The Low End Mac Mailbag

3 GB in a MacBook, CRT Danger, Need for 'Tiger' Already a Problem, a BeOS for Mac Source, and More

Dan Knight - 2007.05.16

We're taking a break from the G3 Support in Leopard discussion and covering a lot of other topics in today's mailbag. We'll be back tomorrow with more on Leopard and the G3. - Tip Jar

MacBook Supports 3 GB of RAM

Kris Finkenbinder writes:

Hey Dan,

I have some updated information for your MacBook specs pages.

I just found recently that the Other World Computing guys are selling inexpensive 3 GB RAM kits and recommending them for both MacBook Pros and MacBooks. Apparently they've done the testing and benchmarking, and it works great. Despite Apple's protestations that the MacBook needs matching RAM modules for good performance, it looks like simply having more RAM wins out in most cases, except possibly 3D gaming applications.

From the benchmark results I saw, it seemed that even with the matching modules the accelerated 3D performance of the integrated graphics is still very poor (i.e., it doesn't approach the level most gamers would find acceptable), so the difference is negligible. The best frame rate the MacBook achieves running the Halo demo in any memory configuration is a mere 14.3 fps, with the "worst" being 13.46 fps. All the other tests were similarly close between matched and mismatched pairs or singles, with the overall advantage going to simply having more memory.

For people who just want to be able to run Rosetta applications and/or other memory-hungry stuff like Parallels /VMWare, that 3 GB can make much more of a difference than sticking with matched pairs and being limited to 2 GB. It makes the MacBook much more viable for that kind of work.

So you may want to change the MacBook specs, like you've done for many older Mac models, to note that Apple's "official" amount of supported RAM doesn't match the "unofficial" actual RAM that it is possible to install via 3rd-party upgrades.

By the way, you probably already know about everything from here on, but in case you don't and you have a Core 2 MB/MBP/iMac, you may want to check out that 3 GB kit, which (holy cow!) has come down to $179 now! How's that in comparison to $650 from Apple?

When I first found out about this a few weeks ago, it was $289, then $275. I've never seen RAM prices drop so fast. The 2 GB module by itself is still a bit pricey at $129, but that's an option for someone who can't afford the whole 3 GB kit yet and will get you up to 2.5 GB for $50 less with the option of getting a 1 GB module later on when the prices drop even further.

Oh yes, OWC also offer some rebates when you send them your preinstalled RAM or hard drive in exchange, making this even more economical for all those folks who only buy MacBooks because they can't afford a MacBook Pro in the first place. Replacing the standard 1 GB (512x2) MacBook memory with the 3 GB kit would cost $179 - $20 = $159. Add in their extremely low shipping costs (even to Alaska!), and this is becoming a fantastic deal.

Thanks for your time, Kris F.

P.S. I should be getting paid by both Apple and OWC for all this advertising work, don't you think? Is there such a thing as an OWC fanboi? 8-P

Kris,

Thanks for the info on the 3 GB upgrade and the benchmark links. This makes the MacBook a better choice than ever not only for those using PowerPC apps via Rosetta, but also for anyone who wants to use virtualization to run Windows or Linux concurrently with OS X.

I've updated our Core 2 MacBook profiles to reflect the 3 GB option.

As for memory prices, they have been tumbling recently.

Dan

CRT Danger Not Overstated

After reading CRT Shock Danger Overstated, Drew Page says:

Hello Dan,

I strongly disagree with the professor that says my warning about CRT dangers in iMacs was overstated. I point you towards the wiki on CRTs. Look under Health danger.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathode_ray_tube

This is not the only warning out there. Many other iMac users have posted warnings. Google-ing "crt dangers imac upgrades" will give you several examples of this. I am sure modifying the Google search will yield even more.

Just because he is a professor doesn't mean he is right.

Drew Page

Drew,

All modern Macs with built-in CRTs include bleeder circuits to discharge that high voltage within a few minutes of powering down. There is a slight danger that this circuitry could fail, but generally speaking working inside a CRT iMac, eMac, or G3 All-in-One should be safe within 10 minutes of turning off the power.

Dan

Drew replies:

Dan, I do understand the technical details, but that doesn't change the fact that people have been shocked by their iMac. I have read many accounts online. So, you and your professor can quote technical details to me all day long, and I'll still recommend that people stay out of their iMac and let a professional handle upgrades (and no, I don't make a living by doing these upgrades. I am a network engineer by day).

Drew Page

The Need to Have 10.4 Is Already a Problem

Joseph Getter writes:

Dear Dan Knight at Low End Mac,

Greetings. I am a longtime reader of your site and love it for the news, opinions, and specs. I've learned a lot about my machines; presently we have at home: Power Mac G4, Pismo PowerBook, B&W G3 (2), Beige G3, iMac, Power Mac 8100 & 7200, PowerBook 5300, Mac SE/30. Several were picked from the trash in town. All work well, though the newer ones get a lot more use. I love the old gear; a college student once exclaimed "Old school!" when I got out the Pismo. I only switched to OS X last year, mostly because of the increasing difficulties in accessing the Web in OS 9.

It was very interesting to read "Why Apple Must Continue G3 Support in Mac OS X 10.5 'Leopard'." I especially noted that Kris Finkenbinder wrote, "a large number of very useful pieces of third-party software are already incompatible with 10.2.8 and even 10.3.9, simply because the developers don't know how or can't be bothered to install the cross-development packages and check some boxes in Xcode."

To my dismay, I have recently discovered this to be all too true. My newer Macs (2000 vintage) run 10.3.9, and it is stable and fast enough. But when I needed to capture a still from a DVD for a publication, all the applications I found required 10.4. I am unable to upgrade the Sound Studio 3 audio editing software I purchased just last year, as its version 3.5 needs OS X 10.4. This lack of compatibility even afflicts word processors: The intriguing Bean and TextWrangler 2 both require 10.4. There are more examples I've run across.

Is there a compelling reason why many such newer apps don't run and perform well in 10.3.9? Is it just the simple problem Finkenbinder described? If there is anything you at LEM can do to raise awareness of this issue with developers, it would be appreciated by many. Or maybe it's time to put that Pismo back in the trash?

Best, Joseph Getter
Music Dept., Wesleyan University

Joseph,

Mac OS X 10.4 has been out for over two years now, and the vast majority of OS X users are using it. I didn't jump in right away, but I bought a 5-user license (US$199) a month or so after Tiger shipped. With all the older Macs around here, it made sense, and I quickly discovered what a toll Spotlight and Dashboard take on performance.

One thing Apple has done well is offering better developer tools with each version of OS X, and that includes access to system resources that weren't in earlier versions of the Mac OS. That's why some apps will only run with Panther, or Tiger, or (later this year) Leopard.

If people need the latest software, they may well need to run the latest version of the OS. I can't imagine any reason that the latest versions of TextWrangler require 10.4, but they do. It's not a matter of 10.3 being deficient; it's Bare Bones' choice to take advantage of new resources not available in 10.3 that forces your hand.

Maybe it's time to upgrade to 10.4 so you can take advantage of the many programs out there that require it. If you disable Spotlight and Dashboard, it holds its own against 10.3.

Dan

Source for BeOS for the Mac

Felix Strates writes:

Purplus still has copies of BeOS 5 for sale - tho eBay'd likely have cheaper copies.

Thanks for the tip, Felix.

At US$22.95, some of our readers might want to give it a try. (I've ordered a copy.)

Dan

LEM Problem in Safari

Lee Farrell writes:

Hello Mr. Knight! I have used and perused LEM for quite a while. First off, I love the new layout. There's only one thing that bugs me about it:

Safari navigation bar

Those little bumps over each link in the nav bar look a little odd. Is this just a problem in how Safari 2.0.4 under Mac OS X 10.4.9 renders the page? Or is that how it's supposed to look? No offense meant at all, but it tends to deter from the otherwise clean and professional look of the site. It's a wonderful site, and I would hate for someone to visit it, look at that, and pass LEM off as just another lump in the WWW.

Thanks, and here's to another 10 years!

Lee Farrell

Thanks for writing, Lee.

I rarely use Safari (I primarily use Camino), so I hadn't really noticed what was going on in the navigation bar. I tweaked our style sheet this morning, and everything looks fine now.

Dan

Microsoft Office for OS X 10.2

Jessica Allende writes:

I'm wondering if you know of an online source at which people can purchase software for older Macs. Our nonprofit was just donated a Mac OS X (v.10.2.2) and we need Office v.X for Mac . . . and I can't find it anywhere!

Thanks so much for any help,

Jessica Allende, Office Manager
Animals as Natural Therapy
Bellingham, WA

Jessica,

You may be able to find a copy of the older Office v.X for Mac on eBay, but you have a better alternative. Apple will let you upgrade from OS X 10.2.2 to 10.2.8 for free using Software Update, and Office:mac 2004 runs on Macs with OS X 10.2.8. Amazon.com sells it for $309.99, and you may be able to find better prices elsewhere.

Dan

G4 Upgrades for Pismo

Hello! Dan,

My name is Bernard Harris, and I am London, UK.

I need to get an upgrade for my Apple PowerBook 500 MHz Pismo, which has served me very well for a number of years, but I am loathed to get rid of it, as it is so good.

Could you possibly help me with this. I understand that there are two, both manufactured by Daystar and PowerLogix. Could you tell me which is the better one and please guide me as to how I can obtain one of these to my address in the UK.

Regards
Bernard Harris
London - UK

Bernard,

As far as I can determine, the PowerLogix upgrade is no longer available. It is not listed on their website.

The 550 MHz XLR8 MAChSpeed G4 Pismo upgrade from Daystar is available in a user installable kit for US$399, and Daystar promises an $85 rebate upon return of your old G3 module. Other options include buying a $289 kit and having it installed by a local Mac repair facility or sending the whole computer to Daystar and having the company perform the upgrade. I suspect this would be relatively slow and very costly from the UK.

Another option is the unnamed G4/550 upgrade offered by Wegener Media for US$199 (self install, after $80 refund upon return of original G3 module) or $239 (installed by Wegener).

A final alternative is the G4/550 upgrade from FastMac, which sells for US$239.95 and can be user installed.

Our own Charles W. Moore has the Daystar upgrade in his Pismo and has never had a complaint. This is mirrored by reports from some readers of his column. I can't comment on the other upgrades, but based on the few reports I've seen on the Internet, the Daystar is the cream of the crop.

Dan

An Apple Extended Keyboard Clone

Steve Willis writes:

Hi!

I thought I overheard someone a while back talking about some company who had cloned one of the old Apple ADB keyboards, complete with key feel, etc. yet with a USB interface.

Was I hallucinating or is such a keyboard indeed out there? If so, who makes it, etc.?

Thanks!

Steve Willis

Steve,

Yes, a company names Matias has done it's best to resurrect the feel of the legendary Apple Extended Keyboard and Extended Keyboard II for the modern era. Charles Moore reviewed the Matias Tactile Pro USB Keyboard in Has 'the Best Keyboard Apple Ever Made' Been Resurrected? in January 2005.

Matias Tactile Pro USB Keyboard

Matias has gone beyond replicating the Extended Keyboard feel. The Tactile Pro has the look of an Apple product, includes the ubiquitous USB connector, and tops everything off by marking the keycaps with the special characters you can access using the option and command keys.

The keyboard was just replaced by the Tactile Pro 2.0, which retails for US$149.95. In addition to an Optimize key (described on their website) where the Caps Lock key used to be found, the TP2 is also a USB 2.0 keyboard, so you can connect your iPod, flash drive, or memory card reader to the keyboard's ports without the up to 97.5% reduction in throughput from a USB 1.1 port.

I'm going to see about getting a review unit here at Low End Mac headquarters.

Dan

Apple's Backspace/Delete Key

Martin Steiger writes:

Hi Dan

Problems Apple should address in hardware:

1. Relabel the backward delete key as a backspace key with an arrow pointing left (#27).

On my wireless keyboard from Apple, there's only key labelled "delete", the backspace key is labelled with an arrow pointing left as demanded in your "30 Top Mac User Mistakes" article. I bought my keyboard a few months ago and its layout is Swiss German. Apple seems to have already addressed this particular problem, at least for Mac users in the German speaking part of Switzerland! ;)

Martin

Yes, Martin, it seems like the rest of the world doesn't have to put up with Apple's non-standard markings used in the North American market.

The Enter Key and Rename Mode

Robert D. Stewart writes:

Regarding point 10 [Renaming desktop icons to random characters because they don't understand the difference between the enter and the return key on Mac. (Enter puts an icon into rename mode).], I'm pretty sure that on Windows, Return launches whatever icon you have selected. It opens folders and so forth. It's basically the same behaviour you get from a Mac by pressing Command-Down.

Other than that, yeah, a lot of these problems could be solved by a For Dummies book or a First-Time Mac User interactive guide of some sort.

Robert D. Stewart

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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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