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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...

Mac OS 9 Compatibility, And The G3 Vs. The G4
November 4th, 1999

Welcome, everyone! This week we're back to an almost normal format, answering questions about Mac OS 9 compatibility, G3 vs. G4 speeds, and strange battery problems. In addition, there's a little tidbit today about the entire troubleshooting process that includes a very strange, but interesting story. Send your questions into [email protected], visit the Ask Dave! Reader Forums, and read on!

Don Prettyman writes, "I recently upgraded my Power Mac G3 to Mac OS 9. I have Norton Utilities 4.0.3 which, they say, is not compatible with Mac OS 9. Will Norton Utilities version 5.0 put me back in business?"

Yes, and it's worth doing. Norton Utilities 5.0 adds a slew of new features, is faster and, as you asked, it IS compatible with Mac OS 9. It's important to upgrade all your software, especially those pieces that deal directly with the file system. One of the new features in Mac OS 9 is an updated File Manager (all is detailed in an Apple Tech Note). Programs that are not updated can and will cause very strange problems, including data loss!

"Gnail" writes, "I have a desktop G3 and have recently upgraded the processor from the original 266 to a 466. my question is: Why have I not seen any data comparing the G3 processing speeds to the G4. We've seen all sorts of data comparing the G4s to the pentium II and III. However, for those who are still considering upgrading their processor, what are the speed differences between the G3s and G4s?"

Speed differences between the G3s and G4's are only apparent when using software that takes advantage of the Altivec processor (the Velocity Engine) in the G4. Applications like Photoshop, SoundJam and others run MUCH faster on the G4, due to their Altivec support. Otherwise, real world tests have shown that, at the same processor speed, the G3 and G4 run about equal. XLR8YourMac did a comparison a few months back that details this.

Jim Scarpone writes, "I have a problem with a PowerMac 7200/120. Out of nowhere my clock goes off and when I start up it is always wrong. I tried PRAM Battery tester and it did not say it was bad, so what else could it be? If the battery is good are there any other things to check? Like I said I did nothing to cause it like install anything new software or hardware. What could it be?"

Well, Jim, despite what the software says, my gut tells me that your battery is still bad. The symptoms you describe all point to that -- other than the motherboard itself being bad, it really can't be anything else. I would recommend hitting your local Radio Shack and getting one of those Lithium "Mac" batteries. It's fairly simple to install, and I would bet that it will solve your problems.

This brings up a good point about the troubleshooting process in general. This week, I wanted to recount the tale of a young woman who wrote me recently. Melinda has a UMAX C500 (PowerMac clone) and was having a BEAR of a time installing Mac OS 8.6. She called Umax, visited their web site, visited (now found at at UMAX's suggestion, and finally came to me. Even with a clean install of Mac OS 8.6, her machine would rarely make it all the way through the bootup process. Even before extension icons would load, the machine would report random errors. The general assumption was that there was some incompatibility between her machine and Mac OS 8.6. We tried reformatting her IDE hard drive with Apple's utilities, we repartitioned, and we ran Norton Utilities more times than we can mention, all to no avail. With that we decided, naturally, that it must be some incompatibility with the hardware. It didn't make sense to me, though. Mac OS 8.6 should run on that machine, despite the "official" warnings to the contrary. There's no reason it shouldn't. Then it hit me -- this probably has NOTHING to do with the fact that it's a UMAX machine. A quick phone call to Melinda and I asked her if she'd installed any RAM recently and whether or not she was having any problems with Mac OS 7.6.1. She said yes to both, although the problems with 7.6.1 were relatively minor and she assumed they were just the result of installation "silt" that builds up in our System Folders when we don't do Clean Installs. I asked her to remove the RAM. She did and Mac OS 8.6 booted perfectly. Problem solved.

This reminded me of something that's VITAL to the troubleshooting process -- preconceptions can thwart even your best efforts. You need to Think Different, or at the very least "think out of the box" and look at the entire system with a fresh perspective. Getting caught deep "in the box" will leave you chasing your tail and rarely finding a solution. Keep that in mind when you just can't get that new piece of software to work. Twenty minutes away from it or a the fresh perspective of an uninvolved person can often give you the tip you need to solving even the "worst problem you've ever seen."

That's it for this week, folks. Tune in next time for lots more! Send your requests to [email protected], or visit the Ask Dave! Forums for juicy tidbits and immediate help from the Ask Dave! community!

P.S. Have a Nice Day!

is President and CEO of The Mac Observer, Inc. He has worked in the computer industry as a consultant, trainer, network engineer, webmaster, and a programmer for most of the last 10 years. During that time he has worked on the Mac, all the various Windows flavors, Be, a few brands of Unix, and it is rumored he once saw an OS/2 machine in action. Before that he ran some of the earliest Bulletin Board systems, but most of the charges have since been dropped, and not even the FBI requests that he check in more than twice a year.

Ask Dave is here to answer all the Mac questions you have. Networking, system conflicts, hardware, you ask it, he can answer it. He is the person from whom all Mac knowledge flows....

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