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Troubleshooting Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) #10: Security Update; Macromedia Studio; HP printer drivers; Virtual memory use; more

Troubleshooting Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) #10: Security Update; Macromedia Studio; HP printer drivers; Virtual memory use; more

Problems installing Security Update 2003-11-04 We've received a couple of reports of problems installing the recent Security Update 2003-11-04 (previously available only via Software Update, but now available via this Apple Knowledge Base article). Both reports describe similar symptoms -- an installer crash/quit -- on similar computers. Reader Jefferis Peterson, using a Power Mac G4/500, tried to install the update three times, twice directly from within Software Update, the third time by downloading the installer package first and then using Installer directly. Repairing permissions and checking the drive for problems didn't fix the problem. Jim Hays, using a Power Mac G4/450, had tries to install the update "many times" using both Software Update and a manual download/install. Although these are the only reports we've received about this problem, the fact that they were so similar, and occurred on similar Mac hardware, led us to post the details in case other users are having the same problem.

Macromedia Studio MX issue Jason Snell, Editor of Macworld, pointed us to a significant issue (and its solution) affecting users of Macromedia MX 2004 and Contribute 2 applications who have upgraded to Panther from an earlier version of Mac OS X. If you upgrade to Panther using the Archive and Install or Erase and Install process, Macromedia activation files are not properly transferred (or are deleted altogether), and Macromedia software refuses to launch. (Specifically, it appears to launch -- its Dock icon bounces -- but it never finishes.)

A Macromedia ServiceNote provides the solution: after installing Panther, delete the /Library/Preferences/Macrovision folder (located in the main Library folder at the root level of your hard drive). The next time you launch the affected product, you'll be prompted to reactivate it. (If this procedure doesn't work for you, Macromedia recommends reinstalling the application itself.)

Panther HP printer drivers and ink cartridges We recently received a report that the Panther printer drivers for HP inkjet printers differ from earlier HP drivers in one significant respect: they prevent you from printing once the printer reports low ink levels. Reader Arne Berglund writes:

"The HP printer driver included with Panther (version 2.3.1) appears to have been designed to increase sales of HP ink cartridges. Most HP Deskjet owners know that you can continue printing long after the HP utilities report that the cartridges are out of ink, and we wait to replace it until it really stops printing. But the Panther-supplied driver interupts the print job if it detects low ink levels, and only offers choices to stop or delete the jobs. There appears to be no way to make it print if the utility thinks it is out of ink. Reverting to an earlier driver (in my case 2.0f) restored printing with no cartridge change."

Reader Gavin Greenoak reports that the Panther HP drivers also no longer provide the option to change print quality to "draft" mode in order to conserve ink. If you've experienced either of these issues, drop us a line at the address below.

Panther and virtual memory use A few readers have reported issues with Panther's memory use, which appears to generate a significantly larger number of virtual memory swap files than Jaguar did. (We've also seen similar reports on other sites around the Web and in Apple's Discussions forums.) Reader David Peever writes:

"There appears to be a serious problem with the way that virtual memory/swap files eats up hard disk space in Panther. This results in alerts advising that the hard disk is full ? the only way to clear the temporary files is to restart the machine. This is a crazy situation with what is supposed to be an advanced operating system requiring regular restarts. The problems have affected an iBook G3 600Mhz with 384MB RAM and a 600MHz iMac with 384MB RAM."

In our experience, Panther itself requires more memory than Jaguar did, and 384MB of RAM is simply not enough for good performance, despite Apple's "minimum system requirements" of 256MB. If you have less than 512MB of RAM, you'll probably see significantly more virtual memory swap files -- and therefore less free drive space -- than you would have seen under Jaguar. In fact, it wasn't until we upgraded our own computers to 640MB or more that we saw noticeable performance improvements. (To be fair, we work with a large number of applications, some of them RAM-hungry, open at the same time.)

Panther access changes go to far? In Jaguar, one of the most common criticisms was that users couldn't move or delete files because they didn't have permission/access. In Panther, Apple has attempted to address this issue by allowing administrative users to authenticate -- by providng their admin-level username and password -- in order to perform such actions. However, we've received reports of systems that have been rendered unusable by users experimenting with this new feature. A post in an Apple Discussions forum best explains the risk:

"On a whim [I] thought to myself, 'Oh, it can't be that easy to hose the System/Library directory, can it?' Tried it in 10.2.8 and couldn't do it [when] logged in with Admin privilegs. On the 10.3 box, logged in...as an Admin, hit Command-Delete on the /System/Library directory and *POOF* it went to the trash can. Couldn't retrieve the folder from the trash. A reboot resulting in a screen full of kernel panic warnings and other text, ending with 'panic: we are hanging here.' The system is totally hosed and I'm reinstalling as I type this."

Granted, the user could have booted into single-user mode, mounted the drive, and then used a few Unix commands to restore the /System/Library directory to its proper location. However, most users would not know how to do this.

We haven't tried to verify this procedure -- the ability to move the entire /System/Library directory to the Trash -- on our own system, for obvious reasons; however, based on the experiments we have tried with important system-level files, it appears to be possible. If so, one could argue that Apple went too far in trying to make OS X "more convenient" when it comes to deleting files. Some might point out that in OS 9, users could move the System Folder to the Trash. But we didn't consider that a good thing, either.

Panther problems? Drop us an email at Late-breakers@macfixit.com.

Resources
  • this Apple Knowledge Base ...
  • Macworld
  • ServiceNote
  • Late-breakers@macfixit.com
  • More from Late-Breakers