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Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

MacFixIt Answers is a weekly feature in which we answer questions e-mailed in by our readers. We welcome alternative approaches and views from readers and encourage you to post your own suggestions in the comments.

MacFixIt Answers is a feature in which we answer e-mailed questions from our readers. This week there were questions on maintaining iCal syncing on older versions of OS X, options to prevent batteries from expanding, using a hybrid drive in a Macbook Pro, and concerns about performance impacts of "Throttling Respawn" messages in the system console. We continually answer e-mail questions, and though we present a few answers here, we certainly welcome alternative approaches and views from readers and encourage you to post your suggestions in the comments.

Question: Maintaining iCal syncing on older Macs

MacFixIt reader "Steve" asks:

I manage a number of Macs that really can't be upgraded beyond 10.4 and yet are in my iCal sync group. When Apple changes the format of iCal on May 5th. How can I update them? I can't throw them out. Can I backup the iCal program on a newer Mac with 10.6 and them import that backup file into a Mac with 10.4's iCal?

Why has not Apple made the solution clear for many of us that still depend on usable OS 10.4 Macs that do the job but need iCal to sync with the others? I've been a .mac (mobileme) subscriber since Jan 5, 2000.... and I feel like Apple has not made a solution for the many of us out there that depend on Apple apps and their hardware.


Unfortunately full support for Apple's MobileMe syncing is moving beyond OS X 10.5 and earlier, so the only option to retain it is to upgrade to Snow Leopard (that would mean upgrading your OS if you can, or getting new Macs if you cannot). However, there are a couple of options still available:

  1. Use a CalDAV server

    iCal uses the open CalDAV standard that is implemented in both OS X Server and other services like Google's Gmail. You can set up a server or create a Gmail account and then use iCal to manage your calendars and user delegations on it. This would mean migrating your calendars to this service provider and then subscribing all client systems to it, but it is likely the more complete option.

  2. Publish and subscribe

    In iCal you can publish a local calendar to a common location (such as a local network server, or an internet FTP/WebDAV server) and then subscribe to it from other computers. This will save the calendar as a ICS file by the main Mac, that the client systems will then regularly download to update iCal with. This is not a true "sync," but is one option that may work. Similar to this is if you export the calendars to ICS files from a "master" system and then import it into each client system, though this would regularly take a bit of effort.

Question: Preventing batteries from expanding

MacFixIt reader "bostonantifan" asks:

I would love to know if you know of any replacement batteries for 17" MacBook Pros (early 2008 models) that don't expand out of shape when they come to the end of their life cycles. I had one do that today, and it affected my keyboard and trackpad. I don't want this problem again, but all I've seen are complaints about these batteries. Apple support says the batteries are designed to do this so that they don't explode when they "expire". Sounds like an extremely lame explanation to me. Any ideas?


It's true the the last thing you want is for the battery to explode. If it leaks corrosive liquid into your system, then you'll likely need to replace the entire motherboard and other components (RAM, optical drive, trackpad), which can be very expensive. In very rare cases batteries have caught fire, though I've only heard of this happening with some PC systems and not Apple's (there's a video out somewhere of a laptop in a conference suddenly bursting into flames from the battery).

When it comes to batteries I do not have much personal experience with comparing and contrasting them, but from what I've heard, Apple's batteries seem to be the most reliable. Apple is one of the few companies that really puts effort into batteries and offers some of the best options out there. The only times I've heard of people using third-party batteries is to try to get longer lifetimes or cheap deals.

All batteries have the potential for expanding like this, and it's more of a hit-or-miss that a particular battery will do this. Your best bet for avoiding this issue is to take care of your battery by regularly calibrating it (charging it fully, then draining it fully until the system goes into deep sleep, and then charging it back up again). This will help exercise the battery cells and keep the components from getting odd dead spots that could contribute to the warping.

Question: Upgrading a MacBook Pro with a hybrid drive

MacFixIt reader "Justin" asks:

I have a macbook pro A1226 2.4ghz and want o squeeze more out of it. Do you recommend the seagate xt 500gb hybrid? Are there any problems that i should be aware of before upgrading to the hybrid?


The Seagate XT hybrid drives technically should work in Macs, but a few people have have had problems with them. The main issues appear to have been with an older "SD23" firmware version for the drives, so if you have a newer "SD25" or later version, then that should help avoid the issues that Mac users have had (hanging, drives appearing to be full, systems not sleeping, and applications not loading).

Here is an article that outlines how to check the firmware version of the drive, and upgrade it if you want (it does get a touch involved).

Ultimately the drive should offer a big speed increase over mechanical drives (boot times and application load times), but as always be sure you keep your system backed up, regardless of what you use as your main boot drive. If it were my choice, I would go for it, and ensure that I have a good, reliable, and regular backup going.

Question: "Throttling Respawn" console message and system performance

MacFixIt reader "Marcos" asks:

Hello i have found your article about the Throttling respawn messing on OSX, and I wonder if this message can slowdown the system response at some point?


The message is because a background process is not starting correctly. In itself the message will not slow your system down, but if you need the process that is not starting properly, then you might experience some hangs when other aspects of the system try to access the process; however, for the most part the most you will see is a lack of service instead of a hang or other slowdown.

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