Charles Moore's Mailbag

Fiat 500 Pros and Cons, More on Rosetta and Lion, docXConverter Working Just Fine, and More

Charles Moore - 2011.05.31 - Tip Jar

Yes, the Fiat 500 Could Be an iCar

From Ian:


I just read your article [Fiat 500: Enough Style to Be an iCar?] on the Fiat 500. I'd have to agree that it is what we've been needing in the North American automotive market for ages. In addition to being a techie, I've been very into cars for many many years. In fact, I just finished riding out the worst of the recession's impact in Pittsburgh by working as a mechanic. I found that there are a great deal of similarities between how people interact with their cars as they do with their computers. These relationships vary from horribly dysfunctional to being completely symbiotic.

Your views on the French, German, English, and Italian [automotive design] are spot on. Despite having never had the opportunity to drive an original Mini, I've found myself to be quite fond of the BMW variants. Then again, I worked at a BMW dealer (and went to BMW University - such a place does actually exist!), so I'm probably a little biased by familiarity with the systems in the car.

Fiat 500The level of complexity in the computers and networking in modern cars is nothing short of amazing. In most modern cars, you'll find at minimum 4 different networks (depending on what kind of car) all with a shared gateway module. Then you'll see a mix of different topologies and transport medium (depending on the nature of the subsystem the network is running on). All of these meet up with the gateway module which will connect to the diagnostic connector, which on almost everything 2002 onwards is the standard 16 pin DLC.

Thank you for writing the article; it's nice to know there are other car guys in this arena.


Hi Ian,

My pleasure, believe me! I've been a car aficionado all my life (I come from families of motorheads on both sides) and a serious enthusiast for nearly 50 years. The changes in that span have been massive, but the appeal endures.

Unlike many aspects of life, however, cars are arguably better now than they've ever been - certainly performance-wise. Concrete example: The original Z28 Camaro, which was essentially a race car for the street homologation special for the then current Firebird Trans Am series, was considered really hot stuff back in 1968. A friend of mine bought one and soon totaled it (fortunately without badly hurting himself or anyone else). However, today a V-6 Toyota Camry family sedan can beat the '68 Z28 in 0-60 acceleration.

Regarding Minis, as I noted in the article I drove them quite a bit. They were amazing little boxes. I helped another friend build up an original Mini Cooper (not a 1275cc Cooper S; this one had a rare Cooper John Cooper works breathed-on 997cc mill, which was different from the garden-variety 998cc version that powered the later Mini 1000) for CASC (equivalent U.S. SCCA) club racing. The racing Minis were awesome. Only things faster around the track here were 427 Corvettes, an original Shelby Cobra 427, the 396 Camaros, and a Porsche 911.

I don't dislike the BMW Mini. It's cool, but it lacks the authenticity of the original and seems a bit of a caricature, as well as being priced to appeal to a completely different class of buyer. I don't have much hands-on experience with BMWs. A friend did have a 6-cylinder Bavaria (can't recall the year or model number but I think it was a 3.0 litre) that he let me wring out on some rural twisties. Extremely impressive in a '70s context.

I also used to moonlight for intervals in the late '60s and '70s as an auto mechanic, but there were no computers then!


No, the Fiat 500 Is a Pile of Junk

From LMN:

No, its not enough. The Fiat 500 is a pile of junk; I've driven it several times. It's weak, feels cheap, and is too small to fit anyone in the back seats if the driver is over 5'9". They should have made it a 2-seater and put a turbo on the engine, that would make it a car worth considering.


I think that's a pretty harsh assessment. Of course the 500c is built to a price, but that doesn't make it junk, and it is a vary small car (albeit much bigger than the original Fiat 500), so probably not a good ride for basketball players.

As for your turbo engine suggestion, that's coming. Chrysler has released the specifications for the Abarth factory hot rod version of the 500 that will be sold in North America with a 1.4L MultiAir Turbo engine spec'd at 170 horsepower (128 kW) @ 6750 rpm and 170 lb.-ft. (231 Nm) of torque @ 3000 rpm. That calculates to 2.04 hp/cu in (124 hp/litre) and ranks the 1.4L MultiAir Turbo engine as having one of the highest specific outputs among production cars.

It'll still have a back seat, though as far as I know.


Loss of Rosetta Means Avoiding Lion for Now

From Seth in response to The Implications of Losing Rosetta in OS X 10.7 Lion:

Hi Charles -

Apple may have lost me with this one, at least as far as purchasing an OS upgrade goes. Between the absurd problems I've had with updating software on my iOS devices - my week old iPad 2 is somehow "ineligible for the selected build" when I try to move to 4.3.3 from 4.3.2 - and the Rosetta business, I'm a little sour on Apple these days.

Too many little bits and pieces of things that just won't work - sounds like a nightmare.

I keep a Cube up and running at home so I've got Classic for the very few times I need it, however it sounds as if the issues with updaters and (probably) print drivers and etc. that are likely to ensue with Lion are more than I've got a stomach for dealing with. I'll give it a year and see how it sorts out.


Hi Seth,

That sounds fair. We all have to find the way that suits our individual needs best in these transitions. I've settled for Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger being the end of the road for my beloved old Pismo PowerBooks and am trying to come to terms with the implications of Rosetta termination for my core suite of production tools, looking for potential substitutes, and so forth.

In a year's time you should be getting a good feel for how things are going to play out.


No Rosetta? Use a Second, Older Mac

From Eric:

Hello Mr. Moore,

I enjoyed the article and ramblings about Rosetta no longer being a part of the Apple OS. It's interesting to hear the solutions of others to keep this software.

However, being that this is on, isn't it a simple, viable option to have the user keep around or purchase an older Apple computer for this purpose? Sure, the user would have to purchase a separate keyboard, mouse, and monitor if they're not using a KVM switch; but this is still cheaper than purchasing an entire new Macintosh. On top of that, depending on the age of the machine, they may still be able to run Classic Mac apps as well. No?


Hi Eric,

But of course you're absolutely right. I'm certainly not planning to get rid of my two working Pismo PowerBooks or my old 604e SuperMac S900 tower anytime in the foreseeable future, although I will also want to keep a Mac running up-to-date system software as well.

Older Macs can be purchased so reasonably (and laptop users like me don't even have the input peripherals and monitor issues to contend with) that there's no reason not to maintain backwards compatibility with older applications and document files.


Rosetta, Intuit, and Quicken 2007

From John:


Another loss with Rosetta is Quicken 2007 for Mac. That is the latest "full" version for Mac. The vastly inferior Quicken Essentials runs without Rosetta but pales in comparison to the old full version.

There hasn't been any news from Intuit regarding future Mac versions as far as I know. I may have to use the Windoze version with Boot Camp. I don't understand Intuit's plan, but it sure is making plenty of Mac users angry.



Hi John,

Quicken is such an important program for so many users, I find it hard to imagine that Intuit won't port a full version with 64-bit native OS X support, but I have no hard knowledge to back up that surmise.


PowerPC Installers for Intel Apps

From Greg:

One of your correspondents wrote:

"I don't own any recent edition of Office, so it's not something I can look into myself. But it does seem strange that Office 2k8 is throwing up a Rosetta installation request for Intel users under any circumstances."

Mac OS X installer packages are mostly just "documents" for Apple's installer app, as Adam Engst mentions. However, they can contain bits of executable code used to prepare for, post-process, or validate the installation. Those executables may be simple shell scripts, but they can also be full applications, and in that case they may be PowerPC-only. When Microsoft was building these installers three years ago, it may have seemed reasonable to them to use non-Universal installer utilities to reduce space consumption or testing needs. Now, with the apparent info that Rosetta is going away, it's troublesome of course.


Thanks for the explanation, Greg.


docXConverter Is Working Just Fine

From Lloyd, following up on Converting .docx Files for Mac OS 9 Versions of Word:

Hello, Charles:

As a follow-up to our recent exchange about the end of Rosetta and backward compatibility, etc., I wanted to let you know that Panergy's docXConverter is working just fine. it's worth $19.95 to have fuller use of my $1.00 WallStreet, upon whose keyboard these words are being typed. (I'm sending them via dial-up, wirelessly, as the last barrier to daily OS 9 living is encryption. With wireless dialup, my signal is not broadcast except when I choose to go online, and the intermittent nature of its' use is the best defense I can muster in the WPA era.)

Thanks for your always informative and entertaining writing.


Hi Lloyd,

Thanks for the kind words. If it helps make a $1.00 computer usably useful, $19.95 is cheap at the price.

And you're right, along with reliability and usually lower cost, another point in dial-up's favor is enhanced security. It sure is slow, though. Have you found Opera's Turbo compression feature any help with that?


Hello, Charles:

Opera 5 is one of my backup browsers on the WallStreet, and I also have it on my Intel MacBook and my work Dell laptop, which runs Win XP. It's a noticeable help with speed, but page rendering, in all versions, is not always accurate. (I have it on my iPod touch, as well, but the tiny screen makes any browser nearly unusable for my 49 y/o eyes.) I notice the speed of page loads even when using DSL, Charles. Opera is a burner, and the page rendering issues do not detract from that. (Lynx is very fast, too, but Opera is more like a 'normal' browser, and it is my first choice for text-only Internet use.)

BTW, the dial-up service I use is the Genessee Freenet, at, one of the last of the nonprofit, community-based 'freenets' that helped midwife Internet usage for early adapters back in the early 1990s. GFN has been around since 1994, and they offer Telnet access, as well. I'd be curious to know how many other freenets are active out there, and for that matter, how many still visit Gopher servers, use Telnet and other systems from the early days of connectivity.


Hi Lloyd,

Thanks for the Opera 5 report.

Regarding holdout freenets, I haven't a clue. There are none in my neck of the woods any more.


A Free Way to Convert .docx to .doc

From Mark:


This is an addendum to your recent missive from Lloyd about "converting .docx files for Mac OS 9 versions of Word".

I cannot verify if the .doc files created are readable in OS 9, but I have often used the free website to convert files from some pretty esoteric formats . . . for free. Since Lloyd is apparently a teacher, it probably makes more sense to have a specific OS 9 software program to do his conversions when he gets a lot of docx files, but for the occasional file it is nice to have a free Web resource that does some file conversions, including word processing, image formats, video formats, etc. The free is if the files are under 100 MB. If you have to convert larger files, then you have to upgrade to their paid service. I can vouch for converting some horrible Microsoft Publisher files into PDFs with Zamzar, and being able to compare the PDF version to a printed version of the Publisher file. I could see no obvious difference.

Since you are sending a file to a website, I would not recommend sending a business or personally sensitive document thru the Zamzar system.


Thanks for the information, Mark.

Just did a quick checkout of the Zamzar site. Looks like a very useful service.


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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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