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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

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

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.


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

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

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.


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

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

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:

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.


Sleep Tips for MacBook, MacBook Pro Notebooks Published

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Date: Monday, April 6th, 2009, 09:03
Category: How-To

Albeit generally reliable, putting your MacBook or MacBook Pro notebook to sleep can be a bit of a gamble. When you open the notebook back up, you want to make sure the computer will wake up again or your day just got that much worse.
Over on the Apple Core, David Morgenstern has offered the following tips in getting his MacBook Pro to wake from sleep under both Mac OS X 10.4 and Mac OS X 10.5.
Per Mac OS X 10.4:

1. Before I put the machine to sleep, I unplug anything connected, such as an Ethernet cable, hard drive or mouse.
2. Next I use the Sleep command under the Apple Menu to put the MacBook to sleep and I wait until the screen actually goes blank before closing the lid. I don’t just close the lid.
3. When I go to wake the MacBook, I open the machine and make sure that I don’t plug anything into the machine before I wake it.

Interestingly enough, Mac OS X’s Energy Saver panel allows for multiple types of sleep (“computer sleep,” which is what we commonly think of as sleep, where the system sleeps; “display sleep,” where the screen goes black; and “hard disk” sleep, where the drive spins down).
The column then mentions that the following types of sleep can be used:

Sleep, where the Mac saves the state in RAM, which means it can go to sleep and wake up quickly, but could bring trouble if the battery runs down or is removed.
Hibernate, where the state is written to the hard disk (the safest for your data), but takes the longest time to be put to sleep and to wake up.
Combination Sleep and Hibernate, which Apple calls Safe Sleep. It may take the longest time to sleep but it also can wake quickly. And if your MacBook supports it, you can swap in a fresh battery.

For users looking to specify the sleep type used, software developer Patrick Stein’s SmartSleep lets you choose between the modes.
For users experiencing problems getting their MacBook notebook to sleep, Apple’s “Why Your Mac Might Not Sleep or Stay in Sleep Mode” Knowledge Base article offers the following tips:

There are reasons why you may want your Mac to stay awake even though you are not using the keyboard or mouse, such as when you are:
Watching a DVD movie
Listening to your iTunes music library
Running an automated backup
Away from your computer while downloading large files

The article also mentions that using Bluetooth devices can disrupt a MacBook’s sleep function:

You can allow Bluetooth devices to wake a sleeping computer by enabling “Allow Bluetooth devices to wake this computer” in Bluetooth preferences. A bluetooth device paired correctly should not typically prevent a computer from sleeping. However, some Bluetooth mice can interfere with sleep.

Finally, applications themselves can affect sleep:

If an application uses a custom font to display text but the font resource is marked purgeable, then at some point the memory manager will purge the font from memory. When the application tries to draw text using that font again, it will be loaded from the hard drive, resetting the sleep timer.
Applications can be designed to keep the system awake and prevent idle sleep indefinitely. In developer lingo, an application may explicitly prevent system sleep by calling IORegisterForSystemPower(), and calling IOCancelPowerChange() when it receives a power management kIOMessageCanSystemSleep notification.


How-To: Get Around Conflicts Between Back to My Mac and Time Machine

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Date: Tuesday, March 17th, 2009, 08:10
Category: How-To

As nifty as Time Machine is, a number of users seem to be running into problems where the “Change Disk…” option for Time Machine is nonfunctional.
Over on the Apple Discussion Board, user Joel_H offered the following description of the issue:

“(After switching TM disks) I realized there were still things on my time capsule backup that were no longer on my G-Raid2, so I switched drives in Time Machine and restored what I needed. I then tried to switch back, and the “Change Disk…” button is depressing but not responding.”

According to MacFixIt, users encountering this issue may have first tried changing their Time Machine setup for Time Capsule devices (i.e.: from Wireless to Wired connectivity), but a few people have noticed this may happen if the Time Machine backup volume has its name changed. One workaround users have tried, which has met with some success, is deleting the Time Machine preferences and then reselecting the drive. This seems to only be a temporary fix and the problem returns after a period of time.
The issue appears to be related to Apple’s MobileMe services and tends to rear its ugly head when the Back to My Mac option is enabled. Console error messages for this problem indicate a potential conflict with Bonjour networking, which Back To My Mac uses. For now, the available workaround for this problem is to turn off Back To My Mac.
Other workarounds include the following steps:

1. Turn off Back To My Mac.
To turn off Back To My Mac, click the “stop” button in the “Back To My Mac” section of the MobileMe system preferences. This should enable the “Choose Disk” button in the Time Machine setup again.
2. Remove Back To My Mac preferences.
This problem could be from corruption in the “Back To My Mac” preference files. As such, removing the Back To My Mac preferences may also help. The preference file is called “com.apple.BackToMyMac.plist,” and is located in the /Macintosh HD/Library/Preferences folder.

Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available and if you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know in the comments or forums.


How To: Get Around Unibody MacBook Pro Freezes During Screenshots

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Date: Monday, February 23rd, 2009, 08:30
Category: How-To

As exciting and cool as your new unibody MacBook Pro may happen to be, there may be some bugs to sort out.
According to MacFixIt, a number of users have posted to the Apple Discussions board complaining that the screenshot function on their late-2008/unibody MacBook Pro notebooks cause the system to freeze for a few minutes.
Apple Discussions poster ikarus79m described the situation as follows:

“I have noticed a super weird bug with my new MacBook Pro. At least while running the integrated graphics chipset (not yet tried in power mode.) When I snap a screenshot using Shift+Command+3 (or 4) my computer takes the screen grab, however, then freezes for a minute or two. After that it comes back to life.”

There are several potential causes for this problem, the first being a driver issue, where the screenshot utility is more prone to problematic behavior when running with the drivers for the newer computers. This may be supported by some users having the problem only when running on the GeForce 9400M GPU.
Potential fixes are as follows:

Repair permissions: This problem seems to be influenced by some permissions problems for core system files. Fixing permissions using Disk Utility seems to help the problem. Alternative to Disk Utility, users might wish to do a more in-depth system cleaning using a third-party utility such as AppleJack or OnyX. These utilities can fix multiple problems beyond just permissions, since they can clear many caches, run built-in maintenance scripts, and run a variety of other tasks to keep the computer running optimally.
Reset the SMC and PRAM: While it’s unlikely that hardware settings in the SMC and PRAM would directly affect the screen shot utility, some users have seen improvement after resetting them. It is possible that some faulty setting could interfere with driver function. To reset the PRAM, hold the options-command-P-R keys down all at once after restarting, allowing the computer to reset s couple of times before releasing the keys and allowing the computer to boot normally. This Apple Knowledgebase article (http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1411) contains the steps for resetting the SMC on various MacBook models.
Workaround: Because this problem is with the internal screen capture utility, users can bypass it by using a third-party screenshot utility.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end, let us know in the comments or forums.


Apple Posts Knowledge Base Articles to Help Access RAM/Hard Drive/Battery for Unibody MacBooks

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Date: Tuesday, February 17th, 2009, 13:41
Category: How-To

Recently, Apple posted updated Knowledge Base documents referencing how to access the batteries, hard drive and RAM on the new unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks.
While the 13″ and 15″ computers come with a hatch that provides easy access (at least to the hard drive and battery), the 17″ computers do not have a hatch and many users have complained about the accessibility for user-serviceable hard drives, as well as RAM upgrades for the whole product line.
Per MacFixIt, Apple’s reasoning for removing the access hatch makes sense from a battery engineering standpoint, but it does limit users from otherwise relatively simple repairs, upgrades, and troubleshooting. Despite not having a hatch, the 17″ macbook is still accessible. Users will have to remove the bottom case of the computer, and will need a #0 philips screwdriver.
The Knowledge Base documents can be located at the following links:
17″ MacBook Hard Drive (and RAM) (note that the RAM installation instructions are inscribed on the inside hatch).
15″ MacBook Hard Drive (and RAM).
For users interested in upgrading the RAM on the new 15″ MacBook Pro, the following video guide functions as a very thorough demonstration on how to upgrade the RAM:
If you’ve upgraded your unibody MacBook or MacBook Pro and have any tips to offer, let us know in the comments or forums.


Bluetooth Kernel Panic Guide Published

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Date: Thursday, May 24th, 2007, 09:58
Category: How-To

The guys over at MacFixIt have posted a workaround and repair guide geared towards resolving Mac OS X kernal panics triggered by Bluetooth extensions.
Like the extension conflicts of Mac OS 9, Bluetooth kernel extensions can trigger the system to fail, but can be diagnosed by looking at the system’s crash logs and seeing what appears. From here, the user can disconnect various Bluetooth devices to find the culprit and remove kernel extension-related caches with programs like Cocktail and Tiger Cache Cleaner.
Click here to check through the guide and if you’ve found any fixes or workarounds of your own for these problems, let us know.


Adobe CS3 Installation Bug Workaround Discovered

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Date: Tuesday, May 1st, 2007, 11:22
Category: How-To

Reader Ciro Coelho sent us this workaround when he found himself unable to cleanly install the Design Premium version of its Creative Suite 3 package:
I got problems as soon as I tried to install CS3 Design Premium on a G5 running 10.4.8 with a Photoshop CS3 Beta installed. I checked the web for a solution to the problem, and found the CS3Clean script. I uninstalled Photoshop CS3 beta and the CS3 Design Premium using its uninstalling routines (Utilities folder), ran the CS3Clean script and trashed preferences as instructed by the script read me files. I tried installing CS3 after repeating the same procedure for 2 existing user accounts, as well as having created a fresh one, to no avail. I then called Adobe and they told me to do what I had already tried. The only solution left, which had been successful with other customers, was to archive and install OS X, or ultimately, to clean re-install it before attempting to install CS3.
For obvious reasons I resisted they suggestion, and found A SUCCESSFUL solution:
-Uninstall all CS3 applications (beta and shipping versions).
-Run Adobe’s CS3 Clean script, trash CS3 preferences.
-Mount an external firewire drive.
-Install OS X (I did 10.4.9) onto it.
-Restart and boot up from that firewire drive.
-Insert CS3 CD, install software onto the external drive.
-Restart from your regular internal drive.
-Migrate (Utilities>Migration Assistant) from the firewire drive where you installed a fresh OS X and CS3.
-Restart from that new user account on your regular internal drive. Launch one of the applications from CS3, enter serial number, register computer.
-Login from your regular user account and launch CS3 applications.
If you’ve seen similar instances of this or created your own workaround, let us know.