The Sherlock Files: Command F -- The Origin

It was a sultry summer day in Manhattan. The air was still and the street noises were muffled behind the door of my airless office at 221B Baker St. Stenciled in the recently washed glass of my office door was my name, Dr. John Watson, Ph.D., in computer science. Sitting at the not-so-recently cleaned desk was me, the good doctor himself.

I had been laboring over the daughtercard of my Wallstreet PowerBook. The soldering iron smoked slightly in my hand as I carefully placed the overclocked G4 processor into its slot on the card and soldered it in place. Then I applied a small amount of thermal grease around the edges of the processor to help dissipate heat. I replaced the customized heat sink and allowed my work to set. I was excited; soon I would have the world's first PowerBook G4.

I had just downloaded the latest build of Mac OS X from Apple's development server. I was anxious to try it on my new superfast PowerBook; my friend John Doe IV had told me that radical changes had been made to the search engine. I couldn't wait to try out the new plug-in that I had written for it.

"This is going to be insanely great," I said to myself while I waited for the installer to finish its job. Breathless, I restarted the computer and it booted into Mac OS X. I opened the lower left drawer of my desk and removed a single grape lollipop from my stash. Every person has one vice, and this is mine. I licked the sucker as my PowerBook booted into Mac OS X. In the corner, my cat Moof lolled listlessly in the sunshine.

"Blasted cat!" I spat out the cat hair that had lodged on my lolly. My hand smacked my desk, knocking over a mug of cocoa and spilling it onto the keyboard of my PowerBook.

"Drat! Double drat!" I cried and quickly tried to soak up as much of the liquid as possible with paper towels. But the damage was already done. My PowerBook fizzled and shut down -- just as Sherlock was opening on the screen.

The phone warbled. "Ugh, not now!" I groaned. But business is business, so I picked it up. "Dr. Watson's Macintosh Detective Agency. How may I be of service?"

A tearful woman's voice said, "Oh, I hope you can help me. My computer has lost my e-mail. It's vanished!"

"Hmm...that's unusual. What program do you use to check your e-mail?".

"Netscape. My bookmarks are gone, too." She sounded desperate.

"Have you installed anything recently, made any changes to your computer?"

"No. I don't think so."

"OK, don't panic. I'll be right over to take a look." I wrote down her name, phone number, and address and, crossing my fingers, hit the power button on my PowerBook. It chimed to life and I entered my name and password in the login screen.

On the screen was the Sherlock application that had been launching just as I spilled cocoa on the keyboard. Something about the program looked different.

"GOOD DAY TO YOU, DR. WATSON." Characters appeared by themselves in the search window. My mouth dropped open. Sherlock, the search engine, was talking to me.

"Egads! What the...who?" I stammered.

"MY NAME IS SHERLOCK, AND I AM AT YOUR SERVICE, MY DEAR BOY. PERHAPS I CAN HELP YOU WITH THE YOUNG LADY THAT JUST CALLED. I DO BELIEVE I KNOW WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO HER E-MAIL."

I nodded slowly, stunned -- taking in this astounding new discovery, "Goodness, yes! But please, no more all caps." It was hurting my eyes.

"AH, DR. WATSON, IF WE ARE TO WORK TOGETHER, YOU MUST BE MORE OBSERVANT. IT IS NOT I THAT AM RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS TYPOGRAPHICAL CONDITION. YOU'VE DEPRESSED THE CAPS LOCK KEY IN DRYING THE KEYBOARD."

Chagrined, I turned off caps lock, and a partnership was born.

"You know what has happened to her e-mail?" I prodded.

"But, of course, Dr. Watson. She'll be delighted to know that her e-mail is intact."

"I don't understand. How do you know this?" I asked, amazed.

"Because it was ported from Windows that Netscape stores the location information of its e-mail database and bookmarks in a file called 'Netscape Registry' in the Preferences folder in the System Folder. What has happened is that the young lady has renamed her hard drive and this has caused Netscape to lose track of where its e-mail and bookmarks are stored. They are still there, but Netscape can't find them because the path name of their location has changed. The solution is to use Netscape's Profile Manager to rechoose the location of the profile's (user's) bookmarks and mail. Netscape stores its bookmarks and mail files in a folder called 'Netscape Users' in the Preferences folder."

"Brilliant!" I declared.

I put on my hat and said, "We must go help this young lady fix her Netscape. I am going to put the PowerBook to sleep while we travel. I'll see you when we arrive at her office."

"Cheerio, Dr. Watson."

I put my PowerBook to sleep and packed it into my bag, case closed.

Damien Barrett ( damien@mrbarrett.com ) will be unraveling Macintosh mysteries for us each month. Post your puzzles for him to solve on our forum at the end of this article.

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