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Mac OS X 10.3: Combo updaters; positives; troubleshooting

Mac OS X 10.3: Combo updaters; positives; troubleshooting

Today we again dedicate most of our coverage to the recently released Mac OS X 10.3.3 Update, as it has dominated the reader feedback we've received over the past few days.

"Combo" updaters available Apple has released the 10.3.3 "combo" updaters for both OS X 10.3 and OS X Server 10.3. These updaters contain all previous updates as well as the most recent 10.3.3 Update in a single installation package. Many users have reported greater success when installing OS X updates via the combo updater; similarly, many users who have had troubles after installing a major update have found that reinstalling the update using the combo updater fixes those problems.

More positive experiences We continue to receive a good number of positive reports from users about the 10.3.3 Update, most of them having to do with increased performance, faster startup, better network browsing, and reduced fan noise. Reader John Van't Land writes:

"My Dual 2 Ghz. G5 is much, much quieter than before. It is the most important aspect of the update in my opinion. For the first time it is so quiet I can hardly hear it! Before I felt like I was the only one who felt that its whisper quiet rating was not true."

Similarly, Steven Kapplin reports success, and notes his installation approach, which is similar to the recommendations we regularly provide on MacFixIt when new system updates are released:

"I've updated three machines to 10.3.3 without a problem, two Quicksilvers and a TiPB. I always follow a standard procedure for system installations: 1. Repair hard drive with Disk Utility and Disk Warrior; 2. Repair permissions; 3. Perform installation procedure; 4. Repair permissions. I also assure all maintenance scripts are run regularly and check the hard drive from time to time to assure it doesn't develop defects. I backup regularly."

Improvement: Function keys on PowerBooks and iBooks One frequent criticism of Mac OS X has been that, on PowerBooks and iBooks, the function keys (F1-F12) were, by default, used for system settings (screen brightness, volume, etc.). To use them as function keys, you needed to press the fn key. We've discovered that Mac OS X 10.3.3 adds a new option to the Keyboard tab of Keyboard & Mouse preferences: "Use the F1-F12 keys for custom actions." The label for this setting is a bit confusing, but it means that if you have this box checked, you can use your function keys as function keys; to use them for system settings, you need to press the fn key. This is a welcome option.

Confirmation of UPS preferences requirement Yesterday, in response to a reader report that 10.3.3's new UPS tab in Energy Saver preferences wasn't showing up, we speculated that a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) needed to be connected to the Mac via USB in order for the new tab to appear. In other words, the Mac needs to be able to communicate with the UPS.

We've since received confirmation of this suspicion from several MacFixIt readers: The UPS tab will only appear if the UPS is connected via USB. This is consistent with other hardware-specific preference panes -- such as Bluetooth, Ink, and the Trackpad tab of Keyboard & Mouse -- which only appear, or provide certain options, when such hardware is connected.

10.3.3 Update reverses Security Update 2003-12-19 for some users It appears that, at least for some users, the 10.3.3 Update appears to actually make OS X less secure than 10.3.2 and earlier. Specifically, Security Update 2003-12-19 (released, as its name suggests, last December), provided a fix for CAN-2003-1006, a security vulnerability due to the fact that the cd9660.util utility was installed by OS X with improper permissions (setuid root) that made it vulnerable to a buffer overflow expoit. However, reader Mark Chally points out that on his Macs, repairing permissions after installing OS X 10.3.3 incorrectly changed the privileges on cd9660.util to -rwsr-xr-x (setuid root):

"When repairing permissions after install, I got a bewildering entry on every install:

    Permissions differ on ./System/Library/Filesystems/cd9660.fs/cd9660.util, should be -rwsr-xr-x, they are -rwxr-xr-x.

"It goes on to say it corrected it. '-rwsr-xr-x' sure looks like a typo to me (s?)"

If the cd9660.util file gets set with those permissions, it definitely appear to be a mistake. However, on our Macs, repairing permissions after installing 10.3.3 did not result in this change; cd9660.util kept the correct privileges (-rwxr-xr-x). So this bug doesn't appear to affect everyone.

DVD Player not recognizing drives Yesterday we noted a number of reports from readers that under 10.3.3, DVD Player no longer recognizes their DVD drives, giving the error There was an initialization error. A valid DVD drive could not be found. [-70012]. After further correspondence with some of these readers, it appears that this issue only occurs with external DVD drives.

USB flash storage devices inaccessible We continue to receive reports of USB flash memory storage devices -- "thumb" drives, pen drives, USB card readers -- no longer functioning properly under OS X 10.3.3. The drives show up in System Profiler, but will not mount. We asked several readers if these drives were formatted as Windows volumes, as our Mac-formated SanDisk Cruzer Mini works fine with 10.3.3; however, we've now received multiple reports of issues with both Mac- and Windows-formatted flash devices no longer working after updating to 10.3.3.

USB Zip drive issues Yesterday we covered a report of USB Zip 100 drives no longer working after installing 10.3.3. We've since received conflicting follow-up reports, with approximately half confirming that Zip disks will no longer mount after the update, and the other half reporting no problems. We wonder if these USB Zip drive issues are related to the previous item (USB flash storage devices being inaccessible), and if they are actually symptoms of a larger problem relating to USB mass storage devices and 10.3.3.

SCSI problems (and successes) Several readers have emailed us to confirm the issue we covered yesterday with SCSI cards. Edward daMota notes:

"After installing the 10.33 update I am experiencing exactly the same problem that lLuis Marmello reported. My mirror door powermac G4 responded exactly the same way his computer did. Like Luis, when I reboot using 10.32 the SCSI device (Zip 250) shows up on the desktop and works fine."

On the other hand, Scott Rose has had no problems using an Orange Micro card:

We have had tremendous success with the Orange Micro Grappler SCSI 906f Card. This the only SCSI card that we have been able to get to work successfully in 10.2, 10.3, 10.3.2, and the brand new 10.3.3 which just came out a few days ago.

Safari issues We've had a number of reports of Safari not working with particular sites since installing 10.3.3. Reader Neil Johnson was specifically told by his bank that 10.3.3 is causing problems:

"Since installing 10.3.3, I cannot pay ebills via my Bank of America account on the Safari browser. Things worked o.k on Internet Explorer. I called the bank and they said they are having problems with the new update."

Mail junk filter Yesterday we covered several reports of problems with Mail's junk mail filter after installing 10.3.3. Specifically, the junk mail filter no longer worked at all for some users, and other users reported that they were no longer able to change "junk" messages back to "not junk." We've since received a number of responses from users for whom Mail, and the junk mail filter, are working great under 10.3.3, indicating that this is not a universal problem.

Among those who have experienced this issue, some report that clicking the Reset... button in the Junk Mail panel of Mail preferences fixes the problem (although it requires them to "retrain" the junk mail filter).

Retrospect won't auto-load tapes; related to 10.3.3 SCSI issues? Reni Barlow reports that Retrospect 6 can no longer auto-load tapes under 10.3.3:

"After upgrading a dual 2 GHz G5 to 10.3.3 the Sony TSL-300C AIT autoloader connected to an Atto ExpressPCI UL3S-66 SCSI Card would no longer scan the available media automatically to find the correct tape in Retrospect 6 with the latest driver update. It simply reports "No media." The drive is still recognized - though it appears twice in the device list, once as SCSI and again as the drive - and Retrospect recognizes media if I manually select a tape using the hardware buttons on the drive, but software control of the loader by Retrospect appears to have been broken. Too bad as Retrospect 6 had resolved the issue of being unable to auto-launch under Panther and everything was finally working nicely."

However, based on Reni's statement that the drive is still recognized, we suspect that this issue may be a symptom of larger SCSI-related issues with 10.3.3, rather than a problem with Retrospect. We'll follow up as we obtain more information.

Post-Update G5 fan behavior and reverting to pre-10.3.3 state We continue to receive mixed reports on G5 fan behavior after installing the Update. Many users are experiencing significantly quieter operation, ostensibly due to the "improved Fan Control system function" provided by the update. However some users -- in the minority if the reports we have received are representative -- have found that their G5s are louder than ever.

Reader Stephan Kohls, in the latter category, reports that reverting to an older kernel extension allowed him to reduce fan noise to previous levels:

    "My 1.6GHz G5 was really much louder after the update from 10.3.2 to 10.3.3. I resolved this by replacing a kernel-extension Plug-In with an older version (from the 10.3 Install CDs), deleting the Extensions.kextcache file (just to be sure) and a reboot. The package /System/Library/Extensions
    seems to contain everything a G5 uses to keep cool.

    10.3.3 version: PowerMac7_2_PlatformPlugin version 1.1.2
    Older version: PowerMac7_2_PlatformPlugin version 1.0.2

    "The system has about 13h uptime since the 'fix' and runs smoothly."

We should caution readers that Apple may have included additional fixes in the newer version of this kernel extension, and that the newer behavior -- though louder for some users -- may have been introduced to prolong the life of your Mac, so you should use the above procedure at your own risk.

Fan changes on other models? Although the release notes for the 10.3.3 Update only mention changes to fan behavior for Power Mac G5 models, a few PowerBook users have emailed us stating that it has also changed fan activity on their laptops. For example, Robert Howard notes that the fans on his new 15" PowerBook G4 "run constantly" since installing 10.3.3, and Iara Cardo notes, "Ever since updating my OS to 10.3.3, the fans on my PowerBook G4 12" 867 Mhz are working overtime."

In addition, we've also received reports of fan changes on Xserve models. Cory Cooper writes:

"I have noticed that my Xserve's blowers have sped up since the update. The Processor Module has gone from 1875 RPM to 3750 RPM and the PCI Slots blower has increased about 180 RPM. My Xserve is at a co-location facility and the room temps are stable to what they have been."

Inability to install Java 1.2.1 or Java 1.2.1 Update Reader Wolf McEwan reports that installing 10.3.3 prevents the installation of either Java 1.2.1 or Java 1.2.1 Update:

"I thought it might be a good idea to do a clean install: 10.3, 10.3.3 Combined Update, QuickTime 6.5, Java 1.2.1 Update 1... and there I'm stuck. When installing Java 1.2.1 or Java 1.2.1 Update 1 (no matter which), the Installer doesn't offer a drive to install. It keeps moaning You cannot install this software on this volume. Mac OS X 10.3.1 or higher is required for this update. Well. 10.3.3 is obviously higher, but to no avail."

However, Rick Zaki experienced the same problem and found that he was able to eventually install the Java package by letting Software Update download and install it.

Bluetooth connection issues Ilja Nieuwland notes issues maintaining Bluetooth connections since the update:

"Since updating to 10.3.3 this morning, I've experienced problems getting a stable bluetooth connection between my iBook (G3 800 MHz) and my SonyEricsson Z600. In 10.3.2 there were no problems, but now one or both devices regularly break off a connection."

PowerBook/iBook battery issues Yesterday we covered several reader reports of batteries not charging since installing 10.3.3. MacFixIt reader Ali Nasri notes that this issue only occurs for him when a USB pen drive is connected:

"I just installed a clean 10.3 then the 10.3.3. combined updater, repaired permissions, and see the exact same problem as Tim Sismey. However, when I unplugged my USB pen drive, the battery started charging again and as soon as I plug in the USB pen drive, the charging indicator stops and just shows that an AC adapter is plugged in."

Odd permissions error for cd9660.util A large number of users have emailed us that when repairing permissions after installing 10.3.3, the repair is successful, but one of the notes in the repair report states, "We are using special permissions for ./System/Library/Filedirectory/cd9660.fs/cdutil. New permissions are 33261." This is the same message that used to show up for the hfs.util utility; Apple has a Knowledge Base article that says to ignore that message. (We should note that this is the same file we mentioned above that is being set with incorrect permissions for some users. We don't yet know if these two issues are related.)

What's your experience with the 10.3.3 Update? Drop us an email at

  • OS X 10.3
  • OS X Server 10.3
  • CAN-2003-1006
  • Grappler SCSI 906f Card
  • Knowledge Base article
  • More from Late-Breakers