Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another Update, More Bugs

Here we go again. A new Security Update from Apple and the first thing I read about is that people experience startup failures after installing it.

The first test I performed with it was on a G4 running 10.4.11 that had suffered from the bug that caused the Network pane of System Preferences to display a dialog box that stated "Your network settings have been changed by another application." This was so pervasive, affecting nearly everyone who installed it, that I put a permanent Avoid on the last security update.

I had hoped that such an affected system would be repaired by installing the new update. I had hoped that Apple had so many complaints about it that they would have fixed it.

No such luck. I installed the update but the problem remained. Then I installed it on my G4 tower, which had not had the previous update. Amazingly, it did NOT introduce the Network bug. While that is a good sign, I would still wait and see because so many are reporting trouble anyway.

Most common solution when there are problems: Hold down the Shift key at startup until you get the login window with Safe Boot in red. Then put in your password and finish the startup. Then do a normal restart. Safe Boot performs a number of maintenance operations and it can help a lot.

Other updates, such as the new Java update 3 for 10.5.6 (and 8 for 10.4.11) and ones for the iWork suite, have been shown to be okay. QuickTime 7.6 seems to fix problems for people running 7.5, but it isn't really needed unless you have a new iPhone.

Always have a wired keyboard

There are certain repairs that are not possible with a wireless keyboard because they can lose contact with the Mac at exactly the time they are most needed. If you like the convenience of wireless, be sure you can put your hands on your old USB keyboard when you need it.

Zapping PRAM, or resetting the parameter RAM, is one example. To reset this chip, which can contain corrupted data, requires you to hold down the Command, Option, P and R keys simultaneously through three restarts. As long as you hold down the keys, the Mac keeps restarting. After the third one, PRAM is cleared and you can let go of the keys, and some problems are fixed, such as high speed cycling of the fans on G5 and G4 Macs. If you try it on a wireless keyboard, you get one restart and then the Mac loses contact with the keyboard and you can't do a thing with it until it rediscovers the keyboard. If your mouse is also wireless, you can't even open the Bluetooth System Preference and force it to connect with your keyboard.

If you go wireless keep your wired devices, even if you have to go buy one.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Why I always advise you get AppleCare

My year-old MacBook Pro decided to have a stroke last weekend: all the ports on the right side of the computer stopped working. On Monday morning I dropped it off at the Mac Store Service Center (in the PowerMax warehouse in Lake Grove) and was told they would either fix it there or overnight it to Apple. This morning I called to find out what they did and was informed they put it on the overnight that afternoon, and said it would take 7 to 10 business days. "Sometimes it takes less, but we are required to state the 7-10 number."

At two this afternoon I came home to a message on my phone saying "Your Mac is back." I called in, "What, already?" Yep, it was, only two day turnaround including shipping it off to the Apple service center. They replaced the motherboard and the total cost was $0. As it was just barely past one year old, I would have had to pay more than the $349 cost of AppleCare for this fix. Plus, I have almost two years more coverage to go.

That's why I always recommend AppleCare, without exception, but especially for laptops.

PS: The reports of problems with QuickTime 7.6 and Leopard Update 10.5.6 have slacked off, and the update has been certified by some of the developers of high-end Mac programs, most notably ProTools, as mentioned in an earlier post. I will put these updates in mine this week to see if I also have no problems from it. I also have two kinds of backups: one drive with a cloned copy and another with a constantly-updating TimeMachine backup.

If I have problems and have to restore to a previous version I will let you all know. Otherwise, go ahead and download the updaters from Apple's site - don't just use Software Update - and run them yourselves.