Monday, December 25, 2006

Why is the title of the blog BELOW all these posts?

I have no idea what happened here, why the blog title, blogroll, archives, etc., are now BELOW a ton of blog posts? Do you think anybody at Blogger cares, given the old-to-new Blogger transition?

Any suggestions are appreciated.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Laptops are heavy, brutish and slow to boot

Now that This Old Mac is pretty much as far along as it's going to get, I'm starting a new project, and if I stick with it past the weekend, probably will have a new blog to go with it.

It's all about the Palm. As in the PDA. Ilene got one for free as a promotion. It's a Palm Tungsten E, and I decided to fire it up and see how it works for e-mail and word processing.

I'm only using the Graffiti method of entering text with that little stylus. It's surprisingly easy, except for special characters, and then you can bring up a miniature keyboard.

What attracted me to the Palm was the promise of the Documents to Go software to read and write Microsoft Word-compatible files. So I could work on things on the Palm and then bring them into Word (or in the case of the office, Open Office).

The most impressive thing about the Palm is that you hit the "on" button and the thing turns right on. Maybe takes 1 second to boot. Then you find your application and launch it. Another couple of seconds at the most. No long waits for a PC (Mac or Windows) to boot, and then for an application to load. Of course this Palm has no Wi-Fi, and browsing on such a small device is probably more limited than what I can do with This Old Mac.

The way it syncs with the main PC is ingenious and complicated. Basically, all data, both applications and documents, is stored on a main computer and is backed up every time you hit "sync." A good thing. If the Palm dies/gets lost, you still have all your data and can sync it to another Palm in about a minute.

It does e-mail, either as POP or IMAP, or in some kind of sinister "helper" mode, interacting with applications on the host PC. So far it has worked seamlessly with the POP mail at DSL Extreme. It wouldn't work with Gmail, and I got only one-way mail with the Daily News' POP service (receive only). However, I managed to get it to work with Outlook Express for the LADN e-mail. The only problem with that: I have to sync at the office for the mail to go out, since there's no Outlook on the Mac. But it works. Does it work on Yahoo? They seem to say yes, but I found no evidence of that on the Yahoo! Mail help site.

But I can get e-main in and out through DSL Extreme, making this a credible platform for mail-blogging to Blogger. And the word processing through Documents to Go also works. But there's one problem.

Smart quotes.

I've blogged at length at how the lack of smart quotes is a killer in any application that has to kick out Word-format files. And here it seems you can type closed and open quotes, both single and double, but they don't do it the "smart" way, i.e. you have to pick the quote mark facing in the proper direction ... and they're under "special characters." Still, I think you can create your own keyboard shortcuts, perhaps even remap the keyboard itself (assoming I can get a keyboard for this thing), and if I can somewhat easily type smart quotes, I will be very, very happy with this free Palm and just might use it regularly.

One thing is for sure: It's damn liberating to carry around a 5-ounce Palm PDA as opposed to my 10-pound laptop bag o' junk. And the quick booting makes it great to get ideas down instantly, as well as set up, write a bit and close up without undue stress.

While this PDA doesn't have Wi-Fi, I believe it's available as a $99 add-on (I'll have to check on compatibility). But the more-expensive Palm T|X has built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b, not g) and Bluetooth, along with a specialized browser. At least if it could do Web-based e-mail and be able to grab photos off the Web, that would make it great for writing and blogging. As it is, I can get e-mail in and out with a sync operation, and the screen on the Tungsten E is remarkably clear and bright for such a small piece of equipment. It's way brighter than the Powerbook 1400.

I'm just so happy with the real PORTABILITY of this thing that I'm inclined to give it a chance to see if it fits with my style of working.

Cure for Yahoo! Mail in old, doggy browsers

I happened upon a great way to get your Yahoo! Mail quicker and slicker on older browsers: Treat your Mac like a PDA. Go to This Old Browser for the URL and more on ... old browsers.

Or, as a public service, here's the direct Yahoo URL.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Netscape 4.8 for Mac is here

(Crossposting to This Old Mac and This Old Browser)

Even though you're supposed to need Mac System 8 to install Netscape 4.8 (and since I can't seem to get a clean copy of the 7.6.1-friendly version from, I found another source for the elusive NS via (go to for the site's browser selection).

It led me to Netscape's FTP site, and this file.

My first attempt to dowload a clean, unstuffable copy in Netscape 4.7 failed, and IE 5 wouldn't let me do it at all. I gave 4.7 another try, and I got a good download. After unstuffing, the install program said I needed System 8-point-something to do the install. So I went into the Netscape Installer folder and clicked on the Netscape Installer icon ... and the damn thing ... installed. Brought all my preferences from 4.7 along with it.

Everything looks just as it did in 4.7, but it seems a tad faster (could be the long day). I'll have to keep testing.

In other news, I installed Outlook Express 4.5 ... didn't work with DSL Extreme or Gmail. I haven't bothered to try Gmail with Netscape, but I just might do that. It's amazing that of all the programs out there that run on System 7.6.1, Netscape is the ONLY one that works for e-mail. I did get Usenet news through Outlook 4.5, but it didn't organize it as well as Netscape, and if OE can't do e-mail with today's servers, it's good for nothing. I suppose there are POP mail services out there that will work with these older programs, and I'm not saying I won't investigate, but if DSL Extreme won't run on it, I'm in serious doubt that much else will, either. (Even Yahoo lists Netscape 4 as being compatible with its POP service .. not so for OE 4.5 or 5).

Monday, December 18, 2006

Netscape 4.78 still the e-mail champion

    I'll have to start testing these e-mail clients with a service other than DSL Extreme  just to make sure it's a universal thing that JUST ABOUT EVERY E-MAIL CLIENT THAT RUNS ON SYSTEM 7.6.1 DOESN'T WORK.

I thought I was getting somewhere with Claris E-Mailer Lite and Eudora 3.1.3 when I found some hints on the Web about how to configure them, but so far I can get them to receive e-mail but not send it . I'm disappointed because Netscape 4.78 is pretty slow, although it has worked on e-mail and newsgroups from the very time I began the This Old Mac project (it was already on the hard drive).

And today I also learned that the Microsoft page that purports to offer Outlook Express 4.5 and IE 4.5 (the latter of which I don't need) leads to nowhere. As I said, I do have a CD with Office 98 on it, and I'm not sure which version(s) of Outlook is on there, but I'll have to get the CD drive into the Powerbook 1400 and try it out. ... Outlook Express, you're my only hope.

The OS and browser profile of This Old Mac

It's right here.

Briefly, 54.85 percent of visitors are using Windows XP, 36.19 using OS X.

The classic Mac OS accounts for 3.73 percent of visits, with 3.17 percent for Windows 2000 (which I have running on This Old PC), 1.12 percent for Linux, 0.56 percent for Windows 98, and 0.37 percent for Windows Me.

As far as browers go, 41.6 percent are using IE 6 (I'm using it right now), 25.93 percent are on Safari (that's a lot higher than I figured), 25.56 percent on Mozilla -- I'm assuming that means Firefox -- and yes, Safari nudges it out by a nose. Filling out the list: 0.56 percent on Netscape 7 , 0.93 percent on Netscape 4, 0.19 percent on Netscape 2 (holy cow! -- the Java errors drive me mad), a measly 1.68 percent on IE 5 (I guess everybody on Windows has gone to IE 6), 0.37 percent on IE 4, and 1.31 percent on AOL (what, AOL still has a browser?). Add to that 1.87 percent "unknown."

Configuring old e-mail and browser programs

Since it helped me so much with Claris E-mailer, here is's help page for Macintosh, which has info on configuring lots of old software. Bookmark it ... I will.

E-mail false alarm

I've complained repeatedly about how I could never get Claris E-Mailer, Eudora, Netscape 2 and Netscape 3 to work with POP e-mail. Now my grasp of how to configure these things is all trial and error, and I could never figure out where to type the name of the incoming mail server. There's always a place for the outgoing SMTP server, but never for the server called or, for example.

Remember, this is for mail systems where the incoming mail is POP and outgoing is SMTP.

In the newer e-mail programs, like Outlook and in Netscape 4.78, there's a place in the setup for both incoming and outgoing servers, but in the older programs, there isn't.

Finally, I came across a help page on the Web that clued me in:

To configure Claris E-Mailer Lite when the incoming server is, and the outgoing is

E-mail address:

E-mail account:

SMTP host:

So far I've been able to get Claris E-Mailer Lite to work
    on outgoing e-mail only
. It's way fast but basic (Netscape 4.78 is just too slow for e-mail and news). I've got Eudora 3.1.1 (and 3.1.3 if I can get it) and then the holy grail -- Outlook 4.5, which theoretically will allow for multiple e-mail accounts without reconfiguration -- and newsgroups too.

But I consider this a big-time This Old Mac breakthrough.
    I thought this was a breakthrough, but so far it isn't. I have to run these tests with a POP mail account that isn't from DSL Extreme ... meaning Gmail.

DSL flaky ... is it the Powerbook 1400 ... or not?

The DSL at home was a little tenuous over the weekend (it's DSL Extreme delivered over SBC/AT&T lines). I thought it was the Powerbook 1400 fritzing out, but then the signal looked good on the modem but wouldn't come through on the iBook G4. Later it worked on both, but the next day, I couldn't get the DSL modem to work with the Powerbook 1400 (Global Village PowerPort Platinum PC Card with 28.8K modem and 10-BaseT Ethernet).

I wonder, is it my setup, or does the signal level out of the modem vary? Would it help if I had a router connected between the modem and the PB 1400 (at least then I could see if they were connecting from an Ethernet standpoint). I've also had seamless connections through my AirLink 101 5-port switch ($7 at Fry's -- buy two, they're small). I'd have to run these tests at home to see what's really going on.

Now the e-mail-to-Blogger bridge is fixed

Now the e-mail-to-Blogger bridge works ... in original Blogger and the Beta. After a couple of weeks with little to no functionality, the feature is back, big time.

Gotta fire up the Powerbook 1400 and see how Blogger Dashboard in the Beta runs in System 7.6.1 ... if at all.

A new blog

I am feeling squirrely about moving my four Blogger
blogs over to the Beta, even though eventually it'll
be mandatory to join them up with the greater Google
world. So in the interim, I decided to start a new
blog in Blogger Beta, called This Old Browser
(, to focus on the
browsing experience, specifically how to use the
Internet with older browsers, mail clients and other
Internet applications when it's not feasible or
desirable to upgrade hardware and software.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Claris e-mailer secret?

Or maybe putting the POP server name in the e-mail account slot, as shown here, will do it ... hmmmm.

Hope I didn't erase Claris e-mailer. (I probably did.) But you can get it here.

You can't download Outlook Express 4.5

Update: Since I wrote this entry and actually clicked on the link, I am disappointed to find out it leads to a Mactopia page where you CAN'T download the promised Outlook and IE files. However, Outlook Express 5 is still available. In related news, I managed to find an Office 98 CD, and I think it has OE 4.5 on it, although I'll have to check.

I did a search, and I can't believe it. You can download Outlook Express 4.5 for Macintosh (and get IE 4.5 with it, though IE 5 works in 7.6.1 and is way, way stable.)

I didn't bring the Powerbook with me today, but I'll have to try this as soon as possible. There are a ton of Web pages out there on how to configure OE 4.5, and from the looks of it, you CAN set up multiple POP accounts.

If you're running System 8.1 to 9.x, there's also Outlook Express 5. It almost ... almost ... makes me want to upgrade.

If I could get the Claris e-mailer to work, I wouldn't bother, but it doesn't work.

The holy mother-f'n Powerbook 1400 grail ... aka SCSI

Now that I've got Ethernet and Wi-Fi flowing into the 1996-vintage 117 MHz Powerbook 1400cs, which has been upgraded from System 7.5.3 to 7.6.1, I've hit a wall. I've got 48 MB of memory out of a maximum 64 MB. It has Microsoft Office 6.0 (Word, Excel, Powerpoint), Netscape 4.78 (slow even though "optimized" for PowerPC, but the only thing I have for e-mail and newsgroups), Internet Explorer 5 (best, most stable browser for 7.6.1), iCab 2.9.9 (looks good, but not as hearty as IE), and the great LiteSwitch utility, which allows for Apple-key-Tab switching between programs like in OS X and Windows.

What I don't have: working SCSI. Since this Powerbook was never used with a SCSI device in its "prime," it probably never worked. Now that I've collected various and sundry SCSI devices (which people are abandoning or giving away because nobody uses the problematic SCSI in the USB era), I can't use any of them. And there are lots of programs I'd like to get onto the Powerbook -- and you can't upload them to an FTP site and download because they lose their Mac-ish attributes and will no longer function as programs (I've tried it). So I've got stuff on Zip discs that would be great, principally Outlook 4.5, which hopefully is a more responsive mail program than Netscape 4.78.

Even though Web surfing with these old browsers is a limited, frustrating experience (don't expect too much), there are plenty of Web sites where they work well, and at least having a laptop that has Microsoft Word AND a swiftly working e-mail client would be useful. I haven't checked Outlook 4.5's specs, but the ability to tap into more than a single POP account without reconfiguring would be very, very welcome.

Now if only SCSI would cooperate. I have one other idea -- networking the Powerbook with another Mac and transferring the files that way, and I will try it soon, but SCSI would be so much easier. Especially because backing up all essential files is the only way to go. I wouldn't want the PB 1400 to die and lose anything. If I can get the Ethernet networking going, that's one way to skin it, and then I really wouldn't need SCSI and Zips so much.

So far, I did enable file sharing on the 1400. I think the computer had to make a log of every file and folder, because it took literally five hours to turn on. Now I have to hook it up to the iBook G4 and seek what happens. If I can get the files over with their attributes, success will be mine. I know it works with SCSI, because I've tested that on other Macs with USB (and a hot-pluggable Zip drive).

Still, I have to crack open the Powerbook and see what's happening around the SCSI connector and pray for a visible loose connection, broken PC board trace or cold solder joint. Otherwise the only way to get SCSI going is a replacement of the entire logic board -- basically the guts of the computer. Now whole Powerbook 1400s are cheap, especially if you don't need a working battery, the CD drive, (or any battery or any drive) or the AC adapter, and the board itself would also be cheap, but the idea of having to pull and replace it -- I'd rather not, since every other damn thing is working so well.

Of course, if it was a faster board -- a 133 or 166 MHz with built-in Ethernet, that would be all right ...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Blogger Beta and System 7.6.1

More on the Blogger Beta: Will I be giving up what little functionality I have in IE 5 by going to the beta?

That's my worry. Google Docs, for instance, works on Firefox only for Mac -- not even Safari. So no OS 9 even if you want to use it.

And as smooth as things get on this Powerbook 1400, that's how the Blogger Dashboard is at the moment. (Not that I can get automatic links or formatting, but just being able to post at all is something I'd rather not give up any sooner than necessary.

E-mail to Blogger, better in Beta?

(I sent this via the e-mail bridge days ago ... it bounced back to Yahoo! Mail)

Anybody who uses Blogger can pretty much see the writing (on the wall) -- the new Blogger Beta doesn't offer much more than the old Blogger.

Probably the biggest thing is the ability to change and modify templates without knocking out any minute changes you've already made. Other than that, the whole thing is pretty much a shameless boot in the ass aimed at getting all Blogger users to sign up for Google accounts and get with the mega-search company's world-domination program to use more Google services.

Since I already have a Google account and use those services, it's academic. I just wish they were actually offering something exciting in the new software (on-the-fly blog building is different, not necessarily better).

But since the e-mail-to-blogger feature sometimes works instantly, other times taking hours, sometimes not working entirely, all they have to say is, "Hey, this feature you will work better," and I'd switch my four Blogger blogs over in a second. Instead, I worry that the e-mail feature will either be worse or not there at all.

I guess I could start a dummy blog in the new software, with a new Google sign-in, and test it. I just might do that. Eventually we'll all have to come overto Google's way of thinking. I just wish it wasn't so lipstick-on-a-pig bereft of real improvements that bloggers want and need.

I admit that the ability to create categories for posts is enticing, but I could care less about all the privacy features, which I find intriguing and which probably are of use to some. But most bloggers, me included, are inviting the world to read and comment, so that's the furthest thing from our minds.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Old iBooks, good prices

Other World Computing, known more for its disk drives and other Mac-friendly hardware, also sells used computers, and they have great deals on iBooks here. I'd avoid the ones with broken CD drives, but for $275 to $599, there are some great deals -- most even have the Airport card included. The lower-priced models are iBook G3's, and the $600 iBook is a G4, just showing how these iBooks have really held their value.

I ordered a 300 GB drive from them recently. It came with ALL cables (FireWire 800, FireWire 400, USB) and was a very good value. I'm using it with Superduper to backup my mom's G5, and all has worked perfectly. So I do trust them to deliver a good product.

I guess the iBook G4 qualifies as "old"

I've said before how much I love the iBook G4 we have at home. I can't quite remember the specs, although I imagine it hovers around 1 GHz in speed, has about 384 MB of RAM and the Combo drive. It's running OS X 10.3.9 right now, but I imagine it would go to 10.4 easily. If you can get your hands on one of these, or a Titanium Powerbook from the same era, I strongly recommend it -- you'll have an OS X-friendly laptop for years to come.

The fact that they still bring so much money on the used market is a testament to the value of Mac equipment in general. If you don't believe in the "This Old Mac" ethos, you can easily keep yourself in new hardware by selling off the old before it gets too, too old, and plowing the money back into the latest and greatest. Of course, since Macs that aren't the Mini seems to start at $1K, you'll have to keep plowing money in ... and then there's all the new software and peripherals you'll need. It can run into some money.

In fact, software alone is both a plus and minus for older computers. On the plus side, you get more use out of old applications that either you or the computer's previous owner purchased and installed. The presence of Microsoft Office 6.0 on the Powerbook 1400cs was a prime motivator in the project that led to this blog. Sure, you can't get a modern browser on the thing, but there's little you can't do as a writer with the 1995-era Microsoft Word. You might not be able to open MS Word docs created in the most modern versions, but your documents can be read by those newer versions, and you can always a) convert or read those docs on a newer computer or b) ask the person to "save as" in a version that you can read.

And for Windows PCs, I've been pretty happy using Open Office to crack open every MS Word doc I've come across. My spreadsheet skills are rudimentary, but OO's version of that application has come in handy as well, since there are lots of spreadsheet documents on the Web (like Nielsen Media Research's TV ratings, which I access at the Daily News).

I wish SoundEdit 16 was still on This Old Mac (Ilene used it in her record company days), but it's mysteriously disappeared. And I don't think this PC is the ideal photo-processing platform, but if I came across a copy of Photoshop, I might install it. I'd love to find Dreamweaver, the Web-publishing program, for Mac's System 7.6.1 -- that I could use.

Trolling around for this old software, either on eBay or on swap lists like LEM Swap, often leads to such old software at very attractive prices. A search yielded an old listing for SoundEdit 16 for $5 (the program is still available new for $15o or so) ... but the listing was months old, and the CD was sold. You just gotta keep looking. And if you have old, unused software that you think is obsolete, check the market for it on eBay -- you could make some idiot like me very happy while making yourself a few sheckels richer besides.

Wireless over America

(This post goes in via the Blogger Dashboard after repeated attempts to post via e-mail fail)

After Friday's successful Orinico Silver card wireless test (with a known router, set up by me, about a foot from the Powerbook 1400), I tried to replicate at home, but we don't get a whole lot of good, non-password-protected 802.11b into the house itself, and in the absence of a signal, the software doesn't handle it well (and in this version, there's no way to tell the SSID name of the network to which you are connected, unless you type it in to the WaveLAN control panel box yourself and successfully connect -- therefore I'm relying on networks that accept connections for "Any" name).

One thing -- if you leave the TCP/IP configured for wireless and there's no signal, launching Netscape will crash. You must either set Netscape to work offline before shutting down during the previous session, or switch the TCP/IP to a wired-Ethernet configuration (whether connected or not) before launching Netscape. Internet Explorer 5 is OK either way. But if you want to write offline e-mail in Netscape, you'd better not launch it until you a) have switched off wireless in the TCP/IP control panel, or b) have previously switched Netscape to work offline (the best feature added in version 4, in my opinion).

I can't get the router configured for 64-bit encryption (I used to have it set up this way) -- it won't auto-generate a key. I'll have to check the manual again and possibly configure it with a computer that isn't This Old Mac before I try encryption with the Orinoco card.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

If there was any way to send POP mail besides Netscape

with System 7.6.1, I'd be doing it. I don't know the history of mail servers and protocals on the Internet, and perhaps I should look into it, but it seems that the handling of e-mail has changed enough since the early '90s to render every mode of sending through client software available in this Mac OS (with the exception of Netscape 4) obsolete.

Among the unlucky losers: Netscape 2 and 3, Eudora Light, Claris E-Mailer -- all which would be faster than Netscape 4.78, if they only worked.

I think one of those old Netscapes will read and write Usenet news (the only reason not to delete them wholesale, though even that's not much of a justification).

Friday, December 08, 2006

This Old Mac vs. This Old PC

I can debate the merits ot This Old PC vs. This Old Mac, the computers themselves, all day -- and I will, but when it comes to the blogs, the posting goes in stages, depending on which machine I'm working on at that particular time. But the number of posts is roughly the same, about 25 to 30 for each, and at this point, This Old PC is in the lead in terms of visitors, with 420 uniques to This Old Mac's 341.

I don't think that either of these blogs has a daily following, and it's mostly through searches that people find their way here. Nothing wrong with that. If you do manage to drop in due to a Google or other search, there's lots here to read/comiserate with/learn from.

If you've benefited in any way from these blogs, I am grateful. And if you've decided to rehabilitate an old PC or Mac, I hope you're having more fun than frustration (c'mon -- even the frustration is fun, admit it.)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Orinoco Silver card is quirky

I don't have it active now, and it hasn't been active for the last hour,
but sometimes its lights are flashing, sometimes not. Maybe after it has
no connection for some time, it goes into "sleep" mode.

I seem to have it communicating with the Powerbook 1400, but will I be
able to connect to an actual Wi-Fi network?

Wireless Powerbook 1400 update

I installed the software and the card (it's a tight fit with the PowerPort Platinum 28.8 modem/10Base-T Ethernet card in the lower PCMCIA slot, the Orinoco Silver wireless card in the upper).

The only online guide to configuring the software is for version 7 (which doesn't work on System 7.6.1), so for version 6 of the WaveLan wireless software, which is available from System 7 Today, I pretty much had to follow Dan Palka's instructions for using the Internet of a wired OS X computer via wireless (which is cool -- you don't even need a router).

Since there's no Wi-Fi in the room where I am at the moment, I had to be satisfied with getting blinking lights on the Orinoco Silver card, which I did finally by setting up a new configuration in the TCP/IP control panel, setting it for "Ethernet Slot O," and selecting the same in the AppleTalk control panel. At least in Open Transport (as opposed to MacTCP) you can have multiple configurations and switch between them without restarting the computer. So ... theoretically ... I should be able to switch between Ethernet and 802.11b networking through the TCP/IP control panel.

One potential problem: when clicking on the desktop icon for the wireless card, you get relevant info for choosing a network and setting up encryption ... unless you have both the wireless card and Ethernet/modem cards plugged in. In that case, clicking on either card brings up the PowerPort Platinum info. So does it work? Well, I'm getting blinking lights, so I have to plug in the router at home and test it under those conditions.

Nothing's easy, that's for sure.

In other news, I'm downloading Netscape 4.8, an 11 MB download that's taking about an hour and a half. I'd love for 4.8 to play better with the PowerPC processor and be faster than 4.78 ... but I'm not holding my breath. And it's probably time to delete Netscape 2 and 3. I think they both will receive e-mail but not send it, and while they are quicker for newsgroups, they won't work offline, and I'm pretty happy using Google Groups for that task (though I haven't checked whether Google is ending support for IE5).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

E-mail to Blogger works!

Blogger must've fixed the e-mail bridge, and barring a few bad line
breaks in the message below, the whole thing made it.

Next: Getting some HTML going in these messages (gotta check the Blogger
help pages) ... and possibly using Netscape Composer to make this

(Note: This post was sent BEFORE the last two posts, but arrived AFTER them via e-mail. So this thing's a little shaky.)

Netscape 4.8

I almost forgot about Netscape 4.8, also available at
It's supposed to be faster than 4.78, it's the latest to run under
System 7.6.1, and it includes the whole Communicator suite (browser,
e-mail/newsgroups and Web design with Composer).

While 4.78 is dog-slow -- even though it's supposed to be optimized for
PowerPC, it's the only version of Netscape that still sort of works
(especially on e-mail and for Web browsing). A speed-up of any sort
would be most appreciated.

Although sometimes it's very slow

The first post went up almost immediately, the second (and much shorter)
one didn't ... and all the tests I sent last week here and to This Old
PC? They all went through, although it took a very long time.

Either it's got to be instant, or at least with a delay of known length
(and not more than 5 minutes).

I can see myself at the non-Starbucks coffee joint on Victory Boulevard
in Van Nuys, bombing in these e-mail posts over the free Wi-Fi (because
businesses that need business give it out for free, the best being
Panera) ... that'll be sweet.

Geek moment ... over.

Powerbook 1400 progress

(Posting -- or trying to -- via Netscape 4.78 e-mail)

With the help of System 7 Today (, I updated Open Transport to version 1.1.2 with the near-term goal of taking the Powerbook 1400 wireless.

There are two ways to get the 1400 on a wireless network (actually three ways, but I'll discuss that later*).

The first thing to remember is that the PB1400 will NOT work with Cardbus PCMCIA cards, but only with the plain PCMCIA, and that leaves out all 802.11g cards, as well as all that are available under $50 new.

The sole source for new 802.11b (11 MB/s) PCMCIA cards that will work on the PB1400 and other pre-Cardbus Macs is, which offers its MacWireless 11b PC Card in two power levels, the high-power 200 mW ($119.98) and regular-power 32 mW ($89.98). These work with anything between System 7.5.5 and 9.2.2 (and NOT with OS X), and they come with drivers that will work.

But who wants to spend $90. Not me.

According to the many PB1400 and System 7 Web sites, the Orinoco or WaveLan Silver and Gold cards WILL work. Not the Bronze, though. Not the new ones either. They have to be the old kind, with a "squarish" black
plastic piece on the end, not the more rounded kind. So you pretty much have the LEM Swap list (where I've rarely seen one) and eBay (where there are many).

The problem is that computer stuff tends to get bid up on eBay. I've tried to "win" one many a time, but I won't pay over $20, and they usually go for between $30 and $50 (more for the Gold version, which supports 128-bit encryption, not just the 64-bit of the Silver).

But I got lucky, finally, a week ago and snagged an Orinoco Silver card for $15.50. The drivers are available a bunch of places online, including, and there are detailed instructions on the
Web for getting the wireless configured. So I updated the OT in preparation for installing the wireless driver. I really don't want to kill out the Ethernet access I have over the PowerPort Platinum modem/10-BaseT card, and I'd ideally like to switch between wireless and Ethernet, since I'm not always (and probably not even usually) near a Wi-Fi hotspot. And the Daily News, where I work, is not a wireless networking environment, but there's enough Ethernet here to fill an Olympic-size pool. (Don'cha love a metaphor?)

So the wireless card is here, the Ethernet still works with OT 1.1.2, and all I have to do is download the driver (from and see if the whole thing works. Key for me, as I said, is being able to go
to the TCP/IP "control panel" for a quick switch between wired Ethernet and wireless networking. I already do this fast switch to reconfigure the PB1400 for either my home DSL connection or the office network, and
given that I'd like to have more than a single Wi-Fi configuration on tap, I'm hoping for the same thing with the Orinoco card. I'm also hoping to keep the Ethernet/modem card in the lower PCMCIA slot, the
wireless card in the upper one (the black plastic antenna portion is too thick to be on the bottom if two cards are in use).

So if all this works, it'll be slightly miraculous and pretty freakin' cool -- getting a 10-year-old Powerbook on Wi-Fi.

After that, I'll have to deal with the SCSI problem, i.e. it's not working. I'll open up the PB and look at the connector, praying that there's a cold solder joint or something like that. This PB, in its entire life, was never connected to a SCSI device, so it's probably been dead to SCSI since its birth. Othewise, the conventional wisdom is to replace the entire logic board. Now a PB1400 logic board -- or an entire laptop, for that matter -- isn't all that expensive, but I don't relish the process that I'd have to go through to tear the entire thing apart
just to get SCSI working.

And then I'll tackle further software updates (principally SpeedDoubler 8, the Motorola LibMoto math update).

*For any Mac with Ethernet (any PC too, I imagine), offers an Ethernet-wireless bridge that turns any Ethernet-equipped box into a wireless-connected one. I can't believe it works, but they say it
does. It would be a cool way to get any old Mac with 10base-T Ethernet to hook up with a wireless network (which, to the old Mac itself, probably looks like a standard Ethernet connection ...)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Seems that e-mailing Blogger isn't working

Unless there's some kind of evil delay ... if you see this, that's the

iCab 2.9.9 hasn't crashed yet

I've had troubles in the past with iCab crashing. On System 7.6.1, the lastest version doesn't work, so it's back to 2.9.9, which has a PowerPC-specific build.

As Dan Palka of advises, I turned off CSS style sheets in all my browsers (IE, Netscape and now iCab), and things are indeed quicker. AND ... iCab hasn't yet crashed. It is getting through to Blogger (and I will test on Movable Type, too).

Movable Type likes This Old Mac

I've got the Powerbook 1400 hooked up to the Internet, and I have news. I can post with Movable Type, the blog software we use at the Daily News. The automatic links and HTML buttons (for bold, italic, block quotes) don't work, but it's easy enough to have pieces of dummy type set up to make the hand-coding of HTML easier.

Per the advice of System 7 guru Dan (, I turned off CSS style sheets in both Netscape 4.78 and IE 5 (and iCab 2.99, from which I'm now posting to Blogger). So all that junk on the
sides of Web pages that often doesn't display properly on these old
browsers instead comes at the top of the main page's content (and comes down a whole lot faster.

I tried to do this post via Blogger's e-mail "bridge," which has worked for me in the past but didn't today. And it's not the Mac -- e-mails from PCs also didn't go through. Perhaps at some point, they all will bombard this blog, at which point I'll have to delete a bunch. It should be instant, at any rate.

Anyhow, as far as posting to Movable Type goes, it was smoother on IE 5 than on Netscape 4.78. I've gotta upgrade to Netscape 4.8 -- it's supposed to be faster, especially on PowerPC Macs. It's quite slow going with mail and newsgroups on 4.78. Of course, if I could get any other mail client to work in System 7.6.1, I'd be there. I don't know quite what it is, but I do know that if there's nowhere to list a mail server that's different from the SMTP server, it ain't gonna work, no way, no how.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Another try at Wi-Fi

I usually post about my Wi-Fi troubles at This Old PC, but the focus of my tests of late have been the iBook G4, which is actually getting almost to the age at which it could be considered "old."

Bottom line, I'd like the wireless router to be able to hit both the iBook and This Old PC, which is in The Back Room, about 50 to 60 feet away. Sounds easy? But it's not. I think that This Old House's lath-and-plaster walls are made with some kind of metal grating that acts as a Faraday shield of sorts, keeping RF from getting into the house if it's too weak. At least that's the case with TV channels 2 and 4, which we have a hell of a time getting (no, we don't have cable).

And I don't want to have a wireless router kicking out 2.4 GHz RF, even at a tenth of a watt, a foot from my head all night. It just doesn't sound like a good idea. So there's one phone jack near the aforementioned head, another in the kitchen at the "telephone table" (this is a late-'40s house where the idea of a telephone nook must've been fashionable.) Well, even though it is only about 20 feet from the iBook, the signal was intermittent. And This Old PC couldn't get it at all.

So after a few months off of trying, I plugged in the router near the front door, probably 5 to 10 feet farther from the iBook, and the signal is virtually perfect. I checked in The Back Room, and This Old PC gets it pretty well (but the Wi-Fi card back there is more forgiving that the Airport Extreme in the iBook, so a weaker signal does better out there -- and since we use the iBook about 20 times as much, it has to be solid in This Old House).

I took it a step further, and now the router is in the coat closet near the front door. The perfect place for it to rest. If only there was a phone line and electrical plug in the closet. Not the kind of thing that 1940s houses are famous for.

But there's a light on the ceiling. It doesn't work -- I think the pull cord broke the first year we lived here. I've got a couple of spares somewhere in my shed (don't know why, but I've got them). And there are those thingies you can screw into a light socket to turn it into a two-pronged electrical socket. Almost none of this house is wired with three-prong electrical sockets anyway, so I'm used to not having them.

Anyway, if the light-socket-to-electrical-socket thing works, I can bring a phone line in through the floor and move the router and DSL modem in there permanently -- and the Wi-Fi that comes in to the bedroom will be super solid in the living room/dining room -- about 10 feet from the router.

I still have to check The Back Room to see how the signal is doing back there. I'm hopeful that it's good. Next would be a full test -- actually getting the modem itself up there (120V currently being supplied by a long extension cord) to do a couple of speed tests to make sure the connection is good.

And if that pans out, I'm gonna go wild and spend $19.99 on a refurbished Netgear 802.11g router (to replace the free 802.11b I'm running the tests with). Man, that's livin'.

Before anything more gets done, time to paint the house.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

System 7 Today's Dan Palka

Low End Mac interviews Dan, my System 7 guru, in two parts, with part 1 beginning today.

Seriously, if you've got a pre-G3 PowerPC Mac, you need to go to Dan's site, System 7 Today immediately. Even the site itself is powered by System 7.6.

Friday, October 06, 2006

If an old Mac doesn't fall into your lap

The best way to get an old Mac is a) nearby and b) for free. But if you want pick of the litter, and are willing to part with cash to do so, some will try to fleece you, thinking their obsolete hardware is actually worth something (hint: it's NOT unless a lot of work is put into it, hence this and other Web sites like it).

But there are places selling used Macs at what look like good prices.

I just came across Computer, which has this page of desktop Macs (Here's an iMac G3 700 MHz for $189) and this one of laptops. The laptops are a bit pricey, but I'm not really up on what iBooks are going for.

And for those of us in California, is in Oceanside, so that means less $$$$ shipping for locals.

If you are in the market for an iBook G3, Other World Computing has this deal running: iBook G3s from $199 to $359.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ask the Macist

There's a great new column on the Laist blog called Ask the Macist. Here's the bio of its author:

About Chris Ullrich (aka the MACist): Chris is a frequent contributor to LAist
as well as other publications and also tweaks Macs (and PCs) for clients in the
Entertainment Industry.

Well, that's Entertainment Industry, capital E, capital I. But Ask the Macist is pretty darn good nonetheless. And since I need all the help I can get, I plan to mine it for all I can.

The first question, about running Windows programs on Macs, doesn't interest me because a) I don't have an Intel Mac, and b) I don't plan on getting one.

But the second question, on how to back up a Mac, is something that interests me greatly. Chris recommends one of those big Firewire drives that are available at the Apple Store and, of course, Fry's, and probably everywhere else you'd expect. He goes further to recommend three separate backup programs.

But one caught my eye.

Superduper backs up a Mac by mirroring the entire hard drive. In the event of a problem, you could boot the computer from the backup drive. Best of all, it only costs $27.95. At this price, I'm more than happy to pay for something that is useful and not a gratuitious $300 that only a giant business can afford. The program is available for free download, but to "unlock scheduling, Smart Update (which saves a lot of time), Sandboxes, scripting and more!" you can register from within the program. So you can even try it for free (requires OS X 10.3.9 and above, by the way).

For such an important function, and at such a low price, it pays to register.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I love e-mailing to Blogger

Not that I have to do it very often, but if I
were blogging from the Powerbook, I'd probably post
via e-mail with Netscape 4.7.

Go into Settings, then E-Mail in the Blogger
Dashboard to set it up.

If only Movable Type had e-mail capabilities.
That's what the Daily News uses. If only ...

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

Power Mac G5

I told my mom I would start looking after her Power Mac G5 -- you know, they look like something off the original "Star Trek" set. It's about 3 years old. It's currently running 10.3.2, I believe.

First thing, I don't have the password. Her "consultant" says it doesn't have one set up. Is that possible? I'll have to check that out. When she got this box, he said her Netgear router would no longer work, and he took it and replaced it with some weird hub. I'm going to get another Netgear router -- better to have the hardware firewall AND the ability to share the Internet connection if needed.

Second thing, gotta check the memory. If it's got 512 MB, it's time for 10.4 (or for more memory and 10.4).

And we need to figure out a backup solution. Probably one of those 250 or 500 GB USB/Firewire drives.

Dance with the sofware that brought you

I took This Old PC from Windows 98 to 2000. I won't go to XP. It came to me with Office 97. I won't upgrade it. I added free virus software Avast, which my friend Bruce says is better than Norton/Symantic. Firefox? Check. And I'm about to try IE 6. It's got Wi-Fi and Ethernet (both added by me). USB 1.1 (I haven't bothered to even think about 2.0).

Also added: Optical mouse (for no good reason); TDK CD burner (years ago) that never could burn an audio disc without clicks and dropouts; and Iomega ZIP USB (works flawlessly). I stuffed the box with as much memory as I could, and it recognizes 262 MB of it.

To change OS or Office versions at this point would be unwise -- it works as well as it's ever going to. If for some reason I need to open Word files in some "higher" version, I'll install Open Office, but I hope to avoid it.

This Old Mac, the Powerbook 14oo, went from OS 7.5.3 to 7.6.1. I added 32 MB of memory for a total of 48 MB. The best "new" software I got was LiteSwitch (from System 7 Today), which enables me to switch programs with Command-tab, just like in OS X and on Windows. And it is light.

The PB still runs Office 6. No plans to upgrade that, either. Even though that MS package is "Optimized for Power PC," it's slow enough. The best thing I did: Adding Internet Explorer 5 (which I also got from System 7 Today). I downloaded a bunch of stuff -- every version of Netscape I could find, iCab, Eudora and more, almost all of which I've deleted because it doesn't work (or work well). I kept WriteNow (but haven't used it much). What's nice is that 7.6.1 is loaded with great stuff, from valuable utilities to full-blown software (principally ClarisWorks).

It's all about hitting the sweet spot. Still, it's sometimes better to have an application work poorly (slowly) than not to have it at all. As long as you've got a swifter alternative (or a lot of patience).

"The Good Old Days of Computing"

On Low End Mac, Tommy Thomas writes about "The Good Old Days of Computing," going back to the early '90s and before. I guess it's all nostalgia when you look back.

I continue to be troubled by the disposable nature of computer hardware. That's a lot of stuff to be throwing out, and a lot of expense, too, especially if you're talking about a current Mac. I don't think there's a desktop or laptop under $1,000 in the line now, except for the Mac Mini. (On second reading, the moral of this story is, "Get a Mac Mini already!") And you can get a bare-bones Windows box from Fry's for $300 or even less. That's when "disposable" doesn't hurt the pocketbook so much.

But still, it would be nice to both get a few more usable years out of a computer and be able to either upgrade its hardware or recycle the whole damn thing.

It all depends on what you want to do with the box. At this point, I have to say that Web browsing is the No. 1 "killer app" for most people. As long as your hardware, operating system and software can handle most of the Web-browsing tasks out there, you can stick with your system. If you're comfortably running OS X, there's Safari and Firefox.

OS 9? You can stick with Internet Explorer 5.1 and whatever version of Netscape will work. Not bad, but not ideal. Once you start dipping back to OS 8 and 7, it gets even murkier.

I'm no expert on OS 8 or 9, but for OS 7 (I'm now using 7.6.1), pickings are rather slim. The original IE 5 for Mac still works fairly well, but not on all sites, and you'll have trouble with Java and Flash. I've never gotten iCab to work without crashing fairly often, but I'm willing to try again. And I use Netscape 4.7 for e-mail because I have never been able to get any 7.6.1-compatible e-mail program to work with my POP account.

My Powerbook 1400 already had Office 6 installed (plus Appleworks if I need it). It has a working Powerport Platinum card with 10baseT Ethernet. I can do a little bit on the Web, check my various Web-based e-mail accounts, go on Google Groups, and send e-mail from Netscape if I'm so inclined. But I can write Word-formatted files and e-mail or transfer them out of there, and that's my killer app. It's all in the friendly Mac interface. And the hardware cost me nothing.

Let's be frank, I'd love to have a second iBook. Our current 14-inch iBook G4 has held its value very well over the three years we've had it. I can't see having problems using it for another four or five years, I think (and I hope). It's running OS X 10.3.9, and we've got Firefox and Office on there, too. It burns CDs but not DVDs. (I wish it had the Superdrive, of course.) And it's a very nice computer to use. Would I acquire another one in a couple of years if I could get it near $200? You bet. Current used prices through dealers are $600-900. Now that's holding value.

iBook G3s are cheaper, going for $250-$500, but they already can't run 10.4. Not that I'm running anything past 10.3.9 right now -- or need to. If you can get a good one for $300, that could serve you well for a few years.

$300 for three years? How does that differ from $1,000 for six years? Well, it's cheaper up front AND on a per-year basis. Even if the $300 computer only lasted two years, you'd still be money ahead. You wouldn't have "enjoyed" the first years of a completely new computer, but you will have saved some money. And if you don't keep it as your main computer, that $300 laptop could go years longer in limited use.

This may sound a little strange coming from This Old Mac, which champions the continued use of 10-year-old hardware, but I've always said that if you're going to have only one computer, it's nice to have one that does everything you need it to do. A second, third or even fourth computer can be less powerful -- if you need to do something the older box can't do, you've got options. Of course all this depends on whether or not you've got the money for a new PC. $1,000 ain't chicken feed.

While Microsoft is trying to make everybody upgrade to XP and Vista, there's still a lot of life left in Windows 2000 (which I run on This Old PC) and maybe a bit 'o life in Windows 98 (though the inability to get Wi-Fi and card readers working in that OS prompted me to upgrade). And you can still run IE 6 and Firefox in both 2000 and 98, providing your hardware can keep up.

The bottom line for old-Mac users (different than old Mac users, no hyphen) is the waning support for the classic Mac OS. Not everybody can (or should) be running OS 9, and even then there are problems. From my browser-centric prospective, there should be a Safari AND a Firefox for -- at the very least -- OS 9.

It won't happen.

There's a lot you can do with older hardware. Do what it does best, don't spend a lot of money and you'll be happier.

The questions I am asking myself: What's the usable life span of a computer? Is that life span changing -- getting longer or shorter? And how do you compute the most efficiently for the least amount of money and waste?

While much depends on individual circumstances, configurations and needs, I think the average computer life span is holding steady at eight years. I think you have five good years and three iffy ones. Then it becomes a stealthy game of upgrades, tricks and compromises to keep the machines relevant.

That's where This Old Mac and This Old PC come in, at least for me. I wouldn't be subjecting myself to this if I didn't in many ways enjoy it. It's the thrill of victory over free hardware, of making something thought useless work -- and sometimes work well. And I do get a kick, although sometimes I wonder where, out of actually using these older boxes.

Next: I assume responsibilities for a Power Mac G5, which doesn't seem old but isn't exactly new in the wake of Intel Duo Cores and all that. Do I take it to 10.4 or 10.5? What's the best/cheapest backup solution out there today?

First thing -- a Power Mac G5, purchased the same year as an iMac G4, will last longer. Costs more, too.

Second thing -- I guess I should start a This New Mac blog, but I won't. All Power Mac G5 news will remain here. It'll be old soon enough when the Intel Trio Cores (or whatever they want to call them) and OS XI (or whatever they want to call THAT) rear their respective heads.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Happy 11th birthday, Powerbook 5300c

Charles W. Moore has a great article at Low End Mac on the 11th birthday of the Macintosh Powerbook 5300c, Apple's first PowerPC laptop.

First off, this 1995 model had the same problem that plagued iBook G4 and Powerbook G4 computers last week -- flaming batteries:

Even before the 5300 began shipping in quantity, it suffered a major engineering setback and PR disaster that is ironically seems ripped from the headlines in August 2006. The 5300 was originally designed to use lithium-ion (LiIon) batteries, but Apple did a recall and switched to Nickel-Metal-Hydride (NiMH) cells after two of the Sony-made LiIon batteries caught fire.

No consumer machines were damaged, but the switchover caused shipping delays and was a major embarrassment.

This will make you feel good about today's computer prices:

In addition to being the first PowerPC PowerBook, the 5300 also has the distinction of being the most expensive laptop Apple ever sold, with the top-end 5300ce model originally selling for a whopping $6,500!

Give the article a look -- it's well worth reading for old Mac aficionados.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Dodging the iBook G4 battery-recall bullet

When I heard about Apple's notebook-computer battery recall, I figured it must be the new MacBook Pros or something equally new. I was suprised that the recall -- for potentially explosive batteries -- was for the iBook G4 and Powerbook G4. Here are the computers involved:

Affected ranges of battery serial number prefixes are as follows:

12-inch iBook G4, battery model: A1061
ZZ338 through ZZ427
3K429 through 3K611
6C510 through 6C626

12-inch PowerBook G4, battery model: A1079
ZZ411 through ZZ427
3K428 through 3K611

15-inch PowerBook G4, battery models: A1078 and A1148
3K425 through 3K601
6N530 through 6N551

The serial number can be located on most models by removing the battery and looking at its underside.

Additional information is available via Apple's Recall Hotline: (800) 275-2273

To check if your PowerBook or iBook is affected, visit

Since we have a 14-inch iBook G4, there appears to be no problem and hence no recall. But I'll be pulling the battery and checking the model number just the same. The battery never gets all that hot. The left side of the iBook, however, does get pretty warm at times -- I think that's where the CPU and other chips reside (not sure of this, though). The Powerbook 1400, whose battery can hold a 30-minute charge on a good day, never gets warm -- even its CPU area, which is just above the keyboard on the right, stays pretty cool. there's a very good heat sink over it. I saw all when I did the memory upgrade a few months back (probably the easiest upgrade I've done on any piece of electronic equipment in some time -- even easier than adding Airport Extreme to the iBook).

Monday, August 14, 2006

My SCSI is scuzzy

I've tried three separate SCSI drives on the Powerbook 1400, and none of them work. I tried the drives on OTHER computers, and they do work.

Conclusion: SCSI on the Powerbook 1400 is dead. Since this PB probably was NEVER connected to a SCSI device in its entire life, the problem has been there for 10 years.

I wonder if opening up the case and looking for a loose or broken connection between the SCSI port and the main board will solve the problem. I wonder what kind of voltages, on what pins, I should look for to fix this.

Or ... I could live without SCSI and do all my transfers and backups via Ethernet, which DOES work.

Still, I'd love to fix the SCSI. I've got four SCSI drives (all free) -- two ZIPs, one hard disk, one Jaz -- and nothing to plug them into. On the other hand, if you've ever seen the cables that plug into these drives, especially the ones that mate with the Powerbook's weird-looking square plug, you should immediately give thanks for the thin, easily plugged-in cables for Ethernet and, of course, USB.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I'm thinking of getting an iMac (updated)

I read on the iMac list that you can run OS X on an iMac. And I'm inclined to secure one from Bruce (yep, he has one -- a 266 MHz, the first iMac, I believe) and try to load the X. Hopefully I have OS X on CD and not DVD (have to check on that). It might be too slow, but the lure of running X with Safari is too tempting.

But it looks like you need a newer iMac to run OS X effectively.

Update: Yep, this tray-loading iMac 266 runs some flavor of OS 8, and besides needing an 8 MB disk partition to even start trying to run OS X, it's probably not wise to take it past OS 9.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Powerbook 1400 love

There's a lot of love out there for the Macintosh Powerbook 1400. You'd think a 10-year-old laptop with a maximum 64MB RAM, no OS X, no Cardbus compatibility, no USB and doable but difficult wireless access wouldn't inspire such loyalty. But it does.

On Low End Mac, Embracing Obsolescence columnist Nathan Thompson calls the 1400 "one of the best Powerbooks ever":

While the 1400 is cased in the familiar mid nineties PowerBook gray and the iBook has the lovely minimalist white design of new millennium Macs, I definitely see a family resemblance. It may not be the sexiest design ever, but I find the 1400 pleasantly simple. Some may apply the boring label in comparison to more modern Apple designs, but I can appreciate the simple fender flare on either side near the front if one were commencing to engage the PowerBook for operation.

If one were a simple onlooker from afar, a gander at the nice clear customizable upper case lid plastic would reveal the lone bout of whimsy. Again, it's easily hidden if one is of a more dour persuasion than I, given the possession of the plain gray lid cover.

He's spot on about the RAM issue (I'm also running 48MB):

... the biggest issues I have is a far too low RAM ceiling. I can make 64 MB RAM work, but I would prefer 128 MB - even 96 MB would give me some room to grow. As it is, I'll make due with 48 MB because the jump to 64 MB doesn't seem that big a gain for the expenditure required.

Yet he's running memory-hungry OS 9.1 (I'm sticking with 7.6.1 per guru Dan Palka):

I can get Mac OS 9.1 to run, and most of my applications demand very little in the way of system resources, but Mac OS 8.1 or 8.6 are most likely better choices - especially for those 1400's lacking at least the 48 MB RAM my own model was blessed with.

He had trouble with Ethernet, but as with all things 10 years old, the answers are out there. We have the same Global Village card, and 10 years ago, when Ilene first got the 1400, who knew anything about Ethernet? We connected by modem at 22K -- and we LOVED it. Now no one has dialup, and I'm amazed that the Global Village card connects via 10base-T Ethernet either to a network or straight into my DSL modem. Thanks, Open Transport!

Another of Nathan's articles, "Customizing Mac OS 9," which had a lot of Powerbook 1400-specific info, led me to a new e-mail program that just might end my dependence on Netscape 4.7. (YES, I've tried Eudora, and NO, the versions that run on 7.6.1 don't work with my e-mail accounts.) It's a program called Sweetmail, and the Web site says it works on System 7.5, provided you have a few add-ons, to which they provide the links.

Among the Powerbook 1400 users out there are Marko Kloos of Knoxville, Tenn., who wrote "The Volvo of Laptops," commenting as Nathan does on the 1400's unusually comfortable keyboard:

They also have one of the best keyboards ever put on a portable computer... not quite up to the standard of the IBM Model M desktop keyboard, but far better than anything put on any laptop made after 1998 or so. When you type a lot, your choice of keyboard becomes a deciding factor when it comes to hardware decisions, so it's no surprise to me that the PB 1400 is a sought-after machine among writers.

Crazily enough, he stuffed the thing with a 40GB hard drive that he pulled from a Dell:

Now the Dell is in reserve as a spare computer, and the Powerbook continues to be in service as a word processor, despite the fact that the Dell is four or five years younger and vastly superior on paper. The little Powerbook has a smaller screen, far less memory, and a tenth of the processing power of the Dell, but it feels more solid, has a far superior typing surface, and seems better put together all around.The 1400 still chugs along, and it works just as well as the day it did when it left the factory. It's a remarkably sturdy machine, and it does the job at hand just as well as anything else. That led me to ponder the necessity for keeping up in the technology race--how much hardware do you need, and how much is "plenty good enough"?


What an interesting concept. It's certainly easier on the pocketbook.

By the way, he's running 7.6.1.

Getting back to Nathan, he dropped these links into his Low End Mac article, and I'm too lazy to do anything other than present them here for you in exactly the same way:

PowerBook 1400: Dated and a Bit Slow, It's Still Very Usable, Dan Knight, 2006.01.06
Replacing or Upgrading the Optical Drive in Your PowerBook G3 or 1400, Joe Rivera, 2006.01.24
What's a Good, Inexpensive, Useful, Older Mac? The PowerBook 1400, Thomas Ahart, 2006.02.01
System 7.6.1 Is Perfect for Many Older Macs, John Martorana, 2006.03.24
PowerBook 1400 Still a Favorite Nearly 10 Years On, Heather Anne Hurd, 2006.06.07
PowerBook 1400 one of the best PowerBooks ever, 07.21. "How embarrassing for me to be so taken my a computer, but I am greatly impressed."

In my own Powerbook 1400 journey, I'm currently having trouble getting the Iomega ZIP drive and the Powerbook to become good friends. Computer guru Bruce went into his shed and found a cable that plugs into the Powerbook's unusual SCSI port (HDI30, I believe) and has a DB25 female plug on the other end. The only problem: the ZIP SCSI drive also has a DB25 female plug, so I need either a "gender changer" (don't ... get ... me ... started) or a DB25 male-to-male cable (again ... DON'T GET ME STARTED). I'm sure Bruce has got 2o of these in a box. I do have a Powerbook SCSI cable that ends in a Centronics plug, and I also have a 2GB hard drive that connects to this, but I can't get them to speak with one another. I need a driver for a ClubMac drive. Who knows where to get it?

The worst things about SCSI: There are about 20 different kinds of SCSI cables, those cables MUST be of high quality and fully shielded, and you need to set SCSI IDs on each device, slap on a terminator at the end of the chain, and then make sure they're all powered up before turning the computer on. THEN you need special drivers (hard to come by for old devices you pull out of junk boxes).

It makes one positively giddy for USB. Don't take USB for granted, people. It's the one thing that makes me pine for a Pismo Powerbook. It makes our iBook G4 seem positively futuristic.

That said, until such an iBook falls into my lap, I'm making the 1400 work, dammit.

In the PC vs. Mac horse race, This Old PC has, at this point 112 unique visitors, while This Old Mac has only 42. They're both worth checking out. You know, if I could get Microsoft Outlook to run on OS 9, I just might get rid of the PC and get an iMac in The Back Room to replace This Old PC. Just a thought.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

This Old Heathkit

I have a vague memory of The Heathkit H8 computer. To supplement its bread-and-butter amateur radio business, the Heathkit company made quite a stab at staying relevant as the years went by, offering early computers, robots and other things you could build at home and save a few bucks on while learning the art and science of electronics. This fascinating ad and way, way more are available to see at Modern Mechanix. Go to Communications or Computers first.

I remember the Heathkit catalogs from the '80s -- I think the company pretty much faded out by the early '90s. You could build kit versions of ham transceivers and accessories, to be sure, but I think they also had kit TV sets, stereo equipment, even small radios for those who didn't have a mint to drop on something that might not work once you got done with all that soldering. I think Heath had a diagnostic service -- you could send the finished kit back to them if it didn't work, and they would help you out. But part of the kit and its instructions were troubleshooting instructions, and I also remember that for ham radios, you needed a VTVM -- a vacuum tube volt meter -- which itself went for about $100 in the '80s in order to properly align the circuits.

I bet there's quite a market for Heathkits, assembled and the rare unassembled ones, on eBay. I wish I saved some of those old catalogs, that's for sure.

Not to get off track, but this gets me to thinking about old Radio Shack catalogs, which I remember getting every year from one of the local stores -- we had one in the now-mowed-over Laurel Plaza shopping mall in North Hollywood (where I built about three "Perf Box" shortwave radios, cost $7.98 each, with coils wound around AA batteries -- and none of which ever worked) . I always wanted one of these DX-160 shorwave receivers. This is the kind of thing that fuels eBay -- buying the stuff we could never get as kids but which now is cheap, even if it doesn't work all that well.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

System 7 Today

For those running Macs of a certain vintage, especially the PowerPC era, the way to get the most out of your computer is to run System 7, primarily System 7.6.1. How do I know this? I learned everything from Dan Palka of System 7 Today. Dan makes a very good case as to why you should run 7.6.1, even if you have enough memory to go to System 8, and even if you think you're happy with 7.5.3, or something even earlier. Dan is also active on the e-mail lists at Low End Mac, my other beacon of old and moldy Macintosh knowledge, especially the Powerbook list.

More on Low End Mac later. On System 7 Today, besides a lot of knowledge, Dan provides plenty of free utilities and software to make your old Mac as productive as it can be. It was through him that I procured the one program that turned out to be the saving grace of This Old Mac: Internet Explorer 5. Don't laugh. In my opinion, it is the best browser for 7.6.1. I'd like to say iCab is better, but while many Web sites look better in iCab, it just isn't as stable as IE5.

And don't get me started on e-mail programs. After much testing on my part (and some of this is due to my ISP, no doubt), the only way I can get e-mail through a POP account is with Netscape 4.7, which though supposedly "tuned" to the PowerPC chip is very slow. But it does work, and it allows offline reading of mail and Usenet news. Now my "lifestyle," or should I say computing style makes it better for me to read mail via the Web, so I'm sticking with Yahoo! and IE5 as the best solution for the moment. For those who can run OS 9, I do recommend Netscape 7, but that is pretty much a pipe dream for Mac OS 7.

Anyway, Dan is a very good guy to know, and what's amazing is that he's in his early 20s. Now it's not unusual for somebody that young to have a lot of computer knowledge. But about systems and software that is 10 years old?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

This Old Commodore

The L.A. Times did a story on devotees of the old Commodore 64 and VIC-20 computers pegged to a user group in Fresno. That's even farther back than This Old Mac:

In an era when a home computer's power is measured in gigabytes, (Robert) Bernardo still counts kilobytes as a devoted Commodore user 12 years after the last machine was assembled.

Once the largest personal computer maker in America, the company behind the VIC-20 and the Commodore 64 introduced millions of people like Bernardo to the digital age. The company went out of business in 1994, but its legacy survives in dozens of Commodore clubs around the country.

Bernardo presides over the Fresno chapter.

Never mind that the VIC-20 has so little usable memory — just 3.5 kilobytes — that it can store only a couple of pages of text in its buffers. Or that Commodore hardware was notoriously clunky and buggy. Bernardo still manages all his e-mail on a 1980s-vintage Commodore 64.

"I've never considered the Commodore obsolete," Bernardo said. "I can still do many things with it — e-mail, browse the Web, word processing, desktop publishing and newsletters. I still do games on it: new games that are copyright 2006, ordered from Germany."

Web browsing on a Commodore 64? If that's possible, anything is. Here's one way to do it on the C64 and lots of other 8-bit hardware, including the Apple ][, VIC-20 and even Game Boy. Here's another place to start for those who want to resurrect and/or trick out a C64.

It makes This Old Mac seems so ... newfangled. And there must be millions of C64s lying around in closets, garages and who knows where. It reminds me of my first computer, a Sinclair ZX81, which actually sold for something like $99 back when "real" computers were still going for $1,000-plus. True to its name, the ZX81 came on the market -- in both preassembled and kit forms-- in 1981. The whole Sinclair computer phenomenon was huge in England, but it did have some impact here, too. Start here for some Sinclair history. I kept my Sinclair stuff -- including the crudely printed magazine I subscribed to that featured programs you would type in line by tedious line. At some point, I sold the whole lot at a garage sale for about $10. As you can see, they're still big in Germany, and you can still buy one and build it yourself for $99.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

This Old Mac

This Old Mac is a Powerbook 1400cs/117 mHz, originally with 16 MB RAM and a 750 MB hard drive. Ilene has had it for about 10 years now, and I first had the notion a couple of months ago of updating it and seeing if I can use it as a working laptop. I've learned a lot from the Web, and I will share that knowledge here in the near future.