The Low End Mac Mailbag

G5 vs. Mac Pro, Macs in Poland, an Optical Mouse for ADB Macs, Replacing Home Page, and More

Dan Knight - 2006.08.17

Three mailbag columns in three days - it's been busy here at Low End Mac. Today we have updates on optical ADB mice, G5 vs. Intel Core, replacing Claris Home Page, and a possible solution to frequent PRAM battery replacement. Also more on problems booting WallStreet from Compact Flash.

New topics include comparing the Power Mac G4/500 and G4/533, where to find copies of older versions of the Mac OS, and the New Standard Keyboard. - Tip Jar

A Claris Home Page Replacement That Works

B.J. Major writes:

Hey Dan,

You might want to check out the free Mozilla-based SeaMonkey suite which has a nice Netscape-inspired HTML WYSIWYG web page editor included.

My reasons for recommending SeaMonkey to you are as follows:

  1. Like yourself, I used Claris Home Page for years and even kept it running within Classic in OS X through Panther and also through most of Tiger. In fact, my entire domain of 10 music discographies was originally built with CHP;
  2. I was sick of trying out every OS X web WYSIWYG authoring software there was only to find that it destroyed/altered/severely changed CHP authored pages (if it didn't destroy my fonts, it replaced and/or my graphics or did something else totally weird with my links, etc.) And believe me, I tried all of what is available for people who do not do their own HTML code. With over 500 pages of discography information online, there was just no way I would do total reconstruction only because I wanted something to use that was OS X native. The only OS X-native application which did not damage my CHP files was Dreamweaver - and for my basic purposes of displaying text and album cover photos, it's way too much program (and also way too expensive).

I am extremely happy with SeaMonkey and I invite you to take a look at my discographies (URL below) to view the pages I now maintain with it.

Yours,
bj (a.k.a. beej)

Thanks for the suggestion, BJ. I have been using Nvu as one of the tools in my arsenal; it's based on the same code as the Composer portion of SeaMonkey, although Nvu hasn't been updated as recently as SeaMonkey.

I've just downloaded SeaMonkey 1.0.4 and will be giving the Communicator module a try.

NVU was very buggy for me - SeaMonkey is far less buggy and also very stable in comparison. Good luck, hope it works out for you....

bj

I've been working on and off with SeaMonkey for a couple days. It has some benefits over Nvu and Claris Home Page - and some drawbacks. Expect an article about that in a week or so. dk

Re: G5 vs. Mac Pro

Scott Areman says:

Dan,

Thanks for your reply. That's pretty much what I was thinking. I have seen some Dual 2.0 and Dual 1.8 G5s on eBay with AppleCare going for between $1,100-1,400. Since you and a friend of mine suggest the pricier Mac Pro, that starts to be a bigger price difference.

Since I have this thing about buying behind the curve and maybe waiting until the next generation of Mac Pros that have the kinks worked out and lower RAM [prices], I'm still considering buying a G5 from eBay - but part of me doesn't want to hassle with eBay and buying a used unknown machine. Especially when I make a living from it.

Would one of those G5's still be a huge increase in speed for me? Or do you just think that's a bad idea and it's overall smarter to pay the price for the Mac Pro?

Scott

Yes, Scott, those used G5s would also be a big improvement over your single 1.25 GHz G4 CPU. Between the higher clock speed, faster system bus, use of fast SATA hard drives, and dual CPUs, you could well triple your Photoshop power. And you'll be able to afford RAM more readily.

Another way to look at it: For about half the price of the "best value" 2.66 GHz Mac Pro, you can have 3x the power of your PowerBook and roughly 1/3 the power of the Mac Pro. That could make it a perfect stop gap system until the next revision of the Mac Pro ships and RAM prices drop.

Re: Final Cut Pro Benchmarks

Following up on Final Cut Pro Benchmarks, Mitch writes:

Hi Dan,

I don't think moving to two dual core CPU's will double the speed (complete a render 50% faster). Even though you have twice the CPU horsepower there is some loss of efficiency due to communication and coordination between multiple processors. When Apple first introduced the DP G4s (dual 450s I think) they announced that the dual would complete FCP renders 40% faster than a single CPU machine.

I think the big jumps have been G4 to G5, Dual G5 to Quad G5. I am not sure that the G5 to Intel is that big a jump (except that dual dual-core systems are much more affordable). I think the next big jump will be systems with dual quad-core processors (Intel plans to ship those chips by the end of 2006).

That's 8 CPU's on one system, a one machine render farm! That would also probably be a good time to get a deal on a current Mac Pro (whether Apple discontinues that configuration or not).

Best wishes,
Mitch

In my book, Apple's big jumps have been PowerPC 601/603/604 to G3, G3 to G4 (AltiVec made a huge difference with Photoshop and video processing), dual G4s, and OS X, Apple's first operating system to actually take advantage of dual processors.

The G5 was only an improvement over the G4 in that it ran at higher clock speeds - up to 2.7 GHz vs. 1.67 GHz. In terms of overall efficiency, the two CPUs are overall pretty comparable. And the Intel Core 2 Xeon seems comparable in overall performance to the dual-core G5 at the same clock speed. (Where Intel has the advantage is energy efficiency. The Core CPUs draw a lot less power and generate a lot less heat that needs to be wicked away by cooling systems.)

There are a lot of variables with multiple processors and multiple cores, and a larger level 2 cache will always help make things more efficient. Adding a second CPU or core can sometimes double performance - and sometimes have no noticeable impact at all. Going to a four core design can double throughput for some types of tasks, yet do little to boost others. It all depends on how well the task can be split into pieces that can be handled be separate cores.

Based on recent benchmarks published on Macworld and Bare Feats, the 2.66 GHz Mac Pro and 2.5 GHz Power Mac G5 have very similar performance with many real world universal binary programs, although the Mac Pro is significantly faster in some.

It will be interesting to see what Apple does with the quad-core Intel chips later this year.

Dan

Power Mac G4/500 or G4/533?

After reading Are Two Brains Better Than One? (2003.03.24), Jacob Holgate writes:

Dan,

Your 3/24/03 article answering the question "When Apple couldn't get faster G4s from Motorola, they released dual processor models with the slogan 'Two Brains Are Better Than One.' Is that really true, or is it just hype?" was very helpful to me, but it still left me with several questions regarding what (used) Mac I should buy.

I guess my question in a nutshell is I'm considering purchasing one of the two following machines: either a G4/533 dual or a G4/500 dual. They both have "two brains", so that issue doesn't matter, but another very important one does arise. The 533 has a 133 MHz bus, while the 500 only has a 100 MHz bus (with corresponding RAM for each). How much difference does this make in overall performance (and in the long run)?

The 500 MHz machine I'm looking at would be $621, while the 533 MHz one would be $743 (the difference of roughly $120, but only because I have 512 MB RAM that I could use in the 500 MHz machine, while I'd have to purchase more RAM if I went with the 533 MHz one). Both are priced for being configured the way I would want them to be (768 MB RAM, Apple or Pioneer DVD-R/CD-RW SuperDrive, AirPort card, and Express Base Station [hooked up to Onkyo home theater in a box system], and internal Zip 250 [IDE, but if whichever machine I chose has the option of SCSI and the price of the drive was right, I would probably go that route]). In either case I have an 80 GB HD (Maxtor ATA) and a 13 GB HD (Maxtor ATA - don't know the rpm for either), both of which I would keep unless, like I said, I had the option for SCSI on the new machine and I could get some drives for relatively inexpensive. I hear that SCSI is overall faster, especially in higher end equipment.

I'm currently running OS X 10.3.9 on a 400 MHz B&W G3 with 512 MB RAM. I am a graphic design student and would mainly be using my Mac for those purposes, using the following programs: Acrobat 7 Pro, GoLive, Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop CS, Quark 6 (or higher) Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, Freehand, and Director MX, as well as such programs as Office X. I would also be downloading (multiple; 3-5 depending on size and speed) files ranging from 2.75-6.25 MB (MP3s) and others ranging from 20 to just over 100 MB (MPEGs - friends' videos) as well as copying DVDs (dumping them onto the HD and then burning them onto disc). I would also likely be using Final Cut Pro when making my own videos (and burning to DVD).

One big thing I want to do when I get a new computer is get expanded cable and a DVR and be able to dump what's on the DVR onto the HD, edit in Final Cut, and burn to DVD so I can watch whenever I want (like when traveling). Some of these things are very processor intensive, so if there's even a slight advantage (especially with the multimedia stuff), I'd like to know. Obviously when I got around to the intense multimedia stuff I would get a much bigger HD (like 150-250 GB or something). As I sort of mentioned, I would also be streaming iTunes to my stereo as well as using that Base Station for an eventual TiBook laptop wireless connection (I have a cable modem.)

Please tell me, which machine is faster overall: the D533 with a 133 bus or the D500 with a 100 bus. I know bus speed does add to the overall performance of a computer.

Thank you,
Jacob Holgate

Jacob, the dual 533 MHz machine with the 133 MHz bus is faster overall. The CPU is faster. The memory bus is faster. It also gives you one more PCI slot and AGP 4x (vs. 2x on the G4/500) for faster graphics.

While SCSI has some advantages over UltraATA, it's also significantly more expensive. Rather than using SCSI, you'd be better off with an UltraATA/6 or Serial ATA card that will take full advantage of modern drives. And keep in mind that neither of these models will support drives over 128 GB without special software or a third-party UltraATA or Serial ATA card.

Dan

Poor Mac Support in Poland

Maciej Dzienis writes:

Hi Dan!

We Mac users in Poland need help. We are determined and we want to change something. Please visit this site, read and comment. We just want good service, possibility of buying Macs without traveling to Germany, UK or USA even. Read carefully and you will understand our situation. It would be great if you could make news about our site and situation in LEM. More people will know about us and our chances will grow up :). This is not idea, this is revolution.

I please you as LEM fan and reader here it is: wewantapplepoland.com

Thanks and keep the great work

Maciek

Problem Booting WallStreet from Compact Flash

Bill Saunders writes:

I can't do this via the PC Card slot on my 233 MHz (2nd edition, 512 KB cache) WallStreet, at least with OS 9.2.2.

It takes forever for the boot process to begin. I get the marching icons at the bottom (incredibly slow), but I never get to the desktop.

Maybe if you take a CF card and put it where the hard drive is (with a CF->IDE adapter) it would work.

I think a FireWire card for the PC Card slot is the better option.

Bill, it sounds like your WallStreet can boot from Compact Flash, since you're getting the startup screen and the marching icons. Does it boot if you hold down the shift key and prevent extensions from loading?

My guess is that your OS 9.2.2 install is damaged or perhaps trying to use your CF card for virtual memory - and looking for more space than you have available. Have you tried Mac OS 8.x at all?

Dan

Re: Frequent Lithium Battery Replacement

After reading Frequent Lithium Battery Replacement, Bradley Dichter suggests:

I'm guessing Mary has the very bad habit of turning off her power strip after shutting off her Mac, perhaps even turning off her Mac via the power strip. With AC power killed, the battery has to supply power to the motherboard to keep alive the clock and parameter RAM. Normally when the computer is powered "off" it still gets trickle power to keep things alive, not to mention listening on the USB bus for the power button on the keyboard to turn fully on. This habit will cause the battery to last far shorter than usual. Every 4 months, on the other hand, seems excessive even under these circumstances. Her computer is more than 5 years old, declared "Vintage" by Apple and it can no longer be serviced. Perhaps a card in a PCI slot is draining power.

Thanks for your suggestion, Bradley. I'm forwarding it to Mary Stratton.

Kensington Mouse-in-a-Box Is Full Optical

Madison Nye wrote back to report on the Kensington Mouse-in-a-Box ADB/USB:

Dan, I have the mouse. There is no ball; it is completely optical. Standard optical sensor on the bottom like any other optical mouse.

It's a great mouse if you like one-button mice, and the only solution I know of for legacy Macs besides a USB PCI card.

Madison

Thanks for getting back to me. Now I definitely need to get one of these. It also reduces the urgency for finding someone who would be willing to build a multibutton optical ADB mouse.

Kensington Mouse-in-a-Box Isn't Mechanical

Douglas Carroll writes:

Hello!

I can't figure out why the link doesn't work, but it is definitely not a mechanical mouse. I received mine in the mail and am holding it in my hand as I type this, and it is an optical mouse - the cool part is that the end is USB and there is a removable USB to ADB adaptor on the end. Does this mean that you can use the adaptor with other USB mice? I have tried this with a couple of newer USB mice with no luck so far, but the adaptor might work with an older USB mouse. Intriguing to say the least!!!!

Trust me, this is the optical ADB mouse you have been looking for - it is a "Kensington Mouse-in-a-Box USB/ADB model # 64475f" and it is not mechanical.

This link should work: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000052WM6

Try it!!

Douglas  

Thanks for the confirmation, Douglas. Sometimes URLs get cut in half by email clients or characters change between the time you past the URL and the time I read it in my email client.

I'm definitely going to order one of these mice for use with our vintage Macs.

Where to Buy Mac OS 7.6.1?

Caryl Harris writes:

I just inherited a 1400/133 that came without the operating system (7.6.1). Where do I get the operating system?

Thanks so much,
Caryl

Do a Froogle search for "mac os 7.6" to find several sources offering either the Apple original or an OEM install CD for Mac OS 7.6. (The 7.6.1 CD usually sells for a lot more, although one recently sold on eBay for just US$20.) Once you've installed that, you can download and apply the free update to 7.6.1 from Apple.

Soft Modems Not Bad Anymore

Responding to Soft Modems, Ed Hurtley says:

Or, more specifically, software-based modems require so little processing power in relation to current processors that firmware-based modems offer no tangible benefit any more. Back when they were introduced, and the fastest processors were 233 MHz, they would sap a noticeable amount of your CPU time (to the point of causing the OS on a 'minimum spec' 166 MHz Pentium non-MMX to actually 'stall' during heavy data transmission), now that processors are in the GHz range, even heavy data transfer uses less than 1% of the CPU's time. On a dual-processor (or quad) system, the drain probably isn't even measurable any more.

Firmware modems are sold to those who either still stubbornly cling to the premise that they are better, or to people who need serial-port based modems. (Like server admins, who need a modem that can answer when the server's OS is frozen or off.)

Ed Hurtley

New Standard Keyboard Targets a Different Market

After reading The New Standard Keyboard: What Were They Thinking? (2005.01.26), Tatu Siltanen responds:

Hi there!

I'm happy to inform you that the column you wrote about The New Standard Keyboard (NSK) isn't quite dead yet! Things never die anymore. Isn't the Web wonderful? The NSK is a product that I'm considering for my own projects and I found your text while doing a Google search on the subject.

I have a problem with your column. You assume too much and wrong things. I'm not a journalist, yet it seems like I've already done more research than you did before writing your column. After I found out about this product, I contacted the company. The *designer himself* wrote me back, explaining his thinking in *ample* detail. Did you consider this possibility before writing? Have you done so since?

It is obvious that the designer is intimately familiar with the circumstances that led to the Dvorak design. For example, I myself hadn't considered that the order of the Dvorak layout results partially from the fact that old keyboards were used by professional typists and pressing the keys required a lot of strength, and this is why some letters were placed close to the strongest fingers. No need for that anymore.

New Standard Keyboard
The New Standard Keyboard

I agree that the product "looks like it was designed for preschoolers". That's because it was! Luckily, another model now exists. (On a side note, I think that when people try to become serious adults they lose a lot - for example, colour schemes that make things easy and fast to understand.)

As you noticed, TNSK is a result of serious design work. Ergonomics have been thought through. "The bizarre choice to put keys in alphabetical order" won't seem so bizarre after you've considered the context.

I think *TNSK is designed for people who have never used a computer before*. This is why it shouldn't "frustrate QWERTY and Dvorak users". It's not "too different and over-designed", because there is nothing to compare it to.

You assumed that for the product to succeed, all the people in the world would have to forget QWERTY and learn a new layout. No they won't! You write: "There's no way the New Standard Keyboard is going to become the standard anywhere." It won't have to! Once upon a time there was one computer for hundreds of people and people needed to adjust to computers' standards; nowadays there are Personal Computers that can and should adjust to what their users want and need. "QWERTY isn't going away any time soon." It won't have to! There are millions of computer users out there and surely there must be enough space for all kinds of solutions.

Sometimes some people claim to have knowledge about "the real world". Yet they somehow lack the vision this would entail - for example, they can't get their head around the fact that there are millions of people with all kinds of needs. This tendency may be because some people don't do much research before jumping to their conclusions. I'm not sure where this "real world" that they speak of is, but the world I'm inhabiting has many possibilities. I suggest you move in. It's much nicer up here.

By the way, TNSK won't be on my shopping list. I'm Finnish and I need my Ä's, Ö's and Å's.

Cheerio!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

One of the nice things about computers is that they all have pretty much the same key layout. Yes, it varies from language to language, and Mac keyboards are a bit different from Windows ones, but for anyone who knows how to type, the keys are where they expect them.

Now imagine for a moment that you sit down at a computer and begin to work, only to discover that it has a French or Spanish keyboard, and some of the keys aren't where you expect them to be. That would be a big problem.

The New Standard Keyboard may be a wonderful keyboard for those who don't know how to type and don't ever intend to type on any computer but their own - or plan to carry their own keyboard with them. It's simply not practical to push an incompatible keyboard design as some sort of new standard.

Not only would the NSK create a divide between two classes of typists - those who use a standard keyboard and those who use the NSK - and make it very difficult for people to move between the two standards. This could be especially difficult with notebook computers, which have a built-in keyboard that doesn't match the layout of the NSK.

Finally, you point out another NSK failing that I hadn't considered: It's designed for English. It's not designed for international users who need umlauts, cedillas, and other special characters not generally used in English.

I won't say there isn't a market for the New Standard Keyboard. I will say that it will never become what its name proclaims it to be, a new standard.

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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