Charles Moore's Mailbag

Pros of Landline Phones, Upgrades Mean More Useful Life, Delete vs. Backspace Key, and More

Charles Moore - 2010.01.13 - Tip Jar

In Defense of Landline Phones

From Al:

Good Sir,

I appreciated your fine article, In Defense of 'Obsolete' Technologies. I agree with many of your points.

I just wanted to add a good reason to keep landline phones. Cell phone carriers do not maintain the same level of ruggedness as landlines.

Your point about DSL is of course a more appropriate and practical reason.

In general, I thought Mr. Elgan meant to be teasing and cute, but it came off as impertinent. As you pointed out repeatedly, the lack of thought that went into each comment was so vividly obvious.


Hi Al,

Indeed, it's difficult to gauge accurately whether Mr. Elgan was completely serious or just yanking our chain. ;-)

As for landline vs. wireless reliability, please see my Tuesday, January 12 column on LEM.


Upgradable Computers Remain Useful Longer

From Dean:

Hi Charles,

I found your recent comments about the value of upgradable computers interesting. Particularly because I just looked at Apple's latest vintage and obsolete list. It seems that every computer I have is now obsolete or vintage, except for the two new MacBooks I bought for my daughter for school and for my wife.

The interesting thing is I'm writing this on a 2002 Quicksilver that has been upgraded over the years when I had parts. It currently has 1.5 gigabytes of memory, two 4-port USB 2.0 PCI cards, a serial [SATA] hard drive controller card, two 80 gigabyte ATA hard drives on the original ATA bus, two 500 gigabyte serial hard drives controlled by the card, a Pioneer dual-layer DVD burner, a Zip drive (yes, a Zip drive - I have lots of Zip disks I find useful), a Radeon 9800 Pro video card, and a Sonnet dual 1.8 GHz G4 processor upgrade card, running OS X 10.5.8. Granted, it won't run Snow Leopard, but no PowerPC Mac can.

That aside, this is still a very capable unit that can handle almost everything thrown at it including you tube, and it is almost 8 years old. It is because of this fact I had to buy my daughter a new MacBook. The computers at her high school (two years old) pale in comparison to this old "vintage" Mac, and she had to bring most of her work home to get it done. She constantly annoyed one of her teachers by telling her that. When you think about it, that is pretty amazing.

Anyway just some thoughts an the value of upgradeable computers.


Hi Dean,

My only Mac that's not on Apple's Vintage or Obsolete list is my eight-month-old MacBook. I could be running Snow Leopard, but I have not made the jump yet, partly due to lack of time to get around to ordering and then installing it. However, Leopard is still doing a great job, and I'm not feeling any compulsion to rush it.

That old Quicksilver sounds like a formidable brute, sort of like my Umax SuperMac S900 was going on a decade ago. I still have it, but it's been something like two years since I booted it up. My daughter also still has an S900 - hers with a 500 MHz G3 processor in it.

I also have a Zip drive expansion bay module for my Pismos (I don't think it's supported by OS X, but of course the Pismos can still boot OS 9, and indeed an old SCSI Zip Drive that will work with the S900 and my old PowerBook 1400.

The Pismos are awesome. I constantly have to remind myself that I'm using a computer that's closer to ten years old than nine. I don't imagine many brand new PC netbooks can hold a candle to it for performance and versatility!


Processor Upgrade or Video Card Upgrade?

From James:


I have a Power Mac G4 Quicksilver (2001) with a 733 MHz processor, a stock video card (AGP 4x Nvidia GeForce 2 MX 32 MB), and 1.25 GB of memory. My question is which upgrade - processor or video card - will make it run better with movies and online for You Tube and Hulu, etc. I want to upgrade as cheaply as possible, as the computer is not worth much yet still has usable life. I would also like specific suggestions of either upgrade that you think will help.

Thanks for your time,


Hi James,

If better video performance is your priority, I would lean toward a GPU upgrade rather than a processor upgrade if it must be either/or. However, I'm anything but expert on the relative virtues of various video cards. Probably your available budget would be somewhat of a determinant, and I expect most any compatible recent ATI or Nvidia card would do the job for you.

I would also suggest considering putting the upgrade cash toward buying a more recent system pre-equipped with a faster processor and more powerful GPU as standard equipment.

Perhaps some of our LEM readers will have some more specific advice to offer.


Better YouTube Options for G4 Macs

From Michael:

Hello LEM readers,

Playing YouTube videos can be easy also using Perian for Mac. If you have QuickTime Pro, you can also export the videos you save to other formats you prefer.

Also, QuickTime Pro can still be registered for Mac OS X 10.3.9 at the time of me writing this, so you may want to grab it quick if you want it for 10.3.9 while it's still available.


Thanks, Michael.


Delete Key vs. Backspace Key

Mac vs. Windows Delete keys.
My Logitech keyboard

From Thomas:

Dear Charles,

As a newly converted user of Macs, I read with amusement JJ's puerile list of complaints and your excellently-worded rebuttal. You mentioned that his "Delete button comment mystifies [you]", but as a relatively new user, this rang with a tiny nugget of truth to me.

For someone used to PCs and Linux systems with two buttons for removing text - one Backspace and one Delete - the Mac's single Delete button is confusing, because you somewhat expect it to delete the character after the cursor, not the character before the cursor (which is the job Backspace does on PCs). I've gotten used to it, but it did throw me at first.


Hi Thomas,

Thanks for the explanation, which sounds like it's the issue JJ was getting at with the comment.

I like having a "Forward Delete" (Mac terminology) key, and most of my freestanding keyboards do. You can also get the Forward Delete function on Mac laptop keyboards by using the standard Back Delete button with the Fn modifier key, which after all these years is second-nature for me.

Welcome to the Mac community!


Editor's note: We covered this issue several years ago in 30 Top Mac User Mistakes: How Many Are Apple's Fault?, a response to an article pointing out how differently Windows users expect things to work when they come to the Mac. I wrote:

"Windows users expect everything to work the Windows way - and Mac users expect their Macs to work the Macintosh way. Although there is significant overlap between these two operating systems, there are also important differences."

We looked at the difference between Delete and Backspace in point 27, noting that the Delete key on a Mac keyboard is in the same position as the Backspace key on a PC keyboard and functions exactly the same way. Likewise, the "Del" (forward delete) key on the Mac in in the same location and has the same function as the Delete key on PC keyboards. We suggested that

"Apple should adopt backspace as the name for the "delete left" key and include an arrow indicating the direction in which it will delete characters. The rest of the world should adopt "fwd del" or "del fwd" as the name of the forward delete key - and include an arrow showing the direction of deletion, as Apple already does."

The article covers a host of other adjustments Windows users need to make when using Macs. dk

Charles W. Moore wrote:

"I like having a 'Forward Delete' (Mac terminology) key, and most of my freestanding keyboards do. You can also get the Forward Delete function on Mac laptop keyboards by using the standard Back Delete button with the fn modifier key, which after all these years is second-nature for me."

Wow, I hadn't realised that! Thanks for the info.


Delighted to be of service.


10 Reasons to Hate Macs

From Tim:


Looks like many of us feel the way you do about that ridiculous article. The website is down ! It's sad to consider that such uninformed trash was deemed to be of publishing quality.


10 Reasons Macs Suck

From Dan:

You're right, that wasn't worth dignifying with a rebuttal.


Antiglare MacBook Pro on Order

From Andrew:


Thought you would be interested. I just sold my ThinkPad on Craigslist and ordered a refurbished 15" MacBook Pro with the antiglare (matte) screen. I've never ordered an Apple refurb before, but after hearing your praise for more than one of them, I thought I'd give it a go.

My budget was $2,000, which would get me the regular midlevel 15" (256 MB 9600GT graphics, 320 GB hard drive, glossy screen) new, but for $10 less I got the 512 MB 9600 GT, 500 GB hard drive, and the new matte screen.

Glossy-only was what made me choose the ThinkPad over the MBP last year, and now that the 7 hour battery has been out for a while with no apparent issues, I took the plunge.


Hi Andrew,

Congratulations. I'll be looking forward to hearing about your impressions of the new MacBook Pro.

My experience with Apple Certified Refurbished (ACR) products has been excellent. Both ACR Mac laptops I've purchased have been completely trouble-free, although at just eight months with the Unibody MacBook I still consider it early days). Of course, a log way to go to match my brace of nearly ten-year-old Pismos. Two ACR laptops purchased have proved similarly reliable. I'm an ACR fan.


I'll find out Friday, which is when the UPS website says it will arrive.

The antiglare screen is what interests me most. Glossy isn't bad at all on the MacBook Air, but on the Unibody (my daughter has the same machine you do, and I had one of the first unibody 15s) it's completely unusable in my office unless I close the window or rearrange my furniture. Yes, I sit directly in front of a big open window with the computer in front of me.

From what I've read of the antiglare, it is the same high-quality LCD as the glossy models, but without the glass front and with a very fine-grain matte surface that most say is better than the PowerBook/non-unibody MBP days. We shall see. Other than the screen, I loved my last MBP and regretted having to return it for the ThinkPad.

Also, I am a closet gamer (don't tell my wife), and I just can't wait to play the upcoming (two weeks) Mass Effect 2 on that 512 MB Nvidia card.

Glad to hear the broadband is working out for you and that your Pismo was able to join the party.


Hi Andrew,

Working in the light of that big window would do it. There's no universal, definitive "best" in this matter. I could be quite happy using a matte display again. I like both.

I'll be fascinated to hear your evaluation once you've used it.

It's a cliché to say that a mod has given one's computer "a new lease on life," but my latest RAM and AirPort Card updates really do make the old Pismo feel like it's advanced two or three generation increments, and that the lack of compromise in using it for the sort of stuff I mostly do is remarkable for a machine in its 10th year of service.


Cell Phone Radiation May Protect Against Alzheimer's

From Stephen:

Dear Mr. Moore,

Mobile phone radiation 'protects' against Alzheimer's. After all the concern over possible damage to health from using mobile phones, scientists have found a potential benefit from radiation. Their work has been carried out on mice, but it suggests mobiles might protect against Alzheimer's.

Florida scientists found that phone radiation actually protected the memories of mice programmed to get Alzheimer's disease.


Hi Stephen,

Fascinating article and concept. I remain somewhat skeptical, but will keep an open mind.

Thanks for forwarding the link.


Best Buy Warranties

From Dan:

I personally would never buy one from Best Buy on the experience my wife has had using hers.

Her HP laptop had hardware issues several times, and all Best Buy ever seemed to do was mail it off to the manufacturer, sit on their hands for 2+ weeks, and then call you to hand it back. Useless and slow.

I thought it was a raw deal until her Cadillac coverage covered her 4th breakdown as a "lemon policy," meaning that the machine was considered a lemon after three hardware issues. The thing really was on its last legs.

The end game was since she paid around $2,000 for a laptop 3 or 4 years ago, she got to pick out a new one for the same price. You never really notice how much prices have dropped until an issue like this comes up and your slightly lower-end laptop of 3 years ago buys you the most expensive laptop in the store plus the Microsoft Word suite and gives you some change.

I'm not saying Best Buy took this hit - they most likely had a deal with the manufacturer - but if only my aging, 5+ year-old PowerBook G4 had that kind of coverage, I'd be sitting pretty with a new, highest-end 17" MacBook Pro myself.

Color me jealous

Hi Dan,

Your wife really landed on her feet with that issue. I've heard anecdotally of Apple occasionally replacing defective computers with higher-end new models, but it's not something one can count on.


Which iMac for iPhone Development?


I'm gonna' be buying a new Mac. I need your help on which Mac for developing games with 3D (and 2D and not other apps) for the iPhone (or even the upcoming tablet, if that's like a huge iPod touch) using 3D software, the iPhone development software itself, digital painting, some photo editing, and maybe some illustration (it'll maybe be a mix of software from different vendors, open source or commercial).

Which of the four new iMacs with Magic Mouse will be just right without overspending. I plan to use this for just a year (and hopefully buy another upgrade from Apple from the earnings): the one with 4850 GPU or 9400M GPU, 21" or 27", C2D or i5 or i7, 4 GB or 6 GB or 8 GB?

Should I wait for that multitouch tablet, which everyone is sure that it'll be announced this month?

Other Macs, other peripherals/additions, and other recommendations are welcome.

By the way, does anyone know if the 21.5" iMacs are also LED lit, or is it just the 27" C2D and i5/i7 that are LED lit? And will OpenCL help at all boost C2D enough that will make Quads not really that significant?

Thank you for your time. Have a great week.


P.S. What's your take on the upcoming tablet? Will that need a Mac for you to program for, or is it a Mac in itself? What's not a definitions of the Mac for you anyway :) (is the iPhone a Mac? If yes, the screen size would define what a Mac is?) Will it have the full OS X, or will it be a skimped OS X like in the iPhone?

Hi Alvin,

A lot of ground to cover here.

My 2 cents on the best Mac choice for your needs - I expect any of the new iMacs will do a very satisfactory job for you. Buy the one you can comfortably afford and load it up with lots of RAM.

Both the 21.5" and 27" iMacs have LED-backlit glossy widescreen TFT active-matrix liquid crystal displays with IPS technology.

It's difficult to make more than the most general call on the new tablet, since it's specifications remain an Apple secret, including what OS it will run, and I don't want to speculate. I hope it turns out to be a Mac that can run the standard Mac OS. However, I'm exceedingly doubtful that it will make a very good developer's platform or be well-suited to any sort of serious workaday production tasks.

My ignorance of OpenCL's relative performance potential is vast.

A Mac is defined as a computer built by Apple that runs the Mac OS. The iPhone and iPod touch run the iPhone OS, so they are not Macs. The same goes for the mid-90s Newton devices, including the Newton eMate laptop (really a proto-netbook), which ran the Newton OS.


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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at and a columnist at If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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