by Lawrence I. Charters, Vice President, Macintosh
August General Meeting: Under Repair
For many years the Pi has devoted August to games. Several reasons have
been offered for this: 1) it gives the people who regularly run the General
Meetings a break; 2) it celebrates the fun-loving spirit of summer; 3) it
is difficult to get vendors to do presentations so close to MacWorld
Boston; 4) nobody in their right mind stays in the Washington Metro area in
August since the sensible thing to do is go on vacation far, far away.
Computer user groups, successful ones at least, are not slaves to
tradition, and certainly not sensible, so the August meeting was devoted to
preventive maintenance and repair. Yes, it was hot and sticky, but a large
crowd did show up, anyway, and immediately dove into an animated, intense
two hour discussion on how to keep your Macintosh healthy.
Outside the auditorium, Aspen Gold Software of Alexandria, VA
(firstname.lastname@example.org; 703-750-6692) kept up the games month tradition by
demonstrating CrossPro, an approach to crossword puzzles that
extends from fun to serious. Not only does the package contain hundreds of
crossword puzzles for you to solve, but it also allows you to make your own
puzzles, and has a cleverly designed, very comfortable interface. In
addition to game enthusiasts, teachers should also consider the package as
crossword puzzles are excellent tools for teaching spelling and
Back inside, the preventive maintenance and repair questions seemed to fall
in a few groups:
Q.: How much memory do you really need to run System 7? System 7.5?
Photoshop? PageMaker? Microsoft Office 4.2?
A.: As much as you can afford or as much as your machine permits.
No, RAMdoubler is not an adequate substitute for real RAM.
Q.: My internal hard disk is full. Is it easy to replace an internal
A.: On most machines, it is very easy to replace an internal hard
disk (the exceptions are PowerBooks and the original "toaster" Macs).
However, it may not be desirable. Adding an external hard disk is as easy
as plugging in the cable and turning it on, and an external hard disk can
be easily moved to a new, more powerful computer if you decide to get one.
Given the present very low price of hard drives, there really isn't any
excuse to avoid getting a bigger drive if you need one.
Q.: My machine crashes a lot when I am doing [whatever]. What should
A.: Several things: 1) Boot from your Disk Tools Disk (or a bootable
CD-ROM drive) and run the latest version of Apple's Disk First Aid utility
to check for damaged disk directories and other problems; 2) Make sure that
your hard disk uses a driver that is compatible with System 7/System 7.5
(many older Macs, and third-party hard drives, do not have compatible
drivers); 3) Check your hard disk with Symantec's Norton Disk Utilities
3.1 or later (as of this writing, none of the other commercial disk
maintenance programs are completely stable when used with System 7/7.5); 4)
zap your PRAM (Parameter Random Access Memory) to remove any "stuck bits;"
5) If necessary, reinstall a fresh copy of your operating system, or your
Q.: I upgraded from System 7 to 7.5 and am having problems. What do
A.: Make sure you update your hard disk driver to the latest
version. Make sure you check your hard disk with Disk First Aid prior to
doing an installation to make sure the disk is in good shape. Most
important of all, do a Clean Install; do not install over the top of a
previous version of the operating system but, instead, start from scratch.
This will prevent any damaged elements from migrating to the new system,
and also eliminate conflicts caused by non-standard extensions. Finally,
upgrade your fresh System 7.5 to System 7.5.1 using the files on the Pi's
bulletin board, the TCS, or from the Pi's Disk Library.
Q.: Can I do my own internal repairs on a PowerBook?
A.: Not recommended; PowerBooks are unusually sensitive to static
damage, have really small, fragile parts, and are hard to take apart and
Q.: What do you think of Iomega Bernoulli drives, Syquest drives,
Iomega Zip drives, Iomega Jaz drives, magneto-optical drives?
A.: The Jaz drives don't exist yet (as of the meeting), the Zip
drives are in very short supply, Syquest drives have a long history of
being both prone to failure and suffering from a variety of incompatible
drivers, and Bernoulli drives will eventually be replaced by Jaz and Zip
drives. The 3.5" magneto-optical drive, in both the 128 MB and 230 MB
versions, is not as fast as any of the former, but the cartridges have a
longer shelf life, and the formatting conforms to an industry standard. For
long-term backup, the magneto-optical drives are best; for day-to-day "my
hard drive is full and I need to get rid of something!" chores, the
Bernoulli and Zip drives seem to be the most reliable, the Syquest drives
are faster, and it is possible the Jaz drives will ultimately be the most
Q.: My Mac IIsi (with 5 MB of RAM) crashes when I run RAMdoubler,
DiskDoubler, and virtual memory and try and run Photoshop,
PageMaker and Word 6.0.1 at the same time.
A.: Don't do that.
Probably the two "best" reference books for preventive maintenance and
repair are The Little Mac Book, 4th Edition, by Robin Williams
(Peachpit Press, 1995; ISBN 1-56609-149-7; $17.95) and Guide to
Macintosh System 7.5, by Don Crabb (Hayden Books, 1994; ISBN
1-56830-109-X; $25.00). Both books focus on how your Mac works, and why,
rather than on repairing problems, but most Macintosh maintenance problems
are caused by a failure to understand how the Mac operates. With The
Little Mac Book as a highly readable, enthusiastic introduction to
Macintosh mysteries, and Guide to Macintosh System 7.5 as a
reference to the operating system, you should be able to avoid most
problems, and quickly recover from those you don't avoid.
Capsule reviews of related books:
Sad Macs, Bombs and Other Disasters, 2nd Ed., by Ted Landau
(Addison-Wesley, 1995; ISBN 0-201-40958-5; $34.95). Huge (nearly 900
pages), comprehensive guide to what goes wrong and how to fix it. While an
excellent book, it does not provide any context of how the Mac operates and
why. Highly recommended, but only if you read The Little Mac Book
first. If you work with Macs for a living, this is an essential.
The Dead Mac Scrolls, by Larry Pina (Peachpit Press, 1992; ISBN
0-940235-25-0; $32). This is a comprehensive, detailed guide to the repair
and upgrade of "older" Macs, monitors, ImageWriters and LaserWriters.
Designed for someone comfortable with electrical components, wirecutters,
screwdrivers, and an occasional soldering iron. The index is irritating
until you get used to it, and there is virtually no attention given to
software ‹ this is a hardware book. Recommended if you have older
equipment, but only after you've read The Little Mac Book.
Protect Your Macintosh, by Bruce Schneier (Peachpit Press, 1994; ISBN
1-56609-101-2; $23.95). Most of this book is focused on a different sort of
preventive maintenance: protecting your Macintosh from theft, spies, snoopy
coworkers, sabotage, viruses and other disasters. It covers physical
security (locking up the machine), virus protection, encryption, computer
insurance, and the most neglected subject of all: backups. Highly
The Little Mac Toolkit, by Clay Andres (Peachpit Press, 1994; ISBN
1-56609-042-3; $34.95). The book is essentially a detailed guide to the
freeware and shareware utilities included on the accompanying CD-ROM. As
such, it is an excellent one-volume overview to such classics as
Stuffit, Stuffit Expander, Compact Pro, SCSI Probe, TattleTale, MacEnvy,
Greg's Buttons, Disinfectant, Before Dark and lots of other classics,
including some games. On the one hand, it does its job well. On the other
hand, it doesn't explain that some of these utilities do things you may
wish to avoid, or that conflict with one another.
Macintosh System 7.5 for Dummies, by Bob LeVitus (IDG Books, 1994;
ISBN 1-56884-197-3; $19.95). Decent overview of System 7.5 with great
cartoons and an offensive title. LeVitus is scheduled to be at the Pi in
February; be sure and tell him what you think of the title.
Upgrading &;Fixing Macs for Dummies, by Kearney Rietmann and Frank
Higgins (IDG Books, 1994; ISBN 1-56884-189-2; $19.95). A good guide to how
to take your Mac apart to install new stuff, but of little or no use on
preventive maintenance. Like the LeVitus book above, it has great cartoons
and an offensive title (dummies should work on MS-DOS machines, not
MacWorld Mac &;Power Mac Secrets, by David Pogue and Joseph Schorr
(IDG Books, 1994; ISBN 1-56884-175-2; $39.95). This massive volume (1100
pages, plus three diskettes) has a decent index, covers lots of territory,
and suffers from a poor theme. The entire book is devoted to the conceit
that there are "secrets" buried in the Macintosh and, once you uncover
them, everything will work better. As a result, you often find yourself
immersed in a treasure hunt rather than presented with solid information
and accompanying context. The book is also poorly bound, given its size,
and you'll soon end up carrying it around in a paper sack if you use it
often. Recommended only after you've read The Little Mac Book.
The Power Mac Book! by Ron Pronk (Coriolis Group, 1995; ISBN
1-883577-09-8; $34.95). While it does discuss the Power Mac and Power Mac
software, and even includes a CD-ROM with some Power Mac utilities, the
book isn't exceptional. Many of the topics covered (QuickTime, using the
Internet, System 7.5) are not unique to the Power Mac, and are better
covered in other books. A new edition is due in late 1995 or early
The Little System 7.1/7.5 Book, by Kay Yarborough Nelson (Peahpit
Press, 1994; ISBN 1-56609-151-9; $13.95). A decent overview of System 7.1
and 7.5, it sometimes comes across as "chatty" despite the size (less than
200 pages), and sometimes looks like it was written in a hurry. There is
allegedly a newer edition, devoted just to System 7.5, but I haven't seen
The Complete Guide to Mac Backup Management, by Dorian J. Cougias
(Floating Point Press/APS Technologies, 1994; ISBN 1-885871-00-7; $50).
Even including the disk of utilities, this volume is greatly overpriced:
you get a self-indulgent, chatty review of backup techniques and disaster
prevention techniques spiced with case studies, and along the way you are
told, even if you didn't want to know, that the author is a former Green
Beret and works for a hot-shot computer consulting firm. On the other hand,
APS has recently been selling the book at about 10% of the original price,
Lots of little trinkets from MacWorld were distributed. The most highly
prized seemed to be a couple dozen copies of the MacUser Internet
The Coreolis Group, 7339 E. Acouma Drive, Suite 7, Scottsdale, AZ
Floating Point Press/APS Technologies, 6131 Deramus, Kansas City, MO
Hayden Books, 201 W. 103rd St., Indianapolis, IN 46290
IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., 155 Bovet Road, Suite 310, San Mateo, CA
Peachpit Press, 2414 Sixth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710