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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...

Playing .AVI Files, Virtual Memory Problems, & More On .EXE Files
April 28th, 2000

Greetings, folks. Yes, yes, you're right... many of you noticed that I didn't write a column last week. You're right. However, how many of you noticed that The Mac Observer completely moved servers last weekend? I didn't think so... A little "sleight-of-hand" works wonders, eh? :-) Anyway, back to business as usual here, and we've got a good one for you today. If you have a question of your own, you can e-mail it to me directly or post away in the Ask Dave Forums! Enjoy!

Dianne Parkerson writes, "I am a web page designer for Florida Atlantic University. One of the areas gave me AVI files to put on the web, which I did, and I can play them without a problem. However, the department that gave me the files uses Macs - and they can't play them. They do have QuickTime. I tried different HTML coding but nothing seems to work. Do you have any suggestions?

Yes, Dianne... you (or, rather, they) are in luck! AVI is merely a file format, and as such is supported by many different CODECs (COmpressor/DECompressors). The problem is that the movies you have posted are in a format for which no "native" CODEC exists within QuickTime. However, Apple has a Tech Info Library Article that describes this problem and directs you to downloading CODECs for all sorts of different formats. The movies you posted were in the Intel Indeo Video 5 format, for which there is a codec available for download. I downloaded it, installed it in my Extensions folder, rebooted my machine, and was able to enjoy your walk-throughs, etc., right here on my Mac.

You got lucky here, though. There is one very popular CODEC, called i263, which is not usable on the Macintosh. Intel specifically designed this codec for use on the Pentium II chip (and higher), and as such there is no support for it on the Mac. An older Ask Dave column addresses this issue.

Ken Lukowiak writes, "Dear Dave, I have an original iMac (Bondi) with 64 MB of RAM. If I leave Virtual Memory on it takes almost 10 minutes for the computer to be ready to use after restart. If I shut extensions off it loads as it should. Turning virtual memory off, also results in the iMac coming on as it should, even with the extensions on. This problem did not go away when I replaced old operating system with OS 9. Any ideas? Since the computer is at home, I am not hooked up to any server and only go on to the internet through a modem."

Ken, I'm afraid this points to a more serious problem. I've certainly made no attempt to hide the fact that I don't particularly care for Virtual Memory on the Mac, but I don't think your problem is software-related. When the machine starts up, Virtual Memory goes and grabs a "swap file" -- a big chunk of hard disk space that the computer can use as you near your physical RAM limits (yes, I know this is an approximation of what actually happens, but bear with me here). It seems as though this process of grabbing this chunk is what's taking a great deal of time. There are two possible reasons here -- one is that you have your swap file set to an ENORMOUS size and it takes the computer a long time to claim all that space. Go to your Memory Control Panel, and set Virtual Memory to as low as it will go (1 MB above your physical RAM), and see what happens. If the problems persists, I'm afraid that it's probably a physical problem with your hard drive. It sounds like your hard drive has a bad block on it (a part of the physical disk that's gone bad), and the drive is erroring out when it tries to read/write to or from that particular section. This can slow down MANY things, and will only get worse. Get a copy of Norton Utilities and run a surface scan on the disk to see what the extent of the damage is.

Reader Feedback: .EXE Files

In my last column, I mentioned that .EXE files are basically useless to Mac users and should be discarded. MANY people wrote in and informed me that there are, in fact, a few POSSIBLE uses for such files. In particular:

Rick wrote, "You didn't mention installing Virtual PC on the Mac as a way to open those pesky '.exe' files (you're right, they are mostly 'humor' stuff that our hapless PC friends e-mail us) that make us wonder what we are missing sometimes."

You're right, Rick. Virtual PC will let you open and check out these PC-based .EXE files. One word of caution -- get good virus software to install in Windows on Virtual PC. You'll need it.

...then Karl Puder wrote, "Don't throw them away quite so fast. First try dropping them on Stuffit Expander. If the Windows .EXE file is a self-expanding archive (such files on Mac or UNIX systems are often given the extension .sea; but Windoze needs the ".exe" to know that there is executable code therein) then Stuffit will skip past the Intel instructions and pull the files out. If that doesn't work, *then* throw it in the Trash."

Another fantastic suggestion. It is possible that these .EXE files are really just self-extracting Zip files that can be opened with Stuffit Expander. Thanks to Rick, Karl, and everyone else who wrote in to keep me on my toes!

That's it for this one, folks! I'll catch you next time! Until then, you can either send your questions to [email protected], or visit the Ask Dave Forums and discuss your issues with everyone!

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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