My First Kernel Panic

Before I begin this post, I want to point out that I have not yet put my iBook through much. I’ve been getting used to using the OS, and have installed several applications, but I wouldn’t say that I’ve done anything major with it yet.

That said, today I noticed that the machine was running rather slow. Frequently, throughout the day, I would see it slow down to a crawl or freeze up entirely. A few times, I would see the boot “wait” icon, a little circular animated image, in the middle of the screen, and would not be able to do anything. This would be followed by a blue screen. Then, tonight, the boot icon appeared again, and was followed by the following message on my screen.

You need to restart your computer. Hold down the power button for several seconds or press the restart button.

I looked up this error message, and found that it was called “Kernal Panic”. Very nice. So, I wondered, “How’d I manage to do that?” It continued to happen every time I rebooted after about two minutes of uptime. I moved over to my Windows XP machine and started searching on Google. I found several articles and forums that pointed to Norton SystemWorks as the culprit.

Over the next hour or so, I ran the Apple Hardware Test (which passed for all components) that came with the iBook, and also attempted to do a manual backup of my home directory to my Windows PC shared folder, so I could continue to research the problem and prepare to re-install OS X. I also performed disk and file permissions repairs via the OS X installation CD, to rule out any problems there. The backups were all interrupted with the kernel panic message and associated freeze, so I began to move towards finding a way to remove Norton SystemWorks (version 3, by the way). I first tried to uninstall it via the uninstall utility provided on the disk that I have, but had no luck. I received a lovely screen that had “UNKNOWN ERROR”, or something to that effect, repeated over and over. It turns out, according to Symantec’s Web site, that OS X Panther is not supported by this removal software. Luckily, the Symantec Web site (www.symantec.com) had an updated version of the uninstaller, so I downloaded it and ran it on the iBook. It appeared to run fine, and required a reboot when it was finished, so I gave it what it wanted.

After the reboot, I did a quick search on the hard disk for “Norton”, and turned up several files and folders throughout the drive. I deleted them all. I did another search for “SystemWorks” and found nothing. Since the reboot and file deletion, I have noticed that the iBook seems to respond better. I have been typing this for about ten minutes now, and have not had a kernel panic yet, so I suppose that is a good sign.

We’ll see how it goes. If I continue to have trouble after this, I think a re-install will be necessary. I will begin looking for a new antivirus solution in the meantime. That’s all I really wanted from SystemWorks anyway, but I fail to see how installing a utility that causes its own problems helps at all. I also read that Symantec has no plans on continuing support for OS X with regard to its Norton Utilities product, which is part of SystemWorks. Perhaps they should stop selling it then.

For more information on the dreaded kernel panic, check out:
http://www.macmaps.com/kernelpanic.html

For more information on removing Norton SystemWorks on Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, read the following Symantec knowledge base article:
Document ID: 2003110711002611

Smart Home Appliances

Imagine sitting in your room typing a very important email in the middle of the night and the light goes off. Now, in order to turn on the generator which is set in the garage downstairs, you’ll have to leave your email, grab a shawl to cover yourself and walk down the stairs with your hands feeling the walls. Once you are in the garage, turn it on and then go back to your room. Then again, when the light comes back, you’ll have to go and turn off the generator. Wouldn’t it be good if there was a way to automate your generator to turn on when the light went off and vice versa?

Let’s take another example; you set your oven to two hours and go back to your room to read that novel you’d been trying to read for the past few weeks. You get so involved in your novel that the thought of the oven totally slips out of your mind, the result being a burnt-to-ashes kind of food. What if you were able to control your oven right from your room? That’s where the Home Automation System comes in.

A system which allows you to control your electronic devices etc without having to reach for them is called a Home Automation System (Stabley wrote an excellent post about it). By using Home Automation Systems you’ll be able to control the working of your home appliances right from your computer. It’s as simple as that.

Imagine controlling all the appliances in your home from your Mac computer. There’s quite a number of Home Automation Systems which can be used with your Mac computer.

For example,

  • Nest
  • WeMo
  • Insteon
  • Savant
  • Z-Wave
  • X-10

How it works is not a difficult question to answer. There is no complicated procedure to be followed under controlled conditions. All you need is a Mac computer and a few hardware devices that can be used to connect your appliances to your computer, and then you can enjoy efficient home integration without a worry in the world.

First of all, you need a Mac which can support any of the higher versions of Mac Os X (Panther) Automation system. Such Mac will have built-in USB ports which are very important. Just in case, you have an older version of Mac which doesn’t have any built-in USB ports, then, you’ll have to buy a USB-to-serial converter as well.

Second requirement is the home automation equipment, the hardware devices to be used for connecting your appliances to your computer. Get the equipment that supports X-10 home-automation standard. Such equipments are quite economical. A separate X-10 module is required for each appliance that is to be automated.

The next thing you’ll need is an X-10 interface and software. An X-10 interface is the way by which your computer or mobile phone will communicate with your appliances. For example, Smart-home’s Power link USB. Home-automation software is necessary to control your Home Automation System e.g.  XTension.

The settings and the installation procedure varies depending on the module or software you use. However, the steps are quite easy; all you have to do is connect your appliance to the Automation system and your Mac, set all the data like time of turning an appliance on or off etc. And then see how it works.

I think a home automation system makes life way easier than you can imagine. There may be times when you feel quite lazy and don’t want to get out of your bed and you need to turn on the light. In such cases a Home Automation System comes to your rescue and saves you from getting up.

I’m a big fan of technology and Mac apps and gadgets, so I tried a Home Automation System for my home. The one I chose for my home is a Mac OS X Home Automation System. The best thing about these automation systems is that they can be availed at reasonable prices and yet offer high level Home integration. When I had this system installed in my home and connected to my Mac computer, it worked so well, I could control each and every thing from the lights to the temperature of my AC right from my Mac computer. All I had to do was click.

So, with my new Home Automation System, first of  all I connected my deep fryer so that I won’t have to worry about my food getting burnt. Before we get to that, let me tell you about the appliance that I use for deep frying. I have one of the best deep fryers ever. The appliance that I use is a T-Fal Oil Filtration one.

Once my deep fryer was connected to the Home Automation System, I cut some potatoes to make French fries, poured oil into my deep fryer and turned it on through my Mac and set the timings. After I was done with the setting for my deep fryer, all I had to do was wait and watch. And I did watch as my regular deep fryer turned into a smart appliance. All I did after that was, take out the fries when they were ready and that was all. So far, this was a very good experience for me as half of my problems have been solved by this.

Earlier, I used to be hesitant when inviting people over because of the time management issue. And I was never so sure when the food will be ready. Just a moment’s delay would turn it to ashes. But now, my smart deep fryer is my cooking expert. Whenever I throw a party, all I have to do is put the food in my appliance and set the time. When the time is up, my deep fryer will stop automatically. And the food will be saved from getting burnt. This helps a lot as I don’t have to worry in the slightest bit. Whether it’s fried chicken or French fries, the food cooked in my smart appliance is extremely healthy and delicious. It’s time saving as well and my guests totally love it. Now, if you try this, your life will never be the same again.

 

A Faulty Keyboard

When I got my new iBook on 12 January, I noticed a small issue with the space key that I didn’t notice on the original iBook (see: My First Mac) that I purchased a week earlier. It seemed that when I pressed down on its the far right side, it would not insert a space, unless I tapped it hard – harder than I would if I were just typing along and not thinking about the key. Now, this wouldn’t be a problem if, when I typed, my left thumb hit the space key. I found out, however, that my right thumb hits the space key when I type (I never knew this before), and because the position of the key itself is slightly to the left of the keyboard’s center, my thumb seems to hit the far right of the key very often. This made it very annoying when I was typing because I would need to frequently go back and fix typos.

Two days ago, I contacted the Apple store where I purchased the iBook. They told me to bring it into the store so they could take a look. The person I spoke to on the phone told me that he completely understood my desire to have this key work every time, because “I bought an expensive item and [wanted] it to work”. So, yesterday, I brought the iBook into the store on my way home from work. I waited at the Genius Bar for someone to take a look at it, and the Mac Genius that came along was the same person who had looked over my first iBook a week earlier and found the dead pixel. He attempted to replace the key, but this didn’t work. Then he tried a brand new keyboard . It worked perfectly. Needless to say, I was very happy.

I’m very pleased with this iBook so far. The things that have gone wrong with it seem like bad luck, more than anything, because I know others with iBooks and have heard nothing bad from them. I also love that Apple has moved quickly to correct the issues, even when it meant replacing the entire machine (see: My First Mac). I also love that I didn’t have to go without my iBook for a week or more while they sent it out for repairs. Though I understand that hardware must be sent out for repairs from time to time, I like that Apple recognized that I just purchased this iBook, and that they want to make sure I am happy with that decision. I would be confident making all my future purchases at the Apple store, and am happy that there are two within driving distance of my home.

AppleScript Tip: A Cleaner Script Menu

51p5oPnGK+LI recently purchased a book called AppleScript: The Missing Manual and was going through it today in order to get used to AppleScript. The book pointed out something that I noticed before. The script menu has an option called Open Scripts Folder (at the top) that opens the current user’s scripts folder. The problem with this is that if you want to open the global scripts library (found at Macintosh HD/Library/Scripts), you have to actually browse there to do so.

To add the script menu to your Mac menu bar, open the file called “Install Script Menu that is located in the Applications/AppleScript folder. Poof! The script menu appears.

The book did not provide a solution, so I created a simple little fix that allows you to open your own home scripts folder and quickly get to the global scripts folder. Simply add an alias to the global scripts folder inside your home scripts folder, and when you click Open Scripts Folder from the AppleScript menu, you will have the alias right in front of you, ready to be opened when necessary.

However, this creates a messy AppleScript menu…

You will now see two lists of scripts, one containing all your global scripts, and another containing all the global scripts along with your personal scripts from the home scripts folder. This is because the script menu displays all the global scripts first, then all your personal scripts located in your home Library/Scripts folder. Being that you have just added an alias to your global scripts folder inside of your home scripts folder, you are going to show the global scripts twice. It’s not very clean.

To correct this, simply click on the AppleScript menu and choose Hide Library Scripts. This will hide the global scripts from the menu, and you will be left with only those scripts in your home scripts folder. Because you have that alias to the global scripts in your home scripts folder, you will see a menu option called Scripts in your script menu. Moving your mouse into this menu option will reveal your global scripts, all neatly tucked away in one folder. You can even go one step further and and create a folder called My Scripts inside your home scripts folder and put all your personal scripts inside this new folder. Now, when you click the script menu, you will be presented with two options: My Scripts (contains your personal scripts) and Scripts (contains the global scripts). This will break the two sets of scripts into two different “categories”, so to speak, and allow you to find either group of scripts easily.

I’m not sure if this would be at all helpful to anyone else, or if I am even totally happy with it myself, but for those who want a quick link (via an alias) to the global scripts folder inside the home scripts folder, performing these steps will allow you to have that link and keep a clean script menu.

I hope this helps someone out. It was an interesting little fix for a problem that I saw.

My First Mac

For several years I have wanted a Mac, probably ever since I attended an Image Manipulation class at the Art Institute of Portland in 1999. This is when I was first exposed to the Mac OS. After that quarter was completed, I was offered an internship at a local animation and Web design company by the CEO, who was also my instructor at the time. They were a Mac shop (I think they had one Windows PC in the building that no one used) and I was put to work on a dual-monitor machine running OS 7 or 8 (I can’t remember which). There were only a few people who worked for the company at that time, and we’d go back and forth on which operating system was better and why, with me taking the side of Windows. I guess it was during this five month period that I started to realize that the Mac OS was growing on me. The operating system seemed, in a word, more elegant that Windows, and I soon wanted to get my hands on a Mac.

I left the Art Institute about a year or so later and decided that with the dot com boom dying (or already being dead by that point), it was in my best interests to accept a position with my employer working in the programming and administration of their call center systems. It was still “tech” work, even if it wasn’t Web development, and I saw others losing their Web jobs left and right. The world I was entering was entirely Windows, and there were not Macs anywhere in the company, let alone on my desk. Since I didn’t have the money to purchase my own, in addition to a Windows PC, I decided to stick with the PC I had and forgot about the Mac. Every now and then someone would tell me that they had one, and I’d say mockingly, “Yeah, isn’t that a cute little OS”, but I was secretly jealous.

Over the last couple years I’ve kept up with the literature, more or less, and still found that, from what I was reading, the Mac OS was a more stable, easier to use operating system. Then came OS X. When I heard that it was based on Unix, I thought, “Now here’s something that’s going to be hard to deny for any Windows user – stability”. One of the major arguments that Windows users make is that the Mac OS is prone to crashes. Well, so was Windows, as we all knew very well. With Unix in the background, the Mac OS just got a major stability boost, not to mention the long list of free applications that would now be made available for Mac users that even the Windows users couldn’t run. That settled the other argument for me made by Windows users – lack of software. Besides, how many spreadsheet applications do you need?

Someone I know told me he was getting an iBook a few months ago and I was forced, once again, to look upon my Windows machine and long for a more friendly and powerful operating system. Everything that I’ve heard over the years told me that the Mac hardware was superior to the hardware offered by the major PC manufacturers (Dell, Compaq, etc.), but the price always put me off. I’ve owned more than one PC from time to time, but any secondary PCs I’ve owned have been less powerful models or machines that I scraped together from spare parts. Buying a Mac was out of the question, because I already had a PC and it did what I wanted it to do, even if I had to deal with the issues that came along with it.

Even though I have a fairly new Dell that’s got a good amount of processing power and has had three additional hard drives added to it since I purchased it, I decided about a week ago to take a trip to the Apple Store close to where I live, and get an iBook. I wanted the 12-inch model, mainly because it would allow me to get to know the operating system again, without spending a great deal of money up-front. I got there and considered spending the extra $300 on the 14-inch model, but took a look at the 12-inch and imagined myself using it – I wanted something small that I could take anywhere and something that would fit on my desk at home next to my PC, and I didn’t think that the smaller model would cause me to go too blind, so I stuck with my first choice. I walked out of the store that night with my iBook and literally spent all night with it, until about 6 AM the following morning.

A few days later, I came home from work and booted the iBook. I noticed that a single pixel, close to the middle of the screen, had died. I had only had it for about five days at this point, so I called the store where I purchased it and asked them what they could do for me. The person who helped me was extremely nice and said that while Apple didn’t typically replace notebooks with only one dead pixel, they would replace this one, since I had only had it for a few days, I ran back to the store and got my replacement as soon as I got off the phone with her. No problems since. I decided to try to install the Mac OS from the restore disk that came with the iBook, being that I was starting over (I didn’t have them save anything on the hard disk because I had all the install disks for the applications I had installed and didn’t really have any files that I needed). I had heard how easy it was to install the OS, so I tried it out. Now, I’ve installed Windows 2000 Server and XP on several machines over the years, about once every six months, to keep things fresh. I usually block a day off to do this on a weekend so that I have time to get everything installed (OS, apps, updates, etc). I can say, without question, that the Mac OS is about as simple as it comes when you are talking about a fresh OS install. Windows is easy, yes, but the Mac OS is even easier, and takes less time too. I had everything done, including all the apps re-installed, in a couple hours or so.

Since then, I’ve spent the last few days trying out software. I’ve found that just about everything I have on my PC is available for my new Mac. The only things I haven’t gotten yet are something like Microsoft’s Visio and Project, but I’m looking at a few apps that are similar. MS Office is available for the Mac, and so is the Macromedia Studio MX. I wanted to install ColdFusion developer edition on it for Web testing, but I noticed that it doesn’t exist for the Mac. However, it does exist for Unix/Linux, so I’m going to try that out. I can tell that it needs a RAM upgrade, and I have one planned in the near future. It handles the tasks I throw at it, but I need it to move a bit faster, and I think a RAM upgrade will do the trick.

So far, I’m very happy with my choice. I’m still reading literature on the Mac OS and Apple hardware and poking around with it to become as proficient as I have become with Windows over the years, but I’ve noticed the learning curve is not as steep. I also can’t wait to get into AppleScript, which I’ve wanted in Windows for years now, or something like it at least, but have never seen (and no, the Windows Script Host is not the same). I created this blog because I wanted to share my experiences with new users to the Mac OS, especially former PC users. I still intend on keeping my Windows PC, but upgrades to it over the next year might have to wait as I dive further into the Mac world. This Web site will be updated frequently and I am hoping to include a few of my own reviews of various hardware and software products available for Mac. I will also be adding a forum to this Web site that you, the user, will be able to use to talk to other users, read tutorials, and share information.