The 'Book Review

Enhanced Trackpad Driver, iBook vs. PowerBook, Coursey on PowerBook G4, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2004.01.23

Except as noted, prices are in US dollars, bold links are to outside sites, and regular links lead to 'Book profiles on Low End Mac.

SideTrack Enhanced Trackpad Driver

SideTrack is a replacement driver for the trackpad (touchpad) found on Apple PowerBooks and iBooks. It brings many of the advanced trackpad features found on Windows laptops to Mac OS X.

SideTrack supports these features:

  • Vertical scrolling at left or right edge of pad.
  • Horizontal scrolling at top or bottom edge of pad.
  • Map hardware button to left or right click.
  • Map trackpad taps to no action, left click, left click drag (with or without drag lock), or right click.
  • Compatible with uControl, including uControl's scroll emulation.

SideTrack is fully multiuser aware, different users on the same PowerBook can have different settings depending on their needs.

SideTrack is simply another driver for the trackpad. It uses the standard kernel interface for mouse drivers. This is exactly the same interface used by all third party mice. SideTrack does use the trackpad in a different mode than the standard Apple driver, but this mode is fully supported by the hardware.

SideTrack works by emulating a scroll wheel mouse. It sends scroll wheel events to the operating system, and the OS routes those events to applications. Unfortunately, not all applications respond to scroll events properly. Most Mac OS X applications understand vertical scroll wheel events. Generally in order for vertical scrolling to work the mouse pointer must be within the scrollable area of the window you wish to scroll (not inside the scrollbar, just anywhere within the scrollable section of the window). Some applications (notably Apple's Safari browser) take this a step further and will scroll the frontmost window no matter where the mouse pointer is located. Support for horizontal scroll events is somewhat rarer. Most Apple applications support horizontal scroll events, but support for horizontal scroll in third party applications is less common. Ultimately it is up to the application author to provide support for scroll events, SideTrack can do nothing about the limitations of these applications.

SideTrack is presently a public beta. As a beta release SideTrack may contain bugs and could potentially cause a kernel panic. Users are advised to exercise appropriate caution when testing SideTrack and be sure to read the FAQ for information on how to disable SideTrack if it causes problems.

SideTrack can be temporarily disabled on your machine by holding down the Shift key after rebooting. Hold the key down from the initial gray screen till the login window appears. This is a "Safe Boot" and will prevent all third-party drivers from loading. In "Safe Boot" your PowerBook trackpad will revert to Apple's default driver. "Safe Boot" only works when you do not have an Open Firmware password set on your PowerBook. Open Firmware passwords are set using Apple's Open Firmware Password Utility. You may wish to consider turning off the Open Firmware password on your machine when first installing SideTrack. Once you are sure SideTrack operates properly on your machine you can then re-enable the password.

For full installation instructions see the "SideTrack Read Me.rtf" file included in the download.

This public beta version (0.7.6) of SideTrack will expire on April 30, 2004.

iBook vs. PowerBook? New vs. Used? Opinions Solicited

MyMac's John Nemerovski has posted:

Please use "Article discussion" section at bottom of my entry to present your opinion on the following questions. Thanks!

  • On a limited budget, should a person needing a portable G4 Mac buy a 12" iBook or 12" PowerBook? What are the major dis/advantages of either one versus the other? Presume identical RAM and the purchase of AppleCare.
  • If a used G4 15" PowerBook costs roughly the same as one or the other 12" new iBook/PowerBook, but the 15" used model is out of warranty, should buying used be considered an alternative, given the probability of an expensive potential repair?

I wrote a The Road Warrior column last year, The 12in iBook and 12in PowerBook - Brothers Under the Skin, on the relative merits of the 12" G4 PowerBook vs. the 12" G3 iBook. With the G4 iBook, the distinctions have narrowed even more.

Willow Courtenay 12" PowerBook Slipcase

Courtenay 12" PowerBook SlipcaseThe Courtenay 12" PowerBook slipcase offers a lightweight, compact, yet flexible solution for carrying your notebook, power supply and cord, and some accessories. The stylish design offers excellent protection for your PowerBook in a very compact and expandable sleeve style case.

Features:  

  • a clean, very lightweight and very compact size.
  • excellent protection for your PowerBook afforded by 1.2 cm (0.5") soft "gushy" foam reinforced by corrugated plastic on the top and sides.
  • exterior 600 denier polyester and interior 200 denier nylon both of which are urethane coated for waterproofedness. The fabrics give an excellent balance between superb protection and durability and light weight.
  • great carrying comfort foam wrapped, polyethylene cored padded handle designed with the seam at the top for maximum comfort.
  • contoured, padded shoulder strap with a special sticky bottom to keep it on your shoulder.
  • nylon web handle, quadruple reinforced with rivets, to insure the safety of your notebook.
  • convenient rubber luggage feet riveted through a high density polyethylene bottom piece to keep the slipcase off the ground if you're leaning it against your leg or chair in the office or on your commute.
  • outer front organizer panel with pockets for business cards, pens, calculator plus extra space at the bottom for the Apple power supply, power cord and a separate mouse.
  • rear flat pocket which can expand to 2.8 inches deep when needed.
  • convenient under lid pocket which can be flipped up to access change, tickets or other smaller items.
  • very handy, covered outer key chain clip to allow home or office keys to be immediately accessed on the daily commute.
  • stylish and protective reflective strips on slipcase front and sides for superior nighttime visibility.
  • lifetime guarantee against defects in materials or craftsmanship.

Available colors: black, charcoal, navy, taupe, burgundy

Pricing: $119 Cdn./$89 U.S.

Willow Stikine 12" iBook Slipcase

Stikine 12" iBook SlipcaseThe Stikine 12" iBook slipcase offers a lightweight, compact yet flexible solution for carrying your iBook, power supply and cord and, when you need it, a pile of accessories. The stylish design offers excellent protection for your iBook in a compact and expandable case.

Features:  

  • excellent protection for your iBook afforded by 1.2 cm (0.5") soft "gushy" foam reinforced by corrugated plastic on the top and sides.
  • exterior 600 denier polyester and interior 200 denier nylon both of which are urethane coated for waterproofedness. The fabrics give an excellent balance between superb protection and durability and light weight.
  • great carrying comfort assured by a foam wrapped, polyethylene cored, padded handle designed with the seam at the top so it doesn't dig into your hand.
  • contoured, thickly padded shoulder strap with a special sticky bottom to keep it on your shoulder.
  • nylon web handle, quadruple reinforced with rivets, to insure the safety of your notebook.
  • convenient rubber luggage feet riveted through a high density polyethylene bottom piece to keep the slipcase off the ground if you're leaning it against your chair or desk.
  • vertical configuration allows power adapter to be plugged into iBook while store in the slipcase.
  • outer front organizer panel with pockets for business cards, pens, calculator plus extra space at the bottom for the Apple power supply, power cord and a separate mouse.
  • rear flat pocket which can bellow out to 2.8 inches deep when needed.
  • convenient under lid pocket which can be flipped up easily with the slipcase on the shoulder to access change, tickets or other smaller items.
  • business card holder under the lid for identification plus storage of extra business cards in addition to the front organizer pocket slot.
  • very handy, covered outer key chain clip to allow home or office keys to be immediately accessed on the daily commute.
  • stylish and protective reflective strips on slipcase front and sides for superior night time visibility.
  • lifetime guarantee against defects in materials or craftsmanship.

Pricing: $119 Cdn./$86 U.S.

Available colors: black, charcoal, navy, taupe, burgundy

iSkin, iBook/PowerBook G4 Keyboard Protector, on Sale

iSkinIf you love your iBook or PowerBook G4, you will want to protect it against everyday hazards caused by spills, dirt, crumbs, and other unwanted elements that may get in between the keys.

iSkin is precisely molded to protect your iBook/PowerBook G4 (Titanium 667 MHz+) keyboard by creating a molded silicone layer above your keyboard keys. The iSkin keyboard protector also helps protect your iBook or PowerBook's screen by reducing the occurrence of screen staining caused by finger oils and dirt particles.

The iSkin iBook/PowerBook keyboard protector can be cleaned by either wiping with a damp cloth or by washing in a mild soap solution. Washing will remove any oils and build up that may occur over time. Washing does not affect the durability or protective qualities of the iSkin protector.

The iSkin iBook/PowerBook Keyboard Protector is available in six colors known as Skin Tones. Skin Tones add a tint of color to iBook keyboards and are available in a variety of colors including Blue Mist (light blue), Bubble Gum (light pink), Creamsicle (light orange), Lemonade (light Yellow), LimeLight (light green), or without color as White Frost (frosted clear).

Note: This item does not work with any of the current PowerBooks or iBooks. Available only for iBook (White) and PowerBook G4 Titanium (667 MHz+). US keyboard layout only.

Regular Price: $24.95. Sale Price: $20.95

TiBook Tote and Tilt on Sale at ThinkDifferent Store

TiBook Tote and Tilt TiBook Tote and Tilt features:

  • Tote your PowerBook by a handle.
  • Tilt to allow for air circulation under your PowerBook, helps to increase battery life and performance
  • Easy access to rear data ports.
  • Installs in five minutes.
  • Does not void warranty.
  • 100% handmade in the USA.
  • All aluminum construction for lightness & sturdiness.
  • Color powder coated to complement the PowerBook.

Regular Price: $44.95. Sale Price: $39.

Linux on Mac: A POWER Programmer's Primer

Even though most Linux users have treated Linux as an operating system for their x86 white boxes, Linux runs equally well on PowerPC machines. In Linux on Mac: A POWER Programmer's Primer, Gnosis Software, Inc. developer David Mertz looks at Linux on the PowerPC and the appealing range of PPC machines produced by Apple, where the option of using Linux is of great value to many users.

"For many Linux users, the best reason to buy a PowerPC machine will be, quite simply, the range of well engineered and reasonably priced machines available from Apple. Admittedly, the G4 lines - bottom line - do not quite keep up with comparably priced x86 machines in CPU power. The G4s do not lag that far behind, but they do a little. However, Apple makes some of the best laptops available from an ergonomic, aesthetic, battery-life, and weight perspective. All of those features are far more important to me, for a laptop, than raw number-crunching."

Quanta Computer Aims to Supply 30% of Notebooks Worldwide in 2004

DigiTimes.com's David Tzeng and Steve Shen report:

"Quanta Computer, the world's largest notebook maker, will aim to supply 30% of notebooks worldwide in 2004 and more than 40% in 2005, company sources said.

"Quanta shipped 9.3 million notebooks in 2003, or about 24% of estimated global sales of 39 million units."

Quanta has manufactured PowerBooks for Apple since the G3 Series PDQ in 1998.

Escape from PC Laptop Hard-drive Hell

AnchorDesk Executive Editor David Coursey writes about his travails replacing the hard drive in his PC laptop. A Toshiba drive wouldn't work, and the Compaq Armada is currently running a 3 GB drive salvaged from a Mac.

Coursey also notes:

"The other machine I'll be using - my all-around favorite laptop right now - is the new 15-inch G4 PowerBook. This is one of the sweetest computers I've used in a long time; now that I finally have Entourage (the Mac Office Outlook replacement) connecting to my Exchange Server, I'll probably be using it more.

"This great computer will probably spoil me. The biggest problem I'm facing is retrieving it from the family member who's been using it."

Bargain 'Books

There are two different versions of WallStreet running at 233 MHz, the cacheless MainStreet version and the later Series II with a level 2 cache. It's not always possible to determine from the vendor's listing which is being offered, so we've included links within this paragraph to the two models. The same goes for the PowerBook G4/667 (Gigabit Ethernet/2001) and G4/667 (DVI).

Small Dog Electronics

Baucom Computers

ExperCom

Wegener Media

For more deals on current or recently discontinued models, see our Best PowerBook G4 Deals and Best iBook Deals.

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