Snow Leopard from your 10.6 installer DVD.


The Times Have Already Changed

From Dan:

With the arrival of Mac OS X Lion, users of PowerPC Macs are apparently asking themselves a difficult question. Should I stick with my PowerPC Mac or buy a new one?

There's a simple answer.

Of course you should buy a new one. New Macs are so self-evidently superior to every PowerPC Mac, in every way! The time's aren't changing; they changed years ago. You had since the summer of 2005 to prepare for this. Whatever outdated PowerPC apps you're using, there are either newer versions or newer, better alternatives that you aren't even aware of. Most developers dropped Universal Binaries a long time ago, and many of today's popular apps never even had any, having first appeared in the Intel era.

LEM columnists, I beg you to temper appreciation of classic Macs with a dose of reality. Accept and appreciate these machines for what they were and are. Don't elevate them to something they aren't. Writing about how great these Macs were in their day and how amazing it is they still work and can do the things they do is one thing. Nobody enjoys classic Macs more than I, but you couldn't pay me to use a PowerPC system today other than for strictly hobbyist reasons. The simple truth is nobody should be using any PowerPC Mac as a primary machine in 2011. Doing so is little more than self-flagellation. Recommending someone else do so is lying. Seriously.

And don't even get me started on that recent facepalm-inducing article about TenFourFox and iCloud.


Hi Dan,

It probably will be no surprise that I disagree with you profoundly on several of the points expressed. I have no metrics for reference, but I suspect that there are still a substantial number of LEM readers who actually are still using PowerPC hardware for their primary machines. [Publisher's note: 56.6% of visitors to LEM do so using Macs, and 12.9% of them are using PowerPC machines, which we'd conjecture is probably their primary machines, since they are using them on the Web. dk]

Personally, my number one Mac has been a Core 2 Duo Unibody MacBook since early 2009. It is currently running Snow Leopard 10.6.8, but, as I've noted, I still average roughly four hours keyboard time on my old Pismo PowerBooks daily, and that's 98% for production work.

I made no recommendation that anyone either use or not use PowerPC hardware. It depends on what you need in terms of power and current compatibility. For many folks, PowerPC will remain perfectly viable as a computer platform for years yet, thanks in no small measure to efforts like TenFourFox.

Regarding software, I wish you were right about there being adequate Intel-native substitutes for all software applications that for some of us remain mission-critical. For me, it's Tex-Edit Plus, which over 15 years of using as my primary text crunching and general dogsbody software tool, and have customized and tweaked to a fair-thee-well to accommodate my production workflow. The developer, Tom Bender, has indicated that he will be updating TE+ to native Intel at some point (see The Future of Tex-Edit Plus on the Mac), but no joy so far, and consequently it remains probably the most formidable obstacle for me upgrading to Lion. if there is any substitute that could replace TE+ satisfactorily for me, I'm unaware of it, and it's not been for lack of looking.


Publisher's note: As I type this in Claris Home Page on my dual 1 GHz Mirror Drive Door Power Mac from 2002 using OS X 10.4 Tiger and Classic Mode, I profoundly disagree with Dan. Older versions of the Mac OS, older apps, and PowerPC hardware remain very useful production options. While Claris Home Page (not updated since 1997, the year I began Low End Mac) is outdated in many ways, it remains quick, and after almost 15 years of use, it's very comfortable. The only freeware WYSIWYG HTML editor I've found that finally comes close is BlueGriffon, and that's not for lack of trying a multitude of freeware, shareware, and demoware options over the years. BlueGriffon is free, based on Netscape Communicator, mostly works like I want, and supports Windows XP and newer, Ubuntu 10.10 and newer, and Mac OS X 10.5 and newer - only on Intel hardware. I have used it on my 2007 Mac mini to write, edit, and update some articles, but it's not quite ready to replace Claris Home Page - yet.

The only reasons this is not my only production machine are:

  • NetNewsWire got to the point of requiring Google Reader for syncing RSS feeds instead of NewNewsWire's own servers, and that version of the app requires OS X 10.5 Leopard, so I set up a second G4 Power Mac (a Digital Audio model from 2001 with a dual 1.6 GHz processor upgrade) for Leopard. However, I still need Tiger for Classic mode, and the freeware Teleport app lets me control both Macs with one mouse and one keyboard.
  • At this point, so many new apps are Intel-only (Google's Chrome browser, for instance), that I finally bought my first Intel Mac earlier this year, a four-year-old Mac mini with a dual-core 2.0 GHz CPU and Intel's much maligned GMA 950 integrated graphics. Other than needing a memory upgrade (from the stock 1 GB to 3 GB) and a faster, higher capacity internal hard drive, it works okay and does let me test Intel-only and Snow Leopard-only apps.
  • Because of the limited memory in the Mac mini, I can only run 2-3 apps at once before it bogs down horribly. MemoryCleaner ($5.99 exclusively through the Mac App Store), which I'm testing and hope to review soon, helps a bit, but with Snow Leopard, Teleport, Dropbox , TextSoap, DefaultFolder, Growl, Logitech Control Center, Sidenote, MagiCal, smcFanControl, and SpamSieve always running plus the Intel graphics using 64 MB of system memory, Memory Cleaner only reports 295 MB free after a restart and time for Dropbox to do its thing. Clicking the Clean My Memory button expands that to 411 MB, but opening a Finder window cuts 30 MB instantly. I don't strictly need Sidenote (it only uses 6 MB of "real" system memory) or MagiCal (51 MB!), but they are nice. I've already eliminated a few other Login Items that I didn't need just to get this much free memory. (Safari 5.1 with Flash Player uses 100 MB of memory displaying only the home page; Firefox 5.0, 116 MB with Flash blocked; Chrome 12.0.7 with Flash, 145 MB; Opera 11.50, 84 MB; and Camino 2.1 with Flash blocked, 68 MB - another reason to love Camino!) NetNewsWire, which is almost always open, takes 84 MB of RAM, and Mail chomps an 86 MB bite. Take away another 75 MB for iTunes. BlueGriffon uses 73 MB when it's not displaying a page, TextWrangler 3 nibbles away another 22 MB, and that initial 411 MB is gone in no time as I open browser windows, read RSS feeds, edit pages, etc. (iPhoto takes a hefty 113 MB, and Photoshop Elements 3.0, a PowerPC app, grabs 152 MB before you even open an image.) 400-600 MB of free system memory just doesn't give you much breathing space, but my Power Macs with 1-2 GB of system memory can run dozens of apps concurrently without getting slow like the Mac mini. Again, that's due primarily to too little system memory and secondarily to not having a fast internal hard drive (I use a 7200 rpm external desktop drive with the Mini). The current version of MemoryCleaner has a bug that causes it to shut down Teleport, which is an inconvenience.
  • Problem is, Teleport is buggy between Snow Leopard and Tiger, so the only way I can use both the MDD Power Mac with 10.4 and the Mac mini with 10.6 is to have an intermediate 10.5 Leopard Mac, which is mostly used to manage the mouse and keyboard but sometimes used for browsing the Web.

In the best of all possible worlds, there would be a good free or low-cost replacement for Claris Home Page and be able to retire both Power Macs from daily use, but until I can match my workflow with the current setup, I'm not leaving these wonderful old workhorses behind. dk

iOS Coming to OS X

From Zed:


In response to some of your recent letters about the iOSification of OS X, I would like to say a quick "stop for a second and just breathe". There. Now it really isn't the end of the world any more than MobileMe was the end of the ability of Macs to use the Internet. I have used Macs since the 80s, and it seems like each new OS has brought howls of protest from users but ultimately is declared to be a step forward. Don't like the Mac App Store? Well, don't use it. Apple does not prevent you from going out and buying whatever software you want and installing it on your Mac.

That said, I'm glad there is the iOS App Store, because I am so unbelievably tired of crappy software that doesn't play nice with my computers. I not only welcome the App Store, I cherish it. What a shining example of putting the customer experience before the tech geek crowd that really doesn't give a hoot about how you use your computer. I'm glad there are alternatives such as Android and Windows, but I'm also glad I don't have to use them.

I agree that iDevices lack in the keyboard department, but your iPad can use an external keyboard. I belong to several chat groups, and more than 90% of the entries are through iDevices, so clearly many people not only don't care but actually don't find them that difficult to use. Maybe it's an age thing? I know that people younger than me love to text and are quite quick at it. Me, not so much.

Whether we're talking iOS 5 or Lion, I think we should really wait a while before we pass judgment. After all, the rest of the tech world looked pretty darn stupid for trashing the first iMac because it got rid of the floppy.


Hi Zed,

Philosophical dissonance, I guess. For me, it's largely a matter of control over my computing environment, which I don't want to cede to Apple. The problematical nature of offering 10.7 Lion as an App Store download only, at least in the early going, has been exhaustively discussed in the blogosphere over the past few weeks. Assuming that I will eventually upgrade to Lion at some point in the future, the first thing I will be doing is creating an installer disk so I can cut the umbilical at least for system reinstalls.

Regarding your suggestion, "Don't like the Mac App Store? Well don't use it," that isn't an option for anyone wanting to upgrade to Lion, at least until Apple starts shipping the promised 10.7 installers on USB stick drives (for more than twice the money of the download). There are plenty of applications that are now exclusively available from the App Store that used to be acquirable by means not involving Apple's gatekeeping.

I find the iOS App Store convenient for iPad stuff, but for serious production applications I use on my Mac, the concept is inappropriate and transforms the transaction from purchasing software as a commodity on tangible media to fee-for-service licensing, which is an entirely different paradigm - and one that I don't gladly embrace. That's huge.

As for external keyboards and the iPad, I've experimented with it, and it works, but it is so logistically cumbersome compared to using my laptop that I have to ask why bother? You need a stand for the iPad, and you're still stuck with the maddening angularities of touchscreen pointing, clicking, and selecting, only now with the added ergonomic grief of vertical screen orientation, which even Steve Jobs has publicly conceded to be problematical. Of course I'm presupposing that one has a laptop or desktop computer.

I may eventually make my peace with the iOS, Lion, and whatever comes in the future, but I can't conceive of it ever being as delightful in matching my tastes and preferred way of doing things as the Mac OS in its various permutations has been for me over the past two decades.


What Is 'Real Work'?

From Mark:

Mr. Moore,

I enjoy reading your columns and news summaries. I have been especially interested in your experiences with the iPad, as I chose to take the plunge about the same time you did. I understand the device does not fit your workflow very well, but I have a question about a term that you (and John C. Dvorak, among others) have used. How exactly do you define "real work"?

Being a low-end kind of guy, I purchased my iPad 1 soon after the iPad 2 was released. I bought a refurbished 32 GB WiFi model for $429, and it has been a great investment. In my work as a school administrator, I find myself needing to refer to reports, data summaries, and other documents during meetings. The iPad is much less obtrusive in these instances than having a laptop open in front of me. It also lends itself to carrying with me around the building, where I can make quick notes about conversations, classroom observations, and other interactions with staff, parents, and students. The onscreen keyboard is not like a regular keyboard, but it is more than adequate for quick responses to emails and quick notes. I save a lot of time by not having to open up my laptop, wait for it to wake up, and launching or locating the file I need.

Recently my wife attended a conference and was informed beforehand that all of the speakers' notes were to be downloaded in advance as they would not be distributed at the sessions. She found that there was going to be upwards of 200 pages of handouts for the sessions she had chosen and really did not want to kill that many trees. I offered to have her download the documents to my iPad and carry that with her. After attaching the files to Evernote, she was able to view all of the handouts, make notes unobtrusively, and also was able to immediately refer to and bookmark web resources highlighted by the speakers. Yes, I understand that all of this could have been accomplished with a laptop, but if you have ever attended a meeting and tripped over all of the cords being plugged in by owners of laptops with short battery life and been annoyed by the tapping of keyboards during a session, I'm sure you can see the value of a tablet device.

Again, I understand that the iPad does not fit everybody's work pattern as well as it fits mine. Is what I am doing not "real work?" Maybe defining the term will make it sound less condescending.


Hi Mark,

You make an excellent point, and I don't dispute in the slightest that there are "real work" applications and circumstances where the iPad can be entirely appropriate - and indeed preferable to a laptop - although with machines like the 11" MacBook Air, that can last through an 8 hour shift on one battery charge so long as you take a few breaks, the distinction becomes less clear, and, of course, the MacBook Air is capable of immensely more when relocated to other environments and contexts. That said, if I was in your shoes, I would probably opt for the iPad myself by preference for the type of mobile computing that you describe.

However, in the context of my work as a writer and Web worker, the iPad is a woefully deficient tool. A prima facie case in point is multitasking. Being able to double-click the home button and bring up a row of icons of running apps is not multitasking; it is application switching. I usually have somewhere between 15 and two dozen applications running on my Mac at any given time, with several of them often doing things in the background simultaneously. The ability to have windows from two or more applications open side-by-side is crucial to the way I work, which is why I have virtually zero interest in fullscreen mode. Large, conventional scrollbars are also important for efficient navigation, and while the iOS style of scrolling is fine for touchscreening on the iPad, it just doesn't work for me with a mouse or rollerbar.

Speaking of which, the iPad keeps me jonesing for a mouse, and I find tasks like text selection, cutting, and pasting using touchscreen input probably the most profoundly distasteful and frustrating aspect of using the tablet - worse, in my estimation, than the shortcomings of the software keyboard.

To wit, I guess the short answer to your question would be "efficiency." You can do actual work on iPad, but it will never be as efficient as it would be on a laptop. That's pretty much what I was getting at with the "real work" reference.


Tablets Only for Those Who Hate Computers?

From Lloyd:

Hello, Charles,

Your iPad observations match those of my wife, whose birthday present last year was a 32 GB WiFi model iPad. She loves using it as a "big iPod" but does her grading and other administrative tasks on her G3 iBook, the family Mac Mini G4, or even the venerable Mac IIci/ImageWriter II workstation that was our first Apple purchase ($25 in 2000, and the old Mac had 11,000+ hours of service on it at the time). Typing is just a nonstarter for her without an actual keyboard, and printing is easier with any of her computers than it is with the iPad.

A very loose analogy might be drawn from our just-completed visit to New Mexico. We took a course that followed old Route 66 from Chicago west and back again. I prefer using "the Mother Road" to the freeways, although for strict consumption purposes - crossing maximum space in a minimum of time - the freeways work better. Our trip, in an air-conditioned Buick, might be contrasted with two adventurers we saw in an old Jeep. The Jeep had lettering on the side "From CA to PA in a CJ." It had no top, thus no A/C, and we had 8+ hours of 110°F. temperatures Tuesday when we were traveling the same stretch of road. (They did have a tarp bungee-corded to the top of the Jeep for some protection from the sun.) They were more in touch with the elements of travel - stick shift, wind in their hair, etc. - while we had an iOS experience driving a modern car with an automatic transmission, power everything, and so forth, that "just worked," with minimal road feel or interaction with the outdoors.

More automation makes for an easier experience, but it comes at the expense of a richer experience....

The contracts - the old Route 66 vs. the interstate, the air-conditioned car vs. the old manual-shift Jeep - parallel the changes in how we interact with computer technology. More automation makes for an easier experience, but it comes at the expense of a richer experience, born of interaction with, and some measure of control over the elements. I couldn't help but be a bit wistful as we left the old Jeep behind for the last time. Even at 115°F (the hottest part of the day), I could imagine myself enjoying the experience more if I'd been driving the CJ, especially if I'd been taking it down the old road next to the big freeway. In the same way, I prefer a production machine, be it a WallStreet or a MacBook, to a consumption device that limits my ability to decide how I'll use it, what I can put on it, and makes servicing it a near-impossibility for the average user. (I feel like I own the Wallstreet; with iOS devices, I feel more like a "user".) Unless that changes, I'll continue to be a holdout from full acceptance of the iOS way of computing.


Hi Lloyd,

Thanks for the interesting observations and analogies.

Like you, I would be torn between whether I would prefer to be traveling Route 66 in the comfy Buick or the not-comfy but more elemental CJ. My summer/winter daily drivers are a Mercury Grand Marquis and an old '94 Mazda B4000 4x4 pickup respectively, which I suppose speaks to the torn-ness. I love the big Merc, which has refreshed my perception of full-sized American cars as being among the most comfortable means of transport ever devised - at least that ordinary people can afford. I think I would rate the 1973 Dodge Polara I owned years ago as having the edge in comfort, but the 4.6 litre V8 in the Merc is a sweeter engine and gas mileage-wise in a whole different dimension.

Not sure that the ancient CJ quite approximates the full OS X Mac, though. My truck probably comes closer (and a late model F-150 would even more so). But I get what you mean. When I need to get some real work done, I want a truck computer.

Regarding control, you nailed the issue. As TidBITS' Matt Neuberg commented in a column last Friday lamenting the iOSification of OS X 10.7 Lion,

"Some people think of their computer as a Prius hybrid; it's complicated under the hood, but in actual usage it just works. I think of my computer more like an 1960s manual-shift VW Beetle: it does what I tell it, and I can often repair it if things go wrong. Lion makes me feel I'm being chucked out of the driver's seat."

What he said. I really don't like where Apple is going with Lion. The iOS is fine for iPads and iPhones, but I want my computer to be a real computer with robust multitasking, multiple applications running, and able to keep an eye on them simultaneously with lots of open windows on the screen and none of this fullscreen foo-fa-rah, applications opening and closing only when I tell them so, ditto for saves, and so on. Full manual control. Linux is looking better all the time.


Hello, Charles:

It's good to hear from you. I just finished reading your Lion column on LEM before this email came in, by the way. I think along the lines that you do. Lion is likely to drive me back to Ubuntu Linux, on cheaper hardware than a MacBook, no less. I don't like "magic" devices that only a priesthood of techno-experts can fix or that limit what I can do with them. It's one of the reasons that I keep OS 9.2.2 on the WallStreet, have a Newton, etc. (The latter two would be better approximations for the ancient Jeep CJ, too.) Apple's move to mass-market and up-market, the latter in a serious way that virtually dictates upgrades on their schedule, is a deal-breaker for me. (This puts me in an odd position, as, ironically, I was recently put on the board of our local Mac user group.)

I'd add to the above this observation: 60+ page license agreements for iTunes updates that I have to agree to in order to access the company store, update the software, etc., are very Microsoft-esque. I prefer open-source for several reasons, and lengthy tomes in legalese are perhaps chief among them. While I don't necessarily have to go as far as Mr. Stallworth in advocating 100% totally open-source software, I do think that he's in the right, and I prefer his world to the one that Apple is creating with iOS.


P.S. Here is a link to the Jeep story - I Googled the "From CA to PA in a CJ" verbiage and found this.

Like you with your Merc, I enjoy the old-school Detroit lead sleds because of the comfort and space they provide the average Joe with. The old Polaras, Furys, and other creatures of a bygone era did connect us to the road more than their automatic-everything cousins of today ever could, and I, too, miss that. If I had my druthers, there would be at least one full-size sedan on the market with Grand Marquis/Park Avenue comfort, but without the "standard" automatic transmission, power doors, windows, steering or brakes, or auto-lock doors, while we're at it. Fewer extras would mean a lower price, less weight, and fewer things that could break, yet the ride would still be a smooth one.

One last thought about being on the road: If a latter-day Chaucer or Longfellow had the opportunity to be stranded at a diner on Route 66 during a storm, think of the stories he (or she) could glean from fellow travelers on the concrete river flowing through the heartland to share with the world. It would make good reading.

Hi Lloyd,

I know the feeling. I'm not quite ready to jump ship to Linux yet, especially if I can get non-Apple modem support to work with Lion, which seems to be a go based on information sent by readers. I have too many years invested in the Mac OS on Apple hardware to contemplate giving it up lightly. It would also be reassuring if there was some evidence that desktop Linux is gaining traction in the marketplace, but regrettably the opposite obtains. I've been scanning the Hitlinks OS market share monthly metrics for years, and the trajectory for the past couple of years has been mostly negative, with Linux below one percent for six months or so now, while the iOS and Android gobble up share. Like Dylan said, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. We'll see.

Thanks for the link to the CJ article. I love the unretouched patches of surface rust!

It's very sad to see the big Detroit iron disappearing. Speaking of which, this month marks a major part milestone in that context. Ford is going to close down its plant in St. Thomas, Ontario, which was the last redoubt of their body on frame Panther chassis manufacture (Ford Crown Victoria and Police Interceptor, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Lincoln Town Car). Actually, the Grand Marquis ended retail production in October 2010, while production for fleet sales continued until January 2011. The last Grand Marquis built, which was also the last Mercury ever produced, rolled off the St. Thomas assembly line on January 4. The Grand Marquis was also the most prolifically produced Mercury in the brand's 70-year history, built from 1975 (not Panther until '79) to 2011. Indeed, the Panther platform is Ford's longest-ever produced design, first launched in 1979, and, according to Wikipedia, used longer (32 model years) than any other platform in North American automotive history. It will be missed profoundly by fleet operators and individual aficionados alike. The front or all-wheel-drive Taurus and the various SUVs and crossovers that Ford proposes as replacements just aren't the same. For an affectionate retrospective, if you haven't already, check out this article from automobile magazine by Joe Lorio, Last Call for the Lincoln Town Car.

I'm guessing that Ford's domination of the police car and taxi markets will end with the Panther discontinuation, especially with General Motors and Chrysler still offering full-size rear wheel drive alternatives to Ford's Taurus police cruiser. As an interesting aside, although I'm not sure what it signifies, those surviving GM and Chrysler full-size rear wheel drives are based on designs from Australia and Germany respectively.


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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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