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Mac Troubleshooting Advice

Macintosh software/hardware discussion and troubleshooting

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Mac Troubleshooting Advice

Postby sdemott » Sun Sep 10, 2006 7:52 am

Because there seems to be a good deal of confusion and misinformation about basic Mac troubleshooting I thought I would try to shed some light on this often obfuscated process.

Why trust me? I used my first Mac in September of 1984...and those who remember that first Mac know you had to "fly solo" when it came to problems. Because of my early adoption I became the "go to guy" for all my Mac using friends over the next several years. Then when word had spread enough and I was getting enough calls from people who heard about me "from a friend of a friend of a friend" I went into the consulting thing as a paid profession (in 1992). I had Apple certification all through the '90s, up until about 2003 when it was obvious that the yearly testing fees were growing to be more in the MS territory. I worked as a full-time IT guy in a marketing/ad agency for a few years. These days I primarily keep my consulting & web design to musicians, artists and related institutions so I can spend time writing & recording music.

The Simple Stuff

Repair Permissions
There is a lot of confusion & misinformation about this simple maintenance procedure. Here's the real deal. When you repair permissions a comparison is made between an installs current state and the requested state from its install receipt. When they differ, they are changed to reflect the requested state.

In theory any installer that places a receipt in the proper place with all the proper user/permissions information can be repaired with a "Repair Permission" run. The unfortunate side effect is that companies tend to be reluctant to create a proper install package and usually forgo the extra work to include this information.

Receipts are stored in: /Library/Receipts/

When should you repair permissions? Anytime and every time you do any install or modification that requires you to enter your password. By the simple fact that an administrator's password is being asked for you are being warned that your file system is being altered. Always be sure to Repair Permissions to insure the filesystem is in its proper state after these tasks.

Preferences
From the early days of the Mac up to now there has been a common thread in troubleshooting - preferences corrupt themselves on a regular basis. To this day, I would say that about 90% of Mac oddities can be linked to a corrupt preference file.

The first step in troubleshooting an issue where something suddenly begins acting weird, or applications suddenly become unstable, should be deleting all related preference files. Keep in mind you will need to reset your application preferences after deleting preference files because they will revert to their default settings. But this is only for the application for which you removed the preference files.

Also, if you have the issue where you login and the login window hangs or the desktop hangs as the account first comes up, you most likely have corrupt LoginWindow.plist & LaunchServices.plist files. Check both preference locations for these files, delete & reboot.

Preferences are stored in: ~/Library/Preferences/ (user specific settings) & /Library/Preferences/ (system specific settings)

Advanced Stuff

Non-Volitile RAM (NVRAM)/Parameter RAM (PRAM)
When something goes wrong with these you will get power issues (systems that sleep without warning or won't wake from sleep), odd keyboard & mouse behavior or even odd display (on screen) anomalies.

You can reset the NVRAM/PRAM 2 ways:
Restart the system and hold down the cmd-opt-p-r keys until you hear 3 startup chimes. Release the keys after the 3rd chime and you will startup normally.

Restart the system and hold down the cmd-opt-o-f keys. When you see text come up on the screen welcoming you to Open Firmware release they keys. You will be at a text prompt (a ">" sign). Type the following:
>reset-nvram (pressing return will result in an "ok")
>set-defaults (again, press return for the "ok")
>reset-all (pressing return will reboot the system)

This only works on "New World ROM" PPC machines (G3s and better) and will not work on the new Intel Macs.

FileSystemCheck (fsck)
When things go really wrong you will want to check your hard drive for damage. You can boot from you Mac OSX install disk and run Disk Utility > check disk, but that always seemed like a good deal of extra work to me (because I'd have to find the CD and wait through a boot from the system on the CD - which always seems like it takes 100 years to complete). Instead, you can accomplish the exact same thing by dropping into Single User Mode and running a FileSystemCheck. The Disk Utility > check disk is a GUI for the fsck command.

Reboot and hold down cmd-s
Release when you see text appear on the screen with some gobbledy-gook about timeslicing, IODevice, the regents of the University of California at Berkeley and "the filesystem is mounted read only, fsck not done". You will find yourself at a command prompt (a ">" sign).
Type:
>fsck -fy (hit return & wait)
The system will check itself giving you a "play by play" of what's being done and if it has found any errors. If it does find errors it will warn you and then attempt to repair them.
Keep running the "fsck -fy" until you get the "disk seems to be ok" message.
After the "ok" message type:
>reboot
to boot back into the normal OS.

Standard Disclaimer
In closing, remember that you do not have to be comfortable with the tech end of a computer to use one for your day to day work. It is never a bad thing to develop a relationship with a local Mac consultant who understands the idiosyncrasies of a DAW setup. Many of them are musicians too and may even barter their services for some recording time. Playing around in Open Firmware and Single User Mode can be dangerous, and if something unexpected happens you can do serious/irrepearable damage to your system or files. Just because I am revealing these troubleshooting secrets does not mean I take any responsibility for their use or any damage they may cause to your system or data. Follow these instructions at your own risk.

You have been warned (and, hopefully, enlightened). :-)
-Steve
Not all who wander are lost.
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Postby mikebeckmotu » Sun Sep 10, 2006 9:56 am

Thank you - that was very generous!
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Postby Frodo » Sun Sep 10, 2006 5:06 pm

Steve-mott:

You never cease to amaze me, my friend. Thanks for the bundle of clarity and putting it in one spot.
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Postby emulatorloo » Sun Sep 10, 2006 5:45 pm

Nicely done, Steve --- maybe James could make it a STICKY!

--
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Postby Frodo » Sat Sep 08, 2007 9:27 pm

I thought I should come back to this thread just in case.... hmm.

Hey sdemott:

What can you tell me about OSX retaining data after an app is started and quit? I'm seeing inordinate amounts of data marked as still being wired in Activity Monitor-- about 1.8GB under All Processes with no apps running. On restart it says 660MB.

I realize that some data will be retained, but it seems to me that some sample data is also being retained for that amount to be as big as it is.

I've put some of this in another thread, too, but could this be in some way related to the audio and MIDI bursts people are reporting?
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Postby emulatorloo » Tue Sep 11, 2007 7:22 am

Just adding a link to a reallllllllly good Mac OS X troubleshooting site -- the X-Lab's OS X FAQ's. I am linking to the "Resolving Kernel Panics" page because it comes up now and again, but there is tons of great information at this site:


Resolving Kernel Panics
http://www.thexlab.com/faqs/kernelpanics.html

There is a lot more at link -- but some causes of kernel panics from the link:

General causes of kernel panics

Kernel panics are often caused by one or more of the following issues.

--Defective or incompatible RAM are the most frequent causes of kernel panics. Despite being a highly-reliable product, RAM can fail. Modern operating systems, like Mac OS X, are sensitive to RAM. Purchase additional RAM from either Apple or third parties who guarantee their RAM is compatible with Mac OS X, offer a liberal exchange policy, and provide a lifetime warranty should the RAM become defective or a later version of Mac OS X introduce incompatibilities.

--Incompatible, obsolete, or corrupted kernel extensions. If a third-party kernel extension or one of its dependencies is incompatible or obsolete with respect to the version of Mac OS X you are using, kernel panics may occur when the kernel executes such extensions. Likewise, if a kernel extension or one of its dependencies is corrupted, such as the result of hard disk corruption, kernel panics are likely to occur when the kernel attempts to load or execute such.

--Incompatible, obsolete, or corrupted drivers. Similar to kernel extensions, drivers for third-party hardware which are incompatible with the version of Mac OS X you are using, or which have become corrupted, will cause in kernel panics.

--Hard disk corruption, including bad sectors, directory corruption, and other hard-disk ills.

--Incorrect permissions on System-related files or folders.

--Insufficient RAM and available hard disk space.

--Improperly installed hardware or software.

--Defective hardware or software. Hardware failures, including a defective CPU, or programming errors can result in kernel panics.

--Incompatible hardware. While rare, this is generally the result of a third-party hardware vendor••™s product failing to properly respond to the kernel or a kernel extension in an expected way.



----------------------------------------------------

Link to main page:

http://www.thexlab.com/faqs/faqs.html

-----------------------
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Postby Frodo » Tue Sep 18, 2007 3:05 am

Yep-- that's site is so good, I think I have four separate bookmarks to that page without meaning to!!
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MacBook / DP5

Postby briandone » Sun Aug 17, 2008 10:13 am

Hi,

I apologize for breaking in where it might not be appropriate. I'm new on getting info on forums, and I can't really find things I think should be there.
Like a post button on the front page of this website. I'm registered, but can't seem to find a post button to ask a question. Maybe it's on another page, or maybe this is a site that doesn't allow initial posts for it's general membership. But imagine being a neophyte on these boards and you can probably remember how frustrating it was to navigate to the desired spot, or spend inordinate amounts of time in a busy life looking and not finding an answer to a problem that steals yet more of your time and nags you while it does.

The issue is that my old keyboard for my G5 Mac used to activate any of the keyboard shortcuts when using the number keys: e.g. record was #3, rewind was #1, 5 and 6 were slow reverse and slow forward. I used these all the time. Now with my MacBook the numbers don't work to activate these shortcuts.

My questions are: 1) Is there a way to set the Mac or DP5 so that they will work together as before even if I have to manually set the parameters?
2) If not, do you think it would work to get a full Mac keyboard like the one I had with my G5 and plug it into my USB port on the MacBook? My old keyboard also had two USB inputs, so when using up a USB port on the laptop it offers a replacement port and an extra. 3) Can you suggest any keyboards in the marketplace that you know would work for my particular purpose, and would also have the extra USB connections? 4) In your experience, would you deem my questions difficult to find answers for, They seem to fall in that middle void of not getting an answer (or not even finding the correct place to ask) from either Mac or MOTU.

Sorry if this is lengthy, but thank you for letting me get it off my chest.
If I'm in the wrong place could you recommend to me a more appropriately skilled site?

Thanks gobs,
Roger
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Re: MacBook / DP5

Postby MIDI Life Crisis » Fri Sep 05, 2008 2:35 pm

Well the board has changed a little since you posted, but at the top of each SECTION there is a NEW TOPIC button. THere is not a single new post button on the main screen.

I'm not sure why your keyboard isn't working, but you could try a couple of things. The COMMANDS window allows you to set the keys for various things. I'd go there and even if the key appears to be set correctly, go ahead and try to set it again. It may simply be a matter of the wrong ASCII location being called. Resetting the key should fix that.

A full Mac USB keyboard should bring back your keys as long as the arrangement os the ASCII setup is the same.

As for keyboards, I'd just go to a store that supports Apple and see what they have. Fry's usually has a decent selection. I am using a wireless Apple Pro and it really has the best feel of any keyboard I've tried (and I've tried dozens over the years). Macally IceKeys were nice but not too robust for my pianist fingers. Kensington always makes a good product as well.

Finally, I strongly suggest you look at Quickeys. It adds so much to you keyboard you won't believe it. All sorts of shortcuts and time savers.

BTW, welcome to the forum. And sdemott - GREAT post!
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Re: Mac Troubleshooting Advice

Postby twistedtom » Sun Sep 14, 2008 7:14 am

Good information sdemott thanks. Emulatorloo that is one fine site , I book marked it now I have lots more reading to do.
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, kelsey and Yamaha mixers, Rack of gear. Guitars, piano, PA and more stuff.
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Re: Mac Troubleshooting Advice

Postby CCarpenter » Tue Nov 18, 2008 4:07 pm

sdemott wrote:

Non-Volitile RAM (NVRAM)/Parameter RAM (PRAM)

When something goes wrong with these you will get power issues (systems that sleep without warning or won't wake from sleep), odd keyboard & mouse behavior or even odd display (on screen) anomalies.

You can reset the NVRAM/PRAM 2 ways:

Restart the system and hold down the cmd-opt-p-r keys until you hear 3 startup chimes. Release the keys after the 3rd chime and you will startup normally.

Restart the system and hold down the cmd-opt-o-f keys. When you see text come up on the screen welcoming you to Open Firmware release they keys. You will be at a text prompt (a ">" sign). Type the following:

>reset-nvram (pressing return will result in an "ok")

>set-defaults (again, press return for the "ok")

>reset-all (pressing return will reboot the system)

This only works on "New World ROM" PPC machines (G3s and better) and will not work on the new Intel Macs.





I want to thank sdemott so much for this advice. My G5 was going into fan "turbo" mode and then going into sleep mode randomly. I feared that I needed to replace the logic board or something. After following the above advice, all seems to be well, at least all day today!

Thanks again. Your advice most likely saved me hundreds of dollars and days of time!
Gear: Mac Pro 2.8 8 core 10 GB 10.6, 2 X VisionDaw PC slaves, DP 8.06, Vienna Solo Strings, Vienna Special Edition, Vienna Ensemble Pro 5, Play Orchestral Platinum/Storm Drums/Voices of Passion/Symphonic Choirs/RA, True Strike, Symphobia, Sonic Implants, Garritan Jazz, Raging Guitars, Omnisphere, Stylus RMX, LASS, MOTU 2408 X 3, MIDI Express 128, Kontakt Complete 9
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Re: Mac Troubleshooting Advice

Postby whentomorrowfails » Wed Nov 19, 2008 10:45 am

Repair Permissions
There is a lot of confusion & misinformation about this simple maintenance procedure. Here's the real deal. When you repair permissions a comparison is made between an installs current state and the requested state from its install receipt. When they differ, they are changed to reflect the requested state.

In theory any installer that places a receipt in the proper place with all the proper user/permissions information can be repaired with a "Repair Permission" run. The unfortunate side effect is that companies tend to be reluctant to create a proper install package and usually forgo the extra work to include this information.

Receipts are stored in: /Library/Receipts/

When should you repair permissions? Anytime and every time you do any install or modification that requires you to enter your password. By the simple fact that an administrator's password is being asked for you are being warned that your file system is being altered. Always be sure to Repair Permissions to insure the filesystem is in its proper state after these tasks.


i have a post in the mac/motu hardware section if you want to refer to that to get more details, but the long and the short of it is that I just got a used Mac G4, it's a 466MHz PowerPC, with 512MB of ram, and a 40GB hdd, which according to my MOTU manual for my Traveler is more than enough to run it, and i know i need more ram and disk space, but i bought the Mac solely because i have spent the better part of a year trying to my Traveler to work on my Sony Vaio laptop, with little to no luck. So i bought this Mac, which by the way also runs OSX Version 10.4.11 for $170 assuming that i would install the necessary software/drivers, plug in my Traveler and i would be set....unfortunately, i have had no such luck, and know pretty much nothing about Macs. However, in reading your "help guide" i guess you could call it? You talk about "receipts" which i have quoted above. Now i am assuming (we all know what they say about that) that if my MOTU software and drivers were properly installed, then there should be a "receipt" somewhere in there about MOTU, am i correct in my thinking? If there is, then I must've done something wrong, because there is nothing in there for MOTU.

I am seriously about ready to take a hammer to my Traveler, it has been the object of my hatred for far to long, and i seriously need to get this going, or get rid of it...maybe you can help.

any help from anyone would/will be greatly appreciated.

kudos,
-duane
kudos,
-duane
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Re: Mac Troubleshooting Advice

Postby papageno » Thu Jul 16, 2009 5:07 am

sdemott wrote:>fsck -fy (hit return & wait)
The system will check itself giving you a "play by play" of what's being done and if it has found any errors. If it does find errors it will warn you and then attempt to repair them.
Keep running the "fsck -fy" until you get the "disk seems to be ok" message.
After the "ok" message type:
>reboot
to boot back into the normal OS.

I recommend AppleJack, for me, AppleJack usage is automatic, after every crash/panic (and I can make it happen! ...crash i mean).
http://applejack.sourceforge.net/
It is free and it does five things: fsck, permissions repair, clean caches, verify preferences, clean VM.

I start with command-S as stated above and then type:
Code: Select all
applejack auto restart

Applejack then performs all those 5 tasks in a row and reboots the computer.

DISCLAIMER:
If you do not backup- regularly and automatically- then go search for an easier job.
Computers, hard drives, software and most important: people- they fail often.
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Re: Mac Troubleshooting Advice

Postby Jim » Thu Jul 16, 2009 8:50 am

papageno wrote:I recommend AppleJack, for me, AppleJack usage is automatic, after every crash/panic (and I can make it happen! ...crash i mean).
http://applejack.sourceforge.net/
It is free and it does five things: fsck, permissions repair, clean caches, verify preferences, clean VM.

I start with command-S as stated above and then type:
Code: Select all
applejack auto restart

Applejack then performs all those 5 tasks in a row and reboots the computer.


+1 on Applejack after a complete system freeze or the seldom kernel panic, but I use the deep clean mode, "applejack AUTO" and do my own reboot. I also do a PRAM reset every now and then.

Also, I recommend Disk Warrior, for cleaning up directories. I don't know if there's a proper order for Applejack then DW, or vice-versa, as they seem to do entirely different things.
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Re: Mac Troubleshooting Advice

Postby papageno » Thu Jul 16, 2009 9:24 am

I was a huge fan of DiskWarrior once. Bought the licence after the computer company saved my disk structure and files with it.
Have had some bad experiences with DW 4.xx, it CRASHED during disk repair once. Not a good thing...

If you are using Disk Warrior then do not mess with fsck before.

Disk Warrior does not patch the old messed catalog (many apps do just that) but it does write a completely new one.

Running fsck (or applejack) is a good habit after a crash. If the disk catalog has an error, it can spread. I mean: an error, under some circumstances, can generate a next one etc.
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