O'Grady's PowerPage » How-To

How-To: Get around Mac OS X 10.6.3 update issues

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Date: Wednesday, March 31st, 2010, 05:10
Category: How-To, Software


The Mac OS X 10.6.3 update is out in its Software Update, Delta and Combo forms and a number of users (including the mighty Hawk of Applegeeks) have cited problems installing the update. In many cases, the user apparently has to sit forever with the spinning color wheel, or go blank to a blue, black, or gray screen and require a forced restart.

Most hangs at installation usually happen when the system is running more maintenance-based routines or performing commands like restarting, so the system will not necessarily be hurt; however, there is always the chance that files can get corrupted by interrupting the installation process.

With that in mind, the cool cats at CNET have offered the following update tips:

If your computer hangs during installation, try the following steps:

Give it time:
Many times the system will sit at a blue or black screen for a while, so be sure to give it ample time before concluding the system is hung up. Let it sit there for about half an hour to see if it resolves the hang and continues the installation process properly.

Hard-reset only if the system is not doing anything:
If the system does not respond after waiting, only hard-reset it if the hard drive is not working. Put your ear to the case of the system to hear if the drive is working. If so, wait until you cannot hear the drive chattering away and then press and hold the power button until the system shuts off.

Immediately boot to safe mode:
Once the system has been powered down, boot it up and immediately press the Shift key to go to Safe Mode. This will run some diagnostics scripts at boot-up, and also load the OS in a minimal way to prevent any interference. When booted, run Disk Utility’s permissions fix and hard-drive verification routines, as well as run any maintenance utilities you may have for cleaning the system’s temporary files (caches, etc.).

Reapply the combo updater:
Even if the system seems to be working fine, after any fault in the installation it is always best to re-run the installation using the “Combo” updater. This will ensure that all installed files are in working order, and prevent any currently unused but corrupt files from causing problems later on. We recommend you download the Combo updater and run it when booted in Safe┬áMode.

Check permissions after installation:
Once you have completed the installation with the Combo updater, use Disk Utility to run a full permissions fix on the hard drive. This will ensure that all updated files are properly accessible by the system, and prevent slowdowns and hangs that could result if the system cannot access these files.

Start over from backup:
If the installation is still not working properly, even after reapplying the Combo updater, then it is highly recommended you start over. This can be done by reverting to a backup you made before applying the 10.6.3 update (Time Machine or a cloned drive), or by performing a reinstall of the OS from the Snow Leopard DVD. When you have reverted to the backup, be sure to fully prepare your system for the update by following the procedures suggested in this article.

Full reinstall:
Reverting to a backup is the preferred method, since it will keep all of your settings and program installations intact; however, some people may not have this in which case a reinstallation may be necessary. Snow Leopard will perform an archive and install, which will preserve user data and installed applications, so reinstalling should keep most settings intact.

If you’ve installed Mac OS X 10.6.3, feel free to hurl your two cents in as to how the update’s going and what’s gone right or wrong for you.

How-To: Maximize RAM Usage on 15″, 17″ Unibody MacBook Pro

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Date: Thursday, March 4th, 2010, 06:37
Category: How-To, MacBook Pro


Ok, I’ve never heard of this before and it could be interesting.

Per CNET, a number of 15″ and 17″ unibody MacBook Pro notebook owners have run into problems when they ran out of available RAM more than expected, especially when running programs that can reserve large amounts of memory. These include graphically intensive applications such as Adobe Creative Suite, and applications that use a lot of RAM such as virtualization solutions.

Even though no one’s really had to manage how their RAM has been portioned out since the days of Mac OS 9, the piece offers the following tips to maximize what’s there:

Checking and managing RAM:
Running low on RAM can make your system run slowly, and you can check your RAM usage with Activity Monitor, and see what applications are using the most by clicking the “Real Mem” column in the main Activity Monitor window (shown by pressing command-1). If there are user applications that are using large amounts of RAM, they will be at the top of the list, and you can try quitting or relaunching them to free up more RAM.

Turn on higher performance graphics:
If the system seem to be using more RAM than usual, you may have the dedicated graphics processor in the MacBook Pro disabled. In unibody MacBook Pro machines, you have both chipset-based and dedicated graphics processors. If you set the system to have better battery life in the “Graphics” section of the Energy Saver system preferences, the system will turn off the discrete graphics processor, leading to significant battery savings. However, doing this will result in more system memory usage since the onboard graphics chip does not have its own video memory.

Select this option to turn on the dedicated graphics processor, and offloading video information from the system RAM.

Usage of applications like Photoshop, games and virtual machines that require large amounts of RAM devoted to graphics will be able to use the onboard graphics capabilities to handle more of the tasks at hand. As a result, users can usually see the “kernel_task” process using more RAM. In contrast, if you are using the dedicated graphics, applications will be using the 512MB of available video RAM for the graphics card instead of the system RAM. This will result in more available system RAM, especially during heavy graphics usage (even though this option is only available in the 15-inch and 17-inch “Pro” models of unibody aluminum MacBook. The 13-inch and non-Pro versions only have one graphics processor and do not have these options).

If you’ve seen this on your end, please let us know.

How-To: How to Fix a Faulty Multitouch Trackpad

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Date: Monday, January 4th, 2010, 07:23
Category: How-To


Occasionally the Really Cool Thing on your MacBook or MacBook Pro stops working the way you want it to. And you get frustrated.

Per MacFixIt, a number of users have found that their multitouch trackpads on MacBook and MacBook Pro computers may randomly stop accepting 3 and 4 finger gestures. Although two-finger scrolling, tapping, and clicking will work as expected, the more complex inputs do not seem to be recognized.

This problem could be from a number of factors, including faulty preference files and other system settings and driver conflicts. Take a gander at the following tips to help resolve this issue:

Inherent Trackpad Delays:
If there are multiple confusing inputs being presented to the trackpad, the system may pause input for a second or two while it waits for a clear gesture to be used. These delays may be more prominent for multiple-touch gestures, so if you experience them, wait a few seconds and try the trackpad again with a firm and clear swipe instead of frantically trying to get the trackpad to work.

Test The Trackpad:
The utility “BetterTouchTool” has a “Live View” feature that can be used to visualize trackpad inputs. After installing and launching the preferences (from the BetterTouchTool menu extra), if the trackpad driver is recognizing multiple inputs you should see the dots representing those inputs on the Live View display. Keep in mind the BetterTouchTool is very experimental at this point, and while it does work it may crash; however, this feature should let you know whether or not the trackpad and driver are still working.

BetterTouchTool Live View: After installing and opening, select the “Touchpad” tab and click “Show Live View” to see the finger inputs on the trackpad.
(Credit: Screenshot by Topher)

Change Trackpad Settings: If the trackpad is not loading settings properly, try toggling some settings in the “Trackpad” system preferences. This should spur the system to load the new settings and hopefully get the trackpad working again.

Remove Third-Party Drivers:
If you have other input drivers, such as USB Overdrive, Logitech Control Center, or enhancers such as jiTouch or Multiclutch, try removing them and restarting the computer. Many times incompatibilities between input drivers may cause problems.

Try removing the .GlobalPreferences.USER-UUID.plist file:
The user account’s .GlobalPreferences file is a hidden preference file used for device settings such as colorsync profiles, default printers and monitors, and trackpad settings. After deleting this file and logging out and back in, you may need to ensure these items are setup correctly again. To do this, open the Terminal and follow these steps:

1. Type the following command (do not press enter): rm ~/Library/Preferences/ByHost/.GlobalPreferences

2. Press the Tab key twice, and you should see an output of the files containing “.GlobalPreferences” in their name.

3. Locate the one with the UUID in it (the UUID will look something like this: 6F77B0D6-8208-4977-8B45-EB1ADF6714BA) and start entering part of the UUID portion into the terminal so the command looks like the following: rm ~/Library/Preferences/ByHost/.GlobalPreferences.6F77B

4. When you have entered part of the UUID section of the file name, press the Tab key once and the file name should automatically complete, so the command looks something like the following: rm ~/Library/Preferences/ByHost/.GlobalPreferences.6F77B0D6-8208-4977-8B45-EB1ADF6714BA.plist

5. After the full filename has been typed, press enter to remove the preference file, and then log out and log back in to your user account.

Reset the PRAM: The system’s PRAM contains a number of settings, including those for mouse and trackpad input. Resetting the PRAM should clear any problematic settings that may interfere with the trackpad. To do this, reboot the system and immediately hold down the options-command-P-R keys. Hold the keys until the system resets a couple of times, and then release them and allow it to boot normally.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end or found a fix or workaround of your own, please let us know.

How-To: Repair Fuzzy Icons in Snow Leopard

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Date: Tuesday, November 24th, 2009, 07:35
Category: How-To


There’ll always be bugs, you can count of that.

Per CNET, a number of Snow Leopard users have been complaining of blurry and pixelated icons showing up in the Finder. A thread on the Apple Discussion Board outlines this issue, where instead of the large and crisp icons that are so prominent in OS X, the system shows grainy and low-resolution versions of them, regardless of the icon size being used.

Mac OS X icon files are actually comprised of several files in one, each which represents a different version of the icon from low resolution to high resolution. This is so the system will not always load the high-resolution versions if the icon size does not call for it.

Potential fixes for this issue include the following:
An application called BlueHarvest allows users to repair the DS_Store files that might be causing this issue. The program can be located and downloaded here.

Remove system and user caches:
Additionally, you can try using a system maintenance tool to remove all user and system caches. This can be done with a utility like OnyX, and I would recommend tackling the following system caches:
dyld’s shared cache

All “System” cleaning routines

All “User” cleaning routines

After removing the caches, restart the computer.

Additionally, removing the Finder’s preference file may also help, since icon rendering is a function of the Finder. The preference file is called “com.apple.Finder.plist” and is located in the /username/Library/Preferences/ folder. Move this to the Desktop and restart the computer (or logout and log back in) and hopefully the Finder will load the icons properly again. Keep in mind that doing this will remove a few customizations of the the Finder, including sidebar additions and recent items, but that should be easy to set up again.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end, let us know.

How-To: Work Around Snow Leopard Installation Issues

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Date: Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009, 04:09
Category: How-To, Mac, Software


As nifty as Mac OS X 10.6 (“Snow Leopard”) may be, according to MacFixIt, a number of users are reporting a problem where the installer will not recognize the current boot drive as a valid destination for Snow Leopard. Instead, it will display the drive with a yellow triangle on it, indicating something is wrong with that drive. When the drive is selected, the installer claims the system cannot boot from the drive.

Over on the Apple Discussion Boards, poster “redpola” writes:

“I closed all my apps. I ran the installer. I agreed to the terms. I am asked where to install Snow Leopard. Only one disk is available – my boot disk. It has a yellow triangle on it.

Selecting the disk tells me ‘Mac OS X cannot be installed on Macintosh HD, because this disk cannot be used to start up your computer.’ Rebooting and attempting an install direct from CD yields the same results.”

The issue occurs when the Snow Leopard installer detects a small discrepancy in the partition table of the drive, and assumes booting off the drive may not be successful. The fixes involve rewriting the table without formatting the drive, but if that does not work then formatting should definitely work (provided you have a backup).

1. Run drive checks.

The first thing to do is run Disk Utility or, even better, run a third-party utility program to check out the drive to ensure it is functioning correctly. Fixing any errors may require booting off a volume other than the boot volume (i.e., the Snow Leopard DVD or a Drive Genius DVD), and performing the fixes from there.

2. Repartition the drive.

This problem might happen even if the drive checks out with various disk utility software. The way around this is to have Disk Utility repartition the drive, which, luckily, can be done without having to format the drive. To do this, boot from the Snow Leopard DVD and select your language. Then launch “Disk Utility” from the “Utilities” menu and perform the following steps:

Select your boot device (the device above the boot volume name), and select the “Partition” tab.

Resize the partition by selecting the volume name in the rectangular volume representation and drag the bottom-right corner of it to change its size.

Click “Apply” to change the partition’s size.

Revert the change by dragging the same resizing corner back to the bottom, and click “apply.”

After this is done, quit out of Disk Utility and try installing Snow Leopard again. Since you are booted from the Snow Leopard DVD you should be able to continue immediately without having to reboot your system.

1. Format and install.

If you have a full system backup via Time Machine or a drive clone, you can format your boot drive and do a clean install of OS X. To do this, first be sure your backups are complete and accessible, and then boot off the Snow Leopard DVD (click the “Utilities” button instead of “Continue” in the Leopard installer, or reboot and hold the “C” key to boot off the CD/DVD drive). When the installer loads, select your language and then launch “Disk Utility” from the “Utilities” menu and perform the following steps:

Select your boot device (the device above the boot volume name), and select the “Partition” tab.

Select “1 partition” from the drop-down menu, and then give the partition a name and format it as “Mac OS Extended (Journaled).

Click the “options” button and select “GUID” for the partition table.

Close this window and click “Apply” to repartition the table.

Close “Disk Utility” and continue with the Snow Leopard installation.

When the installation completes, migrate your data from your backup to the new system.
In this procedure, you can migrate from either your Time Machine backup, or from a cloned drive. Keep in mind that when you do this you may need to reinstall some programs since a clean install may break some application dependency links to system files.

How-To: Get Around MobileMe Authentication Requests After Canceling an Account

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Date: Thursday, July 23rd, 2009, 03:40
Category: How-To


If you’ve recently canceled your .Mac/MobileMe subscription, you may be having a problem where your Mac doggedly tries to connect to MobileMe and presents a log-in window at random. When this happens, entering the old MobileMe credentials won’t work, and clicking cancel seems to be the only way to get rid of the window.

Over on the Apple Discussion board, poster “Maria Folsom” writes:

“I suddenly get a message box on my screen that requests my .mac usernameand password for .mac. I haven’t been a .mac (or MobileMe) member for months. When I enter my old password and user name, another message says it is invalid. Very annoying, as this keeps popping up now suddenly for no reason.”

According to MacFixIt, this problem is because the old account username and password have been left in the MobileMe or .Mac control panel, which is trying to authenticate and connect to the service periodically. When this happens and the credentials do not work because the account was canceled, MobileMe will prompt for correct credentials.

The current fix is as follows:

Go to the MobileMe or .Mac system preferences and delete the log-in and password information stored there. Additionally, you may also try removing any MobileMe or .Mac entries from your keychain with the Keychain Access utility. Doing this should prevent an improper log-in attempt by MobileMe, which results in this authentication window.

Try it again from here and let us know how it goes in the comments.

Some Mail.app Users Reporting Difficulties with Cox Cable Provider

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Date: Tuesday, July 21st, 2009, 08:20
Category: How-To, News


A number of Cox internet service members have been having trouble accessing their e-mail accounts through Apple’s Mail program. Per MacFixIt, the connection seems to be fine and log-in works, but while Mail will show downloaded messages in the “Activity” window, they will not show up in an in-box. Additionally, a message of “mail cannot verify the identity of pop.central.cox.net” may appear.

The issue may have arisen from a recent update of the Cox e-mail servers that is contributing to this problem, since it seems to have cropped up in the past few days. Other (such as those discussing the issue in this Apple discussion thread) have claimed this happening for a few weeks. According to Cox, its e-mail servers seem to be fine, but the problem persists for affected members.

Some users have found that turning off SSL authentication for their e-mail accounts has helped the problem, which can be done in the “Advanced” section of the accounts settings in the preferences. To have Mail work continually you may need to toggle the SSL setting periodically, but this has helped a few people experiencing problems.

One workaround to at least accessing your mail is to use the Cox Web mail program, which can be found at http://webmail.cox.net.

How-To: Creating a Flash for Your iPhone 3GS Camera

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Date: Wednesday, July 8th, 2009, 04:31
Category: How-To, iPhone 3GS


Despite the dramatic improvement in the iPhone 3GS’s new 3 megapixel camera, there are still complaints as to the lack of a built-in flash on the handset. Over on The Channel Project, Ryan decided to make his own flash out of a Mophie JuicePack.

The result was him cutting open the JuicePack, connecting a white LED and a tiny switch to the iPhone and being able to take a picture by holding down a button on the case.

It’s not for the brave of heart, but if you can pull it off, you’ve got an easy flash for your 3GS…

How-To: Add Multi-Touch Functionality to Your Pre-2008 Apple Notebook Trackpad

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Date: Monday, June 15th, 2009, 18:13
Category: How-To, MacBook

Amidst heated controversy as to whether Apple’s upcoming Mac OS X 10.6 (“Snow Leopard”) operating system will add multi-touch gestures to older MacBook and MacBook pro notebooks, the guys at The Unofficial Apple Weblog have taken it upon themselves to ask what makes a multi-touch trackpad unique and how to simulate this on an Apple notebook sans such an interface. The answer lies in an embedded controller chip, identical to the one in the iPhone and iPod Touch, which allows advanced input from more than two fingers at once.

Later, Apple’s unibody MacBooks and MacBook Pros debuted with multi-touch trackpads, but also introduced new four-finger gestures, which will not be officially supported in the older MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros until Snow Leopard’s release.

The original MacBook Air and early 2008 MacBook Pro are the only machines which will gain additional gestures via Snow Leopard. The only reason these notebook models are able to gain these gestures via software updates, while earlier MacBook Pros and all plastic MacBooks are not, is because they possess the multi-touch controller chip in their trackpads.

The following is the list of Apple notebooks that will support multi-touch gestures, either now or after Snow Leopard:

  • MacBook Air (all models)
  • Early 2008 MacBook Pro
  • Late 2008 17″ MacBook Pro
  • Unibody MacBook (all models)
  • Unibody MacBook Pro (all models)

Still, for pre-2008 and plastic MacBook owners, the following steps (courtesy of the MacRumors forums) can help bring multi-touch functionality to your notebook:

First, download a modified AppleUSBMultitouch.kext file. Navigate to System/Library/Extensions, and remove the old AppleUSBMultitouch.kext (you will need to type in your admin password).

Move the modified AppleUSBMultitouch.kext into System/Library/Extensions. You’ll most likely have to type in your password again.

This next step is critical: repair disk permissions using Disk Utility. If you don’t, after you restart your trackpad will not function.

Once permissions are repaired, restart. Success!

This procedure isn’t for the faint of heart and will probably have to be repeated with every major Mac OS X 10.5.x update, but it should provide multi-touch goodness if you want it.

How-To: Get Around MacBook/MacBook Pro Sleep Issues with Mac OS X 10.5.7

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Date: Tuesday, May 19th, 2009, 08:46
Category: How-To

Mac OS X 10.5.7 has been out less than a week and, according to MacFixIt, a number of users have reported sleep issues with MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks upon installing the updated operating system software.
Over on the Apple Discussion Board, reader “Roger G” reported the following:

“The 10.5.7 upgrade (both with Combo and Delta from Safe mode) killed the ability of my white MacBook to sleep via clamshell closing. After a reboot, the system would sleep normally, but awakening the system and then sleeping would result in a system freeze. The monitor light on the case would not wax and wane in brightness but would stay on full. A few minutes later the fans would start spinning at full speed until the battery drained or the machine was rebooted.”

User “smitty 195” expressed a similar sentiment with the following:

“I am having the identical problem as everyone else (freezes on 2nd sleep attempt). I have a MacBook Pro, and upgraded to 10.5.7 yesterday.”

Per various reports around support forums, the issue appears to be tied into Ethernet settings on the notebooks, as described by “Andreas S.”:

“It appears that if the Ethernet is not enabled (airport only network settings) that on the MacBook Pro the sleep only works once and crashes the second time.”

The following steps are currently being offered as a fix for the issue:

1. Open System Preferences > Network
2-1. If you see your Ethernet port in your list of network ports (on the left-side of the window) and it says “Inactive,” activate the port by clicking the gear wheel icon and selecting “Make Service Active.” Click “Apply.”
2-2. If you do not see your Ethernet port in your list of network ports (on the left-side of the window), click the “+” button in the bottom-left corner.
3. In the “Interface” drop-down menu, select “Ethernet.”
4. Enter a name and select “Create.” You should see your new Ethernet connection appear.
5. Click “Apply.”
Note: If you are having this issue and your Ethernet port is already enabled, try disabling it (using the gear wheel icon menu > “Make Service Inactive”). Log out or restart your Mac, then enable it. Be sure to “Apply” your changes.

Once complete, the notebook can be testing by closing the screen and seeing if the sleep function succeeds. Be sure to try this twice, as several reports have pointed to the second attempt at sleep to be the one that causes the issue.