Desktop Files Explained and B&W G3s
September 9th, 1999

It seems that everyone has some at least some questions, and I'm here to help in any way I can. Well, with the Mac stuff, at least. This week is no different, and we have a good bunch for your perusal. We try to clear up some confusion on what "Desktop Files" really are, we talk about fixes for a bad hard drive, and touch on information relating to the AirPort technology in the new iBook's. So read on, folks!

Don Bahringer writes, "My main startup drive was overheating so I transferred all the files and the system file to another drive and made that one a startup drive. I disconnected the old startup drive and when started up the new drive all of the icons on the desktop had disappeared! How can I transfer the desktop files if they are invisible?"

Ok. I had to read your question a few times to make sure I understood what you were saying. I think there's some confusion over what "Desktop Files" are here. Officially, Apple has designated two files as "Desktop Files" -- Desktop DB and Desktop DF. These files are stored on the root level of every disk you have (including Mac-formatted floppies and CD-ROMs), and contain information about the icons and filetypes associated with all the applications on that particular disk. It is the magic of these files that lets you double click on a Microsoft Word document and have it open within Microsoft Word. The MacOS reads the filetype of the document, compares it against the "Desktop Files", and when it finds a match, it launches the associated application. When you "rebuild your desktop," it is these files (a collective database, really) that are being rebuilt.

That said, I believe you are referring to another type of "Desktop File" -- that is, those files that appear on the desktop of your machine. And you're right. If you copy the contents of your hard drive from one disk to another, the files on the desktop don't get copied. This is because they're actually stored in an invisible folder on the hard drive (called "Desktop") that's not noticed when you do a "Select All" from the Finder.

It's weird, I know. The files on the desktop, although they appear to be on the same "level" as the hard disk, HAVE to be stored somewhere, right? Well, they are, and that "somewhere" is on the hard disk itself.

That said, there are two ways to copy these files. The first is to select everything on the desktop, copy it to a separate folder on your new hard disk, and then once you've got them on that hard disk, you can drag them back out to the desktop. Make sense? :-) The second way to copy these files is to have them included when you do the initial copy of everything else on your Mac. Instead of dragging each folder from one disk to another, drag the entire hard disk onto the new one. This will copy EVERYTHING (including the "Desktop" and "Trash" folders) to a new folder on the new hard disk. The name of that folder will be the same name as your old hard disk, and should contain all your old data and applications.


Martin Mockenhaupt writes, "Dave, I am considering buying and iBook and the Airport (to connect to my beige g3). Will it be possible to watch live TV on the iBook cordless?"

Well, lets examine what the Airport will do -- it uses IEEE 802.11 networking standard, which transmits data at 11 Megabits per second (Mbps) maximum. That translates to roughly 1.1 MegaBytes per second. TV, of course, is currently an analog signal and will require digital conversion to be displayed on your iBook screen. With that, yes, you *could* watch streaming TV with your iBook, so long as someone puts it out there for you! For currently available streams, checkout Quicktime TV, Apple's new co-branded streaming video service.

Kyle P. D'Addario writes, "I am having problems with the Finder on this new B&W G3. Big time. When the Finder quits, it does so to the fullest, where I have to use the power button on the tower itself to restart as none of the other traditional methods of shutting down will work. I downloaded the G3 Firmware update, but when I installed it said that I have the most recent firmware, so that is not the problem.

I am thinking of trashing the Finder and reinstalling just that from the system CD. Sound like a solid move?

Well, that may work, although if the Finder was damaged, it probably wouldn't even start up. This is certainly strange. Have you deleted the Finder Preferences file? To do it, you need to put it in the trash and then reboot. It won't let you empty the trash until it creates a new preferences file, but that happens on reboot, so you're ok.

Also, try rebuilding the desktop. I know this is a common solution, but it tends to work quite well with Finder-related issues. Use TechTool instead of Option-Command, as it tends to do things more cleanly.

...and then Kyle asked ANOTHER question! "Second, the Norton Utilities CD 4.0 can not be used to boot from on this machine. Any ideas about that? The boot from CD thing works as I did it with the disk that came with the system, but it will NOT boot from the Norton CD. This has me troubled as well, since if I boot from the System CD, I can't seem to eject that in order to put in the Norton CD to install utilities, as it says that the System CD is the startup disk and thus can't be ejected or anything like that."

Yes, there are many batches of Norton Utilities CD's that were produced prior to Apple's release of the code required to boot a B&W G3. At this point, I'd recommend going for the upgrade to Norton Utilities 5.0, as it introduces a lot of new features that make the product more robust (like undo's for one!)

Gene Reffkin writes, "When I start up my Performa 630CD I get a message that my external drive (named El Nino) cannot be used because it cannot be found. Internal drive SCSI # 7, CD #3, External drive #0. This is the way it was set up for me and has worked fine till now. SCSIProbe does the following:

Mounting log 0.0.0: trying device Mounted: El Nino trying device 0.0.1 Failed: Logical Units Not Supported

Norton cannot fix all the problems. I have been able to recover some files. What can I do?"

Well, Gene -- there are a few things you can try. I would recommend trying just about every disk recovery tool out there. It seems like it's probably a hardware problem with the drive itself, but it's worth a look-see. MacMedic and Norton Utilities are probably the two I'd try first. If they can't solve anything, it's probably a hardware problem. Unfortunately, other than spending thousands with someone like DriveSavers or TotalRecall, you might be out of options.

And that's all... if anyone out there has a question that we haven't answered yet here, please feel free to e-mail [email protected] and I'll see what I can do for you. Until next week...

P.S. Have a Nice Day.