The Nemo Memo – Donna

Donna’s OS and Modem Woes

(I’m asleep. The phone rings.)

Me: Hello???

Voice: Is this John Nemerovski, the Macintosh tutor?

Me: Yes, but I’m asleep, so please call back tomorrow. (I hang up.)

(I’m awake, preparing breakfast. The phone rings.)

Me: Good morning. John speaking.

Voice: Sorry about last night. This is Donna, and I need some help with my Macintosh. I think it’s dead.

(I think: “Call the mortician. I’m more interested in my oatmeal.”)

Me: What time will you be home today?

Donna: How about 4:00?

(I went for a swim, then arrived at her apartment with a bag of books and another case containing my Zip drive and a load of Zip disks and CDs.)

John: Nice to meet you. Where is the patient?

(Donna shows me her 6400/200 and Sony 17″ monitor.)

Donna: You know Gloria? She helped me with installing OS 8 and some other stuff about a year ago, and now she has moved to Tennessee. Gloria said to call you. I need my computer for my small personal mail-order business, and now I’m having a million problems.

John: Such as?

Donna: I can’t get online anymore, I keep having QuickTime error messages during startup, and my mouse doesn’t work.

John: Sounds serious. Let’s take a look.

(She is correct. The mouse is frozen, and each time we do a manual restart the process halts with a bizarre QuickTime Conferencing conflict crash. I’m stumped, and can’t find any help in my Sad Macs troubleshooting bible.)

John: Did Gloria help you set up a regular backup and archiving procedure onto removable media or an external hard disk?

Donna: Huh?

John: Okay, forget Gloria. We need to do some emergency room damage control immediately, then get you back online next time I’m here, in a few days.

Donna: You mean I won’t be able to read all my missing email tonight?

(With the mouse plugged directly into the ADB port in the CPU, I trash all her problematic QuickTime components. The computer is limping, but functional, with OS 7.5.3. Donna had recently reinstalled this older system from her original factory CD, overwriting the OS 8 installed by Gloria, thereby creating the series of QuickTime version startup conflicts.)

John: Which files and folders are essential? I’m going to copy them onto these blank Zip disks before initializing your hard disk and upgrading you to OS 8.6.

Donna: Will I be able to read my business email right away?


(Round two. Using DriveSetup, I reformat Donna’s hard disk with HFS+, then install OS 8.5 and 8.6. After doing all the Internet Setup steps, we are unable to dial into her ISP.)

John: Are you sure these settings and phone numbers are correct?

Donna: Yes, but I’ll call them to make sure.

(We both become frustrated: me because I can’t figure out how to get the Geoport/Express modem to work; she because the ISP keeps her on hold forever, then disconnects the call.)

John: I’m stumped. I need to do some homework before I can get your modem to function again.

(With help from Russ and Jeramey at My Mac, I learn the Apple Telecom modem software needs to be reinstalled. I groan, because this happened to another client two years ago, but I had completely forgotten the fix until now. I also learn the keyboard or its cable is defective. I call Donna and ask her to get a new ADB keyboard before my next visit.)


(Your suggestions?)


Jeffrey Comes to Town


(Jeffrey McPheeter, sitting left, John Nemerovski, standing, right)I have tremendous respect for Jeffrey McPheeters, and featured him in the October, 1999 Nemo Memo When I learned he was coming to Tucson for a brief visit, I looked forward to our meeting with great enthusiasm.

Jeffrey arrived after lunch last Saturday with his new blueberry iBook. He had driven from Kansas with his three sons, who used the iBook during their long journey.

He is as intelligent and passionate about Macintosh in person as he is in his superb writing. We spent the afternoon putting the iBook through its hoops, and I AM IMPRESSED with the technology and style of Apple’s new powerful portable.

We started talking about the frustrations of on-the-road Internet access. Jeffrey was attempting to use Earthlink during this road trip, but the connectivity from Tucson was atrocious. I suggested he consider using AOL.

He’s running OS 9 on the iBook, and I’m still using 8.6 on my blazing fast 7200/120. Together we created a new iTools identity and “” email presence for me at the new Apple website, and tested it successfully.

The hours flew by, and we parted with hopes for another in-person visit soon. A few days later I received this iCard, with the following message:


Jeffrey wrote:

Trip home was great, John! We took a more scenic route out of Tucson. We had good weather all the way home. We drove ten hours each day and arrived here on Monday around 7 p.m. It’s good to be home, but the frigid temperatures are a bit hard to get used to. When we left it had been in the 50’s to 60’s and now it’s in the teens and 20’s. It looks like it will warm up again soon, however.

After spending most of Tuesday and some of today working through the 135 email messages I hadn’t had time to read or reply to, I spent some time preparing another newsletter for the homeschoolers and getting things ready to have some friends’ new AirPORT base station hooked up to their cable modem tomorrow night.

One “little” problem I found upon arriving home was that we had a power failure while I was away that did something to one of my 21″ monitors. It won’t power up. It starts to turn on, then immediately quits. It may be a simple soldering job with a fast-blow fuse, or it may mean replacement is necessary. Bummer. It’s on a special surge protector, but not on the heavy-duty UPS which is reserved for the primary CPU, drives, and main monitor.

Also, I didn’t have the AirPORT base station plugged into the UPS, and even though it was in the surge protector/conditioner, the power hiccup caused it to be forever cycling through its reset routine while I was away. Now I know why I couldn’t Timbuktu into my system here in the office while I was in AZ.

I also found out why I couldn’t get my mail from one of my main accounts while in AZ. I thought it was a fault with Earthlink, but actually there was a corrupted mail message on the server at my cable ISP, and every time it reached this message on the download routines it crashed my system. I had to go in remotely and find the “one” that was causing the crash and then delete it before I could safely get the rest.

I’ve since re-installed AOL 4.0 and tested it. I’ll cancel my Earthlink account and rely on AOL in the future, assuming I can get it to do what we were attempting down there with the send/receive thing.

Thanks again for the wonderful time spent with you and your charming wife. I’m looking forward to reading the FinalCut and GoLive books you gave me, and trying my hand at movie editing (once I get the monitor situation fixed, add a second 18GB drive, and grab a free afternoon)!

I sent my condolences for his messed-up equipment, and Jeffrey quickly replied:

I took the monitor apart, including the switch mechanism itself, but couldn’t isolate the problem there. It’s possibly a broken solder joint somewhere and I’m looking for someone who works on these things. In the mean time, I purchased a new 19″ monitor for under $400, which is what I paid for the pre-owned 21″ monitor three years ago.

Also, the weather didn’t warm up. Instead we got 6 inches of snow! But it is beautiful.

Warm personal regards,

Jeffrey McPheeters
Internet Services Design

Nemo’s recommendation is to meet in person with your favorite epals, keeping an open mind that they may turn out to be better (or weirder) then you expect. Remember: it’s a two-way street, and they have pre-conceived expectations of you.

I now have met several of these computer buddies, and will write about the experiences in a future Nemo Memo.


R-A-B-O-B-A !!

Thinking long and hard about Donna’s and Jeffrey’s hardware problems deriving from lack of backups, defective equipment, power outages, and surges, I urge readers to do as I say AND as I do, which is:

1. Keep an active daily archive of EVERYTHING you are currently working on. I use Zip disks for this purpose.

2. Maintain a weekly or monthly rotating backup schedule onto reliable, removable media, which should be stored securely in a different physical building than your computer equipment. I use Retrospect Express software.

3. Make sure you have separate archives of the contents of your email address books, inboxes, and outboxes. It is real pain to recreate that stuff from scratch.

4. Run your favorite hard disk repair utility on a routine schedule. I use Norton Utilities’ Disk Doctor.

5. Every few months work through the R-A-B-O-B-A checklist:

  • REPAIR your disks with Norton Disk Doctor or Tech Tool Pro
  • ARCHIVE all your current and active working files and folders
  • BACKUP your disks using Retrospect or Retrospect Express
  • OPTIMIZE your disks to consolidate everything into neat blocks
  • BACKUP, now that your volumes have been optimized
  • AWAY go the backup media, to another building or bank vault.Do you understand the difference between making an archive and doing a backup?

    If I have forgotten any important steps, please let me know, and I will pass on your advice to our readers.

    John Nemerovski

    Websites mentioned:

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