Charles Moore's Mailbag

Still Useful G3 iMac, Mac Nostalgia, Beautiful Cars, Road Trip Movies, and More

Charles Moore - 2011.02.22 - Tip Jar

More on Macs and Other Classics

From John, following up on last week's On Macs and Other Classics:

Hey Charles,

Vanishing Point sounds like my kind of movie. I'm almost surprised I haven't seen it. Thanks for mentioning that one, I'll track it down. I'm always a sucker for road movies which make the journey about more than just location. From Easy Rider to Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas - my favourite living director working with my favourite (then still) living writer - there's something especially compelling about setting them in times of cultural upheaval. Sounds well worth a look.

The idea with Amazon Studios is to let newcomers into both the writing and the production side of moviemaking. So I kept "ease of use" in mind when devising my story. I figured it would be practical to use the time honoured format of great natural scenery and a classic convertible, not least as the plot's purpose for the trip is a photography project. Any budding director worth their salt should be able to have some fun with all that. Besides, I'm easily bored with movies that keep the characters chattering away inside the whole time anyway. It's nice to have a little influence for a change. If it gets shot.

As for PowerBooks, Apple had an especially compelling lineup back in 2003 with the introduction of my 12" and your 17". It was the Verne Troyer and Yao Ming "large and small" ad that caught my attention. I was having all the usual problems on the Windows side and, after a lot of reading on Apple's site and elsewhere, it was the combined notion of a deliciously well designed PowerBook and Mac OS X that pulled me over. For good.

The App Store and this year's coming release of the second Intel-only major version of OS X don't spell well for much more first- or third-party support for this old Mac. And it'll be a sad day when I can't use Dropbox. That slick backup service helped while I was writing Undo: I accidentally removed most of a scene and only discovered several saves and hours later. Fortunately, a little trip to Dropbox had the older versions back, so I could copy that part back over while keeping my subsequent work elsewhere in the script. A veritable undo, indeed.

It's the 13" MacBook Air I have my eye on, of course. Every bit as compelling a Mac as mine was way back when, and a good sight cheaper even fully loaded. The only downside in comparison, in my view, is the non-upgradable memory, so I'd have to spring for the 4 gigs from the outset. My track record being, after all, just two laptops in my career starting in 1997.


Hi John,

Thanks for the supplementary observations. Based on the theme of your own screenplay and your comments above, I'm confident you would get a kick out of watching Vanishing Point. Good luck tracking it down. I think it's available on

I saw Easy Rider a bunch of times back in 1969 when it was first released. I've heard of Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas of course, but it has eluded me thus far. In general I am a sucker for road trip movies too.

We also seem to think along parallel lines in our laptop preferences. I am likewise sorely enticed by the 13" MacBook Air. I don't like the lack of memory upgradability, but I wouldn't want any Mac running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or 10.5 Leopard without having a minimum of 4 GB of RAM anyway. My concern is whether that would be enough to satisfy potential future demands, tending to hold onto my computers for a long time as well. Even with OS X 10.4 Tiger, the Pismo's maximum 1 GB of memory is marginal, but of course they are going on 11 years old, so I really can't seriously complain.

However a more topically relevant case in point is the original MacBook Air, forever limited to 2 GB, which is no longer adequate. My fear is that the same dynamic may apply in the future to even a 4 GB MacBook Air.

Consequently, my head tells me that I should probably buy a 13" MacBook Pro next year when my three year main production Mac replacement target arrives, and it's certainly no hardship in its current iteration. It may well be more MacBook Air-like by this time next year, which would probably resolve my dilemma.


An Amazingly Useful G3 iMac

From Dave in response to All-time Favorite Macs: Nostalgia Confronts Realistic Pragmatism:

Hi Charles,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article and reader responses on favorite vintage Macs. Since I recently had an interesting experience resurrecting one, I decided I had to write.

I work as a graphic designer and illustrator for a publisher. At work, to scan images we have an 11x17 Microtek scanner hooked to an old G4 desktop unit running OS 9 and OS X. The reason we're running OS 9 is because I have an affinity for Adobe Streamline, which was never made for OS X and was "replaced" by the live trace function in Adobe Illustrator. I like the way Streamline processes the images a lot better than the way live trace does it. With our old setup - OS 9 and our old SCSI scanner - a workhorse Agfa we'd been running for about 15 years - you could scan through Streamline (it opened the scanner software automatically) and convert the scanned TIFF image to vector all in the one program. Our current system, the G4 with the Microtek scanner, requires third party software to do the scanning in OS X, after which I have to open Streamline in OS 9 and reopen the image to process it. Needless to say, the more current process is a lot slower - the scanner is slower (about 8 minutes to scan), and I need more than one piece of software to get the job done.

Over the next couple of days the office where I work is being recarpeted and painted, requiring me to work from home. While I have a scanner set up I use with my 17" MacBook Pro laptop and desktop 24" iMac model, I don't run OS 9 off either machine. So, in order to scan, I would need to convert images to vector using live trace. I have to say I really didn't want to do that. I was ruminating over the prospect when it hit me: I still had my old Epson scanner and my old Lime iMac slot-loading G3 kicking around the basement. I remembered I'd installed Streamline on the machine and set it up exactly as our work machine had been set up. There was really no reason not to put the two back in service for the next few days. The current set up at work takes about 7 minutes to scan and another couple to clean and convert to vector. My old iMac G3 with my old scanner takes maybe 30 seconds to scan and another minute to convert to vector. I was able to do all seven scans I had on my plate in about the time it takes two using the newer system. Sometimes simpler really is better. I realized how much I miss these old systems. As others have mentioned, I was able to troubleshoot just about anything that went wrong with them. The really funny part about this machine was it didn't have a CD writer. I used to use a Zip drive with it, but I couldn't lay my hands on it. I did find my old USB Iomega floppy drive. So, believe it or not, I transferred the images from the iMac G3 to my MacBook Pro using a floppy disk. The files are pretty small, so I fit them all on one floppy. :) I guess I really didn't need the Zip drive after all.

Well, having my old lime buddy upstairs made me realize just how cool this machine was. My decor is retro, and I realized these old flavored iMacs have gone from old clunker to retro gem in the last few years. It occurred to me it would make a pretty cool living room conversation piece. And even better, if I buy an inexpensive external drive and load all my iTunes on it, the old Lime iMac can become a pretty cool stereo unit too. I will probably be hooking it up to my 1961 Olympic stereo console unit for speakers. I've found an external drive that is compatible with both OS 9 and OS X, because I will need to transfer the iTunes from an external drive the Lime iMac won't recognize. Do you have any advice that might be helpful in carrying out this operation? I was reading somewhere I'd need to format the drive for OS 9. Is this true and if so, will my newer iMac recognize it?



Hi Dave,

I enjoyed reading the interesting chronicle of your adventures with scanning on those old Macs. As a matter of fact, I still do pretty well all of my scanning with a now-elderly Epson Perfection flatbed and a Minolta transparency scanner on my old Pismo PowerBooks running OS X 10.4. Photoshop Elements 3 or 4, ToyViewer, and Color it! 4.5 do most of the image editing work. I have scanner software for both the scanners but am inclined these days to use VueScan mostly. Have you tried it? I'm pretty confident that it would support both your Agfa and Epson scanners, and it can perform quite a bit of image manipulation in the scanning application itself, although not conversion to vector images.

I think the Lime model was my favorite fruit-colored iMac - definitely my favorite clamshell iBook model.

I am curious as to how you read the floppy disks with a MacBook Pro.

As for your file transfer dilemma in relation to drive formatting, I'm anything but an expert, but a thought that occurs is that using one of the Windows or DOS formats might work, since both Macs should be able to read them.

There's a lot of information here:

However, both OS 9 and OS X should be able to access volumes formatted in HFS+, which supports operating systems Mac OS 8.1, Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, Darwin, Linux, and Microsoft Windows (through MacDrive or Boot Camp IFS drivers).


Hi Charles,

I've never used VueScan. I'm using the Epson software that came with my Epson scanner run through Streamline at home to make the vector images. At work we have a two-year-old large format Microtek scanner (I hate Microtek!). Microtek software really stinks, other than for black and white, depending on the material the drawing is on. We had to get third party software that cost $400 to do color work and anything drawn on tracing paper. To scan the artwork I have to go through all sorts of gyrations like adjusting the amount of light or photocopying the image first so I can use the Microtek software instead. My scanner at home had no problem with any drawing material. And the thing is slow as hell. We haven't used the Agfa scanner since moving to newer computers with OS X, because the Agfa isn't supported any more and has a SCSI connector. It hides under the desk now, and I don't think I would be supported in trying to put it back into service.

I'm looking at clamshells on eBay lately. I think I'm going to get a tangerine one and use it for writing when I don't feel like lugging the MacBook Pro and need to keep myself off line to focus.

I use an external Iomega USB floppy drive to read floppies on my MacBook Pro. It's even an Intel Mac, and it has no problem reading the disks. It seems like anything with a USB port will read it. I picked it up cheap a couple of years ago on eBay.

That's an interesting idea having a PC formatted external drive. I never would have thought of that. I'm glad I didn't buy the drive yet. I'll have to do a little more research first. Thanks for the link.

Since I wrote to you, I joined the forum on RetroMacCast. I've really been enjoying it. Someone walked me through getting my Mac Classic running again. I'm now working on trying to get my Mac SE SuperDrive running. It's a tough nut to crack, because the floppy drive has a disk jammed in it, and it won't recognize a Zip drive so far. It bombs due to not being able to find the Finder. I think I'll need to open this one up to get it going again. The Classic ended up being easy because it had a boot disk right in it. Just had to boot off the boot disk and replace the System folder.

Thanks for getting back to me.


Hi Dave,

My pleasure.

The scanning software that came with my Epson perfection scanner is serviceable, but I find it very pedestrian compared with VueScan.

VueScan can be downloaded and tried out as a fully functional demo for free. The only limitation is that your scans will be watermarked until you pay the registration fee.

I share your dim view of Microtek scanners based on an old black-and-white Microtek scanner I bought years ago back in 68030/OS 7.1 Mac days. It's in perfect condition, and I don't think it's been used for a dozen years or so. I remember being underwhelmed by the scanner software, but on the other hand it was my first scanner and in some respects quite a revelation. VueScan works with literally hundreds of different scanners, old and new, and probably supports the old Microtek machines - and almost certainly would your two-year-old one, which you might like better if you had decent software to use with it.

I have a VST expansion bay SuperDisk/floppy drive somewhere for my Pismos, but haven't used it for many years. It worked fine with OS 9, however. Not sure sure about drivers for OS X. If I really need to access a floppy, which I haven't had occasion to do in a very long time, I have a old SuperMac S900 tower that has a floppy drive, as well as USB and FireWire PCI expansion cards, so for me it could serve as an intermediary if the need presented itself. Someday, if I ever get some spare time, it would be an interesting exercise to go through the dozens of old floppies I have to see what's on them.

Probably opening up that SuperDrive floppy drive is the way to proceed with attempting to restore it to service. Let me know how it turns out.


Mac Nostalgia

From Brian:


Your last article even got me thinking.

I've the litany of Macintosh computers. Sadly, my "Fat Mac" disappeared in the early 1990s after I left home for the service, but I still have, in order of purchase:

Mac Classic, Mac Classic II, a Color Classic, my Power Mac G4 Sawtooth, my late model G5 iMac, and finally, my primary development vehicle, a 2010 13" MacBook Pro.

I'm an author, programmer, and member of the National Guard. From the active duty Army to college/grad school, these Macs have served and continue to serve me well.

When I was in the Army and during the early college years, the transportable nature of the Mac Classic II and Color Classic served me well. Computing back then was as much about economy of space as it was about productivity and entertainment. My friends with their ungainly PC clones struggled with fitting their PCs in the metal affairs in a manner that didn't constitute work between barracks inspections. Finding software at the time was harder on far flung military installations, but I was at least happy doing it.

Later, when space became less of a concern, repurposing these Macs for various purposes became a matter of pride. I performed the "Takky" upgrade on my Color Classic. The original Classic is retired, but the Classic II gets booted when I want to demonstrate to my children that the games of my youth involved a text parser, probably the equivalent of walking uphill in the snow to this generation. The G4 and G5 make nice platforms for education software titles, and the G5 is still supported enough that my daughter doesn't feel lame using it. She can talk to her older sister using Skype and its built-in iSight, which still makes it incredibly relevant.

I love the MacBook Pro. The built in SD Card is great, the keyboard has a nice touch for extended hours of coding. It's also extremely lightweight and durable, which makes it ideal for the drill weekends with the Guard when I don't want to travel heavy but still want to be productive. The best part of it all is that since in real life I primarily write in either Coldfusion or C#.NET, with free tools such as Sun/Oracle's VirtualBox and a licensed copy of Windows 2003 server, I'm able to seamlessly do my development in an environment I can stomach. Thus far, this is the only real advantage I find in owning an Intel Mac. Otherwise, I could still get by with an ancillary Windows box and the iMac.

I love Low End Mac, though. The list of Macs I own may sound like I've lead a gilded existence, but all but the iMac and the MacBook Pro were scored in various deals. I'm frugal, which is why I am not inclined to let any of these machines die, besides the fact that each of them has a story of its own.

Speaking of stories, one thing I love is that it is still entirely possible to scribe a relevant novel using Microsoft Office 98 on the Color Classic. OS 9 (with the Apple Japan appearance theme Drawing Board, which still appeals to my sense of aesthetic over ten years later), is still potent enough an environment to get the job done. One of my mentors swore he'd only write his books on a SelectWriter, so I suppose the CC is my SelectWriter.

My very first computer was a Kaypro 2X. There was no more austere a writing environment than the green and black screen, with the metallic reverb of its keyboard. However, since I wanted to craft literary elegance, the Mac had and still has so much more appeal. Sure, you can wield your computer like a blunderbuss, but Macs, even old ones, have an air of functional sophistication that should mean something. You show me a Windows user who holds his first Windows 3.1 box in such high esteem. I doubt you'll find such a thing.

At any rate, good work, I love reading the efforts you and Mr. Knight put forth.

All the best,

Hi Brian,

Thanks for the stories. I always enjoy reading about people's Mac Odysseys.

I still have a Mac Plus, an LC 520, a PowerBook 5300, a SuperMac S900, a PowerBook 1400, three Pismos, a G3 iBook, a 17" PowerBook (handed off to my wife), and an aluminum unibody MacBook.

The MacBook of course shares the form factor with your 13" MacBook Pro, so you're preaching to the converted about its virtues. In 20/20 hindsight, I wish I had waited another four months and bought the pro model with its SD Card and FireWire slot, but the MacBook has been a flawless and dependable performer for two years now, and I'm planning to try to get a third year out of it as my primary work platform before upgrading. If I was doing that today, it would be a tough choice between a 13" MacBook Pro and the 13" MacBook Air.

I never had a Color Classic, but I always admired it. I'm a fan of small computers, and that 10" Sony Trinitron display was a real jewel.

I also cut my computing teeth with a green on black monitor, in my case it was a humongously big WangWriter II dedicated word processor, that I also still have and presume still works (not having verified that for a long time). The system disks are on 5.25" floppies (that are genuinely floppy), and I suppose that data written on them has a finite life. Actually, it was a pretty good rig in the context of its time, and it had a superb keyboard. Even the daisy wheel printer, although heartbreakingly slow and earsplittingly noisy, did a reasonably creditable job with the wide selection of font wheels that came with it.

However, the Mac Plus was a whole 'nother dimension and revelation. Talk about "magical". In the context of another time, I could completely appreciate what Steve Jobs was getting at in his iPad introduction. I would venture that the early Macs were a greater and more horizon-expanding departure from the old green or amber screen hardware than the iPad is from today's Macs.


Beautiful Cars

From Zed:

I got to admit that for me nothing is uglier than anything produced by American Motors from the early 70s till they died of extreme taste failure. The Gremlin, Pacer, Matador, and even the Hornet all looked like bloated sausages with bizarre proportions. I think if you look up any "top ten ugliest cars" list you'll find at least two of these cars on that list.

1969 Citröen DS

My take on the most beautiful car is the 1969 Citröen DS. This is the 4 headlight "shark" front model. Especially the European version with the glass headlight covers. That car was designed with love, and it shows.


Hi Zed,

I'm not quite as down on American Motors styling as you are. I liked the mid-1970s Matador fastback two-door hardtops, although the Matador four-door sedan was plug ugly, and the first iteration of the Javelin (styled by Dick Teague, if memory serves me) was no-excuses attractive in a tasteful and restrained way. The second-generation were less appealing to my sense of aesthetics, but not bad. As for the rest you mention, no argument. Some were sort of fetchingly quirky, and at least different, but not pretty.

1968 AMC Javelin

I do agree with you wholeheartedly about the Citröen DS. Have you checked out the one that Simon Baker drives in his Patrick Jane persona on The Mentalist? The most as a terribly cool DS in my estimation is the very rare convertible model. A couple friends of mine, now both passed away, were Citröen DS fans and owned several between them. They are fantastic cars from an engineering as well as styling standpoint. The French have designed some exquisitely ugly cars (a good example is the Citröen Deux Chevaux), but they really nailed it with the DS in both contexts.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts,


AppleCare Makes Sense for Laptops

From Daniel:

Let me add my 2¢:

I've owned my PowerBook for six years and counting, and the $250 [cost of AppleCare] has been more than covered in those first couple years. What moving part do you think gets the most wear/force exerted on it? In my case, that was the hinge, where the power connections to the display happen to be. I had issues with the same part there twice.

The first time, they mailed the machine to Texas with a week turnaround time. I was not happy about the down time, to say the least. Within a year, the same part went out, so this time I took it to a local certified Mac repair shop (not the Apple Store), and the guy did the work in less than a day, billed Apple for the cost, and I haven't had a problem with them since.

In retrospect, I should have gone to the same place when they finally issued the recall on the power bricks. You might remember they had the issue where the insulation on the smaller wire would become rigid and eventually burn through. I managed to do that to three of them shortly after AppleCare ran out and had to buy new ones each time. Unfortunately, the snots at the Apple Store wouldn't do a thing about reimbursement and the new one I had to buy, even though I had the fried evidence right there in front of them.

My advice is going to be always to take it to the local authorized repair shop with Apple Care. They're faster. There's no shipping hassle. And they don't ask questions or make big deals about cosmetic damage that obviously has nothing to do with the issue at hand. This last bit of info should be valuable to anyone thinking about Apple Care.

Hi Daniel,

Sounds like good advice based on experience. At least if one lives within reasonable distance of a local authorized Apple repair shop. For me, the nearest one is 150 road miles away, which complicates matters somewhat. However, happily in my 19 years as a Mac user, I've only been obliged to send machines away for service twice, and that was the first two Macs I ever owned. The first instance was with my Mac Plus, which needed a video inverter repair, and I had a RAM upgrade installed (to a whopping 2.5 MB!) while it was in the shop. The second was my LC 520, which had developed a noisy cooling fan and and issue I was unable to accurately diagnose, but resulted in the motherboard being replaced. That happened toward the end of the basic 12 month warranty period and was not an AppleCare repair. Since then, I've handled the exceedingly rare instances of my Macs needing repair or service myself.

However, as you say, in your case the AppleCare fee paid off. I've never had any hinge failures with any of my Mac notebooks, including models that were notorious for it, such as the WallStreet. However my laptops usually don't get a tremendous amount of open and close cycles, so my experience in that context it probably not typical.


Long Term Value vs. Price

From Brett in response to the 2011.02.11 'Book Review:

Hi Charles,

I always enjoy reading your work, and the 'Book Review compilations are great too. The link this week to the Adamo article on The Loop got me thinking about something I've considered a few times.

My wife is (sadly) not yet in the Mac fold, she remains a "PC girl" in spite of her frustrations - however, she likes nice looking hardware :) and of course the Adamo fit the bill in every respect - except price.

However, Dell also makes a very similar Vostro unit, first as the V13 and now as the V130. I will likely purchase a V130 for her as a surprise anniversary present (not very traditional, I know). It looks very similar to the Adamo, as I am sure you are aware, and is much more reasonably priced (Dell hasn't been kind enough to extend the lowered prices on the Adamo to Canadians, for some reason - and doesn't seem to be listing it at all right now anyway).

So perhaps the Vostro V13 and V130 have also cannibalized Adamo sales - some folks want the look, but didn't need the higher-end components. I mean, for a lot of folks integrated graphics and standard hard drives are good enough - the V130 looks the part and works well from what I've read.

Anyway - keep up the good work!


Hi Brett,

Thanks for the kind words about my scribbling, and the comments.

You're probably correct about the Vostro Dells siphoning off sales from the Adamo. However, Dell (and most other PC manufacturers) seems to be unable to produce competing products that have the style, appeal, and overall panache that Apple hardware typically does. I think that the Adamo was probably doomed from the get-go for that reason, and of course it's high price. Many people will pay more for Apple. Considerably fewer for another Windows PC box.

Sorry you can't persuade your wife to go with a MacBook Air, but if she really prefers Windows, she's of course entitled to.


Hi Charles,

You are quite welcome - thank you for your reply.

I agree with you about Dell and other PC manufacturers (I saw just today on CNET that HP has canceled the Envy 13, which was another MacBook Air "competitor") - you are right in my opinion too, they just cannot compete with Apple, even when they try. I have this argument with a colleague of mine at least once a week.

He's a staunch Apple-hater and PC-lover, and he'll go on and on about how he doesn't understand me buying Apple products, especially laptops. Yet he is saving to buy an Audi or a BMW - when I try to make it into a car analogy, he somehow misses the point (I will typically say to him, "the 2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T is almost the same as a base model Audi A4 2.0T except for the lack of AWD, it has more power and equivalent or perhaps nicer interior - plus a better warranty and better reliability - so why would anyone pay for an Audi?")

Of course, I'd prefer the Audi too myself - as I prefer the Apple hardware, since it not only looks better to me and functions better for me, but it seems to last longer as well. My "second" laptop is a last-model PowerBook G4 (just prior to the Intel switch, so a 1.67 GHz, with 2 GB memory) and it is running Leopard like a top. I paid $650 for it including tax and shipping last October. I know a lot of folks who bought PC laptops for that around the same time - they got plasticized, creaky machines with loud fans - and I predict they will be buying new ones long before the PowerBook needs replacement.

(My primary laptop is a 2008 MacBook Pro 2.5 GHz with 6 GB memory, last one prior to the unibody - I love it and will probably put an SSD in it when Lion comes out, then do a fresh install.)

I have considered buying a MacBook Air for my wife anyway - if she really doesn't like OS X, I can install Windows 7 on it, I suppose :) or I could just keep it for myself!

Have a great day and a great weekend Charles,


Hi Brett,

I thought of you today when I read about the HP Envy 13 being canceled.

I also have a PowerBook G4 - a 17" unit with the 1.33 GHz PowerPC processor. I handed it off to my wife about a year ago, but it's still running great with Leopard. It just works, which is what she cares about in computers. Goes for months, sometimes even seasons without a restart. The original battery, which dates back to at least 2005 and probably further back than that (it was an Apple Certified Refurbished unit, and the ACR serial number is from July 2005), still has useful life in it, although almost certainly less than 80% of its original capacity.

If the sticking point for your wife is Windows affinity, why not indeed run it on a MacBook Air?

I think the analogy of Apple hardware and German cars hold a lot of water, not least because Steve Jobs has long been a Mercedes and Porsche fan. Good point about the latest iteration of the Hyundai Sonata, which is truly impressive, especially in light of it's modest price. The midsize range is a brutally competitive market segment with a vast selection of excellent choices. My favorites among the current and recent offerings have been the Mazda 6, the Chevy Malibu, and the Ford Fusion, but I think were I buying right now I would go with the Sonata. And I say that as a current Toyota Camry owner. Of course an Audi is a whole other dimension, and raw specifications really don't capture the essence of it's desirability, anymore than citing clock speeds and feature lists adequately sizes up the essence of a Mac.

I think Oscar Wilde's observation about people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing applies quite well to Apple - dissing Windows fans, and as Steve Jobs put it so well: "The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don't mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don't think of original ideas, and they don't bring much culture into their products."


Hi Charles,

I know that's what my wife values most in her computer as well - that it should "just work" - so I guess sometimes I wonder why she keeps using Vista (I've even suggested she try dual-booting Windows 7 on her current Dell, but she won't budge!) - she does have her share of problems.

I will say this, from time to time she's mentioned perhaps being interested in an iPad but then worries about the lack of physical keyboard, which makes me think maybe an 11" MacBook Air would do it - and then with Boot Camp and Windows, it would be perfect. We shall see.

I can't help but use car analogies, as I am as much a car-lover as I am a computer-lover (though I currently drive a Hyundai Accent, in spite of missing my VW GTI terribly, I have to be practical since we have four children - a 9-year old and 6-year old triplets - it comes down to putting your money where it is best served, sometimes :) which doesn't explain why I have four computers of my own - then one for my wife - two for the kids, with more coming. *sigh*)

I do love German as well as Japanese cars, but I can see if I upgrade in future it will probably be to a Sonata, since they are just so well-made for the price.

I like the Oscar Wilde observation and Steve Jobs' quote - though I do like and respect my colleague, these words seem to fit him when it comes to his hatred of all things Apple and his love for Microsoft and commodity-spec computer hardware. As an example, on Friday evening he called me for some assistance. He was putting a new hard drive in a Toshiba A200 laptop (the old hard drive died somehow), and then when he went to install Windows, he discovered that the optical drive would not recognize the disc. The A200 was manufactured and sold in 2007, yet my 2006-vintage PowerBook G4 is still working perfectly, burning discs like crazy, and the battery shows over 90% capacity. Go figure.

I ended up loaning my colleague a Windows 7 USB installer to get him out of his predicament. That's what you get for valuing bottom line over quality, right?

As a side note, I used to own a B&W [Power Mac] G3/400, which ran perfectly until I sold it last year, and I had picked it up secondhand in 2005 (I had also upgraded it with a DVD burner, 1 GB of memory and dual 120 GB hard discs). How many PC's from 1999 are still running well in 2011?

It makes me want to buy a nice Power Mac G4, maybe an MDD with FW800, while I can still find them.

Have a great day


Hi Brett,

At least from my perspective, an 11.6" MacBook Air sounds like it would be perfect for your wife if she's looking for a small computing platform with a good keyboard that can run her beloved Windows. Except for the Windows part, it's a solution that certainly appeals to me. My most significant objections to the MacBook Air are the non-upgradable RAM capped at 4 GB and the not adequate for my needs maximum 128 GB storage capacity in the 11.6" model and the astronomical price of the 256 MB option in the 13-incher.

I was a consummate car freak for some 30-odd years before I got my first personal computer. Nothing to apologize for in running a Hyundai Accent. It's a cost-effective, economical, and reliable automobile, And when you have small children, that takes precedence of importance.

I've owned something north of 60 cars over the past 44 years, starting with a Nash Metropolitan when I was 15. When our kids were young, I drove a Dodge Royal Sportsman eight passenger van with a 360 CID V-8. Fortunately, gas was a lot less expensive in those days. The van was pretty much a dud when it came to driving pleasure, but it was very practical for hauling a family around.

The only German car I've ever actually owned was a 1962 Volkswagen Beetle, but I've driven Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and I understand the appeal. My daughter had a BMW 3 series for a short time. She showed up here for a weekend last summer driving a seriously hot rodded VW Super Beetle that she helped a friend build - modified engine with twin Weber carburetors, Porsche 928 alloy wheels with fat rubber, lowered suspension with what felt like little more compliance than a go-cart, but loud, powerful (as long as you kept the revs up because of the racing style camshaft), and tons of fun to drive. Their current project is swapping a Subaru flat four into the Super Beetle for even more power. She also hopes to have her 1968 Imperial LeBaron convertible hot rod with its 440 CID V8 back on the road for the summer.

Our current fleet includes the Toyota Camry that I mentioned previously - a 1990 model that we've owned since 1998, a 1991 Corolla that is my wife's winter beater daily driver, a 1994 Mazda B-4000 4x4 pickup (Ford Ranger clone built in New Jersey), and my pet 2000 Mercury Grand Marquis that is currently stored indoors for the winter. The big Merc gets astonishingly good fuel mileage on highway runs, is superbly comfortable, and even handles decently well. That Ford Panther platform is probably the best rear wheel drive body on frame design the company ever built. My daughter has had two Police Interceptor ford Crown Victorias, which are the same chassis as the Merc. I like to upgrade the Merc's suspension to Police Interceptor specification, but will probably never get around to it.

As for your rhetorical query: "How many PC's from 1999 are still running well in 2011?" I still have two Pismo PowerBooks in daily production use running OS X 10.4 Tiger. I expect that there are very few contemporaneous Windows laptops still in active service, although Windows XP is still far and away the most prolific operating system in use with personal computers.


Hi Charles,

Yes, that's what I am thinking as well. I have seen a new model Sony VAIO (a "Y", I think, it's an 11.6" form factor running an AMD Fusion processor) for $499 - but it's all "plastic-y" so I'm not sure - plus no SSD, only 2 GB memory, etc. - I may just take a chance when Lion comes out and splurge for her, see how she likes it, and if she doesn't, we can always put Windows 7 on it.

I figure collecting computers is a pretty benign hobby compared with some of the others out there, and they don't seem to rust away, unlike cars in this part of Canada (good old Eastern Ontario salt trucks) - and as you say, with small children (and many of them in our case), practical is best. We have a Kia Sedona minivan as the other vehicle, and we love it. The Accent makes the best sense for me since my daily commute is only 36 km round-trip. I have considered going with a hybrid next time, but that's just the "tech junkie" in me talking, as I would never recoup the additional cost in spite of the fuel savings with such a short commute. Now, when the cost of those drops (i.e., when Hyundai puts out a hybrid Accent), I may make the jump. I have driven both the Insight and the Prius, and they remind me of Star Trek shuttlecraft inside!

I have two semi-vintage Macs on my radar at present - a Ti PowerBook (which was my first "modern Mac", I used one for work in 2003-04) and a Cube. So I keep my eyes open on eBay - one of these days, the right ones will come along, and I will grab them both :)

For now, what I have is ticking along well - the Al PowerBook is fast enough for a Web work/writing machine and can remotely access my other machines if I need more horsepower. My MacBook Pro is only three years old and so it is still a powerhouse as far as I am concerned. I will probably put an SSD in it when OS X 10.7 comes out and take advantage of that moment to do a clean install rather than an upgrade. Then every application will have to "earn" a spot on the hard drive, and it will give me a good reason to simplify my work flow (I run two consulting businesses from home on the side, one as a computer services business for SMB's, and one as a Federally incorporated nuclear consulting company with a colleague).

I admit to also having a soft spot for the old Clamshell iBooks... ;) so I wouldn't be surprised if one ends up here someday!

- Brett

Hi Brett,

I understand your sentimental affection for the TiBook, but they were not a particularly long-lasting Mac laptop. Wegener Media's David Wegener once told me that he had a large collection of dead TiBook motherboards, but very few Pismo ones.

I had a Cube (Dan Knight used it a bit first), but swapped it even for one of the Pismos I'm still using back in 2001.

I'll see your "good old Eastern Ontario salt trucks" and raise you year-round coastal Nova Scotia salt spray from storms, plus a damp climate and relatively warm but snowy and slushy winters (liberally seasoned with road salt). That's why my Mercury and my wife's Camry are mothballed for the winter.

IMHO, hybrids, while technically interesting (and statistically, the Prius is Toyota's most trouble-free model), make little economic sense unless you're an urban commuter in a lot of low-speed, stop-start traffic. For highway commutes, diesels are the economy champs.


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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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