Friday, December 15, 2006

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 ...

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