Apple Macintosh Performa 460 User's Log_________by J.R. Mooneyham_________
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EDITOR'S NOTE: The articles in this compilation first appeared in my Newz&Viewz online newsletter on or about the dates noted for each item. For this reason certain items like embedded web links and documented costs/prices for certain wares discussed may be out-of-date.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.
Mac Performa 460 User's Log Contents
My brother Scotty turned it and all its peripherals over to his sister-in-law for a basic surfing station and computing platform. Scotty's household no longer contains a Mac at all, but instead two PCs: a Sony VAIO and a custom-built PC from a friend in Florida.
So far as I know the 460 performed reasonably well for Scotty's family while they had it, considering its great age and associated limitations. It seems that nowadays Scotty's wife uses the Sony PC to chat over the internet with her Performa 460 using sis.
Mac Performa 460 User's Log Contents
After I presented the 20/ 80 MB RAM/ hard drive equipped 460 to Scotty, he quickly decided he had to have more disk space-- and he was right. We ended up ordering a Quantum Stratus 2.1 GB SCSI internal hard drive from ClubMac (1-800-258-2622) for $229.00 + $8.40 shipping on 9-8-97 (this was the very best all around deal I could find from a major Mac vendor off or on the web at the time-- there were slightly lower cost deals from a few smaller, lesser known vendors, but I was more comfortable ordering from a bigger vendor in case I needed to return the drive). The drive arrived 9-10-97, just as ClubMac said it would. (keep in mind folks that beginning with the 63x Performa series I think, many Performas used IDE internal hard drives rather than SCSI-- so be sure to do your homework before ordering a drive) Being the foremost Mac maintenance/upgrade expert in the family (and having a far more flexible schedule than Scotty) I volunteered to do the hard drive installation for him. Being an experienced Old Computer Geezer, I dutifully copied everything possible from Scotty's present internal hard drive for later copying to the new drive, BEFORE removing the old drive. I put all Scotty's files onto a ZIP disk here.
The new internal hard drive installation proved MUCH more difficult than I expected. Why? Because the new hard drive came with NO Mac OS pre-installed. So the 460 couldn't boot up on its own after the installation. I had a set of 7.1 system disks I originally bought from Apple, but they were slightly too old to install on the 460 (the 460 originally shipped with 7.1p I believe-- I only had 7.1). Too, we'd bought the 460 brand new years ago, and it had NOT come with any bootable system floppy that I'd ever personally seen.
Since the 460 couldn't boot and possessed no OS on disk, I couldn't use the LocalTalk net to copy some system files over either.
I had a 7.6 floppy from Norton Utilities, but all it could do was test the internal hard drive and tell me it was in there-- no help at all about installing an OS.
So next I tried disconnecting my external Apple-brand CD ROM drive from the IIci and reconnecting it to the 460, and booting from a System 7.5 CD we have.
No luck. The 460 ROMs are too old to recognize a CD drive without help from an onboard OS extension on the internal drive.
Man! This was becoming a major problem! What sparse software and materials came bundled with the drive were woefully insufficient to help getting an OS installed. I bet many novice users are really shocked when they try to replace their internal hard drives this way, and end up having to take the whole mess into a Mac repair shop to complete the install for maybe a $60 or more bill.
Anyway, finally, after many hours of struggling and trying different configurations, I decided to try using the 800 MB external SCSI APS drive (currently attached to the Mac IIci) to help out. One reason I hadn't done this earlier was because the APS is my primary personal drive-- so if something happens to it I'll be paying penance for weeks or months to come trying to put my life back together again from a 100 ZIP disks of backed up (but disorganized) files. And contrary to what some folks might tell you, it's ALWAYS risky rearranging all your SCSI devices this way. You're never more than one mistake away from disk annihilation. I backed up some files and then erased over 60 MB from the APS to make room for a Mac System folder. I then used the 7.5 CD to install a 'universal' Mac System onto the APS drive (otherwise I might end up with a System folder that still couldn't boot up the 460 when I attached the drive-- sheesh!).
I next disconnected the APS drive from the IIci and connected it to the 460. I also connected the Apple CD ROM to the 460 as well. FINALLY, the 460 would now boot! (this was around 2 or 3 AM) And I could install System 7.5 from the CD onto the 460's new internal drive. After that I used 7.5.3 update software I'd downloaded from the net to upgrade the 460 from 7.5 to 7.5.3. And after that, I could finally begin transferring all Scotty's files from the ZIP backup, and/or doing other software installs that we required (like the internet software).
Of course, after all this, I had to put my own Mac IIci configuration back together again, too.
Note here folks that if I had NOT already possessed an external SCSI hard drive onto which I could install a universal Mac OS, and then connect to the 460, I could NOT have successfully completed this internal hard drive install, with the tools at hand.
Scotty and his wife Beverly have had the 460 at home for a week or two now, and seem to like it pretty good. They're not only surfing the web and emailing, but playing games and making greeting cards and writing programs too...from my own playing around with the 460 and its new drive, the drive seemed to speed up the 460 significantly for functions where drive speeds impact perceptions. I believe when the 460 left FLUX HQ for Scotty's house, I'd switched on virtual memory to boost Scotty to 40 MB effectively (the 460 has 20 MB of true physical RAM), and whatever slow down this might have had on the 460 seemed imperceptible to me. So I'd figured why not go for the extra RAM elbow room?
Mac Performa 460 User's Log Contents
...so the author is getting his $25 shareware fee from me. PageSpinner works pretty well at the basic HTML editing chores I mostly do, and offers little extras that probably exist in BBEdit as well, only they're harder to use in BBEdit (at least for me). It's very nice to have so many different HTML formatting options at your fingertips, rather than having to wade through a wad of documentation to use it. PageSpinner does make your HTML files a bit fatter than BBEdit does, but not grossly so. Apparently the bit of extra 'fat' is related to how PageSpinner automatically highlights different HTML tags in different colors and such (which can help you a surprising amount in editing; after a while BBEdit's plain text files start looking like one huge pile of spaghetti code-- especially long or complex files).
Besides the use of different colors, PageSpinner also renders some text formatting the same in the file under edit as it'll appear in a web browser. For example, text with italics tags appear that way inside PageSpinner's editing window (the text itself is italisized, I mean).
What clinched the deal for me? PageSpinner's HTML Assistant. This little treasure offers up a catalog of neat HTML tricks with illustrative examples, explanations, and actual code you can copy and paste to your document to put it all to work. The table of contents and document anchor system in my How to Make Real Money Page for instance came out of PageSpinner's HTML Assistant. Without PageSpinner's HTML Assistant that page would not have its nice little Table of Contents link set-- because it would simply have been too much trouble to do without it (yeah friends, I know just barely enough HTML to create/update a simple web site-- my secret's out). Folks, PageSpinner's HTML Assistant will not only greatly ease your HTML coding-- it'll also teach you new HTML tricks as you go, in what may be the gentlest and least intrusive way possible.
But PageSpinner offers tons more Goodies than this, even. It's just that I haven't gotten around to trying even a tiny fraction of them yet.
So what's the downside? Any bugs? A few perhaps, but they mostly appear trivial or easily avoided. PageSpinner seems to neglect to do its normal tag highlighting in the editing window sometimes for tagged material you manually created rather than using its built-in menus for. The more files you have open at once, and the bigger they are, the more a few things like file opening, switching between windows, etc., seem to slow down. And working with a large number of big files all at the same time can lead to PageSpinner crashing or hanging up, if you haven't previously allotted PageSpinner some extra RAM in its Get Info box (its default memory config is probably too small for anything but simple HTML editing of just a few small pages at a time). Before upping PageSpinner's default memory allotment, the program froze up on me while trying to open a large file, after I'd already opened quite a few other large files.
[So how much memory have I got alloted to PageSpinner right now, to alleviate the original problems? Brace yourself: It's 2500 k minimum size, and 3000 k preferred size. Did I leave off some zeros there? Nope. Unlike many programs in this age of bloatware apparently inspired by Microsoft, PageSpinner might possibly run happily on a Mac with very little physical RAM, if it had to. The minimum suggested is 2000 k.]
I wish PageSpinner was a bit faster on my 33 MHz 68030 (big files seem to take 10-15 seconds to save, for instance-- though I haven't actually timed them). But heck, for most things I have to admit PageSpinner works pretty well (and fast) on this getting-to-be-ancient-now Mac. Plus, someday I'll get a more up-to-date Mac, at which time PageSpinner will probably run so fast it'll make my head spin.
PS: I sent in my PageSpinner shareware fee a bit earlier than the date of this piece; the reason for the later date in Newz is I wanted to give PageSpinner's author the best boost I could here, with this article in a full month (August) of Newz&Viewz, rather than only a few days here (in July), and then suddenly being relegated to the archives.
Mac Performa 460 User's Log Contents
I only downloaded it last night from c|net.com's Mac libraries. PageSpinner is an interesting experience so far. I'm running it on my 33 MHz 68030, 20 MB RAM Performa 460, so I'm really giving it a major speed test (for example, Netscape Navigator Gold 3.x is way too slow for anything but minimal use on this machine).
It's slow about saving files-- and even bugs you about non-standard HTML file names too-- but all that's bearable so far. Plus, this Newz&Viewz file gets pretty hefty towards the end of the month (justifying a bit of a slowdown in some responses).
It's nice being able to select text and color it as if I'm in ClarisWorks or something (PS automatically adds the proper HTML tags).
I like how PS lets you call up Netscape for a preview with one click instead of the two actions I have to do in BBEdit lite 3.5.x.
PS is not entirely intuitive for me-- I had some difficulty in figuring out how to get the text in the editing window large enough to see-- but it was easier to figure out than the same thing in BBEdit.
PS seems pretty solid and stable so far, if a bit slow on some things.
I'll update you as I get more experience with PageSpinner.
Mac Performa 460 User's Log Contents
I first noticed something was wrong several days earlier. I could no longer log onto AOL through my internet service provider, as I kept getting AOL dialogs about the connection between me and the AOL servers breaking.
Having years of experience on the net now, I knew that occasionally there's something screwed up either at AOL or my ISP, or else net traffic just has one or the other maxxed out temporarily. So I didn't think much of it the first time or two, and just figured I'd try again later.
But then over a few days the lock out continued. I tested my own machine (a Performa 460) and my ISP by web surfing with Netscape Navigator, and everything worked fine. But I still couldn't log onto AOL via the TCP/IP connection. However, I could log onto AOL by using its proprietery link software and phone numbers (which are all long distance for me). I naturally prefer the much cheaper way via ISP, though.
Had some important pointer file between AOL and my Open Transport software been corrupted by the dead battery incident, I wondered? It seemed doubtful.
Hmmm. In the past when I had major problems with my AOL software I'd just upgrade my way past them, with newer AOL software. I figured I might try that route again, since I'd previously downloaded the new AOL 3.0, but never gotten around to installing it (at present I was running 2.6).
I installed AOL 3.0.1. But the problem remained. At least there was a clearer dialog about it though:
"The connection has been terminated because the remote AOL host was unable to initialize a new session. Please try again later."
Well, so much for that. As I'm in the habit of doing after being online, I menu restarted my Mac after quitting AOL 3.0. The boot up unexpectedly resulted in a strange lock up and dissappearance of my second hard drive, so I keyboard restarted this time. On this boot up I noticed my Mac listing "CFM-68k runtime" as a new extension I'd not had before-- AOL 3.0 must have installed it. I seemed to recall seeing news on the web in past months about there being a bug or problem with CFM-68k runtime, so it became my prime suspect in the weird lock up problem that'd just appeared. Sure enough, after this latest boot up I was still having problems, so I restarted again, this time holding the shift key down so that NO extensions would load up.
I called up my extensions manager control panel (in this case Conflict Catcher 3) to examine my extensions list. I noted that AOL 3.0 had stuck in several new items there, besides CFM-68k runtime. But of them, I only disabled CFM. While I was there, I decided to also free up some RAM by disabling my Adobe PDF writer extension, and an extension relating to my previous tests of Myrmidon, since I doubted I'd be using either for the foreseeable future anyway, so they were both just using up RAM.
I rebooted, and the lock up problem was gone. But still I couldn't log onto AOL via my ISP.
Well, I had already been planning to install a fresh Open Transport on another Mac in the vicinity: our Performa 6400. In order to make AOL accessible via ISP on that Mac, too. So I did (install OT 1.1.1 on the 6400).
I tested OT on the 6400 by surfing the web with Netscape Navigator 3.0, and all seemed fine (after I corrected some configuration settings; unlike the OT install on my 460 months ago, which was smart enough to automatically adapt previous MacTCP settings so no additional config was required on my part, on the 6400 OT changed my "PPP server" setting to "BootP server", and so didn't work right until I manually corrected the setting).
When I tried AOL though, it was the same as on the 460-- proprietary long distance numbers worked, but connecting through my ISP via Open Transport didn't.
This was also a third version of AOL too (2.7). So two different Macs, using three different versions of AOL, and still no connect via OT.
OK. AOL gave me a phone number to call in a dialog box about problems (1-800-827-3338). I figured I'd call and discover that AOL's host server on the internet was down, and that was why I couldn't log on. After all, my Macs seemed OK otherwise, I could web surf (which seemed to indicate my ISP was OK too), and still connect to AOL by bypassing the internet. What else could it be?
I had to run AOL's automated phone maze twice before I could get to a real person. But once I got to him, he was pretty patient with my fairly long and involved story so far, and in about five minutes had narrowed it down to my ISP. I know, it sounds like he was passing the buck, as happens so often in the computer and telecomm industry. But he sounded positive that my ISP must have installed some new software or changed something that was not allowing AOL to get through their 'firewall' (a firewall is software protocols that aim to protect servers from bad people and certain Acts of God like natural disasters). I was skeptical, but I told him I'd check with my ISP, and thanks.
Darn if it didn't turn out to be true! In a call to my ISP, I discovered they had changed some stuff on their servers in the last week, and evidently inadvertantly cut all its subscribers off to certain internet addresses like AOL's host servers!
Fortunately, after my phone call my ISP corrected this within maybe 48 hours (perhaps sooner-- I just didn't get the chance to check it out again before then).
And all this is one of the reasons Newz&Viewz wasn't updated for a week or so (but a bigger reason was that I was kept incredibly busy with other matters, plus, there just wasn't much big news over that time anyway).
Fortunately no harm was done, everything's fixed now apparently, and the episode spurred me to install Open Transport and America Online on the 6400 at last-- which I really had been needing and wanting to do for quite a while.
Mac Performa 460 User's Log Contents
...like my brother Scotty's Performa 400 battery died a month or so ago, and my own (in a Performa 460) died too, around 4-19-97. How'd I know? When I booted up my Mac the date would be sometime in 1956, and the time off as well. The Mac wouldn't remember what printer was selected in the Chooser, and you couldn't eject a ZIP disk after inserting it without shutting down the machine. All (or most) of these things could be gotten around by resetting things every time you booted up, etc., and I could still use my apps and surf the web, etc., but still the lack of a battery was annoying. And the longer I used it that way the more files I'd have with 1956 date-stamped on them, really screwing up my "View by Date" window in my Finder, which is the one I use most often to insure I'm working with the latest Newz&Viewz file, for example.
So I opened the case and removed the battery (its label said "Inorganic Lithium Battery, Size 1/2 AA, 3.6 volts"), and a friend checked Wal-Mart for it, but couldn't find a suitable replacement. I used Apple Service Locator to find out there were only three different Mac service spots within 100 miles of me, and the closest was 50 miles away (Apple's Locator also drew me a map); I live out in the boondocks of course, with the nearest good-size city being 50 miles away; ergo, the dealer distance. I copied the phone numbers of these for a last resort, as I'm not keen on driving that far. I carried the dead battery to my local Radio Shack (only a couple miles away) and the dealer said without a Radio Shack part number he was clueless about it. I returned home, visited Macintosh Motherboard Battery Information (I think it was) on the web to find out that LCs and LC IIIs apparently used Radio Shack part number 23-026 (the battery specs on site seemed to match my 3.6 volter, plus an LC is the same as a Performa 400 I believe, and a Performa 460 is just a faster LC III, as I understand it) and called my local dealer back. He never answered his phone in multiple attempts that afternoon, so I called a bigger city Radio Shack dealer about 25 miles away, and he said sure, he had three of the things, for 10 bucks each (in my hometown it's typical for everyone to travel to the town 25 miles over for supplies, as that place (Morristown), although not large, is still quite a bit bigger than Newport, and so is more reliably stocked with stuff. We go there biweekly or monthly for shopping malls, bookstores, theaters, car dealerships, etc.). The following day I picked up all three batteries-- one for my 460, one for Scotty's 400, and a third in case either of the first was bad, and if not, maybe to put inside a Mac IIcx or SE around here which I've been expecting to need a battery any time now.
The blister pack on the new batteries actually said for Apple Macintosh (and wireless security systems) on them, so maybe they fit many models. The batteries are made in Israel. The pack listed 9 different part numbers this battery could replace, but DIDN'T list the part number that I saw on the battery I pulled out of my machine (SL-150). However, all other specs matched up, and after install it seemed to do the trick date and time-wise (after I reset the time/date, shut down a few minutes, and switched on again to test its memory).
Unfortunately, my Mac in one important way became worse instead of better, after installing the new battery. Because suddenly the operating system was using over 16 MB of my 20 MB RAM, leaving not enough left over to hardly run any apps. Normally the OS should only have been using 4-5 MB RAM.
Netscape was the program that alerted me to the RAM shortage when I tried to go on the Web. I then verified it with "About this Macintosh" under the Apple menu in the Finder/Desktop.
I didn't know why this was happening, but I did know the lack of a battery and re-installation could cause some problems.
I restarted the Mac to see if the problem would go away that way. It didn't.
I checked to see if my Extension Manager (Conflict Catcher 3) prefs about loading fonts at bootup had been alterred, causing me to load several hundred fonts unknowingly, using up all my RAM. Nope.
I rebuilt my desktop. Didn't help.
I dug in my System folder for my Finder Prefs and hid them in another folder so the Finder would create fresh prefs at restart. This, because on very rare occasion I've seen this fix strange disk/memory problems-- and also sometimes fix app problems if it was the app prefs you moved instead. Not this time, though.
Wow! I was running out of easy answers here! I decided to reset the PRAM. The PRAM is the bit of memory that's fed by the battery I'd replaced, and keeps vital Mac info which under strange circumstances might be knocked out of whack and cause strange problems. Though lots of people will recommend resetting the PRAM to fix just about anything, in around 8 years of experience with maybe more than a hundred different Macs, I've seen it actually be the solution only once or twice. Mac PRAM doesn't need resetting nearly as often as lots of folks would have you believe.
Anyway, I couldn't remember how to reset it. So I asked my Mac, by going to the Finder/desktop, and under the question mark menu choosing "Shortcuts" and then "Restarting the Computer", because I knew resetting the PRAM was a keyboard trick done via restarts. Ahh! Command-Option-P-R were the keys! (the Command key on a Mac might also have a cloverleaf or apple outline on it).
I reset the PRAM. Didn't help.
Well darn. Time to pull out the Big Gun. I went to my Conflict Catcher 3 control panel, and told it I needed to test for a problem. I only use CC3 for toughies, as it can take a while, like 20-30 minutes, to work, as it involves restarting your Mac several times and testing for the problem still being around, as CC3 tries loading different system extensions at a time, to determine what's causing you the headache.
This time though CC3 knew right off the bat, in around 5 minutes or less, telling me to check my virtual RAM prefs or 32-bit addressing prefs. It turned out my 32-bit addressing was turned off, putting me in the same state as many DOS/Windows PC folks address-wise. The change of battery had caused me to fall into it. So why does 16 bit addressing mode exist on my 460 at all? Remember, my 460 is several years old. My dead battery said June 1993 on it-- or almost four years. Four years ago the Mac OS had only moved to 32-bit addressing maybe 2-3 years earlier, so some Mac users still had older 16 bit applications they might want to run. So Apple gave us a Control Panel for this, and my battery adventure had dumped me into 16 bit mode, which causes the type of memory problems in system 7.5.1 I was having now, since 7.5.1 no longer caters to 16 bits, but is a full 32 bit system.
Anyway, I clicked the toggle button to put me back in 32-bit mode, restarted my Mac for the change to take effect, and it was fixed.
Of course, if I'm still on this 460 in the year 2001, I'll have to go through all this again...(unless I remember to toggle back to 32 bit mode right off the bat)
UPDATE: Well, John Bafford's at it again, keeping me straight! He's caught another mistake in N&V here, so I'll just let him explain it:
"In your article about Mac PRAM batteries, you mentioned that before 32-bit
addressing, the Mac used 16-bit addressing. However, this isn't true.
Except for PowerPCs locked in 32-bit mode, Macs have always had 24-bit
memory addressing, which gives 16mb worth of addresses- 8mb available for
RAM and 8mb reserved for hardware access.
For what it's worth, my IIfx's battery (7 years old in March) is still
ticking along, good as new, although the fact that this machine has been on
24/7 for the past four years may have something to do with that.
Thanks John! As I told John in my reply, it's hard being an Old Computer Geezer like me; and the memory's one of the first things to go! -- JR
"In your article about Mac PRAM batteries, you mentioned that before 32-bit addressing, the Mac used 16-bit addressing. However, this isn't true. Except for PowerPCs locked in 32-bit mode, Macs have always had 24-bit memory addressing, which gives 16mb worth of addresses- 8mb available for RAM and 8mb reserved for hardware access. For what it's worth, my IIfx's battery (7 years old in March) is still ticking along, good as new, although the fact that this machine has been on 24/7 for the past four years may have something to do with that. --- John Bafford"
Thanks John! As I told John in my reply, it's hard being an Old Computer Geezer like me; and the memory's one of the first things to go! -- JR
Mac Performa 460 User's Log Contents
Mac Performa 460 User's Log Contents
Mac Performa 460 User's Log Contents
More performance comparisons for you; it appears that a 20 MB RAM, 33 MHz 68030 with FPU is perceptibly faster at many tasks than an 8 MB RAM, 66/33 MHz 68LC040 without FPU and running RAM Doubler. The actual systems here were a Performa 460 versus Performa 637. From my own perceptions of performance here, I'd rather have the souped up 460 than the 637. The biggest power drain on the 637 here? Using RAM Doubler instead of real RAM; there's something like a 5% to 25% performance hit on the 637 from installing RAM Doubler.
Mac Performa 460 User's Log Contents
Adding an FPU to a Mac isn't the simplest of tasks. For one thing, there's literally no detailed info about this or any other upgrade possibilities in the literature that accompanies any new Mac-- at least any new Mac I've personally helped unpack over the last five years.
To make matters worse, I and none of my friends own an aftermarket book about such matters either; so there's no reference work handy about this in the local vicinity (Yes, I know. I should break down and buy a reference book for this. But it's so rarely required, and we work with such a tight budget here that's it's kinda hard to justify).
Of course, I am an Old Computer Geezer; so I do have a few notions about how to get started in finding out something about such things...
Based on these notions, I turned to America Online, and did a search for files related to upgrades and/or FPUs. Who knows? Someone out there may have written a great guide to adding FPUs to Macs, and put it online. I'd previously seen commendable works about RAM upgrades.
Unfortunately, though I ran across several different RAM upgrade docs, something about CPUs, and accidentally stumbled onto a pile of fairly useful Apple spec sheets about all the Macs ever made(!), I did not find any direct reference works about FPUs.
So I moved to the AOL Message Boards, and looked up some threads about such things...
This netted me a few little tidbits here and there, but still I didn't have much to work with...
However, once I was certain the bits and pieces would be all I could get, I logged off AOL and began examining the text I'd logged and the few files I'd downloaded. Very little to go on, but it was something, after I'd distilled it all down to the small bit relevant to my circumstances.
Using the info in conjunction with some prices dug out of a Macworld magazine, I came up with the following possible chip/card upgrades for a Mac Performa 460 (I don't include RAM SIMMs here because this Mac had already been upped to 20 MB of physical RAM in a previous FLUX issue):
A 33 MHz Motorola 68882 FPU
Purpose: A speed boost during heavy lifting chores (CAD, 3D graphics, Photoshop, etc), and full FPU compatibility with certain special purpose programs like Fractal Poser.
Approximate cost: $70.00
A 100 ns 256K VRAM SIMM
Purpose: Upping the standard 640x480 res, 256 color display to 32,000 + colors.
Approximate cost: $30.00
A 128k PDS cache card
Purpose: Perhaps as much as a 10% speed boost to the system
Approximate cost (128k): $140.00
On 12-21-95 I ordered an FPU from Peripheral Outlet, Inc, page 251, Feb 95 Macworld, overnight delivery.
It arrived the next day, as promised. Prior to getting started on the installation, I changed clothes to avoid excess static electricity being generated from the wool shirt I'd previously been wearing, and dug up the grounding wrist strap I'd originally acquired five years ago from MacWarehouse in a general purpose Mac upgrade tool kit. Once on the scene, I thoroughly washed and dried my hands to rid myself of the normal skin oils we all secrete or collect. I arranged for some time alone with the Mac, shut it down, switched off power, and manually turned on and then turned off the Color StyleWriter Pro connected to this particular machine (the Pro is one of those standby power models that normally turns itself on and off-- I didn't want it powering up while disconnected from the Mac, for some reason) and unplugged power cords, printer cables, video cables, and ADB cables from the back of the CPU, rearranged the peripherals for better access, and finally popped the lid on the pizza box style main computer case.
Around this time I commited myself to the installation by attaching my ground strap to the computer's power cord and my wrist, and began chanting a mantra to myself to touch the computer's metal power supply as often as possible to bleed off static electricity.
I was also determined to minimize my touching and handling of components as much as possible, as I knew the more handling involved, the more chance of damage to circuitry.
I noticed some accumulated dust on the motherboard and fan, made sure my mouth was reasonably dry, and gave the board several strong puffs to clean it off (I had no better air supply handy at the time). After that I made sure the board had at minimum 20-30 minutes to dry before the reapplication of power, just in case I'd sprayed it with more moisture than I realized.
I'd learned from the info gathered online that some sources (including Apple!)
sometimes sold upgrade kits of things like CPUs with NO
instructions, and actual recommendations that users pay a dealer to do the installation(!)
I'd also seen online where a buyer of such a kit had been surprised by this fact,
and asked for help online; someone else had popped up with advice for him. However, POI's ad (the source of the chip I was installing) specifically said "Our installation
instructions and tech support are the best in the industry!", so I had higher hopes
What I received was about three one-sided pages worth of instructions, along with the math coprocessor in a protective bag.
The sheets specifically said in their cover page "Macintosh LC III and Performa 450 and 460 series RAM, VRAM, and FPU Installation Instructions", which was promising; I've seen some chip sellers either give no info at all, or do so so generically it was almost worthless (in previous purchases of RAM SIMMs from Bottomline Distribution, no hard copy info at all was sent-- only a generic HyperCard stack on floppy that provided no installation instructions whatsoever, beyond the rough location on the motherboard where the chips belonged; in that case I'd been forced to carefully figure out on my own how the chip was to go in-- someone lacking my experience might have easily damaged either the Mac or the SIMM at the time).
In POI's case, the first sheet was a general caution about working inside your computer at all-- there are serious dangers of static electricity and mechanical damage to components, and I commend POI on their info about these. The second page gave instructions on RAM and VRAM SIMM installations I sorely needed with my previous SIMM purchases from Bottomline Distribution, but didn't get.
Page 3 covered the FPU. I carefully removed the chip from its packaging, doing my best to handle it only by its ceramic top and bottom, away from the metal contacts, or by its corners, also somewhat removed from the metal legs; I sure didn't want to fry this thing! I was instructed to match up the beveled corner of the chip with the beveled corner of the socket located on the motherboard, and make sure the contacts were aligned properly. They weren't kidding, either! The contacts on the chip are very tiny and fine, and the insertion channels they fit into on the motherboard socket small as well. And there seems to be around 40-50 of these hair-like things on each of the chip's four sides(!) I didn't fully realize how intricate all this was until I seemed to be having trouble getting the thing lined up properly, and took a much closer look at the chip and the socket meant for it. Wow! This required a pretty fine touch! Luckily I'd been moving the chip around very gingerly, determined not to apply any mechanical pressure whatsoever until I was certain it was as well aligned as I could make it.
Yes, you may have guessed the truth already: I was a virgin at this type of chip insertion. I'd installed hard drives, floppy drives, and RAM SIMMs several times, into different kinds of Macs and PCs, and expansion cards too, even having to set DIP switches on those darn PC models, and run set up programs too for those DOS beasts (the Macs of course, were easier and faster); but installing FPUs or CPUs in a machine? That, I had never done-- before this.
So I had to get my face very close to the motherboard to see how the pins were lining up with the socket. I didn't like doing this, as my humid breathing, normal shedding of dead skin cells, and loose head and facial hair, all posed significant risk to the patient undergoing the surgery (hmmm! It strikes me now that in future operations it's be handy to have the skull cap and breathing mask of a surgeon around!). Heck, my hands were starting to sweat too, and this made things slippery and increased the risk I might impart some electricity conducting contaminants somewhere to cause damage later on. If this sounds sort of like my own personal episode of "Mission Impossible", you're right! When you're doing a hardware installation on a machine, you need to be as fast, delicate, and efficient as you possibly can, to gain the best chances of success with the minimum of problems afterwards. I personally try to do this by preparing as well as I can beforehand, trying to have all the tools, books, and parts handy that I might need, before I even begin. The trick is to do something an alarming number of folks don't: think about what you're about to do before you do it.
Of course, if like me you only do these sort of things pretty rarely, it's easy to forget something, or be rusty on some aspect of the task-- leading to mistakes or oversights. For example, in a previous FLUX issue readers saw how I forgot about the need for an atypical SCSI cable when I added a hard drive to a Mac already equipped with one or more external SCSI devices. Since the majority of Mac users might only add one external SCSI device to their system over its entire lifespan, drive sellers usually bundle only a Mac-to-SCSI cable with the package, or 25 pin to 50 pin cable. However, when you have more than one SCSI device attached to a Mac, you often need a SCSI-to-SCSI cable instead, or 50 pin to 50 pin cable, since multiple SCSI devices have to be 'daisy-chained' together. Daisy-chaining essentially means the SCSI interface will pass through the peripheral and back out again, to allow connection for another device beyond the present one. This is what has allowed users to hang multiple high speed peripherals off a single port on the Mac for years. There's a few exceptions to this 50/50 pin set up, like the ZIP drive from Iomega, which uses a 25/25 pin to connect to the host Mac-- but in general the 50/50 has been what I've personally seen most often. In the hard drive installation to which I'm alluding, the standard 25/50 pin cable came with the hard drive, and I had to order a 50/50 pin cable when I discovered my absent-mindedness (I probably could have had APS send me a 50/50 cable along with the drive (instead of a 25/50 cable), if only I'd requested it at the time of purchase).
Anyway, getting back to the FPU installation...
I had a flashlight handy, and used this to peer closely at the chip and socket, until I finally could verify that all the legs appeared properly lined up with their slot mates, on all four sides.
At this point, I applied the first significant pressure of the whole exercise on the chip, to push it into the socket. The instructions (and my own Old Geezer Instincts) warned me to press the chip in evenly-- not let one side go in before the others-- or else I could damage something. I placed two fingers on the chip in opposing corners, and tried to press down evenly.
The chip descended into the socket. After the initial press, I inspected things, and checked what I saw against the instructions. Nope. The reality didn't match the instructions, which said a fully seated chip should be almost flush with the top edges of the socket. Plus, there was a very slight but perceptible difference in the progress of one corner as opposed to the other. I nudged the higher corner down a bit, carefully. Still it wasn't flush. So, placing two fingers on the chip again (except this time on the opposing corners I hadn't pressed on before, in order to spread the load more equitably), I pushed a bit more aggressively, and felt it go into place. Once again I inspected things. It looked about right. Just for good measure, I gave the chip one last push, first on the original corners I'd used, then on the second set again, as much as I dared (I didn't want to crack the motherboard or socket). Another inspection appeared to indicate the chip was very close to flush with the socket, as per instructions.
So! I relieved myself of the ground strap, and plugged back in the connections I'd taken loose earlier. However, I did NOT replace the Mac's case cover, or put all the connected peripherals back in their original spots. No, I left the motherboard naked to the world, plugged everything back in, and switched on the power.
(Technically this might be a bit dangerous for the person and machine involved, so repeat this yourself only at your own risk). Why leave it open this way? In case something didn't work right, I'd be halfway to having it all apart again to troubleshoot it. Most experienced users can probably get away with this; but if you're unsure if you know how to behave with an open case like this, then DON'T DO IT! Too, I do NOT recommend doing this is you have any children running around loose in the vicinity-- that's live electricity coursing through that motherboard, capable of harming people or circuitry if mishandled by the uninformed.
Fortunately, the FPU seemed to be working. How could I tell? I ran Apple's MacCheck program (a little diagnostic aid shipped with at least some Performas), and it saw the FPU and tested it, and the chip passed. You can also use the "Shareware FPU" software, available from various online services and shareware CD ROMs. This software's control panel (if installed) will inform you of the presence of a FPU when you call it up.
So I shut down the Mac, put its cover back on, and booted the Mac back up and tested with a floppy disk to see if everything was aligned correctly (on this model of Performa it seems a little too easy to get the floppy disk slot misaligned with the drive when re-installing the cover). The floppy inserted and ejected just fine though, so I shut down again, put all the peripherals back where they'd been before, moved the furniture back around the way it was supposed to be, and then booted the system back up again.
I instructed the user to let the Mac run for 24 hours straight to 'burn-in' test the FPU (but dimming the monitor screen or even turning off the display was just fine).
The next day I came around again and rebooted the Mac and used MacCheck again, to make sure the FPU was still alive, and everything was OK.
After all this was done it occurred to me that if I ever had to remove the FPU, I'd likely need a special tool. It looks like it'd be very difficult to get out otherwise.
So what's the bottomline on the installation? What performance boost, if any, does it provide? And is it worth it?
Well, an FPU isn't supposed to show much impact except in things like high end graphic manipulation, such as Photoshop image filtering, or 3D model rendering. So since I didn't have the time or inclination to pursue such tests, I didn't really expect to see much boost personally, but rather hear about it later from the Mac's primary user, who was most well qualified to judge any performance increase. However, I did seem to see some difference, just in general.
First off, there seems to be a barely perceptible speed increase in how fast windows open on the machine now. However, it's so slight I'm uncertain if it's real.
In another area I'm more sure however; using an Adobe Acrobat Reader now is significantly faster than it was before on this Mac; this one I'd bet money on.
As for other clues to the performance difference, I'll need more time to see them, and will report what I see to you in later issues.
There's a small number of high end programs (or program features) that your Mac simply can't run without an FPU; after a successful installation, you'll enjoy access to these things.
I'm pleased to report a significant speed increase in the use of the ColorIt! graphics software on this machine, after installation. Too, zooming in and out of complex imagery in many graphics programs may be faster.
Adding an FPU to a Mac like the Performa 460 can be fairly cheap, if you shop around for the best deal (and don't accidentally fry something during the install).
As detailed earlier, it's no piece of cake installing an FPU. There's at least as much real risk of damaging your computer installing an FPU as there is installing extra RAM (and FPU installation is more difficult than upgrading RAM). This isn't a job for beginners or the inexperienced.
It can also be difficult to locate an FPU chip source; and even if you do find one, they might be charging an outrageous amount for the chip; you need to shop around. For example, a friend of mine has gotten quotes as high as $250-$300, and as low as $50 for an FPU-equipped 68040 chip to replace his current 68LC040 CPU. The better deal was from a local Apple dealer; the worse ones were from mail order sources.
Though you will get some significant speed increases with FPU installation, these speedups are NOT across-the-board; you'll probably only notice them in about 10% to 20% of the tasks you do with your machine (a few users may never see a speed up anywhere, if they do only limited work with their machines).
On the other hand, in those rare spots you do witness a speed up, the speedup may be on the order of 50% to 100% for that brief moment-- compared to what it was for that particular task before.
Not all Macs are FPU upgradeable this way. The 460 in this piece had an empty slot on the motherboard for a separate FPU chip; some Macs don't. In Macs like the Performa 630, the FPU is part of the CPU itself; so on that Mac adding an FPU means switching out the 68LC040 for a 68040 chip.
Pricing and Source Info
$59.00 + 8.00 overnight shipping, for a total of $67.00
Peripheral Outlet, Inc.
327 East 14th Street
PO Box 2329
Ada, OK 74820
Mac Performa 460 User's Log Contents
On March 13, 1995 I ordered a 730 MB hard drive from APS. Three days later it arrived, and I set to adding it to a system.
I spent maybe twenty minutes or so backing up the single floppy that accompanied the drive onto three other disks, and perhaps thirty more minutes looking over all the read me files on that floppy, and at the large manual (264 pages!).
APS has a golden reputation in the industry, and their digital active termination is a real prize for ending SCSI woes. Plus, I'm still using a Quantum 105 MB drive I bought from them way back in 1990! So I was looking forward to seeing their latest handiwork.
Their manual is almost a textbook example of what such a book should be. It's obvious they've invested a tremendous amount of work into it, for the sake of users.
While looking over it though, I noticed a lot of seemingly apologetic gushing by APS over the fact their drives only have system 7.0.1 installed, and how lots of users may want or need to change this situation, during or soon after installation. This sort of puzzled me, until I actually got to the point of booting up with the disk connected, the first time.
Naturally, I shut down everything and even unplugged it all from the wall before starting. Then I removed the SCSI terminator from the CD ROM drive that had come with it at the time of purchase (the APS DAT should alleviate any need for it in the chain), putting it aside for possible use with a different system.
I made sure the 730's SCSI ID number (6 was the default from the factory) didn't conflict with the Mac (7), its internal drive (0), or the CD ROM drive already a part of the system (3).
At this time I jotted down the product registration number from the back of the drive, too, in case I needed it later for warranty registration (These numbers are typically either behind or even underneath a new device, and so highly inconvenient and impractical to retrieve once the item is fully integrated into a system).
I added a second switched surge protector to the system so the hard drive and CD ROM could be turned on before the Mac, as per APS instructions (APS recommended the hard drive get power 5 to 10 seconds before the Mac, and always be "live" (powered up) whenever the Mac on).
When I started to physically connect the disk to the Mac itself, I realized I needed another cable. There was already a CD ROM drive attached to the SCSI port of the Mac, you see. So the hard drive required so called "daisy chaining". This meant a full 50 pin to 50 pin SCSI cable was needed, rather than a second 25 pin to 50 pin cable, as was bundled with the 730 on arrival.
Rats! I had to order another cable! Tsk, tsk. I'd known about such predicaments for years, but it'd been so long since I added a second or third SCSI device to a system that I'd forgotten. Plus, this wasn't my personal system; otherwise I'd probably have wised up before placing the order.
One bad thing about APS is they charge an arm and a leg for shipping and handling: $ 18.61 in the case of the drive. So the S & H on a cable could easily be 100% of the price of the hardware itself! And this would be for a two to three day delivery time, too! Contrast this with MacWarehouse's $ 3.00 charge for overnight delivery. So I ordered the cable from MacWarehouse.
As for the cable itself, I decided to go with a cheapie 2 foot long MacWarehouse SCSI cable. The other cable involved in the SCSI chain was high quality, and APS's DAT system was supposed to help eliminate SCSI problems in general (which I would expect would include some weaknesses in cabling systems), so I got the cheaper cable.
Meantime, I wanted to get the drive up and running immediately. I realized I could just remove the present CD ROM drive and hook up the hard drive in its place, until the new cable arrived (the Mac user in question could more easily do without the CD than the drive-- at least temporarily). In addition to all this, the APS manual recommended testing out a new drive directly in this fashion prior to installing it into a more complex arrangement, anyway.
Once I had it all connected and had rechecked everything twice, I started up the system the way recommended by APS.
It didn't work. Instead, I got a dialog box stating "This startup disk will not work on this Macintosh model. Use the latest installer to update this disk for this model. (System 7.0.1 does not work on this model; you need a newer version that does.)", along with a "Restart" button.
I tried again, and the same thing happened. The outmoded system folder on the APS drive was attempting to take over the Mac on boot up, but couldn't, being too old to handle a Performa 460. And all this was happening despite the fact I had the original drive slated at the start up drive (which I thought was remembered by the Mac in its PRAM or something, and immune to problems like this).
Of course, all this could be easily fixed if I could erase the system folder from the APS drive, or update it. Problem was, I couldn't get access to the drive, as the Mac always insisted on restarting rather than completing boot up. And the Performa 460 didn't come with any system disks with which to boot from and update the APS drive(!). The Performa had come with its system software pre installed on disk, and I'd helped the user backup the entire hard disk with Apple's bundled backup software onto some 20 floppies at the time; so there was no handy system installer to do what the APS inspired dialog demanded.
No problem, I figured. I'd boot up with the Disk Tools floppy from the system 7.1 upgrade package I'd bought for my IIcx a couple of years earlier, attend to the errant system folder on the APS, and live happily ever after.
No go. It turns out the Performa Macs are really finicky about what system versions they'll accept. Plus, I was also burdened with Apple's At Ease interface, which happened to be present on the 460 at the time. I ended up leaving the APS switched off and booting up the Performa alone, in order to turn off At Ease. Then I rebooted the Mac, giving it a second or two head start over the powering up of the APS (doing the opposite of APS instructions!), to get the whole shebang to boot up at all.
Other things I'd done during this struggle was change the APS SCSI device number first to 5, then to 4, and even changed which SCSI port I was using on the hard drive to attach it to the Mac (Yeah, I know these things made little sense, but I was getting desperate. And sometimes it's the most seemingly illogical thing that's holding you up...).
When I finally got both the old drive and the APS to boot up, I opened the system folder on the APS to retrieve any items that I might need to keep, then erased the bastard off the disk(!). Yes, I was highly annoyed. This had amounted to the most difficult hard disk installation I'd ever performed on a Mac, over some seven years and maybe as many as half a dozen different drive installations. Was it entirely the fault of APS? No. I've noticed the Performa Macs being more finicky about some things than older Macs, before. And APS would probably be glad to put system 7.1 on the drives if Apple would make it a little easier or cheaper for them. But hey! APS is only the premier third party supplier of hard drives for Macs. Why should Apple help them make their drives work easier and better for users? That might make the Mac a little too friendly, I suppose.
Unfortunately, I still wasn't done with the installation process, just yet.
I tested the system for any further boot up problems by shutting down and booting back up, both from a still powered up state and from a cold start, to make sure everything would now launch properly. Now I could follow the APS instructions about powering up the APS drive first, and the Mac second, with no problem. It turned out I didn't have to wait the long 5 10 seconds recommended, though. By this point I had two multiple outlet surge protectors. The first was plugged directly into a wall outlet, and the second was plugged into the first. By simply having the Mac plugged to the second surge arrester, and the second protector left switched on all the time, with the APS plugged into the first protector, I could use just the first surge protector switch to power everything up or down, and there'd be sufficient delay in power reaching the Mac to give the APS the head start it required.
I copied over to the APS most of the applications on the original drive (which was severely squeezed for space; hence the APS purchase), and redid the aliases necessary to hook up the applications in their new location to the Performa's Apple menu.
I next did a random test of several of the applications, to insure they were working properly from the APS drive.
The APS manual stated that it was a good idea to have a system folder of some sort on the external drive, in case the internal drive ever failed, and I agreed. I'd had to erase the system folder bundled on the APS since it interfered with boot up and couldn't be easily upgraded under the circumstances, and also discovered my system 7.1 disks from Apple might not install a system on the APS that would run the Performa, either. So I figured why not just copy the Performa's own functional system folder to the APS, and make sure the start up disk remained the internal one? It sounded like a good plan at the time.
I copied the Performa's system folder to the APS, and then checked all the settings I could think of that might result in problems from this action. I made sure the Mac was configured to use the original drive as the start up, or default drive.
Everything seemed to be working fine. Then I began testing everything from warm and cold boot ups again.
Everything would boot just fine, but I'd get a dialog from the Mac complaining that it had not been shut down properly before the boot, when I knew it had.
I fiddled around with a few things and tested the results, but always got the same erroneous shut down message.
I finally erased the system folder from the APS drive, rebuilt the desktop, and tried booting again.
Uh oh. I was still getting the message! I found a "Performa Shutdown Check" file in the Preferences folder inside the system folder, and moved it to an out of the way folder where the system shouldn't see it, and even renamed it for good measure.
I rebooted, and noticed the Performa Preferences icon that usually appeared at the bottom of the screen on boots had a big angry looking "X" in front of it. That wasn't right. Then I got the same message dialog as before about improper shut down. I rebooted again. Same "X-ed" icon, same message. I looked in the system folder and found the Performa Shutdown Check file had been recreated (like I expected). This time I removed not only the Shutdown check but the file named "Performa Preferences", too. In the past I've noticed you can sometimes solve certain problems by removing the Preferences file of a troublesome program, thereby forcing that program to create a fresh one based on some internal default values. A while back I corrected a problem on this same Performa by removing Finder Preferences, when it was exhibiting problems with copying files to disk (as far as I could determine at the time, a four year old child had somehow corrupted the Finder preferences file with random key presses-- at least, that was my best guess then).
In the ensuing tests the Performa icon at startup no longer was covered by an "X", and I no longer got the erroneous shut down message.
So how has the 730 run since then? Great. No problems related to the drive at all. Of course, as with any action involving a major change to a system, such as physically moving the majority of applications and files from one drive to another, followup adjustments have to be made occasionally, to wrap up loose ends. For example, on this particular Performa there's about a half dozen people use it, and so it was necessary to show these folks where their files had been moved to. Plus, the Performa's owner had grown more comfortable with the Mac OS, as well as seen one of her two grandkids mature sufficiently so as to cause us less concern about damaging anything, so she had me leave the At Ease software turned off. This meant I had to show all those other users accustomed to the At Ease interface a few things about the true Mac GUI, too. In other words, we've had no problems stemming from the APS itself since installation. And APS's SCSI Sentry really works about making complex SCSI setups truly 'plug'n play'. At least, with the APS drive at the end of a SCSI daisy chain consisting now of the APS external drive itself, the Mac, a CD ROM drive, and a MicroTek flatbed scanner (plus one cheap daisy chain SCSI cable, and one high quality but six foot long(!) cable in the mix), everything's going great!
Now if only I had an internal version of this baby for my IIcx...(I'm pretty sure an internal installation, especially on a non Performa like my IIcx, would go smoother).
The total cost (shipping included) of this drive was $ 398.56
The APS Q 730 SR 2000 external hard drive
PO Box 4987
Kansas City, MO 64120-0087
FAX: (816) 483-3077
Mac Performa 460 User's Log Contents
On the evening of March 13, 1995, I ordered the SIMM described above from Bottomline. The initial total cost was $ 498.15.
I received the SIMM three days later (3/16/95). The package contained a SIMM and
a floppy disk with an old HyperCard stack about Mac SIMMs. The floppy's label indicated
that this stack served as the installation instructions for the SIMM(!).
If you've ever bought a CD ROM shareware disk, it probably contained a copy of this same stack. The Macintosh/LaserWriter SIMM Stack is pretty good about providing general information about the standard RAM configurations and expansion options of various Macs, but doesn't really have anything more relevant to installation than a crude circuit board layout depicting the location of the slot.
Of course, considering that Bottomline's advertised price for this particular size SIMM is around $ 100 less than some major competitors, you shouldn't expect much hand holding, right? Right.
I disconnected all power from the Mac involved, donned my wrist grounding strap (a holdover from a previous corporate position where I also installed RAM on occasion), and opened up the machine (this was a Performa 460; a faster version of the LC III). I immediately touched the metal case of the power supply, to further bleed off harmful static electricity potential; and tried to touch it frequently as I worked over the machine, for the rest of the session. I am keenly aware of how fragile chips are in regards to this stuff (static electricity). Another thing you must do is try to minimize contact between your fingers and conductors like circuit board traces or card slot edges. As small as RAM SIMMs are, and the way they must be inserted into a board, this is admittedly difficult at times; I'll be glad when these things are a lot easier to deal with than they are today.
At first glance it wasn't readily apparent where the SIMM went. The LC III motherboard has several empty slots from the factory, for RAM, VRAM, an FPU, and a PDS board. A couple of these slots look very similar. And if there's any markings on the board itself identifying each, I didn't see them.
Though the HyperCard stack bundled with the SIMM had pointed out the location of the SIMM, faced with all these slots and aware that the stack has errors in other places (from my examinations of it earlier from an AMUG CD ROM), I grew uncertain, and sought verification.
Luckily I had a back issue of Macworld with a diagrammed photo of the LC III's motherboard, which confirmed the location of the SIMM slot, with a photograph that was much more convincing than the crude outline presented in the stack.
Since Bottomline had not sent anything more informative about the installation process, and I couldn't locate any back issue of Macworld or MacUser, or a Mac reference book in my library with detailed info, I had to closely examine the slot and card itself to determine how it went in (It had been a few years and different models of Mac that I'd installed RAM into before). It turned out the SIMM had a notch on one end that matched the slot, and helped show which end went where and which side faced up. It was necessary to stick it in at about a 45 to 60 degree angle from the motherboard, until it seated in the slot, then push down on the top edge of the SIMM until it snapped into the waiting jaws of two small, spring loaded clamps. There's an electrical plug that interferes slightly with this maneuver, but there's no need to remove it for installation.
I made sure the SIMM was secure in the clamps, then closed everything back up.
I checked a couple of times to make sure I wasn't forgetting to plug something back up, etc., and when everything finally looked ready I plugged the main power line back into the wall and booted up.
I heard the Mac's normal startup tone, then a second or so later a strange set of notes I'd never heard from a Mac in this situation before, as it discovered and tested the new RAM. The video display never showed any picture at all.
I'd seen references to this behavior in some magazine somewhere, and recalled it might have something to do with a bad SIMM, but I wasn't entirely sure. So I cut all the power again, and made an effort to find something about it in my back issues of Macworld/MacUser, but to no avail. Perhaps given a few hours of concerted looking, I could have found what I needed in the magazines, but I didn't have that luxury.
At this point I was wishing mightily that I owned some up to date troubleshooting/repair/upgrade manuals regarding the Macintosh.
I always try my best not to call the customer support of any company. It seems
85% of the time no one's available to answer the phone anyway, because you're calling
on a weekend, holiday, or sometime other than 9 5 PM during the day. If by some miracle
the place is actually taking calls when you need them, you're often put on hold for
fifteen to twenty minutes; and sometimes even lost in the system after your wait,
with an automated machine somewhere summarily hanging up on you. Then you have to
call back again, essentially going from the front of the waiting line to the rear, starting
the whole infuriating process over again...
I once spent an hour or so on hold, calling The Software Toolworks company about a problem with their Magic Piano package (it displayed several annoying glitches about running on a Performa machine; if I personally hadn't been available to help, the user in question wouldn't have been able to get the software to work at all; by a mix of educated guesswork and experimentation I found a certain key combination that would allow the user to get past the opening screen of the program; nowhere on screen or in the manuals was there any obvious (and functional) way, or even a mention of how to get past this point; so users would just get stuck there). Besides myself, another person also spent a lengthy period on hold. We finally gave up altogether. Fortunately, the software would work for the most part, given the tricks I discovered, but the user who'd bought the package was far from completely satisfied with the item's overall quality, which left several key features of the claimed educational process non functional.
And what happens if a live person actually does answers the phone when you call
a company about product problems? Well, in many cases you'll be dealing with someone
who knows less about it all than you do-- sometimes a lot less! This reminds me of
a time I personally met some folks you'd think would have been the perfect technical support
for a product, but weren't; the programmers themselves. I was attending a Mac convention
in Boston, and ran smack into some of the folks directly responsible for developing InBox (a now defunct e-mail package for the Mac). I seized upon the opportunity
to ask some detailed questions about solving some thorny problems I was having as
a net administrator, with the InBox system running atop AppleShare. Everything they
suggested I'd already tried. I was even able to tell them some things about the software's
performance they seemed to be unaware of, until that moment.
I was very dismayed by this state of affairs.
Anyway, getting back to phone support, not only are the people you usually get on a tech support line not the same folks who created the item you're calling about; they often have little or no training whatsoever about the thing. So even a consummated call to tech support's not usually very helpful, with a lot of companies.
With all this in mind, I dialed up the tech support line indicated on the invoice from Bottomline Distribution (the invoice was the only hard copy shipped with the SIMM).
To my surprise, someone answered almost immediately. I described the problem, and he told me to remove the SIMM and make sure the Mac would boot normally with it missing. He also told me to try reseating the SIMM in its slot. I made it a point to ask him what the sad musical tone and no video display meant, if reseating didn't work, and the Mac would indeed run fine after the SIMM was removed. "Bad SIMM" was the reply. So I'd remembered the tip from the forgotten source correctly after all. And apparently the support person had answered me truthfully (I regarded that as a good sign; I often ask a tech support person a question to which I'm fairly certain of the answer, just to check for such honesty; there's been a few times the results of this little test were alarming). I told him I'd call back after attending to these things.
I was sure reseating wouldn't work, because I'd made sure it was well seated the first time. But I did it anyway, since it was sound advice after all (I would have recommended it myself to someone else in a similar predicament), completely removing the SIMM and installing it a second time-- with the difference that I blew out any dust that might have been in the slot, too (be very careful about blowing dust out of your machine this way-- swallow any excess saliva first, especially if you've been sipping on a cola or something beforehand. Any air you expel in the direction of your circuit board should be as dry as possible; I regularly blow out the vents on my cases, the inside of my mouse, and even the dust on my cooling fan blades, this way. A couple times a year I crank up a small electric air compressor, and wash down the innards of my Mac with a really big blow. Please note that if you're one of those folks with an excessively wet mouth, you'd best NOT use your own lung power directly on a circuit board! The resulting cascade could fry your circuits! Ditto for a sneeze.).
Naturally the reseating didn't work. When I switched the Mac back on I got the same sad tones and zero video display. So I removed the SIMM, placing it back into its original packaging, rebooted the Mac (it was back to normal), and called back the technician with the news.
He gave me a RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) number, to send the thing back with.
At this point some users might have balked; demanding their money back, and re ordering
the thing from someone else, rather than simply exchanging the item. Especially when
they were in my circumstances, dealing with a company I hadn't ordered from before, and the very first thing I get from them is defective.
I do really hate shipping things back. I'd be willing to pay a premium for items from a place which tested everything before shipping, and guaranteed no returns necessary, or you get some extra compensation for your trouble. But all we have is the present system, where the best you can hope for is that less than a third of the stuff you order will be defective, or otherwise flawed in execution or about meeting the claims of the manufacturer or retailer.
Plus, I'm an Old Computer Geezer, who's been ordering from all sorts of mail order concerns for years now. I know from experience that even the best companies often send you something you end up having to return for an exchange. So 'switching horses in mid stream' wouldn't necessarily make me happy any sooner. I could just as easily be starting the whole process over from scratch again by taking my business elsewhere, maybe ending up waiting even longer, or suffering even worse problems, than I was already committed to.
Too, there's a fairly heinous practice among many (perhaps most) mail order vendors these days, of charging customers who balk at exchanges a "restocking fee". This fee is essentially a heavy penalty for not giving the vendor a second chance at making things right, and helps insure that the vendor themselves don't lose any money, no matter what happens. This fee might be as much as $ 50, or even more-- sometimes even a percentage of the value of the item ordered! So it can be quite costly not only in terms of time but money as well, to switch to a different vendor after a single bad shipment.
But there's yet another consideration. Price. The reason I ordered from Bottomline in the first place was a balance of their consistent advertising history in the Mac magazines (a full two page spread over years), and their terrific prices, compared to many other vendors. For example, MacWarehouse, which is by far my favorite vendor for many types of merchandise, maintains a premium price on RAM SIMMs, relative to Bottomline's pricing structure. Look at these ratios for 80 nano second two, four, eight, and 16 MB SIMMs (Bottomline/MacWarehouse): $ 80/$ 119, $ 154/$ 179, $ 299/$ 349, and $ 489/$ 599 (these prices are rounded off to whole dollars). These prices were taken from a Bottomline ad in the May 1995 issue of Macworld (page 194), and Volume 41 of the MacWarehouse catalog.
For truly old Mac users like myself, with a IIcx requiring only four 30 pin, 120 nano second RAM SIMMs, the price differential is even more pronounced, at $ 25/ $ 50, partly because MacWarehouse only offers 80 ns SIMMs; much faster, and much more expensive SIMMs than my IIcx needs or can even use near the performance ceilings of the chips. Yes, it's true buying faster SIMMs would allow me to take them with me if I upgraded, say, to a IIci. But like most people such a marginal upgrade wouldn't be very practical or desirable for me, compared to the work involved in changing my system and transferring files. So any upgrade I make is likely to be more along the lines of a Performa 630 or Power PC; in which case the extra fast SIMMs would only represent extra money down the drain for me at upgrade time, since they couldn't be used with the newer system.
Another reason for the MacWarehouse premium would be the difference in bundled instructional material about installation. The last time I bought SIMMs from MacWarehouse (admittedly a few years back), they included a nice little booklet about installation, that served to cut down uncertainty on my part by a lot, and turned out to be very critical in the upgrade of a compact Mac which necessitated fiddling with a jumper in the process. The MacWarehouse booklet makes Bottomline's HyperCard stack look very poor by comparison-- especially since that particular stack was never designed to serve as a SIMM installation guide, but only a general reference to memory specifications and capacities on the Mac in general. So this one difference should point out to you that if you're inexperienced in twiddling with the inside of your computer, or crave greater certainty about what to do and how, you may want to cough up the extra bucks and buy from MacWarehouse-- especially if your parent corporation is paying for the upgrade. On the other hand, if you're pretty comfortable with your own computer hardware savvy, and DON'T have a corporation handy to pay for your SIMMs, you may want to do what I did, and order from Bottomline or a similar source.
Lastly, MacWarehouse can get away with a premium simply because it's built up considerable trust with its customers over the years. It's usually pretty easy to return something to MacWarehouse for a full refund if need be. Overnight shipping for three bucks comes very close to instant gratification for a pittance of additional monies. And few folks are worried about MacWarehouse going out of business any time soon.
Anyway, I made sure I put everything back the way it was in the Bottomline SIMM package when I received it, and traveled to my local UPS office to ship it back. I always pay attention to how something's packaged when I receive it, and save all the packing materials, since I know there's always the possibility of returning it.
Now I was stuck with practically a whole week's delay before I could find out if I was dealing with a Good Guy or a Bad Guy. Once, a couple years back, I had a similar "dead on arrival" Epson printer, ordered from Midwest Micro (a major vendor in the Intel/Windows clone market). I sent it back, they promised to send me another one, and guess what? They sent the same exact defective printer back again-- then tried to deny it. Luckily, being an Old Computer Geezer, I'd copied down the serial number from the original printer before returning it, so I'd know if I had a different one or not, later. This serial number, along with all the other dated records and paperwork I kept, helped me sic my credit card company on Midwest to deny them all the ridiculous "restocking fees" and other claptrap they tried to pull, to effectively make me pay for a dead printer they could have been trying to foster on naive buyers over and over again (sooner or later somebody meek, stupid, or lazy wouldn't send it back, right? And even where someone did return it, they'd pay Midwest a $ 50 "restocking fee" for the privilege; theoretically an unscrupulous vendor could make an infinite amount of money just by shipping out and then taking back the same dead printer, over and over again, taking the resulting "restocking fees" to the bank).
It took months to finally get the Midwest issue settled to my satisfaction. But I know there's other companies out there somewhere, which operate in a manner similar to what it felt like Midwest had in mind for me...
So how do you know which is which? Read the itty bitty print in any large advertisements you see from a company, before ordering. One hilarious ad I saw a while back about a Windows/Intel style printer trying to break into the Mac market bragged it was "plug and play" for Macs, yet also had fine print elsewhere on the page stating that its connection cable was not included!#@!%!
Looking for money back guarantees and multi year or forever warranties can help, too. Of course, you should keep in mind that many, many computer business vendors are literally "here today, gone tomorrow"; bankruptcies or other forms of exit from the business are rampant in the industry. So it's nice if you get a multi party warranty too-- for example, from some hard drive resellers you get a 30 day money back guarantee from the reseller themselves, and then a one to five year warranty from the manufacturer, who is wholly independent of the reseller-- and probably more likely to still be in business a year or so down the road, too.
Other things that can help you be savvy about who's the Bad Guys and Good Guys among vendors, are things like what the journalists in your favorite computer mags say about them, if anything. Deborah Branscum in her Conspicuous Consumer column in Macworld often speaks out about the two factions, naming names, and telling real life horror stories and dreams come true about the support and services offered by various companies. Other ways back issues of Macworld or MacUser can help is by old ads; if you can see that a particular company has been running fairly good size ads in the magazine for years and years, then that should be a sign that they've at least much of the time treated their customers fairly. If they were absolute bastards in all their dealings they'd have to change their name (and general ad look) on a pretty regular basis to escape consumer retaliation, and so they wouldn't have the same consistent presence in back issues as a better company can. Now please note here that a consistent presence is far from a guarantee that a certain company will treat you right. Just about the worst treatment I've ever had from any mail order vendor came from Midwest, as described above, and they've been a major advertiser in mags like Computer Shopper for years and years. Plus, even good companies are subject to the laws of averages. The best company in the world must have some poor customer somewhere whom they've treated worse than anyone else among their user base, just from pure accident if nothing else. And for all I know, this could have been the case with Midwest and me. But as I'm not a big corporation that can afford to give many second chances with my money to vendors, I'm pretty sure I won't be dealing again with anyone who treats me that way even once, even if it was accidentally; I just can't afford the possible cost, and don't want the expected aggravation, based on such an experience.
Heck, in Midwest's case it may just be that all Intel/Windows clone market vendors act this way to non corporate customers, and I only felt put upon because I've been spoiled by the much better in general Mac vendor market. The only folks who could tell you for sure would be those who've dealt extensively and equally with both, and my own experience is more like 80/20; 80% Mac support vendors, 20% Intel/Windows clone support vendors.
Another thing you can do is start small with a company you're unsure about; order something small first, and see how that goes, before ordering anything a lot more costly. For example, I would have preferred with Bottomline to order four 30 pin one Megabyte SIMMs before the 16 MB SIMM (the first package would cost $ 100, the second about $ 500), but Bottomline was currently out of stock on the 30 pin SIMMs, and the user wanting the 16 MB SIMM was impatient. So I'd ordered the 16 MB SIMM.
It turned out I made a boo boo when I shipped the package back to Bottomline. I let my friendly neighborhood drug store clerk over ride my desire for a speedy return of the SIMM to Bottomline, with something like a week length scenic tour of the countryside, for the sake of saving two bucks or thereabouts. It'd been a while since I'd returned anything, my mind was on other matters as I stood at the counter, this was the very first time I'd used this particular drop off site for UPS services, and I'd forgotten how laid back and frugal my rural neighbors here usually are (many are even worse tightwads than I am!). She couldn't imagine anyone needing two day delivery when it cost an extra buck or so! So she stretched my waiting time on her virtual rack, when I wasn't paying the attention I should have been.
This oversight on my part led to about a 100% delay in the bad SIMM reaching Bottomline, and triggering the exchange process. Of course, I didn't quite realize the delay was my own fault, for a time.
The impatient user I was doing all this for grew yet more impatient, spurring me to contact Bottomline. This was the end of the sixth day since I sent the item back, and too late in the day to contact Bottomline by phone. But they had an internet 24 hour e mail address, and so I sent the following message to them (some details below have been blocked out for reasons of propriety):
I'm writing in reference to a recent order (Order # xxxxxxx, placed with a salesman xxx xxxx at ext. xxx).
The item was a 72 pin, 60 ns, 16 MB RAM SIMM for Macintosh, that apparently turned out to be flawed, so I had to return it for another.
The RMA number given me over the phone by your tech support was RMA # xx-xxxxx, which I shipped back to you via U.P.S. on 3/17/95.
Today was 3/23/95 and I have not yet received another SIMM. I was wondering if you could tell me when I might expect my new SIMM?
Thank you, J.R. Mooneyham
I e-mailed this via AOL in the evening, and checked later that night for a response, then around mid day the next day too, but found nothing.
I therefore called them via telephone, since it was now regular business hours again.
The person I talked to said they'd only received the SIMM the day before (Thursday), and it would likely be processed that day (Friday), or Monday-- and I should have another one, two business days after that.
Maybe an hour or two after my call, me e-mail box on AOL received a response to my e mail query, which I didn't log on to receive until around midnight. The response was:
Dear Mr. Mooneyham,
The replacement simm (Ref. order #xxxxxxx) shipped today via UPS 2 day service, so you should receive the package next Tuesday. Please let me know if you have any additional questions regarding this matter.
This pretty much jibed with what I'd heard on the phone. I like consistency.
Sure enough, around mid day Tuesday it showed up. This time everything happened instantly and easily, with gratifying results. The Performa 460 booted up normally (except for a very slight delay as it had more RAM to initialize on start up now).
I did a few rudimentary tests of running applications, opening files, accessing the hard drive, looking for an error of some sort, and found none.
I instructed the user to let the Mac run uninterrupted for the next 24 hours, for burn in purposes (not to turn it off during that time). This may be considered an obsolete practice in some quarters, but I am an Old Computer Geezer after all, and live by the old ways in some respects. Hopefully, if the chips were border line in any way, they'd fry in the first 24 hours of testing, so we could settle the quality issue immediately, rather than waiting for two weeks or so to find out.
Could the user use the machine during that time? Yes. My only stipulation was that the machine not be turned completely off for 24 hours; that was all.
I also told the user they could turn off the monitor alone if they wished, since it had no new hardware inside to test this way.
Twenty four hours later everything seemed still to be fine, so I pronounced the user the proud owner of a brand new 20 MB RAM machine.
I turned off the user's virtual RAM, since they no longer required it, and I figured the Mac would run faster that way. I also boosted the size of their disk cache a bit, up to 512 K; after all, they now had RAM to burn.
Some FLUX readers will remember a previous review of a MicroTek ScanMaker IIg.
Up to now that scanner had been attached to my venerable IIcx. However, due to speed,
RAM, and disk space constraints, the scanner couldn't really be used to its maximum
effectiveness on that Mac, so I transferred it to the Performa 460 (besides the new 20
MB of RAM, and standard 33 MHz speed, the 460 also had about 700 MB of new disk space
too; please refer to the review of the APS 730 Q hard drive this issue, for more
information on that).
This works out well for me, since I only rarely use the scanner personally, it taxes my IIcx heavily to use it, and in its new location not only I but others of the FLUX staff, as well as associated friends and family, can more easily use the scanner too. Another plus is that it's actually easier and more convenient for me to use the scanner attached to the 460, than it was while connected to my own machine, due to my own Mac's relative age and other restrictions.
Anyway, using the scanner and associated high end applications and huge files on the Performa made for a great test of the new RAM.
In general, scanner aside for a moment, the additional RAM and switching off of virtual RAM seemed to provide an average speed boost to the Performa of around 50%. Some things were sped up enormously, while other actions seemed unaffected. One thing I noticed right away was much faster copying of files to floppy, and faster appearance of floppies on the desktop after insertion, similar to the speed observed on eight Megabyte equipped Performa 630 machines-- though formatting of floppies remains as slow as ever. Opening applications and switching between them is faster, and more worry free. And programs which were sluggish in response before are now much closer to realtime in reacting to user commands and movements. This particular Performa is burdened with an old Apple CD 150-- a single speed CD ROM drive, which coupled with the previous necessity of virtual RAM had often performed poorly in the area of playing Quicktime video and audio from CDs, with jerky video action and audio rendered almost incomprehensible at times.
Now though, with 20 MB of RAM and the virtual stuff out of the way, so far I've noticed none of the problems with video or audio witnessed before. So the RAM upgrade seemed in effect to upgrade the performance of the CD ROM drive, too.
Fractal Sketcher was shipped with the scanner as the interface to the device, along with a "glue" module PhotoShop plug in. Now I was actually able for the first time to see the difference extra RAM would make in performance, by setting the preferred size in Sketcher's Get Info box, called up in the Finder.
I determined that file sizes of new scans were running around seven Megabytes on disk, and Sketcher itself seemed to like two to three Megabytes all for itself. When I gave Sketcher 10 to 12 MB I got the maximum performance from the program. When I gave it only 6 MB it'd go great until about the mid point in a scan, and then slow down to speeds seen before the RAM expansion.
The extra RAM and attendant switching off of virtual RAM seemed to make the Performa a much more stable platform in general, with crashes or dialogs about memory problems almost non existent afterwards-- at least, during work with 'normal' files like small word processing and graphics items. And it may even be that my own ingrained habit of frequent restarts during the day to clear fragmented RAM may be all but unnecessary in a 20 MB RAM environment.
Of course, work with so called 'normal' files represents little of the purpose behind a RAM expansion; how does the machine perform when doing 'heavy lifting', such as retouching scanned photographs? In these cases, though processing is sped up and made considerably more convenient and responsive, high maintenance in the memory area is still often required, with adjustments to the Preferred size of applications, frequent restarts to clear memory fragmentation, and avoidance of using multiple RAM hungry programs simultaneously. In short, high end software will still present you with near insatiable demands for expensive computing resources. This greed for system resources is worsened by the seeming tendency of some programs not to 'clean up after themselves' in RAM, after you quit them. I can't really be sure if this is the fault of Apple's system software, or specific application developers, but from my own experience I'd bet on the developers being the culprits. Because several software packages from the same developer will often seem to exhibit problems in this area, while the software of other developers doesn't. Aldus is a case in point. Their SuperPaint and TypeTwister both seem to require you to restart your Mac after quitting them, to prevent later memory problems. This degree of RAM hunger and 'uncleanliness' on the part of some applications is troubling. For maximum performance, the files of some applications may routinely require 25 MB of disk space each, and a single program want not only some 12 to 16 MB of RAM allocated to it alone, but also residence on a fast RAM disk, along with your core system folder, necessitating a RAM disk size of some 12 to 36 MB! Yes, with this we're getting into territory where many Performas, even loaded with all the RAM they can hold, cannot sustain such applications in the style to which these applications aspire. After all, many Performas are like the 460, capable of expansion to only 36 MB or less.
But I may be venturing beyond the scope of this article. 20 MB of RAM still allows the 460 in this piece to compare favorably in speed with a much newer eight Megabyte Performa 630 series machine. I've had hands on experience with both a 630 and 637, one running system 7.1 and the other system 7.5, and neither seemed very much faster than the 20 MB Performa 460 featured here-- even with virtual RAM switched off on the 63X systems, too. Remarkably, the system 7.5 637 seems to actually run slightly faster in some tasks with virtual RAM turned on (Apple may have improved their code in this area), but still the contest is close.
Other circumstances of this comparison included the fact that the 637 did NOT have the entire system 7.5 installed; things like QuickDraw GX were on disk, but not active. So I figure the 637 will be straining for RAM and slowed down appreciably when and if the owner decides to activate the now dormant chunks of 7.5 on their disk. At which time the 20 MB 460 will look even better by comparison, in performance terms.
What's my final verdict on Bottomline Distribution's performance as a supplier? Well, so far I'm satisfied enough that I've placed a second order with them; this time for four MB for my poor old IIcx.
I'd carefully examined the first 16 MB SIMM I'd been forced to send back-- mainly to copy the serial number off the tough adhesive label attached to it, for reasons of verifying later that I'd received a completely different SIMM.
I got a different SIMM alright. The memory chips were even on the opposite side of the board, making the second SIMM look very different from the first. This made me go "Hmmm...", but didn't cause anything to click until later.
In something of a related postscript to all this, my use of my salesman's name in my e mail query to Bottomline may have given the poor guy some unintended grief, as well as provided some telltale clues about the different looks of the SIMMs. Here's what happened:
When I placed the original order, I had a fairly lengthy discussion with this guy, because he offered me a 16 MB SIMM two speeds faster than I expected for the same price (60 nanosecond as opposed to 80; yes, definitely a better deal, since it might allow this SIMM to follow its owner in a subsequent upgrade), and I wanted to order the IIcx SIMMs at the same time, but he said there'd been a mis shipment from their suppliers, and IIcx SIMMs wouldn't be available for a couple of days. So I told him I'd just order the IIcx items later, and he requested that I ask for him on the second order. Then all the events I just related to you transpired, ending up with me placing a second order for my IIcx like I planned, albeit a couple of weeks later than I originally expected.
I planned to ask for the same salesman, but didn't have to; he was the one who answered my call.
When I verified it was him, he simultaneously recognized my voice, and seemed concerned that I might be having continuing problems with the original SIMM. Evidently either the SIMM exchange had involved him personally, or when I'd used his name in my e mail query word got back to him about it. He began addressing this imaginary problem with stuff about mixed up SIMM shipments, which made me recall the two significantly different looking SIMMs I'd received. Heck, that first SIMM might not have been a Mac Performa SIMM at all! Anyway, I relieved him of his misplaced stress, and placed the new order (when I received the IIcx SIMMs later, the invoice had typed on it "FOR A MAC IICX!!!FOR A MAC IICX!!!")
If things work out OK, me and my 460 owning friend will end up having saved at least around $ 200 on 20 total Megabytes of RAM, spread over two Macs.
Mac Performa 460 User's Log Contents