This month I want to bring to light a few things of importance to those of you upgrading to Mac OS 8.1. It is a worthwhile upgrade and if your machine supports it, I certainly would recommend it… in most cases. I’ve not hit too many problems with this revision, but there are a number of incompatibilities that deserve attention.
A lot of what I will discuss here is, actually, in most of the Read Me files that come with the update. From the service calls of late I’m betting that a lot of you aren’t reading them, although I can’t blame you as they are rather dry. Many of the issues are resolvable by obtaining an update from the manufacturer.
Let’s look at the list of prominent software that I know doesn’t work well with OS 8.1. Most of these are extensions and we all know how irritable a Mac can get with the wrong set of critters installed.
OS 8.1 brings with it a new hard drive formatting scheme which is very beneficial if you have a large number of small files on a volume larger than 1 gigabyte. In Tech Tips, July 1997 (# 27), we discussed file block allocation, and why a file that is only 6K takes up 32K or greater on a large drive partition. Formatting your drive with Mac OS Extended format will allow your files to take up only a few bytes more than the space they actually require, greatly increasing capacity left for other data.
There are several important issues with using this new format.
First: make absolutely sure that you have backed up your drive before attempting to apply the new format – remember formatting means everything gets erased.
Second: some applications may not like the new block size, but I’ve only encountered utility programs that were problematic (Norton, for example).
Third: If you don’t have a PowerMac and use Virtual Memory, you have to set VM to use a drive other than the boot drive. Although I’m not sure, this may also apply to products such as RAM Doubler.
Finally: If you format your boot drive with Extended Format, make sure you have a disk with 8.1 on it in case you need to boot from a drive other than your normal hard drive. Without 8.1 installed, you will not be able to access any of your drive’s data.
Real World Experience
The system: Performa 6320.
The problem: Type 11 Error on boot.
The solution: Replaced Open Transport and corrected directory damage.
This was an interesting issue. I replaced the battery, and (not thinking) turned AppleTalk off and reselected the printer. When I went to perform a test print, the system had not saved the port selection for the printer and at the same time corrupted the AppleTalk control panel. I should have restarted immediately after resetting the printer selection. Although the drive had directory damage (corrected by Norton Utilities), Open Transport required a reinstallation. The interesting part of this repair was that the system error was erratic; you could disable a number of extensions and the error would go away, re-enable them and it would appear that another extension was the culprit.
Jeramey R. Valley (firstname.lastname@example.org)