Bugs & Fixes: Work-arounds for sound loss, trailer failure, and over-full iPads

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My Apple hardware has recently been bothered by several unrelated bugs—ranging from alert sound loss on my Mac Pro to free space mysteriously disappearing from my iPad. While I’ve figured out satisfactory work-arounds for most of these symptoms, they still defy a complete and permanent solution. Here are a quartet of the ones that have frustrated me the most:

Alert sound loss

Periodically, my 2009 Mac Pro appears to stop playing alert sound effects. I typically first take notice of the problem because Office for Mac’s Outlook stops playing the sounds that accompany sent or received mail. Finder alert sounds similarly vanish. Sounds in most other situations, such as music in iTunes, continue to play just fine. Of possible relevance, I have external speakers connected to my Mac via Line Out.

When this sound loss occurs, I can get things working again via the following fix:

1. Go to Sound System Preferences. Switch the source for “Play sound effects through.” In my case, I switch from Line Out to Display Audio and then back to Line Out.

2. If needed, lower or raise the Alert Volume, as a final kick in the pants.

From the Sound System Preferences, toggle the “Play sound effects through” setting to get alert sounds to return.

Immediately after doing this, the Mac’s alert sounds return. Oddly, the first thing that happens is that a long string of alerts plays — which is the backlog of all the alerts that had not played during the period of silence.

A web search turned up one recommended alternative solution: Launch Activity Monitor, locate the coreaudiod process and quit it. The process will immediately relaunch. Your sound should now be back. I suspect that my System Preferences work-around and quitting coreaudiod are achieving the same endpoint, but from different directions.

Unfortunately, within the next week or two, the symptom invariably returns on my Mac. Web reports confirm that this reappearance also happens for other users plagued by the bug. There appears to be no surefire permanent fix.

One Apple Support Communities thread suggests that putting the Mac to sleep may trigger the symptom. Of course, not everyone who puts their Mac to sleep has this problem. The ultimate cause, like the ultimate fix, remains unknown.

Trailer movie downloads fail

I like to save my favorite movie trailers to my hard drive, for easy later access. To do so, I go to Apple’s Movie Trailers webpage, select the desired movie and call up the menu that lists the Download items. After I select a file to download, the trailer opens up in QuickTime Player, where I can export the file to my drive.

The popup menu lists the Download options for a movie trailer.

At least that’s how things worked until last week. Now, whenever I select a trailer to download, QuickTime Player opens but the trailer never shows up. This happens with every trailer on Apple’s site. It happens whether I access the trailer from Safari or Firefox.

Searching online for answers, I found a few suggestions. One thread said to make sure that “Enable Plug-ins” was checked in the Security tab of Safari’s Preferences. Another said to make sure that no Safari extension that had any “click-to-load” function was enabled. Given that the symptom is not restricted to Safari on my drive, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that neither of these solutions worked for me.

Still, I was able to come up with a work-around. While it’s less convenient than just clicking the item in the webpage menu, at least it works:

1. From the menu that shows the download file options, control-click the desired item to bring up its contextual menu.

2. From the contextual menu, select Copy Link.

3. Launch QuickTime Player. From the File menu, select Open Location. Paste the copied link and click Open.

The trailer should open and play. You can now save it via the File menu’s Export command, just as you do if the trailer had opened directly from the web browser.

iOS device “over-capacity”

Last week, when I connected my iPad to iTunes, the Capacity graphic (that you see at the bottom of the window when the iPad is selected) surprisingly indicated the iPad was “Over Capacity.” It was over capacity by more than 11 GB! I was surprised. Previously, it had not even been close to capacity. As far as I knew, I had done nothing to significantly increase the iPad’s data storage.

In studying the Capacity graphic, I noticed two anomalies. First, the Photos category (which had held about 5 GB of data) had disappeared. Second, the Other category had ballooned to more than 10 times its previous size, entirely accounting for why the iPad no longer seemed to have any free space left.

The size of the Other category mysteriously explodes to cause an “Over Capacity” error.

A search of the web revealed several potential fixes, ranging from simply quitting and relaunching iTunes to a complete erase of the device via the Restore option on the iPad’s Summary screen.

When simple solutions such as relaunching iTunes did not work for me, I opted for a middle ground: I selected Restore from Backup… via the contextual menu for the device’s listing in the left-side column of iTunes. This avoids the more time-consuming complete restore that would have required a fresh install of the firmware.

The middle ground fix worked! I did have some initial glitches getting the iPad to restart after the restore (I’m going to gloss over the details here as I think they are unlikely to be common). When the iPad finally did complete its restart, the “over capacity” error had vanished. Things were back to normal.

The consensus view is that data in the Other section primarily represents temporary files. Occasionally, something may go wrong and these files stop getting removed when no longer needed. As the files accumulate, available free space declines. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an explanation of what exactly goes wrong or how to prevent it. So all I can do is hope that the problem does not recur.

Unable to talk to lsboxd

Recently, when I happened to check the Console logs for my Mac Pro, I noticed a repeating series of error messages that I had never seen before:

mdworker: Unable to talk to lsboxd

sandboxd: mdworker deny mach-lookup com.apple.ls.boxd

According to several web postings (such as this one), these messages first started popping up after installing Mountain Lion 10.8.2. Some users (including myself) have no symptoms associated with these messages. Others report problems ranging from a failure of the Mac to wake from sleep to random re-indexing of Spotlight (which is understandable, as mdworker is part of the underlying indexing software for Spotlight).

A fix that appears to eliminate (or at least vastly reduce the frequency of) these messages is to start up in Safe Mode and, when complete, restart again as normal. During a Safe Boot, the Mac forces a directory check of your drive, making repairs as needed—similar to what you could do from Disk Utility. A Safe Boot also deletes assorted temporary cache files. I’m guessing that one of these actions accounts for why a Safe Boot has a beneficial effect here.

As to the precise reason that the error messages occur in the first place, once again no one seems to have a clue.

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