Scripting News for 9/3/2006

Craig Cline, former head of Seybold Publishing, died yesterday after a long illness. His wife Gayle and six children were at his bedside.  

We’ve started a site to accumulate stories of Craig’s life, to provide information about the memorial service, and a mailbox for people to send messages to the family.  

A picture of Craig, leading the Mobile Blogging discussion at BloggerCon III, in November 2004.  

Mike Zornek: “Craig was a great guy. I really enjoyed working for him.” 

Three Rivers by Bob Stepno. Hmmmm. 

Mac Bittorrent clients, via Om

I continue to have problems with all three of my Macs. The new black MacBook shuts down on its own in the middle of my work. The original G4 laptop is still blue-screening, and my dual CPU desktop G4 is blue-screening more frequently (on average once a day). I’m seriously thinking about shopping for a new computer, a Windows machine, fed up with the awful Mac hardware. In the meantime I’m using the old Sony Vaio as my mobile computer. The software isn’t as nice as the Mac, and the screen is much harder on my old eyes, but, knock wood, it works and the Macs don’t.  

Bret Fausett: “I now travel only with Thinkpads. They are expensive, but extremely reliable.” 

New header graphic. One of a few taken when my Mac was new. 

From time to time I hear that people miss the comment link in the right margin of Scripting News. (Actually I hear “It’s too bad you don’t allow comments.”) So I moved it up, made it larger and bold face. Here’s a screen shot that shows where it is, in case you don’t see it. 

41 responses to this post.

  1. I wish you had horizontal links from one post to the next on this WP site. They make it very easy to navigate to previous day, if *that* is what it is you want to comment on. Don’t know if allows you to actually edit the theme to set ’em in there, though. Otherwise, you gotta go through the archives to find the post, etc., etc. It was a long while before I added them to my site. Now I wondered why I waited so long.


  2. I’ll take the laptop if its not working. 😉


  3. What in the world do you do to your Macs?
    Never have problems myself (or do people I know), Never have had a shut-down or kernel panic. They’ve always been like Timex, just keep on tickin.


  4. Posted by Matt Helmick on September 3, 2006 at 9:44 am

    Just out of curiosity, Dave, what kind of applications are you running during the laptop shutdowns? Truly a bummer for me because I’m thinking of purchasing a MacBook (primarily because my favorite text editor, TextMate, runs only on a Mac and I want a portable.

    I’m just wondering if I could avoid these issues if I don’t run the same software.


  5. I assume you repair permissions on a regular basis and have made sure that it’s not a software conflict? Are there any apps that run in common on all the machines?


  6. Posted by Bryan Schappel on September 3, 2006 at 9:56 am


    Sorry to hear you are having Mac problems. I am an IT Manager for a company which is primarily Mac based. I managed over 100 Macs and none have the problems you are experiencing.

    Every Mac comes with an “Apple Hardware Test” disc. You can boot this disc and run hardware tests. This will usually pinpoint any hardware problem such as bad CPU, bad RAM, motherboard error, etc. It usually only takes 15 minutes to run.

    You can also boot the OS X install disc and run “Disk Utility”. Check to see if there are file system errors. Again this is a 10-15 minute process.

    As you have three Macs you should be able to easily put one in for repair. They are all under a year old and the repair will be covered under warranty.

    I know Apple claims that Macs don’t crash. I wish there was “Truth in Advertising” but we live in a world where this doesn’t matter to those doing the advertising.

    In my experience the “kernel panic” or “blue screen” has almost ALWAYS been caused by bad RAM. The hardware test usually points this out. The test will even tell you which module is bad. You can remove the bad module and get back to work. Once the problem was caused by a defective hard disk drive.

    The Macbook problem seems to be related to bad batteries. Perhaps you should splurge on a second battery and see if the new one solves your problems.

    I wish you the best of luck solving your problems. If I could fix them for you I would but I’m in WI.


  7. I find that running Windows on my MacBookPro is a wonderful experience. The fastest windows install ever.
    It does feel pretty hot though, when I run things like Second Life. but other wise I’m very impressed.

    I user OSX for video stuff, as it seems faster at dealing with the processing. (it takes less than 60 seconds to boot from one OS to the other)

    Dr. Jo has the same probem as you with her windows laptop. It just shuts down for no reason. So I dont think it;s an OS issue. Possibly some ‘fluff’ in the contacts? Does it charge ok?


  8. Posted by Bill B. on September 3, 2006 at 10:09 am

    For people who read via RSS, you could include a comment link in the feed?


  9. Posted by Phil on September 3, 2006 at 10:19 am

    I’ll echo the above and say I’ve never had a problem with all 10 of my Macs at work and at home. One kernel panic when plugging in an old webcam, and once when Parallels was in early beta.

    Is it any coincidence that you wrote that post about “moving from a Mac” and at the same time made sure you highlighted the comments part of your site? Not trolling for traffic are we?


  10. Posted by Arlen on September 3, 2006 at 10:21 am

    I’ve heard about the shut down problem, but I have to say I haven’t seen any trouble at all on my white MacBook. I even run Windows via Parallels and it runs better than the Shuttle PC I have at my desk, though runs a little slower (MB is a 2GHz, the Shuttle a 3GHz, which is probably why).

    I know, all these messages saying “It doesn’t happen to me” aren’t very helpful. I’d offer to do more, but I’m in Milwaukee, so my arms don’t reach to you there.

    What kind of software do you have installed and running on these troublesome boxes. Maybe there’s something there we can collectively track down and fix?


  11. Posted by David Brown on September 3, 2006 at 10:28 am

    I used to wonder what was going on with Dave’s macs, but then yesterday, for no apparent reason, my MacBook Pro (2.16G, 1G memory, bog standard) did the “sudden shut off” thing.

    Three times. The first and third time I came back to find it off. The second time it happened, I was using it at the time. No warning, no error, it just quietly turned off.

    I wonder if it was heat related — it was hotter than normal here yesterday.

    But for those who think he’s just complaining — these problems DO exist. They are not just in his mind. I have lost a certain amount of trust in my machine — I wonder just how long it’s going to stay on this time. Sure would be nice to use the computer withotu worrying about how current my backup is, or if I’d saved recenty.

    It is frustrating. I probably give machines more slack than I should, but this is just unacceptable. There should be no justifiable reason for my machine to shut off randomly.


  12. David, some of these guys are trolls who aren’t using their real names. The IP addresses tell an interesting story.

    Also, I’m surprised you’d even consider that I’m not being truthful. Geez Louise, you have a cynical mind don’t you!

    Anyway, 3 lemons out of 3 computers. I guess it must be my fault, must be doing something wrong. Funny how when I did the wrong things on my Windows machine it seems to work just fine, and not shut down spontaneously. Funny how it’s my fault all those other machines are shutting down spontaneously too. You guys should PAY ME to get off the Mac platform, think of all the time and money you’d save! 🙂


  13. Posted by David Brown on September 3, 2006 at 10:40 am

    Oh, I thought you were beign truthful, I figured you really were having problems, my confusion was with the fact that you’d had so many bad ones in a row, when I’d had such good luck.

    I was just wondering when the bad Mac stuff was going to start happening to me, and now it has. Oh well.

    At least the old Titanium Powerbook is still humming along as my home server.


  14. Posted by Robert Scoble on September 3, 2006 at 10:49 am

    Maryam’s laptop (a brand new Apple 15″ MacBookPro randomly shuts down too.


  15. Posted by calvin on September 3, 2006 at 11:22 am

    random shut downs of hardware are often caused by overheating. I’ve seen it happen on computers since the time of the atari 400. Many people are reporting overheating batteries. open up your laptop and see if the battery is discolored. if it is, the battery is probably the source of your problem.

    other than that, I concur on memory issues. all my mac issues of this sort are hardware related. sometimes I’ve had disk corruption/permissions problems because of the underlying hardware issue. I trust that dave can tell if it’s a software issue.

    run diagnostics as suggested above. see if it points out a problem. I’m sure there are lots of us that would like to see you happy with your mac because we like macs and like Dave. giving us some more info would be great and help us help you.


  16. Posted by Paul on September 3, 2006 at 11:36 am

    I have a RevA Macbook Pro that also experienced random shutdowns and 0 battery life. Turns out that it is a known logic board problem. After a new battery and logic board, I haven’t had any problems, and it runs about 20 degrees cooler than it used to.


  17. My macbook pro suddenly started shutting down that way a month ago. In my case (and many others’ as well, I understand), the problem was the battery and once I got a new battery from Apple (as part of their recent recall) my macbook pro has been working just fine since. Have you checked your battery against Apple’s recall list?


  18. Posted by george on September 3, 2006 at 12:03 pm

    The macbook shutdowns are a hardware problem, it’s under warranty. Mine had the same problem, I sent it in, the fixed it, end of story. The heat sink and logic board will probably both be replaced.


  19. Work bought me a new MacBook two weeks ago. RAM was back-ordered and was just added. So, I guess, my test has just begun. But I’ve not had any problem, using the computer full-time. And it was fairly stressed running with the default RAM. It’s amazing that 512 ain’t enough.

    A Mac laptop has been my main computer, schlepped to the office from home and back, for six years and I’ve never had any problem. I offer that as additional anecodotal data.

    Can we be slightly amused that people are calling this the RSS probem? 🙂


  20. I’ve had problems with virtually all of my Mac laptops. I carry a laptop with virtually eveyrwhere I go, and the Macs can’t handle the wear and tear. Like you, I can’t afford to have my laptops spend weeks at the Apple repair facility. My last powerbook had three trips to the shop, one new screen and two motherboard replacements. Completely unacceptable. I now travel only with Thinkpads. They are expensive, but extremely reliable.

    — Bret


  21. Well, so you do have!

    Comments, I mean!

    And they seem to work just fine!

    Thanks, Dave!



  22. I had the mirror of this problem. 2 x IBM laptops go pear shaped in 18 months. PC that became way too sluggish matter not what I did to upgrade.

    I moved to Mac after 24 years of Wintel. Not regretted it. Does what it says on the tin and I’m only on a G4 Powerbook. Folk that are a lot more geeky than me sy I should add more memory and yes, it does get a tad warm but I’ll check the battery out when I’ve done this comment.


  23. Posted by Jason on September 3, 2006 at 1:27 pm


    The MacBook shutdown issue has been well covered by MacFixit:

    It seems like taking your MacBook to the Apple Store and getting it replaced should help. Or you could, no offense, keep whining about “awful Mac hardware” on your website. I’m sure that will help 😉

    Or you could email Steve Jobs. You’re a big powerful software guru! You should get good customer service! (really! your blog is read by thousands!)

    None of my Macs have major crashing problems. Of course I don’t have any G4’s any longer, since they are well out of date…

    I would not say the Mac hardware is “awful.” I would say it is at least as good as your average Dell, HP, or ThinkPad. I’ve not had any significant issue with the last 5 Mac laptops I’ve owned in my family. Nor the last 7 desktop Macs.


  24. Posted by heavyboots on September 3, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    Hmmm, with regards to the Mac tower–anything in the panic.log when it happens? Do you have a lot of torrents open via Azereus? I’ve heard it can cause KPs. I’m wracking my brain for things that might be causing this…

    I dunno. I manage a bunch of Macs. They hardly ever KP–even the laptops, although laptops are definitely the problem children. The tower should be solid though. You must be doing *something* different that is making it KP, but I have absolutely no clue what it is. If you are getting something written to the panic.log, definitely post the results.


  25. Hi Dave,
    So far my 2002 iBook and 2005 Powerbook don’t have that shutdown problem, and they get pretty warm here in Tennessee. Not that they’re problem-free. The iBook’s combo cd/dvd hasn’t worked in a while, and the Powerbook had to be serviced in its first three months because a DVD would not eject. And I recall that some Powerbooks in the batch my school bought did have someting like your shutdown problem, but were fixed on warranty and it seemed to be a “known” problem.
    In contrast, my No. 2 Ticonderogas rarely crash, and can be fixed with a penknife. Praise wood. Knock Murphy.


  26. Posted by Solo on September 3, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    Just a comment on the newsriver idea. I use a Palm phone (Samsung) and wind up using different browsers for different types of sites. EudoraWeb is a really simple, text-only browser that works well with your NYT river.

    Positive: the river is more like reading a newspaper than going to the website b/c I wind up at least scanning stories in sections I never read (like “sports”). The links lead to the print versions of the pages, which is great.

    Negative: the same feature is a bug if I want to know about something more specific or urgent. Using Avantgo as a browser gives more orderly hierarchy of features and sections.

    It’s easy enough for me to toggle between these on my phone.

    I hope the newsriver catches on as RSS and podcasting did. I would like Jerusalem Post, Haaretz and BoingBoing next. As a refinement, it would be useful to have some breakdown of the NYT-front page, international, national rivers.


    PS: Have you tried Onyx (freeware) on your Macs to manually start all system maintainence?


  27. If you go to a Windows notebook, I like the Toshibas.
    $1000 gets you a good’un.

    Dang I wish Apple had the brains/cojones to just sell the
    OS to anyone, ala MS. The hardware would improve with
    the competition.

    The OS is great. Sometimes the hardware seems a bit

    — stan


  28. Posted by Diego Barros on September 3, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    Dave, are you gonna take them back to be repaired? At least get them to fix them or replace them. You paid good money for them and three stirkes out of three is very bad.


  29. Hi Dave:

    I’ve had a number of laptop flavors over the years, including thinkpads, dells, powerbooks and now a macbook pro.

    All have died at one time or another other than a 17″ PowerBook (original 1ghz) which served me well for three years and now one of the very first macbook pro’s – still chugging without a major issue. I use them all quite hard.


  30. HP laptops are great – they are derived from Compaq laptops, which were great. Thin, fast, bright screens, and they take a licking. I actually had the thing from the Apple commercials happen to me; I was giving a presentation, and someone got up and tripped over my power cord, knocking the laptop to the floor. The plug to the projector stayed connected, and I continued giving my presentation without a hitch.

    P.S. I am running OS X under VMWare on my HP laptop, under Win XP. So if you want, you can use a Thinkpad to run OS X 🙂


  31. I wonder if you’ve considered moving your comments link to the “customary” spot at the bottom of the day’s stories/articles/paragraphs. While I read lots of blogs that don’t allow comments, most of them do allow comments, and of those, I think 100% of them have the comment link at the end of the (thing I am commenting on). Users are trained to look there, and if they don’t see a comment link there, they probably (like me) assume that this author just doesn’t allow comments.

    Maybe you are resisting moving the comments link for a very good reason that I haven’t though of, but if you want people to notice the link, I think that moving it would have a greater impact than embolding it.


  32. Posted by Donald on September 3, 2006 at 8:30 pm

    “The phenomenon seems to be caused by the cable between the heat sensor and the CPU’s heat sink being too short.”


  33. Posted by Paul on September 3, 2006 at 8:44 pm

    Your triage of Mac problems still sounds unusual to me with machines that I rarely even have to shut down. But whatever, I’ll spare you the Mac rah rah.

    You might as well go buy that PC (and I agree with that guy, that Thinkpads are the best out there–I’ve been forced to use about 8 of them in the last 12 years).

    The reason you might as well do it is because you said you weren’t going to send in your Mac for repair, but the problem you’re having is a known issue that requires a new motherboard or new machine replacement. It’s well documented. Also, whatever you buy next time, you might want to think about second gen products. Doesn’t matter who makes it–first generation of anything that new (remember that was brand new 1st gen Intel consumer laptop, though they did get some practice with the MbP). Oh well good luck, and have fun back in the Windows world.


  34. Posted by arton on September 3, 2006 at 8:58 pm

    The random shutdown thing seems to have been pretty well covered already. Contact Applecare and send it of for repairs if the battery recall doesn’t solve the problem.

    As for the other two, if it’s not a ram problem or something, which should show up during the hardware test, it’s probably just a corrupted system. It could be a number of things, hard to tell without details. I rarely see macs “blue screen”, kernel panics and hard freezes, but not usually a blue screen.

    I recommend wiping the hard drive on one and reinstalling from scratch (after backing up your data of course). If it still happens after that, you will know that it’s a hardware problem. If it stops, then you’ve got a nice fresh install that should last for years, and you will know it was something in software.. I’ve had the same system installed on a powermac at home for about three years, from 10.2 upgraded to 10.3, then 10.4. It runs great.

    On all of our computers at work, I wipe the drives and use a disk image to restore them twice a year to keep them fresh and new. Out of 60 G5 Powermacs, I’ve had to replace the logic board in one, which Apple took care of promptly, sending a technician over. Every once in a while, something might get corrupted and need to be restored, although this is rare.

    I’ve seen a lot more problems on their laptops, but usually rev.A models, and they always fix them(eventually). I always tell people to buy the 3 year Applecare on laptops. Some are just lemons, whereas others will be flawless for over 5 years. I feel like it’s the manufacturing more than the design.

    Bottom line, there are fairly easy solutions to your problems. There is really no need to buy a new computer.

    Good luck, and sorry for the long post. Sounded like you could use some help.


  35. Hi Dave, I’ve also seen all of your problems as described. Things that have caused these issues for me:

    BitTorrent (In an identical tower)
    Loose Airport card in 12″ powerbook
    Upgrading the OS (as opposed to fresh install)
    Bad RAM

    If you go windows, do stay away from the Toshibas and their junkware. I’ve had good success with HP (like the tablet I’m writing this on), Sony and IBM/Lenovo.

    I still prefer my Macs though.


  36. Posted by ignis fatuusz on September 4, 2006 at 5:52 pm

    As has been said, the MacBook should be under warranty. The issue has been documented widely, and it is, after all, a rev.1 product — sometimes things happen the first time ’round.

    I’ll also second (or third, or fourth) the idea of running Apple Hardware Test on the PowerBook and destktop G4s. My experience is that kernel panics are usually caused by bad RAM — even if the RAM seemed fine at first, it could break simply by upgrading the OS — if it’s Apple RAM, then you should be covered (if still under AppleCare), if it’s not Apple (or Apple-Recommended) RAM, then that may be the culprit. I’ve also seen KPs when processors start to go wonky…that DP G4 may be worth having a closer look at. Still, though, running AHT (both quick and extended) should uncover any problematic hardware.

    As far as Ole Eichhorn’s comment:
    “P.S. I am running OS X under VMWare on my HP laptop, under Win XP. So if you want, you can use a Thinkpad to run OS X ”

    That may be the case, but you wouldn’t be doing so legally.


  37. Posted by Stefan Constantinescu on September 4, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    Another vote for ThinkPad’s, have you tried the latest vista rc1?


  38. What is the point of telling Dave that your laptops work just fine? Do you think he’s lying? His aren’t working, there is clearly a problem.


  39. Posted by Arlen on September 5, 2006 at 8:58 am

    Isaac, there’s a couple of points to the extra data.

    First, Dave’s original post gave the impression he thought everything Apple made was crap, not just a few systems. The additional data is a contrary indicator to that.

    Second, it helps to focus the issue. There’s something different about Dave’s systems which are causing them to exhibit this aberrent behavior (I’ll except the shutdown from that description because it’s a known issue, the others are far more rare). To me, it would be intersting to discover just what it is, because then I’d know what to avoid.

    Note neither of those points is to imply that Dave is “doing something wrong” or worse, lying about it. I believe Dave is doing something different, but different is not wrong. It’s just different. And finding out exactly what would point the way toward better test procedures, if not for Apple, then for reviewers writing about Apple products. One of the Data General designers used to run Adventure on every new system as part of the final QC test, because a customer playing Adventure had one time caught a bug in a design that all the rest of the QC tests failed to catch.


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