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Tongue-tied

Anything to say? My sister (yes, she has a name–it’s Di) mailed me and asked me if I had anything to say today. Not really. I finally won a major victory at work that will result in the departure of two Macintoshes that have become the bane of my existence. The battle came at a high personal price–I’m exhausted and have little to say. Other than an observation that AppleShare IP 6.3 appears to be about as rude as its predecessors. It seems to like MacOS 9, but it also seems very willing to crash MacOS 8.6 and earlier clients. Seeing as these are 100, 120, and 132 MHz machines, upgrading to 9 isn’t exactly practical or worthwhile or cost-effective. So they’re getting brand spanking new Micron PCs with Pentium III 600 chips or whatever it is we’re buying these days. I will be very joyfully installing them in the morning.

———- From: al wynn
Does McAfee still sell Nuts&Bolts?

Exactly how do you use Nuts&Bolts to “sort directory entries by the file’s physical placement on the hard drive” (ie. under which menu item can I find it ?)

Also, what are some good web links (or other resources) that will show me how to optimize Norton Utilities configuration ?

———-
It’s in Disk Tune. Click Advanced–>Directory Sort–>Sort Criteria. There you can select Cluster number as your directory sort criteria. Under Win95, this makes N&B’s Disk Tune the best defragmenter/optimizer, but under Win98, NU’s Speed Disk and Fix-It’s Defrag Plus have features that will make them outperform Disk Tune in spite of this feature (they actually do some strategic fragmentation to increase speed). I suppose you could optimize the disk with one of the others, then try to get Disk Tune to skip the defragmentation part and just optimize the directories, but I think I tried to figure out how to do that and gave up. Alternatively you could optimize with Disk Tune first, then defragment with one of the others and not do anything with the directory entries–assuming you want to save absolutely every microsecond possible. (Be aware that Disk Tune is a very slow program, so we’re talking diminishing returns here to run it, then run one of the others.)

I haven’t seen a better resource for the utilities suites than chapters 3 and 5 of Optimizing Windows; those chapters were the result of about seven years’ experience messing around with disk utilities (starting under DOS, of course). I’ve never seen a Web site on the subject (good or bad); nor much other information outside of the manuals that came with some of the older versions. That was part of the reason why I wrote my own. I tried to explain what to do with whatever suite you happened to have, as well as the reasoning behind it.

Macintosh buying advice

What’s up with someone asking me for Mac advice? Yeah, Dan Bowman is in the process of selling his soul to (or at least buying a computer from) some egotist in Cupertino.

From: “Bowman, Dan”
Subject: Macs
To: Dave Farquhar
Dead serious request:

We keep getting hammered by graphic artists and printers; the Mac is ubiquitous in this arena locally. I’ve proposed we purchase a Mac for the GM to use (he’s a passable artist and knows what he wants and is not afraid to do it his way).

What configuration (for that matter, what machine) should I look to price this. We’re bidding another contract and the cost of the machine would likely be saved twice over by the artist fees and the GM’s time (time he could spend just doing it).

Any bets on programs?

Networking issues?

Thanks. Not my idea of fun; but in this case the right tool for the job if he can make it work.

Dan

I can’t recommend packages, they’ve gotta be what he’s comfortable working with. Rent some time at Kinko’s if need be to determine that. I definitely suggest avoiding Adobe PageMaker, because they’re abandoning the thing. Let me take back what I just said. If you can avoid using Adobe products, do it, because the company’s policies… Umm, just take every bad thing I’ve ever said about Microsoft, multiply it by about 10, and you’ve got Adobe. You may not be able to avoid Photoshop, but avoid the rest of it if you can. Macromedia and Quark, between the two of them, make just about everything you need.

If he wants to use a jillion fonts, you need a font management program, because the self-styled King of Desktop Publishing can’t juggle more than 254 fonts, I believe. I’m not certain on the number. Extensis Suitcase will do the job.

Get AlSoft Disk Warrior, Micromat Tech Tool Pro, and Symantec Norton Utilities. Once a month (or whenever you have problems), run Apple’s Disk First Aid (comes with the system), then Disk Warrior, Tech Tool Pro, and Norton Disk Doctor, in that order. Fix all problems. They’ll find a bunch. Also get Font Agent, from Insider Software, and run it once a month. It’ll want to delete any bitmapped fonts over 12 point. Don’t do that, but let it do everything else it wants. That helps a ton.

You’ll spend $500 on utilities software, but if you want your bases covered, you need them. Get them, use them, and you won’t have problems. Neglect to get them, and there’ll be no end to your problems, unless he never uses it.

Hardware: Get a 400-MHz G4, 256 MB RAM, IDE disk (poorly threaded, cooperative multitasking OSs don’t know what to do with SCSI). Frequently you can get a better price by getting the smallest disk possible, then buying a Maxtor drive at your local reseller. I know they were charging $150 a month ago to upgrade a 10-gig disk to a 20-gig disk, and you can buy a 20-gig disk for $150. Video, sound, etc aren’t options. If 450 is the slowest you can get, get that. MacOS doesn’t do a good enough job of keeping the CPU busy to warrant the extra bucks for a higher-end CPU. You’ll want the memory because you have to assign each app’s memory usage (it’s not dynamic like Windows), and it’s not a bad idea to assign 64 MB to a killer app. I also hear that G4s are totally unstable with less than 256 megs. I can’t confirm that. We’ve got G4s with more and we’ve got G4s with less, but I haven’t seen both in the hands of a power user yet.

Networking: NT’s Services for Macintosh are worthless. Don’t use NT for a print server for a Mac (it’ll ruin the prints), and don’t use it as a file server if you can help it (it’ll crash all the time). Linux isn’t much better, but it’s better. (It’ll just crash some of the time, but at least you can restart the daemons without rebooting.) I don’t know if MacOS 9 can talk to printers through TCP/IP or if they still have to use AppleTalk. AppleTalk is an ugly, nasty, very chatty protocol–it makes ugly, nasty NetBEUI look beautiful–but it’s what you get. Turn on AppleTalk on one of your network printers and print to it that way. One Mac and one printer won’t kill a small network, though a big enough network of Macs can keep a 10-megabit network totally overwhelmed with worthless chatter. Killer DTP apps don’t like their PostScript to be reinterpreted, and that’s one of the things NT Server does to mung up the jobs. So that’s the only workaround.

Multitasking: Don’t do it. When I use a Mac like an NT box, keeping several apps and several documents open at once, it’ll crash once a day, almost guaranteed. Don’t push your luck. It’s an Amiga wannabe, not a real Amiga. (Boy, I hope I’ve got my asbestos underwear handy.)

So, who makes the best Mac utility?

When it comes to Macintoshes, I feel like a catcher playing shortstop. Yes, a good athelete can play both positions, but very few can play both exceptionally well. The mindset’s all different. The ideal physique for each is all different.
I fix Macs for the good of my team. Period. Right now my job is to nurse along a dozen Macs for four months until the new fiscal year starts, then they can replace them. I think those machines have four months left in ’em. The bigger question is, do I have four months’ tolerance left in me? Hard to say.

But thanks to my pile of Macs on their last legs (these are 120 MHz machines with no L2 cache and a pathetic 10 MB/sec SCSI-II bus, and they’ve never had regular maintenance) I’ve gotten a lot of first-hand experience with Mac utilities suites.

I said in my book that Norton Utilities for Windows is, in most regards, the second-best utilities suite out there. Problem is, the other two big ones split first place, and the third-placer is usually so bad in that regard that you’d prefer not to use it. So Norton Utilities compromises its way to the top like a politician. The Mac Norton Utilities is the same way. There are two reasons to buy Norton Utilities for the Mac: Speed Disk and Norton Disk Doctor. Period. The rest of the stuff on the CD is completely, totally worthless. Eats up memory, slows the system down, causes crashes. Copy SD and NDD to a CD-R, then run over the original with your car. They’re that bad. But of course your end-users will install them since all software is good, right? You should install everything just in case you need it someday. Famous last words, I say…

But you need Speed Disk and Norton Disk Doctor desperately. Macs are as bad as Microsoft OSs about fragmentation, and they’re far worse about trashing their directory structures. Use a Mac for a week normally, and use a PC for a week, turning it off improperly on a whim (with automatic ScanDisk runs disabled), then at the end of a week, run a disk utility on each. The Mac will have more disk errors. Apple’s Disk First Aid is nice and non-invasive, but it catches a small percentage of the problems. NDD scoops up all of the routine stuff that Disk First Aid misses.

As for Speed Disk, it works. It’s not the least bit configurable, but it has enough sense to put frequently used stuff at the front of the disk and stuff you never touch at the end.

But if you need to do what Norton Utilities says it does, you really need Tech Tool Pro. Its defragmenter is at least the equal of Speed Disk, and its disk repair tools will fix problems that cause NDD to crash. Plus it has hardware diagnostics, and it’ll cleanly and safely zap the Mac’s PRAM (its equivalent to CMOS) and cleanly rebuild the Mac’s desktop (something that should be done once a month).

But the best disk repair tool of them all is Disk Warrior. Unlike the other suites, Disk Warrior just assumes there are problems with your disk. That’s a pretty safe assumption. It goes in, scavenges the disk, rebuilds the directory structure, and asks very, very few questions. Then it rewrites the directory in optimal fashion, increasing your Mac’s disk access by about the same factor as normal defragmentation would.

Oh yes, Disk Warrior comes with a system extension that checks all data before it gets written to the drive, to reduce errors. I really don’t like that idea. Worse speed, plus there’s always something that every extension conflicts with. That idea just makes me really nervous. Then again, since I regard the Mac’s directory structure as a time bomb, maybe I should use it. But I’m torn.

Which would I buy? If I could only have one of the three, I’d take Tech Tool Pro, because it’s the most complete of the three. I’d rather have both Tech Tool and Disk Warrior at my disposal. When a Mac goes bad, you can automatically run Disk Warrior, then rebuild the desktop with Tech Tool Pro before doing anything else, and about half the time one or the other of those (or the combination of them) will fix the problem. Or they’ll fix little problems before they become big ones.

Disk Warrior is positively outstanding for what it does, but it’s a one-dimensional player. For now, it does ship with a disk optimizer, but it’s limited to optimizing one of the Mac’s two common disk formats. At $79 vs. $99 for Tech Tool Pro, if you’ve only got a hundred bucks to spend, you’re better off with Tech Tool Pro.

As for Norton Utilities, I’ve got it, and it’s nice to have a third-string disk utility just in case the other two can’t fix it. Sometimes a Mac disk problem gets so hairy that you have to run multiple disk utilities in round-robin fashion to fix it. So run Disk Warrior, then Tech Tool Pro, then Norton Disk Doctor, then Apple Disk First Aid. Lather, rinse, and repeat until all four agree there are no disk errors.