You'll get your Mac news here from now on...

Help TMO Grow

Subscriber Login

Advertising Info

The Mac Observer Express Daily Newsletter

More Info

Site Navigation

Columns & Editorials
Mac Links

Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....

How Norton Utilities Saved My Mac/More Y2K
April 21, 1999

I am just getting over pneumonia. Vile stuff, pneumonia. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. However it has served to present a comparison to me because my Mac has been a little sick as well. You know - sluggish, tired, short on memory, can't do what it usually can do. I am happy to say though that it has developed neither a runny nose, nor a bad cough. I suspect that I got sick from all the extra stress of buying a house and moving. Perhaps my computer suffers from the move as well. Whatever the reason, it reminds me again of how much I like my Mac and how easy it is to fix it. Before I tell you how I did it remember this important fact; I don't know how my computer works. I have no technical skills related to a computer other than knowing how to turn it on. Nevertheless, I was able to solve the problem without help from anyone else.

The solution was to run Norton Utilities Disk Doctor. Norton Utilities, designed for the Mac by Symantec, can do anything from bringing you dead Mac back to life, to correcting a few problems that occur through the course of time. You can purchase it for around $30 - $50 and it should be available most anywhere you can find Mac products. A number of the reputable on-line stores carry it along with other Norton products for Macs and PCs. You can set it so that you have a routine check done each time you turn off your machine, or you can run a complete check. In my case. the routine check at shut down notified me that my machine had an error in the volume bit map. Whatever!?!?

I pulled up the Disk Doctor portion of the program and it walked me through what I needed to do. Once I told it to go forth and seek out problems it started running. With a full run you can check the blocks of space, the disk information, the directory contents, look for missing files, and analyze files. You also have the option to skip any of those categories. The full scan of your machine will probably take about 30 minutes, but you can't start Disk Doctor running and then walk away from it because as it finds problems it identifies the problem, tells you why it is a problem, tells you how serious it may be, and suggests that you fix it or that you don't need to bother. It will not proceed until you have told it what to do.

(Author note: Damien Barrett wrote immediately after publication to say you have an alternative to staying with the computer while Norton runs. Damien says that you can go under the Edit pull-down menu to preferences and click on the "fix errors automatically" option. Then you can walk away while Norton does it's thing. Thanks Damien)

For instance when it checked for file fragments, I once again got the message that there was an error in the volume bit map. It further told me that the volume bit map didn't match the actual state of the catalog and extents b-trees on my disk. Then it said this was a serious problem and it should be fixed. All I had to do was click on fix. Then it continued running and analyzing all parts of the hard drive. I had not run Disk Doctor in a while so there were a number of small inconsistencies that were found and fixed. When it was finished it offered a complete report of everything that had been checked and what had been done about it. My computer has recovered much faster than I have and with much less effort (and no expense) on my part. My very first experience with Norton Utilities was several years ago. When my office was still an enlightened place; i.e., used Macs, we upgraded to Power Macs and, with the blessing and permission of the state, I brought one of the older Macs home so I could work at home and keep up. I had the monitor on my desk and the hard drive under the desk when I accidentally kicked the computer, knocking it over with a loud smack and pulling the plug out of the wall. My life flashed before my eyes. I was working on a report to sell an idea to the top brass and it was scheduled to be presented on Monday morning. This happened on Saturday afternoon. I sat the hard drive back up, plugged it back in the wall, and held my breath while I turned it on. I got a sad face! I panicked! I had visions of my salary being garnished for months to come to pay the state for the equipment I had ruined. I was the boss for crying out loud, I wasn't supposed to do stuff like this. Finally I calmed down enough to think. At that point I call my friend and co-worker Perry Young. (You can find out more about Perry in the column from October 28, 1998). Perry had his own Mac at home and he owns Norton Utilities. He came over, used the program and within a half hour of his arrival the computer was running perfectly, all programs and data in place, and with the happy face intact. I purchased my own copy of Norton the next day. I highly recommend it to novice users because it does a great deal for you without requiring much from you.

I have tried to check out some new programs this week. I was unable to run the first one because my system did not match the minimum requirements. However if you find the topic interesting it may be worth your while to download a demo copy from LeaseWriter 1.0 was released just this month. It requires System 7.1 and it is quite a large program. With my 56K modem it took 20 minutes to download. To quote the program description: LeaseWriter is a legal program that helps you create fixed-term leases or month-to-month rental agreements. Using a simple interview format, you can generate your own customized documents that are valid in all 50 states. If anyone tries it out, please let me know and I will share your review. I can't give you the cost because I wasn't able to open the program. Another one I tried to test is called Word Translator for Macintosh. It was released this month from Translation Experts and requires system 7.5 or better. You can check out the demo by downloading it at According to the description this program is a foreign language dictionary and translation tool for more than 20 languages. It also includes a language tutor so that you can listen to any text. I think it might be a program that would be of interest to a number of readers, and at a cost of $69, it seems to be reasonable for the casual user. I was able to download it, but was not successful in opening and using the demo. I think this is a result of my older system (the computer, not me), my clouded mind, and and all the meds I am having to take. I will try to get someone with a newer machine to test this out for us. Meanwhile if any readers do so I would appreciate their feedback.

The Y2K column is still bringing in response from readers and I appreciate their interest and suggestions. A couple readers have pointed out that I misnamed Douglas Adams book when I quoted him. My sincere apologies to Mr. Adams. I get steamed when my name is misspelled so I am mortified to misname a book. The correct title is “The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.”

Reginald Wagner provided a great deal of information about the Y2K issue and some of it I would like to pass along. Perhaps most important is that only the Power Macintoshes are secure from date change problems until the year 29,940. 68K Macintoshes have a date limit of December 31, 2019. The year 2020 and beyond can not currently be set, due to the Date control settings of the Macintosh. This will be corrected soon according to Apple but it doesn't currently exist.

Reginald also pointed that while several sites suggest testing your machine by resetting your computer clock to midnight 12/31/99, turning off the computer and waiting 10 or 15 minutes and turning it back on to see if everything works; this method could cause a problem for programs that are loaded at startup that keep track of dates. For example a daytimer program that automatically deletes dates older than a certain period or a database file of some sort could lose valuable data or information. Reginald indicated that is a Y2K utility test available in trial form at I have not personally tried this out.

If you have any tips, hints, or thoughts on these topics, make sure you write me so that I can share your thoughts with other readers.

Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.

Post your comments below.
Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.

Most Recent Computing With Bifocals Columns

Other "Computing With Bifocals" Columns

Today's Mac Headlines

[Podcast]Podcast - Apple Weekly Report #135: Apple Lawsuits, Banned iPhone Ad, Green MacBook Ad

We also offer Today's News On One Page!

Yesterday's News


[Podcast]Podcast - Mac Geek Gab #178: Batch Permission Changes, Encrypting Follow-up, Re-Enabling AirPort, and GigE speeds

We also offer Yesterday's News On One Page!

Mac Products Guide
New Arrivals
New and updated products added to the Guide.

Hot Deals
Great prices on hot selling Mac products from your favorite Macintosh resellers.

Special Offers
Promotions and offers direct from Macintosh developers and magazines.

Browse the software section for over 17,000 Macintosh applications and software titles.

Over 4,000 peripherals and accessories such as cameras, printers, scanners, keyboards, mice and more.

© All information presented on this site is copyrighted by The Mac Observer except where otherwise noted. No portion of this site may be copied without express written consent. Other sites are invited to link to any aspect of this site provided that all content is presented in its original form and is not placed within another .