Friday, January 26, 2007

Monday, January 22, 2007

What's your price?

I have a hard time paying anything over $300 for any old computer.

Between $100 and $200, I'll think about it.

Below $100, or free? I'm totally there.

I guess it depends on what it is. I did see one of those "lampshade" iMac G4 800 MHz computers at We Love Macs for $499. I can't believe that such a design triumph for Apple was so short-lived, but you can never figure out Apple. Still, $499 is a lot of money. For $200, I'd jump on this in a second. For an iBook G4 in good condition, I'd pay $350, not more, but would prefer to pay $200. For any G3 iMac, I wouldn't go above $200 for a 500-700 MHz model, and for a 233 MHz tray loader? I'd have to say between free and $30 is my threshold, if I even want it to take up any physical space in my life.

Right now, The Back Room doesn't have a Mac installed. Instead, that's the home of This Old PC, which with all I'm doing with the Palm handheld these days, is destined to stay there for quite some time. I'd love to have a really nice all-in-one Mac back there, especially one that could run OS X 10.3.9, but when's that going to happen?

The oldest Mac you can run 10.4 on

Low End Mac's Charles W. Moore tells his tale of replacing a dead iMac with something that can run OS X 10.4. He rightly says that for older Macs, 10.3.9 works better, but if you absolutely must run 10.4, here's what you can run it on:

-- He recommends G4 Powerbooks and iBooks ... naturally.
-- The Mac Mini ... if you can get a cheap one.
-- A 750 MHz G4 iMac (available for about $350, he says ... and if that's the "lampshade" variety, I don't think you can get them that low)
-- 867 MHz "Quicksilver" Powermac G4 tower (about $550 sans monitor, he says)

He also has some software suggestions, including the gimmies (Thunderbird) along with AbiWord, Tex-Edit Plus and TextWrangler. Click over for links.

Moore also offers that at a minimum, he uses 10.3, since he never liked 10.2 and continued to use the Classic OS (9.2.2) until 10.3 "Tiger" came out. I'm a big fan of 10.3.9 and haven't seen the need, as yet to upgrade to 10.4 for the iBook G4.

Powerbook Guy for parts and repairs

I came across the Web site for Powerbook Guy, who offers many, many parts for old Powerbooks, as well as repair and upgrade services. He has Powerbook 1400 logic boards for $9.95 (used) to $19.95 (new), and when you think about it, getting a logic board only, or a processor card ($7.95 for a 117 MHZ, $9.95 for a 133 MHz) is easier than cheaper than buying a whole 1400 for spare parts. Most of that savings is due to shipping -- a whole Powerbook is freakin' heavy, and a single board weighs only a few ounces. He has a 48 MB memory card for the 1400 for $119 ... OUCH. I couldn't find a 48 MB card anywhere, but I did find a 32 MB card, and it only cost me about $10 over the Low End Mac swap list. So you've got to know what things are going for before you leap.

Powerbook Guy also has some great prices on used laptops: iBook G3s from $239.95 to $379.95, iBook G4s from $379.95 to $629.95.

Personally, I'm not comfortable playing more than $350 for any of these iBooks, but the fact that an iBook G4 can still fetch from $400 to $600 means that, if you can manage to find a buyer, getting rid of a 5 or more year old Mac laptop can really boost your bottom line. Of course, since an iBook G4 can run 10.3.9, 10.4.whatever and maybe even 10.5 with a RAM boost, th0se 'Books are not anywhere near obsolete.

Follow me now ... the iBook G4 1 GHz were sold, pretty much, during 2003 and 2004. Now it's 2007, so most of those have seen between three and four years of service. Now Apple is on OS X 10.4, and will release 10.5 in the spring. So even if you don't want to run 10.5 on the iBook, you can definitely run 10.4, and that will probably carry you comfortably for between three and five more years. So that iBook will have an easily usable life of between six and eight years before you have to start scrambling (and that scrambling is what This Old Mac is all about).

As I've said many times before, it all comes down to whether or not the apps you want to run will work with the hardware and operating system available. In keeping with that, Windows is much more forgiving; you can run the latest Firefox browser even if you have Windows 98. Not that you'd want to, but it can be done. With Mac, OS X is the dividing line -- all modern browsers run on X only, and not on OS 9 or anything before that.

For me, the Web is the critical app -- the nature of Web browsing is constantly changing, and if your hardware and software can't keep up, your computing experience really suffers. For me, the Powerbook 1400 is a niche machine. For writing and e-mail and basic Web browsing, it works. But will it show YouTube videos, streaming video from network TV sites, complicated Flash animation and work with things like Google Docs? No.

But these G4 notebooks will do these things, and as long as the browsers continue to work with the latest version of OS X you are able to run, you'll be in good shape. Things like Microsoft Office, even Photoshop, will always be available in versions suited to your hardware and OS. And hopefully e-mail protocals won't be radically changing, and today's e-mail clients will be able to handle the major providers' POP and IMAP servers for some time to come.

Still, the Web -- and the browsing thereof -- is the 900-pound gorilla when it comes to computer obsolescence, and you will know when the bell begins to toll.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Apple kicks you to the curb

Ars Technica's Jacqui Cheng reports that, as of March 13, Apple will end support (i.e. no longer offer parts) for the following Macs:

Macintosh Server G4 (Digital Audio)
Macintosh Server G4 (QuickSilver)
Power Mac G4 (Digital Audio)
Power Mac G4 (QuickSilver)
PowerBook G4
iMac 233/266/333 MHz
PowerBook G3 Wallstreet
PowerBook G3 Lombard (Bronze Keyboard)

But really, if you've got anything this old, you're pretty much finding your replacement parts on eBay or over Low End Mac's swap group, right? You're looking for whole machines, working or not, to cannibalize in order to keep your No. 1 running? Right?

That said, I need a Powerbook 14oo logic board, because that might be the source of my SCSI problem, although I'm hoping against hope that pulling the thing apart and checking connectors will be the real, easier solution.

The biggest reason old mail clients won't work

All that time spent trying to get old mail clients (Eudora, Claris E-Mailer, Outlook) to work in System 7.6.1 has taught me one thing: It's a world of hurt.

The same is happening with the Palm's VersaMail. I'm using version 2.6 on a Tungsten E, and it's pretty much the same problems. But I can't upgrade to a new version, so it all comes down to finding e-mail services that work with the current VersaMail.

And the biggest reason that old mail clients won't work with today's POP and IMAP services?

The newer services require SSL on the outgoing mail server, and the e-mail clients don't support it. The new version of VersaMail (for the Tungsten E2, T/X and Lifedrive) does offer SSL on the outgoing server, so it can be used with Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, etc.

But DSL Extreme doesn't use SSL on the outgoing, so it works great. I've also gotten Fastmail.fm to work with the Palm. I really want to try Fastmai.fm it on This Old Mac because it's Web interface is very, very fast, can be optimized for screen size and offers switchable CSS style sheet compatibility. One hitch: The free account requires you to use another outgoing mail server. I'm using the DSL Extreme server, and it is working fine. For a one-time payment of $14.95, I believe, you can use their server (it's IMAP only at that price).

Even though Yahoo! Mail and Gmail are usable in the go-to browsers for System 7.6.1 (Netscape 4.8 and Internet Explorer 5), they are not super fast due to an added graphical load. Fastmail.fm just might make it worthwhile to use the Web interface instead of the mail client in Netscape.

I love my Yahoo! address, am OK with my Gmail address ... and I'm also very OK with my new Fastmail address and my DSL Extreme address (although I'm less than thrilled by DSL Extreme's Web mail interface) ... so I've got plenty of choices for e-mail, and depending on how things go, I just might move away from Yahoo! Mail for my everyday needs.

Palm aside: While I realize this is a Mac blog, I can't get away from the fact that I'm in a Palm stage right now. It all has to do with the easiest AND CHEAPEST way to get my work done, and for the moment that's not lugging around a 9-pound laptop, but carrying the 6-ounce Palm Tungsten E (and soon a keyboard procured very cheaply over eBay).

I probably need to start a Palm blog, but for now I will tell you that in non-intensive testing, the Tungsten E appears to respond faster to commands than either the Tungsten E2, T/X or LifeDrive, Palm's newer models. I'm not sure why.

That said, I'd upgrade to the E2 or T/X just to get the new VersaMail program, and especially the T/X due to its built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. I don't really need the Bluetooth at the moment because I don't have a Bluetooth-equipped cell phone and there are no Bluetooth keyboards for the Palm, but the Wi-Fi would be great for the Palm's e-mail capabilities.

And if -- and I say "if" because it's nowhere near happening, as far as I know -- Palm had something like Microsoft Exchange, which would sync the entire handheld over the Web instead of through a direct hot-sync operation, that would totally and completely change the game for Palm handhelds and their usability.

In the near future: I will blog on what I call CES: Woodland Hills, my own personal odyssey to see all the Palm and Windows Mobile handhelds I can, at the Daily News' Click blog.

And for emphasis: I totally am into the new Blogger. Speed is just the beginning, but it's a great beginning, to be sure.

Run OS X on an older desktop or laptop

Low End Mac's Ted Hodges, who recently wrote about what kinds of older desktop Macs could run OS X, does the same today for laptops.

To run 10.3.9, he says you can do it on an iMac DV or DV + at 400 or 450 MHz, which he says you can get used for $100.

As far as laptops, he says a clamshell iBook G3/266 can do it, but I think his suggestion of an iBook G3/500 is as low as I would go. His suggestions include the 14-inch iBook G4/667, which I heartily endorse for OS X use, as our 14-inch iBook G4 (I think it's 1 GHz) runs 10.3.9 flawlessly.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I am loving the new Blogger

Just thought I'd mention that the new Blogger (now out of Beta) is absolutely smokin'. Everything happens so fast -- I didn't think I'd like it this much, but I do.

It's way faster than Movable Type, and when you publish your post, there's a button RIGHT THERE that allows you to edit that very post. It's great if you want to get a post up there but need to edit or expand it. Great for live blogging, or just very fast blogging.

Making e-mail work for you on an old Mac

There's more out there in the world of free e-mail than Yahoo! and
Google. I'm posting this entry from fastmail.fm, which -- in theory --
should be a great thing for users of System 7. For one thing, the free
level includes IMAP access, though I have yet to figure out how to set
it up. IMAP mail differs from POP mail in that IMAP accesses the e-mail
on the server, while POP downloads mail to your hard drive.

One of fastmail.fm's main features is that its user interface is very
much bare bones. Not a lot of crap to load just to read and write
e-mail. And one of the features is turning off CSS stylesheets, which I
have done already. Even though I have CSS disabled in all my System
7-compatible browsers, this should make the whole thing look better --
and quicker.

The other thing about fastmai.fm -- they offer about a hundred different
e-mail domains, and every username under the sun isn't already taken. I
got stevenr@inoutbox.com.

While the basic service is free, varying levels are available at varying
amounts of money. There are bandwidth limits, though I have no idea how
that will affect my use of the service. And yes, while Gmail and Yahoo!
are also free, it's worth exploring different ways to use e-mail,
especially when it comes to doing it on older computers.

Update: With CSS turned off, the menus were one blue on another blue -- hard to read. I'm pretty sure this can be fixed, but for the moment, I turned CSS back on so it looks pretty on my Windows XP box.

Another cool thing: You can optimize the FastMail interface for your desired screen size. Default is 800x600 but it works great at 640x480.

IMAP: The free accounts include IMAP only, and one thing that's different is that you have to use your own OUTGOING mail server. I set it up on the Palm, using DSL Extreme's SMTP server for outgoing mail. Right now I'm having Palm issues (have to reboot the PC to make it work, and I don't feel like doing it just yet). Why I need another e-mail account is certainly a question I should be asking myself, but now it's all about trying this stuff out.