The Low End Mac Mailbag

Kanga a Best Buy, Kanga RAM, Wireless for Older 'Books, Western Digital Problems, and More

Dan Knight - 2003.03.25 - Tip Jar

Kanga PowerBook a Best Buy

After reading Is the Original PowerBook G3 Too Limited Today?, Greg Burkman responds:

Just a few quick comments on your Kanga article for Low End Mac.

I'm typing this on my Kanga now. It's maxed to 160 MB RAM (nasty limitation, granted), with a 20 gig HD, a USB card, external CD-RW, external Zip, external keyboard, speakers, mouse, etc., with a BookEndz dock. While it's certainly no OS X machine, mine handles 9.1 pretty much flawlessly and snappily. 9.1 is no problem on the Kanga. I'm able to run every app I need with few, if any, problems; right now I'm running Mozilla 1.2.1, Excel 2001, Entourage, Monica, BBEdit Lite, SoundJam 2.0, QuickTime 6.0.2, AppleWorks, and about four other little shareware gems.

I feel some pain with Photoshop 5.5, Dreamweaver 3.0.644, and iTunes 2.0.4 when running other programs, but for its age and specs, it is still a remarkable machine.

On the rare occasions when I do tote it around here at this time of year (still too cold now in Alaska to risk), I take a spare battery. If I'm careful and run some stuff from a RAM disk, I can eke out four or five hours of battery time that way.

The screen is superb for its age - it's surprised several new iBook users with its sharpness and brightness. The keyboard and trackpad annoy me, though, because they're holdovers from the 3400/5300s and a little clunky. The keyboard seems a lot smoother than those precursors, but it still bugs me. The only keyboards on a PowerBook I've ever fallen for are the ones on the 1400 and the new 12" 'Books, but then I do a lot of writing and hate cramped keyboards to begin with, let alone stiff or sloppy ones.

Also, it gets heavy if you're traveling with it, the brick, and a spare battery - well over eight pounds with all that stuff.

Tough machine, though. But if you don't like the 3400 form factor, you're SOL (I like the boxy, means-business, Batmobile retro-extravangance of it, but that's a matter of taste).

If you're lucky enough to find one in good condition (mine is nearly mint), it would make a lovely gift to someone who thinks that all s/he wants to do is email, surf, and do word processing. It's a great machine for introducing people to what an older PowerBook can still do well enough for most for around $250.

I'd call it a "Best Buy" if you want "the basics" and a lot more.

As I said in the article, it can be a great computer for word processing, email, and Web browsing under the classic Mac OS, but with WallStreet prices starting at about $50 more, I consider it a better buy because it accepts a lot more memory, a faster bus, amazing battery life (esp. with 2 batteries), the possibility of G3 processor upgrades, and the ability to run OS X if you want to.

There are lots of great low-end 'Books out there - I'm partial to the 540c and 1400 myself - that are wonderful portable writing and email machines, competent Web browsers (with the right software), and only really slow at things like handling large Photoshop files.

The intent of the series of PowerBook G3 articles wasn't to knock Kanga but to find the best values among the four PowerBook lines with G3 processors. I may not have rated it a best buy, but it's definitely the least costly way to get G3 power on the go.

Availability of Kanga Memory

Several readers emailed to tell me that Other World Computing has 128 MB modules for Kanga available at $69.95.

Wireless Options for Older PowerBooks

After reading Extreme Wireless for Older Macs, Kenneth Gill wonders:

Just read your article on the Wireless options for older Macs, unfortunately I can't get definite help from D-Link (AirPlusXtremeG) on compatibility with G3 WallStreet. Do you know what my options are for wireless?

At present, D-Link doesn't list any of their PC Card 802.11x devices as Macintosh compatible. The same goes for Linksys and Buffalo Technology. Of the four companies listed in my article, only Belkin has promised Mac support for Mac OS 8.6 and later, although their profile for their 54g PC Card only lists Windows at present.

Until Belkin or someone else delivers Mac drivers, your best bet is probably an 803.11b (AirPort) PC Card rather than any of the newer, faster 802.11g ones.

Lombard Memory Issues

In response to The Strong Value of the Lombard PowerBook G3, Jukka Talari notes:

You might want to know that Lombards are quite picky about 256 MB modules.

I have a 333 MHz model and had a hard time finding a memory module for the lower slot: On most chips the machine would only see the first 128 megs. The same thing with another 333 MHz that we tried with a friend of mine. Not even an Apple-branded module pulled from a TiBook would show more than half.

Only the Kingston module which was specially for "PowerBook G3" showed all of 256 in my Lombard. Luckily the price was only slightly higher then on the others.

Somebody told me that some specs have changed after Apple designed Lombard. Go tell?

I don't know the ins and outs of memory modules, but sometimes issues like this arise because of the type of chips used on the module. Your best bet is always to buy from someone who knows the Mac and can assure you that the memory they are selling you is compatible with your machine. With so many memory vendors out there, if one can't help you, another will be able to.

Apple Going Intel?

Michael Abrahams writes:

I'm a long time Low End Mac reader. I thought you might want to take a look at this compelling link to PC Magazine. <http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,939886,00.asp>. It goes on telling how Steve Jobs was the keynote speaker at Intel's latest sales conference.

If I could count how many times Dvorak or some other industry pundit has said Apple would switch to Intel, I'd put Mac Observer's Apple Death Knell Counter to shame. It's a persistent rumor that seems to have little basis in reality but refuses to die.

Apple has apparently been developing versions of the Mac OS for Intel PCs since the System 7.x era (code name: Star Trek), but has never released it. Although the Darwin source code for Mac OS X can be compiled and made to run in Intel PCs, a lot of hardware (video cards, sound cards, printers, etc.) isn't supported and Mac applications - which aren't written for any Intel CPU - don't run.

Apple could move to Intel, but if they did so none of our Mac software would work. Apple switching to PC architecture is about as likely as Microsoft making Windows a free, open source operating system.

There's also some speculation that this may be an early April Fools column, but I don't think even John Dvorak is that calendar challenged.

Western Digital Rant

Responding to Western Digital Drive Tip, Daniel Dreibelbis says:

I'm somewhat glad to see that I'm not the only one having a problem with a Western Digital hard drive and Jaguar!

I bought my Acard Ahard ATA/66 card and WD 30 gig hard drive last summer for the express purpose of running OS X from it for a speed boost on my G3-equipped Umax J700 via XPostFacto. Back then I was using 10.1.5 and had no problems installing and running it from the WD.

Then came Jaguar. 10.2 by itself was no problem, but when 10.2.1 came out, that's when disaster struck - and Jaguar would not boot off the WD for love nor money. Same with each iteration of Jaguar that followed, with the same symptoms - would boot the first time after installation, but then after a reboot it will either hang or stall for 30 seconds before the Umax finally gives up and installs OS 9 from another partition. I've had to resort to installing Jaguar on a Quantum 4.5 gig SCSI drive in order to boot. I've tried to set the jumpers on the WD to single, and it just doesn't work.

Otherwise the WD mounts beautifully in Jaguar - no problem there - and it will boot OS 9 off a partition. But that's not the reason I bought this drive; I bought to to run OS X! I've informed Acard of the problem, but they can offer no explanation. And I can't ask Apple, because they'll come back with "buy a new G4 tower! Be happy!"

Thanks for letting me vent - and that hopefully someone can come up with an explanation for what's going on....

What a nightmare. It worked under 10.2, but now it's broken. Although your configuration is definitely not supported by Apple, I think something's going on with these WD drives that both Apple and Western Digital should be aware of. After all, Vaughn Corden is having problems in a beige G3, which is supported hardware, and he made no mention of using a third-party card, either.

If anyone else is having problems with WD drives under Jaguar, I recommend that you contact both Apple and WD with the specifics: exact drive model, which computer you're using, how the drive is partitioned, whether you're using the Apple IDE bus or a third-party card, which versions of X it does and doesn't work with, and any third-party cards that may be installed in your computer. It may be a drive issue, but it just might be a conflict with a third-party USB card, video card, or who knows what. Or it may be something added with the 10.2.1 update.

Armed with this kind of information, Apple and WD may be able to determine the cause of the problem and issue a bulletin addressing it.

Pismo Battery Prices

Terry J. Crebs responds to Pismo PowerBook a Good Value, but Better than Lombard?

I enjoyed your article entitled and agree with most of your analysis. However, as an owner of a 400 MHz Pismo with 1 gig of RAM, I'm a bit frustrated trying to find a replacement battery for less than $150.

Any advice on how/where-to-look to get a deal on a Pismo Li-ion battery?

Yikes, that's a lot for a battery. I've seen a couple listings for the Madsonline battery at $148, but that's not much of a saving. The PowerBook Guy has used Lombard/Pismo batteries for $110, but then you have no idea what shape they're in. Wegener Media lists batteries for $139, but I don't know if that's for a new battery - I'm sure they could tell you.

Blue & White G3 Rev. 1 Warning

After reading Why Apple's Blue & White G3 Is a Best Buy, Timothy D. Jasionowski went off to buy one. He writes:

Having gone off Low End Mac's recommendation that I pick up a used G3 B&W tower as an entre into the market and ending up with a Rev. 1 motherboard version, I've got to say that people need to be extremely careful about buying these things - Rev. 1 or Rev. 2

After buying a FireWire CD-RW and SCSI drives to get around the issue, it should be pointed out that:

  1. SCSI hard disks need to the exactly correct interface for them to fit into the G3 case. Since they're mounted transversely, if you use a UW drive with a 50-pin adapter, it won't work.
  2. Onboard FireWire has a high probability of failure. There's a 200+ message long thread on apple.com's discussion list about the all-out failure of these ports on both the Rev. 1 and Rev. 2 mainboards. I'll have to now go out and buy a PCI FireWire board to make this stuff work.

So, I sit here with a B&W G3 with lots of problems. Why hasn't Apple addressed any of these things? I don't know if I'm really buying that this is still a best buy - the IDE issue, which I don't care about, aside, there are a lot of other issues with this machine.

Based on reader responses to that article, I've learned a lot more about the blue & white G3, especially the two revisions. We updated our b&w G3 profile to explicitly recommend that buyers seek out the Rev. 2 motherboard and avoid Rev. 1. We may end up with a Road Apple report on the Rev. 1 while calling Rev. 2 a best buy.

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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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