The Low End Mac Mailbag

Snow Leopard and TPM, OS and Application Commonality, Two Cents on Linux for Macs, and More

- 2008.07.14 - Tip Jar

Snow Leopard and Trusted Computing

From Ed Booher:


I've seen snippets of Snow Leopard information on sites such as TUAW, Ars Technica and of course your own site. Now, I will admit, I don't always pay extremely close attention to all articles and read in more of a skim by mode in a lot of respects. However, the one thing I have been looking for I haven't seen yet.

When the Intel platform first appeared, it was announced that Apple was going with Intel particularly for EFI, CPU and the iTPM. Everyone, everywhere, went completely insane over Apple including TPM hardware in the Mac. Certain sites went on for months about it ad nauseam, only for it to quietly go away. To the point of being eerie because no one is mentioning it as the reason Snow Leopard will never run on the PPC.

To date, Apple has been fairly lackluster about the whole OSx86 movement. Certain really geeky peoples can take the Darwin kernel, use it to replace the shipping OS X kernel, and get Aqua/OS X up and running on pretty much any x86 level PC, and Apple just kind of goes, "Hmm, maybe they will buy a Mac next." This all changed just a little over a month ago when Psystar Corp came out of nowhere with their OpenMac . . . oops, Mac is trademarked, I mean, their OpenPro.

Psystar has beat, and beat, on the "It is illegal to tie x software to only x hardware if it can also be run on y hardware." To date, they are still selling their OpenPro without even so much as a C&D out of Cupertino. This leads me to believe that Psystar does, in fact, have a legal leg to stand on, and even though it may be shaky, Apple does not want to risk time and money giving the court an option to side with the "enemy."

Suddenly, out of nowhere, comes "Snow Leopard." It isn't even a whole new big cat, it's a Leopard. Every major iteration of OS X has been it's own cat, as you well know. We weren't even really in the "pipeline" for a 10.6 this soon. The only reason that I personally can think of is that Apple is getting ready to exercise the very right they told us wasn't really an issue when the first Intel system came out from under the Black Cloth of Cloaking.

Out of Apple's own PR it has been shown that Snow Leopard is not really going to introduce anything insanely new. It's not introducing all new 100+ cool features like Leopard itself did. It's a point release, at best, but has to become a major point release for one reason alone. Apple must cut the weight of PPC and leave them behind forever, because when OS X 10.6 hits the market one, and only one, important bit will be set: "Force TPM Encryption Verification - 1"

At which point Psystar can say it's legal for them to offer a retail copy of 10.5 on their own hardware until they go blue and pass out. 10.6 will be a completely different legal issue. It will become a matter of the DMCA to "reverse engineer, or suitably break, or circumvent an encryption algorithm" which will be in place to make sure that 10.6 is run only on Intel Macs and nothing else.

Psystar has single handily killed the OSx86 scene. OSx86 is dead. Love live OS X.



That's a very plausible conjecture. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


Apple Shouldn't Charge iPhone and iPod touch Users for New Features

From Sam Esting:

Dear Dan,

Since the iPhone and iPod touch OS 2.0 update was released, I found out there charging $9.95 for current customers for the update. I think it's ridiculous to charge people for features that should be already included as application support. I know there "new" features, but Apple shouldn't charge people for updates; I feel that it is wrong.



Apple has a long history of charging for operating system updates - it goes way back to Macintosh System 7.1, which was released in June 1991. This isn't even the first time Apple has charged iPod touch owners for a software upgrade - they did that this past January, when it cost $20 to add software that was included with newer versions of that iPod.

$10 for a new operating system isn't a bad deal at all. On Macs, we're used to paying $129.


My Two Cents on Linux

From Dan Finegan:

Hi Dan -

I've been following the various articles on Low End Mac concerning Linux on various old Macs.

I've recently tried Ubuntu, Debian and Fedora on my 800 MHz Quicksilver, and while it has been educational to use a different OS, I just can't see that the Linux distributions are a viable replacement for OS X, or even for OS 9.

My major issues with Linux is the complicated process of adding new software, and most of all, the lack of a Linux version of iTunes. Plus the fact that my kids and wife are resistant to learning a new way of computing, it just makes the thought of switching to Linux a no-starter.

Just my two cents, but I'm sticking with OS X - it really "just works".

Regards -
Dan Finegan


You raise a valid point. While there are lots of free apps for Linux users, there is no iTunes - and I'm sure that's just the tip of the iceberg. And nothing matches the Mac for ease of use.

Of course, you don't need a lot of horsepower to handle music in iTunes - even a G3 iMac or iBook is more than sufficient to the task. The problem we're anticipating is the day when browsers are no longer being developed to Tiger, the last version of the Mac OS that runs on the old hardware.

We're experimenting with Linux to see if it can be a real world alternative when your Mac is too old for up-to-date software. Thus far we've found it works very nicely for email, browsing, and word processing.


Linux Quest - Fedora Core 9

From Zach Tuckwiller:


In your Linux search, have you checked out Fedora Core 9? Fedora still has official PPC support, and it has been serving me well for a few moths on a 733 MHz Quicksilver. Just hadn't heard you mention that flavor yet, and thought I'd see if you'd looked at it.

Take care,


No, I haven't looked at it yet. I'll put it on my list of distros to look into.

Thanks for writing!


The Importance of Application Commonality

From Jeffrey Kafer, following up on Moving to Fewer Macs:


I agree with you on all counts. All of my computers are doing things today that they were not doing, or capable of doing, when they were new. I have many, and I work most of them hard.

But what I have today is OS, and where beneficial, application commonality (with the exception of iListen vs. Dictate) between four machines:

  • a 2.1 GHz iMac G5 used at my wife's work (I provide support)
  • a Quicksilver 2x800 used at home for projects like encoding video and such
  • a TiBook 867 used as a general purpose machine for me at home and on the road, including web and email
  • a MacBook Pro used by my wife

OS and application commonality makes it much easier for us all to use, and for me to support, multiple machines. Up to this point this has been a good reason to stay "all Mac." But as soon as I migrate one machine and not any of the others, then this benefit weakens.

This is not a matter of whether Apple will provide updates for Leopard, because like you, I expect that they will. What I am questioning is whether, or for how long, Safari will, Microsoft will, and other software vendors will. In this case, I am concerned that they will not be very long. History suggests that many will switch soon. MacSpeech has already jumped. I'm not prepared to bet that they won't.

Certainly, I am not going to purchase three new Intel Macs, even at Mac mini prices, just to stay current while maintaining the capabilities and commonality that I have now. The fact that Apple and other software vendors have cutoff relatively quickly before and Apple cutoff official support for my the highly capable Quicksilver as recently as Leopard (without any performance basis for doing so, IMHO), gives me reason to plan for a minimum number of Macs in the future. As for my other computer needs, I will choose to address them in another way. I am not going to continue to invest in all Macs, only to run the risk that Apple cuts things off again at 3-4 years with the release that follows Snow Leopard.

Please don't get me wrong. I believe that your message is a good message. I believe that for most people, the impact of an Intel-only release may be small or none. I am not suggesting that those who stay Mac are making a bad choice. I am just trying to say why I am not going to invest in an all-Mac solution in the future. If Apple is going to give me good reason to support two different OSes and two different software suites, then I think I have some good reasons (for me at least) why the second one is not going to be on Apple computers.

Without good information, I cannot make good plans. I am the kind of person who doesn't like unpleasant surprises undoing my plans. My reaction to that kind of thing is to avoid sources of perceived instability.

Dan, your willingness to correspond with me on this subject and the investment of time that you've made are exceptional, welcomed, beyond what any low-end reader could expect, and is greatly appreciated.

Please accept my apology for the negative vibes that I've conveyed in the past. It's partly that I think I've had a good thing with all-Mac in the past, and I am not happy with the prospect that I'll be losing that. I commented that buying low end is a gamble. In the case of my TiBook, I think I failed well. In the case of the iMac G5 for my wife's office, I did not fare so well. That machine was purchased less than 2 years old, at a time when word in the press was that G5's were expected to be supported until at least in 10.6. I think that might be a source of my previous negativity too.

I am still a low-end Mac user and a respectful reader of your site. I expect to be both in the future as well, just maybe a little bit less. I look forward to reading what is said and contributing positively to discussions, where I can, in the future.

Best Regards,

PS-> extracts from my e-mail to Charles is included below:

Skeptical: As an example, I have observed Apple release a Safari version (or more) that is not compatible with anything but the newest Mac OS. And in these days of growing web-based security threats, who can afford to be running anything but the latest browser version?

And then what about other applications developed by folks other than Apple? What good is it to have an OS that is getting bug and security fixes, but won't run the current versions of the applications that I use. I am concerned that software developers have already stopped developing for PPC simply because of recent articles on Apple's plans. Wasn't Microsoft rather quick to stop supporting Office on 68K once PPC machines were was available. I am frustrated that iListen is no longer being sold, and apparently is no longer under development, in favor of MacSpeech Dictate, an Intel-only voice recognition solution. In my mix of Macs, most of them are PPC today. Now I have two different software applications to do the same function, on machines running the same OS version, driven purely as a function of the chip inside.

Value: You know, I like Apple's Mac OS Family Pack for all of my machines at home. That way the three most current machines can run the same thing. Of course, I find it easier to support a bunch of machines that way. But Family Pack doesn't do me any good if the next OS only supports one machine in my household. So then, I will get to support two OS where I was previously supporting one. And that might be a seven year proposition, since I strongly suspect that it would take me just as many years to replace them all as it took me to get them in the first place. Oh joy!


Thanks for sharing your further thoughts. As someone who once did computer support, I remember what a trauma it was when the first Macs came out that couldn't boot System 7.5.5 - every Mac the company owned (there were dozens upon dozens) had been using 7.5.5. We eventually found a really good deal on OEM Mac OS 8.1 CDs (about $15 each, if I recall correctly) and migrated to that. Of course, by then some newer Mac required 8.5 or later....

I'm very comfortable in Tiger after almost 3 years, and it's a bit confusing figuring out some things in Leopard. That's why I have it on an external drive, so I can get comfortable with it. When Waverly needs support on the MacBook Pro, which only runs Leopard, I often have to research the answer.

We are fortunate that Apple doesn't have sufficient stranglehold on the Mac browser market that there are no alternatives to Safari. If we want to, we can run Firefox, Camino, Opera, iCab, or even that ancient copy of Internet Explorer 5.2 (it still works on Tiger!). If Macs benefit from security through obscurity, running something other than Safari should make us more secure.

I suggest you stick with Leopard as long as you can. We'll know sometime next year how similar or different Snow Leopard is. It may be so similar that we won't even notice the difference when working, in which case supporting 10.5 and 10.6 shouldn't prove to be a problem at all.

Time will tell.


VHS to Mac: Avoid Dazzle

From Jim Haudenshield:


Chris Kilner in response to VHS to Mac, wrote:

Since many older Macs lack USB 2.0 but have FireWire, a FireWire video converter would be the solution for pre-USB 2.0 Macs.

I've used a Canopus model and a Dazzle Hollywood DV-bridge . . . as well as analog pass-thru on a MiniDV camcorder. I've also found that B TV from is a good viewing app.

The Dazzle devices usually go for <$100 when they come up on eBay.

I tried the Dazzle device, 7 years ago when I was trying to preserve my VHS family movies to DVD. It was a disaster, not only requiring huge amounts of drive space (a non-issue in today's world of cheap 500 GB drives), but mainly because it suffered a vertical-lock problem with any video after a couple of minutes. The picture would gradually "roll", and soon image was unwatchable. And the sound never quite synched properly. I abandoned Dazzle and other such devices, and got a DVD+R (Lite-On brand, which was a gem and a value at $300, now selling for under $100). That worked to preserve my home movies.

But Chris K. wants to watch his VHS tapes on his Mac, not necessarily capture the images. Because I quit watching TV and sold the TV set last year, I had the same problem with my remaining commercial VHS tapes, except that I am using my 19" external flat-panel monitor instead of the built-in Pismo display. So I didn't want to even run the VHS signal into my Mac, I just wanted to view it on a VGA monitor. That's when I discovered a nifty solution for under $50 from computer geeks, called a "TV Box". This is an amazing device!

The TV Box has variety of input ports, including S-video, composite RCA, RF (coaxial), and VGA, and outputs on VGA and audio jacks. It also has a remote control and a built-in TV tuner. So I plug my PowerBook "video out" into the TV Box VGA input, my VCR into the TV Box RF input, my external consumer DVD player into the TV Box composite A/V RCA jacks, and connected my 19" flat panel monitor to the TV Box VGA output. Result: I can pass-through the VGA from my Mac most of the time, and when I want to watch a VHS tape or DVD disc, the TV Box converts their signal into VGA, allowing me to watch that content on the same monitor. Furthermore, it allows picture-in-picture, so that I can watch the VHS or DVD at the same time that I'm continuing to work on on the Mac! The TV Box supports broadcast HD, but has only an analog tuner, so it won't work for broadcast when the USA goes digital in Feb 2009 without a D/A converter. But since my VCR won't be going digital, I won't need it to. It solved my VHS problem for $50 and gives me flexibility that I didn't expect. Bravo!

- Jim H.


Thanks for the information. In the back of my head, I knew such devices were available, although I've never looked into them.

I bought a Lite-On DVD recorder once upon a time with the intent of dubbing VHS to DVD. I had some significant problems with it: (1) the clock would get out of step within a day or two, which is inexcusable in this day and age, (2) the remote had to be very precisely pointed at the right spot on the recorder or it wouldn't register, and (3) the discs it created were more often than not unreadable on other DVD players.

I also have Pioneer VHS/DVD recorder, and it has the same problem with burned DVDs - they are generally not playable on other DVD players and may not even be recognized on my Mac. That's why I investigated the XLR8 device. I still haven't found the magic combination that gives me good quality without interlace problems, but I can burn DVD-R and DVD+R discs, so odds are at least one will be readable on a given DVD player.

Thanks for your suggestion of the TV Box.


Vintage Macs Everywhere

From Fletch:

After I left that TV station last year and moved from North Carolina to Austin, Texas, I started finding vintage Macs everywhere. For example, out in the sticks at a small-town recycling center, I found a functional Power Mac 5400/180.

Just last week, I found four B&W Power Macs at a very small thrift store (the same day that model was the Mac of the Day). They were all cosmetically in bad shape, but they all powered up, and a couple of them were very clean inside. The first thing I checked was to see if they were Revision 2 motherboards, and the IDE chip indeed had the 402 number on it in all four machines. But then I noticed that all four had 300 MHz processors. What gives? I thought the Revision 2 motherboards only came with 350, 400, and 450 MHz processors. One possibility - I think they might've been educational models. No "PROPERTY OF" tags to be found, but their ATI Rage cards might've had video capture ports, and three of them had Zip drives.

I was about to buy one of them to fix up (with parts left over from my experimental beige G3 motherboard that I kept in a copy paper box lid), when a friend of mine told me his office was closing, and they were selling their Macs. I picked up their 400 MHz G4 Gigabit for $50, and the same day found someone local selling their 733 MHz Digital Audio CPU on Craigslist for $10.

But the real find was a PowerBook Duo 2300C with the DuoDock II. I had been wanting one of those for years, but it was the first time I'd ever actually seen one. They told me last week they had it up and running, both in and out of its dock, but they couldn't wipe the hard drives because they were missing an ADB mouse. I brought mine over, and when we tried to reinsert it into the dock, it wouldn't take. I remembered it had to have power for the motor to engage the dock, but when I powered it up, I heard the motor (I think) making a rhythmic ticking sound. Nothing we tried manually would get it to engage. When I removed the power cord, the ticking sound kind of "wound down" like a fan hitting a small obstruction until it came to a stop. (It wasn't the fan.)

So I'm hoping this is a common problem among Duo owners and you, or someone out there, will read this and go "Oh yeah, it's this problem, all you gotta do is _____" and then I'll have a working Duo and DuoDock in my collection. I'm already interested in the Debian idea recently mentioned on your site. I guess I'm off to join the Duo list, maybe they'll have some advice.

Thanks again.


There are many mysteries surrounding the Power Mac G3 models, both the beige variety and the Blue & White. I think we've covered most of them, but we keep learning more even a decade after their release.

I've never had my hands on a PowerBook Duo, but between the Duo list and our readership, someone is bound to have an answer for you.


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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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