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Macintosh Myths

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An exploration of some of the Macintosh OS X troubleshooting myths. Originally presented to the Boston Macintosh Users Group (BMAC) on December 10, 2008

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Macintosh Myths

  1. 1. Macintosh Myths Troubleshooting voodoo, popular misconceptions & downright lies presented by Jeff Berg & Al Willis
  2. 2. Sources
  3. 3. WIZARDS, NINJAS & GURUS
  4. 4. WIZARDS, NINJAS & GURUS Myth My friend is a computer guru and he told me…
  5. 5. WIZARDS, NINJAS & GURUS Myth My friend is a computer guru and he told me… FACT There are Gurus, and then there are gurus —what’s your definition? • Anyone who’s one chapter ahead of me • Mainframe sysadmin (who doesn’t touch Macs) • Guy from out of town with a blog
  6. 6. WIZARDS, NINJAS & GURUS Myth My friend is a computer guru and he told me… FACT There are Gurus, and then there are gurus —what’s your definition? • Anyone who’s one chapter ahead of me • Mainframe sysadmin (who doesn’t touch Macs) • Guy from out of town with a blog FACT Even true experts have biases and objectives.
  7. 7. MACINTOUCH SAYS…
  8. 8. MACINTOUCH SAYS… Myth I read it on Macintouch (or on Apple’s Forums,or at…) say…, so it must be true!
  9. 9. MACINTOUCH SAYS… Myth I read it on Macintouch (or on Apple’s Forums,or at…) say…, so it must be true! FACT Macintouch and other forums provide access to useful information but are also sources of outdated memes and misunderstood concepts. Be skeptical about what you believe and pass along.
  10. 10. MACINTOUCH SAYS… Myth I read it on Macintouch (or on Apple’s Forums,or at…) say…, so it must be true! FACT Macintouch and other forums provide access to useful information but are also sources of outdated memes and misunderstood concepts. Be skeptical about what you believe and pass along. FACT Nobody believes their system could be the cause of a problem—it must be a bug!
  11. 11. MACINTOUCH SAYS…
  12. 12. MACINTOUCH SAYS… Myth There are 20 posts on Macintouch saying… so it must be a major issue! (Why isn’t Apple doing anything about it?)
  13. 13. MACINTOUCH SAYS… Myth There are 20 posts on Macintouch saying… so it must be a major issue! (Why isn’t Apple doing anything about it?) FACT Satisfied customers don’t post in proportion to those having issues so the number of users actually experiencing a given problem is often exaggerated on forums. Again, be cautious before jumping to conclusions and spreading false memes.
  14. 14. ACCORDING TO MACFIXIT
  15. 15. ACCORDING TO MACFIXIT Myth MacFixIt is always a reliable source
  16. 16. ACCORDING TO MACFIXIT Myth MacFixIt is always a reliable source FACT While there is some good information there, be wary of MacFixIt’s fear mongering and advocacy of Franken-solutions
  17. 17. ACCORDING TO MACFIXIT Myth MacFixIt is always a reliable source FACT While there is some good information there, be wary of MacFixIt’s fear mongering and advocacy of Franken-solutions Mac Daily Journal: The Despicable MacFixIt http://www.macjournals.com/news/despicable.html
  18. 18. Classics
  19. 19. ZAP THE “PRAM”
  20. 20. ZAP THE “PRAM” Myth Restarting with CMD-OPT-P-R will fix it.
  21. 21. ZAP THE “PRAM” Myth Restarting with CMD-OPT-P-R will fix it. FACT This was more often true prior to OS X which stores most of it’s parameters in Plists, not Parameter RAM (or NVRAM for open firmware computers). Most issues won’t be magically repaired by zapping PRAM.
  22. 22. ZAP THE “PRAM” Myth Restarting with CMD-OPT-P-R will fix it. FACT This was more often true prior to OS X which stores most of it’s parameters in Plists, not Parameter RAM (or NVRAM for open firmware computers). Most issues won’t be magically repaired by zapping PRAM. Mac OS X: What's stored in PRAM support.apple.com/kb/HT1242
  23. 23. REBUILD THE DESKTOP
  24. 24. REBUILD THE DESKTOP Myth Then a “CMD-OPT” restart must fix it.
  25. 25. REBUILD THE DESKTOP Myth Then a “CMD-OPT” restart must fix it. FACT In the “Classic” OS, the desktop database was a special invisible file containing associations between icons and file types. Your OS X desktop is a regular directory within your home folder with no special features.
  26. 26. REBUILD THE DESKTOP
  27. 27. REBUILD THE DESKTOP However the OS X Launch Services Database “records all of the pertinent information about applications and the kinds of document files and URLs they are capable of opening. […] Launch Services can then use this information to determine the preferred application for opening a given document file or URL.”
  28. 28. REBUILD THE DESKTOP
  29. 29. REBUILD THE DESKTOP Apple Launch Services Programming Guide: Launch Services Database http://developer.apple.com/DOCUMENTATION/ Carbon/Conceptual/LaunchServicesConcepts/ LSCConcepts/chapter_2_section_4.html
  30. 30. REBUILD THE DESKTOP Apple Launch Services Programming Guide: Launch Services Database http://developer.apple.com/DOCUMENTATION/ Carbon/Conceptual/LaunchServicesConcepts/ LSCConcepts/chapter_2_section_4.html Google rebuild Launch Services Database for more info
  31. 31. PARTITIONING
  32. 32. PARTITIONING Myth I should always partition my system drive.
  33. 33. PARTITIONING Myth I should always partition my system drive. FACT There are valid reasons for partitioning hard drives but most reasons for regular users to do so are based on out-dated notions.
  34. 34. PARTITIONING Myth I should always partition my system drive. FACT There are valid reasons for partitioning hard drives but most reasons for regular users to do so are based on out-dated notions. FACT If you don’t understand why you’re partitioning, you probably don’t need to.
  35. 35. 10% Solution
  36. 36. 10% Solution Myth I need to leave 10% of my hard disk free or my data will become corrupt. (Or the OS will freeze.)
  37. 37. 10% Solution Myth I need to leave 10% of my hard disk free or my data will become corrupt. (Or the OS will freeze.) FACT It’s true that drives shouldn’t be crammed to capacity but keeping 10% free on a large data drive is leaving money on the table. However you do want to leave free space at least equivalent to the amount of physical RAM on your System or swap disk.
  38. 38. DEFRAGMENTING A DRIVE
  39. 39. DEFRAGMENTING A DRIVE Myth My machine is running slowly, I should defragment my hard disk to speed things up.
  40. 40. DEFRAGMENTING A DRIVE Myth My machine is running slowly, I should defragment my hard disk to speed things up. FACT Systems running OS X won’t benefit in most cases. However High-end media captures to certain types of drives may be more reliable if the drive is freshly formatted.
  41. 41. DEFRAGMENTING A DRIVE Myth My machine is running slowly, I should defragment my hard disk to speed things up. FACT Systems running OS X won’t benefit in most cases. However High-end media captures to certain types of drives may be more reliable if the drive is freshly formatted. www.kernelthread.com/mac/apme/fragmentation/
  42. 42. BATTERIES
  43. 43. BATTERIES Myth Never charge a partially discharged battery because it will develop a memory.
  44. 44. BATTERIES Myth Never charge a partially discharged battery because it will develop a memory. Myth Never run a battery down completely it will kill it.
  45. 45. BATTERIES Myth Never charge a partially discharged battery because it will develop a memory. Myth Never run a battery down completely it will kill it. FACT Battery chemistry has improved and proper care and feeding differs from that of older batteries
  46. 46. BATTERIES Myth Never charge a partially discharged battery because it will develop a memory. Myth Never run a battery down completely it will kill it. FACT Battery chemistry has improved and proper care and feeding differs from that of older batteries www.apple.com/batteries/
  47. 47. Apothecary
  48. 48. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE
  49. 49. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE Myth I need to install anti-virus software to be safe.
  50. 50. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE Myth I need to install anti-virus software to be safe. FACT At this time there is no significant risk of a computer virus infecting OS X
  51. 51. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE Myth I need to install anti-virus software to be safe. FACT At this time there is no significant risk of a computer virus infecting OS X FACT Anti-Virus software can have a negative impact on your systems performance.
  52. 52. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE
  53. 53. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE Myth Apple just released a tech note suggesting that I install anti-virus software
  54. 54. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE Myth Apple just released a tech note suggesting that I install anti-virus software FACT “We have removed the KnowledgeBase article because it was old and inaccurate. The Mac is designed with built-in technologies that provide protection against malicious software and security threats right out of the box. However, since no system can be 100% immune from every threat, running anti- virus software may offer additional protection.” Apple spokesman Bill Evans to TidBITS.
  55. 55. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE
  56. 56. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE Myth Because there are no known Viruses, Macintosh computers are completely safe from viruses and intrusions
  57. 57. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE Myth Because there are no known Viruses, Macintosh computers are completely safe from viruses and intrusions FACT No computer is completely safe but at this time Email filtering and safe web browsing are your best defenses against ‘net nasties.
  58. 58. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE Myth Because there are no known Viruses, Macintosh computers are completely safe from viruses and intrusions FACT No computer is completely safe but at this time Email filtering and safe web browsing are your best defenses against ‘net nasties. TidBITS Should Mac Users Run Antivirus Software? http://db.tidbits.com/article/9511
  59. 59. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE
  60. 60. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE Myth Macs aren’t really safer, it’s just that they’re not targeted because they represent a small market segment
  61. 61. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE Myth Macs aren’t really safer, it’s just that they’re not targeted because they represent a small market segment FACT OS X was built from the ground up to include strong security and resistance to attack including Sandboxing,Tagged Downloaded Apps, Application Signing & Library Randomization
  62. 62. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE Myth Macs aren’t really safer, it’s just that they’re not targeted because they represent a small market segment FACT OS X was built from the ground up to include strong security and resistance to attack including Sandboxing,Tagged Downloaded Apps, Application Signing & Library Randomization www.apple.com/security/
  63. 63. Panacean Myth
  64. 64. REPAIR PERMISSIONS
  65. 65. REPAIR PERMISSIONS Myth Anytime I have a problem, I should repair permissions first—it’s like rebuilding the desktop!
  66. 66. REPAIR PERMISSIONS Myth Anytime I have a problem, I should repair permissions first—it’s like rebuilding the desktop! FACT You’re reading MacFixIt, aren’t you? Repairing permissions is no panacea.
  67. 67. REPAIR PERMISSIONS Myth Anytime I have a problem, I should repair permissions first—it’s like rebuilding the desktop! FACT You’re reading MacFixIt, aren’t you? Repairing permissions is no panacea. “Seriously, Repair Permissions is Voodoo” daringfireball.net/2006/04/repair_permissions_voodoo
  68. 68. REPAIR PERMISSIONS
  69. 69. REPAIR PERMISSIONS Myth Permissions go bad over time
  70. 70. REPAIR PERMISSIONS Myth Permissions go bad over time FACT Permissions only change if something changes them. This was more common prior to 10.3—primarily due to poorly written third-party installers.
  71. 71. REPAIR PERMISSIONS Myth Permissions go bad over time FACT Permissions only change if something changes them. This was more common prior to 10.3—primarily due to poorly written third-party installers. FACT “Repairing” merely sets the permissions of certain files to the values specified by a Bill of Materials (.bom) file within /Library/Receipts
  72. 72. REPAIR PERMISSIONS
  73. 73. REPAIR PERMISSIONS Myth Repair permissions before and after any software update or installation.
  74. 74. REPAIR PERMISSIONS Myth Repair permissions before and after any software update or installation. FACT We can thank our friends at MacFixIt (and a misguided Macintouch contributor) for perpetuating this meme. Apple does not recommend this.
  75. 75. REPAIR PERMISSIONS Myth Repair permissions before and after any software update or installation. FACT We can thank our friends at MacFixIt (and a misguided Macintouch contributor) for perpetuating this meme. Apple does not recommend this. daringfireball.net/2006/04/repair_permissions
  76. 76. REPAIR PERMISSIONS
  77. 77. REPAIR PERMISSIONS Myth Apple recommends repairing permissions as a routine maintenance task.
  78. 78. REPAIR PERMISSIONS Myth Apple recommends repairing permissions as a routine maintenance task. FACT No they don’t. The meme might be based on this KnowledgeBase article: Mac OS X 10.4 Help: My computer keeps freezing or I see a flashing question mark (Note the title. This is a step in repairing a specific problem not a maintenance task.)
  79. 79. REPAIR PERMISSIONS
  80. 80. REPAIR PERMISSIONS Myth I should never repair permissions because Al and Jeff say it’s voodoo.
  81. 81. REPAIR PERMISSIONS Myth I should never repair permissions because Al and Jeff say it’s voodoo. FACT They do say that, but you are encouraged to repair permissions if you believe a problem might be the result of a file permissions issue.
  82. 82. REPAIR PERMISSIONS Myth I should never repair permissions because Al and Jeff say it’s voodoo. FACT They do say that, but you are encouraged to repair permissions if you believe a problem might be the result of a file permissions issue. Macworld Repairing permissions: What you need to know www.macworld.com/article/52220/2006/08/repairpermissions.html
  83. 83. Misc. Memes
  84. 84. SOFTWARE UPDATE
  85. 85. SOFTWARE UPDATE Myth I never use Software Update because it will corrupt my system. I always download the full installer from Apple and run that instead.
  86. 86. SOFTWARE UPDATE Myth I never use Software Update because it will corrupt my system. I always download the full installer from Apple and run that instead. FACT Software update works just fine for most people most of the time.
  87. 87. SOFTWARE UPDATE Myth I never use Software Update because it will corrupt my system. I always download the full installer from Apple and run that instead. FACT Software update works just fine for most people most of the time. However if you have a problem after an update it can sometimes be repaired by downloading and running the full installer.
  88. 88. Curse of rev 1.0
  89. 89. Curse of rev 1.0 Myth Don’t ever buy rev. 1.0 of Apple hardware because it always has problems.
  90. 90. Curse of rev 1.0 Myth Don’t ever buy rev. 1.0 of Apple hardware because it always has problems. FACT A Macintouch favorite. Jeff ’s 1.0 iPhone & TiBook were without major flaws. His “mature” iMac had serious issues (which Apple repaired— twice) Make your decision based on your wants, needs and personal assessment of the risks and rewards, not a rule-of-thumb.
  91. 91. HACKING THE SYSTEM
  92. 92. HACKING THE SYSTEM Myth The new version of xyz.library breaks pdq.app so I should install the previous version of the library manually.
  93. 93. HACKING THE SYSTEM Myth The new version of xyz.library breaks pdq.app so I should install the previous version of the library manually. FACT You still don’t believe what we’re saying about MacFixIt, do you? While such hacking may in fact produce a “fix” for your problem, the “Frankensystem” you create may exhibit other problems in the long run. Be wary of such “fixes.”
  94. 94. RAID
  95. 95. RAID Myth My data is on a RAID so I don’t need a backup.
  96. 96. RAID Myth My data is on a RAID so I don’t need a backup. FACT RAID is not a backup. Your RAID unit can be damaged or stolen. The data, even redundantly written to disk, is still vulnerable.
  97. 97. APPLE’S DISK UTILITY
  98. 98. APPLE’S DISK UTILITY Myth Disk Utility sucks. It will make my problems worse.
  99. 99. APPLE’S DISK UTILITY Myth Disk Utility sucks. It will make my problems worse. FACT Disk Utility is a useful tool and, while it doesn’t fix every problem, it fixes some things that other utilities can’t.
  100. 100. DISKWARRIOR
  101. 101. DISKWARRIOR Myth DiskWarrior is a last resort because it may cause me to lose files. I should do X, Y and Z before running it.
  102. 102. DISKWARRIOR Myth DiskWarrior is a last resort because it may cause me to lose files. I should do X, Y and Z before running it. FACT DiskWarrior should be one of your first line tools in tracking down disk/directory related problems—and is more likely to be effective if used before you muck with the sick drive. Just be sure that the version of DW you are using is compatible with version of the OS you’re running.
  103. 103. Solutions
  104. 104. WIZARDS, NINJAS & GURUS 2
  105. 105. WIZARDS, NINJAS & GURUS 2 Myth I’m just an ordinary user—I need an expert to troubleshoot these problems.
  106. 106. WIZARDS, NINJAS & GURUS 2 Myth I’m just an ordinary user—I need an expert to troubleshoot these problems. FACT Most answers are available via Apple’s KnowledgeBase or via reliable online sources, Take Control of books, etc.
  107. 107. WIZARDS, NINJAS & GURUS 2 Myth I’m just an ordinary user—I need an expert to troubleshoot these problems. FACT Most answers are available via Apple’s KnowledgeBase or via reliable online sources, Take Control of books, etc. FACT Most problems can be solved using common sense and a few simple tools
  108. 108. WIZARDS, NINJAS & GURUS 2 Myth I’m just an ordinary user—I need an expert to troubleshoot these problems. FACT Most answers are available via Apple’s KnowledgeBase or via reliable online sources, Take Control of books, etc. FACT Most problems can be solved using common sense and a few simple tools
  109. 109. BEST PRACTICES
  110. 110. BEST PRACTICES Don’t panic. Breathe. Make a cup of tea.
  111. 111. BEST PRACTICES Don’t panic. Breathe. Make a cup of tea. Identify the problem as accurately as possible—hardware? software? wetware?
  112. 112. BEST PRACTICES Don’t panic. Breathe. Make a cup of tea. Identify the problem as accurately as possible—hardware? software? wetware? Do research online—just try to qualify your source(s)
  113. 113. BEST PRACTICES Don’t panic. Breathe. Make a cup of tea. Identify the problem as accurately as possible—hardware? software? wetware? Do research online—just try to qualify your source(s) Don’t be afraid to run well-known tools (i.e. Diskwarrior) early provided they’re up-to-date and likely to solve your problem but don’t throw tools or fixes at a problem unless there’s good reason to believe they’re appropriate
  114. 114. STOP THE VOODOO!
  115. 115. STOP THE VOODOO! Don’t perpetuate the myths!
  116. 116. Ask the “experts” or

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