Mac OS X 10.3.6: FireWire drives not mounting, other problems; Calculator bugs; Java; more

Mac OS X 10.3.6: FireWire drives not mounting, other problems; Calculator bugs; Java; more


Last Friday Apple released Mac OS X 10.3.6. The update includes numerous enhancements, and has been generally well received with most users reporting a hassle-free upgrade process and even slightly improved performance in some cases. A number of problems, however, have arisen.

FireWire drives not mounting, other problems The most widely reported problem, and perhaps the most serious, is a loss of FireWire drive functionality -- an issue that appeared in previous incremental Mac OS X updates, including 10.3.5, 10.3.4, 10.3.3, and even the original Mac OS X 10.3 Panther release.

In previous cases, one viable workaround was to replace the IOFireWireFamily.kext (located in System/Library/Extensions) introduced by the incremental update with a version of the kernel extension from a system that had not been updated, or from an earlier update package. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that the same workaround will apply to Mac OS X 10.3.6, as the IOFireWireFamily.kext is not updated by the release.

MacFixIt reader Steve Smith is among the many users reporting this problem. He writes "After upgrading, I can no longer mount my Crossfire 160 GB firewire hard drive. The OS eventually gave me a dialogue box about a drive that was not recognizable by the OS and I selected the Eject button in the dialog. A Que QPS drive daisy chained on the same firewire port mounts just fine."

Issues are not restricted to mounting -- many users are finding that they can no longer boot from previously working FireWire drives. Gabriel Dorado writes "After updating external, booting FireWire disks from several manufacturers from Mac OS X 10.3.5 to 10.3.6 (booting from them when applying the standalone combo updater), it is not possible to boot from such disks any more. Even worse: the data inside some of such disks is totally or partially lost!"

Not all drives are affected by the Mac OS X 10.3.6 issue -- manifestation of the problem appears dependent on the chipset being used by the drive mechanism, though we've been unable (as of yet) to pinpoint a specific set or manufacturer.

So far, there are a few ways to approach this problem.

First, make sure your FireWire drive's firmware is up to date. In response to the last major FireWire failure episode, Apple recommended that users check with their drive manufacturers for possible firmware revisions and some users who are experiencing the current problem found resolve in the same manner.

Second, if your drive enclosure also offers USB 1.1 or USB 2.0 connectivity, attempt the connection via the alternate port. A number of users report that while drives cannot mount or boot properly when connected via FireWire, they can do so without issue when connected via USB.

MacFixIt reader Ken Watters writes "I have a G5 iMac and a 160 GB Acomdata firewire/USB external drive. Following the installation of the 10.3.6 update, the external drive could not be recognized when connected by firewire. It would neither mount nor be recognized by Disk Utility. Hooking it up via USB 2.0 solved the problem immediately."

Third, if access to your FireWire-only drives is critical, you can perform a reversion to Mac OS X 10.3.5. Use your original Mac OS X 10.3.x disc to perform an Archive and Install process, then re-apply the Mac OS X 10.3.5 combo updater.

Finally, make sure no FireWire drives are connected to your system while you apply the Mac OS X 10.3.6 updater. A number of users have reported data loss or drive corruption, both of which may be avoided by properly unmounting then disconnecting your FireWire drive prior to beginning the update process.

Calculator Bugs Two apparent bugs have appeared in Mac OS X's calculator with the arrival of 10.3.6.

First, when users attempt to use certain Calculator plug-ins (Expression Sheet, Graphing or Hex), they are presented with a blank brushed-metal window with no ability to proceed.

Another problem affects decimal point entry. One MacFixIt reader writes "The calculator in the 10.3.6 update is broken. Trying to enter a zero after the decimal point results in nothing showing up in the display. The zeros are actually recognized but do not show up until after a non-zero number is entered. For example, try to enter 1.0001 into the calculator. The 1 will show up, then a decimal symbol below the number, then nothing happens until you hit the final one when the last portion of the number shows up."

The decimal point problem also appears in earlier versions of Mac OS X, including 10.3.5.

Deleting Calculator's .plist files and other standard workarounds have not proved successful.

Note about different software update sizes Several readers have noted that the Mac OS X 10.3.6 package obtained through Software Update is different sizes on different machines.

As detailed here on MacFixIt, this is due to a change in Apple's distribution scheme, where three different sizes of updaters are available -- and Software Update automatically picks the version required by each Mac OS X installation. As explained by Apple:

"Not every computer that has Mac OS X 10.3.4 or later can benefit from smaller Software Updates. Why? Sometimes, modifications made to Mac OS X system files, including ones made by third-party products, may require the installation of a full sized version of a Mac OS X software update. Again, you don't have to worry about figuring out which kind of update is best for you, just let Software Update preferences do the work."

This provides for some potential confusion with regard to updating multiple Macs and installing individual files from update packages, discussed in a previous article.

Java problems Re-installation of the Java 1.4.2 update 2 may be necessary on some systems experiencing Web content issues with Mac OS X 10.3.6.

One reader writes "I was having trouble with a java program failing to run after running the 10.3.6 combo updater on a 10.3.5 installation. It turned out the java 1.4.2 installation was now messed up somehow. I reinstalled java (using both the 1.4.2 base install plus the 1.4.2 Update 2 update), and java then worked fine. After hunting around, I have found discussions where people who have had the same problem claim that simply running the Java 1.4.2 Update 2 alone will solve the problem."

A handful of other readers corroborate.

The Java 1.4.2 update 2 can be downloaded from Apple's Web site and easily installed over a standard Mac OS X 10.3.6 installation.

Avoid performing other operations during the update process Several users have found problems occur if they are performing other system-intensive operations while applying the Mac OS X 10.3.6 -- not recommended.

One user writes "I started installing the update. It looked like it would take a while. at the 'optimizing' phase. I started browsing the web. My girlfriend wanted me to play a DVD, so I started the dvd player and connected the s-video cable. I had to "detect displays" for the TV to display the movie. That crashed the system. The mouse froze. SSHd was down. Nothing worked. I waited a while and rebooted. The system now gets as far as "Starting Login Window" but then it just sits there."

Another reader writes: "My Mac crashed during the update with the "you need to restart" screen when I plugged in a USB stick. Luckily, this happened during the optimization phase, so everything was installed already. You may want to avoid messing with USB devices during this update."

Quitting all open applications and disconnecting all external peripherals during the update process can, in some situations, prevent serious issues.

Changes in audio volume, quality A few users have noted a change in audio volume and quality since applying the Mac OS X 10.3.6 update. MacFixIt reader Hanson Jiang's report is representative:

"I have just installed the OS X 10.3.6 update on a Dual 1 GHz MDD Power Mac G4. Before the install, I had my system volume at 50%, with iTunes at 100%. After restarting, I noticed that iTunes seemed to be playing considerably louder, even though the volume settings were the same. I tried playing around with the volume (both iTunes and system) but it still seems to be louder than before. (I didn't touch the speakers either.)

I initially fixed the issue by unplugging and re-plugging my speakers from my G4's rear audio port. Immediately, my volume set itself to 10/16 (up from 8/16 before) and the volume levels seem to have corrected themselves. I later discovered that it was only temporary. After restarting, the volume returns to its louder-than-normal level. Ways of temporarily fixing this (until the next restart/boot) include unplugging and then re-plugging your speakers from the back of the machine, and sleeping and then waking. This issue always returns after the machine is shut down or restarted. I've tried zapping PRAM and going through open firmware [reset-nvram, reset-all], nothing seems to help."

For some other readers, zapping PRAM does appear to provide some relief from this problem:

One reader writes, simply "After updating, audio volume was increased, and quality was decreased. Zapping the PRAM does fix the audio volume/quality problem for me."

DNS issue not fixed Many readers had hoped that this update would resolve a relatively widespeard problem with DNS lookup that affects Safari's ability to connect to Web servers and other networking functions.

Unfortunately, though Mac OS X 10.3.6 eliminates Safari's Web page locating timeout, it does not resolve the DNS lookup issue that often necessitates two or more attempts before successfully connecting to a virtual address.

A reader writes "I have the DNS problem with Mac OS X 10.3.6, it's taking two attempts to connect."

If your experience differs, please drop us a line at

Developer version of Safari (1.3) broken If you are a developer who has installed the beta version of Safari 1.3, you may experience problems using it with Mac OS X 10.3.6. One reader writes:

"Some time ago Apple released developer version of Safari 1.3 to the developers. This version is not available any more on ADC. I found, that after upgrade to 10.3.6, Safari in fact doesn't work at all - i must use other browsers. I didn't found any mention about this from Apple side, and I'm looking for some normal solution how to make it working, without reinstalling of system. "

In order to revert to the older version of Safari with full functionality, you will need to not only download the current public release, but also replace the file located at /System/Library/Frameworks/WebKit.framework with one from a system that was not updated to Mac OS X 10.3.6.

DVD player fails with ATI Radeon 9800 MacFixIt reader Aaron Smith reports that after updating to Mac OS X 10.3.6, DVD player no longer worked. When trying to play DVDs, Apple DVD Player displayed the following error:

"The current machine or system configuration is not supported. [-70013]"

Smith offers the following, fairly involved workaround: "I checked the version of the Apple ATI Drivers installed, and noticed they had been updated from to since the last OS update. Suspecting this version change to be the source of the problem, I first pulled the following files from another Macintosh that had yet to be updated:

  • /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeon9700.kext
  • /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeon9700DVDDriver.bundle
  • /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeon9700GA.plugin
  • /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeon9700GLDriver.bundle

"Note: Radeon 9700 drivers support (at least) the 9700 and 9800 graphics cards.

"I then opened Terminal on the affected 10.3.6 Macintosh, and executed the following command, which moved all ATI Radeon 9800 driver files to my home directory:

  • sudo mv /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeon9700* ~/

"I checked the files that had been moved, which included an extra file from the previous Mac OS version:

  • ATIRadeon9700VADriver.bundle

"Other systems may or may not have this file (I have yet to update our other Macintosh systems).

"Next, I did a drag-n-drop style move of the 4 older ATI driver files into the /System/Library/Extensions/ folder via the Finder. I was required to authenticate this action by entering my administrative password.

"Finally, to complete the manual downgrade, I ran the following command in Terminal to transfer ownership of the ATI drivers to the root user:

  • sudo chown -R root:wheel /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeon9700*

"Finally, I rebooted the machine and retested, finding the issue to be resolved for me.""

"While the solution I presented works, it causes another problem with iDVD 4.0 or 4.0.1. While trying to open an iDVD project after downgrading the drivers, I noticed iDVD acted as if nothing happened: the project did not open, and no error messages were displayed. Checking the Console application to check the system logs, I found iDVD was throwing exceptions that were getting ignored. Once I restored the newer Radeon 9700/9800 graphic drivers and rebooted, iDVD worked normally again. However now Apple DVD Player is broken. So users who use both applications will have to pick their poison until Apple comes up with a cure."


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