Problem 1: Extreme slow-down
Problem 2: DVD-R burn failures
Problem 1: Extreme slow-down
Lori’s computer is an iMac G4 1.25GHz, 17″ monitor running Panther. The first problem we ran into was an excruciating system slowdown. All of a sudden apps were taking upwards of 5 minutes to launch or respond to UI actions. Low-level ops such as window drawing and widget response was not affected. It seemed more things that the apps had to actuall process in specific code. In addition start-up seemed very slow: sometimes up to ten minutes from power on to complete desktop.
Lori called AppleCare three times (we bought the 3 year support extension). Overall I’m a bit concerned about the cluefullness level of their support. I’d say based on the people we spoke to it’s a notch below the savvy of Dell support techs (the other company I’ve had to call for tech support). To be fair, it seems they start with the not-so-savvy folks to screen out the CD-tray-as-cupholder level of support issues. The third time Lori called she did seem to get transferred to a more technical handler, but even then they didn’t seem hip to the fix that I eventually did find.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first techie said that the whole problem was low disk space. True enough we had only about 4GB left on an 80GB drive, but I was still surprised that this would have the effects we were seeing on a BSD-based OS. Nevertheless we dutifully nuked 20GB of crud (which took forever because of the system sluggishness: just navigating finder was a click-and-go-get-coffee experience). Freeing up disk space had no effect.
So Lori called back. The second techie seemed to think that sufficient reboots would do the trick. Amazingly enough, this did work on the third reboot (though I never believed the “fix” would stick). Surely enough, the system went back to the super-slowdown later on the very same day.
I tried upgrading the 256MB RAM to 512MB, even though Activity Monitor wasn’t showing memory bound or CPU bound problems (note: the dmesg logs weren’t much help except as a precise record in timestamps of the super-slow startup). No dice. Side note: opening up the unit to perform the upgrade, I was once again impressed by the tidiness and attentiveness of Apple’s design. These really are slick machines, even though the software often doesn’t quite “fit my head”.
I threw up my hands and went Googling hard (a more superficial googling earlier hadn’t yielded much). It did seem that mny others had run into the slowdown problem with the update to OS X 10.3.6. When Lori and I thought about it, her problems did start about the time of that upgrade. I saw some posted suggestions, including clearing font caches (not an issue in our case). Nothing worked until I started to come across discussions of disk permissions “repair”.
I ended up going to Disk Utility (I found it in Finder under Applications -> Utilities ). I selected the HArd drive volume and clicked “Verify Disk Permissions”. Thousands of errors scrolled by, so I then clicked “Repair Disk Permissions”. There was no immediate effect. but after a reboot, the system was back to its old, snappy self. Hallelujah.
An amusing epilogue is that Lori happened to be on the phone with techie number 3 while I was applying the permissions fix. This time she’d apparently been shunted to one of the more advanced techies. When Lori told the techie of my fix, the techie seemed to sound as if it was a kooky idea. Nevertheless, the system has been in good order ever since. I hope Apple soon educates its support staff about the permissions fix, which is, after all, a very easy fix to apply.
Problem number 2: DVD-R burn errors
Shorter story this time. We were having trouble burning DVD-Rs in iDVD 3 (but not in Roxio Lite for OS X). Burns would fail on Memorex and Imation 2x DVD-R media as well as on super-cheapo Comp-USA media (no surprise on the latter score). They seemed to work reliably on Apple media and TDK 4x media. I went to Best Buy today where Memorex 8x media was on sale, but the first burn on this media also failed. I smelled a rat at this point. Back to Google.
I ended up finding this posting and tried the suggested Energy Saver settings (actually, we set “put the computer to sleep when inactive…” to 1 hour rather than “none”). Bingo. That did the trick. No bad burns since then (just as well, because we were getting fed up with coasters). I’m surprised that iDVD doesn’t automatically tweak the system sleep settings to avoid such problems. Maybe it does so in the iDVD4 update?