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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...

Disk Doctor, Scanners, and PRAM, Oh My!
March 11th, 1999

Welcome back, folks. In my first two columns, I dealt with questions that had real cut-and-dry answers. I've been getting many questions from you that don't necessarily have one solution, and I'm using the most popular and relevant ones this week as the basis for the column. Troubleshooting computers often requires trying many different approaches, and with this, Mac's are no exception!

As always, please forward your questions to [email protected] and I'll do my best to keep answering every question that comes in!

William B writes, "When i run the Norton Disk Doctor, it keeps finding a problem that it said it fixed successfully but when I run it again it find it keeps finding it.."

William -- Let me explain how Norton Disk Doctor works. On your hard disk you have all your files and folders. In addition to this, you have a "directory," or "table of contents." This directory is organized in a "tree" format, with files being attached to "branches" off that tree. When Norton goes through, the first few steps it performs are all checking different aspects of this Directory Tree. If a branch is damaged, Norton will fix it. However, it's possible that it will fix a branch that had ANOTHER branch attached to it. Once it fixes that first branch, you often need to "re-run" Norton Disk Doctor so that it can check all the branches PAST the one that it fixed. As a general rule of thumb, I run Norton until it reports that no errors were found, and this sometimes takes a good 7 or 8 passes through.

Now, if Disk Doctor keeps finding the EXACT same problem over and over again on your computer, it's possible that it's something that can't be fixed. Make sure you're using the latest version of Disk Doctor (currently version 4.0.3 available from Symantec), and try repairing the disk when booting from another drive (the Norton or MacOS CD's for example). If that still doesn't work, then you'll need to backup all your data and reformat the disk. There are those occasions when the Directory Tree gets so "tied in knots" that it just has to be erased and rebuilt (which is accomplished by formatting the device).


Phil wrote, "My friend has a HP scanner that he can give me, but I use a Mac. Is there any way (through an adapter or something) that I could use this Windows-based scanner for my Mac?"

Yes, Phil, you can use many "Windows-based" scanners on your Mac as long as they have a SCSI interface. Some scanners for Windows machines connect to the printer port, and there is currently no way to interface with these (although a USB to Parallel solution could be an option here, if someone were willing to write the drivers, but I digress). If it does, in fact, have a SCSI port, then all you'd need to do is go to Hewlett Packard' s Web Site and download the appropriate drivers and plug-ins for that particular scanner.


Rui wrote, "I've noticed that the cd control strip does not list the actual names of the tracks on the cd in the drive. Just 'track 1', 'track 2', and so on. This happens even though I have named all the songs and disks in the Apple CD audio player. So I figured that the control strip was just dumb. But then one day I inserted a CD that I've had for a few system upgrades, and the track names were listed in the control strip!

How did this happen, and how do I get all my cd's to list their tracks in the control strip?"

Rui, you were right, the CD used to be dumb, but version 1.2.3 that came with OS 8.5 will read from the "Play List" files that you created with either theAppleCD Audio Player or CD-ROM Toolkit from FWB Software.

Additionally, if you don't like the idea of typing in the name of EACH track on all your CD's, you can check out NetCD, which was reviewed by our own John Braun in Monday's Mac Gadget a few weeks ago.


Charlton wrote, "I have a PowerMac 6500/250 with OS 8.5 and 8.5.1 installed. Since installation of these upgrades the printer is deselected at each shutdown and must be reselected through the Chooser at each startup. This did not happen before. Is there any way to permanently select the only printer I have."

It sounds like you have one of two problems. Either your battery is dead, or your Parameter RAM (PRAM) is corrupted. The Macintosh has a small battery inside it that powers the PRAM. The PRAM contains settings for your networking preference, printer selection, date, time, disk cache, monitor bit depth, colors, and more. Different revisions of the operating system use the PRAM in slightly different ways, so it's entirely possible that your PRAM data has become corrupt and you need to reset it. This can be done two ways. The "Apple official" way of doing it is to restart the computer and IMMEDIATELY hold down the Command, Option, P and R keys simultaneously. You'll know if you did it right because the computer will reboot again. Once it reboots again and you hear the startup chime, let go of all 4 keys. Startup will continue as usual. The other way of resetting the PRAM is to use TechTool from Micromat. According to Micromat:

"Using CMD-OPT-P-R to zap your PRAM does not clear the entire PRAM chip, which means there could be some legacy data there that can cause problems and crashes. TechTool allows you to clear the entire chip data, which is important in doing routine Macintosh maintenance."

Try this and see if it works. It could also be that your battery is dead or dying. If that's happening, none of the settings will be saved after a shutdown and you would have to reset your printer (and everything else) each time 'round. The easiest way to test for this is to use PRAM Battery Checker from Polar-Orbit Software. If it *is* dead, most Radio Shack stores carry Mac PRAM batteries. They tend to run about US$12.00.


Esteban wrote, "At work I use a Mac with System 7.5 installed. Whenever I close a file, the file always remains highlighted even though the window of the containing folder itself is dimmed, which makes it easy to keep track of which file I was just using so I do not re-open the same file again.

At home I have a PowerMac with OS 8, and as soon as I bought it back in November of 97, I noticed that whenever I close a file, it never remains highlighted, so if I am reviewing many files (for example, graphic files of the same subject and with similar names), this is a pain in the butt because I am constantly re-opening the same file all over again. Is this a bug of OS 8? Is there a fix or a work-around? I do not know if OS 8.1 or 8.5 have fixed this, however, I am very satisfied with OS 8 and have no intention of upgrading."

Unfortunately, Esteban, no flavor of OS 8 will act as you wish. This has been a common complaint among many of my clients who liked the way System 7.x dealt with highlighted files. When OS 8.0 first came out, one of Apple's Finder engineers told me that leaving things highlighted in "inactive" windows interfered with the new function introduced in OS 8.0 that allows you to drag things on top of a folder, hold there, and the next folder will open up allowing you to dig deeper and deeper into your files.

Perhaps some ingenious shareware author will answer these many cries for help, but for now, all us Mac users just have to grin and bear it (or head back to System 7.6!).


That's it for this week. Stay tuned for more exciting answers in next week's edition of "Ask Dave!"

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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