Charles Moore's Mailbag

Pismo Resurrection Follow-up, Liking iCab, Dangers of Young Drivers and Self Driving Cars, and More

Charles Moore - 2010.10.20 - Tip Jar

Following Up on G3 Pismo Resurrection

From Paul in response to Charles Moore's Pismo Has a Near Death Experience:

Hi Charles,

I read with great interest your recent article about reviving a G3 Pismo from the dreaded crash-on-sleep syndrome. I have experienced the same thing and have tried many remedies, including replacing the logic board and the PRAM battery, but after initial success both times, it reverted back to the same behavior after a few days.

Any ideas on why the thing works for a little while and then goes back to the same ol' thing? I would think it would be an all-or-nothing deal. And I would appreciate your pointing me to any previous writing you've done on converting a Pismo to a G4 processor. I didn't know that was even an option.

I love this old machine and want to keep it ticking . . . thanks so much for sharing your experience the way you have.


Hi Paul,

I waited a few days to answer your query to make sure my fix would stick, but after a week of flawless performance, I'm now cautiously optimistic.

Last weekend I swapped out the video inverter board (very easy to get at) on the hunch that the fault seemed video-related, and Wegener Media also suggests that is a likely fault in cases of refusal to light the screen.

While I was at it, I also took the opportunity to switch the display screen in my workaday Pismo, which has been succumbing to the dreaded "pink screen" disease over the past several years, with the screen in my "parts mule" Pismo, which is the best screen of the three I have, and also not difficult or time-consiuming to do, especially if the video inverter is already out.

I'm happy to tentatively report that the operation seems to have been an unqualified success. After putting putting the machine back together - the whole job took about half an hour - the screen brightened normally during boot-up and has continued to do so through many sleep/wake cycles throughout the past week. The much nicer display is a treat as well.

I ran with my test 500 MHz G3 chip and 768 MB of RAM for a week, but on Saturday restored the Pismo to 550 MHz G4 power and 1 GB of memory. Still working great.

My problem manifested sporadically as well over a period of several months, but gradually got more frequent. Presumably a gradually-worsening issue.

As for the G4 upgrade, it's a simple matter - other than paying the substantial cost of the upgrade itself. The G4 processor comes on a Pismo processor daughtercard, and it's only a few minutes work to pop the keyboard, heat shield, and heat sink; remove the press-in daughtercard; swap your RAM over to the G4 daughtercard; and reassemble. I've described the process in detail with pictures in Wegener Media G4/550 MHz Upgrade for Pismo on PB Central.

Wegener Media and FastMac both offer 550 MHz G4 upgrades for the Pismo.

$200 to $240 is quite a chunk of money to spend on an old computer, but a couple of weeks back on a G3 has reminded me why it's worthwhile if that machine is used as a workhorse.


iCab: I Like It

From Demetrios, following up on Flash Navigation Problem with PPC Opera:

Hi Charles,

Thanks for the informative email!

I'd never heard of iCab. I've downloaded it (32-bit for Tiger) & I'll be registering it soon, as I believe that such ventures should be supported (hopefully the reg. no. will also work for the earlier version on the G3 running Jaguar). That iCab also make a version that runs on OS 8.5 - 9.2 (or earlier) is, well, unbelievable.

I've come across your pages when searching for information regarding browsers on older Macs. But I haven't seen any mention of iCab, just Opera, which I have never used because of Flash.

I've also found other bits of info about my Macs on the Low End Mac site. One bit of info appears on this page. Apple Australia is arguably a great reason not to buy Macs in Australia.

With regards to the iPad, you're probably aware of [the BlackBerry PlayBook], a genuine competitor made by the phone company which is recommended for business, and it runs Flash.

Flash & the "bag of hurt" (Blu-ray) for the iPad & Mac respectively - would be good to see (why is Jobs so stubborn).


Hi Demetrios,

I've been using iCab off and on since back when it was a German-only beta in the late '90s.

Here are some of my more recent reviews of the application.

Here is my take on the iPad vs. PlayBook: Apple Lucky RIM PlayBook Won't Launch Before Yule.


Young Drivers Are Not Fully Prepared to Drive

From Greg after reading Google's Self-Driving Cars? Real Auto Enthusiasts Want Manual Control:

No doubt. Enthusiasts of anything want at least the option of the full experience of that thing. But whether it's cars, computers, or any of a huge number of other objects, for the non-enthusiast majority of users they're a tool and nothing more. They don't want the experience of using it to be exciting or even interesting. They just want it to do what it's supposed to do in order to make their life easier or, in some cases, practical at all.

Honestly, I can't comprehend the notion that it's "distressing" that a majority of a 16-year-olds aren't in a hurry to get their licenses, given substantial evidence that they're not emotionally and mentally prepared to do so. And for what it's worth, in about a quarter of the US states (including very densely populated ones like New York and New Jersey), you can't get a license at (just) 16 anyway.

What I do find distressing is that at least in the parts of the country I'm familiar with, having a driver's license has become practically an entitlement. You can probably go into any high school in the nation and discover that the kids know which of the nearby testing centers is "the easy one." The one that has at least one tester that may very well pass you without even asking you to turn the ignition key. We do not reliably make sure that people are qualified to drive a car before saying they're allowed to do so, and we don't consistently take their license away when they demonstrate clearly that they shouldn't have it.

FWIW, I'm going to be 40 in December, and like your older daughter I've never taken the test. I'd get a motorcycle license if my state allowed me to do so without getting a car license first, but they don't, and I've got a serious mental block about driving a car. I know my state's driving laws, and I learned how to drive at 15; I just haven't been able to bring myself to actually do it since my lessons because the implications of being responsible for that much momentum are, with no hyperbole whatsoever, paralyzing.


Hi Greg,

I guess you're the polar opposite of an automobile enthusiast?

Actually, it's my younger daughter who hasn't bothered to get a license. She's had a learner's permit several times, and she's a decently good driver but keeps letting the license lapse without getting around to taking the test.

I partly agree with you that the bar for getting a license is too low, but it should be predicated on driving ability rather than age (within reason). I've seen survey data somewhere that it matters little to actuarial accident probability whether someone starts driving at 16 or 18 or 22 or whatever. Those first few years of gaining experience are a rough patch, which is why newly-licensed drivers pay higher insurance premiums. There's an argument to be made that it's probably better to get the steep part of the learning curve under your belt while you're still (hopefully) under some parental oversight.

However, as I said, I'd be all for prospective drivers to have to demonstrate decent driving skill before getting licensed, rather than just memorizing the rules of the road and being able to parallel park. My impression is that it's much more demanding to get a license in Europe, partly because of the necessity to handle higher speeds.

By global standards, North American speed limits are absurdly low. In most European countries, the highway speed limit is either 120 kmph or 130 kmph. Britain and Sweden have the strictest limits at 110 kmph, the same as on Nova Scotia's 100 series highways. About three-quarters of the famous German Autobahnen have no speed limit at all. The "recommended velocity" is 130 kmph, but average speeds traveled in unregulated areas are about 150 kmph, with some vehicles cruising at 200 kmph or more. (An interesting sub-note is that the Autobahn limit in construction zones is 80 kmph [50 mph]!)

Nevertheless, the overall safety record on Autobahnen is comparable to that on controlled-access highways in European countries with speed limits. A 2005 study by the German Interior Ministry found sections with unrestricted speed had the same accident record as sections with speed limits. That wouldn't be so at those speeds with North American drivers.

Thanks for the exchange of views.


Hi back, Charles.

There's one part of your response that I think really needs some follow-up:

"I've seen survey data somewhere that it matters little to actuarial accident probability whether someone starts driving at 16 or 18 or 22 or...."

You're right, but only because you stopped where you did. Statistically, and taking experience into account, age stops being a factor in accident rates in the mid-20s. Not coincidentally, that's the point in life at which one is typically mature enough to exercise meaningful impulse control and accurately assess risk.

I'm not sure if I'm the polar opposite of an auto enthusiast. I'm not averse to them in principle, appreciate their utility, and am a willing passenger. I just have no interest in them as mechanical constructs and can't bring myself to use one because of the danger that I expect I would present to those around me. (Which is why I'm okay with a motorcycle. Much less risk to others.)

Have a good day.


Hi Greg,

Insurance actuaries do know that accident rates fall off around age 25, which is why coverage premiums (at least where I live) drop dramatically at the 25th birthday (earlier if the driver gets married, which also statistically makes one a lower risk).

However, I wonder if there could be any really meaningful subject pool of drivers who get their first driver's license at age 25 or later. The numbers must be exceedingly small.

According to a National Institutes of Health study:

"Since few people in the United States learn to drive after their teen years, data are not available in this country to allow comparison of the experiences of younger and older novice drivers. Countries in which waiting past the teen years to begin driving is more common, such as Canada and New Zealand, have found that older novice drivers also have higher crash rates during their initial years of driving than do their peers with more driving experience."

On the other hand, the researchers also say:

"Nevertheless, there is evidence that even slight age differences in the adolescent years may have some effect . . . suggesting that fatal crash rates are higher the younger the driver . . . a variety of studies support the conclusion that it is newly licensed drivers' lack of experience that is the most significant problem, even considering that the youngest drivers fare the worst. For example, one analysis of police reports of almost 2,000 crashes in which newly licensed drivers were involved pointed to inexperience as the major contributor."


"...there is a learning curve for all new drivers, regardless of the age at which they begin driving [with a] steep decline in crash rates for both male and female newly licensed drivers as they accumulate miles of practice."

I don't think the evidence would warrant raising the legal driving age to 25, although probably that would have some positive effect on highway safety. As with speed limits, it's about determining the acceptable risk-benefit compromise.

I suppose somethng analogically similar would apply to deciding whether to drive oneself. If one tend to be easily distracted or impulsive, it might be a responsible determination not to. But skills are learnable. The main point for auto enthusiasts is that driving can be highly enjoyable as well as useful in a utilitarian sense, and one does not need to be a driver to be fascinated by automobiles. I can't remember when I was not.


The Danger of Self Driving Cars

From Steve:


Are self driving cars significantly different from "self flying" airplanes? Safety experts have argued for years that the many aids (e.g. auto-pilot, collision avoidance systems) available to pilots improve flight safety. When everything works correctly, this is true. It's the times when things do not work correctly that the loss of operational skills, e.g. "stick and rudder" pilots, will result in disaster, since the operators will have no clue how to respond. Another problem is recognition of when the automated systems have failed.

Total faith in advanced systems causes individuals to enter unsafe environments. I'm sure we have all seen or heard news stories about individuals who drove off open bridges or were stranded in the middle of nowhere because they blindly followed their GPS directions.

Total automation or total manual operation are probably safer than semi-automatic operation. In the general aviation industry, the accident rate is higher for "glass" cockpit airplanes. Pilots spend their time trying to understand their displays or utilize new features rather than trying to fly the airplane. Crashes have occured because pilots were "fighting" the logic of the automated systems (there is an ongoing debate over Boeing and Airbus designs as to how to respond to pilot intervention in automated operations).

My recommendation, for drivers who want self driving cars is to sit in the back seat and let the taxi driver or Greyhound do the work.


Hi Steve,

Excellent points made in your letter. I distrust all automatic systems, whch, as you say, are just fine until circumstances present where they're not. I doubt that the automatic flight aids were much help to Capt. Sullenberger in safely landing US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River last year with complete loss of thrust from both engines of the Airbus A320-214. It was encouraging that the Airbus could be successfully flown under manual control, since, as Wikipedia notes,

"The Airbus A320 is a digital fly-by-wire aircraft: the flight control surfaces are moved by electrical and hydraulic actuators controlled by a digital computer. The computer interprets pilot commands via input from a side-stick, making adjustments on its own to keep the plane stable and on course, which is particularly useful after engine failure by allowing the pilots to concentrate on engine restart and landing planning."

Also relevant:

"The mechanical energy of the two engines is the primary source of routine electrical power and hydraulic pressure for the aircraft flight control systems. The aircraft also has an auxiliary power unit (APU), which can provide backup electrical power for the aircraft, including its electrically powered hydraulic pumps; and a ram air turbine (RAT), a type of wind turbine that can be deployed into the airstream to provide backup hydraulic pressure and electrical power at certain speeds. According to the NTSB, both the APU and the RAT were operating as the plane descended into the Hudson, although it was not clear whether the RAT had been deployed manually or automatically."

So maybe the automated systems aren't all bad, but excessive dependence on them or trust in them still is.


Hot Rodding

From Scott:

Hey Charles,

I guess I don't understand why an automobile performance magazine would be a fan of manual transmissions. Go to any drag strip, and you'll see the fastest transmissions are heavily modified 2 speed GM Aluminum Powerglides from the 1960s. Any automobile performance enthusiast driving a manual transmission, especially one with 5 or 6 speeds, hasn't been paying attention for a looong time. One of my friends built a land speed racer that ran over 205 mph at Bonneville, and he used a TurboHydramatic 350.

Standards are great for fuel economy, and they usually don't require expensive overhauls that high mileage automatics always need, so for the average driver who can drive a standard well, without burning up the clutch, a standard is the way to go. You can save a lot of money and headaches with a well driven standard transmission. My Toyota pickup went over 375,000 miles on its original clutch, even pulling heavy loads and trailers over the Rocky Mountains. Somehow I doubt an automobile performance magazine cares about the economy, longevity, or serviceability of standard transmissions though. I think they're probably stuck in the performance past or something.

What I want to see come back is hot rodding. By that I mean automobile enthusiasts who build an old car into a performance car. You hardly ever encounter an auto enthusiast anymore who built his own engine or even knows how to maintain his own car. Basically today's auto enthusiasts buy a new car that's advertised as being fast and then drive like jerks on a public road, endangering everyone around them. If they ever dare go to the drag strip, they get totally embarrassed by some guy with an old car he built himself with a heavily modified automatic that only shifts once.

I also really like when a hot rod still has it's own original engine and transmission and everything still intact, but heavily modified for performance. I like to look under the hood and see it look as original as possible, but that's just me. I do love the sound of tubular headers, even though they don't look original when you open the hood of course.

Today's new cars with automatics shift constantly, usually between third and fourth gear all the time. When you're cruising down the highway in today's cars and hit the accelerator to pass another car, the automatic transmission drops two gears, then realizes the long stroke engine is now overspeed and upshifts again, wasting three shifts while hardly going any faster. An Aluminum Powerglide with an old style short stroke V8 doesn't shift at all, it just goes - fast!

Today's cars have a lot of gears, which can be very helpful at low speeds, but not so much on the highway. I love my old Aluminum Powerglide and all its weird moaning, whirring, flying saucer sounds it makes, including the loud thump and lurch forward when it goes into gear. I like standard transmissions too, but not for performance in today's world.

Years ago standard transmissions were better performers than automatics, but those days are gone forever. I know every auto enthusiast will disagree with me. but they're still wrong (grin) Also, what does this have to do with old Macintosh computers. I musta missed it...

Oh yeah, computers are gonna drive our cars for us, so we should teach kids to drive standards - and that has something to do with old Macs?... (confused look)... gotcha


Hi Scott,

You're right about automatics and raw performance, and the new dual-clutch, automatic shifting "manual" gearboxes even more so. Test after test has proved that even the most highly skilled drivers can't match the performance of a dual-clutch auto-shifter. And for fuel economy, continuously variable transmissions (which I detest) dust manuals.

However, the point of the Save the Manuals campaign is driving fun and enjoyment, and the satisfaction of developing a skill - not cold logic.

I've owned more than 50 cars - more than half of them with manuals - and I've never had to replace a clutch, much less repair a manual transmission. Wish I could say the same for the automatics.

My current truck has a four-speed overdrive automatic that's programmed to shift between 3rd and 4th (overdrive) at about 50 mph, which drives me nuts. If only I could lock it in overdrive and lug the engine if I want to.

I agree with you about hotrodding, although it's not entirely dead. My daughter and her friend just finished building a hot rod VW Super Beetle, which has a Porsche-spec engine with two Weber two-barrel carbs, lowered and stiffened suspension, the largest tires that will fit in the wheel-arches on Porche 928 rims, and is painted bright orange. It's uncomfortable, you really should wear earplugs inside, the suspension has the resiliancy of concrete, the modified shift linkage is positive but very high effort, and the high lift cam makes it gutless below 3,000 RPM, but it's a blast to drive, and handles like a go-kart. Plenty of suds if you keep the revs up.

She's also building a 1968 Imperial LeBaron convertible hot rod with a 440 CID V-8. Currently a Torqueflite tranny, but she's planning to swap in a 4-speed manual. Latest acquisition is a '51 Mercury with a 258 CID flathead V-8, in rough but complete and restorable condition.

I liked my old Powerglides too, and as you say, they offered amazing performance for a 2-speed, at least with high-torque, relatively low-revving engines.

The topical context of the article was Google's "driverless" car project, which is more or less the polar antithesis of Car and Driver's "Save The Manuals."


Editor's note: Not everything published on Low End Mac has to do with Apple or Macs, but the vast majority of it does. We took a detour in September 2001 to respond to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I've shared bits and pieces of my life, particularly while going through an unwanted divorce seven years ago. And we've gone down technological side streets to look at Linux, the Windows world, and Google - which is how Google's self-driving cars dovetail with Macs.

Given the choice between Google or Microsoft having control over my car, I'll take Google. dk

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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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