How-To: Work Around Snow Leopard Installation Issues

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

snowleopard

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).

Fixes:
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.

Workarounds:
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

mobileme

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

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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

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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

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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.

How-To: First Mac OS X 10.5.7 Problems Reported, Fixes Offered

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Date: Friday, May 15th, 2009, 08:40
Category: How-To, Software

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Apple’s Mac OS X 10.5.7 update has been released, none of my Macs are on fire and I consider this a good thing.
Still, there’s bound to be problems and the hep cats at MacFixIt have begun to collect reports on a couple of outstanding issues:

Blue Screen
This update may automatically restart your computer up to three times during the update process, and for some people this has not happened but instead has hung on the first restart at the blue screen. Several people have reported waiting for the hang to resolve itself, but that has so far not been successful. When this happens, the fix so far has been to manually reset the computer:
-Listen to the computer and be sure the hard drive is not being accessed.
-Press and hold the power button until the computer shuts off.
-Power on and hold the shift key to boot into safe mode.

This procedure has apparently helped a few people, and while some did not need to boot into safe mode, for others the computer would continually hang until they tried safe mode.
Blue screens have occurred via past Mac OS X updates and are generally due to permission and accessibility problems during the update. The likelihood of these can be reduced via the following steps:

-Don’t use Software Update. Instead, download the standalone “Combo” updater.
-Reboot into Safe Mode.
-Run Disk Utility and perform a Permissions fix and hard drive repair.
-Run the updater.
-Immediately repair permissions again.

Other users have reported that their new display resolutions are disappearing, resulting in the computer outputting non-native display resolutions to the monitor. In most cases, instead of being able to choose 1920×1200 as the resolution (the native resolution for many widescreen displays), the computer will only output 1920×1080 (the maximum for HDMI connections). This seems to be a conflict in the drivers, since 1920×1080 is the maximum display resolution for HDMI connections.
Fixes to this problem include zapping the PRAM (which can be done by holding the options-command-P-R keys all at once at reboot, and holding them down until the computer resets a few times, then releasing them and allowing the computer to boot normally) as well as using a program called SwitchResX, which allows for fine-tuned customization of monitor outputs. The program is a demo, but installing it, setting the screen resolution, and then optionally uninstalling it seems to clear the resolution problem the OS X update.
Other general troubleshooting tips include the following:

-Boot into Safe Mode and run a permissions fix with Disk Utility.
-Reset the PRAM.
-Reinstall the update using the downloadable “combo” update (not any other), and following the “safe” method of installation mentioned above.

How-To: Work Around Continuous External Hard Drive Spinning

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Date: Friday, April 24th, 2009, 07:37
Category: How-To

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As spiffy as Mac OS X’s 10.5 Time Machine feature can be, a number of users have noticed that their external hard drives continue to spin even when they have stopped using the drive, which has brought about the question as to whether the drive was being accessed by another, unauthorized application or because of a bug. While this issue does not have a clear solution, most people agree that the disk access is normal and not a result of a bug.
According to MacFixIt, users have submitted the following comments, workarounds and ideas:
Apple Support Discussions user “Timothy Arends1″ commented:

“I have an external LaCie FireWire hard drive that I use for Time machine. I understand that it should stay on and connected to my Mac so that time machine can make its periodic backups.
I normally do not like to leave it on, because it “cycles.” By that I mean, it will go to sleep, or “spin down,” and then a few minutes later, for some reason it will wake back up again.
When Time machine is backing up to it, it is understandable, but it “churns” even when Time machine is not using it, for example, when I simply save a file to my documents folder (I never save anything directly to my Time Machine drive) or sometimes for no reason at all.”

This was followed up by Apple Support Discussions user “Robert Weingarten”:

“Although I have turned off Time Machine in the Preference panel, several times per hour TM keeps trying to access the external FireWire HD that it formerly used to do backups. I repeatedly hear the FireWire drive rev up each time this happens and its very distracting when working at my computer. Can anything be done to completely make Time Machine forget that drive?”

Possible workarounds for the issue include controlling the frequency with which your Mac accesses the external hard drive, as outlined by user “Pondini” on the Apple Support Discussions board:

“Some drives respond to the Put the hard disk(s) to sleep … option in System Preferences > Energy Saver.”
By most accounts, it is completely normal for a mounted external hard drive to be accessed several times per hour, even if the drive is not directly in use. To get an idea of what processes are causing your drive to be accessed, you can open Activity Monitor in your Applications, Utilities folder and watch for processes to spike as the drive is accessed.

The user then suggested going to www.bivalve.net/reference/OS-X/background-processes.html and looking into the Window Server application, which manages the display and mediates how Mac OS X’s various applications and other processes that want to display information on it, as the program does the grunt work of launching new user applications.

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How-To: Work Around Delays, Hangs in Time Machine

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Date: Tuesday, April 14th, 2009, 09:23
Category: How-To

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Let’s face it, Time Machine is a spiffy and useful thing as well as one of the main bells and whistles of Mac OS X 10.5. This isn’t to say it’s without its bugs and despite Apple’s best efforts, there are times where backups appear to hang or stall out sans warning.
You may be familiar with the situation, as described by poster “PaulArthurUK” in the Apple Discussion forums:

“When time machine starts to back up my machine, it hangs (the clock icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen spins, but the backup disk is not being accessed and currently Time Machine shows no backup in the last five days). Once it has hung, various applications start to behave oddly and generally I am unable to shut them down, even via force quit.”

Per MacFixIt, there are a variety of reasons why this could happen. The most common is when the backup daemon is doing a “Deep Traversal” of the source drive to ensure its catalog of changed files correctly reflects the status of the source disk. When this happens, Time Machine will stick at “Preparing…,”. This can take a long time, depending on the size of the node being traversed, but usually speeds up once the deep traversal is completed.
To easily check out Time Machine logs and track down problems and exactly what Time Machine is doing, download the “Time Machine Buddy” widget, which will display the TM logs in the dashboard.
Time Machine’s hanging may affect other chunks of the operating system, causing widespread slowdown. This type of behavior usually indicates the system resources are not accessible to the system when the system is expecting them to be.
Other scenarios that may cause a slowdown include the following:

Drive malfunction: If the drive is making clicking sounds, or doesn’t appear properly either on the Desktop or in Disk Utility, then there may be a problem with the drive. For external drives, low power to the drive can cause the system to hang.
Volume corruption: While the disk may be fine, if the formatting or partitioning of the drive has problems, then the drive will not be properly accessible by the system.
Drives being put to sleep: The energy-saver setting to put drives to sleep whenever possible can cause them to go into a state where they won’t wake up properly. This depends on the drive itself, but while the system waits for the drive, you can experience a hang.

User can try running Disk Utility to check for and repair errors on the drive or perform these tasks more thoroughly with a third-party disk utility software such as “Disk Warrior,” “Drive Genius,” “Disk Tools Pro,” or “Tech Tool Pro.” Checking both the boot drive and the Time Machine drive for errors is recommended.
Beyond drive-specific issues, there can be incompatibilities both with other system resources and third-party applications, which can cause Time Machine slowdowns. Antiviral software can interfere with Time Machine’s functions, especially if you have live scanning or “on-access” scanning enabled. Turning off these settings in the antivirus software may help this situation. Additionally, if you have Spotlight enabled for the Time Machine drive (it is enabled by default), this can sometimes endlessly try to index the drive. As such, you can try adding the Time Machine drive to Spotlight’s privacy list, and then remove it to restart indexing.
A similar trick can also be performed via Mac OS X’s Terminal application, which will ensure the spotlight stores are deleted and started anew via the following steps:

Open Terminal
Type the following command and include a space after the command:
mdutil -E -i off
Drag the Time Machine disk to the Terminal window to enter the full path to the disk, such as the following:
mdutil -E -i off /Volumes/TMDisk/
Ensuring a space is between the “off” and the drive path, press enter
Repeat this command, changing the “off” to “on” in order to enable spotlight on the drive again.

Finally, if you are backing up over a network (especially a wireless network), backups can be slow by nature. At 54Mb, speeds of most wireless connections, you will run at a maximum of 6MB per second, which translates to 14 hours for a 300GB backup when running at optimal conditions. Given network overhead and other interferences, this can easily double and result in the backup taking a day or two. For the initial backup to a networked device, you might try plugging in the Ethernet connection, which should be at least double the speed, but up to 20 times faster than wireless.
A final fix for slow backups can be to restart Time Machine on the drive by removing it and re-adding it in the Time Machine preferences. Doing this seems to clear various bottlenecks in Time Machine and start backups running at faster speeds again.

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How-To: Reset Mac OS X’s Software Updater Function

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Date: Tuesday, April 7th, 2009, 07:20
Category: How-To

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As nigh-indispensable as Mac OS’s Software Update feature can be to locate and install patches for the operating system and supported applications from Apple, there remains the fact that some items might not install or the updater may not seem to work at all.
Per MacFixIt, a user identified as “The Dragon” posted this comment over in the Apple Discussion Boards:

“After a longish while, the “Checking for new software…” progress bar [in Software Update] had reached about halfway, and the update list indicated it had found five updates. At that point however, the progress bar chose to freeze entirely. After a good while and no further progress, I Cancel the update, and attempt to relaunch. Software Update opens, but the aforementioned progress bar freezes immediately.”

Like any other application, problems can occur if any required resources have become corrupt. From here, the application will start properly and not run correctly. These resources can include the program’s preferences files and caches. In addition, when updates are applied, a receipt is generated that Software Update reads to know what updates have already been installed. If an installation fails, but the receipt is left, software update may not try to install a needed update. Additionally, if a receipt is corrupt, then software update may try to repeatedly install the same update.
Assorted fixes for the issue include the following steps:

Fixes:
1. Remove Software Update preference and cache files.
If Software Update seems to be unable to complete an update, and either freezes or quits half-way through checking for updates, then try removing the application’s preferences and cache files from the following locations:
/username/Library/Preferences/ByHost/ –> remove “com.apple.SoftwareUpdate.NUMBER.plist”
/username/Library/Preferences/ –> remove “com.apple.SoftwareUpdate.plist”
/username/Library/Caches/ –> remove “com.apple.SoftwareUpdate” (folder)
/Macintosh HD/Library/Preferences/ –> remove”com.apple.SoftwareUpdate.plist”
After removing these items, restart the system for the changes to take effect and try launching Software Update again.
2. Remove faulty receipts.
If an update continuously appears and is being applied, try removing the receipt for that specific update. The receipt should be located in the /Macintosh HD/Library/Receipts/ folder and will be named something similar to the update files (i.e., FrontRowUpdate2.1.7.pkg). Do not delete the receipt, but instead move it to the desktop or some other location and retry the update. If it still does not work, replace the receipt in its original location, since it may be required and isn’t the root of the problem.

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