Problems and Updates

By Graham K. Rogers

In Formula One motor racing, there is a phenomenon known as the Murray Walker effect. Mr. Walker was a television commentator and he could be relied on as the kiss of death for any would-be race-winner. As soon as Murray said, "Nothing can stop him now," the engine would explode. Bangkok residents will see the irony in this as I commented only a short while ago how dry I thought the rainy season had been. . . .

And of course, along with the rain come the thunder and the lightning and the power cuts. I was, therefore, not wholly surprised to walk into my office one Monday morning to find the G4 was dead. This is not usually a problem, but this time, when I pressed the power button, although it was illuminated, when I released it, the light went out and there was no welcoming Mac "bong."

I tried a few things like pressing the reset button at the front of the case, pulling out the power cable for a minute or so, and even removing the battery; but nothing worked. Panic began to grow.

A look through the Apple Knowledge Base articles later in the day produced a couple of articles which required a look at the wiring behind the power button unit and at the power links between the G4 case and the door -- the G4 logic board (motherboard) is on the door lays flat when opened. (This has been changed with the G5.)

As well as the Knowledge Base, I had a careful look through the online discussions -- there is a wealth of information here -- and the Search facility brought up several possibilities, including the suggestion of a system reset.

Although, I had tried the reset button on the case, there is another near the battery. If you look at a picture of this, it seems camouflaged -- designed to not look like a button -- aluminium and grey, about one centimetre square, a couple of centimetres from the battery.

The next morning, I looked at the wiring but there was nothing obvious, so after pulling out the power cable, I pressed the button once, for about 5 seconds, then waited for another 30. I am not sure if this is out of reverence, to build a sense of panic, or if some internal processes really do occur in this time. I shut the case, crossed my fingers, and pressed the button. The first thing I noticed was that the green light for the Zip drive came on, then the power light, then the "bong."

A couple of weeks and a few storms later, I came home to find an e-mail from a regular correspondent who had had his G4 go off in a thunderstorm the day before. I called him at home and with a picture f the logic board on my iMac, I talked him through the reset process. I was rewarded with the sound of the Mac restarting. He had lost the stereo and television, despite UPS and surge protectors. It strikes me that Apple had set the G4 up with some fail-safe hardware that cut the juice before serious damage was done.

I just installed the latest update to OSX at home. This was 10.2.8 and not 10.2.7 (that was an interim update specifically for the G5, to take advantage of its 64-bit architecture). Some sources suggest that 10.2.8 is not for the G5. This is where Software Update comes in useful: if you need it, Software Update will tell you. Unless something drastic happens, the next update will be the release of 10.3 (Panther) which most pundits suggest will be in November.

When using Software Update, I do suggest strongly that, instead of just clicking the Install button, users access the "Updates" menu and click on "Download Checked Items to Desktop." In this way, you can download the update and keep a copy, should you ever need it again: it does happen.

There were the usual batch of improvements to the way OSX operates and interacts with other technologies, including Firewire and USB 2.0. Of particular interest to me were enhancements to Safari (not that I have seen any differences yet); and improvements to the way Bluetooth operates. These were immediately evident, particularly in the way the menubar operates (BT can be turned on and off while the adapter is inserted) and improves the way Bluetooth acts after the computer's sleep function is used.

10.2.8 was a download of 40.6MB and took 2h 20m with a 56k modem. Not too bad when one considers that many users in the US or Europe cannot even attain 24.4Kbps. Cable or asynchronous links would improve my downloads at home even more, only the companies responsible think that nobody lives outside the Ring Road.

While waiting for the download to take its course, I multi-tasked by washing clothes and marking student Lab reports on OSX and Irix (the Silicon Graphics Unix). Because Irix was unlike anything they are used to (Windows, Windows, etc.), they took copious notes and produced detailed reports. With OSX however, it just looked so easy -- "put a CDROM in, press Install and wait for 30 minutes" (sic). While the reports of one or two students confirmed that we had actually covered the subject, several showed a certain complacency.

I liken this to a form of culture shock. When I went to the USA in 1984, I thought it was going to be like Britain with funny accents: result, massive culture shock. When I came to Thailand a couple of years later, I knew it was different. I am not sure if culture shock was kept at bay or is never-ending.

OSX is not like Windows, nor like Apple's System 9 and it is as well to remind ourselves from time to time of the way technologies differ.

Although I had no problems with 10.2.8 several people world-wide did. This is the subject of a follow-up already sent to the Bangkok Post (8 October 2003).

The following items were not included in the Bangkok Post article:

The G5 is a major step forward, but for a while there were reports of shortages of these new (desirable) machines. The reason may well be that Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University -- Virginia Tech to ordinary folks -- bought 1,100 (one thousand, one hundred -- I would be happy with one) to create a cluster. A cluster is a sort of super-computer assembled from lots of individuals. "Each node is a Power Mac G5 with two 2.0GHz IBM PowerPC 970 processors. Each hosts 4GB memory and 160GB hard drives" (MacWorld). If you want to know more, try Google with the word, "Beowulf" and ignore the literary references.

Finally, from the "Shoot Yourself in the Foot Department", Classical music patrons visiting the iTunes music store recently were surprised to see that Apple had given Handel's Messiah an 'explicit' warning. This may be because it has content about love, violence and death. The warning was apparently removed within 24 hours.

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For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.