Charles Moore's Mailbag

Where Next if Not Lion?, Rosetta Replacement Possible, PowerPC Alive and Well, and More

Charles Moore - 2011.08.17 - Tip Jar

If Not Lion, Where Should I Go?

From Brian:

Hi Charles,

I take it from what I've read of your articles recently that you have some mixed emotions of the direction Apple has taken as of late with their computers. I'm a longtime Mac user - my first Apple was an Apple IIc that my dad brought home used when I was around 5 or 6. Our first Mac was a Mac IIsi that was still alive and kicking the day it was set out in the alley to anyone who would take it away three years ago.

From the very beginning, I cannot remember a single time where I wasn't chomping at the bit to get the new Mac OS or the latest and greatest in Apple hardware, until now. I will be the first to admit that my impressions of OS X 10.7 Lion and the latest breeds of computers from Apple may just simply be overreaction, and illogical, but still.

OS X Lion has a look and feel to me of "iPad for your laptop," and new computers coming with no recovery discs makes me feel unequipped for the inevitable system breakdown where there are no more options other than a nuke and pave or buying a new computer. But these days, it seems that really you're expected to just buy that new computer. Using Lion at the Apple Store, I felt locked down and a bit claustrophobic, and the nagging feeling the last few years that Apple computers are waiting for the chopping block as desktop and laptop machines alike have languished with a year or significantly longer with no updates seems inescapable now.

The problem is, where do I go? I suppose I could try Windows again, but there is still an extremely bitter, sour taste left in my mouth from the last time I relied on one of those. It definitely feels like it's a new day for Apple, and that they don't need customers like me anymore.


Hi Brian,

Your observations and misgivings about Lion pretty much approximate mine. I'm casually curious about Lion, but in no rush at all to upgrade. The crunch will come, of course, when some applications I want to use start requiring Lion as minimum system requirement.

Having been an iPad 2 user now for a couple of months, I can think of absolutely nothing iOS does that suits me better than the way things work in OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and much that I like a lot less. Consequently, making the Lion UI more like the iOS, with a lot of dumbing-down and more of the OS making control decisions for you (e.g.: autosave, autocorrect) does not appeal. And that's to say nothing of the loss of Rosetta, which is huge.

After 19 years of using the Mac OS as the main tool of my trade, I've developed a complex ecosystem of a suite of production applications and a workflow I've developed around them. I managed to compensate for losing Classic Mode when I transitioned to OS X 10.5 Leopard, although not without sustaining a bit of a productivity hit, but Lion at this point appears to be a burned bridge too far.

The conundrum is, as you pointed out, where to jump if I decided to jump ship. Going to either Linux or Windows would involve a steep orientation curve and most likely worse compromises and inefficiencies than eventually gritting my teeth and learning to live with Lion. Windows 8, based on early reports, is afflicted with the same tabletization and touchscreen-style input disease as Lion is, while desktop Linux is spinning its wheels and losing traction in the marketplace, sinking farther and farther below a 1% market slice.

I figure that in the near term I'll probably buy one more Mac, most likely a Certified Refurbished Core "i" 13" MacBook Pro that can still boot from Snow Leopard. After that, it will remain to be seen.


It May Be Possible to Replace Rosetta

From RedZone:

Dear Mr. Moore,

I understand that many are still in uproar at the loss of Rosetta. Though I don't use PowerPC applications myself, I can completely understand the outrage at the loss of compatibility with applications that are still in use by many production houses. However, as Apple is clearly not going to reverse its decision, the only option we have is to take things into our own hands.

The answer to Rosetta is a reasonable distance away, but not as far as we think. The challenge of translation from the PPC instruction set to the Intel instruction set was solved long ago. PPC to Intel dynamic recompiling emulators have existed for quite a while now and work quite well. The challenge that lies ahead is not instruction set translation but creating some kind of virtual sandbox environment that interfaces between an existing translator and Mac OS X. The challenge is finding a way to load OS X's Mach-O executable format and handle the memory mapping and library linking that OS X would normally be responsible for. This is no small feat, but I think it's possible. Very very difficult, but possible.

The most prominent of PPC translators is that included in the PearPC project, which emulates an entire PPC system, allowing the installation of any PPC-based OS, including Mac OS X. Of course, it would be rather inconvenient to have to run a whole VM just to run old software. However, I believe that the CPU core of PearPC could be extracted and used to emulate applications within OS X's own environment. Case in point: QEMU.

The QEMU project has a set of user-mode emulators. User-mode emulators allow applications of one CPU architecture to run on another architecture so long as the operating system is the same. This has so far allowed Linux applications to run in foreign CPU Linux environments. It has also allowed Wine to be run on non-Intel platforms. Among QEMU's user-mode emulators is an OS X user mode emulator, which has PowerPC translator (itself derived from PearPC). It is incomplete - does not yet succeed in running PowerPC applications on x86. However, it has a fully developed Mach-O loader and memory mapper. These are proven to work in that the OS X user mode emulator succeeds in running x86 OS X applications on PowerPC-based OS X machines (though no graphical applications run yet). It also succeeds in running OS X applications on their native CPU, with full Cocoa and Carbon support.

That the user-mode emulator can run OS X applications on their native processor may seem trivial, but it demonstrates that QEMU has succeed in interpreting and sandboxing OS X executables. Moreover, it proves that QEMU has succeeded in mediating between OS X's Cocoa/Carbon environments and its own sandboxed environment. If the QEMU project were to receive a large amount of developers dedicated to working on the OS X user mode emulator, something fruitful might come of it. Maybe I'm naive, but I think it's possible. I think we should make a call for open-source developers to refine and complete the QEMU OS X user mode emulator. I would volunteer to head such a project myself, but the fact is that while I know some programming languages I am not a great leader nor do I have any real experience in software development. I also am not a specialist in systems programming or programming language compilation, the two core components of emulation. Nor have I previously looked all that deeply into the QEMU source code. However, I am a quick study and a hard worker - if a movement to work on the QEMU OS X user mode emulator could be started, I would happily volunteer to take some part in the project (just not as the leader!).


Hi RedZone,

You're vastly more erudite as regards programming than I, so thanks for the encouraging idea and explanation, conceptual though it may be at this point. I'll happily second your motion appealing for someone in the Open Source community to step up and take this project on.


Best Data USB Modem Works with Lion

From Scott:


I emailed you last week about a modem that might work with Lion, but I was out of town and couldn't check it out.

The Best Data Smart One 56USB modem does work with Lion. I set it up and logged onto my dialup account a few minutes ago and went to a couple of Web pages.

It's a hardware modem that doesn't use much in the way of your CPUs. It's powered by a USB port, and back when I used this with a G4 PowerBook (the built-in software modem used too much CPU), I could never get it to work from a USB hub - it has to connected to a USB port on your computer.

It's $60.

There's also a general version of the same modem for $5 less. I think the only difference is that they send you the Mac modem scripts on a CD. I've enclosed a copy of those scripts with this message.

After you put the relevant script in the root level Library/Modem Scripts folder, select "Other" as the manufacturer in the network setup, and the modem script that you put in the folder will appear. That's all.


Hi Scott,

Thanks so much for these links and the further information.

Looks like I can be back in business on the modem front. Now if I can just find a halfway satisfactory substitute for my AppleScript customized Tex-Edit Plus, at least until Tom Bender can get a Cocoa native 64-bit compatible upgrade out.


PowerPC Still Alive and Well

From Bruce:

Hello Charles,

Just for the record, I am one of the 12.9% of PPC visitors to LEM, via my 2005 eMac (1.25 GHz, 2 GB RAM). No, it isn't the primary machine of the house - that honor goes to the my wife's BTO iMac and her MacBook Pro. Those are production systems. Yet the PPC still serves its two main purposes quite well - Web and email - and at this point it's like playing with someone else's money.

I did, in fact, install TenFourFox when I saw the reference to it on Low End Mac, and I must say, my often-crawling web access began at least to walk fairly steadily. TFF isn't the least buggy software I've ever seen, but so far it's definitely pulling its weight. Sure, I'd like to replace the 99-year-old (in human years, approximately) eMac with a newer, Intel Mac, but now we're talking about playing - seriously - with my own real money. Oh, I'll get there in a year or two, I hope, but the PPC is for now, at least adequate for its assigned tasks.

Thanks for an always-informative site!


Hi Bruce,

If your eMac is the equivalent of a 99-year-old, what would that make my 11-year-old Pismo PowerBooks?!

TenFourFox has been a real life-extender for my ancient machines, I had been getting very frustrated with browser performance in OS X 10.4 Tiger before TFF was available. It's definitely given the old PowerBooks a new lease on life, and I've not encountered the bugginess of which you speak. It will eventually run out the string, but for now it's been a great performance (and morale) booster.


PowerPC 'Still Completely Competent'

From Nathan:

Hi Charles,

Not to exacerbate the issue about PowerPC relevance that was brought up in your most recent Mailbag, but here is my own opinion.

The PowerPC has reached its middle age: not as strong or powerful as the fancy new Intel jocks, but still completely competent and able to do things such as run aging software, such as Quicken 2007, which I know my family relies on for some critical financial documents.

I believe that the PowerPC is still relevant until Apple begins to cut off support for Mac OS X Leopard. I am writing this on my end-of-the-line 12" iBook G4, which I used throughout my freshman year.

The benefit of using this aging machine far outweighs the negatives, at least for me. I don't have to worry about failing components: My family owns three other computers identical to this one excepting hard drive capacity (I slipped in a 5400 RPM 160 GB drive late last year). They are cheap, as I can look at and find similar computers in the $200-300 range. The computer is still overwhelmingly relevant to a student like myself, because it will run iWork '09 (the latest version), Office 2004 (the most applicable version for schools), and has fast 802.11g WiFi. My main computer remains a 20" iMac G5 (ALS), which has a massive 2 TB of total system storage for my entire family's music, videos, and podcasts. It shares its iTunes library throughout the house via an attached AirPort Extreme base station. And I just updated iTunes to 10.4, Safari to 5.0.6, and QuickTime to 7.7. Apple also pushed security updates to us recently.

Admittedly, the prime era of PowerPC machines is past. But as the old saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Just like the prime era of my family's minivan is past - but the vehicle gets decent gas mileage, holds seven, and still provides reliable transportation for all of us.

That is exactly my professor's opinion on the issue too: he teaches a video editing course at a nearby college and uses iMac G5s, PowerMac G4s and G5s, and iMac G3s (for their absence of fans) in his studio still.

So tell me again why the PowerPC is irrelevant?

From someone who has drunk the Apple Kool-Aid,

Hi Nathan,

You won't hear me say PowerPC is irrelevant, being as I spend about four hours a day on my 550 MHz G4 Pismo PowerBooks running OS X 10.4 Tiger. They're still powerful and productive tools for what I do with them, rock stable, 11-year (so far) reliable, and they have great keyboards and general tactile feel.

Always glad to hear from folks who are getting useful (and inexpensive) service from PowerPC Macs.


End of Support for Office 2004 Coming Soon

From Yuhong Bao:

Dear Moore:

"Just emailing you on an interesting point: Microsoft still continues support for PPC apps, which work as far back as OS X 10.2 Jaguar. Office 2004 has just had an update to version 11.6.3"

FYI, the end of support of Office 2004 for Mac is at the second Tuesday of January 2012, when the last security patches for it (if any) are released. Normally, Microsoft supports their Mac products for 5 years, but it got extended because Office 2008 did not support VBA (Virtual Basic for Application).

Yuhong Bao

Hi Yuhong Bao,

Thanks for this interesting and useful information on a matter I hadn't been previously aware of.


People Who Love Big Old American Cars and the Low End Mac Philosophy

From Lloyd:


At the risk of sounding like an amen chorus, I must agree about Panther (the car platform, not the OS). Sometimes, it's just best to leave well enough alone. EPA fleet fuel economy mandates may influence retaining or cutting a marginal model, but Ford's dominance of the taxi and police-car markets ought to have convinced someone to leave the reliable, old-school, profitable (in no small part because of the minimal R&D invested in the platform) Crown Vic.

In addition to the loss of dominance in the fleet markets, the Panther cars were the last of the old-school Detroit sedans. With Buick getting edgy and upscale, Olds a memory, and Chrysler offering nothing in over a decade, the Grand Marquis/Crown Victoria was the last full-size car for older drivers who want comfort and aren't trying to look hip, rich, or trendy. I've thought often enough that this car could've sold many units more, especially if it was marketed in the Midwest to former LeSabre/Park Avenue/Olds 98 owners who now have nowhere to go. It's an LEM strategy for car sales - how much car do you need? (Of course, in reality a LEM car strategy would involve buying used cars, as you and I do, but for those buying new, the Panthers would be the closest analogy.)

Like Apple driving their customers to new platforms, the car companies won't leave those of us who just want a big, comfy car alone. It's a shame, really, but what other choices will be left to us?


Hi Lloyd,

Your analogy of Ford trying to dragoon its erstwhile Panther platform customers into current but far less satisfactory substitutes like their front/all wheel drive Taurus Police Interceptor for law enforcement agencies and the Lincoln MKT CUV for the livery service sector that has relied almost exclusively on the Lincoln Town Car variant of the Panther, is spookily similar to Apple coaxing us into Lion, the iOS, and iCloud.

The Taurus Police Interceptor will doubtless be the best Taurus, just as the Crown Vic Police Interceptor was the best iteration of the Panther platform, but it's still a unit body, front wheel drive design based on the Volvo P2 platform used in the Volvo S60 and S80 sedans, V70 wagon, and XC70 and XC90 SUVs, and available only with V6 engines.

Ford has already lost the New York City taxi contract to the van-based Nissan NV200, which will become the city's exclusive taxi beginning in 2013, Nissan having been awarded a 10-year contract as the official supplier of taxis for the city, which currently employs more than 13,000 yellow cabs. The NV200 is plug ugly, so it's not going to improve the looks of the Big Apple's cityscape.

I predict that Ford's dominance of the police car market will also be history once the Crown Vic is finally discontinued next month, and that Dodge's Charger and GM's Holden Commodore (GM Australia) based Chevrolet Caprice police specials - both rear wheel drive - will handily outsell the Taurus PI. Unhappily, none of these are body on frame designs, which was a key element of the Panther's goodness and ruggedness.

My daughter, who has owned two Crown Vic Police Interceptors, says the cops she talks to like the Panthers much better than the Mercedes-Benz engineered unit body Dodges.

I figure that my 2000 Grand Marquis, purchased for amazingly little a year ago this week, really does represent the Low End Mac philosophy applied to an automotive context, with the fact that it gets not a whole lot worse gas mileage than our four-cylinder, five-speed manual Toyota Camry, while delivering vastly more room, comfort, plus the gratifying punch and mellifluous sound track of V-8 power, is icing on the proverbial cake.

Other choices? I suppose the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, and the rear wheel drive Cadillacs, if one can afford, offer the nearest substitute by default, being the last full-sized rear-wheel-drive iron offered to consumers. Maybe the Ford F 150 pickup.


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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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