Charles Moore's Mailbag

MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro, Looking for a Vertical MacBook Stand, and SE/30 Internet Tips

Charles Moore - 2012.01.31 - Tip Jar

I Want Air!

From David:


It's been a while, and even though I have not written, I continue to follow your articles regularly.

I read your recent thoughts on a MacBook Air, and now I really want one. I did not say I needed one, but I really want one.

I am still a missionary in Asia, so portability is still a key feature for me. The Air simply is amazing. Sadly, I cannot justify a new Mac purchase at this point. A year ago I upgraded from my PowerBook G4 to a 13" MacBook Pro, which I love. So maybe an Air will be in my future, but not for some time. Especially since I tend to use my hardware for at least four years or longer.

My PowerBook G4 is still working great as a desktop computer for my kids. The keyboard and trackpad stopped working, so it needs a USB keyboard and mouse. Believe it or not, my PowerBook G3 Pismo is still running strong. My wife has a first generation iPad for email, browsing, etc., but when she needs to do some document creation, she uses the now twelve year old Pismo. My kids also continue to use it for homeschooling.

Do you think the current Mac portables will last as long as the Pismo?


Hi Dave,

I want a MacBook Air too. My three year system upgrade cycle is coming up this year, and while I'm still weighing a 13" MacBook Pro against the Air, I think the latter will probably win out.

My current machine is a Late 2008 model aluminum MacBook, which is a close cousin to your MacBook Pro, so you know how great they are. I believe you about the Pismo. I still have two Pismos in daily production service, now closing on their 12th anniversary. Truly amazing.

I'm not sure we can expect that sort of longevity from today's Mac laptops, but my MacBook has been flawless in nearly three years of intensive use. No problems at all. Off to an excellent start at least. I think the jury is still out on what sort of lifespan SSD drives will offer, and the heat these newer machines generate probably doesn't augur well for exceptionally long lifespans like the Pismos have provided.

Fair Winds,

I Can't Believe You're Considering a MacBook Air

From Bill:

The 13" MacBook Air is significantly compromised compared to the 13" MacBook Pro.

Maximum of 4 GB memory (retail 8 GB for the MBP is $30), maximum 256 GB SSD (1 TB hard drive for the MBP is $100).

One can always add a standard SSD to the MBP, especially now that they're approaching $1/GB.

Looking at the current prices in the refurb section of the US Apple Store, a 13" MBP (4 GB/320 GB) is over $400 cheaper than the 13" MBA (4 GB/256 GB).


Hi Bill,

You have presented the rational case comparing the two 13" models. The 13" MacBook Air does have that native 1440 x 900 screen resolution, but on most other counts a strong case can be made for the 13" MacBook Pro.

However, using the iPad's easy, comfortable portability has spoiled me and has inclined me toward the 11.6" MacBook Air, which isn't radically bigger than the tablet but has a real keyboard, a trackpad, and runs OS X. The 4 GB RAM ceiling and lack of storage capacity are still of course pertinent issues. However, I'm pretty sure I could manage with a 4 GB/256 GB Air.

It will be a tough decision when the time comes.


Publisher's note: It's not cheap, but OWC does sell higher capacity SSDs for the 2010 and 2011 MacBook Air. dk

Moving to a 13" MacBook Pro

From Rick:

Hello Charles,

I recently moved to an Apple Refurbished 13" MacBook Pro (Early 2011, 2.3 GHz i5 processor) - a quite wonderful little machine. It shipped with [OS X 10.7] Lion, though, and I was concerned about losing all of the programs from my G4 PowerBook that would no longer be compatible. My solution was to repartition the 500 GB hard drive into a 320 GB partition for Lion and allocate the rest of it to a Snow Leopard partition (upgraded from Leopard) for the old G4's programs. It works beautifully, other than the minor annoyance of having to change Startup disks in System Preferences once in a while. I guess that I could have used Parallels or something like that to avoid the rebooting, but it's not that major of a problem for me. I'm finding the transition to Lion an easy one (Pogue's "Missing Manual" on Lion has helped!), certainly much easier than that from OS 9 to OS X!

Also, in reference to an earlier column, I found that upgrading my RAM to 8 GB (from 4 GB) increased the amount of RAM available to the video from 384 MB to 512 MB. I am not yet prepared to max the system out to 16 GB, but I am curious if that would bump the video even further!


Hi Rick,

Congrats. on the new acquisition. I hope it serves you as well as this Late 2008 MacBook has me.

Sounds like a plan for combining Snow Leopard backwards-compatibility with Lion usage. If I had more room left on this 160 GB hard drive, I would probably try something similar. Could get a bigger drive, I suppose, and maybe bump the RAM up to 8 GB, but it's three years old, and my inclination is to save the money for my next system.


Hello Charles,

I still find myself using Snow Leopard most of the time, as I have most of my familiar programs on it and haven't felt the need (or had the financial means!) to upgrade my Adobe CS to an Intel-only version. I do like the Lion convergence with my iPad and iPhone, although I haven't made the full leap onto the iCloud.

Power Mac 9600I know what you mean about knowing when to stop the upgrade cycle and and spring for a new system. I spent years upgrading my Power Mac 9600 with processor and memory upgrades, progressively larger and numerous SCSI hard drives until browser support pretty much demanded that I jump to a G4. In retrospect, I would have spent less and had a more productive system had I made the change earlier. I do sometimes miss the sound of those 10,000 rpm drives spinning up - kind of like the burble of a Hemi in an old Charger!


Hi Rick,

Yes, I'm in no particular hurry at all to upgrade to Lion, although I suppose I will eventually have to for professional reasons. There is a growing list or apps that require Lion. I also haven't bothered with iCloud, although my iPad is supported. Not much use to me with two Pismos still in service running Tiger. Happily, Dropbox supports Tiger and has proved a more-than-satisfactory alternative.

Umax S900LI can identify a bit with the 604e upgrade experience. I bought a SuperMac S900 back in the early oughts and played around with filling its many expansion slots, but I never really got the value out of money spent. The noise, however, is not something I miss, even though the fastest drive I ever installed was a 7200 RPM Seagate Barracuda. Agree with you about Hemis though. Of course you can still experience that music with current Chrysler products.

Incidentally, I recall reading somewhere that especially V-8s - but also some 4-cylinders, inline 6s, and V-12s - actually are musical due to the mathematical frequencies and distribution of their firing orders (flat crank V-8s apparently not so much), while 3- and 5-cylinders, V-6s, and V-10s are harsh on the ear.

I do find the sound of a good V-8 an auditory pleasure - something I will truly miss when they are gone, finally displaced by Miller Cycle hybrids and whatnot.


Vertical MacBook Stand

From Daniel:

Hi there,

In a 'Book Review some time ago, I remember seeing a stand for use with a PowerBook in clamshell mode. Pretty much, it was just a piece of aluminium shaped to hold the machine on it's end in a vertical position. I now find myself in the position of wanting one, but unfortunately, I cannot for the life of me remember what it was called or who made it.

Do you (or any of your readers) recall such a thing?


Hi Dan,

My best guess is that you're thinking of the LapWorks Aluminum Desktop Stand for Notebook Computers.

You can find my review of it on PBCentral.

It's available from for $45 shipped.


Publisher's note: Daniel may be thinking of the 12 South Book Arc stand, which is the only aluminum MacBook stand I can find that's still in production. It's $50 shipped through dk

Tips for Getting an SE/30 on the Internet

From Brian:

Hey Charles,

In response to Matthew's letter in the 1-23-2012 Mailbag, you told Matthew that getting an SE/30 on the Internet "takes dedication" (your words). I'm sure you didn't mean that from an "it's difficult" point of view, but it's actually quite easy once the proper software is in place.

Macintosh SE/30All it took to get my SE/30 (actually mine was an original SE upgraded with an SE/30 motherboard) on the Internet was System 7.5.5. Since my system came with an ethernet card (sorry, I forget the model; Orange, perhaps?), working 120 MB SCSI hard drive, maxed-out (128 MB) RAM, and the SE/30 has a 68030, it can run Open Transport. This makes it quite easy to set up for networking, as opposed to MacTCP, which gave me nothing but headaches with my old 68020 LC (that machine cannot run Open Transport, even with System 7.5.5, without a CPU upgrade - I never did get it on the Internet). Once OT was set up and the SE/30 was on my network, I used my WallStreet (see Maxed Out WallStreet Runs Tiger Quite Nicely, but it has since gone to a great new home) to download and move iCab 2.9.9, WannaBe (text-based browser), and MacIRC 68k to the SE/30, and boom - on the Internet, surfing and chatting!

Granted, web pages look pretty horrible graphically in iCab and render very slowly, but with a text-based browser such as WannaBe, the SE/30 makes a great and compact desktop writing, reading, and research tool. I used mine for these tasks when I just needed to quickly complete a task, and it worked great until the capacitors failed in it. It's now sitting on my bookshelf, awaiting a main board cap rebuild.

Good luck to Matthew, and once again, great Mailbag, Charles.


Hi Brian,

Thanks for the report and info.

No, I didn't mean that it's especially difficult. I got my old Mac Plus on the Internet back in the day. I forget exactly what I did; used System 7.0 as I hazily recall, but it wasn't that difficult. It was okay for email using Eudora, but the loading and rendering of web pages was pretty ugly, which is what I meant by "dedication."


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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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