Charles Moore's Mailbag

Search for a Quieter MacBook, AC Adapter for Lombard PowerBook, Apple Magic Tablet, and More

Charles Moore - 2010.01.27 -Tip Jar

In Search of a Quiet Mac Under Load

From Mike:

Hi Charles,

Are all MacBooks as bad as my Late 2007, which soundslike a weak hair dryer every time I ask it to do anything? I seesimilar complaints about fan noise and heat even for current MacBooks.The gist of it seems to be that they're only quiet when the CPU isn'tdoing much. Unfortunately, I like to use Wine, Basilisk II, and VirtualBox to play old games, and thefans are just horrible. Even some Flash video, being theworst, set this MacBook on fire. (Others do not. I don't know why.)

I was shocked to discover that an ugly, midrange ~$500 17" LenovoY370 running Linux is more pleasant to use than the 2007 MacBook. Thisthing must have the mother of all heat sinks in it: Fancast andunthrottled seti@homejust produce a slight whirring after an hour of use. Do the new UnibodyMacs perform this well under heavy load? What about recent iMacs?

Do high-end Macs like the 17" MacBook Pro workthis well under load?

Now, the Lenovo is not without the usual Linux software hassles:unreliable sleep, quirky sorta-broken 3D, choppy video, and a defaultcolor scheme that literally looks like crap. I accept this asinevitable when you try to support every laptop on the planet. (I'musing the latest Ubuntu.) The machine weighs a ton and has all thesvelteness of an anchor. And the keyboard is terrible.

I'd really like to sell the Lenovo and the old-ish MacBook, but I'mreally not sure what Mac to get. I'm almost thinking of going back to adesktop: I'm two-thirds of the way there with the Lenovo elephant.


Hi Mike,

I don't have encyclopedic knowledge of what every Macsounds like under heavy processor load, but I can say that my aluminumUnibody MacBook is themost silent computer of any sort I've ever used, save for my ancient,fanless Mac Plus when bootedfrom a floppy disk or a PowerBook running from a RAM disk with the harddrive shut down.

Even with the cooling fan running, the noise isrelatively unobtrusive and subdued, as opposed to the caterwauling fansin my 17" PowerBookand Pismos. Not much of an issue with the latter, as they only cut inabout twice year or so on hot days in the summer, but the PowerBookfans (1.33 GHz G4) near drive me to distraction and impel me to use itmost of the time with processor output cut using the Energy Saverpreference panel. OTOH, when used by my wife for the sort of stuff shedoes, the 17-incher's fans rarely cut in at all.

I can't say regarding machines I've never used underheavy loading, but I can affirm unreservedly that if you hate noisylaptops, the 13" Unibody (at least with the 160 GB, 5400 RPM hard drivelike mine has) is as close to silence as you're likely to find withoutgoing to a SSD.

I suspect that the sound-deadening characteristics ofthe solid unibody chassis is largely deserving the credit, to thatshould apply to the larger unibodies as well, but 7,200 RPM hard drivesshould likely up the decibels a bit, and I expect that running with thediscrete graphics processor enabled as opposed to the integrated NvidiaGeForce 9400M integrated graphics would make them run hotter, with morefan activity.


Lombard G3 Power Adapter

From Amy:

Hi Charles and Dan,

I have a Lombard G3 (noheckling please), and am looking to purchase a power cord for it. Wouldyou happen to know where I can find one online or near Austin,Texas?

Thank you!!!!



Operator Headgap has new ones for $50 shipped. Please let them knowLow End Mac sent you. :-)


Hi Amy,

Hey, your Lombard is only one generation farther backthan my beloved Pismos!

When you say power cord, do you mean the AC poweradapter?

If you want to shop used, any PowerBook or iBook poweradapter from the PowerBook 1400and 3400 to the Pismo andclamshell iBook will work finewith the Lombard.

If you want a new replacement, my fave is FastMac's $35.95 unit. It'smuch more robust than any OEM Apple power adapter - virtuallyindestructible.


Hi Charles,

Thanks for the advice. Good to know I'm not the only one out hereusing a dinosaur. I found the AC power adapter (fits all G3 PowerBooks)online, and now I'm back up and running!

However, It looks like my battery is not holding a charge - thecomputer will only run if it's plugged in. Do you know any tips forchecking to see if the battery is really losing it's juice/switch overto charging the battery rather than running the computer when it'splugged in?


Hi Amy,

Glad to hear you're up and running again.

To check check your battery's condition, you can usethe Apple System Profiler (Apple Menu > About This Mac > MoreInfo > Power) and look for the Condition statement under Battery. AGood rating indicates a healthy battery, while a Check Battery readingmeans the battery is either defective (if under 300 cycles) or nolonger able to hold a charge (more than 300 cycles)

The freeware third party application Coconut Batterywill also supply useful battery condition info.

There could also be a charging problem with yourhardware, but my first suspect would be the battery, especially if it'smore than 18 months old.


Is Everything We Do Ultimately Political?

From Tom in response to Linux, Freedom, andFrontiers:

Gee, Charles, after reading your latest Miscellaneous Ramblingsarticle, I didn't realize that keeping my old PowerBook 180 up and running was such apolitical act. And I also didn't think that the fact that Linux hasabandoned that machine while NetBSD still lists it among theirsupported systems meant anything more than that a certain old geezerfrom Santa Fe, NM (me) keeps bugging them about it.

Yes, I will agree that Apple and Microsoft, being big corporationsand all, worship Mammon and are in league withthe Corporatist (Democrat/Republican/Fascist) Powers That Be here inthe USA. But is everything we do ultimately political? Can't we justputter around with our old machines for the fun of it without having tofigure it all into some grand manifesto?


Hi Tom,

I thought my commentary was more philosophical thanpolitical, but often the line of distinction is subtle, and there'splenty of crossover.

Personally, I'm a lifelong political junkie, andanother hat I wear here in Canada is as an op-ed columnist onpolitical/public affairs issues, and I actually do count that there'smuch potential for keeping politics of one sort or another out of muchof anything.

Don't get me wrong, though. I think free enterprisecapitalism is a flawed system but still far superior to any othereconomic model that's yet been devised.

Good on you for keeping that old PB 180 inservice!


Logitech Unifying Receiver

From Torgeir:


In this article, 2 Steps Forward: LogitechControl Center 3.0 and Unifying Receiver, you state that you canuse the Logitech diNovo Keyboard for notebooks (Mac) with the LogitechUnifying Receiver.

As I have read earlier, others have mentioned that this is not thecase (as the receiver is not backwards compatible). Can you confirm thefact that you actually made the receiver work with a Logitech diNovoKeyboard for notebooks, or was it just a suggestion?


Hi Torgeir,

Actually, what I said in the article was:

"With a Logitech Unifying receiver you can, forexample, use a compatible wireless mouse and keyboard with thesame receiver, which has not heretofore been possible with, forexample, my Logitech V550 laptop mouse and diNovo Keyboard for Mac,whose USB RF receivers are mutually incompatible." [emphasisadded],

I went on to list some Logitech products that arecompatible, including Logitech's Wireless Keyboard K350, WirelessKeyboard K340, Marathon Mouse M705, and Wireless Mouse M505, but I didnot include the diNovo Keyboard, which, as you observe, isn't supportedby the Unifying Receiver.

My "heretofore" was not intended to imply that thediNovo Keyboard was now supported. Sorry for any unclarity in myphrasing.


Could the Name Be Apple Magic Tablet?

From Alvin:


I have held my down payment on the iMac i7 for now. This iSlate is reallygetting interesting. I read a report that Steve is extremely happy withit. That the first time I've heard something like that from him,LOL.

I think they found a way to input the letters without relying on thekeyboard or in the QWERTY format we're used to (though they will offerthe normal one to minimize the learning curve), though some say it'sDvorak, which could be a good transition without putting your fingerson the screen and maybe found a way to make smudges disappear instantlyafter you touch it (maybe the screen is coated with titanium oxide andthey probably put a UV light (which can be turned off via software) inthe LED or florescent bulb in the screen. It cleans when it reacts toUV light). These tablets should replace the laptops in no time atall.

I have a feeling it's gonna' be called Apple Magic Tablet coz thesmudges disappear instantly:)


Hi Alvin,

We should know all today, perhaps by the time you readthis.

The McGraw-Hill CEO evidently spilled the beansyesterday that it's going to run the iPhone OS, so it won't be a Mac,which dampens my interest for personal use substantially.

Nevertheless, I expect Apple will have anotherout-of-the-park market home run with it.


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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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