Charles Moore's Mailbag

The Mac-PC Divide, Apple vs. Smut, WiFi Troubleshooting, Planned Obsolescence, and Pismo Upgrades

Charles Moore - 2010.03.03 - Tip Jar

Mac vs. PC in Coffee Shops

From Andrew in response to Personality Predicts Your Place Along the Mac-PC Divide:

Great piece Charles!

I just read Ms. Song's article (my wife's maiden name is Song) and your analysis - great stuff from both of you. I go back and forth between Mac and PC as needed and dictated by my wants, needs, and budget at any given time. Currently I'm all Mac (15" antiglare MacBook Pro and Rev. B MacBook Air), but previously I was all PC or one of each. As for the stereotypes, there are exceptions, but yeah, I think they are pretty close.

I love Mini Coopers, and Mercedes, BMW, etc. I also like trucks (should never have sold my F-150), but I can't stand the Dodge Charger after a recent rental. What a rattle-trap that car was, with only 8,500 miles no less.

Where I find issue with such articles is the politics and environmental stereotypes. I think that politics are connected to computer choice, but not with regard to left/right, but rather politically engaged (Mac) or party-line drone (PC). Mac users tend to be on both parties here in the US, though more lean left, probably because more politically engaged people are left, while the American right seems more party-line follow-instructions.

Coffee? Well there are an awful lot of Macs at most coffee shops, but just as many PCs, and the two seemingly in equal proportion whether at Starbucks or McDonald's.

Just my $0.02


Hi Andrew,

Glad you enjoyed the column.

Sorry to hear you no longer have the F-150. ;-( I was thinking more in terms of the original Chargers - the 1966 fastback model being particularly choice, but any of them up to about 1972 - rather than the current sedan bearing the name. However, I'm wondering if that rental you found rattle-trappish might have been thrashed by a previous renter.

As you are probably aware, the current Charger's chassis is based on Mercedes-Benz suspension E-Class and other M-B bits that date back to the Daimler-Chrysler era, so the engineering should be pretty solid. Also, in an owner feedback survey in one of the car mags a year or so ago, the Chrysler 300, which is the same car in Chrysler livery, got an extraordinarily high owner satisfaction and positive "would you buy another" score. OTOH, my hotrodder daughter tells me her police friends who use a combined fleet of police model Chargers and Crown Vics tend to favor the Ford. She drives a Crown Vic Police Interceptor herself, and I must concede that it's pretty impressive, although there have been some reliability issues.

I think your analysis of the political element of the Mac-PC dichotomy is probably on the mark. I know a lot of conservatives who use Macs, but proportionately more who use PCs. However, people who lean left politically do tend to be strongly represented in the Mac community: Steve Jobs is a self-described liberal Democrat, and Al Gore sits on the Apple board, etc. But then Rush Limbaugh is a big Mac fan from way back (and has taken heat from some of his conservative fans for using a "lefty" computer).

Coffee? I'm more of a green tea (or even better, Kukitcha tea) guy myself.


Thoughts on the Mac-PC Divide

From Chris:

Greetings, Charles:

Just read "Personality Predicts Your Place Along the Mac-PC Divide", and it made me think about an all-too-common situation I find myself facing in Internet forums everywhere.

Where do I fall in, the mailbag readers may ask? I'm predominantly Wintel and have been ever since I was born, though I did get a Pismo to experiment a bit with the other side.

Why? Most of my software runs on Windows, most notably games. (Yes, the Mac has games; no, it doesn't have nearly as many of them as Windows, especially with the current reputation between the OSes.) I'm also a tweaker at heart who loves to tinker and upgrade computers like it was second nature, but I cannot even come close to affording a Mac Pro.

Then there's Apple's lack of an official "MacPad" of sorts to provide an OS X alternative to the Tablet PC; the Axiotron Modbook is close, but prohibitively expensive. The iPad nails the portability, screen, and battery life, but falls well short due to the lack of a Wacom pen that could've made it a potent Microsoft Courier alternative.

Do I deride Mac users, though? No, and in fact, I don't really like it when other PC users do so - it makes them look just as snobbish and elitist as the Mac fans supposedly are. I understand why they choose the "bitten fruit" computer - it just happens to work better for their uses, and not everyone uses a computer in the same fashion or cares about the same qualities.

Many computer users don't want to tinker - they want something that just works with a minimum of maintenance, and if something goes wrong, have excellent service to fall back on, and they probably don't mind not getting as much raw performance per dollar spent as the custom-building PC enthusiast, because they don't need the speed for their uses as much as they need the reliability and support.

Yes, I do express disdain over some of the things Apple has done, but that only speaks for myself. If other people don't mind the issues and find that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, more power to them. It's an open market for a reason.

Also, not all Mac users are smug hipsters, and you're not the only proof. A short walk to a neighbor's house reassures that - in fact, they're the ones who got me curious enough about the Macintosh in its various forms that I came to respect the neat touches Apple had introduced in their computers and also dabble a bit in the Classic Mac OS era, since they had a massive software library sitting unused. But they were just ordinary users who had been using Macs since the IIcx days and saw no reason to change.

They certainly weren't power users to my degree, otherwise they would've taught me about FireWire Target Disk Mode and two-finger-scroll rather than the other way around. Also, they don't feel the need to be hip enough to constantly upgrade to the latest Macs and incur the costs that come with that; their main machines consist of three 1.42 GHz iBook G4s and a Core 2 Duo/GMA 950 MacBook still running OS X 10.4 Tiger (along with an indigo iMac G3 350, a PowerBook G3 "MainStreet", a Power Mac 6500, and a Mac IIcx that were no longer in active use).

For the basic Web browsing, email, and Office document stuff that they do (and most average computer users use a computer for), those systems are still more than capable in their current state. Apple may have largely phased out PowerPC and Tiger by this point for new software, but it hasn't stopped those iBooks from working one bit!

Back to the "not smug" bit, though - they don't react extremely negatively when I bring up the topic of PCs or Windows, and in fact thought that Tablet PCs were rather cool once I showed what something like an old, dated HP TC1100 can do with the right software. It's just that the Macintosh is their computer of choice - more value through less general computer hassle.

Anyway, I think this fanboy war, like all similar arguments, simply boils down to a part of human behavior that makes us feel we made the right decisions - the superior ones - and that putting down those who chose otherwise makes us feel good lest we suffer buyer's remorse.


Hi Chris,

Thanks for your thoughtful and measured musings on this topic.

I think you particularly nailed it with: "Many computer users don't want to tinker - they want something that just works with a minimum of maintenance," and "the Macintosh is their computer of choice - more value through less general computer hassle."

That fairly concisely sums up where I stand. I can tinker if I have to, but it's not something I would choose as a pastime (I prefer woodworking), and the general "it just works" characteristic of the Mac combined with not having to concern oneself overmuch (at least so far) with malware precautions, virus scanning, and the like, is the clincher for me. I reboot my MacBook maybe once or twice a month - most often because a software install requires it - run a few OS maintenance routines with freeware OnyX once in a while, and that's about it for attention paid to the tool itself rather than what I'm using it for. Windows PCs used by friends seem to require so much more care and feeding, so to speak.

There are also several Mac-only applications and utilities, and things like AppleScript and Tex-Edit Plus and WindowShade X that I would find it very hard to live without after years and years of familiarity and intricately interwoven integration into my workflow habits.

I am a fan of the Mac user experience who is not a particular fan of Apple the company, although it's hard to second-guess their repeated success in the marketplace and engineering leadership (the latter with a few quirky exceptions), and I wish them continued growth and prosperity so they will be there to make Macs for me to use.

Even after 18 years on the Mac OS, some of the magic and delight ("enchantment" is a term that comes to mind) I perceived on those first few days with a used Mac Plus back in 1992, moving from a completely text-based user interface, still lingers. I just don't get the same vibe with Windows.

Thanks again for sharing your interesting perspective as one who has hands-on experience with both platforms.


Apple vs. Smut

From Walt:

Thanks for reporting on Apple's no-porn-in-app-store. Also, the porn-harm links were outstanding.

A while back I wrote a letter to Apple's Board of Directors on this subject, and also emailed Steve Jobs. I might have to write them again to thank them.

Keep up the good work!


Thanks for your letter-writing efforts, Walt. Glad you agree.


Obsolescence: Planned, Instant, and Otherwise

From Tom:

Hey Charles,

You've got correspondents out there just about as thoughtful and insightful - and fun to read - as you are, which in my estimation is a testament to the quality of your own work. There's been a lot of action in your columns and elsewhere on Low End Mac about the concept and "practice" of "planned" obsolescence - what I refer to as "instant" obsolescence - and other forms of the same thing.

We first began to hear of planned obsolescence, I believe, back in the 1950s, specifically with regard to American carmakers building different body styles, options, power plants, etc. for the same models in succeeding years to effectively obsolete the older models and create demand for the newer ones, a marketing and sales ploy which appeared to have worked in the '50s and '60s (despite the great popularity of the scarcely-changing Volkswagen models).

Seen from today's perspective, we can appreciate the differences in makes and models of cars in those days, especially in view of the essentially bland sameness of so many cars today. Want a classic Impala, T-Bird, Austin-Healey, Mustang, Camaro? They were all there, and still are, if you've got the cash to pay classic car prices.

Of course, all this relates to computers, and even Apple, today. We are in the same reality set now, except that the majority of changes involved are "under the hood" - this latest capability, that latest OS revision and its many improvements. I wonder how many of us read the various tech news sites with an odd mixture of excited anticipation and secret dread - what will we be able to do with our Macs next, and how far will the new stuff drive our present hardware and software down the steep slope of "obsolescence"? (And how much time, effort, and money will it cost us to keep up with the "latest and greatest"?)

The whole process has been speeding up in recent years so much, so recklessly, and has become so breakneck-fast, that seemingly one has only to get that wished-for, powerful, speedy computer of one's dreams and use it to scan the Internet tech news sites only to find out how the next souped-up, speedy, all-powerful model, due for release in just a few weeks, will effectively consign your present "old" model to the scrap heap. Of course, so many tech consumers are following and snapping up so much new stuff (somewhat in the manner of technological lemmings) that obsolescence has in effect moved from "planned" to very nearly "instant".

Of course, all the foregoing has its elements of intentional humor, and certainly I don't want all the tech-obsessed geeks out there screaming "Luddite" at me, but at a certain point it's necessary to wonder what all this mad rush to the latest and greatest gadget is adding to our lives. For writers, of course, the computer saves so much revision time that it isn't even funny. Computers obviously aid all manner of scientific innovation and experimentation. Access to the Internet's incredible universe of information and instant means of communication has changed everything.

For the better? When Facebook is on its way to being the most popular website on the Internet, and even news broadcasters speak of "Tweeting" information? Well, the responsibility is ours, any technology can be used for purposes profound and profoundly shallow - it's up to us.

But is it the best use of our time, effort, and money to join this mad rush to keep up with the latest and greatest, lest we be "left behind" and "left out"? This is what I see more and more on the tech news sites. It's no longer even about what you can do with what you have; it's about having the latest and the best.

I think it's time to call a halt, to step back and take a good look at what we're doing and allowing to be done, and maybe ask ourselves if it's really the best thing for us to allow ourselves to be made to pursue the newest and most powerful gadgets out there so we can . . . have the newest and most powerful gadgets and not be left behind and left out?

I'm using a fine old Pismo PowerBook running Tiger 10.4.11. It's what I can afford at the moment, and it shows no signs of fatigue or breakdown. Tiger is a powerful, highly competent, speedy operating system which is four or so years old, and for which Apple has apparently dropped all support, in quest apparently to switch us all over to Leopard and Intel Macs.

They have apparently decided that such an operating system must be obsoleted for the sake of their "bottom line", i.e. a mad scramble for the latest and greatest, which translates into . . . profit. (In the words of Dan Knight, "So what?")

This is an outrage of absurd proportions and symptomatic of everything I have been saying. But another hard fact of present-day life seems to be that corporations can pretty much do what they please, and we consumers have no say and no choice but to take it and like it and play their game by their rules.

Or do we?

I found an interesting quote (in a hardcover, non-electronic book, of all things) that can be used for a personal credo by anyone and everyone so inclined:

"Every dollar I spend is a statement about the kind of world I want and the quality of life I value."

"Every dollar I spend is a statement about the kind of world I want and the quality of life I value."

This would seem to suggest a blasphemous idea in our present world, i.e., that we, and not our corporate "betters", are in charge of and responsible for what we allow in our lives, maybe even for the quality of those lives, and that any other concept should be relegated to instant obsolescence.

Anybody interested?

God Bless,

Hi Tom,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I guess that in the fast-moving world of computer technology, I'm both gratified by and somewhat in awe of how well my two old Pismos running OS X 10.4.11 Tiger acquit themselves. I love my Core 2 Duo MacBook (all that power does confer certain advantages), but I still spend almost as much time on a Pismo most days as I do on the MacBook. I don't think we can complain too vociferously about that much retained usefulness in 10-year-old computers.

However, the proverbial writing is on the wall. officially announced that Tiger will not be supported in Firefox 3.6 and later, and while the new Opera 10.50 beta for Mac does still retain Tiger support (with some limitations), it will be for Intel only. PPC support is being dropped.

It looks like, as happened with the Classic Mac OS, the tipping point of usability for PPC Macs will be up-to-date browser non-availability. I intend to keep using the Pismos as long as they will do what I need them to, but I expect that another two years hence they will be too compromised for general production duty, although still more limitedly useful for certain other tasks.

However, I don't see it as entirely bleak. My Pismo sold new for $3,500 base price. A MacBook you can buy for $2,500 less is vastly more powerful and a pretty nice piece of equipment.

My dream laptop would, of course, be a machine that combined the Pismo's connectivity, upgradability, versatility, and tactile excellentness with modern Core 2 Duo or Core "i" guts.

It's interesting that three of the hottest-selling cars in today's beleaguered automotive marketplace are form-factor replicas of the 1960s-era Camaro and Dodge Challenger with modern internals (the former on what amounts to version of the Australian-built VE Holden Commodore chassis, and the latter riding on two-generations back Mercedes-Benz E-Class suspension bits), and the Ford Mustang, is a replica of itself circa 1965, but all with modern engines.

I would bet that a similar concept in computers based on the Pismo would sell well too, but I don't think retro-appreciation is in Steve Jobs' DNA.



Yup, you hit the nail on the head, as usual. I suppose it's impossible to hope that older technology that is still demonstrably viable would be honored by those whose business (and even survival) is dependent on a breakneck quest for the fastest, most powerful new equipment and software. Still, it is a pity, not to mention a burden to the toxic waste dumps that have to deal with the stuff (still workable or not) that we throw into them. So-called progress has its price.

The retro cars you mentioned (and one or two others like my particular favorite, the Mini-Cooper) are indeed popular, and it's great to see that style is still appreciated, not to mention the excellence they represent right now. I'm sure some similar concept in computers would do well, but as you pointed out, that's not in Apple's, or Steve Jobs', agenda. Still, the attempts such as Classilla to allow retro OSes and computers to have some kind of place in computing and communication today, show that not everyone is sold on instant obsolescence.

To its eternal credit, Apple's new equipment is truly cutting-edge, worth the money and then some, and beautifully designed inside and out. It is obvious that Apple and Jobs mean to offer us the best of present and future technology, and since we've all become Internet- and computer-dependent in so many ways, that's something for which to be truly appreciative and grateful. (Once the money is there, a MacBook or 13" MacBook Pro will be my choice.)

One reason I even bother to write about this is that you (and Low End Mac) provide a commonsense, highly enjoyable, and readable forum for ideas that would not even get a second look elsewhere. And that's also deserving of appreciation and gratitude.

God Bless as Always,
Tom Gabriel

Hi Tom,

I'm humbled. Thanks.

As I close on the end of my first year with the unibody aluminum MacBook, I'm becoming more and more persuaded that it's a worthy successor to the excellence of the Pismo.


Solving WiFi Problems

From Bob:


I was reading your January 6 article, in which you relate a discussion you had with Larry, who is/was having WiFi problems. Like you, my experience with OS X 10.4.11 has been mostly flawless with many, many Mac laptops, including Pismos, clamshell iBooks, G4 iBooks, and others. That experience has been mostly with AirPort cards (original and Extreme), but with several brands of routers, including Linksys, dLink, Netgear, Belkin, Apple, and others.

But I did run into an iBook the other day that was giving me fits, refusing to connect to the router despite repeated attempts to enter the correct WEP key. Finally, as a last resort, I decided to delete the network ID and password from my preferred networks list and then re-add it, the problem went away! Based on that experience, I concluded that OS X does not really support editing of the information it stores about preferred networks. It seems to allow you to edit the info, but I don't think it really updates it. Or perhaps it was just that entry that was corrupted - who knows? In any event, I would now recommend to anyone who has trouble connecting, especially to password-protected wireless networks, that they delete the entry from the preferred list and then re-add it.

Another thing to be aware of is that, by default, OS X checks the preference box in the Networking tool that says to automatically store information about networks you have connected to. In effect, it adds them to the preferred network list. So any mistakes you make when first trying to connect to a network for the first time from a particular laptop are perpetuated. Another reason to delete the entry and start over.


Hi Bob,

Thanks. This could be potentially valuable information for many folks.

In my case, my WiFi issues essentially disappeared when I installed Apple internal AirPort cards in both of my Pismos instead of using the Buffalo WiFi PC CardBus card. They even work fine with the Belkin router!


Best Pismo Upgrades

From David:


I'm a publisher/PC technician in Oregon. I was just reading your excellent web article on the Apple Pismo Laptop. I have one of these and am trying to figure out what to do with it. Do you know if it's possible to get it to work with USB 2.0? I'm thinking of a PCM Card or something.

Also, what would you say is the best CPU upgrade for this machine? I've read about the G4-550's and the G3-1000's, and both seem viable. It's clear to me that maxing out the RAM to 1 GB is a no-brainer. Appreciate your comments.

Have a great day,

Hi David,

Good on you for persevering with the old Pismo!

I understand that USB 2.0 support is an iffy issue on Pismos. It's one hotrodding tweak I haven't tried with mine. Some folks report success even with cheap "brand X" CardBus adapters; others have not been able to make them work.

There is an Apple Support thread you might find helpful.

As for the best CPU upgrade for Pismos, the choices are getting pretty thin on the ground - the only ones I know of still available being one from FastMac and one from Wegener Media.

I've installed and used both of these products extensively and highly recommend either. I think the FastMac unit is a bit faster than the Wegener one, but I can't verify that with any benchmarking, and there isn't much in the difference.

The PowerLogix 900 MHz and 1000 MHz G3 BlueChip processor upgrades have been off the market for several years now, although you might be able to find one on eBay. I discuss these products at some length in this 2008 article, The 1 GHz Pismo, the Fastest G3 Notebook Ever.

Maxing the RAM to 1 GB is indeed a no-brainer, and I wish I'd gotten around to doing it years ago.


Go to Charles Moore's Mailbag index.

Join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or Google+, or subscribe to our RSS news feed

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.

Links for the Day

Recent Content

About LEM Support Usage Privacy Contact

Follow Low End Mac on Twitter
Join Low End Mac on Facebook

Favorite Sites

Cult of Mac
Shrine of Apple
The Mac Observer
Accelerate Your Mac
The Vintage Mac Museum
Deal Brothers
Mac Driver Museum
JAG's House
System 6 Heaven
System 7 Today
the pickle's Low-End Mac FAQ

The iTunes Store
PC Connection Express
Macgo Blu-ray Player
Parallels Desktop for Mac

Low End Mac's store


Open Link