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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...

Dead Hard Drives and QuickTime 4
August 19th, 1999

Ah hah! You've found me... you've found me... I knew this day would come. Yes, sir, yes, ma'am... I'll answer some questions... but can they be Mac-related at least? They can? GREAT! Go ahead and ask me, then, and I'll answer! Sound good? Well, then... onward!

Paul Woods writes, "I have a problem with a PowerMac 8500 120mhz. It started with the computer freezing whenever it was left for some time and the screen saver (After Dark) or the Energy Saver would engage to power down the system to a sleep mode (I alternately turned these functions on or off so only one was operating at a time).

When this did not cure the problem, the computer began to freeze, even when not going to sleep, but while working on a Word document or elsewhere (I confirmed it was not a corrupt Word document). The mouse cursor could still be moved, but had no effect on anything. Eventually I Used Norton Utilities 3.5 to check the hard disk and optimize it. I then performed a clean installation of the system (8.1) and clean installations of all software.

This worked for a short while (or seemed to). Now the computer will not start up. Using the control+command+power keys to restart the computer results in a blank monitor screen with the cursor in the upper left corner, but nothing more, not even the blinking disk icon looking for a hard drive. The power button on the face of the tower does not function to turn the system off. I can only restart with the keys, or unplug the computer. Restarting--I hear the chimes, but only face a blank screen (not dark).

Is this a hard drive problem? Memory? Motherboard? Help!"

Paul -- At first this sounded like a hard drive issue, and it may still be. There was a bug with the firmware in most of the Quantum-manufactured drives available at the time your computer was made. It specifically kept the drives from waking up after being put to sleep (as you mentioned). Apple released an update for Apple branded drives, which is available in the Fir mware Utilities section of their FTP site, and is called the 2/3/4/6 GB Firmware Utility (~1.4MB download). If you do NOT have an Apple branded, factory installed drive, the Apple branded updater will not work. However, there is a set of procedures developed by yours truly (in a past life!) that will get you on your way. While I can't endorse the use of this procedure (you'll see why when you read it), I can say that I have had MANY people contact me about its success, and NO people contact me about it failing. With that, you're on your own!

If that doesn't work for you, or isn't applicable, I would definitely reset the PRAM and see if that makes any difference at all. It may not even get up to the point where it lets you, but that's a place to start. The other option would be to disconnect the hard drive from the SCSI bus entirely and see if it will come up further. If it does, you know that the drive is the issue. If it doesn't, pull your level II cache (assuming you have one in there). You can also try swapping out the processor itself, if you can get your hands on a spare. If THAT doesn't do it, I think you're in for a motherboard repair/replacement.

Ashok Sarath writes, "I have an 8600/200 at home. I have 96MB RAM, a 2GB drive and a 4GB drive (partitioned into 500MB, 1 GB and 2.5 GB). On the 2 GB drive, my usual startup drive, I run System 8.1 and have very few problems. I recently installed 8.5 on the 500MB partition, trying hard to keep up to date.

Under 8.1, my system connects to the internet flawlessly at anything from 28.8 to 33.6k, depending on circumstances - I use a Geoport (the first version I think), Express Modem and OT/PPP. But under 8.5, the machine doesn't even dial! It claims that the port is being used by AppleTalk, a fax application or the modem. I shut off AppleTalk (repeatedly) and it still claimed that AppleTalk, fax or modem are using the port. I trashed the ARA preferences and tried again. The same message. Why does this happen? I don't want to zap the PRAM in case it destroys a lot of settings from the other drive. But I will if there is no other solution."

It could very well be the PRAM getting confused, Ashok, as there were some minor changes (additions, really) to the PRAM codes from 8.1 to 8.5.x. I would tend to think that it might be an extension that's getting in the way -- perhaps fax software, voice-mail software, or even a HotSync-type extension for a Palm or other handheld synchronization device. The first thing to do is to use the Extensions Manager to set your computer to start up with MacOS 8.5.x Only, and then try and connect. That should eliminate any question as to whether it is an extension or not. Assuming it's not, I recommend resetting your PRAM. To save anything you might need, though, I recommend using TechTool (which is free to download) to save your current PRAM before resetting it.

Should that fail to do it for you, I would begin to assume that something is not right with OS 8.5 itself, and recommend reinstalling the MacOS to a different folder. You could try just updating what you have to MacOS 8.6 (available free from Apple), but that typically doesn't solve problems, so you're probably best wiping the slate clean.

Shawn FitzGerald writes, "I'm trying to download QuickTime 4 but I get a 'unable to locate file. VISEDATA' error.

I currently am using QuickTime 3 PRO, System 8.1, on a 8500/120. Could there be a problem with Stuffit expanding the downloading program? What do you think?"

This problem is actually fairly commonplace, Shawn, and because of that, Apple has released a version that doesn't require Internet-based installation. You merely download it and can install the whole thing. Give that a try and see what it turns up!

Ron Stewart writes, "I read constantly of people extolling the virtues of Reader. I, for one, have had constant problems with printing, regardless of which Mac or printer I try. Am I the only one having this problem? PDF format files refuse to print, or I can print 1 or 2 pgs at a time. Considering that most software mfrs. include a PDF as their manual, this is a pain."

You're not alone, Ron -- I have a FANTASTIC old Laserwriter IINT here and have also experienced problems printing PDF files. It seems to be (surprisingly) a PostScript issue that happens with older, PostScript Level 1 printers. Some PDF's seem to work fine, while others don't. In testing a new Lexmark Optra E310 (which is PostScript Level 2), I haven't had any problems at all. Apparently Adobe has left us in the dust with the Acrobat technology.

Observer Call: If anyone out there has any help on this issue (Adobe's support has had none), I think there's more than two of us who would like an answer!

Reader Mail and Column Updates

This week we explore some of our older columns and additional information that has been received after posting them.

Mel Krewall says, "In your reply to Kerry Inman [about his problem with reading PC-formatted CD-ROMS] you left out what could be a critical piece of information. I think the File Exchange control panel must also be enabled to mount PC formatted media on a Mac. It is possible that Kerry has this control panel disable in the Extensions Manager."

Good thinking, Mel -- That is correct. File Exchange (or, on older version of the OS, PC Exchange) needs to be installed in order to read PC-formatted disks of any kind. Thanks, Mel!

Ashok Sarath writes, "A short addendum to the 8.6 and SimpleText crashes:

a. it could also be due to a corrupt font (I used to have crashes because of Type 1, 2 , 11 & 12 errors on my Performa 5200 under every System from 7.1.2 to 8.1). I discovered some corrupt font files, and deleted them. Voila!

b. Adobe Type Reunion (v 1.2) could also be a cause. Turning it off generally made my system more stable."

Again, you folks keep me on my toes! Yes, these options (especially option "a") are definitely worth trying. Nice work, sir!

That's it for this round of Ask Dave! Please keep those questions coming and I'll keep batting the answers back to ya!

Until next time...

P.S. Have a Nice Day.

(no music today... I'm too burned out after seeing R.E.M. last night (Tuesday) here in Texas!)

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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