Maximize Your Mac

Maximizing the PowerBook 3400c

- 2006.07.26

In my last article, Upgrade Your Pismo with a Dual-Layer DVD Burner, I mentioned that I had just purchased a PowerBook 3400c. This week I'd like to take the time to inform readers about my experience trying to maximize this new part of my Mac family.

Why a 3400?

I would first like to explain why I purchased a laptop that was old and really underpowered compared with the rest of the Macs I use. First, I wanted another laptop. Although I primarily use a Pismo for portable duty, it belongs to my wife. Another 'Book would give me portability without having to worry about her snatching it from me.

Going with an older 'Book would also present a challenge: getting it to run on my OS X only network, running wirelessly, and finding programs that would make it usable for me.

The last reason is that it is just plain fun! It's something new to tinker with and bring up (hopefully) good memories of the old days on Mac OS.

My 3400c

Let's start by looking at exactly what I have here. I purchased a 3400c using eBay for what seemed like a steal. When I received it, that would be proven, because this Book was in excellent physical and working condition. There were only a few small marks that were easily cleaned up, and although it was missing its rear port door, that wasn't a problem for me.

The screen was brilliant with great color and no missing pixels. All of the ports were in working condition, as were all of the important hardware pieces. The battery even held a full charge! It a 200 MHz model and came with 16 MB of memory, a 2 GB hard drive, and a 12x CD-ROM.

PowerBook 3400cThe 'Book was running Mac OS 7.6 and came with a couple of programs on it. Only two pieces of software were going to be useful, the text program and CD Player.

As many people running Tiger (OS X 10.4) on their Macs already know, classic OSs will not connect to them on a network. That was the first thing I found out. I looked around the Internet and came up empty handed after the one hack I tried ended up useless.

Now I had to try to get this thing on the Net to get some useful software. Much of it is free, too, which is a bonus to people using an aged OS such as this one.

When trying Internet Explorer and Netscape I was greeted with many system bombs. Drat! This is one of those bad memories I have of the Classic Mac OS. Crash after crash, but I managed to get a download of iCab (which is free) onto my desktop.

Low End Mac in iCabAfter another crash and restart, I loaded it up and hopped online. Much better, I thought - well, on some websites that is. Another bomb, and I realized that some websites just were not going to happily load for me. Hmmm, this is going to take some time to iron out, I thought. At least I can get onto the Net more stably than before. I could now transfer files, too. For now, the only way is to email documents and files between email addresses. Hey, it works.

With no access to my network, I couldn't remote print as I did with the rest of my Macs. Aha! I remembered that my mother still had (fingers crossed) a LaserWriter in her basement that was going unused. I had tried to link it to my newer Macs to no avail in the past. I ran over to her house (six blocks from mine, how lucky is that) and found it with its wiring intact. I also found some other classic mac peripherals that I will most likely mention in the future. I plugged in the TurboNet phone line adapter and booted up. Oh yes, it showed right up in the Chooser and printed a text doc that I had played with earlier that night. That was pretty exciting, considering I normally use an ink swallowing inkjet. This printer had plenty of toner left for hundreds of prints - and they looked fantastic.

Now I had maximized the Internet access and printing documents. I know that I haven't gotten into any hardware upgrades yet, but if you have one of these 'Books or are looking at one, stayed tuned, as I will get to that in another article.

For now, I needed to get some more software. You would think that software for an OS this old would be very hard to find. Well, you'd be right - and wrong.

First I downloaded the update from 7.6 to 7.6.1 from Pure-Mac. Why Pure-Mac rather than Apple? Because it's a site that I can go to without crashing. This took some time. Actually, it took a lot of time. The paltry 10 Mbps ethernet was painfully slow for surfing and downloading despite my fast 2 Mbps DSL connection. All good things come to those who wait, as I was hoping that this update would keep the Internet access more stable.

Darn! This document said that I need a 3400c-specific update. Back on the horse, I checked on my PM dual G4 to speed up the search. It would not be found at or System7Today or Pure-Mac. Ah, but had it.

After several attempts, I couldn't get the OS to update. Not what I had hoped, but I'm going to update to Mac OS 8.5 via CD anyway. As for software, I do have iCab, Microsoft Word, and CD Player. At this time, I 'm going to stick with that, as it is all I will need until the next update. At that time I'll also list some sources for getting software to use on the classic OS.

So now that I have let you in on what it's like to get started on one of these cool little 'Books, I will delve even deeper next time. I have a 6 GB hard drive ready to go in as soon as I get an OS CD.

I've decided to try out both Mac OS 8.1 and 8.5. I'm guessing the latter will be better for me and my 'Book.

Memory is another area that I'll address, as you can never have enough of that no matter how old your OS and software are. I found a 128 MB stick for a song -well as far as comparing it to other places on the Net.

An AirPort Base Station and Lucent style card should arrive at my door sometime this week. By the time you read the next chapter of Maximize Your PowerBook 3400, I hope to have written it and sent it to Low End Mac from my faster, wireless 3400c.

Oh, and I picked up a PowerBook 520c for $6, too. What have I gotten myself into? LEM

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