The Low End Mac Mailbag

Need for a Midrange Mac, Internet Café Needs, Internal or External 7200 rpm Drive?, LEM Broken with IE 4.5, and More

Dan Knight - 2006.06.27

Apple Needs a Midrange Mac

In response to Apple Needs to Offer Less Mac for Less Money, John Brady writes:

I agree with you here. For some reason it seems like the Intel machines all converge on the same (too high) price point. I really think the Mac mini is a problem. It's too expensive on the low end, and too crippled on the high end, and by that I'm looking squarely at the GMA 950 graphics. I'd rather the mini were two machines. A cheaper model like you describe, and a perhaps somewhat more expensive, somewhat larger model with upgradable graphics.

I know you're likely to say I want a Power Mac, and you're right; that's what I've got now. I argue, however, that Apple taking the hard line of $2,000 Power Mac or you get notebook graphics really hurts market share, especially now the Intel transition is in full swing. Because a legitimate appeal could be made to gamers and other Wintel faithful with that single change, dual booting makes a difference. A $500 optical-less mini (to function as an educational terminal machine), a $900-$1,000 Core Duo machine with two memory slots and a single X16 slot and no integrated graphics card would move units.

Would it cannibalize iMac sales? I really don't think so; the only thing in danger might be the low-end tower, but as long they kept the towers quad core across the line it probably wouldn't even hurt them.

Sincerely,
John Brady

I think you're on to something, John. The Mac mini is a bit dear on the low end, and the Power Mac (and its forthcoming Intel-based replacement) are overkill for most users. Most users don't need expansion slots or the ability to upgrade video. Most users would be happy with a Mac mini, iMac, or MacBook.

Power users need expansion slots, and the towers are perfect for them. Slots and more slots. Drive bays. Lots of power.

But there's nothing in between, no Mac with Core Duo power and the ability to upgrade graphics. This was the niche that the Cube filled. Despite being a gorgeous computer and a marketing disaster (for which we take partial blame, since we readily pointed out that for the small difference in price the Power Mac was a much better choice), it allowed users to upgrade the hard drive, the graphics card, and, with third-party upgrades, put in a faster G4 CPU.

Apple would do well to consider a desktop line between the mini and the maxi - er, tower. This in-between model would use 3.5" SATA hard drives, perhaps offer Core Duo or Core 2 Duo power, and include just one or two PCIe slots. This would allow low-cost drive upgrades, quick and easy CPU upgrades, and the ability to replaced the video card and perhaps add an extra card for eSATA or some other technology.

With one hard drive bay, one optical drive bay, and just 1 or 2 PCIe slots, it would be a lot smaller and less expensive than the tower models. And based on my many years of real world Mac support, they would offer all the expansion most Mac users ever need - it was rare in my IS days to see more than 1 PCI or NuBus card in any Mac.

Price: Well under the US$1,999 Power Mac G5 Dual or the anticipated Mac Pro replacement. And not too much higher than the US$799 Mac mini Core Duo. I think a US$999 model with 2.0 GHz Core Duo would sell like hot cakes.

Dan

iMac Internet Café Needs

Following up on Church Needs 5 Cheap Macs for Internet 'Cafe', Ted Bragg writes:

Hi Dan,

Well, the iMacs arrived yesterday, and aside from a few missing their port flap/door, they're perfect.

I'm now looking for software that can do the following:

  1. Admin login & pass: to prevent the kiddos from accessing the Finder and disk drives
  2. Prevent downloads
  3. Block offensive/porn/hate sites, etc.
  4. Keylog sessions, monitor where they go, etc.
  5. Lock the CD-ROM drive - don't want them playing and ripping CDs to the hard drive

The Macs are all running OS 9.2 (yay!), and they're all identical.

TIA - Ted

Ted,

It's a long time since I've really worked with Mac OS 9 outside of Classic mode, but every version of Mac OS 9.x support multiple user accounts. That's the place to start in creating a non-administrative account.

Before you set up user accounts, you need to set up your owner account with a user name and password using the Sharing control panel. They you can open the Multiple Users control panel and click the On radio button next to Multiple User Accounts.

Next, create a user account by clicking the New User button and assign a name and password. Both can be blank, and you might find this useful for your Internet café. Or you might want to call it Guest, User, or iMac 1 - just use a blank password or the same password on all of these accounts to simplify login. (You may want to create specific user accounts for certain users later on.)

Your new account can be a normal user, a limited user, or a panels user - the latter having no access at all to the Finder and using a simplified launcher system. And you can edit the user info to specify whether an account can change the password, which apps they can run, whether they can access CDs or DVDs, if they can open control panels, which printers (if any) can be used, and many other things.

That should be enough to get you started. You'll want to check your browser settings to restrict downloads, and you'll need to add third-party software to log user sessions. As far as blocking unwanted websites, that's probably most easily done through your ISP (there are some specifically set up to address your needs) or by setting up a firewall/proxy server that can do all of that on a single device rather than running a program on each of your iMacs.

I'm not at all familiar with these areas, but I'll post this in the LEM Mailbag in hopes some readers can suggest session loggers, ISPs, and filtering software.

Another good resource is our Mac OS 9 email list, which has many helpful OS 9 users who may be able to answer your questions.

Dan

Internal or External 7200 rpm Drive for Slot-loading iMac?

Doug Fehr writes:

My hard drive needs replacing in my iMac G3 500 MHz. If I go for the internal replacement 7200 rpm 80 GB 8 MB buffer, will it overheat? Or if I opt for an external FireWire enclosure, will I get the same performance/throughput (running Tiger 10.4) and can I use this external drive as my system drive? It seems external may be cheaper and make more sense in long run - portable & cost per gig is less.

Thanks, Doug

Doug, I haven't heard of overheating problems with 7200 rpm drives in slot-loading iMacs, but you might want to ask around on our iMac list.

The slot-loading iMacs supports 33.3 megabyte per second (MBps) throughput on an Ultra ATA drive bus. FireWire 400 has 400 megabits per second (Mbps) bandwidth, which gives it a maximum throughput of 50 MBps. A good 7200 rpm drive can move data faster than that, so the FireWire drive will be up to 50% faster than the internal bus on slot-loading iMacs.

80 GB drives are cheap these days, and if you can find an external FireWire 400 drive for less than a raw internal drive, it's definitely the way to go. Even if it costs a bit more, you gain the speed, the ability to move it to another Mac, and (unless your old hard drive has died) more total storage space with both an internal and an external drive.

Looking forward, you might want to look into a drive with both FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 support. While USB 2.0 isn't any faster than FireWire in the real world, it will give you more flexibility down the road. My personal favorite is the Newer Tech miniStack v2, which has a 3-port USB 2.0 hub and a 2-port FireWire hub built in and also runs a lot cooler than the smaller enclosures I use with many of my 7200 rpm drives. You may, in fact, run into more heat problems with small FireWire enclosures than you would putting the drive in your iMac.

An enclosure similar to the original miniStack seems to be available from a variety of vendors under different brands. See my review, NewerTech miniStack: A Great Drive Even if You Don't Own a Mac mini, for more on this drive.

For the record, I run my eMac from an external 7200 rpm drive in a miniStack enclosure not so much for speed but because it's a real pain to swap hard drives in the eMac - and I can definitely use the extra ports.

Dan

Low End Mac Broken with IE 4.5

"apathy" writes:

I thought I would send a mail to let you know (if you do not already) that the site does not work in IE 4.5 for Mac. It is not possible to scroll down the page.

I know IE 4.5 is ancient, but this is Low End Mac and it would nice to be able to read and browse in quiet periods at work. I work the night shift at a newspaper publisher in the UK, and all the machines are beige G3s running OS 8.5. Browsing online in quiet periods is permitted, but only if we use IE 4.5. Rather cunning, I suppose!

Once upon a time Low End Mac was done in plain vanilla HTML that worked with all of the ancient browsers. Over the years, we made small changes - adding Cascading Style Sheets, using JavaScript to hide email addresses, and, a bit over a year ago, moving from HTML to XHTML and a CSS-based design.

Looking at our site logs, we discovered that while our pages supported older browsers on small displays, almost nobody visiting LEM used those browsers or small screens. In other words, they were reading about low-end Macs but not visiting the site using them. So we decided to design to today and tomorrow, hoping our design would work adequately with older browsers.

Our spring 2005 design worked nicely on all of the then-current Mac browsers (with a minor glitch in iCab) and degraded well with older ones that I tested. I was also standards-based, meaning it should work for years to come. Looking at our site statistics, I saw that about 99% of our visitors were using clients that would render the pages more or less as I had designed them.

Today 0.4% of IE users visiting Low End Mac are using IE 4.5 or earlier. That's about 0.1% of our visitors, since IE accounts for 28.7% of our traffic. (Safari is #2 at 27.9%, followed by Firefox at 27.1%.) We have almost twice as many visitors using iCab (0.2% of traffic) as IE 4.5 and earlier.

IE 4.5 for Mac was a pretty buggy browser, as a quick Google search will show you. We had enough trouble getting IE 5.5 and 6.0 to render our pages properly (that's 25% of our traffic today, and it was over 30% a year ago); we can't invest the time and resources to support obsolete browsers.

I'm sorry your employer locks you in to an ancient, buggy, obsolete browser with serious JavaScript issues (probably the cause of this problem). Perhaps you can convince management to let you try iCab or WaMCom. (Download WaMCom here.)

Dan

Compact Flash in PowerBook 150

RP writes:

Hi Dan,

I am an old Mac fanatic, out-of-control Mac-collector, and of course a regular Low End Mac visitor. I read the article on the compact flash for older Macs, and here's a site of someone who has enabled an IDE PowerBook for use with compact flash. Of course, this is not a Mac with internal SCSI drives, and as such it does not answer the SCSI -> CF question (which is a semi-endless chain of pricey converters and a lot of luck that the oversized contraption will work), but I thought you might like it and share it amongst other Low End Mac fans.

http://www.cosc.canterbury.ac.nz/~greg/hardware/pb150/

Keep up the great site and articles, greetings,
RP

Thanks for the link, which I'm adding to our PowerBook 150 page.

The PowerBook 150 was a very decent low-end PowerBook. My ex used one for years, and I think we picked it up on close-out for under US$1,000. Performance was decent, memory was very expandable, but the 4-bit grayscale screen left a bit to be desired. I can see it making a great field computer with Compact Flash, as on the link you provided.

I'm still dreaming of a Mac Plus, Portable, or PB 100 with Compact Flash.

Dan

Compact Flash and Virtual Memory: 2 Years and Counting

Jeff Wiseman writes:

Dan,

Just a note about using a CF [Compact Flash] card for VM [virtual memory]. For about 2 years, I ran a 1400c (G3 upgraded) nearly every day and used a CF card for my startup drive. It was a basic SanDisk 512 MB card that I loaded my system and apps on to and used for VM. The card ran fine and still checks out as 100% okay. I really think the issue of CF card read/write life is overblown. I've actually just ordered a 2 GB CF card that I'm going to use in the same manner for a 3400c.

Best,
Jeff Wiseman

Setting Up a PowerBook 1400 for Writing

Tony writes:

I've got a 1400 sitting on a shelf here. I've used it in the past when a desktop went down, surfed the Web via ethernet and all. Problem is, I'd like to use it as a word processor or maybe a little more, but I don't know the best way to go about it, since the ClarisWorks it uses isn't compatible with anything I've got now, and I don't know how to easily get documents from it to my desktop (which at present is an iMac with system 10.4).

I hate to keep it sitting, it's a great machine.

Thanks.

The PowerBook 1400 is a great notebook computer, and ClarisWorks is a very nice word processor (and spreadsheet). Unless your iMac has an Intel CPU, it shipped with a copy of AppleWorks, and that program should have no trouble at all reading ClarisWorks files (since it is just a new name for that program).

If you have a Macintel computer, your options are to use the Save As... command and export your documents to RTF, Word, or some other format - or you could install a copy of AppleWorks 6.x and run it via the Rosetta emulation.

I've been using ClarisWorks since version 1.0 came out and find it to be all the word processor and spreadsheet software I need. I'd suggest AppleWorks 6 is probably the best solution to your problem.

Dan

House Style Editor

Mark Hamilton writes:

Hi Dan,

I wonder if you will indulge me a question? We do some writing and publishing to the web. The publication is noncommercial with a wide ranging international readership. Our work is done solely on Macs.

Our interest is in software that can function as a "house style" watchdog. The PC people have access to products (like StyleWriter, which says it does the sort of things we want). Are there such software solutions for the Mac community, and do you have any knowledge as to how well they work?

Thank you in advance

Mark

Mark, I haven't heard of such a product. If such a program existed for the Mac, it would be wonderful. As far as I can tell, StyleWriter is more of a grammar and usage tool than one to enforce "house style".

For my purposes, a "house style watchdog" would go beyond spell checking and understand that on our website "AirPort" is far more likely to be used than "airport", for instance. And it would let us switch between US English and International English spell checking on the fly, as our policy is to use US English for our American writers and International English for the others.

A tool that could check grammar, punctuation, spelling, and usage according to our own needs would make my day - and probably save me several hours per week.

Perhaps one of our readers knows of such a tool.

Dan

Dead SuperMac Software Links

Nick Trentadue writes:

  • Umax suggests updating the J700 and S900 to version 2.0.2 of the Licensing Extension if you're using Mac OS 8 or 8.1. <http://www.supermac.com/supermac/download/>

I'm trying to download this software so I can finalise my [Umax SuperMac] J700 upgrade, but the link is dead? Where can I get the UmaxTool and Licensing extension for this? You seem to be the only ones who have it.

Thanks for writing, Nick. Umax dropped the SuperMac clones about 8 years ago, and they no longer have drivers, updates, and other software available on their website. Thankfully there's SuperMac Insider, maintained by Kennedy Brandt, a former Project Manager with Umax. His page of software downloads includes links for both pieces of software you mention.

I'm updating our site to replace the dead link with one to Brandt's page, but unfortunately the links on his page to the Umax FTP server are themselves dead. I'll contact Kennedy to see if he has archived copies available that we may be able to share.

Until then, you might ask on our SuperMacs list if someone has these files and can send them to you.

Dan

iCab 2.99 for Classic Mac OS

"libwww" writes:

I just read Nathan Thompson's 2006.02.03 "Embracing Obsolescence" followup article about web browsers [Netscape 7, Internet Explorer 5, iCab, MacLynx, WaMCom, WannaBe, MachTen, and More Movies Made on Macs]. It might be useful to add that iCab (which I like for its many preferences settings available) now has a v2.99 for Mac OS earlier than 8.5, which at the time of Nathan's article was one of his complaints. I haven't had a reason to try v2.99, but it is now there at http://icab.de/dl.php . Cheers.

Thanks for sharing this information. I've forwarded your email to Nathan.

Eliminating Obsolete Email Accounts

Alvin writes"

Hi, how's it been? When we were starting to learn and use the Net, we logged on and subscribed to many services. We had our emails with ridiculous names, information we thought we should put it, when you can just put n.a. or undisclosed for your last name. We've forgotten their passwords, the email we use (coz sometimes we'll just do sdflskdjfs@nameofemail.com), or the sites where we put those.

Is there a program that could cancel it, or at least find those and retrieve the passwords for it, so you can manually unsubscribe or delete information in them? At this time, it's just nice to clean things up. Thanks.

God bless,
Alvin

You raise a good question, Alvin. I have no idea how many email addresses I've used over the years, both on my own domains and with free services (Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, etc.). Many have long been forgotten.

I know of no tool for digging up obsolete email IDs, let alone their passwords. If such tools do exist, they would be of great interest to hackers, private investigators, and national security agencies. Just sic them on a server and have them discover accounts and crack their passwords. It's just the kind of thing computers are very good at.

I think we just have to rely on the sanity of ISPs to close out abandoned email addresses and delete their contents. I know some of the free email services now state that they will terminate any account not used for XX months.

Dan

Upgrading iBook from OS X 10.0.4 to 10.1

I've bought a used 12" iBook G3/500 MHz, 128 MB RAM for our daughter's babysitter.

I've been trying to update it to OS X and I've had some success getting it to go up to 10.0.4. But it doesn't seem to want to go higher. And I can't seem to install the prerequisite (aren't they?) security updates before going up to 10.1.x

Any advice or help you could give would be most appreciated!

Jef

It's a long time since I first tried switching to Mac OS X, and by then it was already up to version 10.1. I'm not familiar with any updates to 10.0.x that need to be installed before you can upgrade to 10.1 - perhaps a reader can supply that information.

You might also try asking on our new Puma (OS X 10.1.x) email list.

Dan

Upgrading a Tray-loading iMac for OS X

Jhan Jensen writes:

Hi,

I was reading an article you wrote, and it talks about upgrading an old iMac to use Mac OS X. I have a Rev C iMac that I have upgraded the memory and all that I need. My problem is that the Mac OS X disc that I have is a DVD and my mac is a CD. Any thoughts on getting around this other, then going out and buying a older version of OS X that is in CD form?

Jhan Jensen

You must be going with Tiger, the first version of OS X to ship on DVD instead of multiple CDs. Apple has an exchange program. For about US$10 you can swap your Tiger DVD for a CD set. You should be able to find details online or at your local Apple Store - and perhaps even in the documenation that came with your copy of Tiger.

Dan

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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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