Whenever I stumble on some article listing Apple’s ‘worst Macs’ — sometimes called Road Apples, sometimes called lemons — even before looking at the list I already know that there’s one particular Mac I’m going to find: the PowerBook 5300. I won’t say that this PowerBook was completely issue-free, but I believe that its ‘lemon’ fame is in part undeserved.
Somehow, there’s a common denominator between the PowerBook 5300 and the Newton. Both got a bad reputation for what essentially was a non-issue, and from there it was just throwing the baby out with the bathwater. With the Newton it was the handwriting recognition (yes, it was not extraordinary in version 1.x of NewtonOS, but got amazingly better in version 2.x). With the PowerBook 5300 it was mainly the famous issue with the exploding batteries. As Dan Knight of Low End Mac writes (emphasis mine):
Originally designed to use LithIon batteries, Apple recalled the 5300 after some of the new batteries burst into flames on the assembly line. Not only was this an embarrassment to Apple, but the PowerBook 5300 became the butt of many jokes even though none of the troublesome batteries ever made it to market.
The PowerBook 5300 got included (obviously) in this recent article by Stephen Hackett, Some of Apple’s Lemons, which is otherwise a very well-informed and spot-on piece.
I strongly suspect that, among the tech writers who have written such lists of ‘worst Macs ever built’, there isn’t a single one of them who has actually used a PowerBook 5300 for as long as I have. I acquired my 5300ce second-hand in late 2001. It has a 117MHz PowerPC processor, 64MB of RAM and a 1.1GB hard drive. The original owner got it new in 1995 and took good care of it, to the point that when he sold it to me, the PowerBook was in mint condition after being in use for five full years. (Only the piece of plastic covering the ports on the back was missing, but I wouldn’t consider it a big deal.) The battery still held a 40-minute charge.
I’ve been using this PowerBook for the past 12 years without issues. Amazingly, the battery still holds enough charge to allow the PowerBook to complete the boot process.
Apart from my specific PowerBook 5300 unit, I have a certain expertise with Macs of this vintage because during the 1990s I did a lot of freelance Mac tech support, so I handled quite a number of these laptops.
Anyway, let’s take a look at the issues summarised by Hackett and review them one by one:
Cracks in the plastic casing.
I’ve witnessed this issue on very few PowerBook 5300 models. Comparatively, I’ve seen cracks in the plastic casing occurring much more frequently on clamshell iBooks, particularly around the small Apple logo beneath the screen; a problem possibly caused by tight hinges.
My PowerBook 5300 has started showing a small crack in the casing a couple of months ago, therefore 18 years after being manufactured. I’m willing to cut it some slack at this point, eh?
Vertical lines present on the display due to pinched ribbon cables in the hinges.
I’ve never seen this issue in person. I was told about one case by a fellow Mac consultant years ago. I personally saw this happen a lot with PowerBook 180 and 190 models, though.
A few cases, yes, and in all of them the owner admitted to not treating the PowerBook with much care. I’m not denying the issue, of course, but let’s just say that in my career as a Mac tech support freelancer, I’ve seen more cracked hinges on Titanium G4 PowerBooks than on PowerBook 5300 units. Strange that the Titanium PowerBook G4 never gets a mention among the ‘road apples’ for that, no?
Poor performance due to the lack of a L2 cache.
Here I can only speak subjectively. At the time it was introduced (1995), the PowerBook 5300 wasn’t certainly as fast as some of the desktop Power Macintoshes of the same era (especially the 8500 and 9500 series), but as far as laptops went, it wasn’t exactly sluggish either. Having the maximum RAM installed (64MB) and upgrading to System 7.5.3 or 7.5.5 helped a lot, too. Theoretically, the PowerBook 5300 supports system software versions up to Mac OS 9.1, but in my experience you’ll want to stop at Mac OS 7.6.1 or 8.1, and I suggest going Mac OS 8.1 only if you have maxed the RAM.
Having used my PowerBook 5300 rather frequently over the past 12 years, I can say that, while it may not be the fastest pre-G3 PowerBook, it has proven to be a capable and reliable machine. For example, at the moment I’m writing this very article in BBEdit Lite 3.5.1 on the PowerBook 5300 itself, and there are a few apps opened in background as well:
- Internet Explorer 5.1.7, opened on my main website.
- Acrobat Reader 4, which by the way opens in less than 2 seconds and with two PDF documents open it only takes up less than 10MB of memory.
- iCab 2.99, opened on Low End Mac’s website.
- Graphic Converter 4.01, with a PICT file I needed to crop and convert to JPEG.
There are still 39MB of contiguous RAM available, and switching from an app to another is rather seamless, considering I’m on a 19 year-old machine using Mac OS 8.1.
Fires due to a bad Sony lithium ion batteries that overheated while charging.
As I emphasised at the beginning by quoting that bit written by Dan Knight, that problem happened internally during production and therefore did not impact users directly.
In conclusion, I’ve written about my personal experience with a PowerBook 5300 over 12 years of use and recalling the direct experience I had with these laptops as a freelancer doing Mac tech support in the 1990s, when these machines were new. I’m sure there are other experienced Mac users and technicians out there who will have different stories to tell; but from my perspective, I really can’t count the PowerBook 5300 among Apple’s lemons.
It didn’t boot.
Compared to other Macs in my collection which have been in storage for a longer period (the LC II, for instance, or the Performa 630CD), I used this Quadra 950 for the last time around the second half of 2011, so it’s been a little more than two full years. Of course everything was working fine and, knowing I wouldn’t use it for a while, I stored the Quadra carefully, taking particular care in covering vents and other holes to avoid the excessive formation of dust bunnies.
Before connecting the Quadra to keyboard, mouse and display, I opened it to take a cursory look at the amount of dirt that accumulated inside of it since the last time I used it, but finding it rather clean overall, I went on and flipped the switch (actually I pressed the Power button on the keyboard).
The Quadra’s response: “KH-POP”, and nothing else.
Typically this beast of a computer, with a power supply capable of delivering 303 watts of maximum continuous power (you can, for example, connect an external display to the Quadra 950 PSU and the Quadra will power itself and the display), would make a sort of “KH-DUM” sound when powered on, followed by the spinning up of the various drives and the large fan mounted against the power supply. Instead all I got was a “KH-POP,” the power light would briefly turn on, and nothing else. The Quadra 950 has a security keyswitch on the front, with three positions: OFF, ON and SECURE. According to this archived Apple Knowledge Base article,
When the keyswitch is in the SECURE position, the ADB devices and floppy disk drive are disabled. For example, the keyboard does not generate characters, or the mouse moves but no menus can be pulled down. Also, when power is applied to the computer while the keyswitch is in the SECURE position, the computer automatically starts up.
Turning the keyswitch in the SECURE position made my Quadra 950 cycle in a scary loop of “KH-POP KH-POP KH-POP” — it was clear that the Quadra tried to power on but could not. A very faint burnt smell was not a good sign, either.
My first thought was: The power supply has bitten the dust, but I had my reservations. True, long periods of inactivity aren’t good for vintage Macs (or any computer, for that matter), but the Quadra 950′s power supply is considered one of the most robust, and I found it unlikely that it would give up the ghost this way. It’s just a feeling, of course, but something that happened later in my investigation may corroborate my instincts.
I disconnected everything and started the cleaning process. I wanted to be as thorough as I could, and that meant removing the drive shelf and the power supply, then removing the large fan mounted on the power supply, inspecting each part and cleaning it gently. Then I removed all the connected NuBus cards and dusted them one by one; then I dusted the motherboard.
As you can see, the power supply occupies a large part of the Quadra 950′s interior. In that empty space above it there’s the drive shelf (which I had already removed when I took the photo).
The amazing thing to note with regard to disassembling the Quadra 950 is how simple and straightforward it is. To remove the drive shelf I only had to remove two screws. To remove the power supply — just three screws. (Of course you also have to disconnect the various data cables and power cables).
Here’s the Quadra without drive shelf, power supply, speaker bezel. I also removed one of the NuBus cards (the second from the top — I have four slots occupied of the five available) to be able to disconnect all data cables with greater ease.
This photo was taken before I dusted everything. As you can see, the Quadra was already rather clean inside.
The NuBus cards
For documentation purposes, let’s have a quick look at the four NuBus cards installed.
1. AsanteFAST 10/100 NuBus Ethernet card by Asanté (Manufacture date appears to be 1996)
2. Paint Board Turbo XL video card by RasterOps (Manufacture date appears to be 1993)
3. This one was hard to identify. It basically adds 4 serial ports to the Mac. After some digging, it appears to be either a Lightning or a Hurdler serial NuBus board manufactured by Creative Solutions, Inc. (“CSI”, as you can see on that label on the chip next to the large Zilog chip) in 1994. Here’s the related page from the original website (now archived).
4. This one, instead, was very easy to identify. It’s a Macintosh II PC Drive Card by Apple Computer (part No. 820-0213-A). You can find more photos of this card here. It’s a rather old card (1987) that lets you connect an Apple PC 5.25″ floppy drive. I don’t have such drive — this card was already in the Quadra when I acquired it in 2003.
After the cleaning
After dusting and cleaning everything, I reassembled the Quadra and tried booting it again. And again, the Quadra’s response was “KH-POP,” just like before. But this time, since the room was darker, I could notice a spark on one of the NuBus cards every time I heard the “KH-POP” sound. I am not an electrician, but I’d say that this behaviour suggests that the issue may be on the motherboard (or on something connected to it, such as RAM chips or one of the NuBus cards, etc.) and not in the power supply. It looks as if every time I try powering the Quadra on, something creates a short circuit, interrupting the process. Perhaps a piece of dirt or a ‘dust bunny’ has lodged somewhere and I didn’t catch it, or a RAM chip has failed. Searching on the Web, I found someone having a very similar issue with his Quadra 950, but in his case the short circuit was caused by a pin of the main processor chip that he bent when he reinserted it after cleaning the motherboard. I haven’t touched any chip, and every RAM and VRAM memory stick looks firmly in its place.
I have already tried booting the Quadra after removing all the NuBus cards, but it went “KH-POP” again on me. Tomorrow I will try removing all RAM chips and even the PRAM battery, and see what happens.
I’m quite fond of this Quadra 950. I’ve used it on a regular basis from 2003 to 2006, and occasionally up to 2011. It’s the fastest 68K Macintosh I own (it has a Motorola 68040 CPU at 33MHz, two 400MB hard drives, and it used to have 28MB of RAM, which I expanded to 40MB by adding the RAM sticks I salvaged from the Quadra 700 when it died in 2005) and acted as a server in my vintage Mac LocalTalk network. I don’t want to give up on it yet. I’ve described the issue the best I can, so if you have any insight or suggestion, please do chime in — I’m all ears.
When you have a collection of vintage Macs, even if it’s a small and unassuming one like mine, you have to perform periodical checks to verify the state of the machines. Especially when you don’t have enough space to leave all the Macs laid out and plugged in permanently.
Due to space constraints, I only have two CRT monitors. One is a relatively modern 17-inch Belinea display with a VGA connection, which is currently connected to my Power Macintosh 9500/132 and can be used as an external display with a wide range of Macs. The other is a 14-inch Macintosh Color Display, an 11-kilogram beast with a DB-15 connection that is essential to be able to use three specific machines in my collection: a Quadra 950, a Performa 630CD and a Macintosh LC II (and a PowerBook Duo 280c if I had a working DuoDock).
Yesterday I finally dusted off the Macintosh Color Display because it was time to check on those aforementioned Macs, which sadly haven’t seen much action as of late. The LC II, in particular, was last checked in 2007 (I know, mea culpa, etc.). I had also attached a label to the display with a ‘Last used’ date, and discovered it was last powered on in April 2009. I connected everything with trepidation, basically expecting the LC II’s hard drive not to spin up.
I’m glad I was wrong. As soon as I flipped the switch on the back of the LC II, the Mac booted up as if it were last used just the day before. No problems with the display either. Whew.
This LC II has 4MB of RAM, a 40MB hard drive and of course a 1.44MB floppy SuperDrive. I’m always amazed at how fast these vintage Macs boot up. It took the LC II about 20 seconds from the moment I switched it on to displaying the Desktop. I know it doesn’t have much to load, but it’s always a 16 Megahertz machine booting from a hard drive manufactured in 1993.
Speaking of hard drive, I checked it using the Norton Utilities for the Macintosh, whose version 1.1 was installed on this Mac by the previous owner (sorry for the moiré effect):
And Norton Disk Doctor reported no issues. Other software on this Mac includes Microsoft Word, HyperCard (both version 1, visible in the opening photo, and version 2) and the then-ubiquitous ClarisWorks. Among the utilities, a file compressor/archiver called Disk Diamond, and TattleTech. Now, according to TattleTech, this LC II was manufactured in February 1989, making it 25 years old exactly — but it’s a mistake, obviously, since the Mac LC was introduced in October 1990 and the LC II in March 1992. TattleTech checks the manufacturing date against the Mac’s serial number, which has to be manually inputted. Evidently I had transferred this copy of TattleTech, along with its preferences file, from my Macintosh SE. The label on the bottom of the LC II says that it was manufactured in 1993, so it’s ‘only’ 21 years old. And works just fine.
During the weekend I’ll clean it inside and check the floppy drive, which has become a bit unreliable, then I’ll proceed with the Performa 630CD and the Quadra 950. By the way, I’m always interested in SCSI hard drives for these machines, so if you have some working units lying around, let’s talk about it.
These days of celebration of the Mac’s 30th anniversary really had a deep ‘going down memory lane’ effect on me. Coincidentally, I was doing some major cleaning in my studio, and I found some things worth scanning. To avoid posting just a bunch of photos and images, I’ll try to make a series of posts, separating my findings in a more coherent way.
First off, I found a great book I thought I had lost when I relocated: The Graphic Designer’s Basic Guide to the Macintosh, Written by Michael Meyerowitz and Sam Sanchez. The book was published in 1990, and it’s full of very nice photos of Macs and peripherals of the time (too bad the photos are black and white, and not colour). Instead of focusing on the various Mac models portrayed therein — nothing really new to the vintage Mac enthusiast — I thought I’d scan and publish here a few images of interesting peripherals (monitors, printers, etc.). I’m doing this for ‘educational’ purposes and I hope the copyright owner will consider this fair use of the images.
Apologies for the quality of the scans. The original photos weren’t much better. I also scanned the captions, which should be perfectly readable, but I’ve transcribed them anyway just in case. I’ve also added links with additional information where possible.
The Apple CD SC is a front-loading disk drive that reads information from specially formatted compact disks. One compact disk can hold an entire encyclopedia.
Apple monitors for the Macintosh II, IIx and IIcx. They include a 13-inch Apple Color RGB monitor, a 21-inch Apple two-page monochrome monitor, a 15-inch Macintosh portrait display monitor and a 12-inch monochrome monitor.
The Bernoulli Box is one of several cartridge systems that stores information on a removable disk.
Further reading: The Bernoulli Box A220H
Linotronic laser imagesetters produce professional-quality text, line art and halftones on film, paper, or press-ready plates. The Linotronic is one of several high-end machines that can be used to produce camera ready layouts.
Presentation Technologies’ Montage FR1 film recorder with optional TC1 camera back for creating overheads and instant prints of work created on the Macintosh.
The original Macintosh with mouse and keyboard. Add-ons included the ImageWriter dot matrix printer, external disk drive, numeric keyboard, a modem, and carrying case.
The QMS ColorScript 100 color laser printer. Although expensive, color laser printer technology is moving forward rapidly and prices are starting to drop.
A ScanMan hand-held scanner by Logitech for the Macintosh Plus, SE and II. Hand-held scanners are inexpensive, easy to use, and provide a quick way of scanning small pieces of artwork.
Watch an edition on scanners from the TV programme Computer Chronicles, made available by the Internet Archive. Originally broadcast in 1991. (30-minute video)
Radius two-page monitor for the Macintosh SE/30. The obvious advantage of this size monitor is its ability to display a double-page spread at actual size.
Further reading: Radius Full Page Display at 32by32.com
An inexpensive scanning option: Thunderscan replaces the printhead of the Apple ImageWriter with an electronic eye that reads the image as it rolls through the printer’s paper-feed mechanism.
Further reading: Andy Hertzfeld on the Thunderscan at Folklore.org
Last June, in my article iTunes 2 for Mac OS 9, I made available for download the iTunes 2.0.4 installer so that other vintage Mac enthusiasts could install the last version of iTunes running on Mac OS 9 (it doesn’t seem to be available from Apple’s website anymore). In December, Marco Verpelli, an Italian reader of this blog, asked me if I could also make available the Italian version of such installer, since it’s nowhere to be found on Apple’s website as well. Browsing the Web doesn’t help much, because apparently all iTunes 2.0.4 installers were assigned the same filename (iTunes_2.0.4_Installer.smi.bin), no matter the specific language.
After some time spent digging in my archives and old backups, I’m happy to report that I’ve finally unearthed the iTunes 2.0.4 Italian installer. The instructions are pretty much the same I posted previously:
Once you’ve downloaded it, StuffIt Expander (which you’ll surely have installed on your Mac) will decode the file and extract the Self-Mounting disk Image (iTunes_2.0.4_Installer.smi). Double-click on it and inside you’ll find the VISE iTunes installer. Double-click it and follow the on-screen instructions.
Click the link below to download.
Lo scorso giugno, nel mio articolo intitolato iTunes 2 for Mac OS 9, ho reso disponibile per il download l’Installer della versione 2.0.4 di iTunes per Mac OS 9, in modo che altri appassionati di Mac vintage potessero usufruire dell’ultima versione di iTunes eseguibile sotto Mac OS 9 (non sembra più essere disponibile dal sito Apple, i link presenti in questa pagina non portano da nessuna parte). L’installer che misi a disposizione però era in inglese. Lo scorso dicembre Marco Verpelli, un lettore di questo blog, mi ha chiesto se fosse possibile avere anche la versione italiana, anch’essa introvabile sul sito Apple. Cercarla sul Web è un lavoraccio, perché sembrerebbe che a tutti gli installer di iTunes 2.0.4 sia stato assegnato lo stesso nome file (iTunes_2.0.4_Installer.smi.bin), a prescindere dalla lingua.
Dopo aver cercato lungamente fra i miei archivi e vecchi backup, sono lieto di annunciare di aver finalmente ritrovato l’installer italiano di iTunes 2.0.4. Le istruzioni per l’installazione sono le stesse già fornite in precedenza:
Una volta scaricato il file, StuffIt Expander (che avrete sicuramente già installato sul Mac) lo decodificherà ed estrarrà l’immagine disco (iTunes 2.0.4 Installer.smi). Fate doppio clic su di essa e al suo interno troverete l’installer VISE di iTunes. Fate doppio clic sull’installer e seguite le istruzioni a video.
Fate clic sul link sottostante per scaricare l’installer.
2013 has been an incredibly busy year for me, and regrettably I didn’t spend much time using my oldest Macs and a Mac OS system version older than 8.1. This is the main reason I haven’t updated this blog as frequently as I wanted (but hopefully this is the kind of space one comes to visit for its archives, more than just looking for the latest piece).
Still, I have spent a generous amount of time with a few Macs of more recent vintages:
- A 12-inch PowerBook G4 (1GHz, 1.25GB RAM, 80GB hard drive), running Mac OS X 10.5.8, which was my main machine from 2004 to 2009.
- A 17-inch PowerBook G4 (1.33GHz, 1.5GB RAM, 80GB hard drive), running Mac OS X 10.5.8, which was donated to me in 2012 and has quickly turned out to be a very dependable workhorse and possibly the G4 laptop I’ve used the most throughout 2013.
- A Titanium PowerBook G4 (500MHz, 1GB RAM, 30GB hard drive), running Mac OS X 10.4.11, which I carried around a lot since I acquired a second battery that still lasts 2 hours and a half with moderate use.
- The trusty Power Mac G4 Cube (450MHz, 1.5GB RAM, 60GB hard drive) running Mac OS X 10.4.11 that’s an integral part of my main setup — and it has been since 2008.
- A clamshell iBook G3 FireWire (466MHz, 576MB RAM, 10GB hard drive) running Mac OS X 10.4.11, and another blueberry clamshell iBook G3 (300MHz, 288MB RAM, 3.2GB hard drive) which has now become a Mac OS 9.2.2-only machine.
- A PowerBook G3 ‘Lombard’ (400MHz, 256MB RAM, 6GB hard drive) running Mac OS X 10.3.9 but experimentally updated to 10.4.11 by creating a modified OS X Install DVD. This is probably the nicest PowerBook for long writing sessions. I love the keyboard and the comfortable palm rest area, not to mention its bright 14″ screen.
All these Macs, save for the Titanium PowerBook, sport minimalist installations and all non-necessary software has been removed. Of all the apps installed, some are PowerPC-only or Universal Binary versions that are no longer available for download but that I managed to find in my backups and archives. Then there’s a selection of apps which are still quite useful and whose developers have been kind enough to keep around on their websites even if they have stopped developing them for the PowerPC platform. Here’s a brief overview.
- AppZapper — Great utility to remove applications and all related files. As you can read in the Support page, you can still download version 1.8 for Mac OS X Tiger and Leopard. (It’s not free, though, you still need to purchase a licence.)
- Acorn — A very nice, simple yet powerful image editor. As mentioned at the top of the FAQ page, you can still download version 1.5.5 for Mac OS X Tiger and later. (Again, not free, you’ll have to purchase a licence. But if you own later versions of Acorn, you don’t have to. Read the FAQ for more information.)
- Bean — A great word processor (alas, no longer being developed). At the time of writing, you can still download version 3.1.1 for PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, and version 2.4.5 for PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. (Bean is free.)
- Audion — Still a fantastic option to play MP3s in a lighter package than iTunes. From the download page you can still download Audion for Mac OS X (requires at least Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar) and even a version for Mac OS 8.6/9, plus a few nice extras. Audion is free. Panic’s folks are the best.
- Dropbox — Incredibly, the latest version of Dropbox still supports PowerPC Macs running at least Mac OS X 10.4.11.
- Linotype FontExplorer X — The free, non-Pro 1.2.3 version is no longer available from the Linotype website, but you can still find it on the Web. A quick search turned up this page at Softpedia, for example. (A lot of clutter on that page, but download works.)
- Mailsmith — A powerful, versatile email client. Still supports PowerPC Macs running at least Mac OS X Leopard (10.5.8 recommended). And it’s free.
- Notational Velocity — I just love this little app, and I still use it on a daily basis to keep all my notes synchronised across vintage Macs, newer Macs, and also iOS devices (it syncs via Simplenote). It’s a Universal Binary that supports PowerPC Macs running at least Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. (Free)
- Skim — Great tool for handling PDF documents. From its main page, you can download older versions which will run on PowerPC Macs with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and 10.4 Tiger. (Free)
- Xee — From the website: “Xee is an streamlined and convenient image viewer and browser. It is similar to Mac OS X’s Preview.app, but lets you easily browse the entire contents of folders and archives, move and copy image files quickly, and supports many more image formats.” I really like this app, and from this page, you can still download the (free) 2.2 version, compatible with PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and higher.
- The Unarchiver — From the same developer of Xee, this is a must-have utility for unarchiving many different compressed archive formats. You can find older versions at this page. Version 1.6 works with PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and higher. The Unarchiver is free, but I suggest you make a donation to its generous developer.
- Find Any File — Great search tool, more useful than Spotlight. As I wrote in this old article, When I need to perform searches that dig deeper into the system, or I need a more readable & customisable search results window, I resort to Find Any File, which I love because its UI is based on the Find File application in the Classic Mac OS, and also because it lets me search for files even inside application packages and in places of the System where Spotlight is not allowed to snoop. From the app’s website, you can still download version 1.8.6 for PowerPC Macs (see right sidebar).
- iStumbler — From the website: “iStumbler is the leading wireless discovery tool for Mac OS X, providing plugins for finding AirPort networks, Bluetooth devices, Bonjour services and your GPS Location with your Mac.” A very nice, free network utility that’s still available for download for PowerPC Macs, supporting Mac OS X versions as far back as 10.2 Jaguar.
- Disco — A reliable tool to burn CDs and DVDs. Works with both PowerPC and Intel Macs. It’s not developed anymore, but it still works great and I never encountered any problem with it. Read my review for more information.
A nice resource to download other discontinued Mac apps for the PowerPC platform is PowerPC Software Archive. Among other things, here you’ll find the last working Skype version for PowerPC Macs, not to mention Adium, or the official Spotify client.
Special mention: browsing the Web
If you want to browse the Web on a PowerPC Mac with a modern, secure browser that’s still in active development, then your choice shall be TenFourFox. It runs best on G4 and G5 machines, but it’s also available for G3 processors (on my PowerBook G3/400 it’s not very snappy, but I guess it’s mainly because it only has 256MB of RAM. On my iBook G3/466 with 576MB of RAM, things get better). If you’re running Mac OS 8.6/9, then you should use Classilla, from the same developer, Cameron Kaiser. Classilla works great also under Mac OS X 10.1.5 to 10.3.9 in the Classic Environment.
Another personal favourite is Stainless, which runs on PowerPC Macs with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. It’s no longer developed by its author, who has open sourced it. One of the features I really like (other than its general lightness and low CPU impact) is parallel sessions, which “allow you to log into a site using different credentials in separate tabs at the same time.”
I also like Plainview by Barbarian software, a “Fullscreen kiosk-style presentation content viewer” that is also a fullscreen Web browser. Read more information at this page, where you can also download the browser.
Both Stainless and Plainview are WebKit-based browsers, and their general performance on your PowerPC Mac will be similar to Safari. If you want a secure, up-to-date browser, you should definitely choose TenFourFox. (I even created a custom icon for it, by the way).
That’s all for this year, folks. Thank you to all those who visited System Folder or sent very nice appreciation emails. May you all have a fantastic 2014!
The other day I was using my Titanium PowerBook G4 and I needed to perform a series of checks on a couple of folders containing a bunch of old digital photos. I remembered that a few years back I had stumbled on a series of very cool third-party Contextual Menu add-ons but I couldn’t locate them right away or recall their precise names. I turned to the trusty iBook G3/466 and after a bit of digging I was able to find some information, and to find these Contextual Menu add-ons again on the Web. They were all developed by Pixture Studio and the company has made them available on this page.
They are all very useful, and also very light on the system, which is perfect if you still use a vintage iBook or PowerBook. My favourites (and those I needed for the task at hand) are PhotoToolCM and QuickImageCM. Installing these little extensions is quite easy: you download the compressed archive, it extracts into a DMG file, you mount the disk image and there’s a handy AppleScript application that will install the software in the right place for you. Just follow the prompts and you’re good to go in a few seconds. Once the add-ons are installed, and you relaunch the Finder, they’ll appear at the bottom of the contextual menu in the Finder when you right-click or Ctrl-click on an item.
PhotoToolCM adds two entries to the contextual menu, Photo Exif Info and Photo Tool:
As you can see, Photo Exif Info is quite handy: you select the photo you want information about, Ctrl-click on its icon, choose Photo Exif Info and the EXIF data appears right there in a submenu. As far as I know, this is, to this day, still the quickest way to have that amount of EXIF data on the fly. It was incredibly useful for what I needed to do — quickly parse a folder full of photos I didn’t remember much about, either the camera I used to shoot them with, or the date/time. (The information you see in the screenshots is just to show you how the tool works, it’s not related to what I was doing.)
And the Photo Tool menu gives you a series of powerful features you can take advantage of without leaving the Finder. Same goes for QuickImage — take a look:
You can quickly convert an image in a bunch of different formats by selecting Convert to:
(The JPEG command has yet another submenu where you can choose the quality for the JPEG conversion).
In the QuickImage submenu, if you choose View… you’ll get a mini image editor directly in the Finder:
It’s not a full-blown editor, but for basic retouching is surely enough. And you’re still inside the Finder! And did I say the impact on CPU resources is minimal? This window in Activity Monitor on my PowerBook G4 17″ showed 0.2% CPU usage.
These Contextual Menu add-ons only work on PowerPC Macs. On the Pixture website you’ll notice Jaguar, Panther under System Compatibility, but they also work under Tiger and Leopard. (In Leopard, the additional contextual menus are added to the More command at the bottom of the standard Finder contextual menu — you can see that in the screenshots above). These tools do not work on Intel Macs. I hope you’ll find them as useful as I did, and if someone from Pixture Studio is reading this, thank you for creating these great add-ons.
I apologise for the lack of updates during the summer. I spent the month of July being exceedingly busy (I had an ebook of short stories to publish), and the month of August basically off the grid. I have an unbelievable email backlog, and I’ll try to reply to all the correspondence received from July on. If you wrote me at the compunabula address shown on the sidebar in the past couple of months and I didn’t get back to you, chances are I didn’t even see your email. Sorry if that has come across as rude on my part — that wasn’t the intention.
I wish I could update this blog more frequently, but please keep in mind that this isn’t one of my top-priority projects at the moment.
The other day I was setting up my blueberry clamshell iBook G3/300 to be a Mac OS 9-only machine, and as I was installing a minimal but complete set of applications and utilities, I thought I could very well add to the mix the last iTunes version compatible with Mac OS 9, iTunes 2.0.4.
Since the version of Mac OS 9.2.2 installed on the iBook is in English, and the copy of the iTunes 2 installer I had at the ready was in Italian, the software wouldn’t install (ah, the not-good old times of non-multilingual system software applications!) — So I figured I could do a quick web search to download the English installer.
Of course, one of the first hits was Apple’s own website, the Support page called iTunes 2.0.4 for Mac OS 9: Information and Download. The problem is that the download link is broken and you land on a blank page. So I searched my archives more thoroughly and found it inside a backup of the old hard drive of my late iMac G3.
I thought it would be nice to make it available for download for other vintage Mac enthusiasts. I know you can probably find it elsewhere on the Web, but at least I’m a trustworthy source, and you know that what you’re downloading is genuine. (This is the same installer I’ve used to install iTunes 2 on my iBook.)
The file is a BIN archive. Once you’ve downloaded it, StuffIt Expander (which you’ll surely have installed on your Mac) will decode the file and extract the Self-Mounting disk Image (iTunes_2.0.4_Installer.smi). Double-click on it and inside you’ll find the VISE iTunes installer. Double-click it and follow the on-screen instructions.
For detailed System Requirements, refer to the aforementioned Apple Support page, but in short, if your Mac has built-in USB and runs Mac OS 9.0.4 at the very least, you’re good to go.