So, you bought a $48 computer?

This is a page I've put up to help folks who bought a used MLTI iBook from a Maine school district. I hesitated to post this page because I don't want to mislead anybody that I have time to answer questions or provide information beyond what's here. But there are some basics for bringing the machines up to their potential that were easy to write up and might make it easier for people who bought an MLTI iBook.

I hope people will be thoughtful about asking techie-types for help with these machines. I wouldn't think folks would ask for help from more technically-oriented colleagues without offering payment, just as you wouldn't ask a colleague to do an oil change on your car because he or she happens to be good at it and you aren't. If you know a techie-type, you might begin a "help conversation" with an offer of maybe $25 an hour for assistance.

Leonard @ Mt. Ararat HS

Hardware Issues:

RAM

Although the machines certainly work "as is," they will benefit greatly by adding memory (RAM). They will run faster with more RAM, and they will be able to run Tiger, OS 10.4. Tiger needs a minimum of 256 megs to install — the machines only have 128. You can max out the RAM for under $100 by installing a 512 meg stick, which will give you a total of 612.

Other World Computing (OWC) is a reputable source with good prices and lifetime warranty. Click for the 512 meg iBook RAM page. If you aren't confident of what to buy, call them: 800.275.4576. Your RAM will come with clear descriptions of how to install it. There is also a Quicktime movie at Apple showing how to install RAM in these iBooks.

Batteries

In some of the machines the batteries may be tired and not hold a charge. OWC has two tiers of replacement batteries. The more expensive battery gives a bit more time before recharging.

Power adapter

Some power adapters do not work or work only intermittently — probably electric shorts in the wires. OWC has off-brand power supplies for under $40.

Screens

If the screen lighting is intermittent when you move the screen back and forth on the hinges, replacing the screen is probably not worth it.

Security Issues:

It appears all the machines come with the Apple's Open Firmware password set. (Perhaps this password will be revealed by the school district at some point.) "Open Firmware" is a substantial security system that keeps non-authorized users from changing much about the computer. Because of this, you will not be able to get your iBook to

  • boot from a CD
  • delete users
  • erase and re-format the hard drive
  • run in "Target Disk Mode" mode

Unless you know the password, the easiest way to disable Open Firmware password protection is described on SecureMac.com. It requires adding new RAM. The relevant section:

Force Removing Password Protection

  1. Add or remove DIMMs to change the total amount of RAM in the computer.
  2. Then, the PRAM must be reset 3 times. (Command + Option + P + R).

Once you have reset/disabled/removed the password, it is easy to install a new system, erase the disk, etc.


Notes:

Since the machines do not have DVD drives, however, installing Tiger (OS 10.4) from a DVD is trickier. You can do it if you have access to an external FireWire DVD drive, of course. (Or, you can order Tiger from Apple on CDs...)

But you can also install Tiger from a DVD if you have access to a DVD-reading Mac and a FireWire cable.

To do this,

  • Insert the Tiger install-DVD in the second machine and let it mount.
  • Re-boot the second machine; when the machine sounds its opening chime, press and hold down the "t" key until a vaguely nuclear-looking icon (FireWire icon) appears and starts floating around the screen. The computer is now in "Target Disk Mode" mode and is prepared to act as an external hard drive and DVD drive for any other Mac that plugs into it with a FireWire cable.
  • With the iBook booted, connect the two machines with a FireWire cable.
  • In a moment the DVD in the second machine will appear on the iBook desktop. Double-click on the "Install" icon. The iBook will ask you for an admin user name and password and then tell you it will reboot.
  • The iBook will then reboot from the DVD drive in the second machine and begin to install Tiger/OS 10.4.

Have fun!