Sunday, September 6, 2009

"How Do I Make My HP LaserJet 2100 (or 2100M or 2100TN) Work with Snow Leopard?"

After all my hassle of getting my old HP LaserJet 2100 to work with Leopard -- including installing a JetDirect card for Ethernet with AppleTalk -- Apple removed AppleTalk from Snow Leopard. So, I was right back where I started.

Well, not quite. At least I had the JetDirect card. With just a little more trouble, I should have been able to connect through TCP/IP, the card's other protocol. Only, that wasn't working either, despite my following helpful instructions from around the Web.

I finally found someone who had successfully navigated the whole maze for a LaserJet 2100. You can read Maria Langer's original post here. But I'll try to simplify it for you.

Basically what we're going to do is change the Mac's IP address so it will see itself and the printer as being on the same network. A better solution would probably be to change the IP address of the printer, but I'm told that requires the HP utility for either Windows or OS 9, which not everyone has. This may be a second-best solution, but it works fine -- as long as you are not using the Ethernet service for anything but connecting to your printer. (For all other networking, I use Airport, not Ethernet.)

If you are using Ethernet to also connect to other computers or the Internet, you cannot use this solution! Go find something that instead tells you how to change your printer's IP address. If you do what I tell you, you'll be disconnected!

[Update: This shows how little I know about Ethernet. According to a commenter on this post, he simply went to Network in System Prefs and set up a second Ethernet service to handle the printer separately. With that, my instructions caused no problem with his Internet connection.]

OK, here are the steps.

1. Make sure that your Mac and your printer are turned on. You also need to see an Ethernet service listed in your Network preferences panel. If there isn't one, click on the plus sign and add one.

2. You need to know the IP address of your printer. If you haven't messed with your network setup, then it's probably the default of 192.0.0.192. To find out for sure, you can print out a configuration page by pressing the printer's two buttons at the same time -- the Go button and the Job Cancel button. The address will appear on the second page that prints. Note: you can't do this right after turning on your computer and/or printer, but only after a minute or two. If you try too soon, you'll instead see 0.0.0.0.

If you have messed with your network setup and for some reason need to return to the printer's default settings, you can do a "cold reset." For the 2100, turn off the printer, then turn it back on while holding down the Job Cancel button. Keep it pressed till the printer lights come on, then release it at once. (If you hold it down another 20 seconds, you'll lose your printer's internal statistics.) Then wait a minute or two, if you want to check the result by getting a configuration page.

3. In your Network prefs, set the Configure menu to "Using DHCP with manual address." Then in the IP address slot, enter the same IP address as your printer, except lower the last number by one. So, if your printer is at 192.0.0.192, the address you'd enter here would be 192.0.0.191. Do not enter the exact same address as your printer's! (There are no doubt other values that will work here, but I'm just describing what Maria did and what worked for me too.)

4. Go to the Print & Fax preferences pane, and click on the plus sign to add a printer. At the top of the dialog box, click on "IP." As the protocol, choose "HP JetDirect - Socket." Enter the IP address for your printer. Give the printer a descriptive name.

At this point, your Mac should have already automatically filled in "Print Using" with "HP LaserJet 2100 series," which it got by connecting with your printer. If you instead get "Generic PostScript Printer," this means your Mac is not connecting, and you won't be able to print, regardless of whether you finish adding the printer or not. So, you'll need to try something else.

5. If everything's OK, just click "Add," and your Mac will do the rest. Oh, and don't forget to right-click on the printer in the list if you need to specify it as the default.

If you ever need to return to the Mac's default Ethernet setup, change the service's Configure menu to "Using DHCP" without "manual address." Or just delete the service and add a new one.

Now, if I can just get my old scanner and DVD burner to work.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

"How Can I Stop Leopard From Continually Asking Me to Accept Incoming Connections for Microsoft Office Apps -- Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Entourage?"

 

Leopard has a different primary firewall than was offered in earlier versions of OS X. On the Firewall tab of the Security prefs pane, you get three choices for how it works:

-- Accept all incoming connections
-- Allow only essential services
-- Set access for specific services and applications

If you choose the third option, Leopard asks your permission whenever any network connection is attempted to a new app on your computer. Microsoft Office apps rely on such connections for various purposes. For instance, through Microsoft AutoUpdate, they check for updates. Through Microsoft Database Daemon, they check your local network for other open copies of any Office app that might violate your license agreement. And of course, Entourage collects email and performs a number of other functions over your network.

The problem is that Office apps are never treated by Leopard as apps you've already approved. Instead, you're asked again and again about these connections. No doubt, it's Microsoft's subtle form of sabotage to import Windows Vista's annoyingly frequent permissions requests into the Mac environment.

Just kidding. It more likely has to do with an older software design described by Apple's support document "Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard: About the Application Firewall":

"Some applications check their own integrity when they are run without using code signing. If the Application Firewall recognizes such an application it will not sign it, but then it will re-present the dialog every time the application is run. This may be avoided by upgrading to a version of the application which is signed by its developer."

I imagine this will clear up with the next version of Office. Meanwhile, the best solution for the non-geek in most cases seems to be to choose one of the other firewall modes.

If you choose "Allow only essential services," Leopard itself will decide what's allowed to come in (which apparently does not include checking for other open Office apps). This is the choice I've made for now. The only problem would be if you've turned on one of the services on the Sharing prefs pane -- file sharing, printer sharing, Internet sharing, or such. Those won't work anymore.

The other choice, "Accept all incoming connections," blocks nothing. That's another way to make sure you're never asked. Of course, if your computer is connected directly to the Internet, this would not a wise choice. But if it's connected through a router with its own firewall -- for instance, an Airport Extreme base station -- then mostly likely you are already adequately protected.

But this does not constitute medical advice, and be sure to consult your personal physician.

P.S. If you choose either "Allow only essential services" or "Set access for specific services and applications," be sure to go into the "Advanced" options and turn on Stealth Mode for extra safety.

 

Friday, July 3, 2009

"How Can I Avoid Trouble with System Updates?"


You've probably seen the cries of pain on the Mac fix-it sites that arrive with every system update -- blank screens, lock-outs, networks going down, Apple apps failing, hardware not responding. Yet most people seem to experience little or no trouble. Why is that?

With something as complex as a system update, some incompatibilities are bound to occur. But some Mac users heighten the chances dramatically by loading their computers with crud.

By "crud," I mean small programs that modify the system to produce interface changes or add features. With every one of these you add, you make it all the more likely that the next OS X update will choke on an unexpected modification. And also with each one, you make it harder to locate the problem!

How do you spot these programs? Usually, they're the ones that use installers instead of drag-and-drop. An installer often means they're sticking files in places they'd be wiser not to. If they weren't doing that, they wouldn't need the authenticated OK that the installer requires you to give!

In case you have any doubt, these installers often tell you exactly where their files will go. Just select "Show Files" on the installer's File menu. If they're putting files in obscure folders, be very, very suspicious. And if they don't have a menu item to let you know, that's double the danger!

It's not all the fault of Mac users. The fact is, they're urged on to it by members of the Mac media, who should know better. These are the people who get paid to spend hours a day in front of their Macs. If something goes wrong, they can take the time to fix it, then write about it and get paid! They don't seem to understand that not all of us are in that privileged position.

For instance, let's take a look at the current issue of MacWorld, August 2009. The cover trumpets "56 MUST-HAVE MAC APPS: High-Quality, Low-Cost Mac Downloads." As you might figure, I'm skeptical of such articles, but I do look at them. Two of the recommended apps caught my eye: iAntivirus, a free antivirus program with a four-mouse rating, and GlimmerBlocker, an ad blocker for Safari with three-and-a-half stars.

Whenever I'm evaluating such software, about the first thing I do is go over to VersionTracker and read the feedback for it. (Click on "Show All Feedback" for the full treatment.) What did I find?

iAntivirus has only three out of five stars there. The very first message is from a fellow who actually tested the program on a collection of common viruses and found that it failed to find one of them. Some commenters found it to be a resource hog.

Skip iAntivirus.

The description of GlimmerBlocker sounded promising. "The problem with other ad-blockers for Safari is that they are implemented as awful hacks: as an InputManager and/or ApplicationEnhancer. This compromises the stability of Safari and very often create problems when Apple releases a new version of Safari. GlimmerBlocker is implemented as an http proxy, so the stability of Safari isn't compromised because it doesn't use any hacks."

It has four stars, too. Looks good! But then you look at some of the feedback. Slows down browsing. Prevents downloading podcasts in iTunes. A pain to remove.

None of that feedback was for the current version, so I thought I'd at least visit the developer's site. There I read a list of the applications requiring workarounds or special configurations to coexist with this app. And what about the incompatibilities the developer hasn't yet run into? Or the ones that the next version will introduce?

Scratch GlimmerBlocker.

Another small app often recommended by MacWorld is LittleSnitch, which monitors and manages outgoing network connections. I happened to try that out today on my Test volume, while gathering data about a problem with Microsoft Word.

Why on my Test volume and not on my main boot volume? Because of comments I'd read online, including the ones pithily reflected in the developer's own note on changes in the current version: "Fixed an issue causing system freezes at login on Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger." The app performed well enough on my Test volume with OS X 10.5.7 -- oh, except that all other volumes were grayed out in my Startup Disk prefs pane, so I had to uninstall Little Snitch before I could select my main boot volume.

Trash Little Snitch.

I'm not perfect. I do occasionally succumb to the lure of greater functionality. When I switched from OS 9 to OS X, I just couldn't live without some kind of replacement for the old Apple menu. After trying out numerous options, I finally settled on Butler, which seemed relatively fast and safe.

And it was, except for one little feature that I never used but that was turned on in the background: a custom clipboard. That little "enhancement" caused Microsoft Word 2004 to crash repeatedly for the better part of a year -- almost every time I tried to cut or copy a substantial block of text in a large file -- before I finally discovered it and turned it off. So, indeed, I paid for my sin. (Microsoft, please forgive me for blaming you all that time.)

People used to complain all the time about how unstable OS 9 was. Let me tell you a secret. OS 9 was incredibly stable. I use my computer for most of the day, almost every day, and with OS 9.2.1, I could easily go a couple of months without a system crash.

No, it wasn't OS 9 that was unstable. It was the crud that people loaded into it. And not just the small-time freeware and shareware, from which you might expect trouble. It was software from the big names too. Remember Adobe Type Manager? How many OS 9 users had that on their computers? When I saw how often my Mac crashed with it, into the Trash it went.

And then there were the Norton Utilities extensions. I remember once spending two or three days trying to fix a network problem and finally narrowing it down to a Norton extension update.

When OS X first came out, no one could believe how stable it was. People ran it for months without rebooting. And there was good reason for that: No one had yet written crud for it!

But now they have, and there's loads of it around. Do yourself a favor. The next time someone offers you an app to add a nifty feature to your system, measure that feature against the security of knowing your computer will start up after the next update.

I know you'll make the wise decision.

Late edit: Wow. I just discovered that one of the Google ads displayed with this post is for iAntivirus. Good match, Google!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"How Can I Use My Old HP LaserJet with Leopard?"

I have an old HP LaserJet 2100. It's a great machine. I've had to replace a couple of rollers, and the automatic feed on the top tray doesn't work anymore -- but still, the thing is reliable, prints clean, stays a lot quieter than modern printers, and doesn't make the lights dim when it's working.

I've had the thing for longer than I can remember. In fact, I've had it so long that it comes from the days before USB. It connects via the old circular type of serial port that used to be on Macs.

Two or three computers ago, the Mac lost that serial port, and I lost my connection. Luckily, Farallon stepped up to the plate with a neat little gadget called the iPrint. This small device was an adapter between serial on the LaserJet and Ethernet on the Mac. I must have used it for a decade.

But then came 2009, and I upgraded from Tiger on a PPC Mac to Leopard on an Intel. Only problem: I couldn't talk to my printer.

You may be thinking it was time to pack it in and buy a new printer. I thought so too. The problem was, I couldn't get a new printer I liked as much. (And I had at least one and a half laser cartridges for the old printer still unused. Those things are expensive!)

It turns out that it wasn't so big a problem after all. Like many LaserJets, this one had an Ethernet option. All I had to do was obtain and install the right "JetDirect" card. I remember, when I bought the printer, this option seemed like a hugely major expense -- but the cards can be found now on eBay for very little. (And my income is a bit higher now, so that may have helped change my viewpoint.)

So, here's what it takes:

1. Find out the right JetDirect card model for your LaserJet by looking in your manual -- you do still have it, don't you? -- or by visiting the HP Web site. There are probably several versions for your printer, so make sure you get the one with AppleTalk! (Mine was an HP JetDirect 600 N EIO Print server, part J3111A.)

2. Buy it on eBay or anywhere else you can find it cheap.

3. Slip it into your LaserJet -- takes a few seconds.

4. Connect it to your Mac's Ethernet port. Unlike in the days of the iPrint, Macs no longer require a special kind of Ethernet cable when connecting directly instead of through a hub, so you don't need to worry about green or white. But you probably can't reuse the cable that came with the iPrint anyway, because its connector is too small for a modern Mac. The one that worked for me was a "Cat 6."

5. With your LaserJet on, go to your Mac's Network prefs pane, click on Ethernet, then Advanced, then AppleTalk. Make sure the "Make AppleTalk Active" box is checked. Click "OK," then "Apply." (If you're asked if you want to deactivate AppleTalk on your AirPort connection, approve that too. I doubt you have many wireless AppleTalk printers!)

6. Go to the Mac's Print & Fax prefs pane. At the bottom of the printer list box, click the plus sign. In the box that pops up, make sure you're on the Default pane. You should see an HP LaserJet listed, even if it isn't the right model. Click on that. Make sure that the "Print Using" field now shows your correct model. If it doesn't, select your model from the menu. Then check the "Name" to be assigned to the printer, and change it if you like. Then click "Add." Back in the printers list, you can right-click or Ctrl-click to set the printer as the default.

That's all! Your LaserJet should be ready for its next decade.

Update: Apple strikes again! With Snow Leopard, AppleTalk has been removed. See my later post on making this printer work with Snow Leopard!

"How Do I Avoid a Long Double Start-Up on Leopard Combo Updates?"

 

The safest way to apply an OS X update is to download Apple's Combo Update, which includes all updates since that major version appeared. But Leopard Combo Updates have the annoying characteristic of requiring a very long double start-up -- during which the computer may even hang. The whole process can be both time-consuming and nerve-wracking.

Luckily, the solution is simple: Don't update from your boot volume.

On my Mac, I always have at least three working copies of OS X:

1. My regular boot volume, named "OSX".

2. A "Test" volume for trying out software, updates, and fixes before applying them to my boot volume. As necessary, I update this by copying from my boot volume with SuperDuper.

3. A "Maintenance" volume for performing repairs to the boot volume. I update this one too with SuperDuper -- but it usually lags behind the boot volume by an update or two, so I can be sure it's available to save me from any problems an update might introduce.

When Apple announces an update to Leopard, I download the Combo Update from the Apple site. Then I boot into "Maintenance" and apply the update to my boot volume from there.

The result is that the update is complete within a few minutes and after only a quick, single start-up. Try it, you'll like it!

 

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"How Do I Stop the Clicking Noise from the Hard Drive of My MacBook or Mac Mini?"


Updated 1/20/2010

Energy-efficient hard drives that are optimized for Windows can cause incessant clicking as annoying as a water drip when used with Unix-based systems like Mac OS X or Linux on a computer that's idling. That's because this kind of drive will park its head after only seconds of inactivity -- and then the computer immediately calls it back into action. Even when this isn't loud enough to annoy the user, it causes excessive wear and premature aging of the drive.

On Macs, this is often found in replacement drives for the MacBook and the Mac Mini. Apple modifies the firmware of drives it supplies to avoid this problem, but no one does that for the speedier, larger replacements. Upgraders get more -- or less -- than they bargained for.

How can you tell for sure if your drive is affected? Download a shareware program like smartctl or Volitans Software's Smart Utility and look for the load cycle count. Hard drives are rated for only a few hundred thousand of those. If your drive has gone through thousands or hundreds of thousands in a short time, you're in trouble.

This kind of hard drive is still relatively new, and hopefully Apple will tackle the problem in Snow Leopard. But meanwhile, you can turn off the head parking yourself. On the Mac, the key is Bryce McKinlay's tiny shareware program hdapm. You can get it at

http://mckinlay.net.nz/hdapm/

The included instructions are geared toward Unix geeks, and they don't all work with the latest version of Leopard. But luckily, you don't need to follow them exactly. I'll tell you what to do instead. But first you'll need to download Peter Borg's shareware program Lingon 2.1.1 (the last version before development was halted). Ignore the big green "Download" button on the Lingon page -- it's for an older version -- and get the program instead from


Ready?

1. Move the file hdapm into /Applications/Utilities/ and authenticate.

2. With Lingon, create a new launchd configuration file with these settings:

-- "Where" is "Users Daemons."

-- "Name" is something like

com.yourusername.launchd.hdapm

Replace "yourusername" with your OS X account name. (That's the name next to the house in your Finder sidebar, and it's case sensitive.)

-- "What" is

/Applications/Utilities/hdapm disk0 max

(That's a zero following "disk", not the letter O. And don't leave out the initial slash!)

-- "When" is "Run it when it is loaded by the system (at startup or login)."

3. Save and authenticate. This places the file com.yourusername.launchd.hdapm.plist in /Library/LaunchDaemons, from where it will run the specified Terminal command with root privileges at startup or login.

4. Restart, then open Console. Search on "hdapm." You should see lines like this:

6/30/2009 9:15:41 PM com.AaronShep.launchd.hdapm[42] disk0: WDC WD3200BJKT-00F4T0
6/30/2009 9:15:41 PM com.AaronShep.launchd.hdapm[42] Setting APM level to 0xfe:
6/30/2009 9:15:41 PM com.AaronShep.launchd.hdapm[42] Success

That confirms it! Your clicks will be gone and your drive will wear normally. Enjoy your quiet computer!

Update -- This fix has had mixed results for my visitors. Though I can only report what has worked for me, the comments below might include suggestions better suited to your own Mac.