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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...

AirPort, Upgrading From Beta To OS X Final, & Hard Drives
April 6th, 2001

Well, hello there... and Happy April. I hope the fools didn't cause you too much harm... at least none that's permanent. This week's column is filled with good stuff, so we'll get right to it. We talk about connecting your software-shared AirPort network to high-speed Internet links, we discuss upgrading your Mac OS X beta computer to Final, and we try to help Tracy get his hard drive back! If you have a question of your own, you can e-mail me, or ask in the comments below. Alternatively, the Ask Dave/Tech Support forums are there for everyone to try answering your questions, so feel free to post it there, too! For now, read on!

Brevard writes, "I have an 'AirPorted' iMac and iBook in my home office. I just had an ISDN line installed for educational videoconferencing and would like to be able to use the iBook wirelessly to the Internet. I do not have an AirPort Base Station and have been using the Software Base Station configuration on the iMac to connect, using the internal modem, to the Internet. How do you configure the iMac to connect to the DIVA LAN ISDN modem (TA) Ethernet port and have it share its IP address with the iBook? I have yet to figure this out and the DIVA LAN Web page style setup for Mac is less than helpful. Please don't tell me I need an AirPort Base Station to do this. The budget is at its maximum."

Greetings Brevard. Well, while it would certainly be a little easier to do with an AirPort Base Station, there's no need to go that route. Since the DIVA LAN ISDN modem is taking care of all of the "nitty gritty" of logging into your ISP for you, the iMac is likely to be configured with just a straight Ethernet via DHCP connection. Assuming that is the case, all you need to do is make sure your iMac is "live" on the Internet, and then enable AirPort's software base station in much the same way that you did with your internal modem connection. The computer will be smart enough to realize that it needs to share the Ethernet connection instead of the internal modem, and you should be good to go!

For the record, the above solution should work with just about any cable or DSL modem solution as well, so there shouldn't be any trouble getting your software base station to share a variety of dedicated/high-speed Internet options.

Karsten Smelser writes, "I take it that a complete lack of information on the subject of 'upgrading' the beta copy of OS X to the final version of OS X means that we all just install on top of the existing installed beta? It's not like Apple made it easy to un-install OS X Beta - that would support that theory, right? Or are all 100,000+ of us beta users going to get screwed? Will we have to reformat our HD's? Re-partition? So why is Apple ignoring e-mail requests for information on this topic?"

My guess is that Apple is swamped with support requests for Mac OS X these days and, while your e-mail is in a queue somewhere, it likely won't be answered in as timely a fashion as you might choose. However, in all the testing we've done here, it's certainly POSSIBLE to upgrade directly from Mac OS X Public Beta to Mac OS X release (4k78). But, one by one, each machine that we've done that with has exhibited strange, unexplained problems that have resulted in us starting from scratch and installing Mac OS X Final on them "clean". I know it's not easy, but this OS is not ready for prime time yet. I wholeheartedly recommend AGAINST using Mac OS X as your main OS and, if you run it at all, treating it as a test in progress. As such, reformatting a hard drive is par for the course.

If you want to run Mac OS X and rely on it as your primary OS, wait until July -- MACWORLD Expo will likely see the release of zillions of Mac OS X-savvy products (to borrow a phrase from Apple's System 7 days), and we'll likely see an update or two from Apple by then, as well. Third party support is VERY limited in Mac OS X right now, and that's not a good thing for 90% of the users out there today.

Tracy writes, "I have an iBook, 300mhz, 3 GB hard drive running Mac OS 8.6. One night I shut down the LCD screen and it automatically went to sleep with an application open (Photoshop 5). The next morning I woke and lifted the lid. The iBook didn't wake -- as it often doesn't - so I forced-quit, but it did not respond so I forced restart (command + ctrl + power button). It began its startup but gave me the flashing Mac with question mark icon. So I thought I may have an extension conflict so restarted with shift key held down, but that didn't work, so I immediately set to work and booted from the Mac OS CD. It booted from the CD, but to my horror could not read my hard drive and asked me whether I wanted to reformat - which I didn't and still haven't.

I have tried running disk first aid versions 8.2 + 8.6 several times over as all the handbooks tell you to, tried rebuilding desktop, interrupted firmware (don't understand a word of it!), absolutely everything I can think of apart from running another disk utility like Norton's (which I am not so sure about) over it.

I foolishly do not have a backup of the drive content and am in my final year of an MA - really desperate and will try anything apart from reformatting the disk. Can you please help me as I am running out of time. (2 months to finish MA - no fix - no work!)."

Tracy -- the flashing Mac with the question mark indicates that the system cannot find a suitable boot disk. Translation -- it doesn't see your hard drive as "valid." But you already knew that, I gather! However, since it worked fine the night before, there's a good chance that all is not lost. However, Disk First Aid is not going to help you here. It's far too under-powered a program to deliver the results you need. Your instincts to go with Norton are good. Get a copy of Norton Utilities (or SystemWorks) and run Disk Doctor on that drive. Chances are that it will get you back in business. Of course, there's always the risk that it will make things worse, but that's the risk we take with computers.

Lastly, I leave you with a piece of advice that you probably don't need, though it's good to remind everyone: Backup your data. I cannot tell you how many times I told people that and never heeded my own advice until the time I nearly lost 10 years worth of data. If you attach any value to your data, back it up (and verify the backup -- most software will do this for you). It's a necessary part of owning a computer these days.

That's it for this week, folks! Feel free to send your questions to me at [email protected], or ask in the comments below. I'll see you in a few weeks!

PS. 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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