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I just returned from Detroit after talking OS X troubleshooting with Michigan’s largest Macintosh user group, MacGroup Detroit. There was a large and enthusiastic bunch on hand and I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

As is usual for users group meetings, lots of people had questions about all things Apple. A few of those questions—and answers—I thought worth including in today’s Mac 911 entry.

When in roam

Among the first questions was something from a gentleman who began, “So, I took my iPhone to Europe last month and yesterday I opened my AT&T bill…” and that was enough to elicit a sympathetic groan from those in the know.

If you’re likewise in the know you understand that the gentleman had been hit with massive roaming charges. In the U.S. the iPhone’s AT&T plan includes all the data you can eat. Not so when you use the phone overseas. If your iPhone is configured to check email every so often and its using AT&T’s EDGE network rather than Wi-Fi, you too will cry when you see your bill. Roaming charges can add up quickly (and aren’t cheap to begin with).

One solution is to leave your iPhone at home and either take your old phone (which you’ve unlocked) and purchase a cheap SIM card overseas or rent a mobile phone when you arrive at your destination and purchase X number of hours for it.

But your iPhone can still do you some good when abroad as it can operate as a perfectly fine Wi-Fi communications device—a way to surf the Web or retrieve your email over Wi-Fi (not EDGE as that’s where you’re dinged for roaming). To ensure that the phone doesn’t use EDGE when you’re not looking, use a paperclip to extract its SIM card and leave the card at home or tuck it away in your carry-on and don't put it back into the phone until you return to the U.S. You won’t be able to make calls with the iPhone (or use EDGE or YouTube) but you will be able to use its Wi-Fi capabilities.

Images to PCs

Another gentleman had an issue with sending JPEG images to friends who used PCs. For some reason, images attached to email messages could be seen perfectly well by his Mac-wielding friends, but refused to open on Windows boxes. (This is a common problem if the recipient is using AOL but that didn’t appear to be the case here.) Some in the group suggested that he contact those recipients who couldn’t open the messages and see if their ISPs were filtering email in such a way that the images were blocked.

Figuring that not all ISPs are open to such communication I suggested that he do as I do and simply create .zip archives of files before he sends them to his PC-packing pals. Group Leader Terry White offered the additional suggestion that he convert the images to PDF files as that variety of file is rarely blocked by ISPs.

Is it safe?

Finally, after suggesting that when things get weird after booting up your Mac it’s useful to Safe Boot the Mac by holding down the Shift key at startup (until the Apple logo appears) the group wondered exactly what’s disabled when you use Safe Boot. My answer was more general than I would have liked. Here, according to Apple (and I quote), are the specifics:

  • It forces a directory check of the startup volume.
  • It loads only required kernel extensions (some of the items in /System/Library/Extensions).
  • In Mac OS X 10.3.9 or earlier, it runs only Apple-installed startup items (some of the items in /Library/StartupItems and /System/Library/StartupItems—and different than login items).
  • Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger only: It disables all fonts other than those in /System/Library/Fonts.
  • Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger only: It moves to the Trash all font caches normally stored in /Library/Caches/ , where (uid) is a user ID number such as 501.
  • Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger only: It disables all startup items and any Login Items.
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