Tuesday, October 20, 2009

LEM Publishing Schedule Adjustments

As you may know, although I haven't publicized it widely, the past 12 months have been very difficult financially for Low End Mac. I've been looking for a part-time job to supplement that for some time, and I finally got my first interview - and a job.

I'll be working at the local Kohl's store unloading trucks on third shift anywhere from two to five days a week, and I'm in the process of adjusting my sleep cycle with 25 hour days (going to bed an hour later each night). By the time I finish training and start the real work, I should be on target.

This means changes in my schedule working on LEM, since I'll be sleeping days. No more updates during the workday. I'm hoping to have price trackers up first thing in the morning and work on articles after I get up late in the afternoon - not that much different from what I did the first 4 years of LEM, starting my website work late in the afternoon when I got home from work. Still, it's going to be a real adjustment for me. (This might give me the incentive to finally learn enough Joomla to move LEM to a content management system.)

I'm very excited about working for Kohl's, a company that seems to do its best to treat both its customers and its employees right, including benefits for part timers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Leaving GyazMail for OS X Mail

Last week, I began my migration from GyazMail, which I've been using just about as long as I've been using Mac OS X, to Apple's Mail application.

I chose GyazMail for one simple reason: It's a plain text email client, and I'm a firm believer in plain text email - no colors, no bold or italic, no big or small text, no use of multiple and/or unreadable fonts, no VCF cards, no embeded images. Nothing but good old fashioned text (plus attachments for images, MP3s, PDFs, Word documents, etc.). I'd used and loved Claris Emailer in my Classic Mac OS days and also used PowerMail.

How things have changed over the years. I do most of my personal email using Yahoo Mail, and Yahoo does everything in its power to get you to avoid using its simplest, fastest interface. And I get a lot more "enhanced" email these days with photos and the like. I don't tend to send fancy email, but even plain text diehards have to realize that the world has moved on to something much more customizable (for lack of a better word).

On top of that, GyazMail isn't the most stable email client. It works well, and it's been a pleasure to use it, but (1) it doesn't remember which emails you may have had open when you quit it, (2) it randomly quits without warning, and (3) it often reports that it has spontaneously quit when you quit it. Enough annoyances that over time I decided it was time to switch.

I'm not a huge fan of Mail, but it's free, it integrates perfectly with SpamSieve (the best anti-spam tool I've ever used - highly recommended!), and I've been using it for some time with a few email accounts I don't access very often. I've also learned that, unlike GyazMail, it has no problem working with multiple Gmail accounts - and I love my free Gmail accounts!

So last Friday I migrated my account settings one-by-one from GyazMail to OS X Mail. It took some fiddling with outbound server settings, authentication, and the like, but now it's working beautifully with my .mac (MobileMe) address, three Gmail addresses, and 4 different lowendmac.com addresses. And now I can quit my email client and have it re-open messages I had open when I relaunch it.

I'm very happy with the switch.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Finally Migrating to Leopard

Monday, September 28, 2009. Mark that date on your calendars. It's the date I officially moved from Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" to 10.5 "Leopard" (I can't use 10.6 "Snow Leopard", as I don't have an Intel-based Mac yet) as my primary OS.

As I type this, I'm in the midst of the process: I've used Migration Assistant to migrate two user accounts from Tiger to Leopard. I searched for "(from old Mac)" and deleted about 6 GB of apps, folders, etc. that resulted from the merger. I'm currently running Drive Genius to find duplicate files on the Leopard boot partition. Once those are deleted, I'll be using SuperDuper! to clone this drive to my backup drive (using USB 2.0, since FireWire died on my dual 1 GHz Mirror Drive Door on Friday), moving the drive to the dual 1.6 GHz upgraded Digital Audio Power Mac G4, and then SuperDuper! to clone from the backup drive to the Leopard partition for that machine.

BTW, I've been ripping some CDs in iTunes on both machines, which have matching 16x Pioneer DVR-110D SuperDrives. They both peak at a bit over 20x. Very impressive!

I'll still be running Tiger on the MDD, as I still use Claris Home Page (from 1997!) as one of my important production tools, and Tiger supports Classic Mode whereas Leopard doesn't. Teleport is doing a great job letting move move between the two machines effortlessly while using one mouse and one keyboard. (Tip: If you're using Teleport with different versions of Mac OS X, set the one with the newer OS version as the master/host and the older OS as the slave/remote. I discovered that the clipboard didn't work in both directions when I had Tiger set as master and Leopard as slave.)

Except for that, I expect to be using Leopard for everything else from this point forward - email, browsing the Web, etc.

Because of the time involved migrating users, removing duplicates, and so forth, site updates will be somewhat delayed today.

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Mac Web Server, FireWire Failure, and Using Teleport

I finally got everything up and running as I'd planned - well, almost.

1. I have the dual 500 MHz "Mystic" Power Mac G4 running as a Web server using MAMP. It took a little digging to figure out how to enable Server Side Includes (SSI), but I did it. I'm using ZoneEdit.com for dynamic DNS, and eventually reformed.net (a personal research site) will be served by this old Mac. Until then, it's available at reformednet.gotdns.com courtesy of DynDNS.org. I'm using DNSUpdate to keep ZoneEdit and DynDNS connected to the server. All of these apps and services are free.

I decided some time ago to move reformed.net from AIT Domains, where it has been hosted for several years. Their servers have been compromised, the website has been infected with "badware" links, and all sorts of services (including Google search) now flag it as a "reported malware site". My solution: Run my own secure server.

2. I swapped the external FireWire drives between the dual 1 GHz "Mirror Drive Door" Power Mac G4 and the dual 1.6 GHz upgraded "Digital Audio" Power Mac G4. The upgraded DA has been my primary machine, but with the CPU upgrade it doesn't want to boot Mac OS 9. The MDD is a bit slower but will boot OS 9 when I need to. I did swap video cards, so the better card from the MDD is now in the DA.

I now have two monitors side-by-side, each connected to a different Mac (one running Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" for Classic Mode, the other running Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" so I can get used to it and use some newer apps that are not compatible with Tiger), and I can more the mouse and keyboard from one display to the other thanks to Teleport, a great little Mac-only freeware app. With Teleport, you can move clipboard contents between machines and drag files from one to the other. After quite a bit of trial and error, I finally figured out that it only works in both directions when Leopard is the master/host and Tiger is the slave/remote.

3. Everything almost went smoothly. The MDD chose this as the day its FireWire port would fail, so I had to dismantle the NewerTech miniStack and transplant the 400 GB hard drive in the Power Mac. I prefer to work from external drives just because it's easier to move to another Mac if a computer fails, but the dead FireWire ports killed that. (My backup computer is a 1.25 GHz eMac, a nice enough machine, but with only a single CPU, it doesn't run nearly as smoothly as a dual processor Power Mac G4.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Haiku OS run decently on 450 MHz Pentium III Dell

Remember when Apple almost bought Be, which would have made BeOS the foundation for the next generation Mac OS? Apple bought NeXT instead, and BeOs - which many of us fiddled with - eventually vanished.

It's back, but with a new name. Since 2001, the Haiku project has been developing a free, open source operating system compatible with BeOS - and it's finally reached the alpha stage. If you have an old PC or have virtualization software on an Intel-based Mac, you can download the ISO, burn it to a CD, and use that to boot and install the Haiku OS.

Six years ago I bought an inexpensive used Dell Optiplex GX1 with Windows 98, because Yahoo Messenger had some capabilities on Windows that it didn't have on Macs (voice chat, for instance). That machine has been sitting unused for several years, so I burned a Haiku disc, booted from it, wiped the hard drive, and installed Haiku. A 450 MHz Pentium III machine with 128 MB of RAM certainly isn't the ideal platform, nor is a 640 x 480 display terribly practical nowadays, but I can report that Haiku runs reasonably well and looks very nice.

Unfortunately, I can't get it on the Internet yet. I don't know whether the built-in ethernet port is the culprit or if it's Intenet sharing on the eMac in the basement that's causing the problem. I'll have to try connecting another machine via ethernet and see if that works.

Haiku recommends more RAM and more CPU power than I have. It seems to support almost every PCI ethernet card tested, so that's an option if the built-in ethernet is the problem. For about $50 I could make this machine much more capable.

If you're looking for something new to play with, give Haiku a try.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Quieter MDD Power Mac!

The last time I tried to use my dual 1 GHz Power Mac G4 'Mirror Drive Door', I was blown away at how much louder it was than my 'Digital Audio' Power Mac with its dual 1.6 GHz upgrade. The MDD Power Mac is known to be noisy, and Acclerate Your Mac has a very helpful article on replacing the two fans in the power supply and the CPU cooling fan.

I ordered the suggested fans from NewEgg.com for about $18, and I finished installing them this morning. It took some doing, as Apple uses different power connectors, so I had to splice the old connectors to the new fans. That meant scrounging up my ancient soldering iron and some solder, buying a roll of electrical tape, and only burning my fingers once - very slightly.

I ran into a problem the first time I booted the system with the new fans installed - the CPU temperature quickly rose beyond 70 degrees Celcius. I found that the power supply was very hot, and the culprit was the new fans. They weren't spinning at all. It turns out they were catching on something, so I made a gasket with some double-sided foam tape, which solved the problem.

I am happy to report that the MDD is pretty much as quiet as the 'Mystic' dual 500 MHz Power Mac (scheduled to become our test server now that the MDD is up and running again) and the Digital Audio. This mod if not for the faint hearted, and it's letting me use my newest Power Mac once again. (Yes, it really was that noisy.)

Many thanks to Accelerate Your Mac and its readers for the article on quieting the MDD - and so many other wonderful reports on the site.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Teleport update

I am loving this program. I've set it up so I have to hold down the Ctrl key to switch between machines - it keeps me from going off the side of the screen by accident.

Tip: If you use the Dock on the side of your display, don't have it on the same side you drag through when moving between machines. I usually have the Dock on the bottom, but is was on the side when I booted into Leopard. Just too distracting having the Dock respond while you're moving between Macs. (Leopard isn't bad at all on a dual 500 MHz Power Mac G4!)

I've posted my clipboard problem to the Teleport forum. Hoping to find an answer soon. I'll share it here.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

One Keyboard and Mouse for Multiple Macs

I've got my dual 500 MHz 'Mystic' Power Mac G4 running Mac OS X 10.4.11 - just like my main Mac, a dual 1.6 GHz upgraded 'Digital Audio' Power Mac. The Mystic has a 17" Samsung display set at 1280 x 960, and to the right of that is the Dell flat panel display connected to the Digital Audio.

I've installed Teleport on both, set Mystic as a "shared" Mac, and now I can simply move my mouse from one display to the other. The keyboard works with whatever screen I'm on at the moment. Very cool! I can drag files from one Mac to the other by dragging them from one display to the other, and I have it set to synchronize the clipboard, so I can cut-and-paste between machines. (For some reason, it's only working in one direction - from the master to the slave.)

My goal is to do this with Leopard on one Mac (most likely the upgraded Digital Audio) and Tiger on the other (Mystic right now, but the dual 1 GHz 'Mirror Drive Door' Power Mac when the quieter cooling fans arrive from NewEgg.com). This will let me migrate to Leopard as my main OS and still be able to use Tiger and Classic Mode as necessary. (Yes, after all these years I'm still using Claris Home Page.)

Pretty impressive!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Wrench in the Works

I got everything set up: dual 1 GHz Mirror Drive Door Power Mac on the left, 17" Samsung display next to it, Dell LCD monitor next to that, and dual 1.8 GHz upgraded Digital Audio Power Mac on the right. It all fits quite nicely on this makeshift desk (two 2-drawer file cabinets with countertop replaced in the kitchen last summer). Rerouted ethernet cables, moved the Netgear router, relocated the UPSes and surge strips.

Everything works, but I'd forgotten how freakin' noisy the MDD Power Mac can be. It takes very little time before the cooling fans are running flat out. I cleaned out quite a bit of dust, which helped a bit. I moved the hard drive away from the CPU radiator, which should also help a bit. But the machine is simply noisy. Found a good article on Accelerate Your Mac with suggested replacement fans - supposed to cost about $20. I'll have to look into that - after all these months with the upgraded DA, I just can't take the noise. Maybe I'll swap in my dual 500 MHz Mystic until I can silence the MDD....

Monday, August 31, 2009

Moving Toward Leopard

This is the week I'm preparing to move to Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" as my primary operating system. The reason I've held back is my dependence on Classic Mode to run Claris Home Page. The plan is to have two G4 Power Macs side by side with Leopard on one and Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" (and Classic Mode) on the other.

The current plan is to use the Digital Audio Power Mac with the 1.6 GHz dual processor upgrade as the Leopard machine, as that's my fastest machine. It already has the Radeon 9000 card from my 1 GHz dual Mirror Drive Door, which should make it a better match for Leopard. It has 1.25 GB of RAM.

The MDD will be my Tiger machine. It has the video card from the Digital Audio, and there isn't much performance difference in Tiger. It also has 2 GB of RAM, the most I've ever had in a computer. In a pinch, I'll be able to boot this on into Mac OS 9.2.2. (With the CPU upgrade, the Digital Audio doesn't like booting OS 9 natively.)

I hope to set things up so I can seamlessly share the same mouse and keyboard with both machines. I'm looking at SynergyKM (free) and Teleport (donationware). The latter is Mac only and supports OS X 10.3 through 10.6.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tough Times at Low End Mac

It's been a pretty horrible 10 months from an income standpoint. Low End Mac traffic remains good, and we have new content daily, but ad rates - or maybe just the number of ads being sold - have fallen significantly. We've had a lot of really bad months in the past year, but August is shaping up as the worst by far. There simply isn't enough income to cover minimum expenses.

We've added Low End Mac Services as the troubleshooting/consulting/file conversion/etc. side of the business - just need to get the word out there and find clients. We can support clients anywhere in the world by email, in the US by phone, and almost anywhere by mail. Reasonable rates, and we accept credit cards (thanks to PayPal - and you needn't have a PayPal account to use this service).

We've had a handful of clients in our first two weeks, and each has been very happy with the services we've provided. You can learn more in the Low End Mac Services Blog.

If that doesn't take off, I'm looking into employment options in the state with the nation's highest unemployment rate. I'd hate to have to turn LEM into a part-time sideline, but mortgages have to be paid and groceries bought. (We won't shut down. Not ever.)

How Can You Help?

There are any number of ways you can help our bottom line.

1. Buy through the companies that run ads on Low End Mac. This will let them know that LEM is a good source of customers.

2. Buy through the companies listed in our price trackers. Some of them advertise, and some are affiliates, which means that we get a small commission from any sales.

3. Boost site traffic through links on your blog or website. Share links on Facebook and/or Twitter. We earn just a fraction of a penny per page view, but with over a million pages served per month, that turns into real money.

4. If finances permit, send a gift of money to Low End Mac or use the Tip Jar to gift money directly to one of our columnists.

Thanks for being a fan of Low End Mac. We're here for the long haul and hoping the economy will take a turn for the better very soon.

Dan Knight, publisher, LowEndMac.com

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"64-Bitness" Article a Hit

It's very gratifying to see that nearly 5,000 people have read my article The 64-Bitness of Mac OS X 10.6 'Snow Leopard' since it was posted Wednesday morning. I think it's important that we know that while Snow Leopard may not boot into 64-bit mode by default, that's not necessarily a drawback at this point.

Once Snow Leopard has been on the market for a while, we should see a lot more 64-bit apps and drivers, which will pave the way for 64-bit mode becoming the default, but we're not there yet.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

WallStreet comes through

Back in May, a friend at church gave me his dad's old WallStreet PowerBook. It hadn't been used in years and was in beautiful condition. I got two batteries (one completely dead), a CD-ROM module, and a floppy drive module. I've since picked up a second battery on eBay for about $5 - figured it was worth a shot, and if it was dead, not much lost. I now have two batteries that each hold a nearly 3 hour charge.

I've been experimenting, trying to get newer versions of OS X installed (it only officially supports up to 10.2.8), and upgrading the RAM and hard drive. I went from a slow 6 GB hard drive to 20 GB 5400 rpm (from my dead PowerBook G4) and boosted RAM from 64 MB to 384 MB. It's no speed demon, but it works.

Anyhow, I got to use it yesterday to copy some files from an 800K floppy disk, which USB floppy drives can't read at all. It's nice to have a practical use for this 11-year-old computer!