That Elusive…

This month found the AppleCart inbox full of information that needed to be shared. August was focused on the Trailing Edge and the excellent buys available across the board this summer. Everything from PowerBooks to Desktop G3s have seen big price drops, almost before the ink was dry on the original warranties.

Not only has the power user been smiling at the plummeting prices for last year’s high-end Apple desktops, budget travelers have had a hard choice deciding between the user-friendly 1400 series, the 2400 lightweights and, most recent King of the Hill, the 3400s with their wonderful screens and their zippy performance. Then in mid-August, the current crop of G3s hit “fire sale” pricing to make way for the iMac and the even more powerful next generation of G3s.

But the main focus of the August AppleCart was on the last hurrah of Umax and the SuperMac. Not only were the rock bottom prices below $1000 for a S900/200 (and lower yet for the J700, C600 and C500 series) both the quality and speed blew my computer-gourmet son away.

Still, for guys like Chris, enough is never enough. And the empty slot in his SuperMac S900 was churning him up inside. No matter that suddenly he was blazing away as never before. That graphics loving, speed addicted kid was yearning to try out dual processing for himself. How fast would Photoshop and LightWave do their thing if only Chris could figure out what was needed, where to find it — and, a frowny face here — how to afford it? Alas, it looks like he may never know.

As I was continuing my web search for some solid information on the secondary processor, I received this email from Kennedy Brandt of the Umax SuperMac support team.


Greetings, Ms. Howerter –
I just came across your “Summer of the SuperMacs” article at (August 1998, issue #40) It’s good to see that someone else agrees with me that older boxes are often the best way to go. It’s also very gratifying to see that the terrific systems myself and many others worked so hard to create are still getting some appreciation and recognition, even at this late date.

I do have one comment and one question on the article. The comment is on your suggestion that “With Umax out of the Mac business at the end of July, it seemed like a good idea to get the answers pinned down fast.”

Good advice, but UMAX will be around. Our license to build new systems expired on Friday (7/31/98), but we expect to be selling until the end of the year and will most likely continue our compatibility and integration testing until April of next year.

Plans are for us to gradually merge into UMAX Technologies Inc.’s PC system division early next year, and with two-year warranties on all new S900’s sold after 3/1/98, service & support will have to continue anyway. I expect that by the end of the year, the SuperMac web site will transform entirely into a Product Support center.

Thanks for the feedback on the SuperMac article. As a new owner myself, I am glad to know that Umax will still be there for us. I’m especially pleased about the two year warranty as we bought in June of this year. Both my son and I registered online, but haven’t gotten any feedback from Umax. Could this mean we didn’t actually get through? I’ve learned to be a little leery of the Internet — you know, that iffy thing that Steve Jobs thinks can serve all our backing up and file management needs on Apple’s new iMac.

Getting no response from the online registration doesn’t indicate anything, really, as historically, most companies simply archive the product and demographic information they get through each registration, checking it from time to time to see whether their marketing efforts seem to be reaching the intended customers or not. Most importantly, registration really has no bearing on one’s warranty at Umax. It’s the original sales invoice showing date of purchase that defines, more than anything else, when the warranty coverage officially begins.

With some companies, registering is indeed vital. Digidesign, for example, provides no support or warranty service unless and until the product is registered. SuperMac and Radius, on the other end of the spectrum, had one person to manually enter years’ worth of registration card info and then simply threw it all in the trash bin about two years ago.

Thanks for the quick response. Your information on registering was very interesting. I think most of us assume that registration is vital — which is why we feel so guilty about all those little cards we will never get around to sending in. So, the real answer is to hang on to those receipts. Thanks. (But… better keep your registrations up to date, folks. Many companies have a different policy than Umax does on registration.)

I slanted much of the article toward high tech users, such as my son, who might be needing a secondary processor card. I see that Small Dog Electronics, who apparently received all the remaining cards, are almost sold out. If you know of another source I would appreciate the information as I am likely to get questions during the month.

Being outside our Sales & Marketing organization, I’m not the most in touch with where various processor upgrades went, but I’ve also heard that Small Dog was the largest recent recipient. I’ll ask two of my buddies up in our Fremont office, as they sometimes know not only where products are in the sales channel, but also when they arrived and on what store shelf they’re currently sitting. I’ll let you know what I can as soon as I hear back from him.

Processor Card Picture

Thanks. If you are able to find any news on other
sources of the secondary processing cards, I would
appreciate it. There were only a couple dozen
newly listed at Small Dog and they were apparently snapped up by hungry users. I have seen a few 180s mentioned in some of the online catalogs but don’t know if they can be used with a S900/200.

My quest for a secondary 200MHz processor has had mixed results. All remaining finished-goods units for resale appear to have gone to Small Dog, and as of yesterday afternoon (8/8/98), they had ONE of the secondary 233MHz cards left.

If you check the information at

however, you’ll see that the secondary processor does not have to match the speed of the primary processor in order to operate — it’ll just operate slightly slower if it’s not the same speed as the primary. The two processors negotiate a mutually agreeable bus speed that allows the primary processor to run at its intended speed while the secondary gets as close to that as possible.

If, for example, you were to put a 233MHz secondary in your S900/200, the secondary would clock itself to run at 225MHz and the primary would still run at its intended 200MHz. Even the 180MHz secondaries that you’ve seen here and there on the net wouldn’t clock themselves any lower than 175MHz in order to work with the 200MHz primary, so your options may be a bit broader than you first thought.

Hope this helps. Either way, I’ll keep your situation in mind and might be able to offer something else in the future.

Thanks for all the technical stuff. It’s just what the power users among us need to know. Having checked out your SuperMac site and, especially the FAQ listings (see URL at the end of this column), I can see that there is a huge amount of good information online.

My quest for secondary processor cards is not going well. The product sales manager told me that all available cards were sent to Small Dog, but he’s rechecking inventory. While I don’t yet believe we’re out of them, I’m not surprised to find that they’re so elusive. Asymmetric
multiprocessing wasn’t embraced by the developer community at large, though the applications which can take advantage of it do so to very impressive results. We probably produced more secondary 180MHz processors than any other speed, with 250MHz ones next, then 200MHz, and 225/233MHz at the bottom of the list.

Now, considering that a G3 upgrade isn’t sufficiently friendly towards asymmetric multiprocessing to work with even a G3 secondary processor (none of which exist outside of engineering labs), anyone who upgrades from a DP system to a G3 system will have a secondary processor lying around. You might want to check out the SuperMac User Group mailing list at and raise a flag there that you’re looking for a secondary processor to buy…

Best regards,

Kennedy M. Brandt
UMAX Computer Corporation

Thanks so much for all the hard work and the information. I will post your findings in the September ‘Out of the AppleCart’ / My Mac Online. With all the SuperMacs sold this summer, I know the information will be much appreciated.

Thanks So Much,
Susan Howerter
My Mac Online


So there it is. Not great news for all the SuperMac-SuperSlot hopefuls out there. It doesn’t appear that there was ever a large supply of the ASPD cards needed to turn your powerhouse Umax into a juggernaut processor. And the few remaining leftovers sent to Small Dog Electronics went like hot butter in a Texas summer.

As Kennedy mentioned, SuperMac owners will also be interested in the information found in MTN Dan Knight’s Low End Mac, SuperMac site. Begun 6/20/98, this is “A Low End Mac email list for users of Umax SuperMac computers. Maybe they, or possibly ClassMac, will eventually have a second-hand secondary processor slot sale. Do not say the preceeding with a mouthful of popcorn.

On another note, with PowerComputing long since gone, warranty work seemed gone as well. Apparently DecisionOne is now handling Power’s computers. Thanks, J.C. for for the tip. Wonder why warranty owners didn’t get the same information through the mail or via email?

DecisionOne’s site requests that you click the “infoReQuest” button or call 1-888-287-9200. That call leads you to 1-800-287-9200 which sends you on to 1-800-448-8986. The good news is that real humans intervene along the way with real information.

When you, at last, reach the proper number all you need is the serial and model number of your computer. I was not able to test service further as the PowerBase in question has been stuck in son’s closet all summer and said son is out of town. Sure hope he makes it back before his warranty strikes midnight.

Umax & SuperMac Information:

PowerComputing Information:
Power Computer Users Support & Discussion
Re: Warranty / DecisionOne

Susan Howerter

Websites mentioned:

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