Charles Moore's Mailbag

iPad Complements Desktop, Cheap USB 2.0 for OS X PowerBooks, i7 MacBook Pro Is Fast, and More

Charles Moore - 2010.05.12 - Tip Jar

iPad + Desktop?

From Chris:


I can actually see the iPad potentially spurring more Mac desktop sales. Of course, most people still need a full OS for real work, but the iPad is much more portable and easier to use on the go than a full sized laptop. Unless you need to work offsite frequently, I can see people deciding to use an iPad when away from home and a desktop for serious work and/or games. (As for writing, an iPad might still be great for taking notes and writing ideas down, then the real article writing can take place at home on the desktop system.)

In fact, for the same price as a decent MacBook Pro, you could get a more powerful iMac and an iPad. I'm in Canada, though, so I'm still waiting to try an iPad out before I make any final conclusions.


Hi Chris,

You may be right. I'm astonished at the sales performance of the iPad and remain a skeptic, but I'm in Canada as well, so I have yet to lay hands on one. However, after using an iPad for a week, NightHacks' James Gosling says he still doesn't get it, and in his estimation it seems more like a business model looking for a device to express it rather than something that actually fills a need - "a clear victory of style over substance."

That squares with my vicarious impressions, and while I am open-minded, I provisionally suspect that I would draw the same conclusion, especially since I'm not a touch input fan in general.

I can't agree with you that an iPad is "much" more portable and easier to use on the go than a full sized laptop, let alone a MacBook Air or even my unibody MacBook. You can't stuff it in a pocket like an iPhone or iPod touch, and as Gosling observes, the iPad is exactly as easy and as hard to pack around as a laptop, taking up up a hand or backpack slot - a little lighter, but not enough to make a difference, and it's a whole lot less useful than a laptop, to say nothing of Apple's iPad "control-freak's-fantasy-developer-model."

It is, of course, a lot cheaper than a MacBook Air, but not a pretty good PC netbook or CULV, and I'm inclined to think that if I'm going to run a small computer that doesn't support my production suite of Mac OS X applications, I would sooner get a real laptop, perhaps running Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx Linux, with a proper keyboard and off-screen pointing device.


Tinkering with Computers

Mr. Moore,

On the idea of tinkering - I used to love doing that. But in these days I seem to be more and more the type who just wants their computer to turn on, boot up properly, and then run the apps that I'd like to use.

Now I do happen to love building computers - for example, a friend of mine wanted to get a computer for his two teenage kids, he came to me, told me what he wanted it to do, and then I went and did checking around and told him what stuff would cost. He paid me the cost of materials & shipping. I ordered everything and put it together, installed the basics, and tested it. When it was ready, I showed it off. I've done this 4 times now in the last three years for friends. Sometimes they paid me money for my time, which was a bonus. I never did it as a business. Of course, some family members know about this, and often I am the one they call when they want to get a new video card or their hard drive goes kaput or they are trying to sort out some virus attack.

But yes, when it comes to my own gear, I've gotten to the point I just want stuff to work. Sometimes lately I've gotten so crazy in my daily computer activities once I got my machine to run a certain way, then I will almost never upgrade it. Of course, sometimes there is a software or hardware upgrade that seems to be absolutely necessary, and then I might go ahead with it, but only after I've tested & waited.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings,


Hi Luke,

I know the feeling. Messing around with computers (or cars) can be fin and interesting, but the older I get the more I want things to just work.

Thanks for sharing your ramblings.


No Haxies for Me

From Mark:

Wouldn't it make sense to just forego the use of hacks like Unsanity's programs? Unsanity is notorious for causing problems. I just make it a point to keep my software up to date and my system free of "haxies", and I've had almost no problems with my Mac, even after installing major system updates. Even Snow Leopard has been virtually trouble free from day one.


Hi Mark,

Given the ongoing issues with WindowShade X and Snow Leopard, that's pretty much what I've been obliged to do by default, but I'm not a happy camper.

The "elephant in the room" regards your suggestion is that there is nothing else that is an adequate substitute for windowshading. Spaces and Collapse to Dock Icon help ease the pain, but it just ain't the same.


Adobe and Epson Dawdling


In response to your latest Miscellaneous Ramblings, my biggest complaint about Snow Leopard is that third-party developers, like Adobe and Epson, continue to dawdle along with critical updates. Archaic Carbon-based Epson Perfection 2450 TWAIN software still requires that Photoshop CS4 run in Rosetta to work. Everything's fine until I try to shutdown Photoshop - then, I have to force-quit every time. What a pain in the @$$.


Hi Tom,

Yup, I find that performance with anything running under Rosetta in Snow Leopard is pretty sluggish and raggedy.

I haven't even tried using my ancient scanners (Epson Perfection 4870 Photo flatbed and a Minolta transparency scanner of the same vintage) with Snow Leopard. They still work great with my old Pismos.


Snow Leopard: Still a Bumpy Ride

From Alex:


I read your article, and I think that the first problem is an issue with your computer. I have been using 10.6.3 on my 13'' MBP and my 2006 MacBook and I have not noticed any of the bugs on them. Is the Firmware up to date? Also check your computer for a virus. My iMac got one, and it started to do similar things.


Hi Alex,

Good question.

I checked Apple's firmware update page against my System Profiler, and I have the most recent version listed for this machine, so I guess that's not it.

Virus? Beats me. I've never bothered with virus scan software with Macs. Perhaps I should download ClamXav and see if it turns up anything. However, none of these issues ever showed up with Leopard on this machine, and they've been manifest with Snow Leopard from the day I installed it.

Thanks for the suggestions.


Ordering Mac OS X 10.5 from Apple

From Ted:


If you can still get Leopard 10.5 from Apple for $129, that is a deal (compare $200). Should it not be listed in the Best Mac OS X 'Leopard' Deals section? I wonder if you can still get the Family (5) pack at a good price.



Hi Ted,

I don't know. You would have to check with an Apple sales agent by phone.


Publisher's note: We only track online pricing in our deal trackers, but I will make a note that Apple may still have 10.5 available by phone order. dk

Clamshell iBook Hard Drive Transplant

From Robert:

Hi Mr. Moore:

I've read your columns for years, although I seldom have anything to contribute.

Perhaps you'd be interested in my clamshell iBook's recent hard drive transplant?

I bought a "Paris" iBook for my young granddaughters a few years ago, paying to have it maxed out with AirPort, 576 MB RAM, and 100 GB hard drive. It is still working well after many car journeys (DVD watching), games, and general family use. Virtually indestructible.

I couldn't resist: When on eBay not long ago I saw another 466 iBook for sale; I bought it.

It was in great shape when it arrived and came with AirPort. Even the brightness of the display wasn't too bad. I bought a 512 MB memory card, a new battery, and a Western Digital Scorpio Blue 120 GB hard drive, all from Other World Computing.

But this time I wasn't going to pay labour for replacing the drive. I would do it myself. I found an on-line manual at and read it through carefully three times before I began. I had upgraded my MacBook's hard drive to 500 GB recently, so I already had OWC's installation kit, and I found nut drivers and such in my own toolbox (from Canadian Tire, it was a gift from my son-in-law).

iFixit isn't kidding. "Difficulty: Difficult" indeed.

I waited until I had the house to myself and budgeted 4 hours for the job. It took me an hour and five minutes to get the hard drive out and replaced, and an hour and ten minutes to put everything back together. I used an 18-egg carton to hold the screws. I was very careful about static electricity.

I took it slowly. The instructions are clear. I found only three problems. The audio cable (Step 15) would not disconnect, but I was able to work around that. There is a grounding held in place by the Phillips screw on the left hinge, not mentioned in the instructions (Step 24). It is visible in the photographs. Finally, the clutch plate did not want to reattach to the three small Phillips screws (Step 27). Did it ever not. It took me about 15 minutes' fiddling, but eventually it came together. I think there would have been less problem had I had a helper. Several of the Phillips screws were stripped; I believe someone had been there before me, but I managed.

Of course, there's more. I planned to install [Mac OS X 10.3] Panther. I turned the iBook on and put in the 10.3 installation CD. It booted fine, but Panther wouldn't install. A dialogue box told me the hard drive could not be used as a boot disc.

This was not satisfactory.

I tried [OS X 10.4] Tiger. Its installation DVD was more accommodating.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! It worked! 120 GB in a clamshell iBook!

I spent hours updating 10.4, especially all those Java versions that must be installed in order. And then installing my favorite programmes. Lots of stuff requiring Classic: the Oxford English Dictionary, not to mention Railroad Tycoon.

The hard drive is virtually silent, a big improvement on the original. Booting is much faster. Nothing is going to allow a decent frame rate for Yahoo, but such is life. And I'm not going to use the iBook for online banking. That's what the MacBook is for.


Hi Robert,

Thanks for the interesting and informative report. Hard drive vendor MCE used to have a note on their website warning that user upgrades of iBook hard drives were virtually impossible, so congratulations on persevering and your ultimate success. You're a braver man than I!


USB CardBus for G3 PowerBooks

From Scott:

Hey Charles,

In response to Shea, last year I bought an AKE BC168 CardBus adaptor from eBay. It works great in my Pismo PowerBook running OS X 10.4.11 with all current updates. I'm not using the little USB power cord that came with the card, and yet the card is supplying enough bus power just through the PCMCIA slot to power a USB Bluetooth dongle and a USB 2 thumb drive simultaneously.

I moved files from the thumb drive to the internal hard drive through the USB 2 card, then through the built-in USB 1.1 port on the back of the Pismo. The USB 2 card moves the same exact data almost 10 times as fast, so it's safe to say it is working at USB 2 speed. The card is completely internal, with no protrusion from the side of the Pismo at all. The face of the card fits flush against the side of the Pismo and the color matches like they were made for each other. This is an elegant and unobtrusive USB 2 solution worthy of a beautiful old PowerBook. The casual observer won't even notice it, or feel it for that matter.

This card provides two USB 2 ports. The bigger cards provide as many as four ports, but those big cards stick way out of the CardBus slot. The card works fine in OS 9 also, but, of course, OS 9 doesn't support USB 2, so it runs at USB 1.1 speed in OS 9. I think the card should work fine in other PowerPC PowerBooks. I did hear from someone with an Intel Mac who couldn't get the card to work. I only have PowerPC Macs though. The card was available inexpensively all over eBay from resellers in Hong Kong and in the USA. I hope this helps your readers who need to add USB.


Hi Scott,

Sounds like an excellent solution. These cards are still available on eBay.

I've found that some peripherals will power through the USB ports on the Pismo but have to be plugged in to their own power adapters with my G4 PowerBook or MacBook. Looks like the PC CardBus slot is amply powered as well.

Thanks for the tip.


Core i7 MacBook Pro Is Fast!

From Andrew:

That lovely matte screen MacBook Pro took a bath in a cup of tea. It survived just fine, but the technician who knocked said cup of tea over did the right thing, called his boss, and the result is that vendor now owns a working, but non-warranty MacBook Pro, and bought me the new Core i7 15" with the high-res antiglare screen (the only matte screen option available).

One word about this computer: Wow!!! This thing is fast.



Hi Andrew,

Congratulations! It's an ill wind that blows no good.


Re: ET and the If Factor

From Andrew:


Clearly the part about creator god and Jesus is an area where we cannot agree, but I respect that you are sure in your beliefs as I am in mine, and that absolutely nothing can be gained in either of us trying to "convert" the other.

As for intelligence, wouldn't an intelligent ET also look out there and assume itself to be unique? Wouldn't it be unique, given the unique conditions under which it evolved, which undoubtedly would be quite different than those we know? Would ET and humans even recognize one another as intelligent if we ever did come into contact? If ET was the size of the planet Jupiter, wouldn't we just appear as so much dust? If ET was the size of a gnat, would it not perceive us as more of a natural event than a fellow intelligent life form? Wouldn't the frequencies and makeup of their signals be so radically different as to be undetectable to us, and ours to them?

I'm a huge sci-fi fan, and I honestly do believe that there is quite a bit of intelligent non-human life out there, but I doubt we will ever encounter it. I also believe there is intelligent life right here, in the form of dolphins and whales, though their environment and lack of opposable thumbs kind of conspired against them doing anything intelligent that we could see.

Even lesser animals have some very highly evolved characteristics that may represent intelligence. I read of a researcher who experimented on crows. When the experiments were concluded, the surviving crows were released. Within a week of the release, wherever the man goes, anywhere on earth, crows always squack loudly at him. Clearly, crows have some means to communicate that this guy is trouble, and do so rapidly, across the entire planet. Ten years later, they still squack, so clearly this communication is more evolved than our form of a verbal word that can be forgotten or not passed on.

I don't see religion as the answer to such things, but science. My views on religion were formed back when I was a (Jewish) child. Judaism says that the Jews are the chosen people, and sure enough, when the Egyptians, Romans, Assyrians, whoever, messed with them in ancient times, god was always quick with some direct physical intervention. Ten deadly plagues, parting the Red Sea, etc.

But then along comes Herr Hitler. 6 million Jews and 14 million Christians killed in gas ovens, but no miracle. Where those 6 million less chosen than the hundred thousand or so in Egyptian times? What about the Christians? They supposedly had a truer version, but they died just the same.

I can't say if there ever was a god, but I am very certain that if there ever was, he/she/it is no longer there. Perhaps god did move on, saw how flawed we are, and decided to try again on a different world with ET. The glowing finger thing sure was cool anyway.

P.S. Small point, I know, but I consider the capitalization of the group name to be a sign of politeness and respect, not one of agreement. I capitalize Jesus or Jesus Christ as I would the name of any other person, while I leave god in lower case as (I believe) it to be a noun rather than a name. Likewise, Christianity, Judaism, Christian, Catholic, Jew, Muslim, etc., the names of the religions and their followers I capitalize out of respect and politeness.

Likewise, Atheism and Atheists also deserve the same politeness and respect. Atheism is the proper noun for the "religion" of non-belief, and Atheists are its devotees, if they can be called such. Other names I see frequently used (and capitalized) are Secular Humanist, non-Theist, and more recently thanks to the Brights movement (of which I am proud to be a member), Brights.

I believe you to be a very respectful and tolerant man and would greatly appreciate the respect of capitalization of my (non) faith just as I always show the proper respect to yours.

On a much lighter note, I had a vendor in my office two weeks ago to install a new firewall, and the tech spilled my hot tea all over my MacBook Pro. The computer survived (so far) and still worked great, though Apple with its moisture sensors will undoubtedly deny any future warranty claims on it. Well, in a sign of honesty and business ethics, the technician told his boss immediately, and the company told me to go buy a new laptop that they would reimburse.

The new Core i7 15" MacBook Pro with high-res antiglare screen (I paid the difference) is amazing (see email above). It's not that the speed boost is noticeable in regular work (it isn't), but the screen and the battery life. I ran it for a few minutes short of 10 hours on a trans-Pacific flight last week and still had 12% battery left when my eyes finally got buggy. No video or WiFi, just lots of text while I built a FileMaker Pro database to track my criminal and immigration clients and cases by about 50 zillion fields (slight exaggeration). The previous model was good for about 8 hours and change, so this is a significant improvement, likely due to the weaker Intel vs. Nvidia integrated graphics. On games in Windows, the new 330M is also noticeably more capable than the 9600GT it replaced. Even with the higher resolution (I always set games to native), frame rates have not decreased. Very impressive.


Hi Andrew,

I entirely agree about the improbability of ET and humans being able recognize one another as intelligent if we ever did come into contact. However, "intelligent" can mean a variety of things. As you note, animals have a form of intelligence, although I don't think the lack of opposable thumbs is the limiting factor for dolphins in achieving say, tools and technology. The great apes (which mid 20th century Harvard Dean of Anthropology Ernest Hooton called "Man's Poor Relations" in an eponymous book) have opposable thumbs and remarkably similar physiognomy to humans but haven't made much progress toward making even simple tools, let alone space stations and large hadron colliders.

My view is that what makes us uniquely human and "intelligent" in the way that has enabled us to do things like that is no product of the evolutionary process, but that we have an immortal soul uniquely (at least in earthly terms) bestowed on us by the Divine Creator. It's what makes us aware of our own personal mortality (a capacity shared by no other earthly animal) and capable of logical deduction and complex theorising in addition to our physical capabilities, which are in some aspects inferior to those our hominid genetic relations. I would find it much easier to believe that there is some sort of extraterrestrial animal life out there (whatever degree of intelligence) than forms possessing the equivalent of human introspective intelligence, although I await evidence.

Probably best to not get bogged down in debating theology in Miscellaneous Ramblings Mailbag. I'll just add briefly that if faith were a matter of intellectual or ideological conviction, I would still be the agnostic I once was. Faith is a gift that I could never muster from within myself.

Being Jewish, I expect that you're aware that for pious Jews, the name of the God of Israel, the Tetragrammaton (a Greek term meaning "[a word] having four letters") is written without the vowels included as YHWH but not pronounced, because it is considered too sacred to be uttered in common speech or even in ordinary prayer out of respect for the name of God and the interpretation of the commandment not to take the name of God in vain. The Tetragrammaton was pronounced by the High Priest on Yom Kippur when the Temple was standing in Jerusalem, but since the destruction of Second Temple of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is no longer pronounced, with common Jewish practice being to substitute the name "Adonai" ("My Lord") where the Tetragrammaton appears. In English translations, it is often rendered in capital and small capital letters as "the LORD."

I haven't found a dictionary so far that capitalizes atheist or atheism, or one that does not capitalize God when referring to the God of Christians and Jews, although my search was not exhaustive in either case. I prefer to go with standard usage, and if atheism were an organized category requiring a proper noun, I would not object to capitalizing it, however, as far as I'm aware, it's not, and more aptly comparable to my reference to myself as a former agnostic. No disrespect or impoliteness intended.

Thanks for the report on the Core i7.


SETI Article

One reason you did not mention for why SETI has not found anything:

  1. We are looking in the wrong part of space. It is rather analogous to vacuuming your rug - you never vacuum 100% of it - couches, chairs, televisions, etc. are covering the carpet. It is possible SETI cannot see 100% of space - a star system shrouded in a nebula too far for us to see or get to - and, of course, that means the SETI signals haven't reached that far yet.
  2. We are using our technology. We are making a huge assumption that those foreign peoples are using similar technology and can read and decode our signals. Go back 27 years ago and try to share a document created on a Lisa with a Unix machine - even assuming they could read it, they would not know anything about it.
  3. While we do not share the same faith, the idea that our supernatural creator(s) would only create this one world is not logical. If we are made of their image (as Christians like to say), then surely such a being would have created other worlds - we humans create something and rarely if ever say the first one is good enough.

Just some food for thought.


Hi Troy,

I agree with you on points one and two.

As for the logic of unique human creation on this particular planet, I believe that God is, unlike us, perfect, so the idea that he would use a cut-and-try, if-at-first-you-don't-succeed method for creation seems illogical to me. We are made in God's spiritual Image and likeness, but we are not God. He is the measure of all things - not us, and because of Original Sin, we frequently fail to measure up (look at the way we're suicidally wrecking the planet).

I don't doubt that God could have created other races of beings in His image and likeness elsewhere if He wanted to, but I'm exceedingly doubtful that He did. As a Christian, I believe that the Second Person of the triune God became a human being and will remain one with a (transformed) human body (a whole 'nother topic I won't get into here - see a Bible commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51 "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed" and Philippians 3:21 "[Jesus Christ] who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body" as well as 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 if you're interested). Consequently, there are major problems with how that would apply to His relationship with other human-equivalent races elsewhere.


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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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