Charles Moore's Mailbag

Linux for $37 Netbook?, Pismo Back in Service Thanks to Disk Mode, Broadband Competition, and More

Charles Moore - 2010.07.07 - Tip Jar

Can the $37 Netbook Run Linux?

From Scott in response to $37 Netbook: Yes, It's for Real:


Nice reports as usual. Will the $37 netbook run some flavor of Linux like Meego? Curious for something for my nieces and nephew but not wanting them to use Windows of any flavor.


Hi Scott,

I have to admit I'm sorely tempted by this one myself. What I hear (unconfirmed) is that these are Asus-built, possibly factory seconds. As for their ability to run Linux, I'm no authority on that matter, but my inference would be that Linux should work - perhaps better than Windows CE that comes loaded.

Be aware, however, that this machine has only a 300 MHz ARM processor and 128 MB RAM, a spec that hasn't been contemporary in Apple laptops since the WallStreet in 1998/9. I did, however, successfully install both SuSE and Yellow Dog Linux on a 233 MHz WallStreet, and it performed decently, although today you can get more power in a smartphone.

For kids, though, it could be the ideal solution.


Is Sophie's Cards Compatible with Snow Leopard?

From Helen regarding Make Your Own Custom Greeting Cards with Sophie's Cards:


I am searching for a simple greeting card program so I can use my own artwork from iPhoto easily. I have a new Mac mini with OS X 10.6.4 Snow Leopard. I note your compatibility with Leopard, but how about Snow?



Hi Helen,

I just started it up to double-check, and Sophie's Cards is working fine here in Snow Leopard 10.6.4.

I don't have encyclopedic knowledge of all the greeting card making programs out there, but I've found Sophie's Cards to be a very good and versatile one. It imports pictures nicely.


New Mac mini Doesn't Make Me Sick

From Janis:


Before I bought my new Mac mini (their punctuation*), I read your articles for help.

I can't seem to find the site where I read your work then, but I really have to write and tell you how much I love my Mini.

Work gave me two computers in a row to take home, a new laptop Lenovo, and then when that didn't work, I requested a well used desktop (Dell). Both made me sick.

I liked the idea of the Mini even before I read its low toxicity statement. Then I was thrilled.

And after 3 months of ownership, I'm still thrilled. And I feel so much better.

Thanks for your help and all the best,
name withheld

* Editor's note: We do our best to honor official product names, such as Mac mini and iPod touch. However, to avoid confusion - since mini, touch, nano, shuffle, etc. are words - we capitalize them when used alone (e.g. "the new Mini" or "the Touch"). dk

Hi Janis,

Delighted to hear that my musings were of some help to you. The Mac mini is a great little computer that has almost drawn me back to desktop computing by times. I'm very happy to hear that you also find it tolerable in the chemical emissions context. The smaller physical mass has to help there.

As you may be aware, I battle Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, and I find a lot of computer equipment problematical to share airspace with.

For the record, in addition to Low End Mac, I also write for Applelinks, PBCentral, The Apple Blog, and MacOpinion.


Speeding the iPhone 3G with iOS 4

From Adam Rosen:

Hi Dan, Charles,

So does the iPhone 3G now qualify as a low-end device? I posted an article on Cult of Mac about speeding up your iPhone 3G running iOS 4 by doing a double hard reset, and it's been shockingly popular: more than 12,000 pageviews and 124 retweets in four days. Clearly there's an issue here.

This may be of interest to LEM readers, maybe for the next News Roundup or an Around the Web link?


Hi Adam,

I don't have an iPhone - the nearest Rogers (Canada) service peters out about 35 miles north of here - but my daughter has an iPhone 3G, now running iOS 4, which she seems happy with. It works fine for WiFi when she visits, but no phone or texting service, alas.


Do they still have carrier pigeon service up in your neck of the woods? :)

That would probably be better than AT&T, anyway...

Hi Adam,

We do have cellphone service here, but not from Rogers, which is Apple's GSM partner in Canada.


Pismo Back in Service

From Lloyd following up on Pismo: Can't Clean Install Any OS:

Good Evening, Charles:

[Dan Knight's] FireWire idea worked, though only with our G4 (Sawtooth) Power Mac. I would have to guess that the Mac mini (also a G4), being non-compatible with the version of OS X 10.2 I had, was unable to load it onto a target disk for that reason.

Thanks much for sharing your insights - the Pismo is back in business, thanks to you and Dan Knight.

Best wishes to both of you - this just reinforces why LEM is a near-daily 'must read' for me.


Hi Lloyd,

Happy to hear of the satisfactory outcome, and that the old Pismo is back in service.


Pismo Not Booting Due to Excessive RAM?

From Charles in response to Pismo Won't Boot with a Dead PRAM Battery:


I know this was an issue with my Lombard; I'm not sure if it is an issue with the Pismo. I put 512 MB RAM in my Lombard, and when I later went to reinstall the OS, it just would not work. I had to remove one of the RAM modules to get it back under the factory limitation of 384 MB.

I know that when the Pismo came out, it was supposed to have an upper memory limit of 512 MB. Perhaps he should try popping out the top RAM card, and see if that would work (it certainly would not be that difficult to try).

Thanks again for your column,

Hi Charles,

That would definitely be worth a shot, since it's so easy to do.

For the record, the Pismo, despite its near dead-ringer resemblance to the Lombard, has an entirely different motherboard architecture.

Officially the Pismo supports only 512 MB of RAM, but I ran 640 MB in mine for years and have since upgraded to 1 GB with no tangible issues, other than it perhaps runs a wee bit hotter, but the fan still very rarely cuts in.


Pismo: Can You Remove the Port Door?

From Scott:

Hey Charles,

Is there an easy way to remove the port door from a Pismo PowerBook without breaking it? I did a brief Google search, but I didn't see anything on the subject. I figured you'd know, or your readers would. I almost always need the port door open when I'm using my Pismo, and I'd rather just remove the door so it won't get broken.

Thanks for your help.


Hi Scott,

Looking at iFixit's Pismo Guide, the port door seems to be about the last thing you get access to in a complete teardown. The photo of the bare bottom case, which you get to after disassembling the upper case, still shows the door attached, but at that point I'm guessing you might be able to demount it by disassembling the springs and hinges. The Guide is not clear on this point.


Well that's just wonderful! (laugh). Maybe I'll just wait until the door breaks off and call it good.


3G/4G Competition Impacting Broadband Rates

From Scott following up on One Way to Drastically Cut Broadband Cost:

Clear, and several other new 4G providers, are currently popping up all over the US in metro areas. I think your readers in cities will be able to get much more affordable broadband as a result. Consumers love to see competitive pricing for a change. DSL and cable tend to keep their prices very close together, but these new 4G carriers are now drastically undercutting their pricing. I predict the cell phone carriers may have to cut their 3G/4G data plan rates too.

Note that Clear's offer is for unlimited data. Most of the cell phone carriers have a 5 GB per month data limit now, which they'll have to remove in order to remain competitive with these new 4G carriers. Of particular interest is the Clear Spot device, which is a battery operated broadband WiFi hotspot you can carry around in your pocket. You can use your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, laptop, desktop, gaming console, or any other WiFi devices from this portable router. You can use it at home, or on the go, anywhere you can get a signal. LEM readers should take note that this device would work with old PowerPC Macs running OS 9 as long as they have an AirPort Card or some other kind of WiFi connection. Many of the new 4G USB devices only work on Intel Macs running the latest version of OS X.


Hi Scott,

Thanks for the follow-up, and it definitely seems worth pursuing in locales where there is broadband competition. Wish I could get Clear service here!


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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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