Your Mac is comprised of a number of basic components. Motherboard, memory, video card, connectors, monitor, hard drive, CD player, mouse, keyboard, Mac OS X, various applications and utilities.
In short, software and hardware. Without both, you got nothing. Hardware problems are less common these days and Mac OS X Panther has reduced software problems. Mostly.
What do you do when good software goes bad and messes up Mac OS X (whether Apple software, OS software, utilities or major applications)?
There’s probably more things you can do wrong than right. No single method for dealing with a problem exists because problems are varied and the causes even more variable.
I’m an early adopter and picked up Mac OS X when it was a beta. Like all Mac users back in the day, Apple made me pay for using a beta. Is our favorite computer company cool, or what?
Since then, I’ve upgraded Mac OS X at every opportunity and Panther, generally speaking runs great, both on all my Macs and on our servers which run Mac OS X Panther Server.
A little history is in order. Mac OS 9.x and previous versions were quick and very user friendly. More so like an old shoe, I suppose. A bit abused, been around awhile, felt good.
Dealing with Extension and Control Panel conflicts on Mac OS 9.x (and earlier) was no picnic. Sometimes it was easier to just start over and rebuild a system than trying to track down a problem application, or conflict.
Not so with Mac OS X.
First, there’s fewer problems. Waaaay fewer.
Often, whatever problem exists can be traced to hardware or software rather quickly. Usually, the basic problems are errant applications (though I’ve had my share of issues with RAM chips and Firewire connections).
Still, Mac OS X 10.3.8 is the most stable and dependable version of Mac I’ve ever used and I’ve used them all and pushed them to their limits (and sometimes they push back).
The problems I’ve had with Mac OS X and various applications are few, but they’re around and consistent.
It crashes sometimes. Like Internet Explorer, it’s been the worst. When it runs, it’s great. Sometimes it just, well, crashes. Usually about 4 seconds before I’m ready to save something that was last saved 30-minutes ago.
My favorite browser seldom crashes. It hangs. CPU usage goes through the roof and OmniWeb goes nowhere. I have to force quit.
DreamWeaver and Fireworks
They crash from time to time, though I’m using Dreamweaver less than ever these days. DW crashes took place during extensive Template use. Fireworks faults when I’ve got 57 graphics images open and one has 123 layers. Something like that.
Mail crashes now and then. Though less often as we’ve moved closer to Tiger, still Mail just “hangs and then disappears” without much notice.
Some readers have reported issues with the iLife apps; particularly iMovieHD and iDVD 5.0. I’ve had good success with both and nothing severe.
Here’s where life gets interesting. Our home office has a bunch of Macs on an internal network so we move files around all the time. Mostly, moving from Mac to Mac is a breeze.
Every now and then I’ll forget that a Mac is powered down and I’ll try to send a file to it. The recovery is slow, sometimes painful, every now and then requires a restart.
I usually clone to an external Firewire drive as a backup. Every now and then, the drive will disappear from the Desktop. Sometimes I make a mistake and unplug the drive without “ejecting” it from the Desktop.
Mac OS X doesn’t like that.
Again, fewer problems with Panther and even fewer with recent updates.
There’s been steady improvement with iSync and .Mac connectivity, though some problems with errant utility applications caused some grief. e2Sync gave me fits synchronizing Entourage to AddressBook and iCal until recent versions.
It used to be, with Mac OS 9.x and earlier versions, that I would clean the hard drive and re-install the OS about every 4 to 6 months. Not so with Mac OS X. With each Mac in the office, I’m still on the original install, with each subsequent upgrade through to 10.3.8.
Except for my main PowerMac G5.
I was working on MySQL and did something wrong with both the MySQL root password and my own root password. Then I had to “clone backwards” from my backup Firewire drive. All was good again.
There’s one PowerMac G5 in the office with a lot of Firewire and USB devices connected to it. Audio mixer (2; one USB, one FW), printers (2), extra Firewire drives, and a few other things I have forgotten but I see the cables plugged into it.
From time to time that PowerMac G5 does a kernel panic on startup. A reboot takes care of it. Only once have I had to reboot it twice in a row to get Mac OS X to come up.
My PowerBook has been the most stable of any Mac I’ve ever had. It get restarted only with a new OS X Security Update or Upgrade. I don’t think it’s been turned off in over a year.
How about utility applications that caused me some grief? I’ve got a list. And some solutions.
Click Here for Page 2, the utilities list and my Step-by-Step process to fix basic Mac issues.
Continued from Page 1…
Utility Applications That Caused Grief
Not surprisingly, there aren’t many Mac utility applications (non-Apple) that have caused problems. There are some.
This is the best of all the CSS editors and I could never get the Wizard to work right in versions previous to 4.0x. The new version works fine (I’ll have a review soon).
This handy and free MySQL development application has been rock solid except that every now and again it will decide NOT to connect to our Mac OS X Server. And it never will again from which ever Mac it decides not to. From another Mac, no problem. And no fix, either. Now I use Navicat and have no problem.
An older version would lock up on my brand new PowerMac G5 with 4 gigs RAM. The problem was traced to PTM not working on Macs with so much memory. The developer fixed it within a day.
Only a pre-release version ever crashed, though I’ve had some slowdowns (and it takes awhile to quit) as I’ve built up RSS lists. However, David Watanabe, the developer, releases new versions regularly and the application is now open and running all the time. There’s no better way to get Internet news.
Solutions To The Problems
Frankly, Mac OS X is a VERY forgiving operating system. My main Mac is a PowerMac G5 and I throw every application at it I can find. I’m always testing applications and utilities, adding something new, updating, changing things, and throwing things away.
Still, the Mac just sits there and runs and the (full system) crashes I’ve had on this machine in a year can be counted on a few fingers. I may not be a full on “power user” but I push the system hard. It seldom complains.
When it does, I have a few critical steps that help solve the problem, or, get me back to a “clean” system quickly.
First, I backup regularly through the day and “clone” the system using SuperDuper!
Second, before trying something new, tricky, or dubious (yeah, what they hell… I’ll try it out), clone the system. Cloning back is MUCH faster than troubleshooting something stupid.
Third, when a new utility or application crashes two or three times in a row, out the door it goes (there are exceptions). I trash the application, trash the preference files, and check in Application Support (both system and user) for files and trash those.
As an example of the exceptions, I tried out FotoMagico. This is a fabulous application that does the coolest slide shows this side of PhotoToMovie but has moving text and a more intuitive UI.
It crashed every time on launch. I was pissed. I tried it on all my Macs. Some result. Crash, crash, crash. I’m ready to fire up the flames and crank up output on the blast-o-gram torpedoes.
My “SO” says there’s gotta be a problem because reviews are good and the application appears well designed. You can tell a lot just from how well organized a developers web site is.
So patience won out. It turns out “I” was the problem causing FotoMagico to crash. For whatever reason I have nearly 700 playlists (what? you don’t have a playlist for each artist in iTunes?) in iTunes and FotoMagico didn’t like that.
The developer was VERY responsive and found the problem. I trimmed my Playlists and he upgraded FotoMagico (boy, is that a sweet little application).
Mac applications and utilities run very well on Mac OS X. If they don’t, I don’t have much patience for them. Power of the press?
Applications That Have NEVER Caused A Problem
This is a growing list. AppleWorks is NOT on it. While it’s working OK now, I’ve had printing problems in previous versions of Mac OS X.
In fact, “printing” is the one area where I’ve probably had the most problems, but that’s another story.
Among Mac apps that have NEVER caused me a crash, a problem, or even a slowdown: BBEdit, Navicat, Photoshop Elements 3.0, ChronoSync, Portraits & Prints, Transmit, JAlbum, ImageCaster, Photoshop CS, Logic Express, Watson (RIP), Terminal, Activity Monitor, Console, and huge list of others that don’t make the Top List but get used from time to time.
What about you? What’s on your problem list for Mac OS X, Mac applications, other applications and utilities? Do you have favorites that cause you grief from time to time?
What do you do to fix Mac OS X when it seems to break? What issues cause you the most problems? What’s been rock solid, solid?
Share your knowledge and experience with other Mac users and click on the Comments link below.