Troubleshooting trouble

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Whenever we propose a story about troubleshooting Macs, some folks around here get nervous. “What problems?” they ask. “How could you even suggest that the World’s Most Perfect Computer has problems?” Well, we love our Macs as much as anyone. But we’re well past that point in the relationship when we idealize them and ignore their flaws. We’ve reached a more mature stage, where we fix the flaws we can and accept those we can’t. Judging from reader reactions to our May 2006 feature, “OS X First Aid,” it looks like many of you are with us.

First aid responders

Russ Hodes—Thanks for Ted Landau’s excellent, concise article about troubleshooting your Mac (“OS X First Aid,” May 2006 ). This one issue alone is worth the price of a year’s subscription. By the way, my most useful troubleshooting tool is a handwritten logbook. I record every major change I make to the system—adding new hardware and applications or fixing problems. That book helps me keep track of the changes that any good customer support person will ask about.

Greg Seecof —Regarding your advice on fixing applications that keep crashing: The second step explained Safe Relaunch mode, which forces OS X to replace the application’s preferences file. Curiously, after installing an OS X update last week, I found I could no longer run Apple’s Final Cut Express. I tried the Safe Relaunch trick, but that didn’t resolve the problem, nor did any of the other methods described in your article. What eventually did fix it was moving the preferences file to my desktop, and then relaunching Final Cut Express.

Joseph Japes—The most important thing to do after an application crash is to notify the developer so they can report the problem to Apple, fix it, or help you solve the problem.

Anthony P. Barone —A friend recently gave me his old Pismo PowerBook, which hadn’t been started in more than a year. When I pressed the startup button, nothing happened. I tried resetting the PMU, reseating the RAM, using a different power cord and different battery, and every trick I knew, but nothing worked. Finally, after searching Apple’s Knowledge Base and posting some messages on discussion boards, I found a fix. After taking off the keyboard and removing the optical drive, I disconnected the battery. When I pressed the startup button, the computer came back to life. After shutting it down again, I reconnected the battery. The computer has worked just fine ever since.

Don Smith —Here’s a little trick for figuring out which login items might be causing problems: Disable half of them on the first try. If the problem is gone, you only need to check the items in that half of the list. If the trouble remains, check the other half. You can repeat this eliminate-half approach until you narrow it down to one item.

Your syncing feelings

Chris Fanta —I was really glad to read “Keeping Your Macs in Sync” ( Mobile Mac , May 2006 ): However, I think you should have mentioned another way to sync POP mail accounts. After selecting an account in Entourage (Tools: Accounts), double-click on an account, select the Options tab, and then select Leave A Copy Of Each Message On Server and Delete Message On Server When Deleted From This Machine. Apple Mail doesn’t give you the option of deleting a message from the server when you delete it from your local machine, but you can set it to automatically remove messages after a certain period of time. As long as you check your messages from your various machines often, this method should do much the same thing.

The problem with this method is that it isn’t really syncing: your POP server won’t keep track of which messages you’ve read, replied to, or forwarded, nor will messages you’ve filed into mailboxes on one machine appear in those mailboxes on another. A better solution is IMAP; see Mobile Mac, July 2006.—Ed.

Joel Sercel —One of the recommended approaches to syncing e-mail in “Keeping Your Macs in Sync” ( Mobile Mac , May 2006 )—namely, copying mailboxes from one computer to another—is potentially dangerous, because it can overwrite messages. A much better approach would be to network the two Macs and then import mailboxes. This will pull messages from one machine to the other without danger of overwriting.

We said quite clearly that the copy-over operation is risky. Importing is even worse than syncing, because you can’t import messages into their existing mailboxes. Importing creates new mailboxes, so you’ll end up with duplicate mailboxes and many duplicate messages.—Ed.

Virology 101

Ron Leppke —Regarding “Mac Virus Attack” ( Mac Beat, May 2006): I feel much more secure on my Mac than my friends do on their Windows machines. I don’t know a single Mac user who has ever reported finding a virus on his or her system. I have read through many of the Mac sites and haven’t found any evidence of a single Mac virus. That more people than ever use Mac OS and that the Mac now has Intel chips are irrelevant. What matters are the basic safeguards that are made possible by OS X’s Unix base and the skills of Apple’s engineers.

Same old Quark

Jesus Ali —“Killer XPress Time-Savers” ( Create , May 2006 ) exposed exactly why QuarkXPress is dead in the water. I haven’t used XPress for more than three years, and yet I recognized 90 percent of the tips. When my college computer lab switched to Mac OS X 10.2, I was forced to use Adobe InDesign. At first I was horrified, but I’ve never looked back. I love InDesign for its flawless typographic and PDF export abilities—features that XPress users must still jump through hoops to employ.

Just deserts

Daniel Scherl —In your May 2006 Mac 911 column, there is a problem that I think needs to be addressed. On page 90, there is a sidebar titled, “The Desert Island Question.” It should have been “The Deserted Island Question.” Though some islands are indeed deserts, most are not. If the island isn’t a desert, there could still be other people there—a possibility that contradicts the point of the sidebar.

No reason to switch

Matt Blitz —As a creative professional who uses a dual-core G5, I can’t imagine why anyone would upgrade to an Intel Mac until Adobe and Microsoft come out with Universal versions of Creative Suite and Office (“Where Are Adobe and Microsoft?” Mac Beat, May 2006). From all the reports I’ve read, we can’t expect to see Universal versions of these two pieces of software for at least six months. So any professional who is currently running Photoshop or InDesign is bound to notice a processing slowdown of nearly 50 percent on an Intel Mac. I can understand someone upgrading from, say, an 800MHz G4 iMac or something equally slow. But I doubt that a majority of us pros in the real world will be jumping on the Intel bandwagon until Adobe jumps first.

Feedback feedback

Tony Thompson —In Feedback ( May 2006 ), Bruce Carey wrote that “people feel they have the right to make a copy of a copyrighted work and then give it to someone else.” People should have this belief, because it’s correct, as long as the copy is for personal use. The copyright law says so. What people can’t do is give away many copies. How many is “many?” No one knows.

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