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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...




DSL Stalls, Word 6 Crashes, and More Bad RAM
November 4th, 1999

Hidy ho, neighbor! Lots of content today -- we talk about DSL connections, Microsoft Word problems, RAM problems, and a tip from a reader about Firewalling through an ISP! If you have something to add, either post to the Ask Dave! Forums or e-mail me at askdave@macobserver.com. Onward!

Jade Hansen writes, "I just recently got DSL through USWest for my upgraded Motorola Starmax 4000/160 (now a Newer 320/210 G3). I have the Cisco 675 Router (external), running Mac OS 8.6, 144 MB RAM, Xclaim VR 128, and a MacMagic Voodoo card.

Ever since I've gotten the DSL, when I go into any Internet application I suffer 'system hangs,' where my computer just freezes for about thirty seconds. Eventually I am able to regain control over my Mac, but it is getting very annoying when it occurs. Do you know what could be causing this? I read that others with Macs are having the same problems at www.dslreports.com in the USWest section, so I'm pretty sure there isn't something 'wrong' with my Mac. I'm guessing it has something to do with Open Transport. Do you have any suggestions? Do you think Mac OS 9 would fix the problem?"

Ah! Jade, you have stumbled upon to the famed Mac OS 8.6 "stall" problem (discussed in length over at MacFixit). The problem relates to the way your computer obtains its Internet settings. My guess is that you have your TCP/IP control panel set to obtain its settings via DHCP. Dynamic Host Control Protocol (DHCP) is an industry "standard" for negotiating and assigning Internet address, subnet, gateway, and DNS information to individual computers. The nice part about it is that when your computer shuts down, it releases its hold (or "lease") on that specific address, and it's free to be assigned to the next computer that connects. This is perfect for situations where you've got more computers in your network than you have fixed IP address, and it works quite well.

The problem is that USWest must be using something that's not QUITE compatible with MacOS 8.6's implementation of DHCP, and this causes your computer to "hang" when it's looking to "renew its lease" on that information.

Initial reports say that Mac OS 9 does, in fact, fix this, so I'd start there. Good luck!

Loch Phillipps writes, "I was having problems with Microsoft Word 6.0 while using Mac OS 8.6 and now it won't even open with Mac OS 9.0. I get a system error 11. Is there somewhere on the web I can download updated extensions or something?"

You don't even need the web! Just head down to your local CompUSA and pick up a copy of Word 98!

Ok, I'm being a smart-ass... sorry. But seriously, Word 6.0 had MAJOR problems, and I don't imagine Microsoft is going to go out of their way to make it work with the new operating system. You'll be MUCH happier with Word 98 -- it's faster, 100% compatible with files from the Windows side, has a streamlined interface, and is quite reliable. I don't think I've had a single Word-related crash since I installed it, and that's saying something -- Word 6.0 would freeze my machine on a regular basis, and even when it wasn't freezing it, it FELT like it was! Seriously -- spend the money and upgrade, you won't ever look back.

Michael Johnson writes, "In your article last week you talked about crashing/freezing problems when upgrading a system from 7.6.1 to 8.6 and that it was tied to RAM. What did the RAM have to do with it? and how could I know if I were having the same problem.

In August 1998, I upgraded my 8500 from a 604/150 to a G3/266 and added 128 MB of RAM. I was running 8.1 at the time. A few months later, I upgraded to 8.5. I had a very frustrating day doing so. After several failed attempts, trying to clean install and then to just upgrade, the installation process kept stalling. I called Apple and they said that the G3 daughter card was at fault, so I swapped it back for the 604 card and still had the same problem. After reinstalling the G3, I finally succeeded in completing the upgrade. I upgraded to 8.6 easily last spring. The RAM always seems to work fine. I am asking this as I am considering upgraded to OS 9 in the near future.

How would I know if the RAM was at fault? and after installing the OS, could I reinstall the RAM?"

Well, Michael, the only way to test the RAM would be to take it out. If the machine works without it, then you know the RAM is at fault. And, no, you can't put it back in afterwards. If it's bad, it's always going to be bad and it needs to be removed or replaced.

However, after considering your situation, I don't think your problem was bad RAM. It could have been a bad installation of the upgrade board, or something along those lines. I always recommend doing a clean install, which you tried, and also resetting the PRAM (with something like Techtool) and the CUDA (the little red button on the motherboard).

One thing to consider, though, is the fact that you've upgraded this machine to a G3. Very often, the RAM for these older 604 machines is non-buffered DIMMs. With a G3 upgrade card, your machine requires buffered DIMMs to properly handle the data flow. You can tell which is which by looking at the actual chips themselves. According to Newer's technical support:

"When running at faster speeds it is important that your machine has all buffered memory installed. There is a number printed on the middle chip on the memory module that will indicate this.

16244 indicates the memory is non-buffered and you do not want to use it in your machine with the processor upgrade.

162244 indicates the memory is buffered RAM that is designed to work with G3 upgrades."

Hopefully this will help!

Firewalls: A Reader Tip!

In my column about Firewalls I mentioned that most ISP's don't offer Firewall protection for their customers. The reasons for this are that a Firewall, by its very nature, blocks traffic. Most users would (and do) complain when they can't access certain features available online, and for that reason ISP's tend to stay away from any sort of packet filtering. However, someone has found the exception to the rule:

Bill Inoue writes, "One of the worlds biggest ISP's, PSInet, offer RoutWaller which is a very powerful Challenge & Response Firewall system. All normal web/ftp and mail access can be used as usual. Firewalls usually restrict IP addresses or Port access. Most of the what you mentioned in your column run either through Port 80 (HTTP) or other standard internet access ports. If you need a service that has a specific port number, just give the ISP the number and they will either, a) give you the access to the firewall to reconfigure it, or b) do it for you.

This will certainly offer the protection that some people seem to crave. However, be aware that just about every different program you run online will require you to either call your ISP or, as Bill states, access their firewall software to reconfigure things. This includes QuickTime Streaming, RealAudio, ICQ, AOL Instant Messenger, online games, Hotline, and many others. Be sure you know what you're getting yourself into before stepping behind that firewall.

That's it for today, folks. Visit the Ask Dave Forums or write me here and we'll see what we can do for ya!

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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