Tech Tips
My Mac Magazine #30, Oct. ’97

Welcome! Stepping back into the lower-key issues of Mac setup and maintenance (something I’ve been doing a lot of lately), I’ll describe several of the general settings and “tricks” that a lot of Mac users seem to overlook. These items are mainly related to the Finder and are very easy to adjust to suit your needs.

First, have you named your computer? Does it know who you are? The Sharing Setup, or File Sharing under Mac OS 8, is where you can enter your name and give your Mac its own name. Now, if you’re on a network, naming your Mac may be what your system administrator has done and they may not like it if you decide that “East Wing #24” is not the right name and change it to something like “Slippery” (which is one of my workstations). But if you’re not constrained, feel free to be creative. An important note on the Owner Name portion of the Control Panel: Many software applications take the Owner Name and use it as the default when you are personalizing the program. For instance, if you just installed ClarisWorks, when you first fire the program up it will enter your name for you (by taking it from the Sharing Setup Control Panel), and of course, you could change it. This is a neat little trick to save you from typing your name over and over whenever a new program is installed.

When you pull a menu down and select an item, does it bother you that it blinks three times (as a visual clue) when you let go of the mouse button? There is a way to change that feature from three blinks to zero, one or two. I have mine set to zero to help speed things up, but of course I’m confident of what I selected and even if I were to select the wrong menu item, I would know what one was selected. The General Controls is where the setting is held/adjusted. In the same panel there is an option to adjust the cursor blinking speed. Say what? You know, the flashing vertical bar that is always blinking at you when you type something on the computer. I usually have mine set to the fastest speed, which I suppose mentally makes me feel the computer is waiting for me, not vice versa. You could apply the same logic if you are somewhat intimidated by your computer and wish it would feel overwhelmed by the blinding speed your fingers hit the keys.

There are a couple visual items that many of my clients overlook, mainly the Color and the Desktop Patterns Control Panels. The Color for your highlight can be changed to suit what you prefer, as well as the window accents. I normally set this to a light-medium blue for my client stations, which to me is easy on the eyes and makes it easy to see what you’ve highlighted. My personal preference is school bus yellow (probably because it’s the color of my truck). Ah, let’s not forget the Desktop Patterns (System 7.5 through 7.6.1). You can select from dozens of different patterns to change the atmosphere of your Mac’s desktop or also copy and paste patterns that you create into it. Now if you have a System that is pre-7.5 then you would change the background in the General Control Panel but you would be limited to only colors and various mixtures of different colored pixels. Mac OS 8 users have a new (albeit available for quite a while in shareware versions) option with the Desktop Pictures Control Panel. To me, this is a “way cool” feature especially since it doesn’t hog a lot of the RAM and it doesn’t crash the machine ­ something I couldn’t say about the shareware versions. I’ve already went to town scanning my photos in the computer and having them display on the Desktop. One nice tip for creating your own images, keeping in mind that I am no expert in digital imaging, is that you should resize your image with the program (such as Photoshop – PhotoDeluxe – ClarisWorks etc.) so that it’s the same height and width of your monitor. Afterwards, reduce the resolution to 80-100 dpi and save it in JPEG format. This will keep the image looking sharp and drastically reduce the physical size of the file. Another cool trick with Desktop Pictures is to Option-click the Select Picture button, which will allow you to choose an entire folder of images, which will in turn cause your Mac to pick a random picture from that folder every time it restarts.

Does your Mac know what time zone it’s in? The Date & Time Control Panel has an option for you to select the time zone, and since you are on the Internet, it actually does have a purpose. Most e-mail programs look to see what time zone you’re in so that they can properly display the time someone in a different zone sent you a message (and also put the correct time-sent stamp on any mail you’re sending). Systems prior to 7.5 have a Map Control Panel that allows for a similar function.

Real World Experience

The system: PowerMac 8500/150.
The problem: Wouldn’t boot after installing OS 8.
The solution: Replace processor board.
The explanation: This unit was a little on the tricky side. The client requested that the CPU card be swapped from their new 7300/200 into their 8500/150 (hence making the 85′ the bigger machine). At first the swap went well, until I tried to boot the 7300 with the new (but slower) processor – it wouldn’t boot. After 2 days of on/off troubleshooting, I deduced the issue to be the processor card from the 8500 to be the culprit – if you installed or tried to operate OS 8 on either CPU with the 150 card installed, the OS would get corrupted. To make the issue even stranger, OS 8 would install fine, and the 150 would also boot off other drives that had 7.5.5 or 7.6 on them. After replacing the processor board, all the boot issues went away.

Jeramey R. Valley (

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