How-To: Work around Apple notebook blank screens

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Date: Friday, June 4th, 2010, 09:59
Category: How-To, MacBook, MacBook Pro

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As trusty and reliable as your MacBook or MacBook Pro may be, there are times where it will hate you and its screen will go blank. Sometimes this will take place as you’re working, other times after a restart or when waking up from sleep. The cool cats at CNET have assembled the following useful guide as to what may be the underlying concern and how to fix it:

Software issues:
The display going out could be a matter of a software configuration problem, either with the display drivers or with one of the active processes that interacts with them, such as the window server. There are a few ways you can overcome this. The first is to change the display configuration by either plugging in or unplugging an external monitor. This will cause the drivers to refresh the display output and desktop configuration; hopefully, this will reset the error. The second way is to try sleeping the system again by closing the lid and opening it. When you close the lid, you should see the battery and sleep indicator lights (green and white, respectively) turn on.

You can also use a key sequence to force the display to sleep and reset, which, hopefully, will force the display to reset properly and turn on. To do this, press and hold the Control and Shift keys, followed by the Eject key.

Lastly, if the display will not work even after rebooting, try loading into Safe Mode, especially if the display turns off after properly showing an initial gray screen. If safe mode works, you will need to troubleshoot the software setup by first uninstalling any recently installed drivers or utilities, and then by creating a new user account for testing purposes, since sometimes display problems can happen from an account-specific configuration problem. This will tell you if the problem is account-related or has to do with more global resources. If the problem persists in a new account, the next best step would be to boot off your Mac OS X installation DVD to see if the display works under a completely bare and fresh installation.

If the installation DVD works, then you will need to reinstall your OS by first reapplying the latest “Combo” update for your version of OS X (this is best applied when in Safe Mode), and then by run the installer from your OS X DVD and ensure that you have “Archive and Install” selected with the option to save user accounts and data (this is done by default in Snow Leopard).

If the display problems occur when booting from the installation DVD, it is likely you are suffering from a hardware malfunction and will need to troubleshoot the hardware setup.

Hardware issues:
Hardware issues that can affect the display output include firmware settings as well as the display hardware and controllers themselves. Many people have tried to reset the PRAM when they have issues such as the screen being blank when the computer is woken from sleep; however, many display settings are stored in the System Management Controller. Therefore, in addition to resetting the PRAM you may benefit from resetting the SMC on your machine. On most MacBooks you can do this by removing the power and battery, and pressing the power button for 15 seconds, but some models vary so look up how to do this for your particular machine.

Beyond firmware settings, you may have a problem with the display inverter or LED driver board, which is what runs the backlight on LDC displays. When this happens, the display should still be working, but will not be easily visible because of the lack of lighting. You can test this by shining a flashlight on the display at different angles, or preferably through the Apple logo on the back of the display. If you see graphics showing on the display, then your backlight is not working. If a restart or SMC/PRAM reset do not help, you will need to take the computer in for servicing.

Lastly, if you have recently had the computer serviced (especially if done by yourself), some of the display-related circuits may have been improperly connected or insulated upon assembly. Apple has foam and plastic insulation around circuits and connectors that can be shorted out by touching other components, so if you forget to put these back on when assembling the system, you can easily cause a component like the inverter to fail. Luckily this usually can be fixed by replacing the insulation, but you will need to have it serviced again to fix.

Work-arounds:
If you are unable to get your display working, you can still control your system in an attempt to save your work and safely shut it down. One way is to use Screen Sharing, which you may have enabled in the Sharing system preferences. You can then use Remote Desktop or Apple’s built-in Screen Sharing service to connect to and control your Mac.

Alternatively, if you have Remote Login enabled (SSH), you can use an SSH client on any other networked computer to log in and issue the “shutdown -h now” command to close down and turn off the computer. This will take familiarity with the Terminal, as well as knowing its IP address (unless you are on a Mac).

Here’s the basic procedure:
Launch the Terminal application with SSH support

Type the following command:
ssh USERNAME@Computer-Name.local

In this command, the username is the short account name on the system, and if you are using a Mac “Computer-Name.local” is the computer’s network name, such as Tophers-Desktop.local; however, it can also be the computer’s IP address.

Confirm connecting and supply your password (it will not be shown)
Issue the shutdown command by typing the following:
sudo shutdown -h now

This process will turn off the system, but will force applications to quit so you will lose unsaved data. However, it still is a better option than pressing and holding the power button to turn off the system.

If you’ve found any fixes or workarounds of your own, please let us know.

Apple releases sixth beta of Mac OS X 10.6.4, no known issues reported

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Date: Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010, 11:09
Category: News, Software

snowleopard

Apple this week issued a sixth beta of its Mac OS X 10.6.4 security and maintenance update for its Snow Leopard operating system. Per AppleInsider, the latest build remains free of known issues.

According to sources close to the story, the beta, which was issued to developers last Tuesday, is labeled as “build 10F564″, weighs in at 600 megabytes which developers being asked to focus on graphics drivers, SMB, USB, VoiceOver and VPN.

The last few builds have all contained the same focus areas and enhancements, and this week’s update is no different. The updates addressed issues that could cause the keyboard or trackpad to become unresponsive, and also fixed a problem that prevented some Adobe Creative Suite 3 applications from loading.

Apple first began widespread testing of Mac OS X 10.6.4 in late April. The previous update to Snow Leopard, Mac OS X 10.6.3, was released at the end of March. It included improvements for QuickTime X and OpenGL-based applications, in the form of a 437.2 megabyte update.

Half-Life 2 for Mac OS X to hit Steam today

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Date: Wednesday, May 26th, 2010, 04:18
Category: News, Software

Half-Life 2, the groundbreaking first-person shooter, will become available for Mac OS X today via the Steam digital storefront. The game follows the exploits of scientist Gordon Freeman as he fights through the dystopian world of City 17 in an effort to battle and interdimensional force known as the Combine.

Per AppleInsider, Valve, the developer of the Half-Life series, released a video Tuesday echoing Apple’s iconic “1984″ commercial, which introduced the Macintosh platform to the world in what many have heralded as the greatest television advertisement of all time.

To promote the release, Valve has offered the following commercial, the company’s own take on Apple’s legendary “1984″ commercial:



As part of the staggered rollout of Steam for Mac, Valve plans to release new titles every Wednesday, each designed to highlight specific functionalities of the Steam platform on Apple hardware. The first collection of titles included Portal, which was available to play for free for a limited time.

For users who’ve already purchased and activated Half-Life 2 on a Windows version of Steam, check in on Steam for Mac OS X today and you should be able to download and install this version of Half-Life 2 without charge.

Steam is digital game distribution platform which has more than 25 million users and offers access to 1,100 games on the PC. Valve has said it will treat the Mac as a “first-tier” platform, meaning new major titles developed for the PC will release day-and-date with the Mac.

Users report mirrored display bug in Mac OS X 10.6.3

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Date: Friday, April 23rd, 2010, 03:21
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Mac OS X 10.6.3 has worked out fairly well and my living room carpet has yet to spontaneously catch fire as a result of installing it, but an ongoing issue with the operating system version seems to corrupt graphics on external displays when you present in full screen with “mirrored” displays. In routine situations, the display will work and show the mirrored desktop in the Finder, but when applications take over use the display to show full-screen presentations, media, or other purposes, the graphics will garble and can only be fixed with a restart.

Per CNET, this problem seems to happen on multiple machines, though MacBooks are more prominently affected. This is probably because they are used more for presentations. Users have tried SMC resets, PRAM resets, and numerous approaches to clearing caches, fixing permissions, running other maintenance routines with no luck.

Over on the Apple Discussion Board, chatter between a number of has indicated that the problem could be a bug in the latest OS release, which updated the drivers, OpenGL, and other graphics technologies.

If you are affected by this problem, you can use one of the following work-arounds to keep your display from corrupting:

Try a different video processor:
For MacBook Pro owners who have multiple GPUs in their systems, the problem may be avoidable by switching the graphics processor being used. To do this, go to the “Energy Saver” system preferences and change the option from “Higher Performance” to “Better Battery Life” or vice versa.

Use extended desktop:
Instead of using the mirroring mode in OS X, change the external display to be in extended desktop mode. Do this by going to the “Displays” system preferences and unchecking the box to “mirror displays.” Once this has been done, to use your presentation, just drag the window to the desired display and activate it (should work in PowerPoint and Keynote).

Make a presentation boot drive:
Make a presentation boot drive if you have an external drive. Install OS X to it and upgrade it to 10.6.2, and install your presentation software to it. Then when you are giving a presentation just copy your presentation to that drive, reboot to it, and run your presentation in mirrored display mode without the display problems.

Move back to 10.6.2:
The last step is to move your system back to OS 10.6.2, which can be done by restoring to a previous Time Machine backup. It can also be done by performing a reinstallation of OS X from the Snow Leopard DVD. The installer will create an “Archive and Install” of the system that should keep as many of your settings and application installations as intact as possible, but do be sure to back up beforehand as an extra precaution.

Rumor has it that Apple has started issuing developer releases of OS 10.6.4 already, so hopefully the update will address these issues.

If you’ve seen this issue from your end, please let us know about it.

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.6.3 v1.1 Supplemental Update to address stability problems

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Date: Wednesday, April 14th, 2010, 03:59
Category: News, Software

snowleopard

This was strange but it’s worth snagging.

On Tuesday, Apple released stability fixes for the client and server versions of its Mac OS X 10.6.3 operating systems via its Mac OS X 10.6.3 v1.1 Supplemental Update. The update, which can be found here, is intended for users who have updated to Mac OS X 10.6.3 directly from Mac OS X 10.6 using the recently issued Mac OS X Update Combined 10.6.3 for Snow Leopard. Users who updated from either Mac OS X 10.6.1 or 10.6.2 to 10.6.3 do not need to install this update.

Per Macworld, the update includes many of the same improvements in Mac OS X 10.6.3, such as updates to QuickTime X, OpenGL-based apps, coloring messages in Mail, and printing reliability. It also addresses issues with opening files with some special characters in Rosetta apps, color problems with HD content in iMovie, recurring events in iCal when connected to an Exchange server, and it improves performance of Logic Pro 9 and Main Stage 2 under 64-bit mode.

The Mac OS X 10.6.3 v1.1 update is available from Apple’s support download site as a 785MB combo updater; there’s also a 897MB combo update for Mac OS X Server 10.6.3 v1.1.

As always, if you’ve tried the update and noticed any significant changes (for better or for worse), feel free to hurl your two cents in.

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

snowleopard

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 Mode.

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.

Apple releases Security Update 2010-002 for Mac OS X 10.5.x

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Date: Tuesday, March 30th, 2010, 03:26
Category: security, Software

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Following yesterday’s release of the Mac OS X 10.6.3 update for Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) users, Apple also released Security Update 2010-002, a 208 megabyte download that incorporates previous security updates have been incorporated into this security update and essentially brings Mac OS X 10.5.x to the same security standard as Mac OS X 10.6.3.

For a full list of the changes, click here.

As usual, the update can also be located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

Security Update 2010-002 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.6.3 update

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Date: Monday, March 29th, 2010, 11:46
Category: Software

snowleopard

After months of waiting, Apple has finally released its Mac OS X 10.6.3 update. The update, which varies between being a 400+ and 700+ megabyte download, contains a massive set of changes and fixes presently listed here.

The Mac OS X 10.6.3 update requires Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

As always, the update can be located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

If you’ve downloaded the new update and noticed any positive or negative changes or the living room carpet has caught fire for an unexplained reason, please let us know in the comments.

Mac OS X 10.6.3 release seems imminent, upgrade tips posted

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Date: Monday, March 22nd, 2010, 04:16
Category: News

snowleopard

Following a flurry of developer releases for the upcoming Mac OS X 10.6.3 update, a public release seems imminent with sources guessing it could be released today or this week.

With that in mind, the cool cats at CNET have offered the following preparation steps to take prior to the update:

Back up:
Always back up your system before updating it. The best practice is to perform a full and restorable backup by using Time Machine or a cloning system (SuperDuper, Carbon Copy Cloner) and then testing the backup to be sure you can access it in the event of an update failure.

To test your Time Machine backup, boot to the OS X installation DVD, select your language, and choose the option to restore from backup that is in the Utilities menu. In the restorable backup list, you should see the most current backup you made. To test a bootable drive clone, boot to it either by selecting the clone in the Startup Disk system preferences and rebooting, or by holding the Option key at start-up and selecting the drive from the boot menu.
Once you have confirmed the backups are healthy and have booted back to your main hard drive, unplug the drive from your system (if you can–some people use internal drives for Time Machine) or unmount it at the very least (just drag it to the trash) so the system will not interact with it during the update. Then proceed with the update.

Clear up current issues:
If you are having major problems with your current OS installation, try addressing them first. While OS updates can be the solution to many problems, if you are having major stability problems (i.e., random crashes, odd noises, inability to authenticate) then be sure to address them before applying the update.

Run general maintenance:
At the very least, run some general maintenance on the system before updating. For the most part you can do this by booting into Safe Mode (which runs a few maintenance routines at start-up) and then running a permissions fix using Disk Utility. In addition, you can also clear caches and other temporary files using programs like OnyX, Snow Leopard Cache Cleaner, IceClean, Yasu, and Cocktail.

Unplug peripheral devices:
If you have external USB or Firewire devices, unplug them from your system before updating. While it is rare that peripheral devices interfere with installations and updates, it can happen especially upon the first reboot as the system reconfigures drivers and boot caches. Once you have installed the update and have completed the first boot, then plug in your devices again.

Installation options:

Software update:
This is the most common method of updating, and will download the minimum number of files needed for your system and current software setup. It is the fastest and easiest method, but will keep a large number of the unchanged files on your system.

Standalone Delta update:
As with other versions of OS X, Apple will provide the 10.6.3 update as a standalone installer. This may be a larger download than what is available via Software Update because it includes update files for all computer models and software setups. It will be available at Apple’s support downloads page, and we will also provide a link to the delta updater when it is released.

Using this update allows you to take extra recommended precautionary steps during the installation, such as booting into Safe Mode and installing when unplugged from the network to avoid any interruptions.

Standalone Combo Update:
Similar to the Delta updater, you will have the option for the full Combo update. This update will contain the full set of files that have been updated since the OS X 10.6.0 release. Using it to install the update will ensure all updated files are replaced, even if they have not been changed since 10.6.2. Using the combo updater is a fairly standard troubleshooting step that can help fix various OS problems, and is a good way to keep your OS installation as fresh as possible.

As with the delta update, we recommend you install this when booted to Safe Mode and after running standard preparatory maintenance routines such as permissions fixes.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know if you happen across any tips, tricks or fixes during your update.

Apple Posts Second Private Mac OS X 10.6.3 Developer Beta, Final Release Seems Imminent

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Date: Friday, March 19th, 2010, 04:29
Category: News

snowleopard

Late Thursday Apple posted the second private beta of its Mac OS X 10.6.3 update in as many days, a move that suggests that the software is rapidly approaching a release candidate.

The latest pre-release carries build number 10D572, just one complete compile removed from build 10D571, which was seeded to software developers on Tuesday.

Apple typically seeds external betas of Mac OS X updates at such a rapid frequency only when the software is entering a final candidate stage, or if a serious and potentially-hazardous glitch was discovered with the preceding build.

Per AppleInsider, sources close to the story have said that Apple is now asking developers to focus their testing efforts around Mail, images, security certificates and photos, in addition to graphics drivers and QuickTime, both of which have remained a priority throughout the better part of the beta program.

An emphasis on fonts and iCal that accompanied Tuesday’s beta was reportedly dropped with the distribution of build 10D572. Meanwhile, an issue with recurring events in iCal’s interaction with Exchange server was repaired.

The 10.6.3 update is also said to include an update to QuickTime X that improves security and compatibility while also enhancing overall reliability of the media software.

The update will also include tweaks that enhance the performance of Apple’s 64-bit Logic pro audio suite and deliver better compatibility with third-party printers and OpenGL-grounded applications.

Other fixes baked into the release target issues with mail messages displaying the incorrect background color and problems copying files to a shared Windows volume.

The latest distributions weigh in at just shy of 790MB in Combo Update form and 725MB as a barebones Delta image.

If you’ve played with the build and have any comments about it, please let us know.