Tech Tips
My Mac Magazine #28, Aug. ’97

Welcome to Tech Tips! This month’s title is “Solutions, Solutions, Solutions” mainly because of the work that I’m doing right now. Ok, I admit it, my columns almost always relate to my profession at the current point in time – this article being no different. Today’s topic of discussion is ‘work-around’ solutions to Macintosh problems, or put it another way, what to do when the obvious isn’t.

Currently I’m working on a FileMaker Pro (FMP) solution that requires many intense, lengthy scripts and calculations to do the work the client requested. I’ve hit many snags that the program simply can’t do alone. What to do in a situation such that the computer or the program simply won’t do something you need? Find a work-around! There usually is, and although I will be focusing more on FileMaker Pro, you could easily apply the principle to other things you do.

First, this solution has multiple images associated to other records. No biggie, right? Well, each image can be various dimensions and they all have to print out with their associated records without wasting a tremendous amount of paper. Since FMP won’t take care of this by itself, I had to determine how high the images were (width is a factor that the paper will decide, so I really don’t care just how wide they are). After trying various methods, the solution I came up with was to use AppleScript and an external application (Clip2Gif) to measure the images and then place the dimensions back into FMP. This solved FMP’s limitation of not being able to calculate the size of a given image. With the dimension data in the database I could perform calculations as to how much paper a given image would use.

The next issue that came up was that even though I knew how much paper an image would need, I didn’t know what the paper requirements for the data in the preceding text fields would be before the image printed; another instance where the program had no capability to directly tell me this information. After serious thought and good old-fashioned trial and error testing, I determined that I could have FMP determine how much the text (roughly) would take up on the printed report. How? Good question – Nested conditional statements with different layouts. What’s that mean? 🙂

I have the database say:
First, are there any images?
Then just print it.
well then find out where the images fall in the report
then see how much the stuff before the image will consume
then switch to that layout and print it
then repeat the process until you are done with that record.

It’s quite a bit more complicated than that but you should see the basics. OK, now that you’re shaking your head with that “but I don’t use FileMaker!” look, let me make it relate to a real-world scenario. Let’s say you have a document in Microsoft Works that you need to put into PageMaker, and let’s pretend that Pagemaker won’t directly accept the document. What do you do? (you don’t have access to MS Works either – no cheating!) Well, you do have ClarisWorks which will read in MS Works, but that doesn’t help much because PageMaker doesn’t like ClarisWork’s documents on your computer. Out of luck, right? No! ClarisWorks can save the MS Works document as MS Word which PageMaker loves. Problem solved. Next month I promise to write a little slower, as I just moved into my new house (hurrah for me 🙂 and I’m short on time.

Real World Experience

The system: Power Macintosh 7600/132.
The problem: No keyboard/mouse response when external SCSI devices connected.
The solution: Replaced mouse.
The explanation: This was a very bizarre service call! The client asked me to connect their new scanner, and after doing so, the mouse/keyboard didn’t respond. Naturally, it must be a SCSI conflict of some sort. Checked, nope, that wasn’t the problem. OK, PRAM must have gotten corrupted (seen that happen). Performed a full logic board reset – still not working. Oh yeah, removing the external device would allow the keyboard/mouse to work. No sweat, unit’s under warranty – just replace the logic board (the only thing it could be right?). Logic board replaced, problem persisted. Out of “desperation” (or should I say just for fun?) I swapped in another keyboard/mouse combo and the darn thing worked. A little more troubleshooting proved the mouse (!!) was the problem.

Jeramey R. Valley (

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