The Low End Mac Mailbag

G3 iBooks 'Road Apples', Drive Warranty May Outlast Mac Warranty, G4 in a G3 iMac, and More

Dan Knight - 2007.08.06

iBook G3 Should Be a 'Road Apple'

Dan,

I would like to nominate every G3 iBook as a Road Apple. No matter what speed the processor is they have a terrible record of needing repairs. See the following link: <http://www.macintouch.com/reliability/laptops.html>

I just acquired one last week & after troubleshooting it I discovered the symptoms of the bad motherboard. Further research on the Web led me to the MacInTouch Reliability link above. 36% to 50% to as high as 73%, depending on which model you choose, needed repairs at some time during the first 3 years of life. That's just unacceptably high.

Thanks for listening.

John R.

John,

Thanks for writing. My ex had a 14" 600 MHz G3 iBook, and I know it went in 2-3 times under AppleCare to have the keyboard replaced because the printed letters kept wearing off. A 13-55% repair rate for the motherboard is unacceptable. I'll be sure to link this report in our dual USB iBook profiles.

As far as a Road Apple rating, I'll need to give it some thought. For the most part, Road Apples have been Macs that were less than they could have been - a 32-bit CPU on a 16-bit bus, an arbitrary 10 MB memory ceiling, an underclocked processor so as not to compete with another model.

But there is one Road Apple, the Apple Adjustable Keyboard, that got on the list primarily because it was so unreliable. Since even the best of the dual USB G3 iBooks had a 49% repair rate in the MacInTouch report, I think the entire line will probably get the label.

Dan

A Mac for the Workplace

Mike Perry follows up on Apple's Inadequate Lineup:

Dan,

Yes, I've notice that my Mac mini's actually slightly faster using an external, full-sized FireWire drive than it was with the now defunct internal drive. That's the silver lining behind this failure.

You got it right. Steve's great for choosing what's best at the consumer level, but I'm not so sure he understands work-a-day computers that well. What people need for eight hours at work isn't what they need for relaxing at home. Work is often repetitive, so a multi-button mouse makes more sense. And offices are noisy, so driving computer noise level below a certain point makes no difference. I work on a busy street, so I can't tell the difference between a laptop drive and a full-sized one.

I'd be delighted if Apple announced a more mini-tower or Mac Cube-like Mac mini replacement next week, but it's not getting mentioned by rumor sites, so I suspect we're far more likely to see a new iMac.

On the other hand, Steve does like to surprise.

- Mike Perry

Hard Drive Warranties May Outlast Computer Warranties

A few minutes later, Mike emailed again:

Dan,

You might want to mention to your frugal readers that hard drive warranties can outlast Apple warranties. I got my Mac mini over two years ago, so the Apple warranty expired long ago. But Toshiba just agreed to honor the 3-year warranty on the hard drive. Just keep in mind that the warranty clock starts clicking either when it is made or when it was sold to Apple, so it's not quite three years from the Mac user's date of purchase.

- Mike

Re: Mac mini Dock System

Trevor Howard follows up on How About a Mac mini Dock System?

Dan,

Yes! I actually do remember those as well as have read about some of the other computers that used similar ideas (I believe Amiga did something like that as well, and even the IBM PC had the expansion box that added extra slots), and I took inspiration from the old Sega CD and the expansion ports on other gaming consoles . . . and didn't the PowerBook Duo slot into a sort of expansion bay when at home to increase its capabilities?

LaCie Brick hard drivesOh, and there's those really cool LaCie Lego™ drives, which are exactly what they sound like (although they only stack like Lego bricks and still require separate power, it's still really cool)

That would work easily just as well, an iPod dock wouldn't be a bad idea at all (well, an iPod/iPhone dock) and would fit with what I always placed the mini as in my mind - a small compact home theater computer, or a computer for the bedroom. Maybe have a connector on top and one on the bottom: Top one for the expansion cards (which should have a beefy, yet wonderful, Apple fan in it to keep it cool and relatively silent) and the bottom one for drives

I'd also say that the expansion connectors should be heavily based on PCIe and be fairly standard connectors with a minimum of proprietary technology (while the thought of a MagSafe docking idea for the modules sounds awesome, I think it would be expensive, and the magnetic field required would not be good for the hard drives). This would lower costs and simplify, the modules basically providing daughterboards and chips to provide the necessary interfaces for whatever is inside (except the expansion "box" which would just act as a sorta riser for the PCIe connectors).

If they licensed out the connector I'd see a PVR module being one of the first things they made, especially with the popularity of the EyeTV and such, and I'd love to see it include a dedicated TV output port (until I got a TV that supported VGA input, I went through two of the little DVI to S-video converter buggers - they were not the most robust little converters sadly) or we'd start seeing some PCIe TV Tuners at least. (I'm sadly a person iffy about USB: FireWire is fine, but USB always made me a bit squeamish for some reason.)

Another idea would be to integrate an iPod display on the front of the mini (or offer it as an expansion option, or on the front of the drive enclosure) to help facilitate its use as a Home Theater Computer (something I felt the Apple TV was sorely missing, in case you, say, wanted to use it on an audio system with no TV, or didn't want to leave your TV powered on to play music) or maybe sell a WiFi/infrared/RF-based super Apple Remote complete with an almost iPhone-like interface and programmability (a competitor to Logitech's Harmony remotes, which pretty much are unchallenged right about now to my knowledge).

Beefing up the power supply I don't think would be a large hurdle; I'm not sure on the specifics but I'd imagine the Xbox 360 has a fairly beefy power supply driving it (it is essentially my G5 on steroids at its heart, and my G5 has a 700 watt power supply), and its brick is not much bigger than the mini's. Given the Core 2 Duo series chips all use a bit less power than the G5s, even a fairly powerful graphics card with a few extra hard drives would probably not tip power consumption over 500 watts or so.

One big wish of mine would be for Apple to take and make the power supply double as a UPS, at the very least for the mini, where such a thing would be easy (at least offer it as an option!).

Trevor

More good thoughts, Trevor, especially about a TV/PVR module. I'd love a TiVo, but not the monthly fee. I'm tempted by Comcast's DVR, but that would add $14-15 a month to my cable bill (I'd have to upgrade to digital cable to use the DVR). Alas, Steve Jobs seems to despise television - although he's more than happy to sell TV episodes on the iTunes Store. Go figure!

Let's hope Jobs surprises us with something as flexible as you're proposing at next week's meeting.

Dan

G4 Upgrade for a G3 iMac

Richard Willis writes:

Dan,

I read your article regarding upgrading early Macs. In it you mentioned the Sonnet upgrade to 600 MHz w/FireWire. As you said it is kind of pricey. What do you think of the XLR8 upgrade to 400 MHz G4 for $99. I read about it today and thought it might be a spoof. It sounds to good to be true. Thanks

Rich Willis

Rich,

For $99, it will give your iMac a new lease on life, assuming you're running OS X. If you're still using OS 8-9, you'll see some benefit, but not nearly as much, as the classic Mac OS and most classic apps don't use AltiVec.

Dan

Dan,

Last week I asked about the XLR8 upgrade for G3 iMacs. Well I decided to get it, since I already have an iMac G3/333 MHz strawberry system. It already has been upgraded to 20 GB hard drive, and 256 MB of RAM had been added. The OS had been upgraded to OS X 10.2.8.

The new processor was not expensive ($99), and I took a chance and added another 256 MB RAM. The installation was not difficult, and the included instructions are well written. They include a straight slot screwdriver, but you also need a Phillips head screwdriver. I followed the instructions and pushing, pulling, and shaking got everything back in place and screwed together. Turned it on, and presto chango - I now have a 400 MHz strawberry G4 iMac. At least for now.

It does seem to run hot, according to their performance software, but it is noticeably quicker. Firefox is snappy, and the whole purpose was to use it in my classroom as a student Internet access computer. Thanks for your input.

Sincerely,
Richard Willis

Thanks for the feedback, Richard. I'm sure others with tray-loading iMacs will be happy to learn how nicely this upgrade works.

Dan

Running a Lombard from Compact Flash

Jake Wertz wonders:

Hello,

First off, I thoroughly enjoy your website. I just finished reading your article on using a CF card to run OS 9 on a laptop, and I'm very excited to give it a try. In the interest of noise-free computing, does the Lombard have a particularly loud cooling system? If so, would a PowerBook 3400 be a better choice?

Thank you very much for your time and for all the information @ LEM. Have a great weekend!

Jake W.

Jake,

Thanks for reading Low End Mac - and for writing. Unfortunately, the only PowerPC PowerBooks I own are 1400s. I have no experience with 3400s and have not touched a Lombard since early 2001, so I can't even suggest how their cooling systems compare. Perhaps some readers can share their experiences.

That said, hard drives are a big source of heat, so switching to Compact Flash should reduce the need for the cooling system to kick in.

Dan

Even Easier Window Captures in OS X

Micah Bly says:

Hi,

LEM regular reader. Just wanted to say I read the article on screen captures and wanted to recommend to you and your users another way to accomplish clean screen shots, one that requires no extra software. Just do Cmd-Shift-4, hit spacebar (the pointer will turn into a camera at that point), move the mouse over the window you want to shoot (it will be highlighted in blue), and click the button when you have the right screen shot. It will capture just the window. No need to trim after that!


Capture just one window with Cmd-Shift-4, the spacebar, and a click.

FWIW,
Micah Bly

Micah,

Thanks for the tip. I think the windows look nicer with their shadows, but this is definitely fast and easy.

Dan

Touchscreen LCD for a G3 iMac?

Bob in Phoenix writes:

I was searching for information on the possibility of running an LCD touchscreen on a G3 iMac and came across your wonderful Low End Mac site. Have you heard of anyone that's tried or succeeded at such an endeavor?

I've got several old G3s lying around and I'd like to try to employ them as simple iTunes 'kiosk' controllers for various stereos around my home. Any leads/suggestions appreciated!

Bob in Phoenix

Bob,

I haven't heard of anyone trying such a hack. You'd need a display with a VGA video connector plus USB and Mac driver support for the touchscreen. If you can find a Mac compatible display, I don't see any reason it wouldn't be possible.

Maybe a reader who has tried such a hack will write in....

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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