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A PowerBook Umbilical Cord

When Apple unveiled the PowerBook line six months ago, it appeared that they had made an odd and inconsistent mistake. The PowerBook 100 (which was designed by Sony, remember) has the ability to act as an external hard drive for a desktop Mac, but the otherwise more capable 140 and 170 lack this useful feature. It’s too bad, because transferring files to and from a PowerBook moves much faster via SCSI than AppleTalk or floppy. Rumor had it that Apple simply ran out of time and decided not to implement this feature in the 140 and 170, but for the tons of people who already own one, hope is not lost. A new product called PowerDisk from a French company, Additional Design, can do this and more with a PowerBook 140 or 170.

The PowerDisk package includes a PowerBook to SCSI disk cable, a jumper to change your PowerBook’s internal hard disk SCSI ID, a disk with the software to disable the PowerBook CPU, and two manuals: one for your Macintosh dealer and one for the installation and use of the software.

The modification of the internal hard disk SCSI ID must be done by an Approved Apple Dealer who will open the PowerBook and simply place a jumper. Additional Design provides a label to stick on the rear panel indicating the new SCSI ID. The installation manual is so clear that you could do it yourself if you had the correct screwdrivers (and don’t mind voiding your warranty and possibly damaging your PowerBook). In France Apple has endorsed this procedure (so it will not void your warranty) as long as it is done by an Approved Apple Dealer. Since PowerDisk is only distributed in France for the time being (sorry folks), it’s possible that Apple may set up different policies in other countries.

The software installer simply adds a driver to your System file (.POWERDISK) and copies the PowerDisk application to your Apple Menu Items folder. If your Macintosh isn’t a PowerBook or your PowerBook hasn’t had the SCSI ID modified, the installer will warn you and won’t do anything.

To prepare the connection, you simply run the PowerDisk application which makes sure you want to proceed. If you agree, the PowerBook will be shut down and PowerDisk will be set to activate when the desktop Mac looks for external SCSI devices. Then you just switch off your desktop Macintosh and your PowerBook, connect the SCSI cables, and make sure that all SCSI terminators are off.

Now, you act as though your PowerBook was an external hard disk: switch it on and then switch on the Macintosh. Your PowerBook’s screen will simply show the SCSI ID of your hard disk, the accumulator level indicator and the PowerDisk icon. Those indicators move around on the screen as though they were part of a screen saver module. If you strike a key, click, or move your trackball, a message will tell you PowerDisk is running and what to do to bring your PowerBook back to life (switch off your Mac, switch off your PowerBook, disconnect the cables, switch on your PowerBook).

It’s easy, simple, and really efficient. PowerDisk’s price in France is 690 French francs (about US$115) which is fair since the package includes the cable, a 290 French francs (about US$48) value on Apple’s price list. PowerDisk is currently sold only in France, but Additional Design is looking for distributors in the US and other countries. The product’s availability will depend on how soon they find distributors – interested parties should contact Additional Design for more information.

Additional Design:
Voice : +33 (1) 69 07 30 28
Fax : +33 (1) 69 07 86 74

Information from:
Franck Lefebvre, Additional Design
[email protected]

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