JUNE 1996


Ah! Summer’s here at last! As I get set for ten weeks of vacation, mindlessly doing what I want to with a much less structured schedule (in other words — freedom!), I’m writing with much the same attitude. Since I am devoid of a set topic this month, I’ll discuss what’s gone on in the life of my computer in the last few weeks, most notably the addition of one really nifty extension, one really cool peripheral, and a brand new System folder.

A month or two ago, I finally bought RAM Doubler from Connectix. Folks, in case you haven’t heard yet, this piece of software is all that, plus the proverbial bag of chips. It’s a wonderful piece of programming. It has caused a little slowdown and choppiness when I try to run some CD-ROMs, however. It’s no big deal, though — I can easily restart with the tilde key held down and disable RAM Doubler for the duration of my CD-ROM usage.

Having 8 more megs of memory to work with, I got the idea that I could make my system software HUGE. Every extension and control panel I had ever wanted to install, I installed. My system software’s memory allocation bulged to nearly 6,000 K. A foolish move on my part, in hindsight.

One of the additions was QuickDrawGX. When my family first got our computer, I installed it and used it all the time, not really needing it but using it nonetheless. I disabled it and deleted it from my hard drive after a month or so, as I began to feel the crunch on available memory on my 8 meg machine. However, with RAMDoubler there, I figured I could easily handle GX now.

It went great for a week or so, and then for whatever reason, I was unable to print, my computer would freeze, and I had a lot of general sluggishness. I never did figure out for sure what the problem was (could Conflict Catcher 3 be next on my purchase list?), but I guessed that QuickDraw GX was causing it, so I deleted all the GX-related extensions from my drive. I thought…

My good old LC 575 was never quite the same, though. Running Disk First Aid told me that there was a problem with my hard drive, too. So, what to do next? I decided that I must undertake a scary proposition — I was going to do a clean install of the system software.

It turned out that the clean install wasn’t too bad, in fact it was almost easy. A big thanks to the folks at Iomega, for making the Zip drive, which is the best investment I’ve made this year this side of RAMDoubler. Using a Zip disk, I now had something I never had before — a piece of media that could hold a whole system folder and my essential applications (like Marathon, DOOM…) for backup purposes. One of the first things I did with one of my Zip disks was do just that — make a backup, bare-bones hard drive, roughly ninety megs in size. It turned out to be a very smart idea, because I could now use the Zip drive as my startup disk while I performed the clean install on the internal hard drive.

Using the Macintosh CD that came with my 575 (which, in this case, works fine as a startup disk, too, in case you don’t have an external hard drive or Zip drive to boot from), along with a step-by-step guide I had downloaded from America Online (and originally came from Apple’s Tech Support archives), it was a snap. The installer was smart enough to create a new system folder, disable the existing one, and install everything in the proper places. Then, I had to reinstall any third-party extensions, system beeps, and fonts into the new system folder; doing so from the original disks if possible. A simple restart, and the only thing I had to do was reset my control panel settings and desktop pattern to fit my preference. I’m still in the process of doing so — I always seem to forget to reset one thing or another, and I don’t notice it until it happens and I am annoyed. Case in point — guess what happened the last time I shut down my computer improperly? Yep, I was greeted with a message to that effect on my next startup. A quick trip to the General Controls panel changed that in a jiffy, though!

But, back to the topic at hand. Using the Zip drive as my startup disk once again, I was able to run Disk First Aid and repair whatever the problem was with my internal drive. And, for the first time in half of a year, I had a working Extensions Manager control panel (it had become corrupt somehow, and I never bothered with it until now).

It took a while — the better part of the afternoon, it turned out — but I had survived a clean install, I could print successfully, the number of freezes and crashes have decreased dramatically, and my computer is overall healthier than when I had started. All is well on the western front, once again.

The moral of the story? If you’ve been having problems with your computer and can’t figure it out, consider a clean install. It did the trick for me. The other moral? If possible, keep an emergency system folder on tap on an external hard drive or removable media. It may come in handy someday.

I’m one of those folks that always thought backups were a waste of time, especially since I’ve never had any problems before. I haven’t turned into some born-again backup freak that’s bought stock in Dantz or anything. To tell you the truth, I still don’t back up the majority of my documents, or every piece of software I download or install. But I was glad that I was smart enough to back up my essentials. Even if it is a “waste” of a perfectly good Zip disk. 🙂

That’s all for this month. My story was about a clean install on my computer. Unwittingly, it’s also a mini-review for RAM Doubler and the Zip drive, too. Just in case you didn’t catch it the first time, the next time you have $300 lying around, you can’t make a better investment for your computer than that combo.

Next month, I’ve got slated a column I had meant to write this month. Namely, my review of America Online (in brief — eWorld was tons better!). However, I’ve heard whispers of “ISP” from my parents lately, and one can dream, right? So, maybe next month I can (hopefully) kill two birds with one stone, and do an AOL/ISP comparison. Then again, maybe I should save some creative juices and spread that out over two months… 🙂

Also next month, check out the scheduled debut of a column by Adam and I concerning the Mac gaming world. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you are, too.

Additionally, starting this month you can check out my Wall Writings column and a bunch of other cool hard-core Mac stuff at a new Web site, run by Tony Vlismas. It’s called MacSite, and you can check it out by pointing your browser to http://www.(tell you as soon as I find out).com

See you in thirty!

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