Widgets, Screensavers and kernel panics

Q. My son downloaded some Dashboard Widgets and screensavers onto to our Intel iMac and now we are getting a grey screen that tell’s us to press the Power Button to restart the iMac. Do we need to delete his account?

A. The grey screen with “Restart” you are seeing, means your Mac is experiencing a kernel panic— which can indicate a problem with the hardware or an incompatible piece of software. The “kernel” is a piece of software that connects the operating system to your hardware. The Mac OS X system software is the same on a PowerPC, Intel or iPhone. However each of these hardwares needs it’s own version of the kernel to connect it. Imagine if you had to put a Volkwagen engine in a Toyota – it’s not impossible but the connections would need to be customized in order for them to interface properly. Apple builds a custom kernel to do the job.

That being said some software developers write parts of the code to address the hardware directly aiming it at PowerPC or Intel or both. Apple came up with a technology called “Rosetta” which translates code written for PowerPC on Intel Macs. For instance Photoshop CS2 will run on Rosetta because it was developed before Apple changed the hardware over to Intel. Using Rosetta also is a bit slower because of the translation to make the software work.

In defense of our younger Mac users, you should know that each account on a Mac is kept separate. This protects the settings and the data of each user because of Mac OS X unix underpinnings. Your account is safe from anything that your son does on his own account. If you are still in doubt you can create a new user called “Test” and log in as that user to see if you still experience a kernel panic. Sometimes a software update can also introduce the conditions that create software conflicts. This author advises users not to apply updates blindly unless you are sure that the update addresses a specific problem you have.

So when you are considering software either purchased or downloaded you should check to make sure that it is “Intel Native” or “Universal” (meaning it is developed to run on both Intel or PowerPC.) If it is not it will be run on top of Rosetta – which may result in a software conflicts and possibly a kernel panic. As I said before, kernel panics can be hardware related but it can also be software related. Figuring out which it is the trick.

Dashboard Widgets do not load into memory until you open Dashboard from the Dock or by pressing the Dashboard key. Once it has been loaded it stays active until you log out or restart.

You can also remove the screensavers or widgets to see if that will solve your problems.

To remove an OSX screen saver:

1.) Select “System Preferences…” in the Apple menu.
2.) Select the Desktop & Screen Saver panel.
3.) Select the Screen Saver tab at the top of the panel.
4.) Select the screen saver you wish to uninstall from the list of screen savers.
5.) Click the “Options…” button and click the “Delete” button in the Options sheet.

To Remove a Widget:
1.) Launch Dashboard
2.) Click on the “X” in the lower left corner of your screen. It’ll then push everything up and present the launch strip of widgets.
3.) Click “Manage Widgets”.
4.) Click the red circle icon with a line through it next to the widget you want to remove. That will remove it from your computer.

Re Unarchiving a Time Capsule archive

This is a follow up to an archived thread about “unarchiving” a backup of the data from a Time Capsule.


I have just started working with my second TC dual band and I have several Macs including a MacBook Air – which takes 17 hours to do the initial back up. The Time capsule is NOT a server. When you try to mount the drives on your Mac and copy files from one TC drive to the other the files are actually brought to your Mac via your network and then written back. (I have also not figured out how to connect two TCs together – you can connect them between one WAN to the other’s Ethernet port but cannot access the drives. Also server software knows you are copying to drives connected to the server so it handles the data directly between the drives.)

So I finally discovered the “Archive” function on the AirPort – which will archive an entire TC drive to a drive on the TC’s USB port. It’s reasonably fast. Next I moved and connected the USB drive the new TC but again we are back to copying to the Mac and back again. For example it said it would take 35 hours to copy 150 GB of data from the USB drive hanging off the back of the TC.

Reading the response to the thread above – which was not helpful to the poster – it dawned on me. Connect the USB drive to a spare Mac and copy the files back to the new TC – which would take half the time. Currently I am copying my 80GB backup of the Air to the new TC and it says it will take 6 hours. (The backups on the TC are sparse disk images so they are actually hundreds of little files in a package so will take much less than that but the Finder cannot really estimate the time.)

What we need is an ability to “restore” and archive with Airport Utility.


Crash Plan proofing Time Machine

Q. We would like to use Time Capsule for back up but we may also need to store the backup off site. We have about 100 GBs of data we don’t want to lose. Can we also back up the Time Capsule and keep it off site?

A. Discussions around backup and archiving can be confusing and people often say “backup” when they mean to say “archive”. Backing up data is done to prevent loss of information currently stored on your computer. We “backup” our computer’s data to in case of disasters such as fire, flood, theft and mechanical failures. We are most concerned with backing up the information that we need for “day to day” operations.

Archiving on the other hand is meant for storing information “offline” for a long term – even permanently and stored on inexpensive media that is designed to last. A DVD is better than a hard drive or tape over the long haul because the information is burned on with a laser or permanently stamped on with commercial DVDs. All new Mac systems have dual layer DVD drives capable of writing 8GBs of data to DVDR – for long time storage and archiving. Hard Drives and magnetic tape are susceptible to magnetic corruption. DVDs can be corrupted by light and heat. Environmental conditions must be considered when considering how “archive media” is stored. I recommend that you make two copies of anything you seriously value and store one copy offsite.

The “Time Machine” runs once every hour on your Mac using a service or daemon called “/System/Library/CoreServices/backupd”. Daemons are background services that run processes independently of the users. The “Time Machine” software can use a second hard drive, removable drive or a Network Area Storage called “Time Capsule” as the destination. Apple’s “Time Capsule” runs a specialized service and is the only network device that “Time Machine” will back up to on a network. The Mac has to be “awake” in order for the backupd to run properly – and Time Machine comes with and only runs on Mac OS X 10.5 (aka Leopard).

Crash Plan Pro is also software that is installed on the Mac itself – and like the Time Machine software – runs in the background and backs up over the local network or encrypted over the Internet to a remote location. CrashPlan Pro client software is installed and runs as a daemon on the Macs. There is a software interface where you can select which files and folders are to be backed up. You can also set up the schedule which governs when items gets backed up. It can backup to another machine on the network, which must be running the CrashPlan Server software.

Companies such as IronGate in Ottawa and iT Guy Technologies offer third option of running CrashPlan Pro – that of setting the destination of the CrashPlan Pro back up to a remote “CrashPlan Pro Hosted Service”. Then you can rest assured that the data won’t lost in the case of theft, fire or flood. You also save the expense of setting up and managing a data center.

CrashPlan clients can also run on MacOS X 10.4 (tiger), Windows XP and Vista, linux and Sun clients. Apple introduced Time Machine because the majority of users never back up their data. So by making Time Machine as simple as “set it and forget it” the hope is that average consumers will not lose their data through inaction. Companies with mission critical data often spend thousands in hardware, software and labour to back up their systems – the budget is based on the time and cost required to recover from loss. Back up of live data is expensive and usually has a cutoff timeframe because of the expense.

Information should be taken “offline” and archived if it is not required for day to day operations – because of the relative expense of “online” and “nearline” storage. Time Capsule and CrashPlan are “nearline” solutions. Time Machine is by its nature an active process so it cannot really be backed up. Rather you could install Crash Plan Pro and backup in parallel. Then you would have two sources to recover from and eliminate another point of failure.

Start FTP as service in Leopard

Apple has removed the FTP management functions in Leopard’s System Preferences. However it is still possible to run FTP on your Mac under 10.5.

To start the FTP service in the Terminal type:
sudo /sbin/service ftp start

To stop it type:
sudo /sbin/service ftp stop


Duh! It looks like Apple moved the “FTP” and “Windows” under Options in the Sharing Preference in System Preferences. Oops!

Leaping into Leopard

We’ve had a lot of questions about Mac OS X 10.5, Leopard so rather than present them separately we will present them together.

Connecting to servers is not so simple, at first.

With Leopard, Apple has simplified the way we connect to servers and other computers that have enabled file sharing. However this has also confused a number of users.

In the past versions of the system you would connect to another machine from the Finder with the Go menu. You could either choose “Connect to Server” or press “Command K” on the keyboard. Then enter either the server’s IP address or local name. You click the “Browse” button, which took you to the “Network” window where Macintosh computers would be grouped under My Network and Windows computers would be grouped under the workgroup name.

There is a new “simplified” way to connect to remote computers. In the Finder, open a new Finder Window (Command N) where you will see a list of resources on the left. (If you don’t see the list on the left press the white lozenge in the upper right corner.) Normally the list shows “Devices”, “Shared”, “Places” and “Search For”. Under the Shared items you should see the various computers and servers that appear in your network. To connect to another computer, simply click on the name. If Guest access is turned on you will instantly “Connect as: Guest”. However Guest access is usually limited.
To connect as an authenticated user whom has more privileges you can click the “Connect As…” button in the upper right. Then you will get the familiar log in prompt. You then enter you login name and the password on the remote computer. Now you have more privileges than a guest.

Mysterious Black Boxes abound.

A user recently reported that she had black boxes appearing in her QuarkXpress document and that it had spread to the Mac. The real culprit was Universal Access’s Voice Over feature. In order to make Mac’s more accessible Voice Over reads dialog boxes and menus to users with impaired vision. To aid the user the feature also adds black boxes around the currently active area.
The mysterious black boxes appeared when the operator pressed “Command F5”, which in the past was the QuarkXpress short cut key to “send to back” and move a selected object to the back of a layout. In Mac OS X 10.5, “Command F5” turns on Voice Over. To get rid of the black boxes simply press “Command F5” again. The “Send to Back” command in QuarkXress is now “Shift F5”.

Fixing printing with QuarkXress and Acrobat Pro.

It may seem that printing in Leopard is not ready for prime time. Many users have found that in order to get QuarkXpress to print in Leopard they have to make a PDF and then print the PDF. Printing directly doesn’t work for them while others cannot print with the Adobe PDF virtual printer. You guess it, Apple has also changed the printing functions in Leopard – the PPDs that control how printers are sent files have been moved causing confusion.
Released before Leopard, Acrobat Professional initially was not compatible with Mac OS X 10.5. Adobe has since released version 8.1.2 of Acrobat Professionsal. Run, don’t walk and install this update and your PDF printing problems will vanish.
Additionally Quark has made their “Quark CUPS Filter” available to fix printing issues with their QuarkXpress application. Installing this patch and restarting the computer will correct many issues that prevent pages from printing directly.

Suitcase Con-fusion.

If you are planning to or if you have upgraded to Suitcase Fusion you may be surprised to find that many of your fonts are “Missing” or cannot be “previewed”. There is an issue with the database or font vault that suitcase uses. Most notably this is true when you use the Migrate option to move to a new Mac.
Before you move to the new Mac download the “Export Suitcase Sets” AppleScript from squarecirleconsulting.net . It will allow you to export your Suitcase vault and then import in onto the new Mac.

Time Capsule timing

Q. I’m curious about using Time Capsule to back up my Macintosh wirelessly. How long does it take?

A. That’s a really good question. One of my pet peeves as a roving IT consultant is how many clients of mine don’t appreciate how important backing up their data really is. The problem is no one can tell you when a hard drive mechanism will fail. Tape backups can be damaged by exposure of heat, cold or magnetic fields and CDs and DVDs can get scratched, dirtied or broken leaving them useless. Unfortunately the majority of users are oblivious to the dangers of data storage.

Last year Apple has introduced “Time Machine”, to automatically back up your data to any attached hard drive. “Time Capsule” is an Apple Airport Base Station (internet router and wireless access point) complete with a server grade hard drive with a special network version of Time Machine.

All computers using Mac OS X 10.5 can connect to the Time Capsule and be backed up on the network. By entering a password older Macs and PCs can connect as a network drive for manual backups and file sharing. Like most back up technologies it starts by backing up every file on your Mac (you can decide to exclude files or folders.) After a complete back up it then backs up incrementally, backing up new files or files that have been modified.

The initial back up takes over 10 hours. The back up over Ethernet took much less time. Afterwards Macs back up about once an hour. Each back up is only accessible by the Mac that created the backup. Time Machine can restore you Mac in case a disaster. Your data is important to you, so get a Time Capsule or at very least use Time Machine with a removable drive.