Hardware Stability

Apple Powerbook G3 Series 'Pismo/Firewire'


Apple Computer, Inc. has provided an improved PowerBook G3 Series computer known as "Pismo" to consumers. However you should be aware of the fact that the company has quietly kept secret a problem concerning the standard Password Security control panel of OS8-9. If you use this control panel by accident on this firewire computer and set the password, you will not be able to startup the computer. You will either have to send your PowerBook to an Apple reseller (with your hard disk) or ask someone with an earlier model "non-firewire" PowerBook G3 Series computer to swap hard disks to have it fixed.

Consumers should also be aware that the original black rectangular power transformer for this PowerBook (Model Number M4402) gets dangerously hot and must be returned to Apple for a replacement before April 2005. After this date, you will need to purchase the updated yo-yo shaped transformer used in the iBook clam-shaped G3 laptops for at least A$250 or more.

The PowerBook G3 Series "Pismo" computer is definitely a big improvement to the original "Wall Street" version. For example, the classic rigid hard disk connector problem of the original Apple PowerBook G3 series "Wall Street" computer was quickly revised to a more flexible hard disk "cable" connector found in the newer "similar-looking" Apple PowerBook G3 series "Bronze Keyboard", "Pismo" and "FireWire" computers.

Despite the welcome and much needed improvements, it would appear Apple Computer, Inc. does not like the idea of giving customers a completely stable and reliable machine free of manufacturing and design faults. Whether it is because Apple wants to give Apple resellers some profit in the repair of Apple computers or to force customers to constantly upgrade, it is difficult to say for sure.

What do we know about the hardware instability problems of the PowerBook G3 Series "Pismo" machine?

Password security and "firewire" computers

If you own a "firewire" PowerBook G3 Series "Pismo" computer and you suddenly notice the system software on the internal hard disk not starting up, it is possible part of the crucial data for specifying the partition size of the hard disk may have been damaged by Apple's Password Security control panel, irrespective of the version number of this control panel. You will know whether this is the case because you can distinctly remember recently setting the password to your computer using this control panel.

If this has happened to you, then you're in serious trouble courtesy of Apple! Apple Computer is aware of the problem and is prepared to pay for the cost of replacing the hard disk with a new one (i.e. this is how Apple will gain access to the contents of your hard disk).

However, it is possible to salvage the hard disk if you have a copy of the MacOS X Public Beta CD and some knowledge of Unix commands. According to Tony Andreoli who has experienced this problem before (1):

  1. Insert a MacOS X Public Beta CD into your CD/DVD ROM Drive.
  2. Turn on the laptop and immediately hold down the 'Option' key to access the 'Startup Manager'.
  3. Select the CD icon with the 'X' on it, then click the straight arrow.
  4. Immediately hold down the 'S' key until the Darwin shell appears (Unix Command Line Interface).
  5. At the 'localhost#' prompt, type 'pdisk' then hit Return.
  6. At the next prompt, type 'L" (CASE SENSITIVE) then hit Return.
  7. Look for a partition with 'PWD' in its' name (such as "AppleMacPWD"). It's usually the second partition. Note the number at the beginning of the line.
  8. At the next prompt, type 'e" (CASE SENSITIVE) then hit Return.
  9. Type '/dev/rdisk1s#' < replace the '#' symbol with the number you noted in Step 7, then hit Return.
  10. At the next prompt, type 'i" (CASE SENSITIVE) then hit Return.
  11. Follow the steps confirmation initialization and type either '0' or '1' for any block size allocations.
  12. Type 'q' Return; 'q' Return; until you are back at the 'localhost#' prompt.
  13. Type 'reboot' and remove the Mac OS X Public Beta CD from your CD/DVD ROM Drive.
  14. You should now be able to boot off a standard Mac OS CD, mount the drive, reinstall any needed software and then boot from the drive itself.

The other method of recovery (and the safest!) is to swap the hard disk of the FireWire PowerBook with a standard SCSI PowerBook such as the PowerBook "Wall Street" G3 Series computer. The Password Security control panel should work properly, allowing you to boot off the FireWire drive and later switch off the control panel. Delete the control panel, shutdown the computer, and return the drive into the FireWire PowerBook. No data is lost by applying this method!

Rechargeable battery problems

You are one of the few lucky ones with a G3 computer still able to get the proper support from Apple to run under OS X without a glitch. Well done! This is another advantage in learning to buy the highest hardware revision version in an Apple computer series (in this case the PowerBook G3 Series).

However, have you noticed after updating your "Pismo" computer to the latest OS X version 10.3.x how much quicker your rechargeable battery loses its charge when this has never happened before on earlier OSX versions? This is not an anomaly! A lot of users have noticed this problem on other "Pismos" and a range of newer Apple PowerBooks such as the G3 iBook, the G4 iBook, the titanium G4 PowerBook etc. And guess what? There isn't a great deal you can do about it unless you somehow go down to an earlier OSX version, or stick to OS8.6 (or if you are a little desperate, try OS9). For further details, please read this article from MacFixIt published on 5 April 2004.

Again be wary when buying Apple computers no matter what the hype might be for the latest products.