The Low End Mac Mailbag

Microsoft's Plans for Yahoo, Dead Pixels, YouTube on Old Macs, and More

Dan Knight - 2008.02.07 - Tip Jar

Microsoft's Intentions for Yahoo

From John Muir:

Hi Dan,

Just read your take on the Microsoft/Yahoo take-over and have a few points.

Microsoft have a heavier dominance in the global instant messaging market than their share in the US leads you to believe. Over here in Europe MSN Messenger is just as ubiquitous as Windows, and I'm considered somewhat eccentric by some just for not having an account! In fact it's common to say "I'll MSN you", at least in Britain, instead of "I'll IM you" when talking about online chat. MSN Messenger's preinstalled status on Windows lends it the same advantage that Internet Explorer has as a browser; and even most Mac users I know have either the Mac version or Adium to support talking to Windows-using contacts who have no interest in trying anything else. Being picky: I use Google Talk via iChat myself.

As for your concern with Gmail's web interface: Google have added IMAP to it now so you needn't ever touch that, though you do need to manually enable IMAP first. Any desktop email program which supports IMAP - including Apple's Mail - works with Gmail quite nicely now. (Much better than the outdated POP they used to offer before.) Using the same account(s) from several computers is as slick and easy as it should be . . . yet another reason why I don't touch Hotmail or MSN, which are completely locked in to Outlook and Entourage.

There are many different opinions being voiced at the moment as to precisely what Microsoft's intention is. These range from shoulder-shrugging indifference from those who unwisely discount Yahoo as a has-been, to Google's own statement which I find particularly interesting since it was written by their chief lawyer yet still paints a stark image: Yahoo! and the future of the Internet

Yahoo also happen to own a lot of properties, including the popular Flickr photo community and the strategically interesting Zimbra Collaboration Suite. Doubtlessly Microsoft will have taken Yahoo's possessions into account - and may even value them higher than Yahoo does itself.

Personally, I think Microsoft are indeed trying to buy Yahoo's user base in search, webmail, and IM; though there must be more to it than just that. Surely, for instance, they know that a repeat of what they did when they bought Hotmail - duly converting the servers from Unix to Windows 2000 at great cost and inconvenience - is likely to lose freely-mobile users, especially given their position as outside competitor compared to Google. Perhaps Yahoo's other assets really are that great a target for them now. To be honest though, I still haven't quite figured the whole thing out!

If Microsoft really wanted to turn the clock back to the 90s and give Google some trouble old-school style, a few "inconsistencies" between Internet Explorer 7 and Google would be just the ticket . . . and they could have done that already, without the extreme cost of this huge Yahoo offer. I guess we need to see what really happens.


PS: The search engine charts for LEM are quite interesting. Do you happen to have similar historical data for web browsers over time? Charts for Safari versions are a way to plot OS X up-take rates (although not between 10.4.11 and Leopard) and it would be nice to see just how Firefox has been doing against IE when it comes to the Mac-curious on Windows.


Thanks for writing. I just finished setting up a Gmail account for website mail, as I'm tired of finding a few legitimate emails in Yahoo's bulk folder and several pieces of spam in the main inbox. Google seems to be about 99.999% accurate in marking junk mail, and now I'll be able to access it using GyazMail, my favorite email client. (I tried to use Gmail with IMAP, but failed with both Mac Mail and GyazMail, so POP3 it is.)

I don't know what Microsoft's intentions are for Yahoo, but I can't imagine they bode well for Mac users - or anyone else not using Windows.

OS share among Low End Mac visitors

I don't have charts yet, but I do have some interesting statistics on OS platforms and browsers:

  • From April through October 2006, more visitors used Windows than Macs.
  • Since November 2006, more visitors use Macs than Windows.
  • Since March 2007, half of our visitors have been on Macs.
  • In March 2006, Safari was the top browser used to view our site.
  • From April through June 2006, Internet Explorer held first place.
  • Since July 2006, Firefox has been the top choice among visitors to Low End Mac.

Browser share among Low End Mac visitors

In March 2006, 12.4% of visitors were using minority browsers - that excludes Internet Explorer, Safari, and ones based on Mozilla. That number dropped to 4.4% in January. In April 2006, 9.4% of visitors to LEM were not using Windows, Linux, or the Mac OS. Today that has dropped to 2.0%. We are seeing a decrease in diversity in both operating systems and browsers.

I can't get exact numbers of Firefox users by operating system, but some rough number crunching leads me to believe that 40% of our Mac visitors use Firefox, Camino, or some other Mozilla variant, while about 35% of Windows users are using a Mozilla-based browser. Add in the 3.4% using Linux, who can't use IE or Safari, and it's easy to see how the #2 browser choice on both major operating systems ends up trumping them both.



When it comes to browsers, I forever find myself coming back to Firefox, and it's always for the plugins. Camino is sweeter, and Safari and its increasingly many WebKit cousins are certainly slick, but I run about six plugins on all the systems I regularly use, and the seamless cross-platform nature of the whole package is impossible to beat.

Interesting that so many Mac users find cause to try other browsers over Safari. For all that I like Firefox, it's easy to see just how much better Safari is than Internet Explorer! Perhaps it says as much about the attitude of Mac users - a willingness to try alternatives - compared to those Windows. Of course, there are so many IT department run Windows machines in the world, typically locked to IE, as to feature in the figures.



I have a few plugins for Firefox, but don't use them often enough to make me willing to put up with it's less elegant interface. That's probably why I like Camino - Mozilla power with a Mac look. Of course, all of that will change when Firefox 3 comes out, as for the first time it's going to look like a native app on Macs (and Windows). Last I heard it was in Beta 2....

And it's a well known fact going back 15 years or more that Mac users tend to use more programs than Windows users. I don't know whether that indicates a greater willingness to try alternatives, the fact the we like working on our computers and use them for as many things as possible, or just because Mac apps have always been pretty consistent and easy to pick up without a manual.


Plagued by Dead Pixels

From Scott Baret:

While I am glad to read that others have had good luck with their screens, I have not. My clamshell iBook has a dead pixel that has been there since I got it. It's a big pink one that I came to live with. My iMac G4 also has a dead pixel right underneath the hard drive icon. Not a big deal most of the time, but if I'm using full screen mode for something, it's not a good thing!

I have seen dead pixels on brand new ThinkPads and even a Game Boy Advance. At least my MacBook doesn't have any; too bad the glossy screen hurts my eyes. It seems as though Apple may be on the top of their game with dead pixels these days: I haven't seen one on a Mac made since 2005, but their history is worse than one would think. (Take a look at an old mid-90s PowerBook, many have six dead pixels).

Plus I've seen CRTs with "dead" pixels that are probably dust in the screen. Any way to fix this? (It just so happens to be my beloved 12" Apple RGB from childhood that got this way.)



Thanks for writing. With the relatively low resolution of the clamshell's 12" 800 x 600 display, I can imagine a bad pixel would stick out like a sore thumb. As for CRT monitors, that's a vacuum tube, so there's just no practical way to get inside to fix it.


Hard Drive Upgrade Advice for a G4 iBook

From James Gager:


I have an iBook G4 1.33 GHz, 14 in. screen and 1.25 GB memory. I want to upgrade the hard drive. My question is which is a better value, 5400 rpm or 7200 rpm? I am considering upgrading to Leopard soon and was curious if the extra speed would help - or should I use the extra money to buy a larger 5400 rpm drive.

I also wanted to know if you know of any Mac compatible USB 2.o wireless G or N adapters out there.

I love the site and I visit everyday. Keep up the good work.

James Gager


Thanks for writing. Our advice has traditionally been to go with a 5400 rpm drive, as that makes a huge difference vs. the 4200 rpm drives that come with older 'Books. For sustained reads, such as when booting your iBook or loading a program or file, our friends at Bare Feats found the 100 GB 5400 rpm Hitachi drive was 40% faster than Hitachi's 80 GB 4200 rpm drive. Hitachi's 7200 rpm drive was imperceptibly faster, but the Seagate Momentus 7200 rpm drive was about 28% faster - and 80% faster than the base 4200 rpm drive.

Then there's the issue of cost. The Seagate Momentus 7200.1 sells for $110 with 80 GB, $135 with 100 GB. Compare that to Seagate's 5400 rpm notebook drives: $75 for 80 GB or $154 for 160 GB. Hitachi drives are in the same price range.

Yes, you'll get slightly better performance with the 7200 rpm drive, but given the choice of a 40% faster 160 GB drive for $100 (Hitachi) and an 80% faster 100 GB drive for $135, I'd choose the extra storage.


New Low End Mac Logo

From Chris Apa:

I love your site! I have been a reader for years and think you are doing a great job, thank you.

late 2007 logoearly 2008 logoHowever (you knew that was coming didn't you?), I don't like the last-two style changes with respect to your logo. I can remember I liked the third and forth most recent styles (the third most recent) had a certain retro look and the fourth (I can't remember specifically) had a "classic Mac-like" feel . . . the current one and the one it replaced; pure dreck!

I hope you find my comments helpful.

Keep up the good work!

Thank you and regards,


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We've been through dozens of looks and logos over nearly 11 years on the Web, and the "retro" airbrush look logo is the only one we've received a lot of complaints about. I like it, but a lot of readers weighed in on the negative side, so we changed it.

The new logo returns the iconic compact Mac image, but this time in a solid color rather than as an outline. It also continues the use of the Zapfino typeface, which we began to use with the airbrush logo late last year. For the first time, our logo has text on an angle over our artwork. We've been tweaking and refining it, adding our new tag line in the past few days.

Consider it a work in progress. I have some ideas for our next logo, but we're in no hurry to move away from the current one.


Better YouTube Viewing on Older Macs?

From Lonnie Buchanon in response to 3 Ways to Better YouTube Viewing on Older Macs:


I tried to use the recommendations that were listed in "3 Ways to Better YouTube Viewing on Older Macs". My Mac is a 500 MHz Pismo with [Mac OS X] 10.3.9. All I wanted to do is see my friend's YouTube videos a little clearer.

Miro was a complete waste of time. Every time I tried to do a YouTube search, it crashed. The first link I pasted in wouldn't work. The second one downloaded but wouldn't play, and Miro gave an error message in German. Worth every penny.

Then I tried VLC. I could get it to play audio of the flv file I downloaded with Miro but no video. VLC was at least kind enough to give me this excuse: "macosx: QT doesn't support any appropriate chroma"

I finally got to watch my friend's videos by opening Firefox and going to YouTube, which was a lot easier.

Thanks for nothing, Tony and Eli. I want the last hour and half of my life back.

Lonnie Buchanon


I tried all of the methods included in that column on my 350 MHz Blue & White Power Mac G3, which is only 2/3 as powerful as your Pismo and has even more outdated graphics (Rage 128 on PCI vs. Rage Mobility 128 on AGP in your Pismo).

Miro did crash or hang on first launch. After that, it worked. Not quickly. Searches were excruciatingly slow, but it did an admirable job of displaying the video.

Mike Richardson's suggestion to find the video on YouTube, copy the URL to, get a download link, and paste that into VLC worked like a charm. Give that a try, rather than trying to watch the file Miro downloaded. I think you'll be impressed.

If nothing else, the tips to try thousands of colors and change to medium resolution should make things run a bit more smoothly on your Pismo.


MacBook Air Ethernet Adapter

From Daniel Heiberger:


Any idea if the Ethernet Adapter Apple released for the MacBook Air will work with other Macs? My 12" PowerBook has a broken ethernet port, and I occasionally miss having it available, usually when doing network or wireless router setup. It works fine otherwise, so I'm not yet ready to upgrade, particularly since I'd like to see how people get along with the Air as their primary or only computer, which is how I use my PowerBook.

Apple's Store site only mentions the adapter being for the Air and I've been unable to find information elsewhere, aside from a reference on this page: accessories-for-macbook-air-usb-ethernet/#c10048196 stating that it only works with the Air. Conveniently, he also sells an adapter that works with other Macs, but doesn't back up the prior assertion.



I can't imagine why Apple's Ethernet Adapter for the MacBook Air wouldn't work with any computer that has a USB port, but it's possible that it needs the extra power the MBA USB port provides or requires additional software support only available with the MBA at present.


Leopard on a G4 Digital Audio

From Ed Hurtley:

I can confirm two things:

Leopard will install on a G4 Digital Audio with a dual 1 GHz processor upgrade, with no problems whatsoever.

That install works absolutely fine on a G4 Digital Audio 466 MHz, even though the installer itself will not run on the machine. (Installed on the upgraded machine, then transplanted the hard drive. Other than a memory upgrade to 512 MB, the 466 MHz machine is 100% stock.)

The Nvidia GeForce 2MX in the dual 1 GHz (originally 533 MHz,) machine is passably fast, but the ATI Rage 128 Pro in the 466 MHz machine is quite slow. (It doesn't support Quartz Extreme, for example.) But for non-graphically-intensive actions, like web surfing, it works just as well as Tiger. (I'm writing this email from it.)

Ed Hurtley - Owner of over 20 Low End Macintoshes, ranging from a Macintosh Plus to an eMac; Macintosh Portable to a MacBook Pro.


Thanks for sharing your findings. I'm in no hurry to try Leopard, since I can't switch to it (I depend on Classic Mode, and SheepShaver doesn't work like Classic Mode). Those ancient graphics processors (Rage 128 goes back to at least 1999) just don't have the horsepower to do Leopard justice, probably another reason to stick with Tiger for older G4 Macs.


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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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