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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...

Upgrading To 8.5.1, Multiple Monitors, Partition Errors, And Nav Services
April 8th, 1999

I'm back once again with a whole slew of questions. This weeks column features a lot of referenced information at Apple's Tech Info Library, and also contains a very interesting submission from a reader about Navigation Services and the personal information it secretly stores in your preference files. Curious? Well, then, read on!


Lonnie writes: "I have an older computer (Power Mac 7200) and was wondering if the upgrade from OS 8.1 to OS 8.5 is worth it? I've heard that the new system software is faster as it is almost completely PowerPC native. Will this provide a performance benefit to my older system? Or will it's new features (like Sherlock) simply bog down my aging Mac?"

Lonnie -- There are definitely some pro's and con's to upgrading your machine to OS 8.5.1. The new operating system certainly is "more native" than previous versions and, because of this, it can run faster. However, it also, as you mentioned, introduces a slew of new services that can slow you down, particularly the new Appearance Manager. With that, I would say that the deciding factor would be RAM. With Virtual Memory disabled, I found that the average chunk of RAM required by OS 8.1 was between 12 and 15 megabytes. With OS 8.5.1, I find that number to have doubled up to approximately 25 megabytes. With 64 megabytes of RAM or more, I would say that your upgrade to 8.5.1 would be pleasurable. With anything less than 64 megabytes of RAM, I wouldn't recommend it.

That said, I would like to mention that I've found OS 8.5.1 to be more stable than OS 8.1 ever was. I've got it running on quite a few systems (customers' included) and they've all been performing beautifully with less crashing/freezing that previous versions of the OS. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I thought I'd share.


Dennis writes: "Hi Dave. Here's an interesting question for you. As a programmer cum artist, I'm interested in making a multi-monitor (at least four!) display machine out of my Umax S900 (MacOS 8.1). Is one video card better for this than another, or does the Mac even support that many monitors. I've never dealt with multi-monitor Macs, so I'm completely in the dark.."

Dennis -- let the light shine on! A quick search of Apple's Tech Info Library (TIL) revealed an article that says:

On most PCI and NuBus Macintosh computers, you can connect as many monitors and video cards as you have available expansion slots. The Performa and Power Macintosh 6400 and 6500 lines of computers support a maximum of two attached monitors.

Your machine is a clone, but I would imagine that the "card slot limit" would apply to you as well. As far as cards go, I can't think of any reason why one card would be better than another for this specific purpose. Of course, the faster your video cards are, the better your overall performance will be. There is, however, one issue to note. Again I refer to the article from the TIL:

Note that you should not use more than two AppleVision displays at once. If you try to use more than two AppleVision displays, the additional displays must operate at 640 x 480 resolution.

So keeping those limitations in mind, you should be all set!


In response to my answer about Netscape, RAM, and resources in last weeks column,

Eric writes: "My problem is that, as I go on using Netscape, the memory allocated to the OS grows and grows to the point that I can't launch other helper apps (like StuffIt Expander!) because the OS is now weighing in at anywhere up to 58 megs! If I'm on for a short time this isn't a problem, but over time the bloat creeps up to appalling size. Even worse, quitting Netscape does nothing to free that RAM; only a restart does the trick.

Any suggestions?"

Hmm... this is a strange one. I've not seen that symptom with Netscape or OS 8.5.1 on any of the machines I've worked with, so it must be something specific on your machine. The first thing to check is whether you're using just "Navigator," or whether you have the whole "Communicator" suite. If you do have the whole suite, but aren't using anything but the browser, I recommend reverting to just Navigator. Communicator tends to be "bloatware" in my opinion, and contains a lot of modules that most people don't use. Either way, I recommend upgrading to the latest version of the product, which is available from Netscape's web site. If you're running the latest version and this is still happening, I would check into your plug-ins. It's possible you're hitting lots of sites that invoke plug-ins, which can cause different resources to get loaded and take up RAM. As a last resort, I would look at your extensions, specifically those having to do with fonts, like Adobe Type Manager.

If any friendly readers out there have suggestions, I welcome them in my mailbox and will pass them along!


Neil writes: "I have four hard drives hooked up to my 9600/300, two internally (0:1 and 0:2), two externally (1:0 and 1:6). These are all divided into CD-sized partitions for a total of 15 partitions.

The main problem is that I keep getting "File Sharing Could Not Be Enabled" messages, or "There is not enough memory to begin file sharing" (despite 264MB of RAM, virtual memory off).

Furthermore, when File Sharing _does_ work, it _never_ shares all my partitions. For instance, right now, my PowerBook can see one of the internals and one of the externals (all partitions from both). Sometimes I can see the other internal, but never the other external.

I figure there's some limit on the number of volumes that can be shared, but I can't find any reference that explicitly states it. What can you add to the equation?"

Greetings, Neil. Another quick trip to Apple's TIL revealed an article that discusses a limitation introduced with System 7.x:

Up to 10 folders per machine can be shared, each having an unlimited number of enclosed folders.

I couldn't find anything that was specific for OS 8.x, but my guess is that this limitation has survived through the updates and is still in effect. With 15 partitions shared, that's most likely the source of your frustration. As a work around, you might try using something like Thursby Software's DAVE, which normally allows your Mac to see and share files as if it were on a Microsoft Network. There is no mention online of any limit to the amount of devices you can share, so that may be an alternative. The other option, of course, is to install AppleShare Server software, but that can be resource intensive AND pricey!


That's the end of the traditional "Q&A" for this week, but I do have one other thing I'd like to have you all read. I got this interesting letter from a reader:

Virgil writes: "I looked into the two preferences files in the Nav Services Preference folder. What I found in the "Navigation Services Prefs1" was a complete listing of the programing code from a project I am working on in REALbasic. Further scrolling through this file revealed my contacts database from "Outlook" had been dumped her along with several emails. A listing of the fonts and font families on my system. the more I scrolled the more I was shocked to see this information here. I thought it had to do with REALbasic and contacted them but through telephone and email conversations determined that it did not. It seems that when any program that uses Nav Services uses the "Open" command that these "pref" files are written to. That explains why, at least on my Mac, Nav Services takes so long to open. It seems to be gathering the this info and then writing the 2 prefs file to disk @ 120k each. I would like to know if anyone else has noticed this behavior. I have since disabled the Navigation Services until I can understand what is happening here."

I took a look at these preference files on my own machine here and I, too, was shocked when I found copy after copy of e-mail messages from my Eudora files. One message was even YEARS old, and while it's still in my Eudora files, I don't remember looking at it since OS 8.5 came out. Apparently Navigation Services is doing something to the folders and files you choose to open, and for SOME reason, is keeping a log of all this stuff. Upon reading this e-mail, my first thoughts went to the new "Find By Content" feature in OS 8.5, but I've NEVER used that on this system, and yet all this data is out there in these files. I've checked both Apple's TIL and searched through countless other Mac sites for information on this, but dug up nothing. Perhaps a friendly reader out there can share some insight into this. I'll keep digging on my end here (and maybe use some of that industry muscle, eh?), but anything you folks know would be most helpful in getting to the bottom of this!

[Editor's Note: We have a follow-up story on this issue that explains more.]

That's it for this week. I'm still quite hungry for your juicy questions, so keep feeding 'em to me, and I'll keep answering 'em! :)

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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