Apple Macintosh IIci/IIcx User's Log

by J.R. Mooneyham
This page last updated on or about 6-2-2000.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Certain items like embedded web links and documented costs/prices for certain wares discussed may be out-of-date. This is Real World usage rather than a syrupy evangelistic exercise, so you'll find both good and bad things about Macs here.

Apple Macintosh IIci/IIcx User's Log Table of Contents

6-2-2000: Sorry for the bad news IIcx/IIci fans; but the IIci covered by this log may have been retired indefinitely.

My sister and her husband bought a new iMac, with the idea that the husband might repair the IIci and turn it over to his mother as a basic word processing device or something similar (his mother already has a WebTV plus WebTV printer). However, from the last I heard of the matter I believe the IIci's problems required someone with more Mac expertise and handy tools/parts around like myself to repair. I told them I'd try to fix it if they'd bring it to me (I live 50 miles away), but the husband wants to try fixing it himself, and it is admittedly something of a hassle for them to transport it here, then return to pick it up again. However, I'm sure the reverse-- me doing a housecall to them-- wouldn't work either. There's simply too many possibilities involved in the repair, for which I'd need ready access to all the junk at WebFLUX Central to likely succeed.

However, my secret plan from some years back has worked well. I knew the IIci would not last forever as an acceptable web client when I assembled it for them, even if it suffered no hardware or software failures-- because the net is demanding ever more up-to-date client wares so far. The IIci was merely my way of cheaply getting them on the net to see the net's present and potential value, so that they'd be willing later to invest in it themselves. And that's exactly what happened with the purchase of the iMac, and signup to Earthlink. Anything else is gravy.

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

4-14-99: We are afflicted by a second Mac monitor blowout within as many weeks.

My sister's old Apple 13 inch RGB on her IIci blew out on the same day my brother's family dropped off their Quadra for testing, as described elsewhere on the site. Its symptoms were different from the other monitor. The 13 incher showed something like six miniature images of the Mac desktop simultaneously onscreen in a narrow band, with big black regions at the top and bottom of the screen.

My sister and her husband may get a new iMac or a PC as a result of this. So far they've been unable to bring the system to me to check out, and it wouldn't be practical for me to go to them for this particular problem, since the extra monitors and other items I'd want to use in testing would need to be there too (my sister lives 50 miles away in the 'big city').

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

2-21-98: My sister's Mac IIci RAM and hard drive have been upgraded...

...from 8 MB RAM to 24 MB, and from 80 MB hard disk to 350 MB hard disk.

We now have the IIci's virtual RAM set to 48 MB, so she and her husband should enjoy plenty of elbow room in memory now, and where they previously had maybe 2-5 MB free space on disk, they now have around 200 or more MB.

Installing the extra RAM on the IIci seemed to slow its boot up time a bit, much as I've noticed on other 68030 Macs I'd added RAM to in the past, like a IIcx and 460 (my brother-in-law added the RAM to the IIci). The replacement SCSI hard drive for the IIci came from a 61xx PPC Mac whose owner had upgraded to a larger drive. The newer, bigger hard drive may have helped speed the IIci up slightly compared to the original 80 MB-- but only slightly.

The IIci remains a decent low cost starter machine, offering reasonable low end performance for web surfing, email, and basic productivity. The new 24/350 configuration is significantly more comfortable than the previous 8/80, but the speed remains pretty much the same as it started with in a 8/80/28.8 set up which included a NuBus 8-bit video card and cache card.

I don't believe a 33.6 or faster modem would boost web performance any for this config-- it seems to barely saturate a 28.8 line. So faster modems would be a waste of money it appears (A 14.4 may provide almost as much performance as a 28.8 modem on the IIci). The NuBus video board provided by far the largest performance boost for the IIci to date, by replacing the slower built-in video hardware. Extra RAM and a cache card and a slightly newer/bigger hard drive all did very little to affect speed.

All this being said, a much newer and larger hard drive than the 350 MB (like say a 2 GB) would surely add a perceptible speed boost to the IIci (it did on a 460 which is similar in many ways to a IIci). Maxxing out the RAM to the theoretical ceiling of 128 MB might also enable some geeky tricks like a big RAM disk for browser caching, or running other important apps from, for a significant speed boost from bypassing the physical drive-- but even today 128 MB for a IIci is a bit expensive, and some sources indicate installing more than 64 MB might not work as well as you'd expect. A more expensive graphics card might also give a boost over the standard Apple 8-bit. But again, we're talking about considerable money for incremental gains.

Too, when we get into the subject of graphics or other accelerator cards for a IIci, we're not only venturing into more expensive territory, but possibly INCOMPATIBLE territory. I.e., more instability and crashes for users. I personally shy away from accelerators for those reasons.

The bottomline: If you have a Mac expert handy to help you, you're starting from scratch computer-wise, and even the latest low cost new PC systems seem expensive to you, you can possibly put together a decent Mac IIci 'Network Computer' system for $300-$500 (not including printer). If a Mac IIci is too slow for you, go for a 68040 Mac like a Quadra 650. Those babies outrun and outboot many circa 1997 PowerPC Macs (and possibly 1997 Pentium PCs too), but will cost you $200-$400 more than a IIci.

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

12-30-97: Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.x Update: Explorer's incontinent disk cache.

MSIE 3.x apparently has only one really bad flaw: its disk cache leaks bad, filling up your entire hard disk eventually if you don't go in and manually clear it regularly. The size setting in the Preferences means absolutely nothing. I thought this might only be a problem with big multi-GB hard drives since the Mac OS file system is antiquated there, causing tiny files like those stored in a cache to be much fatter in the directory than they actually are, because of file system inefficiencies. But it turns out this happens on tiny 80 MB drives as well as 2 GB drives, according to feedback from my sister's husband. Too, he informed me that the Windows PCs he uses at work have similar problems with their browsers.

If I had to pick between IE 3.x's incontinent disk cache and Netscape Navigator 3.x's incontinent RAM management though (which makes Navigator crash and freeze up on average once every 30-60 minutes), I'd take IE anyday-- and have. I now routinely install IE 3.x on every Mac I configure. It simply works better. Nav 3.x may be a slightly easier install though. I wish Nav was the best Mac browser, since I don't wish to help Microsoft take over the world-- but Nav's a distant second in quality on the Mac in third generation browsers-- and I suspect will be in fourth generation browsers too.

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

12-27-97: Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.x Update: beware the Personal Web Server

MSIE comes with something called a Personal Web Server, but I'd never fooled with it at all until lately. In last minute testing of a Christmas Mac (Q650) I noticed the Web Server had a control panel in the Apple Menu, and called it up. I looked around in it and closed the control panel, and saw the Q650 freeze up for the first time ever that I can recall. So I restarted and used the Extensions Manager to disable that thing, and then trashed the related folder inside the Microsoft Internet Applications folder on disk. There was also an Internet Configuration folder too that's only there for first-time web users with no previous internet service account that was unnecessary too in the cases of these Christmas Macs, so I trashed those as well (the Mac IIci especially could use the extra disk space, since it only has a 80 MB disk). The recipients of these Xmas Macs had no need for either the web server or config software in this case, and I certainly didn't want anything on there that would freeze or crash their Macs if I could help it.

I made sure to test the web surfing and email before trashing the folders for good, by first moving the folders to a different folder from the original and then going online.

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

12-27-97: I thought Internet Explorer 3.x might run faster if I reduced its memory allotment in Get Info to be less than the total physical RAM available on the Mac IIci....

....since the 8 MB RAM IIci was using a virtual 16 MB RAM-- but that turned out to be WRONG. IE 3.x runs better the MORE memory you give it, no matter how much physical RAM you have, and whether or not virtual RAM is switched on.

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

12-26-97: The preliminary scores are in from the Christmas Macs...

And boy, are they a hit!

To recap, we gave basically complete systems to the families of one of my brothers and one of my sisters (another two brothers and sister have been equipped previously). The faster system went to the family with kids (one 6 year old boy and one ten year old girl), and the other to the newly wed couple. The fast system was a 33 MHz 24/230/CD Quadra 650 with Apple Performa Plus monitor and Apple Color StyleWriter 2500. It was set up for web surfing, email, and basic productivity suite. The second system was a 25 MHz Mac IIci with Apple RGB monitor and Apple StyleWriter II printer, similarly set up web and productivity-wise.

Both systems were used, except for brand new 28.8 external modems.

The newlyweds both work in offices/studios which allowed them some limited computer/web access already, so a home machine was mostly complementary to their already existing lifestyle. The family with kids had to drive about 25 miles to use a relative's computer. These and other related matters were the criteria we used to decide which system went where.

Being cramped for desk space until shortly before the unveiling, we were surprised to discover after sitting the systems side-by-side that the newer 14 inch Performa Plus monitor actually had a significantly smaller image display than the older 13 inch Apple RGB monitor! So you might keep this in mind when shopping yourself for a used monitor.

The newlyweds told us they absolutely loved their IIci, and that it was actually considerably faster than the Windows PCs they were accustommed to at work (!) They were actually so ecstatic I worried that might make them prone to a manic-depressive cycle when the first problems showed up-- after all, this is 1997, and we're still in the Stone Age of Computing. No one should get their hopes up for their computers (and especially web connections) working perfectly for longer than a few weeks or months at most-- even if their computer is a Mac. The bottomline though is that the newlyweds did transport their Mac home and reconnect all the cables and go online with negligible problems so far.

I was glad the newlyweds didn't feel they needed me to personally drive 50 miles to set up their Mac at home-- though they're not computer geeks by any means, they are somewhat techy, as they work with video production at a Knoxville studio that creates shows like "America's Castles" and others on cable TV.

I did however drive 25 miles to set up the other family, which, although fairly experienced in Mac use and web surfing generally, haven't ever set up a system themselves yet. This is their first true personal computer system, so this is the beginning of all that for them. This family too seems very happy with their system-- of course, they have a darn fast and strong Mac there with a darn nice color printer, too. Their 24 MB RAM 33 MHz 68040 Mac is actually perceptually faster at web surfing than the 32 MB RAM 200 MHz 603e Mac they were accustommed to borrowing time on before! So yes, they are happy campers indeed. Surprisingly, some kids' multimedia CDs they'd been previously using on the PowerPC Mac seemed to work nearly as fast on the Q650 as the 6400! (I say surprisingly, because of the hardware differences between the two Macs: the 6400 has 32 MB RAM, an 8x CD drive, and runs at 200 MHz with an included L2 cache. The Q650 has 24 MB RAM, a 2x CD drive, and runs at 33 MHz with NO L2 cache so far as I know.)

Some of the peripherals for these two xmas Macs we already had on hand, but the CPUs themselves (and one monitor) came from Small Dog Electronics[Mac IIci and cache card and two new modems] and McMobile[Quadra 650, Apple RGB monitor, extended keyboard]-- the very best used Mac vendors I could find as of late 1997.

Here's the web link for Small Dog. McMobile is best reached by phone at: 610/734-2222, but also may be emailed at

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

12-9-97: Real Geeks Own Grounding Straps (or, the Day of the Mac IIci Cache Card)

(if you have to ask what a grounding strap is, you're obviously not a true computer techie, no matter what you might think of yourself)

The $15 IIci cache card and modem I ordered from Small Dog Electronics arrived yesterday, but I didn't get the chance to do anything with them until today.

I booted up the IIci to refresh my memory about its general performance and 'feel' before trying the cache card, so I could make a better comparison. Boot up, double-click the hard disk icon, open a few folders, open ClarisWorks...

OK, I couldn't wait any longer. I shut down, switched off all power, donned my trusty grounding strap (a wrist strap that uses the ground of an AC outlet to bleed off harmful static electricity charges so they won't fry any electronics you're handling; grounding straps are practically MUST-HAVE accessories for adding RAM and other internal circuitry to a computer-- otherwise you face a much greater risk of your investment becoming utteely worthless by way of a tiny ble spark-- or even so visible spark at all).

I popped the top on the IIci. IIci's have a great design that puts most of the upgrade slots in an easily accessible position with little more than the removal of the top of the case.

I removed the cache card from its protective wrapping and examined it and the slot. Weeks back I'd used an old IIci review in a mac mag to make notes about all the various slots and what they're for-- but Mac Old Timers could likely discern most stuff easily without any such reference. There's three NuBus slots in there (facing knockout panels in the rear of the case), 8 RAM SIMM slots (only four of which are vacant in this particular IIci right now), one ROM slot, and one PDS/cache slot. Plus, there's also clues from examinations of the interface on whatever card you're installing too, compared to the slots available in the computer.

OK, so now I have the card. The bottom and top are obvious. What's not so obvious is the front and the back, relating to how the card'll properly install in the IIci.Or does it matter? (Seems like it would!)

Again, the answer comes from an examination of the slot and the card interface for it. Often in computers matching connectors will have small tabs or ridges that will prevent a component from being installed into the wrong place, or the wrong way. This also proved true for the IIci cache card. There were a couple small notches on the card connector, with matching ridges on the motherboard slot, which made it look like there was only one way the card would properly fit. So I carefully positioned it, and tried to gently nudge it down from the top (there was a handy plastic thumb handle at the top middle of the card that aided this process). The first couple of times I encountered more resistance than I liked, and pulled back to re-examine things again. About the third try it seemed to socket properly. I visually inspected it from several angles, and also gave an extra nudge or two from the top to insure a good connection. Then I closed the top and booted up.

The boot up could have been slightly faster-- or it could have been my imagination (no, I'm using no stopwatch for this folks). But a cache isn't likely to do as much for you where disk access is a major factor, than it might in more straightforward processing of data.

The Finder response, and opening of ClarisWorks seemed to be a small bit snappier than before. As I had other things to do, I left off there for the moment.

So the IIci seems a slight bit 'snappier' and responsive than before, but not turbo-charged or anything-- which is about what you'd expect from a modest 10% or so speed up. See, if you get a 10% boost, that means that maybe something which previously took 10 seconds to do might only take 9 seconds after adding the cache. Of course, I have nothing handy that ever required ten seconds for the IIci to do pre-cache, so instead I gotta examine much smaller time intervals-- like the difference between a previous half-second operation and how long it requires post-cache install. When you get into tenths of a second, you're riding the very edge of human perception in some ways. Seems like I recall only something like 17-30 frames per second are required for a film to fool the eye into thinking motion is continuous, rather than streaming by in 17-30 different snapshot stills, as they truly are.

In general, the 25 MHz IIci with cache seems to better match the performance of a newer 33 MHz 68030 Performa 460 with added FPU, than the pre-cache IIci did. My impression of the IIci all along has been that (after I added the 8-bit NuBus video card) the IIci lagged just ever so slightly behind the 33 MHz 460 in performance. Almost imperceptibly behind it. The cache may now make them more of an equal match.

But speaking of that 8-bit NuBus color video card I added to the IIci previously...which boosted IIci performance more? The video card or the cache card? The video card, I'm sure. I judge that the video card boosted the IIci at least twice as much as the cache card, from these early results-- or maybe 20% or so.

And since savvy shoppers might find both such cards priced the same on the web as of Dec 97 ($15 each), this means IIci owners should add the 8-bit video card first, and the cache card second, in terms of cost-effectiveness.

Now folks, I haven't had the chance to see what loading the IIci up with extra RAM might do for performance-- but with my 33 MHz Performa 460 in earlier days adding sufficient RAM so I could switch off the virtual stuff made a perceptible difference in many operations-- so maybe that's another 10-20% difference.

I haven't yet tested the IIci's cache-aided web surfing-- where I expect to get a more practical sense of any real boost.

So how does the cache-enabled IIci compare to my screaming demon 33MHz 68040 Quadra 650? The IIci is OK, but the Q650 still seems to run 3-4 times faster than the newly cache-equipped IIci.

(Folks, my main experience over the past nine years has been with 8-33 MHz 68000, 68020, and 68030 Macs, then later 60-66 MHz 601 and 100-225 MHz 603e Macs. Of all those, the 225 MHz 603e and 33 MHz 68040 seem the fastest, and about evenly matched in speed-- as shocking and surprising as that may sound. But the 68040 outpaces the 225 MHz 603e altogether if you take reliability into account; the PowerPC 603e Macs seem to crash dozens of times for each single time the 68040 crashes-- and this ratio is tilting more in favor of the 68040 every day, as I'm still waiting for its first crash, while I crash many times daily on 603e Macs!)

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

12-4-97: I ordered a second new Motorola 28.8 external modem from Small Dog Electronics today...along with a $15 Mac IIci cache card...

...heck folks, Small Dog didn't even have the cache card in their online price list at all when I first called, but it turned out they had 20-30 of them in stock anyway, when I asked over the phone-- and $15 is about the lowest price I've seen for them anywhere on the web (once again, Small Dog proves one of the lowest priced used Mac sources on the web).

I previously bought the first Motorola modem for my brother's Mac, and it's worked fine the past few weeks, so now I need another one for my sister's Mac too (a Christmas gift). The Motorolas are going for around $60 over the phone, and possibly cheaper if you order directly off the web from Small Dog.

I may end up buying a third one for myself. I would have already ordered mine, but there's currently a cash crunch here at FLUX Central with all these xmas Macs and related items being bought, so I'm going to try to wait a few weeks before tending to my own monitor and modem needs.

The new modem plus used cache card plus shipping cost me $81.

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

11-21-97: A college professor named Terry recently wrote me. He agrees with my statements about older Macs seeming considerably more stable than newer ones. He has a IIci that's served him faithfully for years.

Terry saw some of my comments about bypassing the IIci's built-in video circuitry with a $50 8-bit NuBus card to speed up the IIci, but wondered where he could find such a card. Terry's also in the market for a bigger hard drive than his present 80 MB, but hopes to pay $150 or less.

What follows is my (somewhat edited) response:

Yeah Terry, my IIci sped up perceptibly when I inserted an 8-bit video card from my old IIcx into it.

Actually Terry I may have found suitable used 8-bit cards for as low as $15 now at a place called Timco I believe, and for $25 and $35 elsewhere (Timco and other used Macs/parts dealers are listed in my page of old/used/refurbished Mac sources) . Small Dog Electronics (also listed) has been selling old IIcx boxes for $99 that offer an 8-bit card, an extra 80 MB drive, an extra 1.44 MB floppy, and an extra case, power supply, etc., that might all be great spare parts for a long term IIci owner (bought separately these parts would total to considerably more than $99). Just think if you could find a IIcx like this with a big hard drive in it too for $150 or so...!

Your IIci should also run slightly faster with a cache card than without it. I think I've seen IIci cache cards for $15 too. And extra RAM can speed things up as well by allowing you to do without virtual memory on disk...but each of these amount to small speed ups of only around 10% or less.

It helps for you to be as familiar as possible with what you want when you shop, and ask specific questions about an item to insure you're getting what you expect.

As always, keep in mind some vendors will be better and more honest and more 'mac smart' than others, and read the 'fine print' at a site before buying to see what guarantees/return policies they have, if any. I've seen some places give you as little as 24 hours to test/return something, and Timco I believe allows only 7 days(?)

You may also run across used hard drives for $50 or so at such places too, though recently I bought a NEW and FAST 2.4 Gigabyte SCSI drive for a 68030 Performa from ClubMac for about $220. Keep in mind buying an old hard drive or monitor may be riskier than buying an old video card-- as both the old drive and monitor technologies are prone to aging problems...(drives may start having problems spinning up, and monitors can begin getting wavy lines and other distortions)....though in general you're unlikely to run into this too often (so far as I can tell).

Installing a diff internal drive in your IIci can be tricky unless the HD already has an OS installed on it that's suitable for your Mac (a 'universal' sys), or you have a set of system install floppies to put an OS on the new drive with, or you also have an external drive hooked to your Mac with a suitable OS installed on it (the external) to run your Mac until you can get the new drive set up. An external CD ROM drive won't work for this task on older Macs like IIci and Performa 460 models, since they can't boot off CDs-- not until the Quadra 800 and Centris/Quadra 650 models and later I believe did Macs start becoming bootable off CD ROMs.

It's a 'chicken and egg' problem about putting an OS on a new or replacement internal drive-- you can see details about this too in my newz archives, concerning the 2.4 GB I put into the Performa.

Good luck Terry! I hope this helps.

-- JR

-- from J.R. Mooneyham's email

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

11-11-97: Amazingly, my little $400 Mac OS NC just keeps getting better and better...(this time with a single click)

I guess nobody remembered to notify all the little Mac IIci boxes out there that they were obsolete years and years ago. So they just continue to embarrass and humiliate many much newer Macs (and especially Windows PCs) in regards to performance, reliability, and cost-- possibly providing 70% of the web surfing power of a brand new Power Mac for 10% of the cost, for just one example. Regular Newz readers will remember me switching from a System 7.5.1 33 MHz 20 MB RAM Mac Performa 460 to a System 7.1 25 MHz 8 MB RAM Mac IIci a few months back.

Well, there were still a few things I missed from the 460 configuration, but I was able to do without them until now. The biggest was System 7.5's beefier Find File service. Well, now I'm needing to revamp several of my bigger web site pages, and really require the better Find File to make sure I'm working with the latest version of the pages on my disks. System 7.1's Find File is just way too weak for that job. However, I faced a problem: I still had the IIci's tiny internal 80 MB hard drive set up with a browser, etc., just in case I moved to a 68040 Mac soon, and passed the IIci to another family member, taking my peripherals like my 800 MB APS hard drive, CD, and ZIP drive etc., with me. I'd have to move the browser etc. off the 80 MB drive to make room for a System 7.5 install. Plus, doing an upgrade would take 30 minutes or so of moderate concentration (and include a slight risk as always of chaos visiting me personally), so I wasn't looking forward to it.

But then when I woke up this morning I realized I'd forgotten something. I was on a Mac. It's a pretty old Mac, but a Mac never-the-less.

I booted up, went into the Startup Disk Control Panel, and clicked on the icon of my 800 MB APS hard drive. Then I restarted the Mac from my Special Menu. PRESTO! The Mac IIci was now a System 7.5 Mac!

For those joining us late, back around 1-2 months ago I installed a 'universal' System 7.5 onto my 800 MB external drive in order to use it to boot my brother Scotty's Performa 460 after we'd installed a new internal hard drive in it. We had to do this before we could install an OS onto the new internal drive.

So the 800 MB drive had been justing waiting for me to click on it in the Start Up Disk Control Panel ever since then, whenever I decided I wanted to upgrade. SHEESH!

But that wasn't the only pleasant Mac-surprise today. Unlike slightly newer, faster, more RAM equipped Macs like Scotty's 460, the little IIci actually seemed to speed up slightly in the switch from System 7.1 to 7.5! DESPITE the IIci having to use virtual RAM to make up for having only 8 MB of physical memory! This was completely unexpected. Of course, it may also be due somewhat to the 800 MB drive being faster than the internal 80 MB, too. But whatever the reason, it's nice!

Plus, on top of all that, I also regain many of the features I previously lost in my PageSpinner app when I 'downgraded' to 7.1 a while back. So things are perking up here!

Heck-- if the IIci keeps on speeding up unexpectedly like this, I may have to re-examine my previous assertion that the IIci model can make a great cheap NC web surfer, but not a great Web authoring NC....I'll keep you posted.

Heck...maybe I should get a cache card and more RAM for the IIci after all to see what happens?

PS: After all the time and trouble the IIci saved me above (and the most satisfying and unexpected results I got too), I was encouraged to go further, and upgrade the IIci from 7.5 to 7.5.3, and also install Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 onto the 800 MB drive too. Neither of these were really necessary at this time, but I'd seen on the web that Explorer seems to run better if you install all its bundled parts, rather than the custom partial installs I'd been doing before (heck, Explorer runs many times better than Netscape Navigator even in a partial install! But I figured why not try a full one?). Too, when I switched hard drives to upgrade to 7.5, I left behind the CFM 68k Runtime software in the system folder, that Explorer wants to run, and was informed of this after switching. So sooner or later I either had to install the Runtime from the Explorer package, or install 7.5.3 anyway-- so I did both. Took a few minutes, and I did have to click a couple! All that work! ha ha ha....and for those Windows PC guys who still don't get it, I could have simply clicked once to switch back to my other OS disk to go online or use Explorer with PageSpinner, and avoided both these subsequent installs indefinitely. How? Why? Because I'm on a Mac. "M-A-C."-- and maybe even worse-- it's a measely $400 Mac(!) -- JR

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

10-23-97: WebFLUX Alert: Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0's AWFUL AWFUL default search page

YIKES! Folks, since I rarely use the default search button on a web browser these days, I was completely unaware that Microsoft had installed such a dinky default search page URL in their browser, until just the past day or so. The darn thing is nothing more than a search of Microsoft's own web site! *&%$!@ I guess now I know how poor WebTV users feel.

This is a MAJOR flaw compared to the default search page of Netscape Navigator, which offers you up the main five web search engines to use (last time I tried it, anyway).

Luckily, you can change the search page in Explorer's preferences. Unluckily, Netscape won't let you use its default search page with Explorer, insisting you switch to Navigator to do so (doah!).

OK Netscape; you want to play that way? Fine. But you just lost maybe a dozen hits a week to another site by doing that....

Since Netscape was acting just as childish as Microsoft, I set the default search page to c|net's "". is probably the best general purpose search site anyway. The only reason I started to install Netscape's search page first was because that's the one most folks here at WebFLUX Central are most accustomed to, and I try not to force people to learn new interfaces for things any more than is absolutely necessary-- after all, everyone already has more than enough to do around here as it is....

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

9-25-97: Yeah, cheap Mac IIci/Internet Explorer NCs are serviceable solutions as basic web surfing/email/productivity stations...

...for end users who are savvy enough to perform the frequent software maintenance required (ouch!). Unfortunately, it now appears that there is simply NO decent maintenance-free Mac solution to long term web surfing/email usage.

Oh sure, cheap Mac IIci's will still offer you a big chunk of the web surfing/email power of brand new Macs costing TEN TIMES as much-- but the cheap Macs will also be about as UNreliable as the expensive Macs for these purposes, too.

Folks, I'm the guy a big chunk of East Tennessee calls upon to fix their net-related Mac problems, and I'm having a hell of a time just keeping my own Macs on the net! And all we're trying to do is surf and email! We don't dare try to do anything advanced in regards to the net! But we still can barely stay connected! It shouldn't be this hard...(grrrr!)

Are Windows PCs a superior solution to Macs for reliable web surfing/email usage? Well, they may often be cheaper than comparable Macs. And Windows PC users definitely enjoy a more mainstream technical support infrastructure and accommodation from most internet service providers and related industry products/services than Mac users-- which might make the initial connection process to the net somewhat easier. far as I know PCs have as many web-related problems as Macs-- and maybe even MORE than Macs(!) So there appears to be NO decent maintenance-free PC solution to long term web surfing/email usage, either.

But if BOTH Macs and PCs make for relatively poor long term web surfing machines, is there a better third choice?

Well, yes and no. Yes, theoretically there's the potential for MUCH better choices among third party gizmos for reliable web surfing, than Macs or PCs are in September1997. But NO, those third party choices don't appear to actually be better choices, just yet. Why? Among other things, they are still severely limited in their functionality compared to desktop computers, and may even limit users to accessing only a small fraction of the web sites desktop computers can visit, too (when the desktops can actually be coaxed onto the web by their users, that is-- often, they can't be). So at the moment all of us who simply want full web access with the reliability and ease of use of a television set (even if it costs $10,000!) don't have any choices at all-- instead, we're stuck with just plain awful pieces of junk in this respect. When O when will our web access really work well?

...but are cheap Mac IIci/Explorer NCs also suitable and practical web authoring stations?

NOPE! Definitely not! Remember that Mac IIci I was prepping for my brother's family as a cheap Mac NC? Well, I ended up deciding to do a long term test of its viability and potential myself, and switching all my own personal Mac stuff to the Mac IIci from the Performa 460 I was on previously. One thing influencing my decision was that the IIci's speed seemed pretty close to that of the 460, after I installed the Apple 8-bit video card into the IIci.

Yep. I 'downgraded' myself from a 33 MHz System 7.5.1 Performa 460 w/ 20 MB RAM to a 25 MHz System 7.1 Mac IIci w/8 MB RAM.

In fact, I've been updating my web site content with the Mac IIci for a few weeks now. Surprise, Surprise!

Now folks, I know my personal downgrade might sound awful dumb to lots of you. But I was interested in gathering long term info on the IIci's long term viability and functionality. Plus, I do still have regular access to a 200 MHz Performa 6400 as well, for surfing and other matters. And Scotty and Beverly really need the extra incremental performance more than I do, considering the different things we use Macs for. I also wanted very much to get Scotty and Beverly on the web, and increase their computer flexibility in general, which the 460 accomplishes; not only for them, but also for their toddler son, who's about one and a half, but already loves to spend hours on a Mac (he does get frustrated though sometimes since he can't yet read the menu options for himself). And besides-- I'm planning on buying more hardware of some kind pretty soon too (probably another old Mac). So I'm not 'stuck' with the IIci in any significant way. And yeah, there might be some illogical sentimentality here too: you see, the first Mac I bought for myself was a IIcx around 1990, which in many ways is almost physically identical to a IIci. My first choice in 1990 had actually been a IIci, but as IIci's were state-of-the-art back then I couldn't afford one, and went with the cheaper IIcx instead. But now I have a IIci on my desk after all, with all its considerable expandibility....heh, heh, heh....

It was surprisingly easy and fast to transfer my whole life from the Performa 460 to the IIci. Basically, (with ALL gadgets switched OFF, and UNPLUGGED from AC electricity too for added insurance) I disconnected my 800 MB APS external SCSI hard drive from the 460 and re-connected it into the IIci instead (I have other SCSI devices too like a ZIP drive and external CD ROM, but they are all chained to one another and I was able to simply unconnect and reconnect ONE SCSI connector to move the whole shebang of perhiperals between machines). I'd previously used LocalTalk networking to copy the Iomega ZIP driver and Apple CD ROM extensions to the Mac IIci's System Extensions folder from the 460's, so the IIci would recognize the drives-- and so I was done! (note: there were a few other miscellaneous extensions and pref files copied over too, but the ZIP and CD drive extensions were the most important ones).

Unfortunately, the Mac IIci configurations I've described previously, while well suitable for web surfing and emailing and basic productivity software, are painfully slow for the type of web authoring I do. Namely, PageSpinner runs a wee bit slower here than on my previous 460, and also loses some of its fancier features when transferred from a 7.5 OS to a 7.1 OS. I may end up upgrading the IIci to 7.5 to regain some of PageSpinner's snazzier features, but that may slow the IIci down more, too.

PageSpinner is one of many HTML editors that utilize a web browser to display your work as web users will see it. On the Internet Explorer browser equipped IIci, I'm using Explorer rather than Navigator for display. And here is where it turns out Navigator has the edge.

You see, while Explorer 3.0 is faster and more convenient than Navigator 3.0 in web browsing, it's SLOWER and more INconvenient for web authoring than Nav 2.0 (I know this may be a somewhat unfair comparison, but this is the experience I have, since I was previously using Nav 3.0 for surfing and Nav 2.0 for authoring displays). It takes Explorer considerably longer to display a page from PageSpinner than Navigator....but wait-- now that I think about it, this delay may be due simply to the Mac I'm using now rather than the browser-- because I've not tried using Navigator on the IIci, and so am comparing the 33MHz, 20 MB RAM 460's Navigator performance to the 25 MHz, 8 MB RAM IIci's Explorer performance (and both Nav 2.0 and Explorer 2.0 may be faster than version 3.0 of either Nav or Explorer for this purpose?). So maybe I lack complete info regarding the speed difference. BUT...Explorer definitely has the problem of forcing a new browser window open almost every time you test view a HTML page in it, unlike Navigator. All these new windows rapidly suck up your RAM, and so it's best to close Explorer's previous window every time before you preview a page again.

In other words, when I get the time, I'm likely to try setting up the IIci/PageSpinner to use Netscape Navigator 2.0 for the preview browser, instead of Explorer-- but still use Explorer for web surfing.

Now, it's true that I might could speed things up for web authoring (and other matters) on the IIci by adding more RAM/switching off virtual memory, adding a cache card, and/or replacing its tiny, old and slow internal hard drive with a newer, bigger, faster one...but the more stuff you add, the higher the cost goes, remember? And if you're going to spend more money than we originally postulated for a cheap Mac NC, you might as well upgrade the base model you're working with in the first place....

So if you want a cheap web authoring Mac NC, rather than only a web surfing Mac NC, I recommend you get a 68040 Mac rather than a 68030 like the IIci.

And make it a 68040 Mac with an FPU too if possible-- which means NO PERFORMAS I believe. Though there might be a few exceptions here and there (do your research before buying a specific model!), generally I believe you'll want to get a Quadra for a practical and reasonably cheap web authoring Mac NC.

Don't get me wrong; the 63x Performa line (and other FPU-less 680LC40 Macs) have a lot going for them in many ways. But it would be darn expensive and troublesome to add an FPU to those machines if you decided you wanted one, and in the meantime sooner or later you're going to run into a program that requires an FPU to do something you want to do. So, since ALL these machines are getting ancient now, and cheap, why not go ahead and get one with an FPU in the first place?

Of course, with the coming Mac firesale I and others expect to see happen in months to come, you might be able to ratchet up the 'newness' of the Macs you buy for such purposes, to include PowerPC models. The 61xx series Macs look decent for this purpose, and cheap too (with the GOTCHA! caveat that it's usually a MUST to upgrade them from their typical standard 8 MB to 16 MB or more of RAM, immediately after purchase). Unfortunately, practically every other PowerPC model Apple's ever shipped has generated a massive list of quality problems along the way-- so cross your fingers if you buy something other than a 61xx series, and hope God likes you that day (you don't have to take my word for it folks: check the archives of major Mac troubleshooting sites on the web to verify these things for yourself). So Mac Quadras and the 61xx series would seem to be the best deals (and least risky) for the money, if you're considering getting a more energetic Mac than a IIci.

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

9-17-97: WebFLUX Special Report: The Terrible Truth About the Internet (and an important update about using Microsoft Internet Explorer)

This sucker (the internet) is definitely not ready for prime time, even now in late 1997, having had several years to 'cook'. Conflicting formats for multimedia and many other aspects of the web have even the pro users scrambling to keep up with the latest plug-ins, etc.-- and often only knocking themselves seriously off-line for their trouble.

But even the more savvy among us who avoid the format wars by ignoring all those calls for downloading the latest and greatest plug-ins, still must sometimes struggle to maintain our online connection, as well as those of our less techno-savvy friends and family.

It appears the only real solution at present is to be fabulously wealthy, so you can afford a half-dozen different rooms, each equipped with a fully equipped and set up internet browsing machine, and a full-time expert technician and complete tool kit, on call 24 hours a day, for each room as well. You also need full and robust automated file back up systems and software which synchronizes your important personal files somehow across all the machines regularly (without sharing problems too across the machines).

Each machine should also have its own separate Internet Service Provider too. Yes, I'm talking six completely different internet accounts here.

The above would seem the ideal solution for optimal web surfing today. Because if the global internet itself isn't seizing up on you, it's your ISP flaking out on you. And if it's not your ISP, it's the latest web site you visited with some sort of error or other bad code. And if it's not the last web site you visited, it's a problem with one of your browser plug-ins. If it's not a plug-in, it's a bug in your browser itself. If it's not your browser, maybe it's in your dialing software. If it's not your dialing software, maybe its your TCP. If it's not your TCP, maybe it's your modem. If it's not your modem, maybe you need more disk space. If it's not your disk space, maybe you need more RAM. If it's not your RAM, maybe it's your OS. If it's not your OS....well, you get the picture.

At the moment, anyone who makes much use of the web at all must be technically proficient at solving problems, or else have such support nearby in some form, readily at hand. The internet is not yet suitable at all for plain jane consumer use, except where that use is rare and brief, and expectations of results and reliability very low. If and when the internet exceeds those expectations, the user has simply been lucky, and should not expect such success to be the norm.

All the above is based on user experiences with both PCs and Macs I've seen documented on the web, as well as a couple of years of personal experience serving as a Mac support person for a mainly PC-dedicated ISP, and also support of all the Macs associated with WebFLUX HQ that surf the web quite heavily.

I now have experience with both the major web browsers on the Mac (Netscape Navigator 3.0 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0), and have come to the conclusion they both suck, compared to how I'd expect and desire for them to function. Both the Mac OS and Windows PC OS too seem to have many failings in the area of the internet as well-- so it's not entirely the fault of the browsers. And yes, the blame continues up the food chain to ISPs, and beyond that to the internet-related institutions and technologies on which the whole shebang is based. At the moment it all appears a house of cards that can and does collapse regularly for any user which accesses the net more than several times a week. And these local machine collapses often incur connection problems afterwards that require substantial software repair efforts to overcome.

I already informed readers of my discovery that Microsoft Internet Explorer's cache MUST be manually cleared regularly to prevent browser crashes. Now it appears that Explorer's history log too must be removed or manually replaced before it obtains a certain size, or else Explorer will undergo a hard crash every time you try to log on to the web. Luckily, we had a second Mac here at WebFLUX from which I could copy a tiny history file from, to replace the history file on our 6400, to overcome the crashing problem. Unluckily, this replacement only seemed to work for one day. The next day I simply removed the history file entirely, as well as turned off the Modern Memory Manager in the Mac's Memory Control Panel (as discussed at the MacFixIt web site) to get the browser to work.

So yes, after heavy use Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 is showing many problems similar to those displayed before by Netscape Navigator 3.0, and Explorer's recommended maintenance schedule and list is growing longer by the day. All this sudden spate of problems is surprising though, since Explorer ran like a champion for 2-3 weeks before it suddenly started crashing all the time on us.

Still, I must admit that Internet Explorer hasn't yet matched Netscape Navigator in overall negatives: IE still runs much better for much less effort so far than Navigator did in the last month we were regularly using Navigator.

But still IE's performance leaves a lot to be desired. Especially where my plans for putting my family online via cheap Mac NCs are concerned.

I already boosted my brother Scotty's family sufficiently to get them online this way. But Scotty is at least moderately savvy about Macs and PCs in general, and so his family enjoys their own built-in techno-savvy for support. And where problems go beyond Scotty's immediate expertise, usually a minimum of phone consultation with me is enough to overcome most problems.

However, my brother Randy's family is a different case entirely. Up to now they have often used the 6400 here at WebFLUX central to surf the web and run other Mac programs. So they are basically familiar with the Mac interface and logging on and off the web. However, that's the full extent of their expertise. I've personally corrected most all the problems everyone's encountered with the 6400 since its purchase, as well as performed regular maintenance on the machine.

It was annoying enough to find out Explorer requires manual cache clearing on a regular basis. Now that I've discovered it may be dangerous to clear the cache just prior to quitting Explorer in a session (since I did this before the latest crash problem showed up), and a fairly complex to remember removal of Explorer's history file may also be necessary for users to practice (and wonder what other 'Gotchas!' are lurking in Explorer like time bombs), I seriously question whether setting a Mac NC in front of Randy's family and similar non-techies would be practical.Keep in mind that my personal experience suggests a Netscape based Mac NC might be even more troublesome than an Explorer-based Mac NC.

The world is in dire need of web clients that work as simply and reliably as a coffee-maker or TV set, and also allow access to the 90-98% of all the same web content a basic Mac or PC web machine configuration is capable of providing. Though items like WebTV may offer simplicity and reliability on par with what's desired, it's unclear if they allow the same substantial access to web content that Macs and PCs presently do-- if something like WebTV only allows access to 1 % of web content, or anything less than 90-98% of content, they're a terrible deal and shouldn't be purchased by anyone. And there's also the very low quality of TV resolution to deal with in regards to WebTV and similar devices as well, which effectively lower surfing efficiency and speed substantially, due to much lower display resolutions than a typical PC or Mac monitor might provide.

More web appliances are appearing, but they are all suspect so far on the percentage of web content access they offer, as well as other functionality.

As of mid September 1997, the outlook for a decent consumer-suited web surfing device-- at ANY price-- appears bleak.

Apparently we'll all have to wait for a NON-technology company to solve our problems here, since Intel, Microsoft, Apple, Sun, Oracle, and others can't seem to get it through their thick skulls that few of us out here want to be techno-geeks-- we just want to surf, email, and web-publish-- NOT regularly trouble-shoot everything behind the screen.

The world desperately needs a consumer-friendly company-- maybe a game console company-- to step in and fix this awful mess.

-- information from just about every web source you can think of

PS: You say you personally haven't had any problems with your internet connection? Well, as I believe an old AT&T commercial said about coming technologies: "You will."

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

9-9-97: Desperately seeking flaws in Internet Explorer 3.0.x...

You know me. I can find problems with pretty much anything. Well, I've managed to find some in Internet Explorer too, by now.

Overall, I still must say Explorer runs HUGELY better than Netscape Navigator, on both the older 68k and newer PowerPC Macs we've tried it on. Heck, if web surfing is the main thing you do these days, you might feel you've gained a whole new and vastly improved computer after switching from Navigator to Explorer.

But there ARE problems/bugs with Explorer. I guess the worst I've seen so far is its incontinent cache. IE pays no heed whatsoever to what you set its disk cache size to-- except to crash sometime after it notices the cache has gotten bigger than the maximum allowed setting.

This means you should set the cache to its largest possible setting (10 MB), and then every few days go into Explorer's pref settings and clear the cache manually.

Explorer also seems to have other preferences settings besides the cache size that seem to do nothing. Of course, I was amazed to see the hundreds of different settings options in my first explorations of Explorer's preferences-- so far as I know Netscape Navigator offers very, very little of such things. But I've since learned that at least some of Explorer's pref settings are only for show: they seem to do nothing but remember what you set them to, and apply the value not at all to anything in the software.

But, most of the settings that matter DO work (except for the cache). And even after you forget the pref settings that aren't functional, it still appears Explorer offers more working options than Netscape.

Then there's the Help system in Explorer. Here too, Explorer seems 100 times better than Netscape. I discovered in one of my later installs of IE that it's best to have Stuffit Expander already installed on a Mac BEFORE you install IE, as that way IE seems to automatically recognize Expander and configure it appropriately as a Helper application for software downloads.

If instead you install IE BEFORE Expander, you must configure IE manually to use Expander as a Helper app-- and the process is far from intuitive or straightforward. However, IE's Help system is first rate about many aspects of the browser, with Netscape a distant second in this regard. I ended up using a combination of IE's Help system and an examination of IE's pref settings on another Mac to see how to set up Expander on a Mac where IE preceded Expander.

Folks, overall I am very impressed with Internet Explorer 3.0.x, and MUST recommend it to other Mac users-- it's vastly superior in many ways to Navigator in my own experience so far.

This just goes to show what happens when you scare a billionaire like Bill Gates with the notion that somebody else's web browser might put him out of business.

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

9-6-97: More info about that video card I installed in the Mac IIci NC that sped it up so much.

Remember, this was an old NuBus card out of my old Mac IIcx. I originally bought the IIcx with the card already installed from an Apple dealer in New England. On the card itself along one edge it says "High Resolution Display Video Card". When it's installed inside a Mac, you can call up the Monitors Control Panel, click on the "Options" button, and you'll see "Mac II High-Resolution Color Display". Elsewhere you might see "Mac II High Resolution Video Card".

At the time I bought it I had it shipped directly to my brother in Tennessee (since I was planning to leave New England soon). When it arrived the IIcx seemed as though it wouldn't boot up. The reason turned out to be the Apple dealer had ripped me off by pulling the RAM chips off the video card and not telling me. He apparently did this because I'd been a very tough negotiator with him for around 18 previous months getting lots of Macs and equipment from him for my company, and so when I unwittingly revealed to him I was soon leaving the company, he removed the RAM from my video card that he'd just sold me to get back some cash, since I'd negotiated him down pretty low on my personal machine too (in those days RAM cost a lot more than it does today). Needless to say, I ended up having to cough up more cash to ransom my video card RAM.

Anyway, this taught me that a Mac IIcx with a video card lacking its proper population of video RAM wouldn't boot up correctly.

I don't know for sure if these are the exact same cards, but the lowest price I've found so far for some Apple 8-bit video cards has been at PowerOn-Line computer services, for $35 each. Most other places seem to list them for around $50.

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

9-2-97: Email feedback about the IIci's so far includes some caveats about modem speeds and possible inaccuracies about parity RAM.

Kevin Purcell pointed out the 56K maximum on the IIci's modem port, which might seem to indicate an incapacity to make optimum use of a 56Kbps modem-- or maybe even a 33.6 Kbps modem.

Now folks, I must admit I'm not a telecommunications or IIci expert. But I do read an awful lot on related subjects, and have some experience (being an Old Computer Geezer). So feel free to tell me I'm wrong and how. Below is my response to Kevin about the high speed modems:

"Yeah, I've been doing more IIci research and seen a serial ceiling there too. Plus I've written in Newz before about how very few folks really get much more than 28.8 or 33.6 no matter what modem they have (PC Magazine's Dvorak recently touted a survey where even ISDN folks weren't consistantly getting more than 56K).

However, IF all the stars align and you and your ISP both used compatible 56K modems, the line noise would probably cut that down most of the time to 36-48 K anyway, and if the IIci is capable of around 56K max shouldn't that allow the IIci to pretty much keep up under Real World conditions with a 56K modem? So as a practical matter, the IIci should be able to exploit a 56K modem about as well as any other Mac can, circa 1997 Real World conditions? Even if the speed loss over the wire was just 1-2K, it seems like that would allow the IIci to saturate a 56K modem pretty darn near to what a PowerMac 9600 could do in 1997."

Kevin also informed me that parity RAM might be pretty much meaningless in regards to a IIci-- that ZERO IIci's ever shipped that required it.

My response: "Kevin, are you positive about this? I've seen docs/reports elsewhere that seem to contradict this. What's your reference source?"

Kevin hasn't gotten back to me yet as I write this. He may be looking for a reference to point me to on the subject.

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

9-1-97: WebFLUX Alert: Are Millions of Mac Users Using the WRONG Browser?

Folks, I was stunned over the past few days. It all started when I began setting up the IIci described in the earlier report below. Since many sources stated Microsoft's Internet Explorer required less RAM than Netscape, I almost had no choice but to try it on my little Mac NC (Network Computer).

The 'stunning' part came when I saw how great it ran. Heck, during the next several days I found this little 25 MHz, 14.4 kbps Mac IIci utilizing Internet Explorer 3.0.1 could run circles around our 200 MHz, 28.8 kbps Mac 6400 using Navigator 3.0.1.

Now this just plain doesn't seem to make sense, does it?

Here's where the differences were: Sure, the 6400 would outpace the IIci much of the time with about 30% better speed on average (but heck, you'd expect a much bigger difference than that since the 6400 had FOUR TIMES the physical RAM, and its modem was TWICE as fast as the IIci's, and the CPU EIGHT TIMES as fast, supposedly!)

BUT...almost every time you click the "Back" button, or otherwise return to a page you've already visited in the session, the little IIci would often beat the 6400-- because Explorer does that better than Navigator. I'd seen this particular trick in Explorer before, since I have America Online 3.0, which uses a stripped down Explorer for a web browser. AOL's stripped Explorer is pretty much useless on a big screen computer though, because there's apparently no way to enlarge the screen fonts; so you're blinded by microscopic text unless you want to adjust your giant monitor to 1990-type obsolete resolutions everytime you log onto AOL. No thanks.

Once you experience the rapid "Back" function though, it's hard to forget.

Luckily, in the full Explorer I have on the IIci, you CAN adjust text sizes, so that problem doesn't exist there.

Anyway, the fast "Back" button is only the beginning of Explorer's advantages over Navigator, I've come to learn.

Before I continue though, let me clarify some things: the thought of Bill Gates becoming Emperor of the world truly worries me, and I'm against it in general. I might be less against it if only his Windows OS wasn't such a piece of crap (in my own first-hand experience), but I've used both 3.1 and Windows95 PCs, and both suck bad enough to leave vacuum burns on any exposed skin. I haven't used Windows NT, but media reports seem to indicate whatever improvements it may have are more than offset by its problems.

So Windows is so horrific compared to the Mac OS (and there's no other decent alternatives out there that I'm aware of), that I pretty much have no choice but to use a Mac right now, despite the fact that top Apple execs seemed to go "greatly insane" around 1989, and have only gotten worse since. Despite having a superior product, enormous headstart in technologies, and far more good luck and good will from customers than they've hardly ever deserved, Apple's top execs have managed to turn the mainstream personal computing market over lock, stock, and barrel to Microsoft, and done their best since that to grind both Apple and the Mac itself into the dust in every way imaginable (and they've been extremely creative in that destructive process).

So now enter Netscape: the first company to bring the web to the masses. Hooray! Many of us rallied around Netscape, hoping that it might show Apple the way, or even if Apple fell, maybe Netscape itself might rise to prevent total world domination by Bill Gates.

Netscape did many things right early on, like its cross-platform development. But then it fell into one of the same holes as the Apple of 1992-1997: it let its product quality and performance go to hell, and became complacent in some critical areas.

Re-enter Bill Gates/Microsoft, scrambling to prevent Netscape from doing to Microsoft what Microsoft had done to Apple.

Now, in the third generation web browsers from both Netscape and Microsoft, Microsoft seems to have taken a decisive lead-- at least on the Mac, as I haven't used a PC browser.

In the last few days I was astonished to find out our little Explorer-equipped IIci could boldly go to where our Navigator-equipped 6400 could not-- namely, to lots of web sites that for one reason or another crash Navigator (even though many are expressly designed for Navigator!).

Yep, THIS is where the IIci/Explorer really shines in this contest; it doesn't crash nearly as often or as easily as the 6400/Navigator combo. So if you include the time wasted by crashes, reboots, and extra log ons with the 6400/Navigator as compared to the IIci/Explorer, the IIci/E makes up every bit of that original 30% speed difference I described and shifts over into the passing lane to run right past the 6400/N!

Yep, amazing stuff. A $400 web surfing station that runs better than a $4000 one.

OK, some skeptics might interject: Maybe it's not the difference in browsers but OS versions. Yeah, could be. So I've begun putting that to the test (the IIci uses 7.1, the 6400 7.5.3)

I installed Explorer on our 6400 alongside Navigator, and we've begun using Explorer on a test basis. Right off the bat I gave Explorer an extra MB of RAM than the suggested default in both the minimum and preferred sizes, because PowerPC Macs and the web are awful RAM hogs. However, even with this extra MB, Explorer was still using far less than we currently have Nav set for.

After maybe 2-3 hours of surfing on the 6400, it seemed Explorer did freeze up (there was no bomb onscreen though). So I keyboard restarted, upped Explorer's RAM another one MB to eight, logged back on, and cleared Explorer's cache. It seemed that Explorer's cache on disk had grown 2.5 MB bigger than what the prefs were supposed to allow. Was this what had frozen Explorer? I expanded the allowed cache to 10 MB.

Another thing I noticed about the freeze up was that I got no warning of anything amiss in the little "About This Macintosh..." window that shows memory usage by programs. I'd begun using this gauge lately with Navigator as it seems to sometimes (not always) give you warning about Nav running out of memory, allowing you to quit and log off gracefully rather than bomb. Explorer, however, never seems to fill up the gauge like Navigator.

I surfed a bit more that night, without mishap. The next day I did a huge amount of heavy duty surfing, visiting a whole slew of sites I was certain would have crashed Navigator. The only bad thing that happened was I couldn't read the text at the Businessweek site-- it was all garbled together like a sheet of paper that got stuck in a printer so 30 lines of text are overprinted into just 2 or 3. However, earlier at the same site Navigator had simply crashed during the visit-- so Explorer was still way ahead on the scorecard. 9-2-97 UPDATE: I believe the problems at Businessweek were symptoms of server problems they were having for a few days, and have now cleared up.

Explorer's speed and reliability advantage over Navigator is even more apparent on the 6400 than it was on the IIci.

Yesterday I installed Explorer on a third Mac: a Performa 460. It seems to run great there too, though after all these installations onto different machines and under differing circumstances I'm beginning to learn of a few tricks folks should keep in mind (I plan to explain them in a later piece).

So far the seeming advantages of Explorer over Navigator go considerably beyond greater stability and (as one result) greater overall Real World surfing speed. Other improvements in Explorer include lots of features and extra options that simply don't exist in Navigator-- or if they do, I've been unable to find them in 1-2 years of use. As I've said, my experience with Explorer is still limited so far, but still I could make a lengthy list of points here with not much elbow grease. Item: better installer, with fewer problems, than Navigator. Item: not only faster backward page flipping among pages you've already visited in a session, but forward as well. Item: faster page loading in general. Etc., etc., etc.

Another relevant point between the browsers, so far as RAM and speed are concerned on older, cheaper Macs, is that Netscape's only practical choice for those older smaller RAM machines in Navigator 2.0, NOT Nav 3.0-- Nav 3.0 simply runs too slow and requires too much RAM there. Unfortunately, Nav 2.0 crashes even more often than Nav 3.0, as well as offers fewer of the bells and whistles. Enter Explorer: a decent third generation web browser that runs about as well on older Macs as newer ones.

Pretty much the only significant advantage Navigator offers over Explorer is integrated newsgroup and email software: in Explorer these are a separate application. But again, both Explorer's browser and email clients seem to work so well they pretty much neutralize Nav's integrated email advantage.

The bottomline? It looks like if the choice for a Mac user is between Explorer 3.0.1 and Navigator 3.0.1, there is no choice: Explorer is the clearly superior product.

But Navigator 4.0 is now available. I've personally tried the full Communicator install on our 6400, and run into sufficient problems that it wouldn't install at all. So I have to say that against Netscape's very latest and greatest products so far, Explorer 3.0 looks even better by comparison than it did against Netscape's older stuff!

And heck, Explorer 4.0 is now in beta...!

Now that I've seen and used both browsers, I'm astonished Netscape still has maybe a 60-70% marketshare on the Mac, when Explorer is so substantially better (keep in mind though we're still in our first week of experience with Explorer, while we have 1-2 years experience with Navigator as of this moment).

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

8-29-97: WebFLUX Special Report: "...Just Me and my Little Mac NC..."

The $99 IIci from arrived Tuesday (8-26-97), pretty much when said it would ('early in the week'). With shipping the total cost came to $109.00.

I always worry about proper packaging of equipment. Especially for low cost bargains like this for which the vendor may not be making any money at all, in some cases. But the packaging was very reasonably done.

I sort of had to 'unroll' the IIci from its bubblewrap, and as I did so I heard a clanking of something moving inside. That concerned me. However, it turned out to only be one of those steel security loops that were often stuck in the back of machines like this when they were worth $thousands and theft a real worry for companies. The steel loops often are kind of loose in their socket and so clank about when the machine is manhandled.

I opened the top of the case and noticed several things:

#1: Some good sized dust bunnies were running around in there. Yikes! Actually, the IIci's interior was cleaner than I would have expected-- but for these huge dust bunnies (balls of lint, etc.). It made me wonder how on earth those bunnies got into the machine. Then I saw it. This IIci had previously had some sort of expansion card installed, and so there was a card slot cover missing from the back: this made a perfect door for dust bunnies, being as how the hole was like 3 inches by 1 inch or so.

I was glad I'd popped the lid before applying power; for on a Bad Day dust bunnies can cause short circuits, frying your machine.

(I used a little air compressor I have from my airbrushing days to blow out all the bunnies, taking care not to actually touch the insides of the computer).

#2: The IIci's little hard disk activity light was missing. Yeah, yeah, all you newbies won't even know what I'm talking about here. But in the old days many Macs had little blinking lights showing when the hard disk was working. I don't know if hardly any newer computers fool with that any more. So maybe the IIci's missing light isn't really significant, right? (But since I have a spare light from a IIcx I may change this anyway-- maybe)

#3, the IIci came with a built-in set of physical reset switches on the front-- two different ones, actually. A regular reset button, and a 'programmer's' switch that really needn't concern 95% of folks. On this particular IIci, BOTH these little front switches were missing, leaving two small narrow slots empty near the bottom of the front of the case.

Now this is maybe a little more significant than the missing hard disk light. Why? Bacause old Macs like the IIci depended on these hardware buttons to reset when they hung up-- i.e., perhaps the standard 1997 Mac method of forcing a restart via the keyboard wasn't born until after 1990 sometime. Or at least when I tried it now it didn't work on the IIci. The IIci just ignored the restart key combo.

Of course, I can't say the IIci has frozen or crashed on me a single time since I fired it up. It's run like a top. A few times while I was configuring it or surfing the web, the IIci did report it encountered a problem or two, but it automatically fixed them itself and was just informing me what it did, in case I was interested. For example, after updating the OS and installing some internet software on the Mac, at subsequent boot up the IIci reported that it couldn't find the ethernet card it used to have in a previous life, but noticed the internet stuff, and so it had switched itself over to the internet config now. The IIci hoped that that was OK with me. Naturally, I clicked "OK", and smiled a really big smile-- stuff like this was why I fell in love with Macs in the first place. 1997 Macs don't seem nearly this friendly, by comparison. Another time the IIci's browser had a problem with a web page, encountering some 'errors', and informed me about their nature and apologized for not being able to download the entire page (some tiny and inconsequential image gif had failed to load; 99% of the page was onscreen). I clicked OK and continued to surf. Now that's service!

#3: But, I'm getting ahead of myself here. After I blew out the dust bunnies, I also noticed only half the memory slots were filled on the IIci. I had expected them all to be filled with 1 MB SIMMs. Instead, just half were filled, and probably with 2 MB SIMMs (unless I'd been shortchanged on my order). Well, I could verify the RAM after I booted up.

OK, I guess I kind of got excited here and forgot to immediately verify the RAM upon boot up. Instead, I noticed the IIci was running system 6.0.x, and immediately retrieved some old 7.1 install floppies to update the OS. I first booted off the 7.1 Disk Tools disk and ran Disk First Aid to see if the IIci's hard drive had any problems. Nope. All was just fine. Then I installed 7.1 in one click and several floppy swaps.

After reboot the IIci gave me a message about it adjusting its networking settings a bit automatically to adapt to the changes, and I clicked "OK".

Now I remembered to verify the RAM. Yep, 8 MB just as had promised. Hmmm. It occurred to me the memory config on this IIci could offer me a slight advantage in any upgrade...but I shook my head and tried to remember I was trying to do all this dirt cheap....

I went into the IIci's memory control panel and turned on 32-bit addressing, and 16 MB worth of virtual RAM, to give the IIci a little more elbow room in the memory department. I rebooted so the changes would take effect.

After reboot I tested the 1997 Mac keyboard restart maneuver, but the IIci had no idea what those keypresses meant. Oh well. I have some reset button parts from my old IIcx that'll work, but I don't know if I really need to go to the trouble of installing them. After all, you can just switch the IIci off and back on again to do something similar with a power switch on the back of the case...

Now I installed some basic software on the IIci, including Open Transport 1.1.1 and PPP, among other things.

I decided to try Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0.1, the full, fat install package on the IIci, rather than Netscape. Why? Lower RAM requirements, supposedly. Plus, the Explorer used by AOL 3.0 had seemed pretty stable too, in my experience. By contrast, Netscape Nav 3.0 crashes on us pretty frequently on our 6400, even when we baby it with almost all the RAM we have, and try to be careful not to tax it in other ways. So I've grown fairly annoyed with Navigator. Plus, when I recently tried to upgrade our 6400 to Nav 4.0, the installer froze up on me, too. Anyway, the IIci was badly limited in the RAM department so I HAD to try an alternative to Navigator, regardless, since Nav is a terrible RAM hog and unstable because it 'leaks' memory badly, too.

OK, unlike system 7.1, I didn't have an MSIE 3.0 installer package laying around the house anywhere. So I went to the 6400 and C|Net, and downloaded the full, fat MSIE 3.0 package. That took around an hour at about 5 PM.

Note that there was a small obstacle of getting the hefty 9 MB or so installer from the 6400 to the IIci. The 6400 has a ZIP drive, and so does my 460. I copied the installer to a ZIP disk and took it to my 460. I used the built-in networking of the 460 and IIci to connect the two Macs with a LocalTalk cable, allowing me to drag and drop the installer from the 460's ZIP disk to the IIci's hard disk. And viola! The installer arrives on the IIci!

I had 33.8 MB disk space free BEFORE installing Internet Explorer (remember the IIci only came with an 80 MB hard drive).

With MSIE 3.0 I did a custom install of mail and news 68K, Mac drag & drop, thread manager, 68K Javascript, Java, and 68K IE (leaving OUT things like ActiveX-- YUCK! Who wants all those PC problems on the web?)

Explorer's installer informed me I'd have to manually turn on Java use in the preferences if I wanted to use Java. Fine by me (I haven't turned it on yet)

There was 22.4 MB left free on disk now.

I plugged up the 14.4 kbps ZOOM modem from my Performa 460 to the IIci.

I set the TCP/IP and PPP settings in the appropriate control panels to the settings of my own ISP account, for test purposes. Then I turned off the file sharing/networking between the two Macs, and restarted.

I adjusted Explorer's RAM up by 1 MB in its Get Info window.

I called up the Config PPP control panel and opened a connection. Then I opened Internet Explorer. Things seemed to work fine, except the web surfing seemed too slow to me. I logged off to ponder the problem.

I tried setting IE's mem config back down a MB, and turning off virtual RAM, to get a speed up. I knew though that web surfing with just 8 MB physical RAM was iffy.

No dice. I had to give IE back that other MB and either turn on virtual RAM (16MB) again, or buy more RAM for the IIci.

I logged back off to ponder some more. In the meantime, I ran Disinfectant to check for viruses on the IIci (I should have done this earlier, but I forgot). No viruses were found.

Remember I was wanting to keep further expenditures to a minimum, BUT I also wanted to deliver web surfing performance via this 25 MHz 8/80/14.4 Mac comparable to that I had on a different 33 MHz 20/80/14.4 Mac. You reckon this might be too tall an order for so little money? I was a bit frustrated and confused, since everything I'd heard about the IIci had indicated a bit more speed than this. Sure, I knew of lots of different ways to speed the IIci up, but they all cost more money. Hmmm.

Well, I also knew I was not an expert on IIci's. I was just generally familiar with them. So a true expert might be aware of more tricks than I was. So I shifted to research, and dug up an old Connectix HyperCard stack about Mac memory upgrades I'd consulted maybe two-three years back for upgrading the 460 and IIcx. I also consulted some Mac spec reference sites listed in my Mac page.

Well, well, well! I found out some interesting stuff there!

Namely, using the IIci's built-in video circuitry slows down the machine, partly because it makes the IIci share part of its system RAM with the video drivers. Ergo, using a NuBus video card (like the 8-bit card from my hopelessly web obsolete IIcx) rather than the IIci's built-in video will speed up things. Eureka! So that's what I did. (upon boot up I had to go into the IIci's Monitors Control Panel and turn on the color again-- everything went to grayscale by default at the first boot up with the NuBus card installed) And sure enough, the little IIci was sped up substantially by that move, putting it now pretty much on par with my 33 MHz 20/80 Mac 460 on the web.

Is this performance good enough? Yep. Believe it or not, the IIci now surfs the web at speeds maybe 70% that of our 200 MHz, cache equipped, 32 MB RAM 6400 + 28.8 kbps modem Mac. Yikes! A $99 IIci almost matching a Mac that cost around $3500-$4000 at Christmas 1996? Yep. That's what I'm saying. Of course, to be wholly accurate, you must figure in the shipping, the value of a 14.4 modem, and used keyboard, color monitor, and 8-bit color video NuBus card-- which would all boost the IIci's cost to around $400 all told, if every single component had to bought rather than scrounged.

So yeah, for about 10% the cost of a new mid-range Mac, you can get 70-75% the web surfing power. WOW!

Of course, this assumes you're an old Mac hand that knows what they're doing, and you're willing to shop around, and take some risks (this also assumes none of your risks turn around and bite you, like something being DOA (DeadOnArrival)).

Too though, at these prices, you can afford to get burned a couple times here and still come out ahead money-wise-- so long as you don't put too many of your eggs all in one basket (i.e., buying all your stuff from the same place). You might get angry if you get burned, but the bottomline is so long as you restrict yourself to models like the IIci, the typical prices there insure you can't get hurt too badly. Newer and stronger second-hand Macs like Quadras and the earliest PowerPC Macs still command a premium, and so it's a lot easier to get burned with them, and incrementally a lot more costly to get performance significantly better than that of a IIci.

But there's more: Keep in mind that although a system 7.1 8/80/14.4 IIci with video card and using virtual RAM offers maybe 70% the surf speed of a modern mid-range PowerMac for 10% the cost, this benchmark is NOT the maximum performance of these little IIci machines(!)

No, you should be able to speed them up still more via moves like:

A. Replacing the 14.4 modem with a 28.8/33.6/56 modem...

B. Expanding physical RAM to 16 MB or more so you can turn off virtual RAM and get a speed up.

C. Adding a cache card for maybe another 10% acceleration.

D: Boosting your physical RAM to 24 MB or more would give you room to set up a web browser cache on a small RAM drive in memory, replacing the one on your much slower hard drive; this might not only speed up your surfing, but make your surfing a bit more reliable as well, and reduce the chances of corrupted cache files on disk.

E. Replacing the tiny hard drive with a bigger, faster one would accelerate some things as well as give you LOTS more storage space.

F. Instead of a cache card, you could install an accelerator card for a really big speed up (although I personally would be unlikely to go this route, for several reasons).

And there's still more possibilities...but heck, after a while you might just want to go buy yourself a much more expensive new Mac just for the heck of it, instead.

OK, let's there anything else? Yes. About the IIci and RAM. Some other stuff I learned in my research was that the IIci much prefers certain kinds of 30 pin SIMMs and not others.

The SIMMs the IIci 'likes' are 256k, 1MB, 4MB, and 16 MB SIMMs. It doesn't 'like' 512k, 2MB, and 8MB SIMMs.

Now, just because it doesn't 'like' a particular SIMM type doesn't mean it definitely won't run with those SIMMs. No, what it means is that it may run slower and/or crash a little more frequently if it's using SIMMs it doesn't like, compared to using SIMMs it does like.

But didn't I say our IIci came from with 2MB SIMMs installed? Yes. But I've seen none of the intermittant crashes some reference sources suggest may result of this. Heck, the IIci so far seems far more reliable than our 1997 Performa 6400! I DID see some slow down in performance possibly related to the SIMMs, but adding the NuBus video card seemed to take care of a lot of that.

What this may boil down to is that some IIci's may work fine even with SIMMs they don't like, but some might crash on occasion because of them (Of course, they'd have to crash quite often to match a 1997 Mac, right? Right). But even if they DO crash, the IIci's may boot back up much faster than many newer Macs can...

The reference sources also indicated that what a Mac IIci really prefers in the way of memory upgrades is just 256k or 1 MB SIMMs in "Bank A", and either 1,4, or 16 MB SIMMs in "Bank B". Apparently when you're facing the front of the IIci with the top off, Bank A is the four SIMM slots to your right, while Bank B is the four SIMM slots to your left, judging from our own IIci-- since the info says the IIci won't run if Bank A is empty and on ours the only bank with SIMMs is the one on the right.

Remember that each Bank of four SIMM slots must all have the same size SIMM in them. This means Bank A can all be 1 MB SIMMs and Bank B can all be 4 MB SIMMs, but you can't mix up different size SIMMs in the same bank. Heck, you can even leave Bank B empty if you want.

So although theoretically you can put eight 16 MB SIMMs into a IIci for a total of 128 MB (and it'll probably run just fine), it'll actually be a bit happier and more reliable with a maximum of 68 MB-- 64 MB in Bank B, and 4 MB in Bank A. At least according to the specs I've seen, folks. And this pretty much relates to you that bit of IIci memory trivia I picked up lately.

If you're a bit unlucky, you might get hold of a IIci that uses 'parity-checking' RAM rather than the standard 30 pin RAM most Macs of that period used. Why do I say unlucky? Because you might have a slightly tougher time finding that 'parity' RAM if you decide to expand the IIci's memory, and it might be a little more expensive than the more normal IIci RAM, too. Your little IIci will still be a fine machine-- it's just that if it requires parity-checking RAM it's be slightly more costly and inconvenient to upgrade it RAM-wise-- if you ever want to do that at all, that is. So this fact implies that you might want to make sure you're getting a IIci with at least 8 MB RAM already installed, if not more-- just in case you get a 'parity' IIci and are a bit more constrained on expansion afterwards.

How many IIci's out there are of the 'parity-checking' type? Probably just 5%-20%, at most, as they mostly were ordered by government or military contracts (parity-checking RAM was like a slightly more reliable type of RAM).

Of course, in my own case, I (or my brother Scotty) may have little need to ever upgrade this IIci's RAM. So it might not matter at all if it's parity-checking or not, since it already has 8 MB in it, and can use virtual memory for more (at this moment I don't know what kind it is).

Lastly, my cousin Edwin informed me in a phone call that I'd made an error stating my belief that these little old IIci Macs were compatible with Mac OS 7.6. After the call though, I surfed over to Apple's web site and found, according to Apple, 7.6 would too run on the IIci (if only the IIci had sufficient RAM and disk space available). Of course, being fast enough to run 7.6 in a decent manner might be another matter entirely...notice I'm pretty happy with the IIci running OS 7.1 right now.

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

8-22-97: MaCNN reported today that's supply of Mac IIci machines at $99 has just about dried up...

...and my own check of their inventory list confirmed this. Apparently they've moved 50-60+ IIci's since around the time I wrote about considering one myself.

Did I buy one? Yep! Supposed to get here around the first of next week. But it looks like I almost missed out, since Small Dog sold them so fast, and immediately after I wrote about them I got laid up and couldn't call in my own order for several days (don't you hate those unexpected health problems?)

I'm fine now, thanks. I only bought one IIci because of the lack of old monitors and modems here to add to it. Fortunately, my brother Scotty has a Performa 400 system that I figure we'll just switch out the CPUs and use his existing monitor and keyboard for the IIci (he still has no modem, alas-- but we're working on it). Switching from the 400 to the IIci will give Scotty twice the RAM he had before, and a faster, more upgradeable Mac (the 400 only goes up to around 10/12 MB RAM at most, runs at 16 MHz, and has a 16 bit datapath; we're talking S-L-O-W here; and guess what? The 400 is actually NEWER than the IIci, but the IIci is still better-- because the 400 was one of Apple's first 'cheapo' Macs, while the IIci was a 'Cadillac' of its day-- which is why the IIci is still retaining significant value even in 1997; it was a fairly high end Mac back then, while the 400 was low end when new).

You say you wish you could have got in on the IIci deal too? Well, when I checked this morning Small Dog had maybe FIVE $99 IIci's left. AND they had a few slightly different IIci configs they didn't have before, with 160 MB hard drives I believe (as opposed to 80 MB earlier), for a few dollars more. So a couple of you might get a machine-- if you hurry.

Want to upgrade the RAM on those IIci's? (Or other 30 pin SIMM Macs?) MediaGuide, Inc. has 4 MB SIMMs for $20 each (the lowest price I found online). Unfortunately, MediaGuide also applies a 3% surcharge on credit cards and has a 15% restocking fee (urk!). So if the SIMMs didn't work or something else went wrong with your order, you could end up with NO SIMMs, plus be out the $5 surcharge plus $24 restock fee plus $10 shipping (est.), for a total loss of $24 plus the aggravation of having almost $200 tied up until the refund came through, plus all the frustration this implies....of course, MediaGuide might beat other vendors on parts selection though, as they also carry cache cards for the IIci, and internal hard drives from 230 MB to 500 MB, costing $89 to $139.

If however, you can find a vendor with more savory terms, it might be worth spending a bit more for the SIMMs or other items as an alternative.

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

8-17-97: Yikes! Small Dog has made their Mac IIci deal even MORE attractive...

...with a price cut that puts the Small Dog IIci's at around HALF the price of IIci's I've seen being offered from virtually ALL second-hand dealers in the past 30 days. Below is a quote from MacNN:

"A used Mac IIci with 8 Megs/ 80 Mb HD and Mouse (tested) for $99.00 (No Keyboard / NO Monitor). Shipping is normally $18.00 but for MacNN readers its $10.00 in the US. You must order at to get the discounted shipping (put "Shipping $10.00 ref: MacNN" ) in the notes on the order form.

"The IIci is a great machine, use it for a Mail Server, List server, e-mail for grandma, etc. "

Folks, the Old Mac Hands among you who feel comfortable setting up old machines like these could buy one or more of the Mac IIci's and deploy them among your poorer friends and relatives for not much more than pocket change.

Yeah, 8/80 68k machines like these are far cries from modern PowerMacs....BUT they can be set up to run Netscape Navigator (even 3.0!) as well as ClarisWorks too, to make for some pretty fine web surfing/general productivity stations. And IIci's have built-in 8-bit (256 color) video, as well as "32-bit clean" ROMs, unlike their IIcx predecessor. The ROM part means you can install Mac OS versions up to around 7.5.5 or perhaps even 7.6, I believe...They're (IIci's) also around twice as fast as a IIcx, and perhaps around the speed of a 33MHz Performa 460, since the IIci shipped with a fairly modern 68k architecture at the time, and many said it was actually faster than some 32 MHz IIvx machines that followed it. Check out old back issues of Macworld/MacUser if you don't believe me, folks.

Upgrading the RAM on these things is a bit more cumbersome than some newer models...but also more flexible, in some ways. Because the IIci/IIcx both had something like EIGHT 30 pin memory slots, that you pretty much had to replace simms in all 8 or at least 4 slots at a time.

Theoretically you could load up to 128 MB RAM in these babies, but I've seen conflicting reports that said 32 MB was the practical limit, for some reason. BUT...keep in mind one MB of RAM on a 68k Mac is worth almost TWO MB on a PowerMac, because of the differences between CISC (68k) and RISC (PPC). PowerPC software typically requires more RAM to run than 68k software.

This means a 68k Mac with 8 MB of RAM tends to run about as well as a PowerMac with 16 MB RAM...and so on and so far as having sufficient applications memory if you wanted you could set up a Mac IIci with 32 MB RAM and give its user similar RAM headroom in software to that enjoyed by a 64 MB RAM PowerMac user!

Plus, as I've mentioned before, lots of us old time Mac users also have old, extra 14.4 kbps modems, 14 or 15 inch monitors, and probably several old Mac keyboards laying around to connect to these things for free, as well. Heck, we might even have some parts like RAM and bigger hard drives we could cannibalize from other machines too, for these things.

Say you have nobody you like enough to buy a IIci for? Then how about yourself? Let me tell you, it can be extremely handy to have an extra Mac around the house, even if all you use it for is as a second web surfing machine. Besides serving 'guests', it's also a great 'back up' unit for those times your main Mac goes on the blink, or you want a 'second Mac' opinion about whether an internet problem you're having is with your main Mac or with your ISP or elsewhere. When you have just one computer in the house, you often can't be sure where an internet problem is.

Heck, many of you may be using a Mac IIci as your main Mac right now. Why not buy a spare for parts, if nothing else, at these prices? As insurance for possible future repairs.

Folks, I'm just about the biggest tightwad the world has ever seen (and also have a budget that'd embaress many of the homeless folks wandering the streets of third world countries, even), and yet I myself may buy one or more of these Mac IIci's from Small Dog for reasons like those given above: because it looks like that good a deal. Heck, the 33 MHz 68030 Performa 460 I'm using this very moment to update Newz/Viewz isn't too different at its core than a IIci. I also own the prelude to the IIci (the IIcx), so I'm pretty well acquainted with the machines. 8/80 config? Yeah, a bit cramped. But you can turn on virtual RAM for more elbow room, and won't need a lot of hard disk space for a computer that only surfs the web, or you use ClarisWorks or an old HyperCard for. If you have a few more bucks add some more RAM and/or a bigger hard drive, and you speed up the IIci some and add to its convenience. It's your choice.

And heck, unlike many small computer-related vendors these days, Small Dog DOESN'T charge you an extra fee for using your credit card! (I always figure those vendors charging you extra for credit card use have to either be crooked (charging such fees are clearly in violation of many major card transaction agreements) or either their merchandise is so shoddy they expect you'll use your card's power to return the stuff post-haste and get at least a partial refund-- so they charge the extra card fee upfront to make a profit regardless)

The only thing making me personally hesitate on the IIci's is that I have ZERO old 14.4 modems OR monitors to add to a IIci to complete the systems for friends/relatives. I'm currently racking my brain to figure out how I might address this issue (remember my severe cheapskate nature). Unfortunately, Small Dog only has a few dozens of the machines available, and I expect them to be gone pretty quick. I may end up just having to limit myself to one IIci since I may have to cough up more dough for a modem and monitor somewhere.

Luckily, for all those folks in a predicament similar to me here...OR who would simply like to upgrade a IIci every which way before giving it as a present to someone...there's suitable old and new modems, monitors, hard drives, CD ROM drives, and other components available at various second-hand Mac dealers listed in my my Mac page, as well as things like nice, new Viewsonic 14 inch monitors available for around $250 from MacWarehouse catalogs (1-800-925-6227) and other sources.

Folks, my own collected links to Small Dog seem a bit too specialized and potentially breakable; so please visit MaCNN to get the best links and updates regarding the IIci deals and others from Small Dog.

NOTE OF MODERATION: Be wary of going 'overboard' on buying and upgrading an old IIci to extremes, here: keep in mind for about $1500 you could give someone a nice and entirely new UMAX 180 MHz PowerPC Mac clone c600 tower with color 14 inch Viewsonic monitor, 32 MB RAM, 1.2 GB hard drive, 8x CD ROM, and 33.6 Kbps modem, buying the c600 and monitor from MacWarehouse, and carefully shopping for the RAM upgrade (from 16MB to 32MB) elsewhere. So if your total IIci 'gift' budget goes beyond the halfway point to $1500, seriously consider buying a new UMAX c600+monitor+RAM upgrade instead.

-- J.R. Mooneyham and MaCNN

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

8-2-97: FLUX Alert! Potentially dirt cheap Mac web stations here...

The Small Dog web site has lots of deals at SmallDogPriceList, but the one that caught my attention was a cheap used Mac IIci with 8 MB RAM and 80 MB hard drive...

...if you have a suitable extra color monitor for a Mac sitting around your house, and an old 14.4 modem, you could buy a IIci from Small Dog for around $200, set it up with Netscape and maybe an old ClarisWorks suite you own but no longer use, and thereby provide a cheap web surfing/productivity station for a friend or relative.

Heck, I wish I had several old 14.4 modems and color monitors-- in that case I'd outfit about three folks of my own this way!

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

March 1995: Mac IIcx RAM upgrade

I ordered four 30 pin, 120 ns 1 MB RAM SIMMs from Bottomline Distribution for my Mac IIcx.

I ordered these on a Saturday. So the order became 'active' the following Monday. I paid for two day shipping, so was disappointed when Wednesday came and went with no delivery. Then Thursday came and went, too. Late that day I called Bottomline to find out what was going on. It turned out they were on backorder, but a shipment was due in (at Bottomline) that day. If they arrived on schedule at Bottomline I'd have them the following Monday.

The woman on the phone kinda gave me the impression that they might not arrive (at Bottomline) that day, and so Monday delivery (for me) might be a little optimistic. Oh well. I settled in for a long wait by simply forgetting about it for a few days.

But lo and behold, came Monday, around 12 noon, and here they were!

I immediately set to installing them.

Unlike some other upgrades described in this issue, these SIMMs were destined for my own Mac; Maximillian, the IIcx.

Max and I have been making do with 5 MB of real RAM and 8 MB total virtual RAM, for several years now. We've gotten by pretty well, but seen our speed diminished by several things over this time. First off, upgrading from system 6.0.5 to 7.1 slowed us down a lot. The combination of system 7.1 and some new RAM hungry applications forced us to switch on virtual RAM, which slowed us even more. These new applications also demanded far more of our processing power too (read: demanded more time to do everything), which made us even more late for our individual appointments (Max has been seeing this little SE on the side). We started getting pinched for disk space, and so I installed Stuffit Deluxe, along with Stuffit SpaceSaver, which took yet another bite out of our velocity (as compressed files take a bit longer to open). Then I finally got so tired of monochrome screens I just had to switch on my 8 bit color-- thereby slowing us down still more.

I'm extremely frugal, but Max and I talked it over, and decided that something had to be done about the situation; else our relationship might end, with me seeking out a strange Mac that could give me the speed I needed.

It'd been about five years since I'd last installed RAM in Maximillian; he'd been a sparkling, brand new machine back then, and I was upgrading him from his standard minimal one Megabyte from Apple to a total of 5 MB RAM (I originally bought Max as an empty shell, to save money. He had no hard drive and minimal RAM from Apple, as Apple's profit margins on those things were astronomical in those days. I did also buy Apple's Sony Trinitron 13 inch monitor and 8 bit video card at the time, not trusting third parties for that. I ordered the RAM and hard drive via mail order though, saving at least several hundred dollars. This is not to say I'd necessarily recommend new buyers do this today; times change, and Apple offers a lot of really nice standard configurations at present, which could be hard to beat via the methods I used in 1990).

I shut down and switched off everything, flipped open the lid on the CPU box, and donned my grounding strap. I also retrieved the nice little instruction booklet I'd received from MacWarehouse all those years ago with a RAM upgrade, that covered Max, to refresh my memory about things.

It turned out I didn't really need the booklet. The one MB RAM SIMMs in Max were obvious, compared to the 256 K SIMMs sitting next to them. The 256s looked practically empty of chips, and the one Megs, full.

I used my handy dandy little air compressor to blow out Max's innards (being careful not to physically touch anything with the tip of the blowing attachment), and set up several extra lights in the area so I could see better into the depths of Max's inner soul.

Repeatedly touching the metal case of Max's power supply for luck (and thereby draining any static charge at the same time), I began removing the 256 K SIMMs, to make room for the new one MB babies. While doing this I realized one reason why Apple had changed their SIMM scheme in the years following the release of the IIcx. It'd been much easier and more straightforward to change the RAM in the newer Performa 460 a week or so earlier, than it was in Max today. The Performa had one slot, one card to install. Now I was replacing exactly half the RAM cards in Max, which meant I had to remove four, then install four others.

Space was fairly tight inside Max for two human hands struggling not to touch anything unless it was absolutely necessary. There was really only one way to go about removing the old SIMMs; do like Sargent York in World War I, picking off the fellow at the outer end first, and working my way in from there.

Sliding the little retainer tabs off the ends of the memory cards without breaking them off is a tedious, painstaking job.

After I had all four removed, I began installing the new ones, in reverse order to how I'd extracted the old.

These new SIMMs were quite a bit taller, using larger chips, than the one Megabyte SIMMs I'd installed five years before.

I sincerely hoped these things would work OK, as it'd be much more annoying to re install the original chips in Max than it had been to put everything back the way it was in the Performa, in the previous installation.

Leaving Max lidless and exposed for the time being, I cranked him up to test the new RAM. He sang a little tune, worrying me, since something similar had happened when bad RAM had been detected by the Performa. However, I also knew that Max would occasionally sing this way because of the on going problem with his internal hard drive. RWM readers will recall my description of Max's resuscitated hard drive, a disk of the undead, which I have been making unreasonable demands of for a few years now. David Pogue in his book Macs for Dummies confirms that Macs will sing the blues not only about bad RAM, but SCSI device problems as well; and so I knew the tune might not be applying to the RAM.

Max didn't boot up immediately, so I cut his power and tried again, using the hard drive CPR technique described in FLUX Winter 95. After a try or two, Max spun up to life, apparently hitting on all eight Megabytes of his newly enhanced processing engine.

For further verification I shut down and switched back on again, and did a few restarts. My only problem seemed to be the old one of the undead hard drive. Max was also showing 8 MB (8,192 K) in his "About this Macintosh..." item in the Apple menu. I re installed Max's lid, carefully tilted him back from horizontal to his customary tower configuration, and moved him back to his place on my desk.

I turned off Max's virtual RAM and restarted to activate the new configuration. This sped me up by maybe ten percent or a bit more, as well as freed up 8 MB of disk space.

As another test I switched on 8 bit color, cranked up three RAM hungry applications and Teachtext, leaving me almost zero free RAM left over. I switched between programs, twiddling around with some test files in color, making sure to bump up against my new RAM ceiling to give all the new chips a good work out.

Everything seemed fine. I cleaned up the leftovers from the brain surgery, and started writing this review.

How big a change did the new RAM make in Max? Well, the 10% speed boost and 8 MB increase in disk space were both nice. The 10% is an average-- in some things, like switching between programs on the fly, it may be twice that. And in many cases of using the standard Open File... or Save As... dialog box, it seems faster still. Performance has perceptibly improved within most applications which seemed sluggish before. It also seems that my Mac crashes far less often than before, as well.
As a matter of fact, I can't remember my Mac crashing a single time in the two weeks since I installed the RAM! Of course, I have strong personal habits of restarting periodically to clear out my RAM, and I often quit all applications to defragment memory; habits I developed in response to the far more fragile nature my Mac has displayed in previous years. Now though, it looks like I can relax a bit more, restart less often, and just generally pay less attention to such things-- which is great!

I'll update you on anything else relevant to all this, as warranted.

Mac IIci/IIcx User's Log Contents

The above article(s) come from and make references to a collection copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 by J.R. Mooneyham (except where otherwise noted in the text). Text here explicitly authored by J.R. Mooneyham may be freely copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes in paper and electronic form without charge if this copyright paragraph and link to are included.

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