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Crash-Proof

John Holmes - 2001.12.13

"John, it crashed again...."

"What are you guys doing over there?"

"We're not doing anything; it's broken."

"It's not broken. There's nothing wrong with that machine - nothing that a little patience won't solve."

"Fine, will you just come and fix it. Please."

The Mac is frozen - so frozen I have to pull the plug to reboot it. "What were you doing when it froze?" I ask.

"We were on AOL."

Enough said. Anyway, I test the Mac. I visit sites, I download files, and it all works. I show them that it works, and then I leave.

I get two steps away from the bathroom.

"John!"

Back I go. I release them again. They keep calling - John, John, John, John, John, John.

Towards the end, it's crashing every ten minutes, but only for them. It works for me.

This time I stay and watch them after I reboot. As they start surfing, the machine begins to slow down. It's the phone lines and AOL. I explain to them that sometimes it gonna slow down. However, the biggest problem is their impatience. Before the Web page even loads, they're banging the keys and clicking the mouse. Click, click, click, bang, bang - AOL crashes and so does the whole Mac.

"You see? Look how slow it is. It's broken."

I sigh, remembering 1200 baud modems. I head for the cellar. I run my dedicated phone line to their machine. I reinstall OS 9.1 and before I leave for the office, the machine is purring.

"John, call on line one."

I pick up the line to a rant. "That's it! Take this machine away! I can't take it anymore. I thought you said you fixed it. Just when I find what I want, the machine crashes. I don't have the time for this. This weekend we're going to Walmart and buy a PC, the boy needs one for school anyway, and he says it doesn't crash, at least not like this."

Sly devil, that boy.

"Look, I'm not buying a computer so he can play games on it; they're not toys. Besides there's nothing wrong with that machine. If you weren't so impatient, banging away because something doesn't happen instantly...."

"Well, you're the expert. You always have the better machines, always giving us your hand-me downs."

"My 'hand-me downs,' are better than what the average person has. All right, I'll look at it when I get home."

I love the Mac OS, but I have to admit that it's always one click, one application away from a CPU locking crash. It's something that I have learned to accept as part of the price of using it. However there are some people who just don't have the patience for a restart, and my house is suddenly full of them.

While I'm not a big fan of OS X, I needed something they couldn't break. Using OS X, as opposed to Windows, meant I didn't have to buy a new Mac. Although in hindsight, that might have been the way to go.

Apple says that OS X supports the beige G3. However, support is a subjective term, support meaning a stock machine. Problem is, machines that've been in use as long as the beiges most likely have been altered. This beige G3 was so far off stock that it could be considered a model unto itself.

To return the beige back to stock condition, I pulled the DVD drive, the Ultra SCSI and Voodoo5 cards. From experience, I knew the SCSI and Voodoo cards weren't supported and might cause a kernel panic. OS X wouldn't boot with the DVD or various unused SCSI drives. I found the original CD-ROM drive, but I didn't have a spare ATA drive, so I hit eBay for an Apple branded drive - just to be safe.

With the beige "stock" and incompatible hardware removed, OS X loaded easily. But it was really slow, slower than it should have been. I decided to throw more RAM into it, upping the 128 MB minimum requirement to 640. Good thing RAM is cheap. OS X picked up, but it still felt slower than Mac OS 9. That would come back to haunt me.

I try to go on-line, and Internet Connect keeps disconnecting the external SupraFax modem. The modem works, but not with OS X. I boot back into OS 9, download the newest modem scripts from Supra - no help. I try using the Supra on my beige - nothing. I disconnect the external and try my beige's internal modem. Internet Connect connects. I go back to eBay, this time for an internal modem.

I install the internal modem, and I'm online. I spend the night reinstalling their software and email addresses. I configure the dock and leave instructions on using the new OS. All is right in the world.

"John, call on one." I pick up the phone and a familiar voice speaks, "What have you done to my machine?"

Next time, explaining Aqua....

John Holmes is an average Joe, who believes that technology should be accessible to all.

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  • Mac of the Day: MacBook Core Duo, introduced 2006.05.16. The iBook's replacement has a 13" widescreen display and a 1.83-2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo CPU.
  • December 12 in LEM history: 2001: Upgrade my 9600 or Buy a G4? - 2002: Cloning iBooks for Classroom Use - 2003: Why File Swapping Is Wrong - Newton's Missing Successor - Sharing AirPort - 2005: Simple, Cheap, Low-end Mac Backup - Mac OS 7.6 to Get the Most Out of Vintage Macs - Textpander - 2006: 13 Sources for Freeware and Shareware - Forming the Next Macintosh Generation - 2007: Mac Startup Problems - Could the iPod touch Be Your Next PDA?

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