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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...




Word Margins, Video Cards, Stuffit, Geoport Modems, and an Observer Call
April 22nd, 1999

And hello! Welcome back, folks.. The questions keep pouring in, and I'm doing my best to keep afloat. This week we have a few straightforward, yet vitally important issues to address, and an "Observer Call" at the end for some of you aspiring techies out there. Enjoy!

Terry writes, "When I'm using Word, sometimes my document looks different on the screen than the printed version that comes out of my printer. The margins change and I'm not sure why. Any insight?"

Hmm... This is probably due to the way you're looking at your document in Word itself. If you look in the "View" menu, you'll see that you have a few options right at the top of the menu. These dictate how Word presents your document on the screen. Most often, we tend to compose a document in "Normal" view. What this does is use the margins of your on-screen document window to wrap the text and lay things out. This makes it much easier on the eyes (and hands) as we type as things are laid out nicely and we don't have to scroll left and right. However, when we go to print, Word adjusts things for the margins of the paper in the printer. To see how Word will print on the printer, you can choose "Page Layout" from the "View" menu. This will show you the actual contents of the page you're working on, complete with paper edges and margins as they will appear on the printed page. Also make sure that you go to "Page Setup" in the "File" menu and confirm that the chosen "Paper Size" matches the actual paper you have in your printer. As I said above, depending on the size of your screen, you may have to scroll left and right to see the whole page, but you get the benefit of editing your document in the format that it will appear on paper. If all you want to do is see what it will look like (but not edit the text), you can choose "Print Preview" from the file menu and go from there!

Bob wrote, "My question isn't a real brain buster... but I thought you could answer in a tenth of the time it would take me to find the answer... if I put a graphics card (ATI Rage 128 16mb) in my Power Computing machine... now running a G3 Upgrade... what happens to the onboard VRAM?"

Ah... the on-board VRAM stays right where it is and is accessible the same way it is now -- through the port on the motherboard. When you put another video card in, it will have it's OWN video port on it and will not interfere with your on-board video. If you have two monitors, you could plug one into the on-board port, and one into the card's video port and run them simultaneously (see the April 8th column for some more detail on this).

Jerry writes, "The problem that I have been having involves Aladdin's StuffIt Expander 4.5 in that I have downloaded all kinds of stuff from the web like 3D Models and the like in (.hqx, or .sea.hqx) format and they all decompress perfectly but I have had a corrupted or missing file problems with DesignWorkshop 1.8 and with POV-Ray 3.1 in that they both either tell me upon starting after installing that there are a missing "athLib" or that the app. isn't found even though I have the darn thing sitting right in front of me on the desk top or in my HD.

I have written them and they tell me that they have never heard of it happening before and have suggested a clean install of my system software or scanning my HD for damage but as you probably already know OS 8.5.1 does an automatic scan everytime that I do a restart and I have never gotten anything but an OK and that there are nothing wrong with my HDor files.

Could the Aladdin Expander 4.5 version on the CD OS 8.5.1 be damaged? It expands all of everything like I say perfectly... I don't understand. Please help."

Hmm... it's possible that the files you're downloading were compressed with a newer version of Stuffit. There has been a LOT of wierdness since the release of Stuffit 5.0, but it seems to have been resolved now. I recommend downloaded the latest versions of both Stuf fit Expander and DropStuff with Expander Enhancer. Try those out and see how the files behave after expanding with them.

If this doesn't do it, it's entirely possible that the files themselves are damaged, or your software is installed incorrectly, both of which could cause this same symptom.

Steve writes, "I own a Quadra 650 and another 040 processor Mac. My just turning 7 year old son likes car driving and motorcycle racing games. How do I find software in this category that will work on my Macs. Thanks for any assistance you can offer."

Hey Steve -- I get this type of question a lot from both my Mac AND Windows clients. On both sides, the first part of the answer is the same: games are up at the top of the heap as far as resource utilization goes. The more RAM, hard drive space, and processor speed you have, the better games are going to run. And, for many newer games, having a blazing fast machine isn't just a nicety, it's a necessity. With that, then, we consider older games. On the Windows side, this isn't a problem as there are many older games available that will run on slower machines. On OUR side, however, this is a problem. You see, back when those machines were being made, Apple was all but ignoring the game developers and there just weren't that many games produced for those lines. It wasn't until the introduction of the PowerPC chip and, more recently, Apple's rekindled enthusiasm for games that game developers started taking the Mac seriously again. With that as the case, most games that your son is going to want to play will ONLY be available for PowerPC-based Macs. That said, there are quite a few shareware games out there that will run on older machines, and I recommend checking the Tucows Network for that type of stuff.

"JFK" writes, "I'm on a 6500/225 OS8.0 33.6 internal Geoport Express Modem...(I had upgraded the OS from 7.5 but no help)

Any time I go to the web, and run into a website that has a MIDI on it, I freeze..or get logged offline.......I've had this problem since buying this Mac over a year ago...I've been looking for a fix ever since..and no one has pointed me in the right direction. Hope this is a simple one for you."

I think it is... I think it is... To understand the problem, we must first discuss the Geoport itself. To call it a modem is a bit of a misnomer. You see, the Geoport is only half of the "modem" component. It's a piece of hardware that connects the computers sound system to the telephone line. The actual modulation and demodulation (the "modem" part) are performed by your computer's sound system, with the Geoport interface acting as a microphone and a speaker. Now lets talk about MIDI: It is a protocol that describes what what note to play, the duration of that note, and what instrument it should be played through. MIDI contains no "sound" data and relies on an external source for the sounds of the instruments. I'm assuming you don't have a separate MIDI tone generator connected to your Mac and that you're relying on QuickTime's MIDI generator to create the music you want to hear. With that, we're now relying on the sound system to perform TWO real-time audio and processor intensive tasks at the same time. My guess is that the machine can't handle it and chokes.

As far as a solution goes, my recommendation would be to replace the Geoport modem with a "real" (external) modem. This will free up your machine and, in addition to being able to listen to MIDI while you're online, you should notice a decent speed increase while web surfing since your processor will be liberated from it's "modem emulation" task!

It is, of course, possible that MIDI is causing problems in its own right. Just to make sure that this is not the case, download one of the many free Quicktime MIDI players (like SoundApp) and test it with a MIDI file to make sure.

That's it for the answers this week, but I would like to present you all with a question -- 3 of us on the staff of The Mac Observer here have upgraded our older PowerComputing machines with G3 Upgrade cards (one from Newer, and two from MacTell). While these cards have been working swell so far, we have ALL experienced the same problem: the sound cuts out after a period of time and a restart is (usually) required to get it back. We are all using OS 8.5.1 and we've done quite a bit of internal testing on this issue as you might imagine (no sound makes Myth II a LOT less fun... :), but have yet to come up with anything concrete. However, here are some of our findings:

  • Quitting ALL the applications (including the Finder) sometimes "resets" the sound.
  • Playing a LARGE (16bit, 44k) sound file causes the sound to go out after about 5 seconds (which indicates that a buffer is filling up and memory might be leaking, yet we've used most of the various "8.5 memory leak patchers" out there)
  • It only happens with the G3 processor upgrade in there. Switching back to the 604 and 604e cards we had previously seems to solve the problem.
  • Turning off the backside cache seems to help, especially if you start up with the backside cache disabled, play a HUGE sound file, and THEN enable the cache, but it's not 100% consistent.

And that's it! If you have any information regarding this issue, please let me know. And, of course, if you have any additional questions, feel free to Ask Dave!

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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