The Low End Mac Mailbag

Site Subscriptions, Low Cost Home Page, Dash 30fx Clone, Voodoo vs. ATI, and More

Dan Knight - 2003.05.14 - Tip Jar

Other Things I'd Pay 99¢ For

Responding to Other Things I'd Pay 99¢ For, Ed Hurtley suggests:

I'd pay more than 99¢ a month for ad-free LEM! (I used to be a subscriber, but it ran out, and you can't resubscribe any more! Can I just mail a check or something?)

There's a sad tale behind that. It really looked like Paythrough was going to be able to make a go of micropayments. We signed on with them to handle donations and suggested that BackBeat Media contact Paythrough when they were creating their subscription system. (BackBeat handles ads for Low End Mac, Mac Observer, MacSurfer, MacGamer, and several other sites.)

To make a long story short, we had a working subscription system for several months, but Paythrough came to realize that their model just wasn't going to be profitable with the economy and state of the Internet last spring, so they closed up shop in June. BackBeat acquired the subscriber list and has been handling subscriptions from then until they ran out.

The goal was to have a new subscription system in place before that happened, but that hasn't been the case. At present, there is no subscription system in place for Low End Mac, although I'd definitely like to change that. I think there's a real, albeit small, market for premium website service, such as our ad-free model.

Until we can come up with a low overhead way of handling subscriptions (both low transaction fees and minimal time investment), it's on the back burner.

Getting Claris Home Page 2.0

MUGWump writes:

I was on the LEM site today and stumbled onto the discussions in the LEM Mailbag about getting Claris Home Page. There's another option that hasn't been mentioned which might be better than all the rest!

At Shreve Systems (<http://www.shrevesystems.com>, phone 1-800-227-3971), if you go to the specific page <http://www.shrevesystems.com/macprodsoft.htm>, you'll find that they have ClarisWorks 4.0 Internet Edition for $39. In addition to the regular ClarisWorks package is a copy of Claris Home Page 2.0 (including the Getting Started manual), the Apple Internet Connection Kit, an unspecified version of Netscape Navigator, plus Claris Emailer Lite. The software comes on CD-ROM. I've bought a copy for myself and just checked the Shreve Systems website to make sure it's still there.

Hope this helps somebody!

That's a heck of a deal. I paid more than that for Home Page 1.0. I paid more than that for ClarisWorks 1.0. CW 4.0 runs on any Mac with 4 MB of RAM, a 68020 or later CPU, and 14 MB of hard drive space. Basically anyone who has graduated beyond the 8 MHz b&w compact Mac stage can take advantage of this deal.

Missing Clone: Dash 30fx

David G. Thornton writes

Great job on the Low End Mac; cool info all over. It's usually the first place I turn for answers to old system questions.

I was poking around looking for info on an old Mac clone that we've had sitting around at work for just about dash 30fxforever - an old dash 30fx - and noticed there was no reference to it in your clones list. Applefritter has a blurb about it, but not much. It was engineered & sold by a company called 68000 (yes, just the number), and is basically a repackaged & overclocked IIfx with a huge industrial-strength steel case. The thing weighs nearly 70 lbs.!

The company I work for bought one in 1991, and although I haven't seen the invoice for it, I have been told that it cost just over $40,000 new. Yikes! How's that for depreciation!

I've attached a photo of it, and if you'd like to add it to your clone list, I'd be happy to provide whatever info you need. I've also got more photos of the machine - inside, top panel (where all the I/O ports are at) - in case you'd like to see more.

Thanks for writing - and thanks for the photo. I've done a Google search, found very little information on the beast, and created a preliminary profile of the Dash 30fx in our Early Clones section. I look forward to learning more about this machine that went beyond Apple's definition of "wicked fast."

Performa 6200 Unlisted Upgrade

Responding to my comments in Performa 6200 Unlisted Upgrade, Adam Hope says:

I have almost no experience with the PowerPC Performas, aside from a "road apple" 5200/75 in the basement that I used to verify that these machines are fine a freestanding computers but a really, really bad when connected to other computers.

The Performa 6360, 6400, 6500, 5400, and 5500 are actually pretty good machines and light years ahead of the x200s.

From my reading, the best PCI video card for Macs is the Radeon Mac Edition, not the newer Radeon 7000. In Bare Feats testing, the older Radeon Mac Edition beat the 7000 in every test. If you check completed auctions on eBay, you'll see that word is getting out - the older Mac Edition is selling for a lot more than the newer 7000.

I'm fully aware that the original Mac Radeon is a more powerful card than the 7000, but I didn't recommend it because of the outrageous prices they go for on eBay - 100+ USD. Even the Mac R7000 goes for around 100 USD. What I forgot to mention is that the PC one can be bought and flashed for about 50 USD, which makes it much more reasonable card. Besides, even the 6500 will still probably fail to make full use of either of these cards. Really the Voodoo 3 is the only one remotely suitable for that machine and is available for around 25 USD (again you can buy and flash a PC one, which 3Dfx actually encouraged!).

Although some of these upgrades could be carried over to a newer machine he would see a more immediate performance boost by buying a newer machine before any of the upgrades.

It's also possible that he was considering the PNY GeForce 5200 FX for a newer machine. As I said, the only Nvidia cards released for PCs that can be made to work in a Mac are reference based GeForce 2s (that is GeForce 2s that stick to Nvidia's original design) and non-Ti versions of the GeForce 3, which are becoming rare and expensive. As far as ATI cards go, reference based AGP R8500s and reference based PCI or AGP R7000s can be flashed, the former without the use of a PC!

Many people think flashing a 50 USD PC R7000 isn't worth it because they only have VGA ports whereas the Mac version has VGA, DVI, and S-video ports. What they fail to notice is that this more fully featured version of the R7000 is also available for the PC, for almost exactly the same price (50 USD) as the ones with only a single VGA port. The majority of the PC versions also have 64 as opposed to 32 MB of RAM.

Anyway this is gone way off topic!

It's about old Macs - how can that be off topic on Low End Mac?

For those interested in learning more about the value and power of Voodoo video cards, I suggest The Value of Voodoo Video by Jonathan Ploudre. As you note, these may be the best value for older, slower Power Macs.

The advantage of ATI cards is that they're supported under OS X, and it is possible (although not necessarily simple) to get X up and running on these machines. I don't know much about flashing. If you'd like to send links, I'd be happy to post them.

Proper Credit to Apple

In our ongoing discussion (see Mac Reliability), Ken. Cavaliere-Klick writes:

The iBook was returned today, new hard drive installed. I have to give Apple proper credit and respect for the fast turn around and thanks for actually upgrading the hard drive to 30 GB. The only tiny negative was that Jaguar was not reinstalled as I had been told it would, but the original OS 10.1.2. It's not a fun upgrade but not an big issue (just time consuming).

If I implied that Apple had any direct responsibility for the hard drive then I apologize for my choice of words. The whole affair didn't raise much more than an eyebrow for me. I've seen my share of defective and DOA new computers and short-lived computers with family, friends, and clients. I'm disappointed - and probably unreasonably so. I consider Apple to be among the top tier computer makers, and I want them to be as good as I believe them to be.

Overall, the experience was very good, and I'm back up and running. I wish it had not happened and happened so publicly. People seldom remember a working computer, but they will remember one that does not, especially a new one.

You are correct about MacLink Plus handling Works files, but this adds an extra expense to an already pricey switch and makes that switch just a little harder. A Works converter would be a nice perk. Maybe it will appear in AW7.

On a different topic, and just to toss out an idea, it would be interesting if Apple teamed up with a discount ISP and made .Mac a full service...

Thanks for your time and thoughts on all this.

There's always something that slips through quality control - like the day I was setting up a new EGA monitor at the Heath/Zenith computer store in Virginia Beach, VA. Put it on top of the computer, connect everything, turn it on, and poof. Blown capacitor or something. Nice cloud of smoke. Back in the box....

My only gripe with Apple service is that portable displays can no longer be serviced locally, and my TiBook has had a problem with the lower backlight since I got it. It's something I can live with, but I should get it fixed before AppleCare expires. The sad thing is that means putting Low End Mac on hiatus for up to a week or investing in an eMac (my most likely option) so I can keep working.

I'm glad you understand the distinction between Apple and their suppliers; a lot of people don't and would blame Apple for the failed drive. Although I've seen my share of failed hard drives in 13-14 years of Mac use, they've almost always been due to poor design (the stiction problem circa 1990), old age, or heat (never put a half-height drive in a 610 or 6100 case - not enough room for the heat to dissipate). None could be attributed to Apple.

Apple is a top tier computer maker, but all they can do when faced with a failed product is smile and take care of the customer. Apple has a wonderful reputation for doing that better than anyone else in the comptuer business.

I agree with you on a MS Works translator for AppleWorks. Maybe you should send a note to Apple suggesting they make it a priority. Anything to help switchers switch.

Hypercard on OS X?

Responding to Walter J. Ferstl's comments in HyperCard and OS X, Peter da Silva writes:

"I'll stick with the Mac models which are capable of running Mac OS Classic and therefore running HyperCard. There are still current Macs which boot into OS 9, and after that there will be enough second-hand Macs available that meet our modest computing needs here for a couple of years."

Hypercard doesn't run under Classic?

I don't like using Classic because I prefer the new OS, but if you don't suffer from that (ahem) perversion . . . Classic doesn't seem to impose that much overhead: When for some reason my box decided to start running iTunes 2 under Classic instead of iTunes 4 (why does that happen?), even that worked okay. It's certainly less of an impact than running 68000 code on an 8100 was . . . and my old copy of Word still seems to run just as well as it ever did.

And you still get the other advantages of OS X, like decent response from the system while applications are "busy."

Still, I agree that this is another place Apple's missing the boat. I assume Apple's logic is that AppleScript is supposed to have replaced Hypercard, or what?

I have to agree on the responsiveness of the classic environment. With the exception of handling FTP uploads in Claris Home Page, nothing I do in classic seems any slower than it was when running OS 9 natively. Better yet, while those tediously slow uploads are taking place, I can work in any of my OS X applications. (Because Home Page takes over the classic Mac OS, you can't do anything else while it's uploading unless you're running OS X. This means I can actually be productive during uploads, which was not the case when using the classic Mac OS.)

I don't see how AppleScript could replace HyperCard. Sure, HyperCard stacks could do some of the things AppleScript does, but AppleScript doesn't let you create, search, and sort databases. It's just a scripting language, not a programming language.

Thank goodness SuperCard has kept running with the ball.

HyperCard Alternatives

Also on the subject of HyperCard, David Cramer writes:

I sympathize with the point you made re HyperCard development being discontinued (numerous times!) by Apple.

But I also know that there are even more alternatives now than there used to be, and not all of your readers are probably familiar with them:

  1. RealBASIC seems to be the most impressive development environment, based on several full-scale, fast, and useful applications I use regularly.
  2. SuperCard is probably the alternative that's closest to HyperCard in general style and approach, and it claims a fair amount of compatibility.
  3. MetaCard is the somewhere in between RealBASIC and SuperCard in that it is very fast and fairly similar in approach to HyperCard. But it's enormously more powerful in many ways and also unusually multi-platform (Unix, Mac, and Windows).
  4. AppleScript continues to have more capability, is heavily used in the Mac publication/printing industry, and is recordable (within some application-specific constraints).
  5. Revolution is an IDE built on top of MetaCard, which I feel is currently a bit buggy but has a lot of promise for HyperCard-like development, and inherits all of the cross-platform and HyperCard support of MetaCard.

SuperCard, MetaCard, and Revolution all can read HyperCard stacks and run them with varying degrees of success, depending on what sort of syntax was employed in the HyperCard stack.

AppleScript is free. MetaCard is the most expensive alternative, although the downloadable demo lets you do anything but limits the number of separate commands that can be employed in any one script. There's actually quite a lot of choice!

HyperCard and AppleScript are two Apple technologies I've played with a bit but never found the time to master. From the sound of things, the project in question seems to involve a database, so I don't think a scripting language would do the job.

We ran an article about Runtime Revolution last summer, and I'd completely forgotten about it until you wrote. I'm guessing that SuperCard is probably going to provide the easiest transition from HyperCard to a native OS X program, but some of the other programs you suggest may produce better tools.

Thanks for the overview of alternatives.

Letter from a Future Mac Owner

Rick Miale writes:

I ran across your website last night while researching Macs. I've been a longtime PC user but would like to get a Mac so I can learn about them (some of the jobs I've applied for require Mac experience).

In your opinion, what's a good "starter" Mac? I've been thinking of a refurb eMac (2002) on store.apple.com, the one with the DVD for $999. I can get a new one with the Combo drive for $999. A DVD burner would be really nice; I have lots of stuff I'd like to burn.

How about an older G3? Any caveats?

1k is my limit.

Thanks for any help or links!

Rick Miale,
Future Mac owner (hopefully soon!)

I've been giving this a lot of thought recently, since I have to buy something to use when I get the screen on my PowerBook G4 repaired (it has to go to Apple in Texas). I'd been looking at a blue & white Power Mac G3 as the most economical short-term solution - and then a writer suggested the eMac.

Again and again he suggested it, and I slowly came to see the logic of his recommendation. Instead of spending maybe $500 for an older, slower Mac, I could spend $750 for a newer one that's faster than my 'Book. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. In fact, with a 700 MHz or 800 MHz G4, there's no reason I couldn't use an eMac as my work machine, a backup server for our home network, and a file server (OS X handles file sharing very efficiently).

For my purposes, an eMac with a Combo drive would be perfect. I don't need to burn DVDs, since I don't do video. I would like to be able to do screen captures from DVDs, and there's bound to be some way to allow that on the eMac. And it would be nice to have an internal CD-RW drive instead of relying on an external one. To top it off, I'd have a faster CPU, Quartz Extreme, and maybe be able to work comfortably at 1280 x 960 - a real step up from the 1152 x 768 of my 'Book.

With your budget, the 800 MHz SuperDrive eMac sounds like a perfect fit. Do budget for an extra 512 MB of memory; that will make a world of difference in OS X. Unless you need a portable computer (such as an iBook), I can't see any reason not to recommend the eMac - especially with Apple's refurb prices on last year's models.

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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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