Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Spotlight: SCSI Voodoo and USB Anomalies

Ever try to shut down your Mac and it simply restarts or freezes? Maybe you try to do the simplest things like run the Software Update in System Preferences or Repair Permissions in Apple's Disk Utility and the program crashes. Ever try to install the recent version of OS X and the install program fails, even when booted from the CD/DVD? It's not supposed to be this hard to work in OS X. Well, you're right. In the land of the Impossibly Ideal, where you take a brand new Mac out of the box and never install a piece of software or peripheral, these things would probably never happen. But in our world of the Common Occurance, we add printers, scanners, cameras and software, software, software. You get the picture. And in this land, not everyone plays nice together. Granted, they play nicer than in OS 9, but there is still the occasional squabble. That's when you have to come in and mediate.

First, when doing anything related to the OS, make sure to avoid any conflicts by turning off or unplugging everything not Apple. In the case of SCSI devices via the Adaptec 2906 PCI card or similar products, unplug the SCSI cable from the back of the computer. Even some third party USB devices like card readers, scanners and the like, might interfere with the normal operation of your system. Most of the time, powering them off should work, but when the device is powered by the USB or FireWire port, you may need to disconnect it. Second, make sure that all of your devices have the latest drivers. This often solves many of the conflicts that occur.

I have had one client that suffered both these problems. One was a USB 2.0 memory card reader, that when plugged in, would not allow the system to shut down. It would simply reboot. The other problem was with the Adaptec 2906. I could not upgrade the system from 10.3.x to 10.4.x (Jaguar to Tiger) without disconnecting the SCSI cable. Couldn't run off the Tiger DVD, couldn't Repair Permissions, couldn't run Software Update. Very strange, you wouldn't think that the card would have anything to do with it. But remove the cable and voila! everything worked.

Moral of the story: Beware everything. Even the most unlikely of suspects may be the one giving you trouble. And when it comes time to upgrade your OS to the next version, remove those pesky peripherals first.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

DeepVacuum. It Sucks.

Deep within the labyrinthine layers of OS X, there lies an untapped wealth of programming power (how's that for alliteration?). Even for us Masters of the Mac, UNIX is shrouded in mystery. However, with enterprising entrepreneurs like HexCat, we common folk can tap into that power.

DeepVacuum is one of those apps that harnesses the power of the underside of OSX. It wraps the wget function in a nice Mac shell that allows users to download copies of web pages or entire sites to a local drive – a boon to website designers for cost estimation and to developers for code review. It even maintains the folder structure and can also download related files like images and movies. Helpful if you forgot the FTP access info for your or your client's website and need to grab a copy. It's only $12, for crying out loud! Just go buy it.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Tom Cruise, step aside.

It was easy to do routine maintenance by rebuilding your desktop and optimizing the hard drive on OS 9. With OS X being at its core UNIX, there are many maintenance tasks that are far from routine that should be performed but often aren't because either you are a good doobie and turn your system off at the end of the day (thus preventing automated execution of these tasks) or are simply not familiar technically with the UNIX environment. Well relax, and have a Cocktail. This program handles all the routine UNIX tasks and allows you to make subtle but useful changes to how the Finder, Safari, Dock and Network software work. Cleans your system logs and cache files, and much more. Even has an autopilot that allows you to schedule specific tasks routinely. Has a clean and easy-to-navigate interface. Belly up to the bar for a $14.95 single-user or $29.95 (a steal) for a five-user family license. Cheers!