How Do I Set Up a 550 for the Net?
How Do I Speed Up a 575?
Dan Knight - 1998.12.22
DS writes: At our (the Atlanta Mac Users' Group) annual swap-fest, I was unable to not purchase for a small amount an extremely clean and (I think) handsome LC 550 that had been used by a school administrator. [Readers, you may want to read that again. It's a masterful use of the double-negative.]
I have a good friend who has so far hesitated to make that jump into the often perplexing world of computing - many of us who are around 60 still consider it perplexing - and I thought it would be a good machine for a beginner. She would probably not want to do more than the basics plus the Internet, which may also be counted as basic by now, but you never know. I began the same way just two years ago, and the Mac has become a necessary part of my daily life. The RAM can be increased from its minimum, and apparently an upgrade to a 68040 is possible. Notwithstanding your general advice about not rushing to upgrade, would this upgrade be worthwhile? Is there anything else I should do?
I thank you for time and admire your courage and patience in inviting inquiries.
Mac Daniel responds: It takes little courage to do this, but a lot of time and patience (especially for my kids, who want to play Nintendo emulator on my computer). On the other hand, I've been living in the Mac world for over a decade now, so I have a lot to give back to the Macintosh community.
For those unfamiliar with the 550, it's an all-in-one model with a 14" Trinitron, 33 MHz 68030 CPU, and the ability to accept up to 36 MB of memory. Via motherboard upgrade, it can be turned into a 575 (25 MHz 68LC040) or 580 (33 MHz 68LC040).
Used 500-series Macs are relatively rare, since they sold primarily to the education market. And logic board upgrades are also hard to come by. The only one I see listed in the current Macworld sells for $400 - which I would strongly recommend against.
To make the 550 into a nice productivity and Web machine, I recommend running System 7.5.5, ClarisWorks, a friendly email program (I lean toward Claris Emailer, but taste in emailers is a personal thing), and a good browser such as Netscape 3 or that one from Microsoft (which I don't care for - again, personal taste).
You do not want to use Open Transport networking on a 68030-based Mac. It's inefficient on anything less than a 68040 and consumes about 500 KB of additional system resources. (This rules out Mac OS 7.6 and 7.6.1, since they don't support classic networking.)
To adequately run Netscape, you want at least 16 MB of real memory. The 550 already has 4 MB on the motherboard. Adding a 16 MB SIMM can cost under $30, but with 32 MB currently available for under $50, that might be the better bet. (Check ramseeker <http://www.ramseeker.com/> for current memory prices.)
Then add an inexpensive 56k faxmodem so your friend will be ready to roll. The 550 is a nice starter system, but one that will be outgrown in a year or two.
GF writes: Just took my son's Performa 575 out of storage. We added 32 MB of memory (which I think is the max), and my son upgraded to Mac 0S 8.0. He also had RAM Doubler added two years ago to the original memory. Is the Doubler not needed now or not being used by the computer?
What I would like to know is what else we can do to make this computer a little more of "today's" model, including speed.
What can be done about the speed?
We also have a 28K external modem. Can we put exchange for a 56K?
Mac Daniel responds: The 575 was a nice machine. Back in 1994, a 36 MB memory ceiling didn't seem limiting. And for most uses, it isn't.
You can use RAM Doubler, but you should upgrade to Mac OS 8.1 (a free download from Apple, or about US$20 including shipping for the CD-ROM) and the latest version of RAM Doubler. This will simulate up to 108 MB of memory - but don't bother with the RAM Doubler upgrade unless you find 36 MB isn't enough memory for what you want to do. RAM Doubler is nice, but it does slow down the computer slightly and sometimes makes it unstable.
There's little that can be done for speed. For a while there were PowerPC upgrades, but they were quite expensive and didn't boost performance a whole lot. If the 575 seems too slow, you best choice is to replace it - maybe with an iMac.
You can add a 56k external modem, but first make sure your Internet service provider has 56k service in your area. Then make sure the modem you buy will work with their modems -- which may mean looking for a K56flex, X2, or v.90 modem.
Not sure if you should upgrade your old Mac or replace it? Check the Mac Daniel index to see if we've already addressed your problem.
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