Charles Moore's Mailbag

A 'Good' Mouse Is Subjective, RAM Disks for Classic Macs, a Street Musician Playing an iPad, and More

Charles Moore - 2010.09.30 - Tip Jar

What Makes a 'Good' Mouse?

From Greg in response to Apple Mice: Lots of Room for Improvement:

You wrote:

Blogger Troy Simpson raises a point that has perplexed your editor over the years: Why can't Apple, which pioneered and popularized the computer mouse as an input device, make a decent mouse. Simpson accurately observes that not a single mouse designed in Cupertino, California, has been top class, causing him to wonder how Apple can make a great laptop, MP3 player, desktop computer, tablet, phone, and various other products yet still make such poor mice.

Excellent question. Simpson goes on the review a sorry succession of mice Apple has foisted on us, beginning with the Apple USB "hockey puck" mouse of 1998, although he could have reached back farther than that.

Publisher's note: I have to agree with Simpson and Moore on this one. I have used Macs since 1987, and while Apple had a couple decent ADB mice and one decent USB mouse (the "no button" Apple Pro Mouse), I left them behind long ago for well designed multibutton mice from Kensington, Contour Design, and Logitech. dk

Apple's round USB mouseI think the answer to this is fairly straightforward. The idea of what characteristics that define the quality of a mouse are too subjective for any mouse to not be considered "poor" by a substantial portion of the user base.

The hockey puck is much vilified, but I know people that loved it. Why? They were actually in the demographic for which it was created and to which it was initially sold. I was lukewarm on it myself, but when I got my Sawtooth, I distinctly remember that replacing the mouse was much less urgent than replacing the original USB keyboard. I had no trouble using the puck while I looked around for a replacement that really suited me. If Apple had included what a lot of people insisted was a "good" mouse I would've had to replace both immediately. I have yet to find a wheeled mouse I can use comfortably. (And by "comfortably", I mean "without the rapid onset of outright pain.")


original Mac USB keyboard
The original Mac USB keyboard.

Hi Greg,

Thanks for your comments. My daughter was a big fan of the hockey puck mouse, and I actually found a use for it. I have chronic peripheral neuritis, and try to spread the mousing stress around as much as possible, especially including foot-clicking, and I've discovered that the hockey puck makes a very decent and comfortable foot-clicker. I remove the tracking ball and tape over the aperture to inhibit dust ingress. I found that they last about one to two years in this sort of abuse, but I haven't found anything else inexpensive that works as well for me.

As for conventional Apple mouse usage, my complaints have been generally uncomfortable ergonomics, too-heavy-to-suit-me button-clicking action, and heavy weight. I prefer a mouse with positive, feather-light, short travel button action and very light weight for easy, low-effort tracking. In general, Logitech mice are the best in these contexts.


Fake 800K Floppies and RAM Disks for Classic Macs

From Russell, responding to Trials and Tribulations with Zip 100 Plus and a Mac SE:

Hello Charles,

I do still have a few 800K floppies, but I'm currently halfway around the world from them and my Mac Plus. If my memory serves me correctly, you can place Scotchô tape across the little hole on the opposite side of the disk from the write protect tab on a high density (HD) floppy and fool the drive into thinking it has an 800K disk in it. We used to do the exact opposite with 800K disk by making a hole there to fool the drive into think we had put an HD floppy into it. The mileage did vary, as I believe that the media is a little different between the two.

Another method that might be viable for him is to use a RAM Disk. There are two shareware programs that I can think of that one can use in lieu of an actual floppy - AppDisk and RAMdisk. AppDisk requires System 7, but RAMdisk works with either System 7 or System 6. AppDisk is still readily downloadable from the Internet, but I was not successful at locating RAMdisk for download. (I didn't do a very extensive search. [Editor's note: I did and have included a link to a page where you can download RAMdisk 3.23+.]) However, I do still have a virgin self-extracting copy of it in my archives (I back up everything). Believe it or not, I actually have it with me as I use vMac with an image of my Mac Plus' hard drive to play some of my old favorites.

He will also need to make sure not to install any version of the Iomega software greater than 4.2. That is the highest version that functions with Compact Macs. Iomega wrote their software to self-update, so he will need to be careful and not stick any of his Zip Disks into any system with a higher version or take the chance it will inadvertently update his and he will then have to reinstall and format the affected disks. Jag's House has a very good step-by-step guide on this. The coolest thing is that he can actually boot from the Zip Disk.

Keep up the good work!


Hi Russell,

Thanks for the great tips!


Editor's note: Charles Moore reviewed AppDisk and ramBunctious for Applelinks in 2002. I used ramBunctious for years with the Classic Mac OS. As I noted in my review, "ramBunctious lets you launch and close RAM disks on the fly, and it can automatically back up the contents of your RAM disk at shutdown, at a chosen interval, or every time you change any data on your RAM disk."

The Classic Mac OS also included a RAM Disk option in the memory control panel, but it is not compatible with 68000- or 68020-based desktop Macs, including the SE. Under System 6 and earlier, the RAM Disk must be between 192 KB and 256 MB in size; in System 7.5.2 through 7.6.1, the range is 416 KB to 256 MB; and in Mac OS 8.x and 9.x, the range is 512 KB to 256 MB. dk

Zip Drive Tip

From Alfred:

I think that the following might work:

  1. Both SE & Zip are off.
  2. Insert the cartridge into the Zip drive.
  3. Turn the Zip drive on.
  4. Turn the SE on.


Thanks, Alfred.


iPad Street Musician

From Kas:

Hi Charles, wanted to share this with you:

Street musician girl playing sitar on iPad. Excellent nerd, looks so carried away.


Hi Kas,

Thanks for the link. Haven't heard a sitar for a while!


Opera Nay - Then Yay!

From Ponter after reading Opera 10.62 for Mac: Fast, but Some Bugs Remain:


I, too, have long preferred Opera - until recently. The bookmarking function - and I store a lot of bookmarks - has become completely brain-dead. Basically, it is practically impossible now to add a new bookmark to an existing folder or subfolder. The bookmark dialog box fails to show any listing of existing bookmark folders. It merely offers to dump the bookmark - well, God knows where. There are no drop down arrows to expend the dialog and offer a listing - nothing!

The Manage Bookmarks page shows the folder listings, in proper hierarchical format, and has many useful control, but if you try to add the bookmark manually, it shows a simple, unsorted, nonhierarchical listing of all folders on your bookmark system, leaving you to guess where the one is you want. Just amateur hour.

And to add insult to injury, I cannot for the life of me find a proper support contact email address to inquire about what I consider to be a serious flaw. I'm glad that you can make friends at Opera, but the rest of us seem to be held at arm's length. Even Apple is more approachable than this.

Very disappointing. I've abandoned Opera as my primary browser in spite of its many good points.


Also from Ponter, this time after reading Opera Issues Resolved, at Least for Intel Macs:

Well bless my soul. I hadn't finished your Opera article when I felt compelled to email, but after emailing you - and just on a whim, as the problems you alluded to seemed completely unrelated to mine - I deleted all of the files suggested in your article, and bookmarking now works as it should!

Unfortunately, in ridding myself of all those old files, I also deleted all the bookmarks in there (don't worry, I have backups). But the next question is: Do you have to reload all those bookmarks manually via Opera, or can you import bookmarks without messing up this functionality (which was what I had done previously)? And why would there be a completely separate bookmarking functionality at all?! None of this makes any sense from a design point of view. Anyway, I will explore this issue with some experiments and let you know what I find.


Hi Ponter,

I'm delighted to hear that Daniel Aleksandersen's fix worked for you too.

Regarding bookmarks, I've had some success dragging a backed-up Bookmarks file into the Opera Preferences folder to displace the new one created by the fresh install. I also usually import my Safari and Firefox bookmarks, since it's easy to do.

I'll be interested to hear what works for you.


Flash Navigation Problem with PPC Opera

From Demetrios:

Dark Fantastic Art by Demetrios VakrasI read, and subsequently downloaded & installed Opera 10.62 for [Mac OS X 10.4] Tiger after reading your glowing review.

Sites that require Flash navigation still do not work on this version of Opera - or the previous few versions on PPC Macs running Tiger. [Editor's note: I have also verified this on Opera 10.62 with OS X 10.5.8 Leopard. dk]

Obviously, if you do not use your browser to look at art sites, then you wouldn't know this.

This is a link to the directory page of my site:

After starting the animation, the animation plays but remains non-interactive - rendering the site unusable. (I have tried Opera 10.6 versions on Intel Leopard, Snow Leopard with no problem; and on Windows XP, which still requires that a click onto animation is needed to make the swf active so that one can navigate the site)

You can always try Giger's site, if you assume that the problem is limited to my own site, or Aparin's site, or any number of other artist's sites....

Opera is a dud,

Hi Demetrios,

Upon visiting your website, it was obvious why you would object to Opera's Flash limitations in Tiger, but I think it's an unfair overstatement to declare Opera a "dud" on those grounds. Opera has been my most-used browser for years on both PowerPC and Intel, and any Flash issues have not posed a hardship for me - and I expect for many other users. As you're aware, the iPad doesn't support Flash, and that doesn't seem to be slowing its sales much.

As I noted here in a follow-up article last week, Opera Software's Desktop Product Tester Daniel Aleksandersen tells me that since Opera 10.52, they've started using newer APIs that do not function on older OSes, and while they've have put some workarounds in place for OS X 10.4, as he puts it: "these are not optimal for performance, causing issues like the slow typing on these systems."

Aleksandersen further noted that Opera plans on supporting Mac OS X 10.4 for a while longer, but recently decided to drop PowerPC support after the 10.6x releases. In a blog entry, he elaborates that starting with the next version of Opera, they will be discontinuing the PowerPC architecture on Mac and Linux, noting that while this is unfortunate, with third party vendor support dwindling away, Opera can no longer keep developing the browser for this architecture, and after ending support for PowerPC, they will be able to focus more on making sure Opera meets the need of the modern web browser user on the popular architectures.

Consequently, I expect Opera 10.62 is likely as good as it gets for Opera on PowerPC and Tiger.


Hi Charles,

I wasn't expecting a response, so it's good to receive one. Unlike yourself, I myself pretty much only use Safari - I just can't go past it.

I go to my browser's history quite often, & Safari's "History" is without peer.

I go to "Top Sites", click onto "History", and, with the Magic Mouse, which runs on Tiger with the MagicDriver by plentycom, I swipe back the pages to find what I am looking for. Sometimes I just do it because I like to see the pages flicking past(!)

I don't use Opera. On Windows, as a case-in-point, you still have to click into a Flash animation to make it active, to then navigate. Opera only works the way it should on Leopard and Snow Leopard.

I wonder why you don't mention other browsers? There are other Tiger compatible browsers: Camino and SeaMonkey (Camino is my 2nd browser of choice). And Safari 4 for Tiger is still being updated (but for how long?).

I do feel that Apple are given too much leeway; and what criticism there is of Apple is often from Windows fans who miss the mark. I can't believe that no-one has criticised Apple on its bogus green credentials. What is so green about a computer company that makes software releases intended to make old hardware obsolete, so that users will have to buy a new machine? I disagree with the concept of a disposable society. Yet disposability is what Apple deliberately introduces, and yet Apple proclaims itself "green".

On obsolescence: My G3 is on [OS X 10.2] Jaguar, simply because Apple made built-in USB ports a prerequisite to upgrading to [OS X 10.3] Panther (based on what I have read, some upgraded to Panther by inserting their hard drive into a machine with built-in ports, which they then placed back into their old machine). (It's an old machine, which I turn on once a month and keep as a souvenir).

The relegation of Tiger to obsolescence by Apple is appalling. Apple have released an update to iTunes 10.0.1 for Windows XP (Windows is run on my SnowLeo Mac via Parallels), but there is no upgrade to iTunes 10 for Tiger. What's worse, a few weeks ago Microsoft had an update to Word 2004 for my Jaguar G3! I suspect some Tiger users (like me) are still on Tiger because their dual-processor 800 MHz machines, though faster than an 867 MHz machine, were prevented from the upgrade to Leopard by Apple's deliberate introduction of obsolescence by way of software upgrades.

I always thought that "Universal Binary" was meant to be so that software would run on both architectures!

I don't blame FireFox for dropping support for Tiger. Why should they if even Apple doesn't support it?

It was my anger with Apple that caused me to buy Parallels and the last copy of XP that I could find, so that I could install all the old programs that I had which still ran on Windows but could not be installed on the same Intel Mac.

With regards to the iPad, I'm pretty astonished by the fervent religiosity of those who buy it!


Hi again Demetrios,

Thanks for the further interesting comments.

I don't disagree with you about Safari having many excellent qualities. I particularly like the new "Reader" feature in Safari 5. I'm not a heavy history user. Safari, as you say, is excellent in that regard, but I find history in the other browsers satisfactory for my occasional reference.

As for other browsers, I can't imagine using just one browser myself. I keep at least three - and sometimes four - up and running all the time. On my Intel Mac running Leopard and Snow Leopard (I have both installed on separate hard drive partitions), I use, in order of intensity, Opera, Chrome, and Firefox (currently the FF 4 beta). Safari and Stainless get a bit of use as well. I switched to Safari 5 as my number three for a while, but I went back to Firefox when the version 4 betas arrived.

On my two old Pismo PowerBooks running OS X 10.4, I also use Opera as number one browser, but two and three are SeaMonkey (which I find is a happy camper so far on Tiger), and iCab, which is also Tiger-friendly.

I agree with you about Apple being largely a poseur in the "green" context; your observations on planned obsolescence being well-taken. Like you, I oppose the concept of disposable commodities, and my perseverance with the old Pismos is a case in point. The degree of component modularity incorporated in the Pismo's design has kept it in the game as a decent-performing tool much longer than will be the case with any subsequent Mac laptop design, including any Intel Mac laptop, and the superb reliability and amazingly long useful service life I've experienced with my Pismos has convinced me beyond doubt that, could I design my ideal computer, it would be easy to take apart, upgrade, and repair and composed of modular components as much as possible. The Pismo is not 100% in these departments, but it comes closer than any other Mac laptop has before or since.

I also share your dismay at Apple's evident likelihood of dumping Tiger support in the near future. As you say, it's tough to blame third-party developers for abandoning Tiger when Apple is leading the exodus.

I'm also somewhat bemused by iPad-mania, although I'm withholding judgment until I get my own tablet, which could be useful, albeit no substitute for a full-featured laptop. However, the tablets recently unveiled by RIM and Samsung both appeal to me more than the iPad does, except for the 7" displays (Samsung is rumored to have a 10" tablet in the works).


Waning Days of PowerPC Browser Support

From Dave:

It will indeed be a sad, sad day when browser development stops for the PowerPC platform. I use the G4-optimized Camino exclusively on my 1.2 GHz iBook running Tiger. It's a godsend, speedy, stable, and can even still keep up with most YouTube videos. I said most.

I really don't like running outdated browsers, especially for online banking and the like.

Recently, I let out an audible cheer when Cameron Kaiser, the developer of Classilla said on a recent post (on the Mac OS 9 LEM board, I think) that if and when it comes to it (seems more like when than if), he will continue to update a PowerPC and Tiger browser. He also says it will be considerably easier than his Classilla work, as he will have an up-to-date toolkit and a more modern browser to start with.

After years - if not decades - of chasing the bleeding edge, I have realized my personal computing needs are basic. Yesterday's software running on yesterday's hardware will work just fine, for awhile at least. I am hoping for at least two more years service out of this five-year-old $90 iBook, which contains a hard drive and LCD from my previous 12" G3 iBook, which died the dreaded logic board death one day in 2009.

By then, the first generation MacBook Pros should be down to a more reasonable price point (sub $400?), but I will definitely shed a RISC tear the day I leave behind the PowerPC.


Hi Dave,

I applaud your rational good sense and resolve in using low-end hardware that does the job you need it to do.

It's interesting that many people are making similar evaluations about their real computing needs being basic in opting for the iPad over a laptop.

My old Pismo 'Books running Tiger are still doing a great job for me, within their acknowledged limitations, but I expect that browser support will ultimately prove the tipping point of practical obsolescence for them, hopefully not for a few years yet. I fully intend on continuing to use them as my utility computers for as long as they don't impose compromise that significantly slows me down or they hit an incompatibility wall.


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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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