Oddness was happening.
Over the last couple of weeks, I noticed odd things kept happening on my PowerBook. Shiira would launch but wouldn’t function. Preview did weird things when I tried to quit it. Photoshop Elements 4 wouldn’t launch at all, which was pretty annoying at a time when I was trying to write an article about it.
After this last problem appeared, I tried a simple experiment; created a completely fresh user account on the same machine, and installed PE4 there. It worked just fine, so I made my diagnosis: something was broken inside my user space, and whatever it was I wanted to fix it.
True, all the apps I needed to use every day were still working without any problems, but I felt uneasy about using the machine without taking preemptive action. I found myself worrying that it might suddenly die on me just when I needed it not to.
And rather than re-install and simply drag my apps and documents back in from backups, I took the route that required more work: re-install everything manually, from scratch, to make sure everything was as pristine as I could get it.
So that meant downloading fresh copies of all my essential apps, re-entering license codes where necessary, and going through each one to import data, change preferences, and add passwords. It took some hours. Downloading all the updates from raw 10.4 and straight-from-disk iLife 06 took quite a while too.
But now I’ve almost reached the end of the process and things feel so much better. The computer feels a little more snappy than it was before, and all the symptoms of oddness have disappeared. The step-by-step reset was time-consuming, but worth doing. I can recommend this approach to anyone whose Mac is misbehaving.