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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...




SCSI/USB, Deus Ex Mice, & The Command Line In OS X
September 18th, 2000

Howdy, everyone! Welcome to the latest edition of Ask Dave! Today we explore SCSI to USB options for newer Macs, configuring your third-party mouse to let you play games, and we talk about some command-line necessities for the nascent Mac OS X beta. If you have a question of your own, please ask! Otherwise, read on...

Lou DiGiorgio writes, "I have a UMAX Astra 1220S color scanner and an iMac. The scanner has two SCSI ports, the iMac has USB only and I have been told that there is 'No way' to connect the two. My question to you is, can I use this scanner with my iMac? I need to know about physically converting the SCSI to a USB connectable format. I also need to know about software/drivers that I will need. Any help would be greatly appreciated."

Well, Lou, I've recently been fighting this battle myself, and have been working with a few others that have been doing the same thing. There are, as you probably know, a variety of USB to SCSI adapters available out there. There are, however, MANY caveats, especially when dealing with scanners. I recently have been testing the SCUSBee from 2nd Wave, and my luck has been less than stellar. It seems to work okay with my SCSI Zip 100 drive (usually), but I have had no luck getting it to work with any scanner I've tried. We don't have an Astra 1220S here to test with, but have a few HP and UMAX scanners that we've tried, and just haven't had any luck. The folks at Second Wave tell me that many scanners do not follow the "SBP2" format, and that's the problem here. To be sure, converting from a parallel standard (SCSI) to a serial format (USB) is tricky, indeed, and even some of the SCSI<->FireWire bridges that exist out there are a chore to get working properly. Even when it does work, you typically lose the ability to "hot swap" that's inherent to the USB and FireWire busses.

That said, my best advice would be to head on over to eBay, sell that 1220S as fast as you can, and buy a USB scanner for your shiny new iMac. UMAX even makes a 1220U that you could probably also find over on eBay! Given enough time and effort, you could probably get the SCSI to USB link working properly, but from my experience it's not worth the hassle. Save your $75-$100 to put towards a new scanner and go that route.

Alexander Witkowski writes, "I just bought Deus Ex for my iMac and I also bought a four button Kensington Mouse-In-A-Box Optical Pro to make gameplay a lot easier, unfortunately Deus Ex is not reading that it is my main mouse. It does however recognize it as an Input Sprocket Device, so I set up the keys for it but the game still does not read it. I was wondering if there was anyway to fix this problem."

Alexander, this problem typically relates to the mouse driver software that you are running. Kensington Mouseworks is probably the culprit here, but I've seen other "3rd party" mouse drivers do the same thing, especially those from Microsoft and another piece of software called "USB Overdrive" on which many drivers are based. That said, the problem here is that the Mac OS isn't addressing the mouse directly, rather it's going through the custom software to see it (which lets you assign different Finder/System-related tasks to multiple buttons, and so forth). You need to tell the custom software (Kensington Mouseworks) to get out of the way and let the system (InputSprockets) address the mouse directly. This is typically done by opening up your software and adding an application-specific profile for the program you want to use (Deus Ex, in your case). Then, inside that profile you need to tell Mouseworks to disable the custom features for that particular piece of software. Then when you run Deus Ex, InputSprockets should be able to see your mouse and use it properly!

Kyle D'Addario (yes, our very own) wrote in and asked the following, "I recently downloaded the AOL Instant Messenger clone, Fire, which is supposed to work with Mac OS X. The file came in as 'Fire.0.15.d.tar.gz' and I can't get Stuffit Expander to open it for me. What can I do?"

Ah hah! I just KNEW that Unix experience I had would come in handy some day! Seriously, folks, it's funny when you think about it -- we started out 30 years ago with UNIX and VMS. People used those operating systems and then decided they wanted computers at home. Well, no one could afford a computer with enough power to run those OS's at home, so others had to be developed. MS-DOS, IBM-DOS, DOS 3.x (Apple ][), ProDOS, CPM, and many others were available. Those then migrated into the modern popular operating systems, like Mac OS and Windows. Then each of those has recently been taken to the next level, with Mac OS X and Windows NT/2000. And guess what's at the core of those two OS's - Unix and VMS, respectively. Anyway, I digress... or is that another column at The Mac Observer! Oh how confused am I!

Anyway, Kyle, you're in luck! Because OS X has Unix at it's core, it also has a slew of Unix-related utilities built-in. One of those, "tar" is going to help us here. But you need to go to the command prompt to use it (see MacWeek's "Inside OS X: Unix Commands" for a complete explanation on how to get there). Once at the command prompt and inside the proper directory, you need to invoke "tar" as follows:

tar -zxvf Fire.0.15.d.tar.gz

That should extract all the files just perfectly! "tar" is a very old Unix program that was (and still is) used for archiving files to tape drives. However, over the years it's also become a nice way to archive a bunch of files into one little package. The ".gz" on the end of the file indicates that it has been "gzipped", or compressed with the program "gzip", another Unix standby. You could certainly un-gzip the file, and then un-tar it, but since this combination is so popular, tar has the un-gzipping feature built-in. So, in order of execution, here's what the command-line switches for tar mean:

-z : un-gZip the file
-x : eXtract the files from the tar archive
-v : use Verbose output and tell us what's happening during the process
-f : untar from a File (as opposed to a tape device)

and that's all there is to it! :-) Enjoy!

That's it for today, folks! Let me hear your questions (e-mail to askdave@macobserver.com), or let EVERYONE hear your questions (by visiting the Ask Dave Forums!). Until next time...

P.S. Have a Nice Day.

is President and CEO of The Mac Observer, Inc. He has worked in the computer industry as a consultant, trainer, network engineer, webmaster, and a programmer for most of the last 10 years. During that time he has worked on the Mac, all the various Windows flavors, Be, a few brands of Unix, and it is rumored he once saw an OS/2 machine in action. Before that he ran some of the earliest Bulletin Board systems, but most of the charges have since been dropped, and not even the FBI requests that he check in more than twice a year.

Ask Dave is here to answer all the Mac questions you have. Networking, system conflicts, hardware, you ask it, he can answer it. He is the person from whom all Mac knowledge flows....


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