Archive for the ‘Tips and Tricks’ Category

MacBook Pro with ATI Radeon x1600 Display Anomalies

MacBook Pro (early 2006) users with ATI Radeon x1600 know these display anomalies desperately. These anomalies include horizontal lines on the screen, ugly distortions in images & videos and freeze ups / crashes (system crash) during normal usage.

I also have the same problem with my MacBook Pro. In my experience, this issue is related with firmware and hardware. I’ll explain them but first of all, if you have this problem with your MBP, don’t waste your time to reinstall Mac OS X, because the problem isn’t about OS X (Leopard, Snow Leopard…etc).

Firmware:
Problems with horizontal lines and system crashes began in mid 2008 after some firmware update. Some MBP users say; “I never had any problems with Tiger, then installed Leopard and all of a sudden my computer’s crashing all the time.” Yeah, this is true, but it is not about Leopard or Tiger. After Apple updated the firmware in 2008, then problem with display anomalies began. So don’t try to reinstall OS X. You can’t change your firmware, also you can’t revert to the old firmware too.

Hardware:
Overheating seems to be the important issue, once the temperature gets above ~ 65c usually system starts to exhibit graphics glitches, and then system crashes..etc. My MBP used to run at 78c (170f) at idle, wow look at the temperature at idle ! I even don’t want to talk about load temperature (around 92c). But before the firmware update (2008), there was no problem with temperature, temperature was still very high but wasn’t getting graphical errors or crashes.

Possible Fixes

smcFanControl
You can try smcFanControl. This little application lets you monitor the temperature and fan-speed of your intel mac. You can also set the minimum fan-speed for every fan manually and cool down your intel mac. I have been using smcFanControl for years, which does help significantly, but does not help when the computer is running 78c at idle (even with fans at 6005 rpm).

Reapply the Thermal Paste
I haven’t changed the thermal paste yet but some users did it.
Torley.com: “last saturday i’ve tried to change thermal paste on the GPU and CPU. I’ve seen that Apple Thermal paste was crunchy and solid. I’ve change for new artic silver 5 paste. But there is still horizontal line as soon as the temperature of GPU is over 60°C. But no more freeze…”

Clean your MacBook Pro
You can tightly and carefully vacuum the rear vent (where the screen meets the main body of the MacBook) with vacuum cleaner. This cleaning procedure maybe decrease some degrees of temperatures.

Install Windows / Linux
Somer users switched to Linux or Windows full-time and they say that the problem seems to have gone away. But I have to say that I haven’t had the same experience with them. When I boot into Windows XP, the splash screen displays anomalies. I even couldn’t install any Linux distributions (Ubuntu, Mint..etc) because of system crashes.

Main Solution

In conclusion, my MBP got worse and worse over time and I was only able to boot in safe mode. So my last chance was to remove ATI drivers from the system. When I removed the drivers, anomalies and crashes were all gone. You should know that; after removing these drivers, you won’t be able to play games and won’t be able to use 3d applications (Blender…), movies (VLC), pictures (Preview)… (*you can use other programs for movies & pictures like Chroma, QuickTime, Picasa…) I know this isn’t a concrete solution to problem but at least you will be able to use your computer without any display anomalies or system crashes.

Boot your MacBook in safe mode (immediately after you hear the startup tone, hold the Shift key), and delete the files above and reboot.

Here is the list of files to delete:

/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000.kext
/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000GA.plugin
/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000GLDriver.bundle
/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000VADriver.bundle
/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000.kext
/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000GA.plugin
/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000GLDriver.bundle
/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000VADriver.bundle

If you want to put the drivers back, just download the combo update from the Apple’s site and reinstall it. You don’t need to reinstall OS X, just download the combo update and install. Combo update will put the drivers back.

2D Dock on the Bottom

Default Mac OS X (10.5, 10.6, 10.6.2, 10.6.3) uses 3D dock on the bottom. When you change its position to right or left it becomes 2D but the bottom dock is 3D. So, if you want to use 2D dock on the bottom, open terminal and type the following command;

$ defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean YES; killall Dock

to get back to 3D dock, open terminal again and type the following command;

$ defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean NO; killall Dock

Flash Drive Showing 200MB on Windows

Well, I have 4GB USB Stick and decided to format as FAT32 using Disk Utility to use this flash disk both on Mac & Windows. Everything works fine on Mac, but not on Windows. When I insert the flash drive on a Windows computer, Windows (XP, Vista..etc) sees the USB Stick as removable media and will not let me open the flash drive to view the contents, it only forces me to format the stick at 200MB only. The stick is already formatted on Mac OS X and working fine on OS X with correct size.
Why ? When you format your flash drive using Disk Utility, it creates a 200 MB protective partition in front of the main partition. OS X ignores this partition and will see the entire flash drive as one partition.
You need to reformat the flash drive using additional tools. There are plenty of them like GParted (Gnome Partition Edior). But if you want a quick solution without any trouble, I recommend you HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool. This small application runs on Windows and all kinds of flash drives. When you format your flash drive using these utilities, you can use your stick on multiple platforms without any problem.

Terminal: Browsing Applications

Mac OS X has an elegant way of installing and uninstalling applications, just drag an drop and application to your desired folder and you are done. But once in a while every 10 years or so you need to make a change manually but there aren’t any files to edit it was a just a single file. Well it isn’t, its actually a folder OS X just treats them differently then regular folders on you computer. If you need to edit a setting inside an application manually you can do so in command line (terminal).

To do it, open up a terminal and browse to the folder where the application is you can use the change directory command “cd”, you also don’t need to type the whole folder name just type a few characters and hit tab and it will complete it for you. Following is how Firefox looks on the inside.

$ ls /Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/
.               Info.plist      PkgInfo         Resources
..              MacOS           Plug-Ins

Most applications has the same structure when it comes to organizing files.

$ ls /Applications/Mail.app/Contents/
CodeResources              MailTimeMachineHelper.app/ Resources/
Info.plist                 PkgInfo                    version.plist
MacOS/                     PlugIns/

Files and executables are under ‘MacOS’ folder. This is where you should look for the file you are looking for. Another neat trick is, you don’t need to run an application from GUI (Graphical User Interface aka aqua). If you need to run Firefox from command line you can use…

$ /Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/firefox-bin

Defeating Cooperate Firewalls

When you work at a company that won’t let you browse Facebook or any other itchy site. OS X comes with a utility called SSH (secure shell).

With it you can setup a secure encrypted channel between 2 machines and browse anything you want without IT department knowing about it.

What you need is a machine with SSH and a valid user account (Your home Mac ). Fire up a terminal on your work machine and enter.

ssh -ND 9999 -v userName@machine.com

This will setup the secure channel between your work machine and home machine. Anything you send to port 9999 on your local machine will be encrypted and forwarded to your home machine, from there it will travel unhindered to its destination.

Effectively by passing any Firewall or blocking rules your IT department migth have.

Now you have your secure channel things will not work magically. You need to set your browser to use the proxy you just setup.

Go to your browsers proxy settings

Safari:

Preferences -> Advanced -> Proxy -> Change  Settings -> Socks proxy

Firefox:

Preferences -> Advanced -> Network  -> Connection settings -> Socks proxy

Set your proxy ip to 127.0.0.1 and port 9999

You are set now, any thing your IT department will see is garbage going to/from your machine at home and machine at work.

For Firefox users there is a plugin called FoxyProxy which will let you use the proxy only when connecting to blacked list sites. Since proxy is a little bit slower than your local network it will speed up your overall browsing exprience.