Starting Line – My Mac Magazine #58, Feb. ’00

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday this month. The best part is spring is right around the corner and that means warm weather. Not that I have too much to complain about this year. Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere have, by and large, been fortunate to have an extremely mild winter. We may still get a snowstorm or two, but the weather has basically been spring-like. No coats on Halloween, light jackets for New Year’s Eve (at least early in the evening!) and many days in the high 50s. Wonderful!

I thought I’d tell you about some of the ups and downs I’ve experienced with the cable modem. Not as smooth as I had hoped.

About two weeks after I was hooked up, I wasn’t able to access the Internet. I looked under my TCP/IP settings (located in the Control Panels under the Apple in the upper left hand corner of the screen) and found that the Router Address contained no information. Now, that information, along with the IP address and the Subnet Mask (all found in TCP/IP settings) are provided by my service provider, through the Internet. It is nothing I can type in. (This may be different with other Mac Operating Systems; I have 8.5.1.)

“So, I thought, maybe the service was down. It happens.” I call up. After the usual meandering through voicemail, plus a lengthy wait on hold, I was connected to a service tech. He told me that my Ethernet card, which is a necessary item to connect to a cable modem and I believe now comes standard on all Macs, was not recognizing the cable modem. Okay. Fine. How do we fix it?

To make a long story short, we ‘forced’ my iMac to recognize the modem. We did this by:

  • Going back to the TCP/IP settings
  • Move the Connection Via drop box from Ethernet Built In to something else
  • Move the Configure Using drop box from DHCP Server to something else
  • Close and Save
  • Reopen TCP/IP settings
  • Change Connection Via drop box back to Ethernet Built In
  • Change Configure Using drop box to DHCP Server
  • Close and Save
  • Launch the browser (I use MS Internet Explorer as my service provider supports nothing else.)Well, that was easy. No problem! Everything is running smooth and another two weeks pass by. Same problem, three days in a row! However, I try the above and it doesn’t work. So, we try other things. We unplug the modem for two minutes and let it reset itself. We trash the TCP/IP preferences (located in the Preferences folder in your System Folder). There were other steps and I should have written them down for you, but frankly, I was too distraught. My service provider, Media One (, was pointing the finger at my Ethernet card. Before I went and spent money on a new one, I wanted to work through all the other options first, including swapping out the modem, if need be. (I would like to say that all the techs were helpful and supportive, if not all-knowing!) Besides, I was not convinced it was my Ethernet card.

    Well, after three days, I wrote My Mac’s brilliant Webmaster, Adam Karneboge. I told him what happened and asked if he had ideas. He did! I outlined the steps he gave me at the end of the column for those of you who care know. It did solve my problem, so far, permanently. Let’s keep those fingers crossed!

    One final note: On New Year’s Day, I again could not get up on the ‘net. I went through Adam’s steps and they didn’t work! So, I called tech support at Media One. After trying a couple of things, I was transferred to a higher level tech. This tech confirmed I was on a Mac. He then proceeded to tell me that the Mac portion of their service was down. No problem. It happens. “However,” I asked him, “why couldn’t I have been told this an hour ago?” I got an apology, but no real response.

    My opinion: While the cable modem itself lives up to its reputation, the tech support is lacking. Right now, Media One can get away with it because they are the only game in town. However, when competition moves in, it will be a different ball game. I look forward to it!

    Reader David King from Canada added his thoughts from my original article in January. I’ve included it for your reference as another watch-out:

    As a loyal Mac user I want to point out one very important fact that affects Mac users who want to move to cable modems. Are you sitting down? OK, here goes: the Mac does not handle DHCP leases well.

    There! I said it!!

    A friend and I both went to cable modem. Up here in Canada the cable companies offer us connections thru @Home servers. We both found that we could not get the DHCP leases to stabilise. Frequent freezes and hangs were driving us crazy. We were both using PowerMacs, OS8.6 with enough RAM and all that … this was an issue relating to the way the Mac handles DHCP leases.

    Both of us researched the subject and came to the conclusion that while Apple ( is aware of the problem, they have not fixed it.

    Our solution — note the shameful looks here with heads hanging low — we put NT servers in front of our Macs! Yup. Ever since we used NT to connect to the cable modem and run a network to the Macs, we’re both experiencing rock steady DHCP leases. No more irritating hangs and freezes and restarts.

    If only Apple would fix this problem, we would have no use for the NT servers.

    I think its important for Mac users who, like my friend and I, may experience great frustration with cable service, to know the reason behind bad connections. And one possible (tried and tested) solution!


    David C King
    Toronto, Canada

    The friend David referred to, Ranjit Singh, added the following:

    I can confirm that the Mac OS TCP/IP component does not handle “DHCP leases very well.” Especially when the cable companies are using Windows boxes on the other end. Before frontending my Mac with the NT 4 Server (running Winroute ) every morning I would have to spend at least 10 to 15 minutes with the Cable company up here in Toronto (Shaw using the @ Home service) trying to obtain a DHCP lease. The technicians would tell me that if their DHCP server was “recycled/rebooted during the night” the Mac would be unable to establish a connection. However on mornings when they DID NOT “recycle/reboot” their DHCP servers I still had the problem and it was ascertained that it had to do with the “Mac TCP/IP not being able to negotiate a lease.”

    On speaking to Apple Technical Support, they acknowledged that there were “problems” associated with Cable Modems and DHCP leases, however they claimed that it was due to the fact that Apple was “following/implementing the TCP/IP protocol” by the book and that “others (i.e. Windows) was not. (I don’t know enough to say who is right on this one and would love to hear from an expert) .As a user I was left wondering who was actually right. Anyway to cut a long story short and to end my frustration, I purchased an inexpensive Pentium clone running Windows NT and installed Winroute Pro on it, and hooked my Mac up to the Pentium and have never had the DHCP lease problem again.

    I believe that that Apple knows more about about this problem than they are letting on and why they have not come up with a “fix” or at least an acknowledgement that this problem exists is anyone’s guess.

    I remain a loyal Mac user, dragged into the Windows world, but Apple’s inability to rectify a problem they have known about.

    Please feel free to quote my name and address and any part of this message.


    Ranjit Singh

    Very interesting information. If anyone has something they want to add, please write in. I’ll include it in my next column.

    Before I jump into Helpful Hints, I to make you aware of a print article I found. I foolishly forgot to write down the name of the journal, but I think it was Design. It was published in June 1999, titled “Color experts give Apple’s iMac an A+.” They spelled iMac, IMac, but other than that, the article was a very nice round of applause and support for Apple’s decision to expand the color of their product from beige to rainbow. It goes even farther and analyzes the iMac color options people choose. If you find it, read it. It’ll provide insight into your personality!

    Helpful Hints

    Changing desktop background: I wrote about this in January 99, but it’s so good and so easy I had to recycle this Hint. Click off of this document and click on your desktop. Then, Control Click your desktop. You see a little drop down menu appear. Go to the last option, Change Desktop Background, and your Control Panel item appears! You can now change your background and without drilling through a couple of layers of folders.

    Finding a Group of Files/Documents: Let’s say you created a slew of documents and or folders one day. They don’t necessarily have to be related. Now, it’s two weeks later and you don’t remember where on your Mac you left the darn things. Go to Find under the File option on your desktop. Type in something all the files have in common, like the date they were created. Or, if you only need a few particular files all relating to one subject, type in another common characteristic specific to those files, and you should find most, if not all, of the files you were looking for.

    Of course, this works best when you’re able to plan ahead and use a common characteristic on all related files, like a prefix or a particular phrase, in the title of the documents and files. But still a useful tool!

    Prevent Those Crashes Before They Happen by doing a little bit of prevention. The list below, while not all-inclusive, should help keep crashing to a minimum:
    1. Rebuild your desktop once a week. This is easily done. You can either press Option, Command while starting up or purchase a nifty program like Tech Tool Pro to do it for you. (Tech Tool Pro has a freeware version available at their site,
    2. Some type of diagnostic and repair software program is always a good purchase. The two most popular are the above Tech Tool Pro and Norton Utilities ( They each do nice little maintenance and repairs things to your Mac to keep it running smooth. Again, run through the maintenance and repair once a week, minimum.
    3. Be careful about what you put on your Mac. Some of the fun stuff, like games, put extensions on your hard drive that may conflict with something else. I think extension conflicts cause more problems on your Mac than anything else. (Extensions are represented by those little icons you see on the bottom of your screen during start-up. Extensions are little bits of programming that extend the functionality of a piece of software, like scanning software which enhances the functionality of Adobe Photoshop
    4. If extensions are a way of life for you, consider purchasing an extension manager program. This will allow you to load what you need when you need it, thus reducing the probability of conflicts.
    5. Virus software is also a must. While Macs don’t have anywhere near the scale of problems PCs do, it’s gotten worse with the proliferation of Microsoft products. This is a worthwhile investment to keep your hard drive, and all files, intact.

    Balloon Help Can Be Your Friend: I learned this from ZDNet ZDTips ( It’s another one of those “I can’t believe this is so stinkin’ easy!”.

    This example relates to checking the memory on your Mac. If you go under the Apple in the upper left hand corner when on the desktop, the first item that comes up is About This Computer. If you choose that option, a dialog box comes up showing the open applications and how much memory is allocated to them. Well, the status bar next to the memory allocation rarely goes 100%. How can you tell exactly how much RAM is being used? Very easily.

    Turn on Show Balloons, under Help. Now go back to About This Computer. Put your cursor over the status bars. It now tells you how much memory exactly is being used.

    You can monitor this over a specific period of time and use the results to determine if you have too much memory allocated to some programs. If so, reduce that memory allocation and open up that RAM for other things.

    Internet Site of the Month:

    FrightNet Online Magazine, a horror magazine for you horror fans. It’s found at A nice little magazine, it contains horror stories, interviews, and commentaries. Enjoy!

    Adam’s Cure for the Nontalking Cable Modem:

  • Trash both the AppleTalk and TCP/IP preferences.
  • Restart, and as you restart reset the perimeter RAM (Option, Command, P, R). You’ll hear the start up chime again. Let it chime 5 times.
  • If your IP address is static, reenter it along with the subnet and router IP.
  • Also, make sure your DNS addresses are entered (order doesn’t matter).
  • Close and save the TCP/IP control panel.
  • Open the AppleTalk CP, and make sure AppleTalk is back on Ethernet and enabled.
  • Open TCP/IP again, go under the Edit menu, select user mode and set it to advanced.
  • Click OK. You will see a button in the bottom right that says options.
    Open that and uncheck the box that says Load only when needed.
  • Close and save everything, restart and rebuild the desktop (Option, Command)

    Barbara Bell

    Websites mentioned:

  • Leave a Reply