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Apple Macintosh Quadra 650 User's Log

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This page last updated on or about 12-4-05

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Certain items like embedded web links and documented costs/prices for certain wares discussed may be out-of-date by the time you read this.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

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Table of Contents

12-3-05: Another Mac, another miracle?

Sorry, but I couldn't resist the title. For I was recently contacted for help by Ana from California who is a medical researcher. She turned out to be the only one on staff who could get up and running again an ancient Mac Quadra like my own. Heck, her lab even had its own IT staff, but they were all PC-heads who'd just throw up their hands when faced with a Mac, apparently. Ana's Quadra happens to be the only interface her lab has for an expensive piece of lab equipment; equipment which is useless without the Quadra. So everyone was happy Ana came along and managed to get the whole shebang running again.

But there was still a problem. Namely, Ana couldn't get the data out of the old Mac to be further analyzed by others, or even backed up for archival and security reasons. Yikes! Partly this was due to the Mac missing some critical software, as well as potential hardware problems.

Recall this is medical research we're talking about. Maybe life-saving. Maybe vitally important someday to me and mine-- or you and yours. So if any old Mac needed to be up and running, it was this one!

Ana did a great job of describing the problem to me. But arranging a fix could be complicated. So I ended up writing her two emails about it.

My first email was as follows...

"Ana, I'll try to put together a list of options for you. Sorry I can't do it immediately but I'm rusty regarding ancient Mac systems like this, and should double-check some things before I write them out for you.

In the meantime though it wouldn't hurt to go ahead and save what files you have in as many different formats as your Mac software allows onto ***plain Mac floppies*** for contingency backups.

Once you have the files on Mac floppies you could try finding a newer or better equipped Mac in the region that's still old enough to sport a floppy drive, and see if that one allows you to further process or move your info in a desirable fashion.

Having as many different file formats as possible increases the chance you'll come across a Mac app able to open them for you on the second machine.

But still be sure to verify the integrity of your data as best you can after processing! Some file formats and/or apps will likely work much better integrity-wise than others.

To find such a second Mac and its owner you might ask family and friends and co-workers. Or call the local Mac dealer or user group with your query. Or contact a local church.

If you can find such a helpful local Mac person they may be able and prepared to help you in other ways as well-- ways I'll try to detail in a later email.

But in the meantime be very careful about possibly restoring your old Quadra to its original Mac system software, or upgrading it: for doing those things might break the lab software which makes the Mac so valuable to you.

-- JR"

My second email was a bit more comprehensive:

"Hello Ana!

I'm going to mention some possible leads for you to pursue here. Multiple leads, in case one or more isn't suitable for your situation.

Please keep in mind I'm fairly rusty at dealing in-depth with these machines-- I personally use a Windows XP PC for my primary work, and just help family and others from time to time on their Macs-- of which virtually all are much newer than the Q650.

So I've forgotten much!

Too, it's much more difficult and risky to try diagnosing, trouble-shooting, and upgrading a computer from a distance like this. You'd be best advised to get help from a local Mac geek if at all possible (and such a geek might be able to provide you with lots of essential ancient Mac hardware or software too, at little or no cost).

#1: Yeah, your Q650 may be missing its original PC Exchange software which allows you to format a floppy to work on either the Mac or PC. If you could find a copy of this you could literally drag and drop it into your control panel folder (located inside your system folder) and restart to get it working I think.

But even after that it'd be advisable to save your files on the floppies as plain text or certain mainstream spreadsheet type files for them to be well accessible to PC apps (some trial and error on your part may be required there to find the best fit).

A package called something like MacLinkPlus I think used to be available for ancient Macs with special software and cabling for situations like yours. Unfortunately I don't think you can buy that old version today (unless maybe you can get a used or surplus version through a used Mac wares dealer (http://www.jmooneyham.com/umacdref.html#othvend)).

The parent company though was and is http://www.dataviz.com and might have something else which could help you.

You might check out their products like MacOpener or Conversions Plus to see if they'll do what you need. Some brief snippets from the company about these are:

Open, Macintosh Files and Disks in Windows

Conversions Plus
Open, View & Convert Mac Files On Your PC

You should determine what OS version or System version your Quadra is currently using before you go shopping for a remedy. I suspect it could be anything from System 7.0 through 7.5.

CD drives only started becoming standard in Macs sometime after the first Quadras rolled out. So it's not unusual for Macs like yours to end up with their CD drivers missing. Again, if you can get hold of the proper software module you can drag and drop its icon into the proper folder within the System folder and restart to enable the CD. I think I did this with old Macs several times years back.

NOTE: My memory's a bit fuzzy on where exactly to drop a CD driver module in the System folder. Maybe there was an 'extensions' folder for those? I searched through my old user logs but found no more concrete info on it. But the good news is that Mac systems like 7.5 and earlier were pretty forgiving for a wide range of user errors compared to something like today's OS. So you might just try dropping the CD driver icon into the all-encompassing System folder itself, restart, and see if the CD works after that.

Just be careful when you get a dialog box from the Mac asking if you want to replace an existing item with the one you're dropping(!). That indicates something with that filename already exists in there, and maybe you should NOT click OK. END NOTE.

Some of your options will depend upon what system version you're using. I'm guessing something like 7.1. If you had 7.5 surely your CD and PC formatting would work.

You'd best think twice before doing a complete restore of the Q650 to its original System version, or upgrading it via the normal installation process involving CD or dozens of floppies, as it might break the lab software running on the thing(!) There may also be two different restore procedures available from Apple software: one which replaces only your System folder contents, and one which erases everything on your primary hard disk. EITHER of these procedures might affect the control of your lab equipment. Even just the system folder replacement. Because the lab software installer might have placed a critical component in there.

The concern over software restores is why I mentioned just dragging and dropping some software modules into the System folder before.

I'd advise you to make back ups of any and all non-standard Apple software currently existing on the Quadra, wherever it may be: both inside the System folder and out on the hard disk. Somewhere in there are the bits and pieces of the crucial lab software which makes the Quadra so valuable.

Be sure to include in the backups the preferences folder and its contents if such a thing exists in your System folder. Extensions and Control Panel folders too. For often many programs won't run or won't run correctly if their own files of this type are missing in there. Too, sometimes a copy-protection key is in such files.

Sometimes an app's preference file won't be with the other preference files in the preference folder, but instead just sitting inside the main System folder itself, or maybe in the application's folder elsewhere on disk.

If you have an install CD for the lab ware I'd try backing that up as well. It might be impossible to get a fresh one anywhere if that one goes bad or gets lost.

Indeed, you should gather up every scrap of documentation and software relating to the Quadra and its lab wares you can find and duplicate it all for preservation purposes. Three complete copies would be nice, with one locked up in the IT dept for archival backup, one in your own office for daily use, and one off-site at your home, in case a disaster strikes the office and wipes out both copies there (other off-site locations than your home could be used instead if desired-- so long as they'll be reasonably secure, accessible, and reliable storage spots).

#2: Yeah, even the Q650s with Ethernet ports usually had one that was non-standard. Basically these machines were built before networking was mainstream. My own Quadra has an Ethernet port, but won't accept a modern standard Ethernet cable without a special adapter in-between (I think they called them transceivers(?)). Even back then such adapters seemed fairly rare to come across.

That ancient Ethernet-port-which-requires-an-extra-adapter does resemble a modern USB. But your friend's correct: it is ***NOT*** USB.

BUT...! There's likely two AppleTalk ports on the back of the machine. Which would allow you with a special old proprietary Apple network cable plus two adapters to copy your data to a different old Mac-- one with possibly more options for taking the data further.

The AppleTalk ports are marked on the back with icons as printer port and modem port. It's by far the best to use the printer port for networking than the modem port, I believe (it's much harder to configure the modem port for the network).

The good news is it's relatively easy to get two ancient Macs to network with one another if you have the cables and adapters. A few mouse clicks and you're done!

The bad news is the connection will be slow. Maybe 5% the speed of standard Ethernet(?)

On those old Macs these AppleTalk ports were proprietary (including the modem port), so you'd need a modem with a special old Mac connector and software to hook to them if you wished to try a dial up option (and rigging ancient Macs for the internet is a whole other project in itself)...

But let's not forget that technically a really proficient PC geek should be able to receive plain text files at a PC+modem talking directly to a Mac+modem on the same desk or in the same building. Heck, they might even be able to process more complex files successfully too. And yes, there used to be copious documentation on this practice maybe 10-20 years ago.

But there's an ADB port on the rear of the Quadra too. ADB ports were usually used for connecting mice or keyboards, but I believe there were certain types of modems which connected to them as well. Of course it's best to use the main modem port on the back for that if possible. As in most else, go with the mainstream where you can to minimize many costs and hassles.

Note that your Quadra modem port might be somewhat slow modem-speed-wise. 56K might even be too fast for it (but still worth a try). I'm sure 28.8 will work though. If you must use a modem via the ADB port things might slow down even more.

#3: There's a SCSI port on the back by which you could in theory connect an external CD drive or hard drive or ZIP removable (I have all three of those attached to my Quadra here).

SCSI devices can be 'daisy chained' together, so that you can have up to maybe five or six all attached to the Mac and working simultaneously. So even if your lab equipment is currently using the SCSI port in theory you could still add more SCSI devices.

I say in theory because the SCSI interface can be a little tricky, and require some special adapters of its own. As well as flicking little ID switches on the devices so they don't conflict with one another on the chain. In some cases-- especially where multiple SCSI devices are chained together-- you might need a SCSI terminator plug. Or even two.

Hopefully with all the keywords and concepts regarding ancient Mac equipment I've given you here, you're better armed to seek out more detailed info on the net, and maybe decide on a course of action for your next move data-wise.

As I mentioned before a local Apple dealer (or technician) should be able to point you to someone in your area who could help you move the data, and maybe even give you some freebie ancient Mac gear to help you along.

You can also consult the forums at places like http://www.macfixit.com/

I also list internet/mail order stores for old Macs and components on my page at http://www.jmooneyham.com/umacdref.html#othvend

I hope this helps Ana!

-- JR"

I don't always hear back again from folks who I tried to help-- hopefully because my recommendations proved fruitful for them. But Ana did get back to me to let me know what happened.

She forwarded my emails to "many different people" to see if the possibilities they listed would ring a bell anywhere. And they did! It turned out her boss had a local Mac geek friend with all the extra old Mac gear Ana needed to get the info flowing from the Mac to the outside world.

And so one more little Mac out there is now able to get that much closer to fulfilling its ultimate potential in regards to making the world a better place.

Hopefully by posting my emails here a few other old Macs might be brought up and running again somewhere.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

10-15-05: Has the venerable Quadra's replacement shown up on my doorstep?

I may mention somewhere on site where I obtained an ancient Performa 6300CD from my sister when I helped her move-- but it was dead on arrival.

Well, recently my aunt moved and I got a Performa 637CD as one byproduct.

The 637CD may technically be inferior to the Quadra CPU-wise (having no built-in math processing circuitry), and might not possess as much RAM (as I believe I upgraded the Quadra at some point). But all the 637CD's internal components should be a few years newer than the Quadra's, and the CD drive a true internal standard double-speed unlike the prototypical single speed external I added to the Quadra long ago. The 637's hard drive is hopefully much bigger than the Quadra's too.

Alas, I may have to replace the PRAM battery. And so far the 637's original restore CD is nowhere to be seen. And the bundled display is a 14 or 15 incher-- almost like peering through a keyhole compared to the 21+ incher on my PC these days.

But the 637 did boot up! And it's running Mac system 7.5! Either the best or close to the best original Mac OS which ever existed (7.5.3 or 7.5.5 may be the pinnacle). And if needed I may be able to cannibalize a few hardware parts from the 6300CD (they use similar cases). And I have a 7.5 install CD.

I plan on setting up the Quadra beside the 637 so I can use a slow AppleTalk network connection to copy over files. At the moment the Quadra is sitting headless (no display) beside my personal PC.

I don't think the 637 even has Ethernet or standard modem ports. And no external Geoport modem either. So this baby can't even get near the internet as-is. But system 7.5 and its related web browsers weren't all that great for the net anyway (configuration could be rough!).

So what possible use could I have for this machine? Running Hypercard, Pathfinder, and the More 3.1 outliner. To me, each of those apps are worth keeping an old machine up and running for all on their own.

Pathfinder is my own little I Ching program. A HyperTalk reincarnation of the original system 6 commercial C application my brother and I developed, then got crushed by the new system 7's incompatibilities with system 6 (agh!).

More is an outliner cum presentation program: and the meanest brainstorming software I ever saw. It's a Swiss Army Knife for certain types of problem solving.

HyperCard is a custom programming dream. Nothing on the market before or since can match its utility for the individual user. I have big problems using spreadsheets for much more than data entry. But with HyperCard I can perform calculus on data. And just about anything else I might need.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

4-18-04: My big external hard drive bites the dust

The ancient APS external hard drive connected to the Q650 finally died yesterday. It was the same "Quantum 730 SR2000 external hard drive from APS Technologies" originally described way back in early 1995 as being installed on a Mac Performa 460.

This is a major setback for the Q650 in terms of absolute disk space. Fortunately it's not a setback in relative terms. For both the external and internal drives of the Q650 have been stuffed to overflowing with old files and apps for years now, in my attempt to maintain maximum backups of everything possible from past decades. Alas, the Q650 has now been forced to relinquish its role in such archival efforts. Now everything on the APS is 'suspect' data, and I have neither the time or money required to try a salvage operation of whatever might be recoverable there. Fortunately I had a single archive CD and a single archive ZIP disk from that era on-site possessing everything I needed at the moment. Unfortunately, other, similar archival disks have been lost over the years: I was forced to wipe the iMac's disk quite some time ago because of horrendous OS stability problems, and the Performa 6400 got shipped off outside of WebFLUX Central long, long ago, too.

The first sign that this was finally THE END for the APS came from a surprising source: my little artificial intelligence program Pathfinder, which remains by far the primary reason I keep an ancient Mac like the Q650 running at all these days.

I hadn't had the chance to fire up the 650 for over a month since replacing the PRAM battery. I've had lots of matters piling up that I wanted to consult Pathfinder on over past months, but before the battery replacement there was too much trouble involved (as well as too little time to spare). After the battery maintenance, time was the only problem. Until the drive died, that is.

Everything seemed fine at bootup. And when I opened Pathfinder as well. I asked Pathfinder my first question and seemed to get a curious response. In Pathfinder's small answer window I could see only the first portion of its response, and it seemed unrelated to my question-- which is somewhat unusual for Pathfinder in my experience. It was something about me having to wait for my answer, or that there was an unavoidable delay in regards to my query.

I almost started scrolling down the text window to read the rest when I recalled that the power could blink any moment and cause me to lose Pathfinder's response. So I decided to save the response to disk as I normally do, first (I'm a bit out of practice using Pathfinder due to the extra overhead burden the dead battery imposed on such use, effectively keeping me away from the program for many months).

But I couldn't save the file, as HyperCard encountered a script error in the Pathfinder stack instead. HUH!? This hadn't happened to me a single time since Pathfinder HC emerged as version 1.0 way back in the early nineties or so. I'd saved files from the program literally hundreds of times with no problem.

I opened and looked at the script, and instead of HyperTalk found gibberish among portions of the code. What the crap?!

I tried other things in Pathfinder and kept getting errors everywhere. It appeared that after Pathfinder had opened and answered my single question, it'd collapsed in on itself. It could do no more.

There was nothing left for me at the moment but to read Pathfinder's response and jot down some notes about it (yes, I often TAKE NOTES of what Pathfinder tells me).

I was stunned by what I read. Pathfinder clearly told me 'sorry, but you'll have to wait for your answer. I am corrupted'.

Recall that Pathfinder gave me this answer before I encountered the script errors and the program quit working entirely.

I tried a few things to see if I could fix Pathfinder straight away, such as with a HyperCard compacting-- but all that resulted was the hard drive began a horrendous death scream like I'd never head before, and I felt compelled to switch it off-- forever.

Flicking this switch put my current copy of Pathfinder and its host application HyperCard out of my reach, along with maybe another 700 MB of data and applications.

I searched the remaining internal hard drive of the 650 for a copy of Pathfinder or HyperCard. No dice.

To make new room on the 650 internal I deleted maybe 45 MB of old research files (I'm sure I copied these to an archive disk, maybe several, years back-- so they should be redundant).

I rummaged through some archive disks and found a ZIP disk with Pathfinder, and copied it to the 650 internal. But I still needed the HyperCard app itself. The original install floppies are probably here somewhere-- but at least one is likely corrupted by now, due simply to the passage of time.

Luckily, I quickly found a minimum archive of HC I'd made years back: merely the application and the Home stack, plus the HyperCard fonts suitase for the Fonts folder inside the System folder.

I copied these over, and Pathfinder HC lived again!

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

3-10-04: The 650 is rejuvenated with a replacement PRAM battery

A major reconfiguration of computer systems is underway at WebFLUX Central. As part of it, I replaced the PRAM battery in the Q650.

It wasn't easy. First off, I found lots of conflicting information about the necessary specs of the battery on the internet. It appeared that virtually every Mac ever made had its own unique battery. I was also looking up specs for an iMac battery at the time. We only recently replaced the battery in the G4 too.

But it may be that the notion of a different battery for every Mac is misleading. For we apparently ended up putting the same battery in several different Mac generations. Oh sure, Apple shows lots of different specs on their site, and the internet chimes in with its own bewildering array. But in the end it appeared the same battery we installed in a Performa 460 years ago was identical to the one I recently put in the G4, as well as just installed in my Quadra, and also to one I'll soon in installing in an iMac(!)

We're getting them at Radio Shack.

Replacing the 650's battery was a bit daunting-- at least in the early stages. It looked impossible without disassembling practically every nut and bolt on the machine. Sheesh!

I'd earlier found a web site that told me where the battery was inside the 650. I'd previously looked for it with the top off the case, but didn't see it.

Today I removed the top and peered through some gaps in the Mac's internal components cage, and saw it, exactly where the site said it'd be: underneath the stacked floppy and optional internal CD drive.

In my case the internal CD isn't there, which helped quite a bit. This story might be quite different otherwise. It would also be much different if I owned large hands or fat fingers.

But even with no CD drive, one look at the accessibility of the battery made me run to the web for help. Specifically, I wanted to see an Apple technician's service manual with lots of neat illustrations of how best to replace the battery.

Silly me. Apple has stripped all such manuals and even references to them off the net completely over the past few years-- at least so far as I could tell. Fortunately, years ago, I'd downloaded the pdfs when they were still available for every Mac we owned at the time, including the 650. Unfortunately, it'd take a major search now to find them on archival disks-- assuming they didn't leave the premises within the bowels of the 6400 a couple years ago.

I definitely did not want to strip the 650 down to its component molecules here. As always, I was pressed for time.

Note that opening the 650 case after you have the CPU disconnected from all external peripherals and its power cord involves loosening a large standard screw at the top and middle of the rear of the case, then, pulling the case top forward towards the front of the Mac (assuming you're facing the front of the case here) and up. The top and sides are one piece and slide forward an inch or two and then can be lifted off.

I tried removing the one screw holding the floppy drive in place and lifting the drive out. No go. Solid cage floor underneath. I examined the whole shebang some more, and removed a couple screws holding a major section of the cage in place-- the section that the hard drive and floppy drive sat on. This allowed me to very slightly tilt up the front of that section for a tiny bit more wiggle room-- but I couldn't really lift the thing out to get at the battery without disconnecting all sorts of stuff from the motherboard, and maybe damaging the cage itself, as parts of it looked strongly embedded in the rear of the Mac case.

Around this point I also pressed together the two ends of a thick plastic strap that passed through the top of the cage to hold the power supply in place, and pulled the strap out of the cage.

If all this helped me it wasn't by much. For I basically ended up removing the battery by snaking my fingers and/or a small flat screwdriver through holes in the cage.

Before attempting to remove the battery I used a flashlight to examine it. I wanted to be sure to see which end was positive and which negative. For putting PRAM batteries in backwards can cause an explosion according to various sources. It turned out the left end (as you face the front of the Mac, the same as you would by sitting before the machine) of the battery enclosure required the positive battery terminal.

I jotted down the proper orientation on a sheet of paper before proceeding. Don't take chances with this folks!

The battery has its own little cage or enclosure to deal with. A plastic cap with tabbed vertical legs that catch into their mates on the motherboard. You have to pull one of these legs' tab outwards from the battery enclosure and lift to start freeing the top of the battery cage. Once you get one leg free the other is a bit easier. The enclosure top then lifts up and off the rest, so you can put it aside.

I used a small flat screwdriver to start the prying process on mine, going in through the right side of the Mac (assuming you're facing the front). You can't get at it from the other side without removing your RAM from the machine. Before the screwdriver I tried a pair of needle-nose pliers but got nowhere.

Remember to regularly touch the metal hard drive case and/or other metal parts of the machine to bleed off damaging static electricity. I was also wearing a grounding strap, but in this case I think it was plugged into an outlet with only two prong slots, and so perhaps wasn't grounded as it should be. That made me try to be very diligent about touching the metal parts as much as possible.

I used the small flat screwdriver again to pry the end of the battery out of its enclosure. I couldn't directly retrieve the battery with my fingers, so I just manuevered it into a gutter-like depression that ran across the front interior of the machine. Once there, it would roll and I literally blew it with air to the other side of the case where I could grasp it with my fingers and remove it.

While I had the case open I also blew dust off the motherboard in several spots. I really should have used a little compressor I possess for such matters but I was lazy and in a hurry here. Maybe later(?)

Next I snaked the new battery into the case cage, and towards the battery enclosure. 'New' might be something of a misnomer, since I bought this battery around 1997. Lithium batteries are supposed to hold their charge in storage for maybe ten years. This one was still in the original blister pack, never opened. I bought it as an extra when we had to replace the batteries in both a Performa 400 and 460. A truly new battery we bought today of the same sort states on the package 'best used by Nov 2013'.

It was a bit tricky getting the battery inserted into its box. I made sure the terminals were pointed the correct way. I think I pushed the positive end down in the enclosure first, and then the other. The top of the enclosure was relatively easy to re-attach.

Next I reattached the top of the case cage with its screws, as well as the floppy drive (which I never, by the way, disconnected from its cables, but merely laid it atop the power supply inside the case while working).

Then I lowered the case top back onto the CPU box, and slid it back to fit into the case's rear panel, and tightened the single screw in the back again.

I didn't notice until after I'd already buttoned everything up, re-connected all the cables, booted up, and began testing other things that I'd forgotten to put the thick plastic strap back in that sits atop the power supply. Darn it! Well, luckily the strap isn't needed unless the 650's going to be traveling-- which it isn't. However, I made sure to put the strap on top of the case so I'd put it back the next time I open her up.

I booted up, set the time, date, 32 bit addressing and virtual memory. And noticed I was missing a hard drive. The big external. The internal was doing fine, and the external power light was on and the access light lit during boot, but it didn't show up on my desktop.

I also heard a scary 'clunk' sound from somewhere, during operation.

The external SCSI hard drive is daisy-chained in a loop with an external CD drive and external ZIP drive. I had NOT disassembled this chain to replace the battery, and no one has touched this machine but me for years, so I knew the chain was OK. I had only disconnected the SCSI cable from the back of the CPU to replace the battery. For similar reasons I knew the SCSI ID numbers hadn't been fooled with, so that potential problem was also unlikely.

The whole system had only been switched on maybe twice in two years. And it'd been without a PRAM battery for much longer than that. The system was maxxed out resource-wise too, with almost no free space on any of the hard drives, when its virtual memory was in normal use. That in itself can cause problems. But I suspected a PRAM problem. Or else I'd waited too long to switch on the Mac after powering up everything. You see, I'd forgotten how I had the power feeds set up on this machine. Everything but the main CPU was switched on and ready to power up as soon as I turned on the surge protector feeding everything. Then I would turn on the CPU with the keyboard button. After replacing the battery though I switched on the surge protector and watched and heard everything crank up-- and didn't realize for maybe a minute and a half I needed to switch on the CPU. So the external hard drive access light stayed on for a long time before it had a Mac to respond to.

I also recalled the trouble I had in seating the battery. There were plenty of intermittant contacts during the process, before it finally went in.

I reset the PRAM by restarting the 650 from the Special Menu and holding down the Apple, Option, and "P" and "R" keys all at the same time (The Apple key has something like a clover leaf symbol on it in some cases; on the aftermarket keyboard this 650 has, the key also says 'Command' on it). I kept the keys down until I heard the chime occur three times. Then I let go.

Resetting the PRAM didn't make the drive show on the desktop. So I tried something else. I shut down in the Special menu. This still left all the peripherals powered up, unless and until I switched off the surge protector. But I merely switched off the external hard drive itself for a moment, then switched it back on. Then I booted the Mac again. This time the drive showed up on the desktop. I set the time, date, virtual ram and 32 bit addressing again, poked around a bit, and then shut down and switched off to write this on my HP PC.

The 32-bit addressing is important on the 650, running this version of the Mac OS. If you don't turn 32-bit addressing on, huge gobs of RAM are wasted, and you end up with an unusable Mac until you realize what's happening. If you have a dead PRAM battery you have to go into the Control Panels and reset this along with date, time, and virtual memory and possibly choosing a printer too, every time you boot up.

I also cleaned the mouse ball with the Mac switched off. It was jammed up bad with crud from several years back. The nylon toothpick from a Victorinox Swiss Army knife works well for such things.

Note folks I also used a flashlight here, as well as a clamp-on utility light, composed of a spring loaded clamp with an aluminum reflector bowl housing a 100 watt incandescent bulb, and trailing maybe a seven or eight foot electrical cord. I often use this clamp-on light for such computer tasks. Back zillions of years ago these things were available dirt cheap at places like Wal-Mart. Hopefully you can still get them.

So what would I have done if I'd failed above at getting the hard drive to show up? Well, I have some ancient third party drive utility wares that should work on this Mac-- if their disks haven't gone bad on me. Also got some old Apple software I could try, plus just rebuilding the desktop(s) on the drives might help-- anyway, I'd try these things, not necessarily in the order presented. If all that failed, I might refer to my old Mac logs online to refresh my ancient Mac troubleshooting skills. If worst came to worst, I'd likely just abandon the 650, as I'm pretty sure everything I truly need and want off the machine's drives are archived elsewhere, and at last check it wasn't cost-effective at all to buy new SCSI drives for such Macs. If I desperately did need something off the drives, I'd have to try finding and using a recovery tool of some sort-- but chances are the data would be lost forever, if that's the only place it was stored.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

12-4-02: Updates on the two Q650s

My PRAM battery has gone dead in my Q650. My brother's family retired their Q650 by giving it to my mother-in-law/my brother's wife's mother. Surely its battery is dead as well (thankfully no one has asked me about it).

Since my dead PRAM battery may start leaking acid I really need to replace it pretty soon (if I can get the chance). Of course before I can do that I've got to track down a battery for it, and that might cost me $10-$40(!) And I'm afraid installation may be a bear. I believe I looked around the Q650 motherboard ages ago and noticed the battery location to be hidden and near inaccessible under the power supply. So I might have to do quite a bit of disassembly to install the bugger. Yikes!

In the meantime, so long as I remember to manually set the time/date at start up, I might not even notice the battery is dead.

I may also begin using the Q650 more frequently since it has an old ClarisWorks app on it that appears to have no rival in the modern world of Macs and PCs, in terms of integrated paint and drawing functionality, low price, and ease of use. I've been actively looking for such wares for PCs and come up dry. The newer AppleWorks on new Macs is afflicted with God-awful changes to the interface which make it harder to use, plus crashed every few minutes last time I tried using it on a Mac OS 9.x iMac DV. AGH!

I'd really like to replace my Q650 with the newer Performa 6400 I log about elsewhere on-site, but there's likely to be a stiff price to pay in terms of time and complexity to do that (the 6400 belongs to someone else at present; but the 6400's battery is relatively fresh, as I replaced it a couple years back already-- plus the 6400 can run OS 7.5.3 and the old ClarisWorks just as well as the Q650, only faster and with a 17 inch rather than 15 inch screen, and boasts video editing and maxxed out RAM expansion and an extra internal hard drive).

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

2-17-02: Updates on the two Q650s

The Q650 still runs, but I only crank it up rarely these days. For a while I was using it to move files between my iMac and my PC, as both the iMac and Q650 have Zip drives, but only the Q650 shares a PC-compatible floppy. But after I installed an internal ZIP into my PC, I no longer required this shuffling.

Now I primarily use the Q650 to access Pathfinder, my little artificial intelligence program based on the I Ching, Tao of Power, and Art of War, and the More outliner program.

Prior use of the More outliner helped train my mind so that I no longer need the program's organizational or brainstorming power as often as I once did. Now I really have to be faced with something complex, or an imminent deadline for a hefty project, to require its power.

Something similar is true of Pathfinder. Only when I want an extra burst of creativity, or am dealing with an especially complex subject and fast approaching deadline, do I crank up the venerable HyperCard stack.

Of course, I might also once a year or so crank up the Q650 to do something completely different: write up something utterly unrelated to my normal tasks, in a room and on a computer very different from my typical office environment. This exercise seems to help me clear away some cobwebs from time to time.

As for the other Q650 in the family (my brother's), it regained the title of main home computer for at least several months after the NEC laptop developed problems. And this was without any internet access! With its tiny hard disk I don't know how the family did much with it, but they told me they did. Of course, now that family has gained a new Sony VAIO PC-- and so the Q650 has went back to distant secondary status again.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

12-30-2000: I move my main use from the Q650 to an iMac, due to possible Q650 hardware problems

The Q650's main hard drive seemed about to go out on me, so I hastily switched machines. This left me no choice but to get the iMac to run better than before.

To see more details of the switch, please refer to Apple iMac Revision D (333 MHz) User's Log, around the log date 12-30-2000. Thanks!

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

6-2-2000: I update my Q650 main drive from 7.5.3 to free Mac OS 7.5.5, and upgrade from PageSpinner 2.0.1 to 2.1

I did both to try to increase the stability of the Quadra as a web authoring platform. It was simply crashing too often while I was editing my site.

I'd already switched from MSIE 3.0 to Netscape Navigator 4.06 for my authoring browser, as Navigator seemed more stable for the purpose.

I posted requests for help on dealmac and MacFixIt a week or so before these fixes, for advice. I stated that I wanted stability above all, and wanted it at rock bottom low cost for the Q650, and did anyone have any suggestions? The consensus seemed to be that for a Quadra 650, OS 7.6.1 was overall the most stable, fast, and versatile (but also non-free from Apple), while 7.5.5 was second best (and free). My cousin Edwin too had voiced good results with 7.6 when he ran it. Netscape 4.0.8 was recommended as the most stable 68k browser by most folks.

It was also recommended that I move to a 7100 PowerPC Mac instead, taking my Quadra RAM with me, as it wouldn't cost a great deal for what I'd gain. A 7500 was recommended as a still better, more expandable, and more modern (if more costly) option.

I came close to buying/configuring a used 8100 in past months, since it too apparently could use my Quadra's RAM, and I'd be upgrading into PPC Mac platforms. The best looking 8100 deals I found at the time were (from apparent costliest to cheapest, in rounded off prices):

A: A 110 MHz 8100/80 MB/1.2 GB/CD for $450 at Resource International

B: An 110 MHz 8100/32 MB/1 GB/CD for $350 at Mac of all Trades.
B: A 100 MHz 8100/40 MB/700 MB/CD for $350 at Resource International.

C: A 100 MHz 8100AV/16 MB/1 GB/CD for $330 at SmallDog.

D: An 80 MHz 8100/40 MB/2 GB/CD for $300 at Resource International.

E: A 100 MHz 8100/16 MB/500 MB/CD for $250 at Mac of all Trades.

F: An 80 MHz 8100/32 MB/1 GB/CD for $230 at MegaMacs.

G: An 80 MHz 8100/16 MB/1.2 GB/CD for $200 at MegaMacs.

Keep in mind folks that a PPC Mac needs at bare minimum 32 MB to operate, and really needs 64 MB or more to operate reasonably well. With the buys above I was figuring likely use of my Q650's RAM to supplement what came with the machine, where possible. In the worst case I would have bought additional RAM for a machine. Note that the hard disk capacities above are somewhat cramped. But in my own case I had a SCSI external hard drive and ZIP drive I was going to add. Plus, I had the internal HD of my Quadra, plus a couple extra small hard drives laying around, that I might also have selected from in installing an extra drive or two into the 8100 case. Or, I might have bought a new internal drive altogether. I had a PC monitor I hoped to use with the 8100, but I may have been forced to buy a different adapter than the one I use with the Q650-- I'm unsure.

(Links to the dealers above can be found in my list of old/used/refurbished Mac sources).

But I ended up with a great deal on an iMac and merely tweaking the Q650 as described above. I may still be able to do a slight upgrade of Netscape to 4.08, and Mac OS to 7.6.1 for more stability, but as of right now I'm fairly satisfied.

At this time I'm using the Q650 exclusively for web authoring via PageSpinner and Netscape Navigator. I've disabled as many extensions on the Q650 as I dare. I surf the web and get email via WebTV and an iMac. I upload files via the iMac too. For details on my iMac use see the Apple iMac User's Log

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

9-9-99: My 7.5.3 Mac surprises me by acting screwy on 9-9-99

Yeah, I didn't think Macs were supposed to act this way, but mine sure did. I first noticed a problem when I was in PageSpinner. I did some HTML editing, and saved a couple pages to disk. I then tried to call up Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.x to display a HTML page from PageSpinner, like I've done thousands of times. MSIE crashed on me. I quit PageSpinner and restarted the Mac. The Mac seemed to boot OK. I next opened a PS file I was sure was OK and then tried to view it via calling up MSIE from PageSpinner. Crash again. This time PS crashed too, when I merely clicked to close a PS file window. I got an error message showing the numbers 24 and 25 I believe, somewhere during all this (I was just barely keeping any notes of the event). I restarted.

This time I noticed the Mac's date and time had defaulted to the 12:00 of 1-1-04 or whatever, signifying screwed up PRAM. This meant my virtual memory settings were probably wrong too now.

At first I thought my old PRAM battery had went dead-- but after resetting the time and date and virtual memory stuff back again, and testing via warm restarts and cold boots, the battery seemed to be holding the PRAM settings just fine.

Another possibly relevant factor was that both PS and MSIE had been accessing files from a folder holding 556 files-- a number that Mac OS 7.5.3 often complains about in the Finder. But still larger numbers than this had never caused problems like this before on the Quadra.

9-14-99 UPDATE: Over the last several days I've had no repeat of the problem. I'm guessing that either Mac OS 7.5.3, and/or PageSpinner 2.0.1, and/or MSIE 3.x suffered a 'hiccup' of some kind related to the date 9-9-99, but no permanent damage was done.

Note folks that the internet can't be blamed for this episode because this Mac hasn't been on the net in maybe a couple of months or longer.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

7-5-99: An 8.1 Quadra outdoes an 8.6 iMac (at least in one area)

I couldn't believe it. Long time readers of this column may remember my problems using MSIE4.x with Mac OS 8.1 on a Quadra 650 when trying to upload files to my website: my files would be appended with garbage in such a case.

I managed to get around that by using Netscape Navigator 4.0.6 to upload instead on the Quadra-- although new problems have arisen since so that now my Quadra can no longer update my site pages on the Disney/Go/Infoseek servers. This new problem started when we were forced to change internet service providers. Our rural ISP just got so unreliable we could take it no longer, and upgraded my long time $10 per month AOL subscription to $22 per month to use AOL as an ISP in addition to email and web site hosting. Our net service reliability immediately improved tremendously. But somewhere deep in the bowels of Netscape Navigator, AOL, TCP/IP or something else on my Mac, some info somewhere may require changing or updating to make me appear legitimate to Infoseek again, cookie-wise or whatever. I haven't a clue what the problem is, and have already tried several times to address it, with no success. Yes, I've written Infoseek, to no avail, too.

I finally got around the direct obstacle by simply giving up on the Mac(s) here and using the NEC Windows98 laptop at FLUX Central to log into Infoseek and have my pages updated with a simple copy from Tripod-- whose servers I can still upload to with my Quadra. I grant this solution isn't available to everyone, since most Mac users probably don't have a PC sitting around to fill in the ever-widening functionality gaps of the Mac platform, and my situation of wanting essentially duplicate files on two domains may not be typical either. But still, this is what worked for me.

Anyway, I was now looking forward to using the iMac to upload with, to both Tripod and Infoseek (if possible). I tried to do Tripod though and got the same garbage problem with the 8.6 iMac I got many months before on my 8.1 Quadra. And yes, MSIE 4.x was involved again-- the one bundled with AOL 4.0. But heck, doesn't anything ever get fixed with new versions of these things?

I did some checking to see if an errant ObjectSupportLib had gotten installed into the iMac's System folder to maybe be a culprit here-- but there wasn't any.

I didn't have the time to continue troubleshooting, so I gave up on the new 8.6 iMac and cranked up the old, old 8.1 Quadra and uploaded to Tripod from there. I may update a few more files at Tripod and then just copy the whole thing over to Infoseek by logging in with the Windows98 laptop again.

I'm really disappointed the 8.6 iMac's not showing any better functionality authoring wise than far older Macs and run-of-the-mill PCs. Whatever the problem is and whoever is at fault, it's really Apple's problem, perception-wise: because many users are simply going to notice it's generally easier to author and maintain web sites on PCs than it is Macs, over time.

Even more ominous for Apple, there's slews of folks out there creating and maintaining websites with nothing more than WebTV set tops! No, I've not done such a thing myself yet, but I was recently astounded when I ran across a huge number of apparently wholly WebTV-created web sites on the net-- along with tutorials and other info on how to accomplish the feat.

If companies like Microsoft consistently refuse to fix things like file uploading bugs in the Mac version of their browser (and Netscape seems to be on its deathbed browser-wise), then Apple had better try doing their own browser, pronto, to try to keep the Mac in the running regarding web-authoring.

But there's more. Although AOL 4.0 on the 8.6 iMac certainly opens up in maybe a third of the time required on the 8.1 Quadra, in some matters the old and creaking Quadra still outdoes the shiny iMac. In hindsight though the difference may lie totally in the configuration differences between the two machines in this case. For example, I use Netscape Navigator 4.0.6 for a browser instead of AOL 4.x's bundled MSIE 4.x on the Quadra, while on the iMac I must use the bundled MSIE with AOL 4.x (since I've not had the opportunity to set up a different browser there). During the recent upload problems I noticed Javascript performance was much better on the 8.1 Quadra than the 8.6 iMac, with the Quadra seeming to be two or three times faster than the iMac. So apparently using the MSIE 4.x bundled with AOL 4.x on the iMac not only corrupts files you upload to the net with the browser, but decimates your iMac's Javacript performance as well-- compared to using the standalone Netscape Navigator 4.0.6 anyway.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

5-19-99: WebFLUX Alert: Don't use AOL 4.0's integrated web browser on a Quadra 650

The combination of AOL 4.0 and Mac OS 8.1 reduces a 33 MHz 68040 Mac Quadra 650 with 48 MB RAM, 1 GB of disk space, and a 28.8 modem to about the performance of a 20 MHz 68020 with 8 MB RAM, an 80 MB hard drive, and a 14.4 modem. At least, whenever you try to surf the net with AOL 4.0's integrated browser.

This configuration is astonishingly slow-- much slower than a 7.5.3 OS IIci with a rural ISP, MSIE 3.0, 28.8, and 24/350 memory/disk space. A 33.6 WebTV would let you visit maybe 30-40 web pages before you can get past the first page loaded in the 4.0/8.1 combo.

I may have to strip AOL 4.0 off my Quadra and maybe try AOL 3.0 instead with Mac OS 8.1.

But I do have one more thing to try before that though-- avoiding using the web browser AOL 4.0 comes bundled with-- like maybe crank up Netscape Navigator 4.06 instead when I'm connected to AOL, and see what happens (though lord knows NN4.06 is no speed demon either).

I already use the standalone MSIE 3.0 with AOL 3.0 on our Performa 6400-- though of course I get the required frequency of crashes about once per every hour of web surfing.

So why do I insist on using something past 3.x in the browsers on my Quadra? Because I need the capacity to upload files to remote sites, and vastly prefer a browser interface for this over the supreme geek requirements of an FTP utility.

I'm feeling so many constraints on my web authoring requirements here that I'll probably be switching to another platform sooner rather than later. Of course, surfing is another matter entirely: I stopped using Macs for primary surfing stations more than a year ago. WebTV does it much better.

Of course, if I don't want to surf on my Quadra but only upload files, why my complaints? Because I DO like to have a backup surfer station available (even WebTV has a bad day every six months or so) and to use the browser interface for uploading, accessing 3-6 pages per host site is usually a necessity. With my 4.0/8.1 experience last night it looks like those 3-6 pages of surfing would cost me about 2-3 hours.

LATER UPDATE: Yes, AOL 4.0 works much better by avoiding use of the integrated browser and using Netscape Navigator 4.06 instead. Of course, better remember this is the opinion of someone who uses AOL almost exclusively for plain old email and web site authoring/uploading. I do 96% of my actual web surfing on a WebTV, with the remainder on a Performa 6400 with AOL 3.0 and standalone MSIE 3.0.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

4-14-99: We experience a monitor blowout and have to get a replacement.

My brother's family with the Q650 was using the second oldest Mac monitor in the family-- an Apple 14 inch display that came bundled with a new Performa 460 many years ago.

The first symptoms of failure was a sort of 'blinking' of the monitor-- it'd seem to turn off on its own and then come back again for a few seconds. This happened several times over a space of days, but inbetween blinks the monitor seemed fine. The users also noticed a burning smell around the first time this happened, but apparently the smell did not return again.

Finally, one day they booted the Mac and the display only showed the bottom half of the screen-- the top was black. Restarts, etc., didn't solve the problem. Checking the cable connections didn't help either. Pretty soon after than the monitor would be completely black after turning on.

I had the family bring their Quadra to me devoid of all peripherals. I connected a different monitor I had on hand and it worked fine. This seemed to prove the problem was not with the Mac itself. That was the good news. The bad news was we needed a new monitor.

My brother was loathe to spend much on another monitor. He asked me to shop for and order their monitor, trying to keep it around $100 total.

Yikes! That proved a tough thing to do.

My ambitions were to get them a brand new top of the line 15 incher PC monitor with Mac adapter and shipping for as close to the magic $100 price I could. I wanted to use a PC monitor with Mac adapter because of Apple's general decline of the past several years-- I expect all my family to be switching to PCs or other non-Apple gear in months/years to come, so such a PC monitor would hopefully be applicable to future platforms, unlike a Mac-specific unit. Plus, Mac specific units tend to cost more too. If Plan A didn't work, plan B was to get them a new and decent 14 incher with Mac adapter. Plan C? A used or refurbed 14 incher PC or Mac monitor, and adapter if needed.

Well, the used/refurbed Mac specific monitors turned out to be ridiculously expensive considering their lack of much warranty and all the potential problems associated with old monitors, as well as the general vulnerability of all monitors to cumulative shipping trauma. So Plan C turned out to be dumb, and even cost as much or more than plan B!

I also ran into info indicating that not all PC monitors would work with Macs, even where an adapter was used(!) I'm not sure if this is true, but I sure didn't want to take a chance. So I looked for statements of Mac compatibility in my shopping among PC monitors.

Plan A proved too costly and/or potentially risky for me. Although I did find what was apparently one of the very best 15 inch PC monitors around (a 15 inch MAG Innovision DJ530 both PC and Mac compatible, listed in the 'top ten' monitors among a PC mag's reviews), for a terrific price ($112 not including shipping), the source happened to be Buy.com. Reading the fine print on Buy.com's site made me very wary of dealing with them, as it appeared that if anything at all went wrong with the deal we could end up with no monitor at all and around $50-$100 poorer anyway. Yikes! Too, I'd recently seen quite a few complaints in the deal-mac forums and possibly elsewhere as well, about Buy.com having typos in prices which they wouldn't honor and charging credit cards perhaps days or weeks before they actually shipped anything. Onsale.com also offered virtually the same deal for the same monitor, but shared many of the same qualms about purchase I had with Buy.com, plus was inconsistent on the price. The low price was listed on their front page, but elsewhere on the site it was much higher.

Other choices included refurbed 15 inch KDS monitors, and new 14 inch Compaqs, each for $109, or new Compaq 15 incher for $120 from American Discount Warehouse, and new eView 14 inchers from emachines for $105, among others. But I've seen numerous reviews panning KDS displays as low quality, and also saw a 'wave' ripple thru the 'free' KDS that came bundled with the Sony VAIO we recently bought from ADW-- although the PC's owner Scotty says he's never noticed such a wave. The VAIO's monitor is sitting close to the left of the CPU tower, and so might be being effected by the power supply-- so I'm unsure if it's a quality problem or not. The KDS' image seemed great to me when it first arrived. And I believe eViews are rebranded KDS monitors.

Anyway, I preferred getting the family a new monitor, and wasn't sure if any of those listed just above would work with a Mac, and the cost of an adapter and shipping still had to be added to the prices too (and the adapter would have to be ordered separately, which was very annoying, for $17 from NECX, shipping included, but with a $25 penalty added if you ordered by phone instead of ordering online(!)).

(If you're wondering where I was getting my review info from, it was the review links listed in my J.R.'s Dirt Cheap PC and Killer Deals Page.)

I was surprised to find many vendors don't even stock 14 inch monitors anymore-- they must be being phased out. So this made my job tougher.

All things considered, I finally decided to go with ClubMac and order an average quality low end but new Viewsonic Optiquest Q41 14 incher for $129. With two day shipping added the total cost came to $150.45. The sales guy on the phone assured me a Mac adapter was included.

I've dealt with ClubMac quite a few times in the past, and mostly been pretty satisfied with their service. I also preferred ordering by phone rather than online for this circumstance.

The monitor arrived on time, and an adapter was thankfully present. It took longer to hook up than I expected, because the adapter was of the DIP switch variety and I had to verify its settings. The default was for 832 x 624 and I left it that way.

When everything was set I booted up-- and the monitor remained blank.

!@$#! I tried several different methods about turning everything on but the monitor always remained black.

OK. I figured what was happening was that the adapter was set for 832x624 but the Mac OS 8.1 on the Quadra was still set to 640x480 due to the old fixed monitor it used to sport-- and so the signal wasn't getting through.

%$!@#$! It looked like I'd have to disassemble my own Mac system to hook my more flexible NEC M500 PC monitor and adapter set up to the Quadra so I could reset the Quadra's resolution to work correctly through the Optiquest fixed res adapter (the NEC set up could adapt on the fly to res changes and had no DIP switches at all). Sigh.

20-30 minutes later I was ready to try the native Optiquest adapter again at 832x624. The screen was still black as coal.

Was this monitor DOA (Dead on Arrival)?

For some unrecalled reason, at that moment I began fiddling with the apparently dead monitor's adjustment dials and buttons.

Eureka! I got a dim, barely visible image to show up! It was so dark I had to scrunch up against the monitor to recognize that it was, indeed, the Mac OS desktop. I fiddled with the controls some more and discovered that the brightness control on the device had apparently been turned all the way down from the factory to produce the utterly black screen.

So yeah, I'd done all that extra work about switching monitors and stuff around for nothing. ARGH! It was the brightness setting all along!

Well, at least the monitor wasn't DOA. I hate repacking and reshipping DOA stuff to vendors.

I wasn't out of the woods yet. I now had a picture, but it was an awful and distorted image totally unacceptable for use. The image was grossly off center with the left third of the screen still black, and the Mac menu bar that should have been at the top of the screen was nowhere to be seen at all.

I spent a while using the adjustment controls to get the image close to something normal. Finally I had it.

At the moment I write this, I'm letting the monitor 'burn in' to test for immediate failures. The family might take it home with them tonight or tomorrow-- although I fear I shall have to make a house call to install the thing myself, as the adapter/cable protrudes so far out the back things could easily get damaged in set up, and I believe it'll be necessary to carve a hole out in the back of the family's desk to give the adapter sufficient room behind the Mac (space is cramped on their desk).

The bottomline on the Optiquest Q41 so far? The text is a bit fuzzy, and could pose an eyestrain problem for some. Luckily the family for this machine is mostly pretty young. The whole image seems to have a slight greenish tint to it (remember I'm an artist and may notice this more than others). But I guess most folks on a budget could get by with it if they had to (like us). I had to turn the brightness and contrast on this baby up about as far as they'd go to get a reasonable image. And it seemed excessive adjustments of the picture in other ways were required as well.

You can sure tell the difference between this 1999 cheapest-of-the-cheap new monitors and my 1997 15 inch NEC M500 which at the time cost close to three times more and was perhaps a mid-range display for its period.

The NEC basically is three times better quality-wise than the Optiquest-- so in these cases it seems we got what we paid for. The NEC adapter can change resolutions on the fly without disassembling the system and changing DIP switches. The image on the NEC is much crisper and brighter than the Optiquest. And the NEC's image adjustments are much better too. The NEC also required fewer hassles about connecting and configuring as well.

But the NEC does have a downside: a couple weeks back it too 'blinked' off and then back on inexplicably. You know, like the first symptom the old Apple monitor displayed before it blew up? YIKES!

Well, if I have to replace my own 15 incher anytime soon, at least I know to seek out a MAG Innovision DJ530 right off the bat...

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

3-6-99: I do a major software overhaul of my brother's family Quadra

After about a year of more or less reliable service under often adverse circumstances (a rural ISP and phonelines), my brother's Q650 finally suffered an injury I couldn't fix with Norton Utilities or my own Mac experience, short of removing and re-installing his browser and perhaps Mac OS as well.

The problem was Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.x and/or its accompanying email application would both hang up the Mac when the time came to quit them and log off the net. The cursor would show 'busy' indefinitely, and all you could do was switch off the Mac or push the reset button.

MS ActiveX or its Javascript implementation may have had something to do with the cause. Something bad happened inside the cache folder of IE, leaving several files of the ominous "zero K" size there, as well as a suspicious string of cache files thereafter date-stamped oddly; apparently the file dates incremented by a full day for every five minutes the browser was running (!)

IE's bookmark menu was trashed as well. I'd guess my brother's family inadvertantly surfed to a 'bad' web page that corrupts browsers for one reason or another (there's lots of them out there), or else downloaded some weird plug-in or multimedia file that did the deed. I noted that my nephew and perhaps others had also inadvertantly saved some picture files into MSIE's ActiveX folder, which likely hadn't helped matters either.

I tried a couple times to fix all the worst problems short of re-installing the browser or OS, to no avail. This included trying to get MSIE to clear its cache itself via the preferences window (that hung it up), and finally manually moving all the cache files to elsewhere on disk to clear the cache folder itself (which didn't help either).

But there were other relevant circumstances as well. Their present set up was based on Apple's 7.5.3-- an old but somewhat crash-prone OS in regards to not only the internet but other things too. Although the Mac OS beyond 7.5.3 has not shown itself to be especially stable in my own experience, at least some users on the web (and in my email) keep insisting that it has improved in key areas. It was also true that I'd have more freedom to experiment with my brother's Mac in regards to getting a newer Mac OS to work, than I do on my own-- i.e., I could easily back up my brother's Mac entirely (where I can't my own), their Mac had very few personal data files to worry about (the opposite of mine), I now possessed some prior experience with OS 8/8.1 where in a previous install I hadn't, and I could justify more time spent overhauling their family Mac than I'd been able to do getting my own OS 8 to work.

Lastly, I was pretty highly motivated to find a way to make this Q650 sufficiently reliable so that I might never have to make a house call again to repair it, as my brother lives some distance away. A house call to fix his Mac pretty much consumes a whole day for me.

Then there was the web authoring element. I disliked the fact that my brother's family was utterly unable to create their own sites on the web, despite the plentiful array of web sites offering free disk space (the family has lives and are NON-geeks; so their downloading and installing of nerdy FTP software and other utilities wasn't a realistic option for them; my brother Scotty is a different case-- I expect him to be able to do such geeky stuff, maybe even better than I can myself). MSIE 3.x for Macs simply didn't allow file uploading or GUI page editing as a standard feature. So an overhaul would allow me the chance to install a browser that would.

I collected all the software needed for the overhaul (some were downloads, etc. that I'd performed here and there over the past year or so, as well as various disk set up wares that accompanied new hardware; the list included a CharisMac disk utility that was 8.1 savvy, MSIE 3.0.1 installer, Netscape Communicator 4.0.6 Pro, a cheapo Mac OS 8.0 CD, and the free Mac OS 8.1 update). Then I ran a full Norton Utilities test on the Quadra. No problems detected. I attached a SCSI chain of drives from my personal Mac to Randy's, and backed up nearly everything from his hard drive to another disk (excluding a few items I knew were redundant). I checked things like how much space the newer OS required and how much was available, and adjusted plans accordingly. I made notes of instructions given with various software elements, and attended to them as best I could (such as writing down current internet settings). I ran the MSIE 3.x installer and told it to DE-install the old browser.

The Mac OS 8 installer informed me it couldn't update the drivers, and led me to use a third party CharisMac disk program we had on hand from several new hard drive purchases to update Randy's drivers. After that when the OS installer reached the point about updating drivers but couldn't, I told it to 'ignore the warning' and continue.

I did a 'clean install' of OS 8.

Unfortunately the 8.0 installer installed Netscape Navigator 3.x too, regardless of my wishes (NN3 only uploads files in the 'Gold' edition, and has been very crash-prone in my experience).

Note folks that installing 8 and the 8.1 update can be pretty hairy experiences, fraught with problems and consuming great gobs of time for many of us. It wouldn't surprise me if lots of folks had to actually install it several times in a row to get their machine to finally work somewhere close to what was expected. Unfortunately, many of us don't have that much spare time.

After it finally seemed I had 8 and the 8.1 update installed, I removed the Netscape 3.0 app, and the Netscape preferences folder from the System folder. I also trashed the original Quadra System folder (since I had a backup on another disk now), because I needed the free space.

At this point I had 150 MB free on the Quadra, and began installing Netscape Communicator 4.0.6 Pro (as that was the newest browser I've had any luck with recently on Quadras that could also upload files). I did a custom install, NOT installing host-on-demand, eudora import, and calendar modules (again, we were short on disk space here).

After a restart, I now had 135 MB free.

I consulted with my brother's wife via phone about what apps they truly needed to be carried over from the previous configuration, explaining that the updated software and web apps required lots more disk space than before.

I then transferred the desired apps from the backup disk, and also copied the necessary extensions, preference files, and fonts to accompany them to the new System folder too (this last item requires an experienced Mac user, and even then some apps might require a re-install from CD from scratch to function correctly).

I tested the transfered apps by opening them and creating test documents. I set the virtual RAM on the Quadra to 40 MB (physical RAM was only 24 MB).

The transferred apps seemed OK, but I was crashing pretty badly and frequently with Netscape. I suspected something called a 'promolauncher' and 'AOL Instant Messenger' software, the former which I found in the Startup folder inside the System folder, and latter which stubbornly held onto a spot in the right end of the menu bar (and crashed when called up). Netscape also crashed immediately after downloads, and I got an error dialog saying something like "You are missing the extensions opentransportlib.68k-- shlb mps and text encoding converter-- shlb encv" from the Extensions Manager sometime during all this. I was also crashing in Netscape Composer (GUI HTML editor), and in Navigator even off-line, and when shutting down.

8.1's Extensions Manager seemed to have little or no effect on neutralizing the suspect software, so I had to move the items manually via drag and drop.

These things didn't seem to fix the problem though.


There was nothing else I could do but crank up good old WebTV and surf over to MacFixIt, and search for relevant keywords to this whole mess.

Specifically, I searched for info about Mac OS 8 and 8.1, on Quadras/68k Macs, and Netscape 4.x.

After perusing perhaps several dozen web page hits from these searches, I found possible problems due to things like ObjectSupportLib mistakenly being installed redundantly in 8/8.1 folders by some apps like Netscape, as well as corrupt Netscape preferences, an extension called 'Idletime' (regarding 8.5), Adobe Type Manager, the LiveAudio browser plug-in, QuickTime 3, cache files not stored in RAM disks, and more.

Personally I was wondering if my custom install of Communicator (rather than full install) might be a source of problems.

I also found some performance tips about 8/8.1 on Quadras too along the way-- such as clicking 'Use Defaults' in the memory control panel to set the disk cache size to optimum capacity for your physical RAM configuration (I did this; it resulted in a disk cache size of 768k for this 8.1 24 MB RAM Quadra).

I finally settled on checking out the ObjectSupportLib extension problem-- and viola! There it was, in the Extensions folder, where it shouldn't be for 8.1!

I removed it, and the Quadra seemed to run immensely better afterwards. This caused me to go back and check my own 8.1 folder on my personal drive, and lo and behold there was an OSL extension there as well! Perhaps that was the source of many of my own 8.1 problems in past months! I moved it out of my System folder entirely. Will MSIE 4.x in 8.1 now upload files without adding trash? Unfortunately, it'll be a while before I have the time to test my own machine to see if this helped it... Note however that some older programs might still require this extension-- if I recall correctly from a previous use of MacFixIt for an entirely different problem, if you find you have an app that requires this extension (but you can't keep it in your Extensions folder) place ObjectSupportLib inside the needy application's own folder instead-- as that might fix the problem.

There was also a more recent tip on MacFixIt that creating a folder inside your Extensions folder named "ObjectSupportLib" might prevent subsequent app installs from placing the offending extension there again later.

I created a 2 MB RAM disk on the Quadra and set Netscape prefs to use it exclusively for cache files (to reduce the likelihood of corrupt cache files on the hard drive, which seemed to have been the original problem leading to this overhaul in the first place). Why so small? Well, remember this Quadra only has 24 MB physical RAM-- and the optimal disk cache setting uses almost 1 MB too. I'd also found in earlier experiments with our Performa 6400 that a RAM disk doesn't really have to be very large at all to be practical; apparently the Mac's HFS file system adds very little overhead to files on a tiny disk like under 10 MB-- so browser cache files don't consume as much space as you'd expect. Several times I'd been surprised to find the total cache size in the RAM disk of the 6400 to be under 2 MB even after lengthy surfing. Plus, since the RAM disk automatically empties at shut down, and most folks shut down their computers at least several times a day, there should be little chance of the Quadra over-running its small RAM disk. In addition to all this, Randy's family was trained to regularly empty the cache manually via browser prefs due to the incontinence of their previous browser in this respect (MSIE3). So I figured I had a good shot at scraping by with only a 2 MB RAM disk for the browser cache on the Quadra.

I set Netscape's memory size to 12 MB, and the Quadra's virtual RAM to 42 MB.

In subsequent web surf testing, I noticed that selecting "Go Offline..." in Netscape's menu only takes the browser off-line-- the Mac remains connected via PPP/Open Transport.

You can configure Communicator to prompt you whenever the app opens about choosing whether you want to work online or offline. This can be very handy for email and web authoring chores, as well as accessing HTML pages on your local disk without the annoyance of PPP and other software getting in your face.

Another perk I added to Randy's Mac was a local copy of my Home page on his disk, inside Netscape's own folder. Much of my extended family uses my own grass-roots Home page, but occasionally AOL is down and so their browser boots up with a blank starting page. By copying the page to their disk and setting it as the Home page in the browser though, they should never have that problem again.

Of course, their page file on disk won't get updated like the online version by me, and so I also bookmarked the online version in their browser too.

Since a major reason for this overhaul was to offer them some GUI web authoring power, I tried out Netscape Composer. Turns out you can copy and paste images into Composer and it automatically turns them into JPEG files for web use! Hooray! Jpegs aren't as efficient or handy as gifs, but gif creation may also face some legal problems format-wise for companies like Netscape (Compuserve/AOL may own the format?), and jpegs are far better for photos anyway (which is what most people post on the web, it seems).

I also bookmarked the two free webspace sites I use for the family too (Tripod and Infoseek).

Unfortunately my brother's non-geek family will still have to learn some decidedly geeky things in order to create and upload web pages through these venues-- but it should be much easier for them to start with all this help than it was for me several years back. Plus, they could always make the process simpler for themselves by subscribing to AOL and/or buying a commercial web authoring package.

After all the above I began trying out some of the other things that had been installed by 8 or 8.1. Claris Emailer displayed lots of problems, like crashing, so I removed it from its desktop location, and re-tested Netscape's email function to make sure Emailer didn't hurt it.

When I returned to my brother's house with his Mac, I set it up, tested its web surfing and printing, and found the printer still required some configuration. I finally got that fixed in the Chooser, and the Mac was set (as near as I could tell anyway).

It's been three weeks since they got their Mac back, and so far I've not heard a peep about any problems (of course, they might be afraid to report problems, since I kept their Mac a long time for the overhaul (two weeks)).

Folks, it's way too hard and time consuming to set up modern Mac OS versions these days. Apparently it's not much different or easier than installing Windows PC stuff in many cases.

I've also noticed in the last year or two that the average PC application actually installed more easily and quickly on a PC than the average Mac app did on a Mac(!) Or at least in my own experiences this has been true (with most installs involving 7.5.3 Macs). Maybe it's all been coincidental so far, but I can only report my experiences as they occur.

Note I remain heavily biased towards using Macs over PCs, and personally use Macs exclusively for personal tasks like authoring this web site. I remain much more comfortable using a Mac than PC today. I also would rather not add to the growing monopoly power of Microsoft and Bill Gates over the human race. However, I feel increasingly constrained by Mac options which seem much smaller than the PCs, plus PCs are getting shockingly cheap compared to Macs, and in the past several years Apple has failed dismally to do a single thing to give me hope for the Mac platform's future health and growth. I am increasingly surrounded by PC boxes that seem to run better than the Macs, too. Over past months industry developments have made it impossible for even an expert Mac user to buy and configure a USED Mac that can match the features of a BRAND NEW low end Windows98 PC even for 150-200% or more the price of the PC! (check out emachines' latest offerings at "http://www.e4me.com/" for proof) So as much as I dread doing so, I seem destined to go PC sooner or later.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

12-4-98: Apple is pushing me to switch to a PC, and I may give in

Well, I finally managed to upload some files to my web site via Mac OS 8.1, after many months of trying. How ridiculous is that? I had to install four different browsers to do it: Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.x couldn't upload at all. Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.x only uploaded by appending half a page of garbage to my files. Netscape Navigator Gold 3.x would upload one measely file at a time before crashing my Mac (when I was lucky; have you ever tried uploading half a dozen files when you have to restart your Mac and log back onto the net, and surf back to your starting point again between each file? URK! A process that should require maybe 5-10 minutes becomes instead several hours of pure torture). The combination of Netscape Communicator 4.x and Mac OS 8.1 though now finally allows me to upload at least several files to a couple different sites now, quit, and log off-- before crashing my Mac when I try to shut down. Ta Da!

I still don't dare try to use Mac OS 8.1 for regular work duties like composing my HTML and previewing it-- I still use 7.5.3 for my workhorse OS, since 8.1 simply isn't up to things like running continuously without crashing for more than 30 minutes or so at a time.

If I'd been CEO of Apple I wouldn't have allowed the company to ship 8.1 claiming it was an upgrade compatible with 680x0 Macs-- since it sure doesn't seem so.

Since 8.1 is such a dog, and I'm seeing much info about problems with Mac OS 8.5 on the net too, I've decided definitely NOT to put 8.1 or 8.5 on our 6400 unless I'm forced to by events somehow. I've also given up on previous plans I had to buy a used 6100 or 7200 and put 8.1 or 8.5 on them as well. With Apple maintaining new Mac prices in the stratosphere, that's also keeping used Mac prices ridiculously high too. And the latest OS versions simply don't work as advertised, can't run PC apps without major extra expense (and even then runs them at a crawl), and can't even run many Mac apps either-- so what's the point?

Unless Apple does something drastic to turn things around-- and soon-- I'm headed for Windows98, folks.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

9-8-98: WebFLUX Alert: Why Mac Users are Second (or even Third) Class Computing Citizens Today

Well, I'm still trying desperately to find something useful that Mac OS 8.1 can do for me. So far web surfing at half the speed of OS 7.5.3 is all I have.

Since I can only upload trash to the net via the combo of Mac OS 8.1/MSIE4.x (and do it very slowly), I've now downloaded and installed Netscape Communicator 4.x to try it instead (although Netscape Nav 2.x and 3.x crash left and right on every Mac I've seen them on). So far it looks like Mac OS 8.1's supposedly new and improved Java software DOESN'T WORK with Netscape 4.x-- so already I've lost one of the claimed new improvements in 8.1 by being forced to switch browsers. So all our Macs here continue to be Java-less (like most all other Macs everywhere else too, I'd wager). Well, being a Mac user for many years I'm getting somewhat acustommed to being a second or even third class computer user now. Ahhh...but I can remember days when Mac users were once first-class users... now we're increasingly like the 'digital homeless' (to use a label from Nicolas Negroponte of MIT). If Java or Java clones are the future of the net, the vast majority of Mac users need not apply. Want to run or develop Java with the best of them? Then buy a sub $1000 PC system-- NOT a Mac. If you want the cheapest, greatest, fastest, and most feature-rich software options ASAP, you should also buy a sub $1000 PC-- NOT a Mac. Want to exploit the growing availability of free web site hosting on the net? There too you're best advised to buy a sub $1000 PC-- NOT a Mac (as my efforts with Mac OS 8.1 and MSIE4 have indicated lately-- plus, some sites require Java compatibility-- yet another blow against Mac suitability).

So how about plain old system reliability?

On average I seem to crash in Mac OS 8.1 about once for every 30 minutes I use it. This is considerably worse than the crash rate of our 7.5.3 Performa 6400 (which seems to be one crash per every hour or two of use)

Want to simply get on the net (and stay there) with a minimum of problems? Then buy a sub $1000 PC system-- NOT a Mac. Because most ISPs provide their best service and support for PCs rather than Macs.

Well, since our Macs have much fewer software programs and peripherals available than PCs, often lag behind PCs months or years in the release of popular new software and other items (if we ever get them at all), crash more often than PCs, and present roughly the same difficulty in troubleshooting and upgrading these days as PCs, surely they at least cost less than PCs, right? WRONG. On average it appears Mac users are paying substantial premiums for almost everything, compared to what PC users pay.

So we're not only getting fewer options than PC users these days-- we're paying through the nose for it too.

Yeah, we Mac users are getting further behind PC users every day now...and are today perhaps where Amiga users were five or six years ago. YIKES!

The question is not HOW Apple might change this-- but IF. And as of this moment, it appears things will only get worse. The iMac alone is laughingly inadequate to affect this state of affairs. Though I hold out some small hope that Apple's 'secret' consumer portable and Motorola's 'secret' set top box might both help turn around this state of affairs, that's a slim hope indeed-- since it depends on such highly speculative matters as Apple once again licensing the Mac OS in some form, finally releasing as a freebie on new Macs a robust HyperCard scriptable QTi that creates software compatible across platforms, as well as perhaps utilizing cheaper embedded PPC or StrongARM chips to truly compete in the consumer space with $500 PCs and even cheaper set tops and palmtops. It also seems Apple would have to jump with both feet into the 'exclusive' online service arena as well. Virtually all other Mac sites out there claim to 'know' that almost none of these things are in development-- and so my hopes for a rejuvenated Mac platform remain weak indeed.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

9-4-98: The steady decline in Mac OS and applications quality looks like it will force me into a Windows PC sooner rather than later

Well folks, if I had to use a Mac OS 8.1 machine to maintain my web site, it (my site) probably would have died long ago. This seems to be an accurate statement, as anything and everything to do with authoring a web site in Mac OS 8.1 seems downright impossible, given my present software tools and hardware.

Now, I admit that maybe if I spent $2000-$3000 on a new Mac G3 system and spent another $1000-$2000 buying all new applications/peripherals for that system, tossing all my old ones straight into the trash, I might actually end up with a 8.1 Mac that would allow me to maintain my meager little web site with only moderate difficulty.

But I strongly suspect I'd just end up with a $3000-$5000 boat anchor instead. Why? Personal experience with Apple's 'latest and greatest' OS version 8.1, which apparently has significant IN-compatibilities with much Mac software out there (and can't run PC wares at all without extra cost software or hardware-- and even then runs them slowly-- so in OS 8.1 you get the worst of both worlds!). Plus personal experience with relatively new Apple hardware of the past year or two (not G3s though). Plus public knowledge of the decline in new Mac software/peripherals development relative to PCs. Plus mounting personal experience that everything in the world (including the internet) is increasingly designed to work best with PC wares-- and so Mac users simply face ever growing problems and struggles that PC users don't. Etc., etc., etc.

Here's a 'for instance', folks: I've hoped in recent months to take advantage of the free web hosting sites on the net that allow you to use your browser to conveniently upload files. I could already do that with an old decrepit Netscape Navigator Gold 3.0 and Mac OS 7.5.3, but it was a real hassle, mostly because Netscape Nav Gold 3 would barely get a single file uploaded before it would crash on me-- it didn't matter what I did to remedy the situation-- the crashes would persist.

Well! Along came Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0.1, which almost never crashes on our Macs (compared to all versions of Netscape Navigator with which I have personal experience). Yay! But NO-- it turned out MSIE 3.0.1 couldn't upload files. BUMMER!

So maybe 6 months or a year after PC users got it, MSIE 4.x became available for Mac users, supposedly including upload capabilities. Yay! Apple was also boasting that Mac OS 8.1 actually had a Java that worked for a change, and was greatly improved over 8.0 in other ways too (and 8.0 over 7.6, and 7.6 over 7.5.3, blah, blah, blah).

So...I figured I'd try out 8.1 and MSIE4 together. After all, I'd been tooling around with Mac OS 7.5.3 and MSIE3 for an awful long time now.

It turned out I couldn't do anything I tried in Mac OS 8.1. Well, except for surf the web-- it did that OK-- IF you consider it OK for your modem to be reduced to HALF the speed it was in your previous OS version! YIKES! So no, it's no fun surfing at around 14.4 kbps with your 28.8 modem in 8.1. Therefore I just don't do it. Instead, I surf via a 33.6 WebTV and/or an OS 7.5.3 28.8 Performa 6400. Or boot into 7.5.3 on my Quadra instead of 8.1 to surf at faster speeds there.

Of course, the primary activity I want to use Macs for these days is web authoring. In my 7.5.3 Quadra I use Pagespinner and MSIE3 for a pretty neat authoring combination. This combo won't work in 8.1 of course. Then I use America Online 3.0 on a 7.5.3 Performa 6400 to upload my files.

I recently booted into 8.1 to use MSIE4 to upload updates to my Tripod and Infoseek sites via the web. The end result was files filled with garbage at both sites (so that ruled out Tripod or Infoseek themselves being at fault on their ends).

I tried several fixes and repeatedly uploaded again with various tweaks in an effort to get rid of the garbage, to no avail. Then I wondered if maybe the problem was Pagespinner's file format (which somehow keeps track of its own proprietary formatting in pages, adding somewhat to the size of files as a result). Maybe MSIE4 was mistakenly mixing formatting info into the text? (But I'd never had problems like this before, in maybe a couple years of using PageSpinner to create files uploaded via AOL and Netscape Nav Gold 3, in 7.5.3).

So I copied and pasted the HTML from my Pagespinner files to BBEdit files, to strip out all non-essential material-- this reduced the file size by a third. Then I tried uploading again. Same problem.

I finally gave up on Mac OS 8.1/MSIE4 and booted back into OS 7.5.3, to use my old unstable Netscape Nav Gold 3. After the mandatory crashes and restarts, I finally succeeded in uploading my files without garbage. I then returned to OS 8.1/MSIE4 to see if the garbage would still show up in MSIE4's display-- but it didn't.

So I can surf-- very slowly-- in OS 8.1/MSIE4, but I can't author my web site in there.

This pretty much makes Mac OS 8.1 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 completely useless to me-- but maybe for an emergency web surfing station, when our WebTV and 7.5.3/MSIE3 Quadra 650 and Performa 6400 are all out of commission.

Gosh, but I sure feel sorry for all those folks buying Mac OS 8.1 iMacs and other G3s...(for they CAN'T go back to 7.5.3 if they need to)

Folks, again, I strongly recommend you AVOID investing substantial funds into new Apple products. If you MUST use Apple wares, older Macs capable of utilizing 7.5.3 still seem the best. Plus, those still have the SCSI, ADB, and printer/modem ports you need for your present peripherals (one of the latest news reports on the web states some iMac users must physically unplug/replug their USB printers for each session to get them to work. SHEESH!).

I figure if I get a cheap new Windows98 PC with USB/PCI and NO ISA bus, I can avoid the worst PC problems PC users typically face...(but I wish a really great NC would come along to save me from BOTH Macs and PCs!)

There's also the cost/risk issue. Compare the expense and trouble I face in moving myself from my present Quadra 650/7.5.3 system to a G3 Mac/8.1+ system, to that of moving to a Windows PC instead. Keep in mind that virtually all the files I'd want to transfer are in HTML, jpeg, and gif format. I'm a bonafide Old Computer Geezer, and I'd anticipate about as easy a time transferring my web files to a new PC as to a new Mac.

So file transfer is pretty much a non-issue for me.

But cost? The $3000-$5000 I'd require to replace my old Mac setup and software with a G3 Mac configuration of comparable functionality is a pretty darn big price to pay. Remember that with new Macs losing SCSI, ADB, and serial ports I could take about the same number of my old Mac peripherals to a PC as I could to a new Mac any time soon. So unless I buy a closeout Mac from Apple almost immediately, in the months to come I'd face just as many hardware hurdles switching to a new Mac as I would a new PC.

So a late 1998/1999 Mac offers me little or no peripherals advantage in switching machines.

And cost? Compare the new Mac stuff I could get for $3000-$5000 to the PC stuff I could get instead. Heck, many PC programs aren't available for the Mac at all, at any price! (Unless you want your Mac to act like a 486 PC to run them so slowly you easily get a half dozen clicks ahead of your software in Real World use).

Yep, for $3000-$5000 I could probably outfit myself a single decent Mac system plus big monitor, nice printer, scanner, removable storage, and one to three important applications I wanted....but for $3000-$5000 I could instead put together a super PC system that could blow the Mac out of the water in terms of software applications and peripherals...OR, if I merely wanted to MATCH the $3000-$5000 Mac system via PC, I could buy TWO or even THREE complete PC systems of comparable functionality for the same price(!)

And then there's the RISK involved in switching.... Mac marketshare (and thus the platform too) continue to shrink from all stats I've seen. It may now be hovering around 3% or less. This means third party development has all but disappeared. And what little development might remain has so little competition in the market that it has little incentive to improve/debug products or reduce prices for same-- so PC users tend to get higher quality products at lower prices than Mac users. Too, as it becomes clearer and clearer to everyone that the Mac platform is shrinking, that should lead to a death spiral in marketshare and development that only a bonafide miracle could stop.

I've not seen a miracle in a long long time folks. Have you?

So it's looks like a no-brainer decision folks. Buying a new Mac is expensive, risky, and will leave you with far fewer options and much diminished flexibility compared to a PC.

So why would anybody buy a new Mac?

Well, the iMac is cute, isn't it? So it does make a pretty paperweight at least. And heck, let's face it; a puppy would eventually cost you as much as an iMac in food over a period of years-- so $1300 isn't really that much to throw away for something cute, right?

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

8-15-98: Yahoo free email has bad problems with Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0.1 on a Mac

All I knew was I suddenly couldn't log in with our Macs to Yahoo email again, after about a week of successful use of the service. Then I found an article on the web where a reporter said he'd run into the same problem using MSIE 3.0 on a Mac.

Well, I can still access it with my WebTV and/or my Mac OS 8.1/MSIE 4.0.1 side of my Quadra apparently-- but it's annoying to have to do so, since Mac OS 8.1 isn't compatible with the Mac applications I need most, and so I rarely spend time in it. For example, I had a link checker page send me reports on some of my pages to my Yahoo address. Viewing those reports on the WebTV would be just about useless to me, since I need the capacity to download the report and use it as a reference to correct broken URLs via my 7.5.3 Mac. When I finally got the chance to make a 'special out-of-my-way trip' to check Yahoo email via OS 8.1 on my Quadra, the broken links report had evaporated on its host server (only lasting two days-- it was more like 30 days before I had the time to go out of my way like that), and so I lost it. @#!%#@!

Oh well. I'll just have to start that cycle over again-- and this time NOT use that Yahoo address for it!

So anyway, now I'm trying out Hotmail as another alternative.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

7-2-98: I've installed Mac OS 8.1 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0.1 onto my Quadra 650

The account below is expanded from an email I sent my cousin Edwin recently: My Quadra 650 began running Mac OS 8.1 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0.1 as of June 29, 1998.

I bought a cheap Mac OS 8 CD ROM (under $40) from Small Dog, as well as another Motorola ModemSurfer modem too, a few weeks back. I downloaded the 8.1 upgrade and MSIE 4 browser free from "http://www.download.com/". It took me a while to get the free time to fool around with installing all this.

The 8.1 OS is maybe prettier than 7.5.3...but gosh, I can't find anything 'extra' about it so far but for finally having a Java that works somewhat on a Mac (we've never had a Mac at FLUX HQ that could run Java before-- just kiddie's Javascript).

But Java? That's no biggie for me personally-- maybe in 2006, but not in 1998. Of course, my mind might change on this after I get some experience with it on the web...it'd be nice to finally be able to visit a Java page without my Mac freezing up on me for a change....

Mac OS Performance? I see no speedup. Maybe even a slowdown.

Reliability? I crashed just 2 minutes after the install to 8.1 was finished. And I've crashed several times since, despite having actually used 8.1 only maybe a couple hours so far since install.

Compatibility? Well, I mainly use just TWO programs on my Mac Quadra these days-- and 8.1 seems to have significant problems with both of them. My ZIP drive and modem seem to work OK with 8.1 though (big whoopee, right?).

And what's the price of all this in disk space? Maybe 125-150 MB?!?! Compared to only 27 MB required by the previous 7.5.3, which may be faster, more compatible, and more reliable too.

But here's the Good News: I DIDN'T install 8.1 on my MAIN hard drive, but on my SECONDARY hard drive, just in case it was worthless. So I can switch start up disks and be back where I was again-- which I have already done. Sure, I'll try out a few more things in 8.1 in coming weeks-- surely there's SOMETHING it can do. But so far...I'm amazed somebody hasn't started a class action law suit or something-- I guess everybody's just too embaressed to admit they bought it (theoretically at least, some folks have paid out as much as $200 for both 8.0 and 8.1 altogether (and possibly including 7.6 prior to those)). I'd say those folks feel the worst of all.

By the way-- I first tried to install 8 onto a ZIP disk instead of a hard drive (ha, ha-- yeah, you can tell how much I really loved the idea of getting that thing on my drives, can't you?). But a formatted ZIP only has 94 MB free, and the 8.0 CD ROM said it had to have 95 MB...(!)

It literally took HOURS and HOURS to install this stuff, with a 1x CD ROM (OUCH!). But big chunks of that time weren't my drive's fault-- it also took a while to scrape hundreds of MB off my disk onto ZIPs to make room for this lazy crashing hippo-- and although the 8.0 install process straight out required 1-2 hours of CD reads, the 8.1 upgrade matched it with tons of gobbledygook that was confusing as hell about the details users needed to manually attend to to try to insure success. I'm a geek and I couldn't get it. I finally just gave up and clicked all the buttons and crossed my fingers and toes.

And now I have an 8.1 Mac that I can select "About this Mac..." on and see a pretty picture-- and that's it. To actually DO something I must boot into my old 7.5.3 Mac OS instead....

I was hoping to see some sign of an Apple resurgence in 8.0/8.1, but it's not there. By contrast, the upgrade YEARS ago from 7.1 to 7.5 actually had not just one, but several improvements folks could point to over previous versions.

Well, Apple has also released some post 8.1 downloads of stuff to try-- I may try adding some of those too, to see if I can get 8.1 to show me SOMETHING worthwhile....

I've also installed Microsoft Explorer 4.0.1. It seems to work OK so far, although I've been too busy with other matters to surf more than maybe 30 minutes with it, up to now. The combo of 8.1/4.0.1 seems perceptibly slower than 7.5.3/3.0.1 though. So what about stability? Well, I quit out of Explorer 4.0.1 and its bundled mail program OK, but forgot to hang up before I shut down my Mac. And 8.1 promptly crashed (much like a 7.5.3 Mac often does in similar circumstances).

One reason for these upgrades is a test to see if they're suitable for the other Macs of family and friends-- since I'm likely the one best prepared to survive the OS disasters Apple's offered Mac users over the past few years. Our Performa 6400 for example could really use a OS that didn't crash so often. But so far at least, it looks like it'd be best to wait for 8.5 for the 6400. And hope that 8.5 will finally offer some improved stability and functionality over good old 7.5.3...heck, I'd settle just for stability! I also recommend everyone else wait for 8.5 too-- so far 7.6/8.0/8.1 seem just to be a waste of money for 7.5.3 users.

Folks, if OS 8.1 is the best example of Apple technology available today, then they really are headed down the tubes, and we'd better all be pulling on our life-jackets to prep for abandoning ship.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

6-24-98: My Quadra 650 gets upgraded from 16 to 48 MB RAM, courtesy of my cousin

After my help getting his 6300 running again in the aftermath of a recent possible Apple Mac OS 7.6/8.0 Drive Set Up Bug Calamity, Edwin decided to reward me with more RAM.

Unfortunately, 72 pin SIMMs are relatively expensive these days, compared to 168 pin DIMMs. Compare the approximately $44 per 32 MB 72 pin SIMM cost to $68 per 64 MB 168 pin DIMM for newer Macs from Bottomline Distribution at time of purchase.

However, Heimdall (my Q650) would love the new RAM at ten times the cost!

(Thanks Edwin!)

Now some notes for other users wondering about what happens when you add RAM to a Q650 this way...

I was able to turn off my virtual memory after installation-- although that action didn't seem to speed up Heimdall any, compared to what I'd seen it do on other Macs.

One surprise was the delay in boot up time the new RAM added to my power up process. Boot up now takes maybe TWICE as long as it did before(!) I'd noticed similar delays when we boosted a Performa 460 from 4 to 20 MB in years past-- but not this big a difference. Maybe it's because Heimdall has one 72 pin 8 MB SIMM and one 32 MB SIMM now(?)

Yep, I can now work on my Quadra without jamming my virtual elbows into the walls quite so often (now if only I had a bigger hard disk...or better yet maybe, a writable CD drive...)

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

6-1-98: Right now 168 pin EDO DIMMs seem the 'sweet spot' for Mac RAM prices at under $90 for a single 64 MB DIMM...

...but my own Quadra 650 (and Macs like Performa 46x and 63x) need 72 pin SIMMs. A few weeks back I was checking prices and found 32 MB SIMMs to fit my Quadra were running around $47-$57 each.

16 MB SIMMs, $26-$31 each.
8 MB SIMMS, $19 each.

These prices are a few weeks old, and may have changed since.

6-11-98 UPDATE: Whoops! 168 pin 64 MB DIMMs fell to around $67-$68 each (with free shipping) in a recent price war between Bottomline Distribution and Other World Computing.

-- from the web, on or around 5-7-98

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

4-24-98: My Mac Quadra 650 gets its own 28.8 modem again.

At last! Heimdall has been modemless for months now, which was really cramping my style. I lucked out and was able to get something close to those great Motorola ModemSurfer 28.8 modems I installed on the Christmas Macs in months past.

(To see the recent 33.6 modem fiasco I had to go through click here).

Afraid that a 33.6 or faster modem just might not work on my noisy rural phone lines (plus wanting to spend as little as possible), I searched for more of those Motorola ModemSurfer 28.8 modems such as I bought at "http://www.smalldog.com/" for Christmas, yet again. Alas, you just can't find any more of them.

BUT...as usual, guess who comes to my rescue for maybe the seventh time in a row? Yep. "http://www.smalldog.com/" again. Although they had no more ModemSurfers, they had a slightly older, more primitive version of them apparently, called Modem Lifestyle 28.8 modems-- for $39 new(!) (shipping added a few dollars beyond this).

The main difference between the ModemSurfer and Lifestyle modems (which have identical form factor cases) seemed to be a little ferrite clamp-on device that bundled instructions said I needed to put on the power supply wire to bring radio interference down to legal levels.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

4-11-98: J.R. and the Great Lemon Modem

I'm an Old Computer Geezer (with the papers to prove it). So I've bought LOTS of modems in my time. At least a half dozen I can remember, and probably more that I can't. From all sorts of companies. And those were just my personal modems. I've also bought and configured/used network modems for corporations, and also done much troubleshooting and configuration of all kinds of modems for various internet connected folks too, as well as wrote up extensive instruction and problem-solving manuals for end users, during my stint as tech support for local Mac internet users in East Tennessee.

All this being said, I've kept me and mine away from modems supposedly faster than 28.8 Kbps, for quite a bit longer than many other Geezers might have. Why?

Economics and cost-effectiveness were primary reasons. Some months back I set up several complete Mac systems for relatives, installing 28.8 modems for all. The Motorola modems cost around $50-$60 or so, and worked great. One Mac system was an old and slow 25 MHz IIci, which pretty much was doing all it could to saturate a 28.8 modem-- so anything faster likely would be a waste of money there. Indeed, a 14.4 modem works almost as fast on a IIci as a 28.8, from my experience.

But standards and compatibility were also important. Another Mac in the bunch was a Quadra 650CD, a 33MHz 68040 which perhaps could saturate up through a 56 Kbps modem. However, at the time 56K modems were still tied up in a standards war, which meant all sorts of present and possible future problems for 56K users. Yeah, many manufacturers yell that you can upgrade the firmware later (usually at extra cost!), but who wants to futz with that? There was also the fact that our local ISP only supported up through 33.6 Kbps, last time I checked. So buying a 56K modem then would have cost at least three times as much as the 28.8 modems I got instead, the '56k' device might only have delivered as little as HALF of its claimed performance (because 56k was unsupported by our ISP), and pretty soon afterwards 56k users would find themselves compelled to pay still more money and/or undertake the risk and hassle of upgrading the 56k's firmware to whatever standard did emerge. On top of all this is the line quality problem with newer, faster modems. Their greater possible speed can also make them much more vulnerable to low quality phone lines, perhaps making them far less reliable than a good old 28.8. In other words, a user may suffer involuntary 'disconnects' with faster-than-28.8 modems far more frequently than they might with a 28.8.

So back in December of 1997, why would I pay around $200 for what would essentially be a sub-standard 28.8 when I could get a better 28.8 for $60? It was a no-brainer decision for anyone aware of the facts at the time.

Yes, there WERE 33.6 modems available-- at around 50% higher cost than decent 28.8 modems. But we had to squeeze our budget badly for Christmas 1997 in order to essentially end up with THREE decent and complete Mac systems for under $1500. Plus, for the functionality we were trying to bestow upon our relatives, 28.8 modems were just fine (and maybe even overkill in the IIci case).

So I set everybody up with 28.8 modems, and they all (so far) have seemed to live happily ever after.

But come April 1998, after the agonies of tax season, and all of us here finally catching up on the bills it took to give away those Mac systems months before, it came time for me to acquire a modem for my own Quadra 650. You see, I have web access via a couple of other machines, and used the Xmas Mac modems on my Q650 prior to Christmas-- but during Jan, Feb, March 1998, my Q650 was off-line net-wise. I was also too busy to do much about it, too. But recently the Q650 modem issue came to the front of the que.

Alas, the great Motorola 28.8 modems were all gone. In fact, it seemed all 28.8 modems of every kind were gone. Now the cheapest available modems were all 33.6.

But of course, lately the 56k modems also finally gained a real standard (V.90), thereby clearing the way for making those things worthwhile for some folks at last. Unfortunately, it will still be 1999 before 'final' 56k modem firmware is being shipped, thereby (maybe!) saving users from later firmware upgrade necessities. And actually getting 56k performance from the things will still be dependent on compatibility with your local ISP and the quality of your phone lines. So in April 1998 I still wasn't too keen on paying up to $200 for what would still essentially amount to a sub-standard 28.8 (but claimed 56k) modem for many folks like me.

But shucks! All the 28.8 modems were GONE! Gone...

There seemed no good choices at all. Slower, cheaper modems were hard to find. Also, lots of modems were being sold with the Great Rebate Scam, which I wanted to avoid...

NOTE: There's horrible rebate rip offs going on across-the-board in computer wares these days. Technically they're usually legal because of antiquated laws that business has learned to exploit to their advantage, in order to insure almost zero consumers can actually qualify to ever get their promised rebates (Olympic athletes with intellect equal to Einstein, the eyes of eagles, and personal habits of tax accountants, are typically required to make it through today's rebate gauntlets). I'm sure lots of you out there are familiar with what I'm talking about. The only way to protect yourself from them is NOT to participate-- totally ignore any rebate offers you see on computer wares, and do NOT consider any rebate effect when you're comparing prices-- for in practical terms many of those rebate offers are not real, so far as average consumers actually being able to make them happen. END NOTE.

I found a decent brand name (SupraExpress) 33.6 modem available, but it used the Mac's ADB port for connection, which I have never liked. Plus it had one of those 'rebate' thingies attached. So I skipped that one.

This didn't leave me many choices at all. I finally settled on a U.S. Robotics Sportster 33.6 fax modem, for around $100 ($10 higher than displayed in the catalog, which MacWarehouse said was a typo).

I did a bit of research on the web about it first. I didn't have time to be thorough, but my mind was set at ease somewhat by some major PC mag reviews acting like U.S. Robotics modems worked OK for them. Plus, I'd never in my life had major problems with any modems I bought and used personally-- and this was far from using "serial number one" of the brand new and untested-in-the-field V.90 56k modems, right? On top of all this, I'm the closest thing to a Mac networking 'expert' I know. So I could surely handle any problem.

Famous last words.

Apparently this model modem is notoriously prone to spontaneous disconnects due to line noise (this same noise had never bothered ZOOM, Global Village, and Motorola modems), as well as possibly other troubles. In my own case on average, the USR modem would connect and run fine anywhere from 5 to 12 minutes, and then spontaneously disconnect. In 10%-20% of the sessions it would disconnect immediately after my Home page was loaded by my web browser (the first page opened by the browser at log on). In one single case around 1 AM I managed to get the modem to stay connected for almost an entire hour before spontaneous disconnect. That was the best reliability I was ever able to coax from the device.

These were NOT problems with my ISP either-- because I also immediately logged on with a different Mac to test that several times after disconnects from the new modem, and experienced none of those problems.

There's a long and awful essay I could write here about my attempts to get this modem to work over several days of trying. But I can sum it all up as merely several days of useless agony. During the ordeal I also consulted the web and found that lots of other folks were suffering this way with USR modems as well, and all suggested remedies were useless and/or jaw droppingly dumb. For example, one suggestion was to try different init strings that would successively slow the modem down until it finally found a speed it wouldn't disconnect at. The last init string offered would take the modem all the way down to 14.4 kbps-- or LESS THAN HALF the speed the buyer paid for (33.6).

I actually tried the slow down inits to around 24 kbps, and gave up on going lower after that failed like all the other dozens of tricks I tried.

So why didn't I immediately return the modem rather than wasting days trying to get working? Well, I can usually get most things to work. Plus, I HATE sending stuff back-- the repacking, shipping, etc. And it took me quite a bit of looking to find out that the disconnection problem was widespread-- so until I found that, I thought it was something wrong with my own Mac's configuration somehow-- and remember, the modem would actually work for a few minutes at a time, making it seem like true success might always be just one more tweak ahead...

Today though I finally gave up and called MacWarehouse for a return authorization number.

And just think: now the modem buying/installation process starts all over again...

Some web sources I used during my ordeal included:

"http://www.3com.com/" is the HQ for modems like the one that gave me so much grief.

I used Apple - Software Updates/Open_Transport and/or Apple - Software Updates/Networking-Communications to download Open Transport 1.1.2 after I read somewhere the beta of 1.1.1 had suffered some disconnects on some systems (I was using 1.1.1 final at first, but hadn't had any problems using it with previous modems). Since OT was never my problem, the upgrade from 1.1.1 final to 1.1.2 final accomplished absolutely nothing.

Sportster Supervisor and EPROM Information offers a wealth of information on why and how I made a mistake in buying a USR modem in the first place.

Navas 28800-56K Modem FAQ: TROUBLESHOOTING was helpful.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

1-2-98: Zapping a Mac's PRAM is a rare but at times essential Mac-fix

Well, one of the Christmas Macs already got blown up (OUCH!). What happened was the family with kids took possession of some CD ROMs they'd previously used on the borrowed Mac, to start using them on their Quadra 650 instead.

As experienced computer users know, any and all new software/hardware installs here in the Stone Age of Computing are potentially risky, even for pros. Well, here the folks apparently installed as many as five different programs from CD with little or no problem on their Mac-- but then when they tried installing a sixth, POW!

Dead Mac. Wouldn't boot. There wasn't a sad mac icon on screen; the Mac could show the icon for loading the 68K CFM extension, and freeze up. It couldn't get past that point for anything.

The problem was caused by a program on the Apple Color Printing CD that shipped with the Apple Color StyleWriter 2500. Since the family got the used 2500 printer with their system for Christmas, they also got the CD.

The specific installer that put their Mac into a coma was for an Adobe/GDT program called "Personal Publishing Tool Kit".

We had no prior experience with that thing here at FLUX central, because we'd never installed it.

I showed up the day after the coma began, and held down the Mac's shift key to start up without extensions so I could look around on the hard disk (starting a Mac this way is a troubleshooting technique. It's not a way to actually use your Mac though, because when the extensions aren't loaded your Mac typically is unable to run many of your applications).

It looked like the Bad Stuff happened while the installer was putting a big fat problem-prone Adobe Acrobat Reader on the disk-- or shortly thereafter. I say big and fat because Adobe's Reader is enormous for what it does. I say problem-prone, because Adobe continues to try to force everyone to use its Postscript fonts and Adobe Type Manager when 95% of mainstream apps now use a different kind of fonts for everything, and ATM often gets in folks' way and takes up precious RAM. Ugh!

Unrelated recent events led to my discovering that here at WebFLUX central we've essentially disabled all our Acrobat Readers because we used them so rarely, and had to remove their Postscript fonts too to use some fonts we liked better.

Anyway, aside from the Adobe Acrobat problem, few other things seemed amiss on the disk. I removed the ATM and fonts and Acrobat, and tried rebooting.

We continued to have off and on-again problems, as I tried other measures, like having Norton Utilities have a go at it. After a couple runs Norton reported the disk was OK, only still the intermittant problems continued.

I tried several more things, but soon was about at the end of my rope. It was starting to look like I'd have to take the CPU back home and re-do the entire system configuration I'd done before Christmas on this machine.

Very near the bottom of my bag of tricks was zapping the PRAM. Zapping the PRAM is rarely the answer to most Mac problems, although I read about some Mac users who seem to do it as regularly as once a week as a form of preventative maintenance or something. Zapping the PRAM forces you to afterwards reset lots of things on your Mac as well, like choosing your printer, finder view preferences, and various other things. So it'd be a hassle to do very often. Fortunately, I only seem to have to use it about once a year or so-- and this covers not only the Macs at FLUX central I maintain, but also the Macs of friends and family and quite a few strangers' Macs I sometimes troubleshoot internet problems on, too.

But in only about half of these cases does zapping the PRAM turn out to be the answer. So only about once every TWO years is zapping the answer for ANY of the Macs in my care.

But it turned out this was one of those once-every-two-years solutions. Because the Mac was back to normal afterwards. Case closed.

How do you zap the PRAM? First load your brain buffer with this key combination: command, option, P, and R (the command key is the one with a little cloverleaf or apple symbol on it). Next restart the Mac with the Special menu or the reset buttons/key combo. After restart begins, press and hold down the command, option, P, and R keys on the keyboard, until you hear the Mac's startup tone three times-- then let go the keys.

Holding down these keys are sort of like playing twister on your keyboard.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

12-27-97: Dueling Web browsers and printer software

When I installed the Apple Color StyleWriter 2500 printer onto the Q650, I also afterwards did a custom UN-install of the desktop printing components of the software, as I'd noticed that stuff gave us problems on the 6400. However, un-installing the desktop printing components also seemed to disable the CFM-68 Runtime Enabler extension, upon which the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser depends-- and so the Q650's web surfing capability was wiped out. Yikes! So I used the Extension Manager to re-enable CFM-68, and fixed the web browser-- and afterwards tested the 2500 printing again too, to make sure another bug didn't appear. Everything checked out after that though.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

12-27-97: My dear mom gave me a 15 inch monitor for Christmas (a NEC MultiSync M500)

....and paired up with the Quadra 650 I've had sitting on my desk for a month or two now, I've got a VERY nice system!

After adjusting the screen sizes a bit to make the image as large as possible, this 15 inch monitor seems practically as good as a 17 incher! Folks, I've used a 17 inch Apple 1705 on a 200 MHz 6400 for at least a few minutes almost every day for a year, so I AM aware of relative size differences-- and the maximum image size on this 15 incher seems little different from the 1705's. Maybe if I got out the measuring tape the difference would be more noticeable-- but subjective judgement's valuable too in matters like this.

I have it set to 832x624 right now, but it also does 640x480 and 1024x768 at the click of a button. At 1024x768 I only have 16 colors compared to the 256 available elsewhere, but I could always add more video RAM to the Q650 if I wanted to.

This M500 is actually a PC monitor with a small adapter that matches up the PC monitor cable to your Mac video port. I'm glad of this since Steve Jobs seems determined to kill the Mac, and so sooner or later I may be forced onto a PC; I can take the M500 with me in that case. It came with a stereo cable to hook the monitor's twin speakers to the Q650's speaker jack, and also offers a microphone built into the front of the monitor itself-- but you have to buy the cable to connect that separately.

The monitor has a futuristic look to the case (reminiscent of some of the more conservative Acer designs it seems) that along with the same basic beige color of most other computer equipment of the 80s/90s makes it match surprisingly well with the front of my Q650. It's a very attractive case. A swivel stand is built-in to the bottom, and the whole thing is surprisingly light weight and compact for the size of the display. The dot pitch is .25 mm too-- smaller than Apple's 1705 I believe, and so sharper. It appears NEC could teach Apple a few things about monitors.

Aren't there any negatives at all about the monitor? Well, I'm only now getting a chance to use it, and still playing with the onscreen adjustments that work great via little physical buttons on the front and various icons and gauges that appear onscreen. The process seems pretty intuitive. Adjusting this monitor seems easier, simpler, faster, and more convenient than with the Apple 17 inch 1705. Plus, the NEC seems to remember more about the adjustments you make to minimize wasted black areas around the screen edges than the Apple, too. If the NEC has any failing so far, it may be that it could use a little more contrast capacity. It's still very easy on the eyes, but I find myself thinking a little "...if only I could get a tiny bit more contrast out of it...". Of course, in the last year I suffered a setback in my own eyesight that most other users luckily don't share, and so the contrast thing may not be any fault of the monitor but of my own eyes instead. I also sit about 6-9 inches further away from the M500 than I do the 1705 on the other desktop (the bigger 17 incher's on a smaller desk too crowded to allow a greater viewing distance). And remember: I'm presently just in my first few hours using this monitor, and so still getting accustommed to the device.

The monitor cost $369.00 plus $16.05 shipping (two day delivery), from ClubMac (1-800-258-2622)

I might note here that mom was also the main financial force behind all those xmas Macs of recent days. Though I did all the comparative shopping, configuration, and testing, and chose the most cost-effective components I could for everybody, as well as volunteered some personal peripherals to the mix, mom's the one that'll end up footing the big bill for decking out my siblings. What can I say? We got a great mom (and my dad's not too shabby either!). Yeah, just call us all inordinately lucky here...

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

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

And boy, are they a hit!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

12-18-97: McMobile Inc: A Mac Christmas Carol
(my first purchase from that vendor of a used Mac Quadra 650CD plus monitor as a gift for family)

The best deal on Quadra 650 Macs I could find as of 11-20-97 was at Small Dog Electronics-- but then a few days later Rick Ruffin surprised me with an even better deal at McMobile Inc (around $70 better!)

As our test of WebTV had fizzled for a Christmas gift, I wound up wanting another Mac to round out the list, even after already buying one Q650 (from Small Dog).

Small Dog ran out of Q650s immediately after I wrote here about them. But even if they hadn't, I didn't notice any used monitor deals to go with them-- and I was short a couple monitors here (and squeezed for cash), where Christmas was concerned.

So after Rick emailed me about the deals, I did more comparison shopping between used vendors on the web to update my info-- and sure enough, McMobile couldn't be beat, in plain old prices for bundled systems alone (CPUs plus monitors)-- and maybe in other areas as well-- even if you factored in a 2% surcharge for credit card purchases from them.

The original McMobile deal was a Q650 8/230/CD plus 13 inch color monitor for $499. I asked them to boost it to 16 MB RAM, and so they added a charge for the memory SIMM and labor (I assumed), which, adding in the shipping too, brought it all to $564.00-- which didn't seem too bad, considering all the current prices I'd also seen on RAM SIMMs while shopping around.

But folks, I didn't get a Q650 16/230/CD plus 13 inch monitor for $564.00.

Instead, I received a Q650 24 /230/CD plus Apple RGB 13 inch monitor plus large extended Apple keyboard plus mouse.

The larger keyboards are typically extra cost items. And many used Mac vendors don't give you any keyboard at all with a Mac purchase-- except at extra cost. Even better, I personally prefer the big extended keyboards to the standard smaller keyboards, except where I'm cramped on desk space.

But 24 MB RAM?!? Apparently McMobile misunderstood my asking them to boost the Mac to 16 MB RAM-- and added an entire 16 MB to the present 8 MB. Which means I got an even better deal than I thought I was getting about the RAM upgrade! Wow!

(The only drawback is that now my brother's family will have even more RAM than I do! ha, ha-- and the McMobile Q650 even seems slightly faster than mine too!?! URK!)

I ordered from McMobile 12-4-97. The packages arrived 12-10-97. The Mac itself passed all tests with flying colors (I maxxed out RAM, used the floppy, the CD, ran Norton Utilities on the hard drive for a check up, used the mouse and keyboard randomly, networked the printer port to test that, surfed the web to test the modem port, hooked up my SCSI chain of hard drives etc. to test the external SCSI port, and more). (Note that I did a fresh Mac OS install, as well as installed internet software too, before web surfing: refer to old Newz archives for details on similar procedures) The CD drive was a bit squeaky, but I knew from experience with some Performa 63x Macs their CDs squeaked too, brand new out of the box.

Everything I needed to plug and play was included. I opened the Q650 case, and the interior was a lot cleaner than any used Macs I'd bought so far via mail order. Of course, McMobile had been inside to install RAM, so they may have blown it out at that time too.

What's the ultimate test for a used Mac vendor? Replacing something that doesn't work when the customer gets it.

You say a perfect vendor doesn't ship unworking stuff to start with? Ahh, that may be so-- but in that case perfect vendors don't exist at all. Because ALL vendors, both new and used, no matter how virtuous and honest, MUST occasionally deliver to customers some dysfunctional equipment through no fault of their own. Why? How? Well, LOTS of things can happen in shipping. Especially to items a bit more fragile than others, like computer monitors and related video circuitry. From all my years of experience as an Old Computer Geezer, monitors and video circuitry have seemed more vulnerable to easy damage than CPUs and other items. I've seen computers work fine one minute-- then be transported via car somewhere-- often pretty gently-- and not work when they arrived. Especially video-related items. My cousin Edwin recently moved to a new residence, and afterwards the floppy drive refused to work on his Performa 6300, which had moved with him. And you know Edwin was careful with his own machine(!) (since then it may have turned out a bad floppy inserted into the drive was the culprit-- but still, no problem was evident until after the big move)

Any time computer stuff is moved, it's not unusual for something somewhere to suffer for it.

Of course, like people, computer components too all have "their time to go". And when it's up, it's up. To this day I worry that I'll make a house call to fix someone's internet connection, and that person's hard drive will arbitrarily choose the moment I turn on the machine to die-- and it'll look like I'm the one responsible, even though I'm not. I've seen equipment die, and it's not a pretty sight.

Fortunately, you can almost predict when something computer-related will die-- usually it happens just when you most need or want it NOT to happen.

So even if you bought a spanking new system from Saint Michael himself, it might not work when it arrived. I've seen estimates that something like 10% of new PC systems arrive DOA to customers. And that's NEW stuff, folks! DOA! And I've also seen new items like printers and other stuff arrive DOA too, personally.

But guess what? It might be you actually have a slightly better chance of USED computer systems arriving in working condition than even new ones(!) Can I prove this? No. It's just Old Computer Geezer experience and instincts talking, based on lots of little reasons. Partly because older stuff has already survived the somewhat risky burn in period of new electronics, partly older equipment is simpler than new, sometimes including sturdier components, and NOT including a bunch of the latest buggy extras and accessories, such as I've seen cause lots of problems on newer machines.

But anyway, regardless of new or used, sooner or later you're going to get something that doesn't work as expected, and there's the real test of a vendor.

In this case, the monitor bundled with the Q650 from McMobile displayed a great image, and passed many of the tests an Old Geezer like me would know to subject it to-- but it also suffered a vertical jitter that every second or so would cause the image to jump a bit vertically maybe 1/16 or 1/8 of an inch (all this is subjective: I didn't use a watch to time, or ruler to measure). Maybe standing 5-6 feet away you wouldn't even notice it. And it didn't seem to be there in the first couple minutes the monitor was on, but show up after it warmed up.

Hmmm. This seemed like something it'd be easy for even the best of used vendors to miss, in my opinion.

Actually, the problem could have been elsewhere rather than the monitor. I.e., the built-in video circuitry of the Q650 could have been flaky (in that case I might possibly get a $15 NuBus video card to substitute for it, and still keep the Q650). Or the monitor cable could be bad (I noticed the old cable had a tiny piece of insulation missing in the itty bitty flex joints near an end plug-- but it looked unlikely to be significant). Since I happen to own another monitor exactly like this one, that I bought new with my IIcx many years ago, I had both a cable and monitor I could swap out to test (heck, I also had still two more monitors in the vicinity I could swap out too). I systematically swapped out items until I narrowed down the problem. It was definitely the monitor.

OK. Next decision. Could the jitter be small enough so that the monitor was still usable? Because if it was, that'd sure save me lots of work about shipping the sucker back! And besides, this was all USED stuff, from a vendor I'd had no prior dealings with in the past. Heck, some vendors might just say 'all sales final', or charge "restocking fees" and other things so high you'd be better off buying new in the first place. There was no guarantee what would happen when I called McMobile about it.

I tried using the monitor a while to see if a person could live with the jitter. Nope. No way. The jitter intruded on your concentration way too much. Telephone time. I made some notes for the conversation ahead.

SIDE NOTE: My cousin Edwin asked me once HOW do you know who it's safe to buy from via mail order-- especially amongst USED computer dealers? Trouble is, there's no easy answers. You do your homework first, comparing prices and return policies and guarantees, etc., if at all possible. Many times the fine print there will at least raise a flag warning you away from some vendors. You might also see warnings about some vendors on the web, from burned customers, if you search for such things. Using a major credit card also helps strengthen your hand in case of a dispute between you and a vendor. But beyond all that, you eventually have to just take a deep breath and order from somebody. Starting out with tiny orders and building from there is useful, if it's practical for you. Finally, try to be reasonable and courteous with any vendor, giving them the benefit of a doubt. After all, there's many ways for things to go wrong even if both they and you do everything right.

I made sure all my tests of the Q650 bundle were complete before calling McMobile, so I'd know better what I needed to take action on. But as you can't expect a vendor to wait forever for you to call about a merchandise return, I made sure to do all this by the next day after the Mac and monitor arrived. McMobile was very understanding when I called, though naturally disappointed the monitor wasn't working properly. They gave me their UPS account number to use for shipping it back, and said they'd try to get another headed my way ASAP to arrive before Christmas.

Well folks, I called UPS to schedule a pick up at my house, and discovered UPS was going to charge poor McMobile $61 to ship back the monitor(!) Heck, UPS only charged McMobile $15 or so to ship BOTH monitor and CPU (in separate boxes) to me in the first place. And McMobile probably only sells these old monitors for around twice that much anyway....OUCH!

Folks, McMobile was trying to do right by me, and darn if I wouldn't try to do right by them too. I did NOT want them to go so far in the hole selling me a Q650 system that they ended up practically paying me to take it from them...!

Besides, I'd shopped the web. And during the time I'd ordered, McMobile's prices were so low compared to most other used Mac vendors that even if I never got any working monitor at all in the Q650 deal, I STILL would NOT have lost any money on the deal, compared to buying elsewhere.

But getting back to the return shipping...Yeah, folks, UPS is OK to receive stuff with, but I've never liked using to them to ship with. UPS doesn't really seem set up for civilian shipping, but only business shipping. Normally I prefer the good old US Post Office. But in this case McMobile wanted to pay the shipping, and they preferred UPS because they thought UPS might be slightly gentler with the packages than USPS. Here where I live though you gotta drive 25 miles to a UPS ship point to even consider using them for reasonable cost and purposes (we're very rural here-- probably more so than most others anywhere in the USA).

I was irked by the high price UPS wanted to charge McMobile, and so emailed McMobile about it. They seemed surprised too. We both thought maybe it'd be cheaper if I could deliver the package myself to the UPS office, and so that's what I did on 12-12-97. But guess what? Even at this official UPS location, they still were insisting on charging McMobile $61 to use their account to ship the package (Man! With business 'allies' like this, who needs enemies?)

OK I figured. Let's get the bureaucratic crap out of the way and do this the most fair and just way available. So I just shipped it for $12 of my own cash instead.

Yeah, lots of you may think I'm crazy. But compared to all other used Mac vendors I knew of at time of purchase, McMobile had already essentially sent me a monitor for FREE. Zip. Zero cost. Heck, if you get technical about it, they'd actually paid me at least a few bucks value to take it! Again, this is all compared to other vendor deals of the time. So when I paid the return shipping, it was like paying McMobile $12 for a color monitor.

Folks, I'm a terrible cheapskate. Regular Newz readers can swear to it. But even I am willing to pay $12 for a used Apple RGB color monitor. Heck, it even made a nice Christmas gift for McMobile too, since it seemed to save them $61! So besides getting a monitor for $12, I also was able to give McMobile something like a $61 gift certificate, too. Real money saved that they can spend on something else. And for a bonus, I snatched near $50 from the UPS bean counter grinch with the dubious charge policy, hiding behind the curtain.

And besides-- I WANT McMobile to prosper-- as it's the best single used Mac source I know of at the moment. And sooner or later, when and if I want to buy more used Macs, I surely hope McMobile will still be around and prospering....

And yeah-- I admit it. I love that old Jimmy Stewart movie It's a Wonderful Life. You caught me red-handed folks.

The replacement monitor from McMobile arrived 12-18-97. Heck, that was soon enough to still replace it yet again before Christmas, in a worst case scenario. But I hooked it up, turned it on, and it seemed just fine. I left it on for an hour, and noticed no problems whatsoever.

So how did little McMobile do when faced with the ultimate test for a used Mac vendor? It passed with flying colors!

MacMobile's contact info:


PS: Folks, I've noticed on both the Quadra 650s I configured lately that the extra Ethernet port they include built-in often makes your networking settings a little more complex than on non-Ethernet Macs. No biggie-- but folks with less experience than us Old Computer Geezers might have to consult a relevant user manual or consult the web to figure things out there ("EEK! Manual? What's that?"-- some common responses from typical Mac users when you refer to manuals which come bundled with new Macs. Because many Mac users never have to open the things, apparently).

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

12-13-97: So how does an old cheap Quadra 650 really compare to other old (and/or newer) Macs? Let's ask Norton Utilities

I ran a Norton Utilities CD ROM on the soon-to-be-my-brother's Q650, which is identical to my own except for having 8 more MB RAM and a built-in CD ROM drive.

Norton benchmarks various elements like CPU, FPU, disk access, and video performance all separately. Here's what Norton said of the Q650:

CPU: The Q650 did the worst here: being slower than a Quadra 840AV (which runs at 40 MHz), all PowerPC Macs in Norton's comparative database (which incidentally does NOT include ALL Mac models apparently), but was faster than Q950s, Q700s, and a PowerBook 540c.

FPU: The Q650 scored about the same here as with the CPU: slower than a Q840AV but faster than a Q950.

Disk Access: The Q650 did lots better here, being roughly equivalent to a 160 MHz Motorola StarMax 3000, and better than a 120 MHz Power Mac 7600 or a 180 MHz PowerPC 6400 Mac.

Video Performance: The Q650 did well here too, surprisingly actually beating the Q840AV and 180 MHz PowerPC 6400 Macs, but lagging behind the video speed of a 60 MHz PowerPC 6100 Mac.

The bottomline? Well, I'd noticed those little 61xx PowerPC Macs being surprisingly snappy out in the field, compared to every 603 CPU Mac I've ever seen. And as I said before, the Q650 seems to run slightly faster than the 200 MHz 6400 we have here at WebFLUX Central, and several times faster than all the 68030 Macs I've used. The Norton Benchmarks above seem to spell out the why and how of these perceptions.

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

12-4-97: Today I ordered one of those $499 Quadra 650/8/230/CD Macs plus Apple 13 inch color monitor from McMobile that Rick Ruffin emailed me about recently

With the recent WebTV bust, ongoing declines in old Mac prices, and my great experiences so far in buying second-hand Macs, I found myself in the market for yet another old Mac before Christmas (Wow! The schedule's getting tight here!). For the third (or is it fourth?) time, I wrote email to McMobile about a possible purchase of a Mac IIci system and some miscellaneous parts, because Rick Ruffin (that works there) keeps writing to tell me what great deals they have.

When I wrote them this time I was still deciding exactly what Macs I'd deploy, and to whom, for xmas. Right now I've got one IIci system that would do fine like it is (8/80/28.8/8-bit video card) as a web surfer/emailer/etc., but would perhaps be significantly nicer with a cache card, more RAM, and a bigger hard drive too. There appeared to be several Mac IIci deals available already configured that way and including a monitor I need too, for great prices-- and yet for not too much more I could possibly substitute a Quadra 650 for the IIci in the equation(!)

I already have the one IIci, so I'm likely to keep it the same or boost it slightly for one gift; so it's the second Mac that was up in the air here. One gift recipient has two kids 6 and 10, and so would likely make greater use of speed, RAM, disk space, and even a CD than the other bunch, who don't yet have any kids, and would probably do little more than surf or email most of the time.

Well, McMobile emailed me back to say they're completely out of Mac IIci's (but later on the phone McMobile said folks just keep asking about them; I told them that was probably my fault, since I've been pushing IIci's here in Newz for months, and also posted McMobile's contact info in relation to same, at least a few times).

No IIci's in stock. Oh well. After I rechecked prices on all the used Mac sites on the web I know of (via my used Mac ware sources page), and came darn close to ordering a Mac IIci from Timco Computers (the main thing that stopped me was Timco seemed no longer to include a cache card in their $350 Mac IIci/20/540/Apple 13 inch monitor/KB/MS configuration), I phoned McMobile and got a fellow named "Andy" on the line.

I asked if they still had any Quadra 650's available like Rick decribed for $499, and they did.

I also asked about some Mac IIci cache cards, but was out of luck on that one.

So I ordered one of the Q650s, but also asked Andy to boost it to 16 MB RAM too before shipping. He said OK, and the total bill came to $564 (about $14 of that shipping, and a tad a credit card surcharge, with the rest the extra RAM cost and installation), which didn't seem too bad, considering the costs of UN-installed RAM, etc.

Andy said I'd have it around the middle of next week.

I didn't think to ask Andy how many Q650s he had left. But anyone planning on giving something like this to someone for xmas needs to be ordering soon, in order to have a week or two to configure and test the thing.

MacMobile's info:


Andy also surprised me by saying McMobile has a classified ad on AOL's shopping channel, but he personally thought it was impossible to read. I told him I hadn't known about it at all, but would try to find it and tell him my impression. I also mentioned to Andy my previous problems of getting email responses from McMobile. Like I suspected, Andy alone gets some 500 emails a day, so it's easy for stuff like my previous emails to fall between the cracks.

Folks, I sincerely hope the McMobile deal turns out well-- because from what prices I've heard about from them so far, they could possibly match or surpass Small Dog in great used Mac deals (and that's about as good as it gets here in Dec 1997).

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

11-29-97: Question: What costs less than HALF of a 200 MHz Macintosh Performa or Power Mac 6400, but runs Mac software FASTER than the 6400-- while requiring HALF the RAM?!?

Answer: A Quadra 650 or Quadra 800. There may be other Quadra models too that can claim this, but I can only speak from personal experience.

My $389 Quadra 650 arrived from Small Dog 11-26, but over the Thanksgiving holiday I was too busy with other matters to play with it much. However, now I'm typing this newz update on it, and have surfed some with it, and done a few other things, and BOY AM I IMPRESSED!

Folks, I've used a much newer PowerPC equipped Performa 6400 on a daily basis for about a year now, and can tell you for a fact that the 33 MHz Quadra 650 is faster in quite a few areas of performance. Screen updates, file manipulation, boot up, opening applications, file saves, web surfing-- all these things are noticeably faster. In fact, they seem perhaps comparable to a new 225 MHz Power Macintosh my aunt bought only weeks ago!

Apparently the Q650 case hides a Quadra 800 or equivalent motherboard in there (according to old back issues of major Mac mags), which is why the Q650 is so fast.

When I previously ordered a Mac IIci from Small Dog, the IIci looked pretty good out of the box, but still you could tell it was a used Mac from a few little things. The Quadra 650 though looked practically new when I unwrapped it. And besides that, Small Dog also added a brand new mouse I didn't expect, too.

I wasn't exactly sure how to open up the Mac's case at first, so I just plugged in a keyboard, mouse, and monitor and fired it up to see what happened. Though there were remnants of personalization from its past owner(s) (like non-standard desktop colors and such), the Mac seemed OK. I played with it a bit and looked around, and then shut down and swtiched off all power again.

Later on I got to studying the case trying to figure out how to open it (tentative attempts accomplished little). I didn't want to damage it. A screw in the back, near the middle of the top was obvious to undo, but beyond that I got conflicting indications.

Being an extremely cautious and frugal and experienced Old Computer Geezer, I decided a bit more info was in order before I went any further. I retreated to my old back issues of Mac magazines which offered the original reviews, etc., of these old Macs when they were new. Often those articles also described how to open the cases as well. Bingo! I found it! According to the mag, the case opened much like those on the Performa 4x0 pizza box style models I was very experienced with ala a 400 and 460. I.e., you loosened the one screw in the back, then (if you're facing the front of the Mac), you slide the case top forward a few inches (including the top, sides, and front panel), and then tilt it up and off the rest of the machine, exposing the guts to the world.

Lo and behold, there were the remnants of an old spiderweb or cobweb in there! And quite a bit of dust, but overall no huge dust bunnies like I'd found in the older IIci's innards (the IIci had suffered an open NuBus slot in the back of the case which allowed more dust bunnies to enter during storage).

I carefully used my trusty little air compressor to blow things out, being careful not to actually touch anything with the nozzle. I disconnected my entire SCSI chain of drives via one plug (HD, CD, ZIP) from the IIci and reconnected them to the Q650 (note all power to both Macs was dead at this time). I booted the Q650, told it via the Startup Disk Control Panel I wanted to boot next time off my 800 MB external drive instead, and restarted.

See folks, sometimes it's easier to test and install stuff onto a Mac drive when it's NOT the present boot drive.

I stuck in a Norton Utilities CD and did a test of the Q650's built-in 230 MB internal drive. Turned out to be dozens of broken alias files where old apps and files had been removed from the 650 before it left its previous home. I usually give the OK manually for each and every fix with Norton's but after several dozen button presses I canceled the session, told Norton in prefs I wanted it to automatically fix everything instead, and then cranked up a second session. In another run after that one to verify, the disk was completely fixed.

OK. Now I threw away all visible files/folders on the 650's internal drive, leaving it empty. Then I began the OS 7.5 CD install routine. I always follow the directions as best I can. Check the disk with Apple's Disk First Aid...then use HD SC Setup to update the disk's driver....

Next I restarted to clear out all RAM, and did an "Easy Install" of 7.5 onto the 650 internal. I then told the Startup Disk Control Panel to boot next time off the 650 internal, and restarted.

The 650 booted, and 7.5 rebuilt the desktop file as it always does on an installation.

Next I wanted to install the system 7.5.3 update. I set the Extensions Manager Control Panel to 7.5 only extensions, rebooted, and ran the net install I've had on disk for a year or two now.

I restarted again to clear memory, and after boot up ran Apple's Network Selector program to activate Open Transport (TCP/IP) instead of Mac TCP. However, system 7.5.3 only gives you OT 1.1, and I had OT 1.1.1 installer available on disk. So I restarted again and did an easy install of 1.1.1 from some floppies I've had for at least a year (you can download disk images from AOL or Apple and then make your own floppies for such things).

Note that during all this I am also simultaneously testing many components of the Q650 hardware, like its internal drive, its external SCSI port, its monitor port, its RAM, its floppy drive, etc.

After this I restarted again to insure clean RAM. I began installing my other internet ware. I began with Stuffit Expander 4.0.1 (you have to press the shift key on restart to boot with extensions off for this one).

I restarted again. Then did an Easy Install of Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0.1. Restarted. Added my PPP extension and Control Panel to my System folder. Restarted. Next I configured my Config PPP and TCP/IP for my internet account.

Later on (while power was dead) I switched a 28.8 external modem from the IIci to the 650 too. Then I booted up, logged on, and surfed the net on the 650.

I've done other things with the 650 as well, like open up ClarisWorks 4 several times to show off to the Performa 6400 owner, and tried out a GUI HTML editor (Netscape Navigator Gold 3) that ran much too slowly on a 25 and 33 MHz 68030 Macs to use regularly. On the 33 MHz 68040 it runs much better!

During my first happy hours of experiencing all this newfound speed, I wrote my cousin Edwin an enthusiastic email about it. Edwin's currently using a 100 MHz Mac OS 8 Performa 6300 with 64 MB RAM (and PowerPC 603e), and he was both a bit leery and maybe slightly disturbed by the thought of this ancient 33 MHz 68040 Mac possibly running faster than a much newer 200 MHz 6400. So he asked me how it could be so.

My (slightly edited) reply was:

5 reasons I think:

(1), the Q650 has a fast SCSI instead of the 6400's slower IDE hard drive.

(2), the 603e in the 6400 is the weakest PPC chip class ever built (classes being 601, 603, 604, etc), while the 66/33 MHz 68040 is perhaps the strongest 68k class chip ever put into mainstream Macs.

(3), in all the Mac OS' I've used (up thru 7.5.3), some portions are still 68k code and must be emulated by PPC-- but a 68040 loves those sections.

(4), as of 7.5.3, Apple still hadn't fully debugged/optimized the PPC versions of the OS-- while the 68k versions ARE as optmized as they'll ever be (so in many cases where a PPC crashes on you, the 68040 just increases its lead since there's no frequent reboot delay).

(5), CISC (68k) code is more compact than RISC (PPC) code-- about half the size. And accessing RAM takes time. The PPC Macs usually have to access twice as much RAM as a 68k Mac to do the same thing, ergo, the PPCs suffer some delays there that the 68k's don't.

Well folks, obviously other PPC Macs (like with 604 chips) surely perform much better than the 603e Macs for the cost-- otherwise why on Earth would Apple ever have jumped from 68040 chips to PowerPC to start with?

But gosh, after riding on a 33 MHz 68040 for a couple days, I can't help but wonder if Apple did the right thing going to PPC...since every PPC Mac I've ever personally used (6300, 6400, 6500) was SLOWER or NO FASTER than the 68040 Mac I'm using right now....(!)

But there's both Good News and Bad News in all this folks: the Good is that these 68040 Macs are cheap and getting cheaper by the month, and can run the Mac OS up through 8.0 if you want. The Bad News is most new Mac software is written for PPC Macs, not 68k.

-- J.R. Mooneyham

PS: Surely even the weak PPC 603e would outrun my 33 MHz 68040 in truly heavy-lifting tasks like CAD, 3-D rendering, Photoshop filtering, etc.-- especially where many hours of such stuff was involved. But in all else the 68040 seems to more than hold its own...WOW!

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

11-20-97: I almost hate to mention this, but....Small Dog Electronics had a few Quadra 650 Macs available for under $400 the last time I looked....

They have 16 MB RAM and hard drives of 200+ MB if I recall (so add a keyboard/mouse and monitor and they should run fine out of the box, requiring NO additional RAM-- though in many cases it wouldn't hurt to turn on the virtual memory and up it to 32 MB for additional capacity, if you're not going to add any more physical stuff). Some old issues of Mac mags said Quadra 650 Macs were basically Quadra 800 Macs in Centris 650 cases. Quadra 650/800 Macs have 33 MHz 68040 CPUs (the 'full monty' you might say, with FPU included), as well as other nice features, like possibly built-in Ethernet in addition to a modem port, etc.

So why do I almost hate to tell you about these? Because I'd like to have a Quadra 650 myself, but am too strapped for cash to do so right now. It looks like I'll be giving up the IIci I've been getting comfortable with the past few months, in order to get a brother's family online by Christmas. This will leave me Mac-less for the second time in several months (the first time was when I sent my previous Performa 460 to serve a different brother's family) until I have a replacement (though for things like web surfing I can beg time from another Mac owner nearby). That 'Mac-less' time may also mean a few weeks when Newz&Viewz doesn't get updated, since I need a Mac for that (the HTML-via-telepathy technology isn't quite perfected yet, alas).

There's plenty of low cost Mac NC alternatives out there right now for me to pursue as a remedy-- I'm just mulling over my options at the moment.

Considering my enormous dependence on Macs, my need to maintain my website, and my many Gigabytes of files involved, do these frequent jumps of mine between desktops of recent months sound disturbing or scary or reckless to you? Well, it's not anything any experienced Mac user couldn't do-- on a series of Macs. Basically I can just disconnect my external SCSI hard drive, ZIP, and CD ROM from any Mac and then plug them back up to a different one, and I'm switched. I could show up at your house tomorrow and plug myself in to your Mac (if it's anything like a 1988 Mac Plus or later), and be computing away again in minutes Yeah, I might then do some further adjustments to my new silicon nest, but very few are usually really necessary. Because they're all Macs. When I said I might be without a Mac for a few weeks, that's a few weeks of decision time (which model to go with), plus a few days delivery, etc. Once I have a live Mac in my hands again I fully expect to be computing again within the hour. For how many years have I enjoyed this amazing ability? About nine years now. I hear rumors that PC users may be able to start doing this too, in the next few years. Man! Won't it be awful if Steve Jobs forces us all to downgrade to PCs in 1998-1999? And we have to return to Medieval Computing? And even worse, if we have to buy used PCs to do so, we could switch over just in time for those PCs to blow up on us when the year 2000 hits (you have heard of the Millennium Bug, right? That can cause millions of old PCs to crap out on their owners on New Year's Eve? Well, that bug doesn't exist on Macs-- even old ones. But who knows? Steve Jobs may try to stick it into OS 8.1...grrrrr)

-- J.R. Mooneyham

UPDATE just a few minutes after typing the above: Well folks, I just couldn't take it any longer. Only moments after typing the above I grabbed my credit card and ordered a Quadra 650 from Small Dog at 1-802-496-7171. I just couldn't bear the thought of missing out on one of those things. Heck, I'd already restrained myself for a couple weeks on this! Hopefully when it arrives it'll work as well as the other items I've gotten from Small Dog, including the IIci I'm using at this moment, and the Motorola 28.8 modem I began surfing with yesterday. Didn't I say I was short on cash? Yes. But the Q650 from Small Dog is theoretically the best Mac deal in the universe today, based on all the research I've been doing the past couple months on the web and elsewhere, and all my Old Computer Geezer experience. Yeah, surely a new and better deal will pop up now that I've spent my money, but until 1:30 PM today the Q650 was IT. The bad news is, I will still be monitorless and modemless after the IIci leaves and the Q650 arrives....can't you just hear the 'Mission Impossible' theme music playing as I try to figure my way out of this one?

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

11-1-97: In response to my previous writing about avoiding used 680LC40 Macs in favor of 68040 Macs (which include a FPU built into the CPU chip), one Newz reader brought up the topic of FPU upgrades for 680LC40 Macs, starting around $169 from Sonnet Technologies and possibly others....

Here's the gist of my response:

"Yeah, I'm aware of the upgrades you mention, but am not too crazy about them, personally. For a while you could get such upgrades for around $50, which seemed not too unreasonable, but now they seem to have at least tripled in price from most sources, and even at those high prices it's not necessarily a piece of cake (or risk-free) to install the things (in a somewhat related matter I installed a FPU chip in a 460 a year or two back and it was more difficult and scary and less rewarding than I expected-- I wrote about it on my web site). To me it seems like an expensive and risky hassle for little gain-- especially when you might get a whole used (and often faster!) Quadra Mac with extra RAM already assembled for just maybe 2-3 times that much with a bit of looking. And the economics will only improve for whole computer replacement with each passing month, compared to the more difficult chip replacements...."

Newz reader Arlis responded that he presently owns a 680LC40 Performa 637CD, but had recently found a 25 MHz Quadra 700 with 20 MB RAM (and keyboardless, monitorless) for $350. His 637CD runs at 33 MHz, so Arlis would apparently lose some 24% of his CPU speed by switching to the older Quadra to gain an FPU, and be 'stuck' with a headless Mac desktop at his house, which he says he can't really afford.

[though I didn't think to mention it to Arlis in email, his 24% MHz speed loss in switching to the Quadra might have been made up for in two other areas: namely, one, the Quadra uses a SCSI internal drive which may be significantly faster than the IDE of the 637CD-- and two, and if his 637CD is only equipped with 8 MB physical RAM and so presently runs with virtual RAM switched ON, the 20 MB RAM Quadra with virtual RAM switched OFF might be faster in the memory area, too. Tally all this up and Arlis might see little or no perceptible performance difference between the 25 MHz Quadra and the 33 MHz 637CD-- and if he was lucky, the Quadra might even seem slightly faster than the 637CD! If I recall correctly, there was at least a few cases of 32 and 33 MHz Macs in the older 68030 family that turned out to be slower than 25 MHz Mac IIci's for various technical reasons, in the past.]

Arlis also questioned my opinion that the process of swapping out the motherboards to trade your old one in for the new one was really that difficult, etc., and expressed the wish that he'd known more about the 637CD's limitations before he'd bought the machine (his first computer), since he now has some software he'd like to use but it requires an FPU.

My subsequent (slightly edited) response was:

"Disassembling a computer to swap out motherboards is a fairly horrendous task, in my opinion; almost everything in there can be fried via static electricity if mishandled-- and it's VERY easy to mishandle. And it takes quite a bit of time, too, that many of us don't have. Extra time and stress expenditures-- who needs them? And then properly packing your board and shipping it-- and the risk it's DOA when it gets there, leaving you computer-less, with no further options. OUCH!

And I'm an Old Computer Geezer, probably MORE capable at succeeding at all this than most-- think of novices dealing with this!? Sure, some will succeed-- but some will fail, too.

If you've already got a desktop Mac [a non-compact Mac, of Mac II vintage (late 1989) or later], you have a keyboard and monitor ready to plug into most other Macs.

Arlis, maybe you could try one of those software FPU emulators? They only work with some, not all of the 63x Mac line, but I'd sure try that before anything more drastic, if it were me!

Once upon a time you could get just a 68040 CPU to replace your FPU-less 680LC40, from many local Apple dealers, and they'd even install it for you for about the same price Sonnet's charging you-- however, I don't know if that service is still available or not-- but you might make some phone calls.

As for an extra computer laying around-- as screwed up as computer and internet technologies are today it can be very handy to have two separate computers, so you have a 'back up' system when one of them bites the dust and has to be repaired, or even to test to make sure where a problem is with your web connection (having two web macs has saved me lots of unnecessary work because it showed me 95% of web problems are my ISP's fault or problems with the internet itself-- NOT my own computers). I personally can't tolerate being offline or computer-less for more than one day or so, so I have no choice but to try to keep a couple computers minimum running at FLUX central. One is not enough.

But if you just can't stand the thought of having two, sell the other, or give it to a friend or relative to get them on the web or something. Sure, somebody may have to buy a keyboard/modem/monitor for it, but all those can be bought used, and your friend/relative will be hard pressed to find a more economical way to get online...

There's definitely no perfect solution here-- just a lot of uncomfortable, risky, and relatively expensive possibilities. Unfortunately, much the same thing is true for virtually all other personal computer stuff out there today, too. We're all still living in the Stone Age of computing, in 1997. Hopefully we'll live long enough to see the end of the Stone Age-- but I wouldn't count on it.

ALL personal computers ever made, up through 1997, have some sort of GOTCHA's! about them (bad things, and limitations). For the foreseeable future, there is NO complete escape from them available to us. All we can do is try to muddle thru to the best of our abilities.

And remember-- there is something worse than living in the Stone Age of Computing: namely, having no computer at all. I lived during such a time, and man, was it AAAAWWWWFFFUUULLLL!"


-- J.R. Mooneyham email around 10-28-97

Apple Mac Quadra 650 User's Log Contents

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