Graphic Arts’ IT Guy – September 09

Q: My son downloaded some Dashboard Widgets and screensavers onto our Intel iMac and now we are getting a grey screen that tells us to press the power button to restart the iMac. Do we need to delete his account?

A: The grey screen with “restart” you are seeing means your Mac is experiencing a kernel panic, which can indicate a problem with the hardware or an incompatible piece of software. The kernel is a piece of software that connects the operating system to your hardware. The Mac OS X system software is the same on a PowerPC, Intel or iPhone. However, each of these hardwares needs its own version of the kernel to connect it. Imagine if you had to put a Volkswagen engine in a Toyota – it’s not impossible, but the connections would need to be customized in order for them to interface properly. Apple builds a custom kernel to do the job.

That being said, some software developers write parts of the code to address the hardware directly aiming it at PowerPC or Intel or both. Apple came up with a technology called Rosetta, which translates code written for PowerPC on Intel Macs. For instance, Photoshop CS2 will run on Rosetta because it was developed before Apple changed the hardware over to Intel. Using Rosetta is also a bit slower because of the translation to make the software work.

In defense of our younger Mac users, you should know that each account on a Mac is kept separate. This protects the settings and the data of each user because of Mac OS X unix underpinnings. Your account is safe from anything that your son does on his own account. If you are still in doubt, you can create a new user called “Test” and log in as that user to see if you still experience a kernel panic. Sometimes a software update can also introduce the conditions that create software conflicts. This author advises users not to apply updates blindly unless you are sure that the update addresses a specific problem you have.

So when you are considering software either purchased or downloaded, you should check to make sure that it is “Intel Native” or “Universal” (meaning it is developed to run on both Intel or PowerPC.) If it is not, it will be run on top of Rosetta, which may result in software conflicts and, possibly, a kernel panic. As I said before, kernel panics can be hardware related, but it can also be software related. Figuring out which it is, is the trick.

Dashboard Widgets do not load into memory until you open dashboard from the dock or by pressing the dashboard key. Once it has been loaded, it stays active until you logout or restart.

You can also remove the screensavers or widgets to see if that will solve your problems.

To remove an OSX screensaver:

  1. Select “System Preferences” in the Apple menu.
  2. Select the Desktop and Screensaver panel.
  3. Select the Screensaver tab at the top of the panel.
  4. Select the screensaver you wish to uninstall from the list of screensavers.
  5. Click the “Options” button and then click the “Delete” button in the options sheet.

To remove a widget:

  1. Launch dashboard
  2. Click on the “X” in the lower left corner of your screen. It’ll then push everything up and present the launch strip of widgets.
  3. Click “Manage Widgets.”
  4. Click the red circle icon with a line through it next to the widget you want to remove. That will remove it from your computer.

Q: After applying the latest Mac OS X update on my computer, I can no longer send faxes with my Apple USB Fax/Modem.

A: Surprisingly, the Mac OS X 10.5.7 software update may affect the settings and your USB modem may stop sending faxes – but don’t worry, the fix is easy. Open “Print and Fax” in System Preferences and select your “External Modem” and press the minus sign to remove it. Then, choose “Fax PDF” from the print menu and your Mac will recreate a new “External Modem,” allowing you to send faxes.