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CHRIS'S UNPREDICTABLE and OCCASIONAL Newsletter for MAC USERS #9, 3/5/01
Contents Copyright 2001 by Christopher Plummer
===============================================


THIS ISSUE:
--------------
CRASHING AND HANGING (Part 1) - If your Mac never CRASHES or HANGS and
all your peripherals work correctly, LOVE YA! NEVER CHANGE BABY! YOU'RE
DOING SOMETHING RIGHT! SKIP THIS ISSUE, go outside and practice your Chi
Kung!! (And if you're here in Beautiful Western Central New Jersey, keep
an eye out for the alleged blizzard, which so far has been a miserable
HOAX! Maybe LATER it'll drop some snow on us.) Crashing and Hanging is a
bit more technical than we've been in awhile, and I try to spice it up
OCCASIONALLY with fascinating Mac trivia, insightful comments, and
personal commentary of questionable merit. If I refer to a previous issue
that you have lost or never seen, send me an email, I'll send it. We are
REALLY DUE for a Geek Speak Review. And that will probably be in the next
issue. In fact, we have so much GEEK SPEAK to review, that will probably
BE the next issue.


GEEK SPEAK ALERT: Hang, Crash, Bomb, Sherlock, Get Info, ROM, Extension,
iCab


UPDATES:
--------
MacSpeedZone has a great iMac comparison page with prices and specs of
all the new iMac models. The low end model (with new features added) has
gone UP in price by $100.

<http://macspeedzone.com/5.0/individualmacines/imac-g.shtml>


CRASHING AND HANGING ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR YOUNG MAC! (Part 1)
(with apologies to Adam Engst for borrowing part of a headline)
---------------------------------------------------------------------
EVERY computer user (YES, including Mac users,I admit it), sooner or
later experiences a HANG or a CRASH. In the PaleoMac age, this occurrence
was ALWAYS accompanied by the NOT REASSURING BOMB ICON (which still makes
an occasional appearance), and sometimes even a loud BUZZING sound and a
whacked out screen that gave you the impression your monitor was about to
explode. EVERYTHING IS BETTER NOW. I don't think you can get around
hanging/crashing happening once in a great while, but if it happens once
or more a day, or even a few times a week, you ought to try to MAKE IT
STOP!!

RESTART, DO
I've actually worked pretty hard, and done a lot of research, and
RESTARTED a bizillion times trying to track down some troublesome
Extension or other to keep my Macs stable. But I'm going to try to SAVE
YOU as much of that grief as I can. First, keep in mind that although
Macs aren't Unix boxes, which CRAVE getting rebooted, it is actually good
to restart your Mac once in awhile. Why? Mainly because no software is
perfect, and some of that imperfect software steals chunks of RAM and
mucks around with your Mac. Restarting flushes that stuff out. We're
talking about 'Shutting Down' or 'Restarting' from the Finder's Special
menu here, NOT UNPLUGGING THE POWER OR CLOBBERING YOUR MAC WITH THE RESET
BUTTON. (Which is what we sometimes have to resort to when we Crash or
Hang.) For most people restarting just happens in the regular course of
events, about once a day when they ShutDown their computer. If that's
you, GROOVY. On the other hand, if you're like me, you let your Mac
'sleep' like a VAMPIRE. My Macs back themselves up at night, and wake
themselves up before sunrise and use SoundJAM like an alarm radio to wake
ME up in the morning with MP3s. Even my Macs don't have to WASTE
ELECTRICITY all the time or PROVE they can stay on forever without
restarting. Do a Shutdown on the thing once in awhile. Give it a break.

GET CURRENT
I can't warn you enough about OLD USB drivers, which for awhile were my
ABSOLUTE BAIN, and that of several of my friends and clients. In addition
to possible Hang/Crash issues, bad USB drivers can cause your peripherals
to work intermittently, to demand being alone on a USB port, to cause
other USB devices to mess up, and so on. There are two ways to update
your drivers.

The EASY way is to use the Software Update Control Panel (covered in
UNPREDICTABLE #3) and download the current USB UPDATE from Apple. (You
can also check Apple's web site for updates if you're sure you'd really
rather NOT USE A COOL UPDATE SYSTEM THAT'S PART OF YOUR MAC AND WILL SAVE
YOU TIME AND GRIEF. If that's the way you want to be, FINE, but I'll
wager you have at least ONE Windows PC in your home or office, and you
LIKE TO TINKER with your computers. DON'T YOU? ADMIT IT!)

The HARD way is to go to the website of each of your peripherals
(printer, scanner, digicam, joystick...) and find and download the
current USB driver. If you know how to do a Get Info, and can use
Sherlock, or are willing to POKE AROUND in your System Folder, you can
identify what drivers you have and what versions, so when you go to these
sites, you can decide if you need the driver or not. This is PAINFUL, but
may be necessary AFTER you try the EASY way and things still seem messed
up. You might have to get a friend or COMPETENT, FRIENDLY CONSULTANT to
help you out ;-) .

GET YOUR USB BUGS OUT
While we're on USB and peripherals, if you bought a device right around
the time iMacs first came out (1998?), OR the first time the device
itself came out, you might need to actually replace the device. I think
USB never took much of a shakedown cruise, and everybody took awhile to
actually get it to work right. This happened to me with Belkin USB Hubs.
To their credit, Belkin answered the phone, the support staff was
competent, and they identified this as a problem with early manufactured
hubs, and replaced mine quickly. It's annoying to have to return stuff,
but sometimes THAT'S WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO. And never be afraid to contact
the vendor directly; often they know right away what the problem is and
can save you a lot of time. I LIKE TO SAVE TIME. DON'T YOU? If you can
locate an email address for support of your product, try that first and
save yourself a call.

Another BIG PART of getting current is making sure that everything is
(pretty much) current as far as Apple System software.

[I've mentioned numerous times in these pixels that I'm hanging back on
the 9.1 update to let the HEAT SEEKERS iron out all the problems. Why?
Because when 9.0.4 first came out, I jumped right on it, and IT WAS A
DISASTER!! But, I can tell you that now 9.0.4 is pretty darn stable. If
you're not using 9.0.4, you should be. Unless you're happy with 9.1, in
which case, tell me about it! - CHRIS]

Download the ROM updates too, especially if you're an iMac user. The
installation of these can be a little intimidating, but print out the
instructions, and follow them carefully. You'll be okay.

Another thing to watch for is current Firewire updates. I like to update
Game Sprockets and Quicktime (covered in UNPREDICABLE #8). And anything
called a "Multimedia" update.

If you use Internet Explorer or iCab as your Web browser, it's a good
idea to update Java. This is usually a HUGE update. I DON'T update JAVA,
because I use Netscrape, which doesn't use Apple's JAVA. Apple provides
JAVA at the System Level, so ANYBODY can use it. You may have heard me
mention this before. You'll probably hear me mention it again. Apple
likes to provide services at the SYSTEM LEVEL when it makes sense. Why
should you have to junk up your hard disk with 3 different versions of
JAVA, each taking up around 20 Mb, just because you use 3 different
browsers? They should all be able to PLAY NICE and SHARE. Microsoft, even
got this, though they still insist on having THEIR OWN Internet Settings
Control Panel.

Read the ReadMes on these updates. WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? If an update has
ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with what you do on your Mac, then don't get
it. For example, if you NEVER use ethernet, chances are REAL GOOD that
you don't need to update Ethernet.

In the computer world, as in the English language, rules are rarely
universally applied. The weird thing is that sometimes some update that
you least expect to have THE POWER will fix your problem. In the early
9.0.4 days there were all kinds of ways that the current version of
Quicktime, the Sound Control Panel, and the Apple DVD Player all affected
each other. Once you got the right mix, everything worked.

That's the end of Part 1 of what is turning out to be a LONG TOPIC.
Obviously I won't try to cover TROUBLESHOOTING YOUR MAC in great depth.
There are plenty of books and websites and utility programs out there for
just that purpose. I will refer you to some. For now, your homework is to
start paying attention to when your Mac HANGS and CRASHES. Is it when you
launch a certain program? Did it start after you installed a new program?
Is it when you try to do a specific task? Is it when you try to wake from
SLEEP? And is there a number or error message that appears? You should
know this. Now go out there and GET CURRENT. Next time we UNPREDICTABLY
continue with this topic, I'll talk about the JOYS AND DANGERS of MUCKING
AROUND IN THE SYSTEM FOLDER.

Cheerio!


=========================================================================
** CHRIS'S UNPREDICTABLE and OCCASIONAL Newsletter for Mac Users **
Oriented towards, but not exclusively for, Mac Users in Beautiful Western
Central New Jersey. Published Whenever - About Whatever!
=========================================================================

Non-profit, non-commercial publications may reprint articles if full
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is UNPREDICTABLE and not guaranteed. Caveat lector. Publication,
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All contents copyright 2000-2008 by Christopher Plummer, ZebraTale LLC, except where noted. Accuracy of articles is UNPREDICTABLE and not guaranteed. Unpredictable was published from 2001 to 2008. Although updated occasionally, this is a historical archive - expect dead links. Caveat lector.
Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TFSB :-)