Mac 911

A cure for missing Key Caps

I’m trying to figure out how to use special characters in specific fonts, but I can’t find Key Caps in my Applications folder or anywhere in Mac OS X 10.4.3. Font Book doesn’t allow me to try the modifier keys. Please help!—Gail Goldyne

That’s what they pay me for, Gail. Go to the International preference pane (Apple: System Preferences). Click on the Input Menu tab and select the Keyboard Viewer option. Select the Show Input Menu In Menu Bar option at the bottom of the window, and a flag representing your current keyboard layout (a U.S. or an Australian flag, for example) will appear in the Finder’s menu bar.

Click on the flag. From the menu, choose Show Keyboard Viewer. A small window representing your Mac’s keyboard appears. When you type characters, their corresponding on-screen versions appear highlighted in this window (see “Brand-New Viewer”). To view special characters, simply hold down any modifier keys (the option key, for example), and the on-screen keyboard will show you the special characters available for that particular key (or for that combination of modifier keys if you’re holding down more than one). To test other typefaces, click on the Font menu at the bottom of the window and select another one. If you find Keyboard Viewer too small, click on the green Expand button in the top left corner of the window.

Brand-New Viewer With Key Caps gone, you can now turn to OS X’s Keyboard Viewer to gawk at the Mac’s hidden characters.

The insomniac Mac

My Mac has trouble sleeping. What’s going on?—Via the Internet

Nothing is more frustrating than a Mac that you have to reset because it won’t awaken or a laptop that sucks up the battery charge because it fails to sleep. I wish this problem had a single answer, but regrettably it doesn’t. Failure to sleep properly remains one of the great bugaboos of our favorite computer. If your Mac is too sleepy (or sleep deprived), here are a few issues to consider.

System Preferences Settings Most people have trouble with sleepless Macs. In that case, check a few settings in System Preferences to see whether they might be to blame. First, wander over to the Energy Saver preference pane. Click on the Sleep tab and make sure that you don’t have the Put The Computer To Sleep When It Is Inactive For slider set to Never. Then open the Classic preference pane (if you have it), click on the Advanced tab, and check the Classic Sleep setting. Again, you want that slider set to something other than Never if you expect your Mac to go to sleep automatically while running Classic applications.

If you don’t use your Mac to receive faxes, open the Print & Fax preference pane, click on the Faxing tab, and make sure that the Receive Faxes On This Computer option is disabled. Your computer could be keeping a wakeful eye out for incoming faxes.

If Internet Sharing is switched on, a Mac running OS X 10.4 won’t sleep. Go to the Internet tab of the Sharing preference pane and click on Stop to disable it.

Corrupt Files If certain preference files become corrupted, your Mac could refuse to sleep properly. If you have Bluetooth, turn it off in its preference pane (this won’t show up on Macs without a Bluetooth adapter), quit System Preferences, and give Bluetooth’s preference file the boot—you can find it at / your user folder /Library/Preferences/com.apple .Bluetooth.plist.

A corrupt PowerManagement preference file can also be a problem. Quit System Preferences and toss these files: /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.PowerManagement.plist and /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com .apple.AutoWake.plist. Enter your administrator’s password when requested, restart your Mac, and reconfigure Energy Saver.

Peripherals and PCI Cards Some printers, scanners, Bluetooth devices (mice, in particular), and third-party PCI cards can keep your Mac from going to sleep. Shut down your Mac and unplug everything—including PCI cards your Mac doesn’t absolutely require to run—except for the monitor, keyboard, and mouse (surely you’ve got your old wired input devices around somewhere). Restart your Mac and see if it behaves itself. If so, add devices back one at a time, beginning with a PCI card, restarting after each addition and seeing how the Mac fares. When the problem recurs, cock a suspicious eye at the device you last added. Look for an updated driver for that device. If no such driver exists, you can try replacing the device. In the case of an irreplaceable doodad, you may just have to live with your Mac’s sleep disorder.

If a Bluetooth device appears to be the problem, launch System Preferences, click on Bluetooth, and switch off the Allow Bluetooth Devices To Wake This Computer option. (Note that if a Bluetooth device isn’t the cause, you may create a new problem by turning off this option, as you need to have it turned on for your Bluetooth mouse or keyboard to wake a sleeping Mac.)

An imageless Outlook

I often get e-mail messages that have pictures and text mixed together. If my wife gets one like that on her iMac in Apple’s Mail, it displays just fine, but if she sends it to me on my PC, on which I’m using Microsoft Outlook, all the pictures and text change to attachments. We’ve experimented with the settings in Mail that claim to make e-mails PC-friendly, but nothing helps. Is this a bug, and has a newer version of Mail fixed it?—Merle Parks

Although I’m a little embarrassed to troubleshoot what is partly an Outlook issue, this one has stung enough people that I think addressing it is worth our while.

If you use Microsoft Entourage (part of the Microsoft Office 2004 suite, $499) to embed an image in a message, the image appears just fine when you open it in Outlook on a PC. The same goes for in-line images sent from Mozilla Thunderbird (free). In-line images sent to the PC as part of a Mail message, however, appear as attachments. Yet if you send that same message from Mail on the Mac to Thunderbird running in Windows, the image appears in the message as intended.

This tells us there’s plenty of blame to go around. Because Outlook doesn’t expect to see the Rich Text Format that Mail uses to send its messages, it refuses to display images in those messages. On the other hand, more-flexible programs such as Thunderbird (and Microsoft’s own Entourage) have no qualms about displaying Mail’s images in line.

While we’re on the subject of Mail, Outlook, and attachments, I should mention that if you add one of Mail’s signatures to your message, Outlook receives it as an additional attachment. For example, if you create a message that includes an image called test.jpg and you also append a signature to the message, the Outlook recipient will see the text of the message along with two attachments—test.jpg and ATT00004.txt, a small text file that contains the signature.

Old-school drives

I have a lot of old files stored on Iomega Bernoulli cartridges. I have my Bernoulli 230 drive. It’s a SCSI device, so I purchased an Adaptec USBXchange USB-to-SCSI adapter, but I still can’t access the device. I can’t locate OS X driver software for it anywhere. Any suggestions?—Dan Colasacco

You’ve got at least two problems here. The first is that, according to Adaptec’s USBXchange FAQ, the USBXchange adapter itself isn’t compatible with OS X. But even if it were, it’s possible that the drive wouldn’t mount on your desktop. Although some older drives that use removable media—Iomega’s Zip drive, for example—work without a driver, others don’t. So what can you do? Go old school.

Rummage around in the garage for an old Mac with a SCSI port (and if your garage doesn’t have one, look for a garage sale or friend that does). This Mac will likely run Mac OS 9. If you’re lucky, you still have a driver for your Bernoulli device that will work with the old Mac OS. If you’re not so lucky, take a trip to DriverGuide and look for it.

If and when you get the drive up and running, copy the files to a piece of compatible media—a CD-R, for example—or network the two computers and copy your old files across the network ( click here for some suggestions).

A more reasonable Reason

In the Red Reason and GarageBand will tell you when they’re tuckered out by displaying a red gauge or playhead.

I’m having problems using a music package called Reason. It operates fine, but I can’t seem to play most of the demo songs, some of which are only 100KB in size. I get a message saying that my computer is too slow and that I should optimize my songs. I’m using Tiger with a 733MHz G4 processor and 896MB of RAM. Is there anything else I can do before I have to buy more RAM?—Via the Internet

I understand that in choosing to answer this question, I risk alienating the 97 percent of my readers who believe MIDI has something to do with mid-1970s women’s apparel. To draw those readers back in, let me explain that some of what I’m about to say applies to Apple’s GarageBand as well.

First, make sure that you’re using the very latest version of Propellerhead Software’s Reason ($499). The first revision of Reason 3 has performance issues. Download the latest version (currently 3.0.4 Build 547), and your problem may disappear. Although you’re using Tiger, people using a version of OS X prior to 10.3 should upgrade to Panther or Tiger, as the current build of Reason works better with more recent versions of Mac OS.

Next, understand that the size of the song file has almost nothing to do with how well the song plays back. As with GarageBand (see, I told you I’d tie it in), Reason’s drag on the processor (and RAM) comes from its software synthesizers, samples, and effects. The song files simply tell the program what to play.

Finally, with the latest version installed, take a gander at the CPU meter in Reason’s transport area. If you see this meter move into the red while songs are playing, you’ve learned that Reason is demanding more of your Mac’s processor than it can comfortably deliver. GarageBand has the same issue. It tells you how it’s feeling by displaying different colors in the playhead. When that playhead goes red, GarageBand is struggling (see “In the Red”).

While these programs like RAM, they love fast processors. Reason will run on a G3, G4, or G5 processor, but no one claims that it will run well. Provide Reason (or GarageBand) with a zippy processor or two, and you’ll find that it can play lots of tracks slathered with loads of effects.

If a faster processor isn’t in your immediate future, do just as you’d do with GarageBand: quit other applications, delete unused tracks, and cut back on the effects.

In Reason you can also lower the sample-rate setting. Sound quality suffers, but at least the sounds play without audio glitches or error messages. In addition, use mono tracks rather than stereo (and mono samples rather than stereo), because they demand less of the processor. Make sure you have only one song document open at a time. Finally, keep in mind that some of Reason’s sound modules demand more of your computer than others. See the “Optimizing Performance” section of Reason’s manual to learn more about this and other performance issues.

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