My Turn

Maxed Out WallStreet Runs Tiger Quite Nicely

- 2008.05.05

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

Some of the following may seem a bit far-fetched and it may sound like I'm stretching the truth, but I swear that I've been nothing but lucky with building up this WallStreet, which originally started out as an experiment.

My PowerBook happens to be an almost maxed-out WallStreet (300 MHz G3, 512 MB RAM, 80 GB hard drive, CD-ROM drive, running OS 9.2.2 and OS X 10.4.11 via XPostFacto). I paid $10 (plus shipping) for it using Buy It Now on eBay. When it arrived, I was shocked at the condition! The screen was nice and bright, with very little yellowing and only one dead pixel, and the case had very little by way of scuffs and scratches. The CD drive worked, and the battery was decent, if not full capacity. The 2 GB hard drive had OS 9.2.2 on it, and there was 32 MB of memory on the processor card. The PRAM battery was (and remains) dead, though. But not bad for $34!

I put another $30 into it for the 300 MHz processor (it was originally a 233 MHz Series II), and the drive and memory were from an old Dell laptop that was given to me. On top of snagging the processor for $30, I got five parts machines and a Macally USB 1.1 card and dongle from the seller, who just happened to live local to me! Luck upon luck, he also supplied me with four batteries, of which two were almost at full capacity!

I dropped another $10 into a SYBA USB 2.0 PCMCIA card, $10 for a Bluetooth dongle, and had an old Belkin 802.11G wireless card (Broadcom chipset; Siemens Gigaset 54 cards work too) laying around that the 'Book recognizes as an AirPort Card. So for about $85, some spare parts, and some minor elbow grease, I've got a rugged and solid notebook that goes with me everywhere and runs for about 4-1/2 hours on dual battery power!

WallStreet PowerBook G3I use my machine for synching my iPod nano, pulling pictures from my camera and viewing them in iPhoto 5.0.4, email, surfing the 'net, and, get this, writing Dreamcast games as a hobby! What amazes me about this machine that, even in its original configuration as a 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM 'Book, it still ran the Fenix (scripting language similar to Java that I use to write my games) runtime at full speed! Using Pixen and Seashore (two freeware programs with very little overhead) as my graphics programs, I'm able to use my wireless mouse and do pixel art for my games. And all of this in OS X . . . on a WallStreet!!

How does it run? Well, it's no speed demon for sure, but it's very useful. With the memory maxed out, Tiger runs at a respectable clip, with very little stuttering. Dashboard and Spotlight can be turned off to speed things up even more, but I didn't find it necessary to do so and turned them back on. Safari, iPhoto, and iTunes are decent performers, with Mail being a bit laggy when checking for new messages, but not annoyingly so. iTunes plays all of my music very nicely without too much of an overhead hit, and if I keep my concurrent app count down to less than six, there's no slowdown to be seen.

Video? Forget it. Enough said there, unless you're doing all of your editing in OS 9, and even then, the programs available are quite out of date. Viewing the newer Flash videos is an exercise in stuttering frustration.

Music and sound? Well, I haven't tried any music programs out except for an old version of Garage Band, and it was way too slow to be of any use. There may be a low overhead music program out there somewhere for OS X, but I haven't investigated this yet. For music and sound editing, I have to boot into OS 9 and use Virtual PC 4 and Modplug Tracker to do my music and sound conversions.

So to sum this all up - if you're willing to max out a WallStreet and can do it on the cheap, you'll have a useful, solid PowerBook for whatever you need it for, as long as you aren't running ten apps at one time or editing DVDs with it.

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