Charles Moore's Mailbag

Dell's 802.11g Card for PowerBooks, Glad for the Death of Classic, FireWire Cams, and More

Charles W. Moore - 2007.11.05

Another 802.11g Option for G3 PowerBooks

From James Barbour:


I have a Dell-branded 802.11g card in my Pismo that works a treat, and shows up in System Profiler as an AirPort Extreme card. I read about the card being compatible on one of the Mac blogs a while back, can't remember which one though.

The card is a "Dell TrueMobile 800", although the sticker on the reverse identifies it as a Broadcom.

As for FireWire cameras, I have a Sony DCR-PC5 mini-DV cam that's eight or so years old and works great. They're still available on eBay. And a quick look on the Sony website reveals that they're still using the i.Link standard in current models.

Finally, regarding Leopard on upgraded G4s, I hope to test this soon myself. I have a Digital Audio G4 running dual 1.8 GHz processors, a big hard drive, lots of memory, and a modern graphics card - I'll be very disappointed if I can't run Leopard on it.



Hi James,

Thanks for the info on the Dell WiFi card and Sony FireWire cameras.

There have been many reports of reasonably successful installs of Leopard on older, unsupported hardware (see below). One caveat is that reportedly, the new cat likes lots of RAM (like more than 2 GB) to keep you out of the swapfile tedium.


Where to Find FireWire Cameras

From Ed Hurtley:

Pretty much 100% of "miniDV" cameras include FireWire. The vast majority of HDV cameras include FireWire. FireWire was the standard for digital video before HD came along. (Again, even the vast majority of HDV cameras include FireWire, it's only the newer DVD, flash, and hard drive-based camcorders that have done away with FireWire.) One thing to remember is that FireWire has three names: FireWire (Apple's trademarked name for it), i.Link (Sony's trademarked name for it), and IEEE-1394, (the IEEE designation for it).

The original post may have been referring to FireWire webcams, though. Those were always a niche market, and few were ever made.

The two biggest names were the Orange Micro "iBot" (the company has gone out of business) and the ADS 1394 PYRO (company still around, but product discontinued, the name "1394" being a reference to the IEEE designation for FireWire). In addition, the original external (and also discontinued) Apple iSight should actually work as a DV input device on OS 9, although I haven't tested it.

I did find one store that seems to still sell FireWire webcams:

If the original poster was talking about digital still cameras that use FireWire, well . . . good luck. There is no major reason for a still camera to include FireWire. If you want to transfer the pictures fast, you can get FireWire memory card readers (Lexar sells FireWire, including FW800, Compact Flash readers). But even on USB 2.0, the memory card itself is often the bottleneck, so the only reason for a FireWire connection is on older computers without USB 2.0.

And if Bruce T. Brodnax is in my neck of the woods (Portland, Oregon), I'll gladly "haul it off" without charging him a dime. :-p

Ed Hurtley

Hi Ed,

Thanks for all the helpful info. I understand that Sony makes still cameras that support "i.Link".


Obsolete Macs and Silent Computing

From Bruce Brodnax following up on FireWire Camera?:

Thank you for the reply; I really wasn't expecting that! I'm from a long line of pack rats, so throwing obsolete stuff out is really hard for me! I managed to divest myself of a stack of old Mac desktops this past summer [actually, I gave away two worthwhile systems in all the stuff, but hey, it went to a friend who probably cobbled together 3.5 working systems from all that stuff, & it opened up a lot of space in my garage, so I can't complain! ;-)

Right now I'm hooked on Civ2 all over again, playing it on a Pbook 3400 I dragged out of the closet to put on eBay - only to discover I should have sold it a year ago when I last uncovered it during a move; there doesn't seem to be any activity in them any more [but is this at all surprising, given that they were discontinued over a decade back?]. Yet it's still eminently usable within its limitations. I even had a PCMCIA/CF adapter & 1 GB Compact Flash card around, and am currently as close to Mac Plus-level silent computing as I've been since selling my Pbook 100 [aka, "the Mac Plus in a notebook"] a decade & a half ago....

Macs are truly amazing in their cohesiveness: Everything works together extremely well in a manner that is unmatched on the PC side, which leads to the unusual longevity (& of course, user fanaticism!) of old Mac systems. I only hope that Apple doesn't lose that in its progression to the Intel-based models and complete severing of ties to the Classic environment.

As for your comments regarding FireWire: Yes, the ability to boot from it is certainly a major factor in its favor. But unless it supports the inexpensive peripherals like mice/keyboards/printers/flash drives/etc. that USB does, it's days are ultimately numbered. Remember SCSI? Same thing: Lots of high-end peripheral support, a speed advantage over USB 1.0, but killed off in no-time by the greater flexibility & inherent cheapness of the USB offerings. Develop a USB 3.0 bootable, backward-compatible standard & watch the world beat a path to your door... ;-)


Bruce Brodnax

Hi Bruce,

Yes indeed. I still have every Mac I've owned, including the PowerBook 5300 that returned to me after my daughter moved on to newer hardware. They all still work, including the old Mac Plus, which I used to run off a floppy using TeachText for blissfully silent computing save for the clackety Plus keyboard and occasional grunts from the floppy drive.

Actually the 5300 was even better, running of a RAM disk with the hard drive spun down. I could get a bare bones system, a minimal install of Word 5.1, and my GlobalFax software all on a 16 MB RAM disk. The 5300 keyboard was much quieter than the Plus 'board. Those were the days.

Actually, the 20 GB IBM HD in my iBook is wonderfully quiet, and the 100 GB Seagate in this Pismo I'm using right now is pretty decent too, although a subdued whirring is audible. I'm looking forward to flash drives with enough capacity to be practical in a laptop at competitive prices.

The useful longevity of Macs has historically been remarkable. I'm still using nearly 8-year-old Pismos for production work. :-)

You're probably right about USB, although I hear the IEEE-1394 folks are working on a new, faster FireWire to compete with the coming USB 3.0.


Glad for the Death of Classic

From Howie Isaacks:

I for one, am glad that Classic is dead. Actually, Apple began the slow bleed with the release of Macs based on Intel processors. I've been a Mac user for over 21 years. I enthusiastically embraced OS X, and I thought Classic on OS X was a great way to help the customers ease into the transition. I guess my question is . . . hasn't Apple been more than helpful in the transition? Must Apple support Classic indefinitely?

While I was working as a Mac Genius at the Apple Store Willow Bend, I was the "go to" guy for Classic Mac OS issues. The unfortunate truth is that most tech guys, Mac Geniuses, etc. don't have much knowledge of the Classic Mac OS. With OS X, Apple has developed a platform that is far more scalable than Classic could have ever been. I think the death of Classic should be celebrated.

Howie Isaacks

Hi Howie,

Different strokes, I guess.

I agree that the end had to come for Classic inevitably, but I had hoped that they would retain Classic Mode support for as long as the Mac OS supported PowerPC hardware.

I also agree that Apple has done a nice job with transitions, first with the shift from 68K to PPC in the mid-90s, then with the segue from Classic to OS X, and yet again with the move from PPC to Intel. I'm not really complaining, just sad to lose the Classic capability.

It certainly doesn't make me feel celebratory.


Leopard and the 867 MHz Limit

From anonymous by request:

Hi Charles,

Regarding the installation of Leopard on machines with a processor frequency of less than 867 MHz, here's some information: The installer script checks both for machine model and processor speed, and even checks for the presence of a G3. You can see a part of the installer script for build 9A466 (the Leopard release is 9A581) on this forum post.

In fact, the script doesn't check for Power Macs/PowerBooks G4 by machine model, so for these machines the cut is made only by the presence of a G4 and by its frequency being higher than 866 MHz.

For myself, I have installed Leopard on an external FireWire drive for testing before committing to it (it's never been the case for me to have all my important software ready by the release of any OS X version, so I'm quite used to wait). Since I wanted to test on both PowerPC and Intel Macs, I installed from my Titanium PowerBook 867 MHz (the disk is partitioned with an Apple Partition Map scheme, otherwise it wouldn't boot PowerPC Macs, whose Open Firmware doesn't know about the newer GUID Partition Table). I could have installed from my MacBook, but the installer would refuse to install on a disk partitioned with the APM scheme, so I would be able to boot only the MacBook with the external disk.

Here's the funny (and important for LEM readers) part. After having installed from the PowerBook and very briefly tested the system, I couldn't refrain from plugging the external disk to my unmodified Power Mac G4 Cube @ 450 MHz with 1 GB RAM. Well, the Cube just started from Leopard without a hitch. I haven't done any benchmarking yet, but it didn't feel slower than Tiger on that same machine. However, the processor almost never went below 30% usage - and was very often at 40 or 50% just browsing the Web. I checked Spaces, Stacks, QuickLook, CoverFlow in the Finder: All worked reasonably well, but it didn't feel "snappy". My impression is that the culprit is the graphics card (the Cube has an Nvidia GeForce 2 MX with 32 MB memory, that's low-end by today's standards). But in any case, I remember using a Power Mac G4 @ 350 MHz (with plenty of RAM) under Jaguar that felt much slower than this Cube under Leopard.

Finally, I started the MacBook from the external drive. All I can say at the moment is that the Finder feels more responsive, that I really like the new Preview and the new Terminal with tabs (I feel sorry for iTerm; it has served me well for many years). Beyond that, I can't say much, as I haven't had time to install any software (my 2-years-old daughter takes most of my time), and I spend most of my time in Tiger. I just read on forums that MS Office v.X and 2004 work well, and that PowerPC apps launch faster (Rosetta must have been optimized).

So, to summarize: Leopard runs on G4s with a lower processor frequency than 867 MHz. The only "difficulty" (it's really not difficult if you have several Macs with at least one that makes the cut) is to get it there. One can modify the installer script (a relatively involved procedure) if one doesn't have access to a newer Mac.

I hope this (too) long message will help clear things a bit. If you like, I can send you Xbench results as soon as I have done them, but I'm also on a project for reviving an iBook G3 with the motherboard problem at the moment, so it may take some time.

All the best and thanks for all your writing,

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks so much for your report. Clears up some things indeed.

I'm a fan of volume partitioning and installing boot systems on external FireWire drives. I have a Panther install on one of my drives that boots all four of my current 'Books (two Pismos, a G3 iBook, and a 17" PowerBook) nicely.

My daughter, who is running Leopard on Intel hardware, say's she's finding 10.5 much responsive than Tiger on that machine, even though she only has 768 MB of RAM installed. I think Apple concentrated a lot on Intel optimization with Leopard.


Tiger Performance on iBook G3/600 MHz with 640 MB RAM

From Sumeth Chaochuti:

Hi Charles,

Having read interesting discussions about G3 iBook in "Miscellaneous Ramblings Mailbag", may I ask what kind of performance I can expect from Tiger on this machine comparing to Panther [OS X] 10.3.9? A friend said it was kind of slow even on the G4 iBook, but I think he probably hasn't configured the System in such a way that the performance is optimized. What's your take on this?

Sumeth Chaochuti

Hi Sumeth,

Well, my G3 iBook is running Mac OS X 10.4.9 "Tiger", and I consider it the best-performing version of OS X on that machine yet, and I've used pretty much every version since 10.3.1 (I think) on it. It's satisfyingly responsive in Tiger, and just as fast, if not faster, than it was running Panther.

Your mileage may vary, depending on what model of G3 iBook one is using. Mine is a 700 MHz unit with an ATI RADEON 7500 GPU and 16 MB of video RAM, and I think that's about the minimum video support you need to be comfortable running Tiger. The 600 MHz iBook, if I recall correctly, has an ATI Mobility Radeon GPU with 16 MB RAM and AGP 2x support, which isn't quite up to the standard of the RADEON GPU in my later machine, but it might be powerful enough to give you acceptable performance in Tiger.

You do need a decent amount of RAM. Like you, I have mine maxed out at 640 MB, and it is definitely livelier-feeling running Tiger than my daughter's 1.2 GHz G4 iBook which (still) has only the 256 MB of memory it shipped with, despite my encouragement to add more.


Go to Charles Moore's Mailbag index.