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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...

Frozen USB Mice, Adding ATA Controllers & Florida Vacations!
March 3rd, 2000

Greetings, folks. This week we have the answer to last week's question about ATA cards available for PCI-based Mac's, we talk about some strange Zip drive copying problems, and discuss USB driver madness! If you have a question of your own, feel free to e-mail it to me or ask away in our forums. For now, though, read on!

PPrintMN writes, "I have a G3 desktop beige, we got about two months before the B&W G3 came out. It was not quite the top of the line, I think it is a 333 MHz model, with a 6 GB Fireball(ex6.4a) ATA hard drive and an ATA Zip drive (Rev. 23.D).

The problem: Since the beginning this machine has not reliably let you copy information from the Zip drive to the hard drive. It will give you errors and ask you if you want to continue to copy the files from the Zip to the hard drive. In essence skipping the "Bad files." At our workplace here we have many Macs, from a Quadra or two up to the G3s, and all have their own Zip drives. And none of the other machines has this problem of copying the files from the zip to the hard drive. In fact I can take Zip disk that is having problems and put it into any other machine and it will always copy the files just fine!!!!! A year ago I contacted Apple about the problem, they sent a new Zip drive, but the problem remained. There is an interesting thing I noticed though, We have a Micronet CD-Burner plugged into the SCSI on this system. The SCSI burner has its own hard drive with it, partitioned into three CD sized segments. I can copy a Zip to one of these partitions always, with never an error message, then copy them to the internal hard drive. It will always work and never fail. I will never get an error message when copying from the zip to the external Hard Drive!!

So I thought that the internal hard drive was the problem. So, just two weeks ago I reformatted the entire drive on the machine in question. Low level format, and reinstalled the entire system up to Mac OS 8.6, and STILL the problem remains. I am just about at the point of taking the thing out and getting an external SCSI Zip and leaving it at that. But I thought perhaps you would have some idea as to what exactly is going on here."

Well, PPrintMN, I think I have an idea here. It would seem to me that your problems arise from copying between two devices on the ATA bus in the machine. Assuming you have an ATA CD-ROM drive in there, as well, I would test that theory by copying from the CD-ROM to the hard drive and see what happens. However, it could also be drivers at play here. Have you updated to the latest Zip drivers? What you might want to try is this: format a Zip disk with the latest Zip drivers and put some files on it. Then shut down the Mac, insert that new disk in the drive, and start it back up with extensions off (by holding down the shift key). This will cause the system to skip all the extensions, but since the Zip disk itself has drivers in the "boot" blocks, it should still mount. If it doesn't, you can use the Iomega Guest utility to mount it (included with the driver download). Once the disk is mounted, try copying the files from the Zip disk to the hard drive and see if you still have the problem. If not, then it's some extension conflicting with the driver software. If you still do have the problem, then it's time to take a look at the hardware itself. We can be pretty safe that it's not the hard drive or the Zip drive, so we look one level deeper to the IDE cables and, of course, the motherboard itself. Being that a cable is about US$10, that's the first thing I'd try! If it's the motherboard, then you'll have to take it in for repair, but my guess is that you'll find the culprit before resorting to that!

Ryan Lundin writes, "Yesterday I installed USB Overdrive, and 128 megs of RAM on my beige tower G3 300. Now, my mouse, an Intellimouse Explorer, freezes constantly. After about 3 minutes of not moving it, the pointer freezes. I unplug it, plug it back in, and it still doesn't work. I restart, and it's back to normal. Also, I should mention that I deleted USB overdrive and updated the Intellipoint drivers, but the problem persists."

It sounds like you've got conflicting software. Assuming that you weren't having this problem prior to your software updates (USB Overdrive and then Intellimouse), we can deduce that it is, in fact, related to that. I would recommend combing through your Extensions and Control Panels folders to see if you can find something that's left behind. Also, you didn't mention what version of Mac OS you're using, but you need to make sure you're running the latest USB drivers available from Apple, since I'm assuming you're using a USB Adapter card. Barring that, a clean system install will let you truly test this and make sure that you're not having any overlapping preferences file problems or the like. USB can be quirky at times, but since these symptoms started right after you made some software changes, I can't help but to rule out a hardware issue at this point.

PCI-based ATA Cards!

Wow, you people are good. Yes, I guess there are a *few* things I don't quite have a full grasp on, and I'm so glad you folks are out there to step in when a reader needs a little help. After my question last week asking if anyone knew about a Mac-compatible, PCI-based ATA controller card, I received a flurry of e-mails! About 30% of them were all trying to entice me to take a 6-day, 5-night vacation to Florida, but the rest were pure gold! :-) Everyone seems to think that the TurboMax card from ProMax is the way to go. It supports the ATA/33 standard, and appears compatible with just about everything out there. There is a card that supports the ATA/66 standard from ACARD, but several readers wrote in to tell me that they have experienced compatibility issues with this card. Apparently ACARD is the manufacturer for the board that ProMax resells, and ProMax is waiting for more stability in the ATA/66 card before they'll bring it to market.

There is a review on XLR8YourMac comparing the two cards and their relative speed differences for Mac users. It is definitely worth a read!

Thanks for keeping everyone informed, folks! If you have a question of your own, feel free to visit the Ask Dave! Forums, or e-mail your question directly to me at [email protected]. I'll see you next week!

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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