XBook III: VGA, Spanning, and Phantom Monitors

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Date: Monday, February 1st, 1999, 00:00
Category: Archive


I find myself getting more comfortable using Mac OS X on my Titanium on a full time basis, but there are still some pesky issues that keep forcing me to switch over to my Mac OS 9 partition.

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Before I jump into them I want to mention two salient points that were made about the Phantom monitor bug that I mentioned in XBook I and II.

Reader Abe J says:

Though I agree with many of your OS X criticisms and praise (I, too, am now an OS X snob) I take issue with one complaint. VGA, and most other computer monitor standards, are not hot-swappable, even in sleep. OS 9 was extra-flexible in this respect, though I bet the hardware is not designed for this type of unrecommended use. OS X is not as forgiving, but part of the blame lies with the user, as what OS supports or takes extra care to give a user the opportunity to blow out their video-out ports?

Reader tenten adds:

I ran into the same multiple monitors problem with my G3 Powerbook and OS X. The solution is that you need to create a second admin user and log out before shutting down the machine. I don’t understand why this works, but it does. This Apple discussion board has comments on the issue.

In terms of day-to-day use I really miss the ability to sync my Handspring Visor to Microsoft Entourage, not to mention neat things like being able to install applications, etc. Sheesh, what a bummer. Since Palm Desktop isn’t yet available for OS X I find myself using my Visor as more of an island: simple scrawling of random notes and lists.

The missing DVD support doesn’t really bother me as much because if I am going to watch a two hour DVD, it is usually planned (i.e. on a flight or some such) and it is easy to justify booting into OS 9 to do it. Productivity applications like calendars and contacts are inherently spontaneous, not to mention installing a quick 25 kb Palm app. But because this requires a reboot into OS 9, Palm stuff just gets put on the back burner. I use my Visor less because there is no OS X support. Let me repeat that for the folks at Palm: I use my Palm LESS because of its lack of OS X support 🙂

The hardest thing for me about OS X as we get into the warm spring weather is the lack of PC card support. It’s simple: I’m outside more in spring and I take more pictures when I am outside, but I can no longer simply snap the Smart Media card into the PC card adapter to download my pictures. Using my camera’s (Fuji 4700z) clunky USB cable isn’t an option either because they don’t have drivers for OS X. So listen up Fuji: I use my camera LESS… Ok, you get the message.

My new Novatel Merlin PC card modem for Ricochet sees less activity these days because of the missing PC card support in OS X. Instead I only boot into OS 9/Ricochet when I have to download a large file. Yes, I actually use OS X on Airport/56k dial up more than I use OS 9/Ricochet. Sick isn’t it? If some enterprising engineer has a hack to enable PC support in OS X, please make my day.

CD burning? I miss it in OS X but don’t mind that much because I only need to burn 2-3 CDs per week – mostly audio CDs that I burn near the end of the week to listen to in my Jeep. I can live with this for now because I know that it is a high priority for Apple to ship OS X CD burning support in the next release of iTunes.

Some side notes: lately I have been running into a weird issue where OS X does not allow me to use the Restart or Shutdown commands from the Apple menu. Even Logout command acts like it isn’t going to work for a while, then the spinning color wheel will pop up and it eventually does Log out. Weird. Another symptom: even the power key doesn’t bring up the restart/sleep/cancel/shutdown dialog.

The hardware brightness controls on your PowerBook keyboard can be activated by launching the Displays panel of the System Preferences, but that feature goes away if you restart or log out. The fix is to go into the Login panel of System Preferences and add Display Services (System/Library/Display Services) as a Login item. Unlike some readers, I really like the on-screen brightness control. it is cooler than the OS 9 version because it is super fast and it has more steps. Although the hardware mute key seems to work, the volume controls on the keyboard do not – and there are no on-screen controls.

Worth a look is the MacOSX.org series on Xwindows. The Tutorial includes information on what XWindows is, and how to install it. Later installments will cover customization and a complete install from source. MacOSX.org also has updated its MacOSX Security series with another installment concerning server administration techniques.

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