Monthly archives for March 2006

Published on March 31, 2006

I’ve seen a number of questions on the web related to frozen iPods which either get stuck on or off. Holding the Hard Reset buttons indicated in the previous post will — if the iPod is accepting any input at all — force it to do a full reboot. In most cases, the freeze is a one-time issue, and this solution will get you out of the situation.

However, if the iPod reboots and gets stuck again, try resetting it yet again and holding the Disk Mode buttons to force the iPod to become a simple external hard drive. When connected via USB or FireWire, it can be Restored with Apple’s latest iPod Updater software. Sometimes a Restore is the best way to get your iPod working again, as it wipes the device clean and reloads all the factory settings. The Restore function is so deep that it will even fix an iPod hard drive which has been completely written over with zeroes!

If the iPod is still locking up, it may be the result of a more serious problem that can be determined by thoroughly testing the hard drive. Stay tuned for more iPod fixing tips in the very near future.

Published on March 30, 2006

I grew tired of Googling each time I needed the correct button sequence to put iPods into their various modes, so I’ve put together this little table.

iPod Generation Hard Reset Diagnostic Mode Disk Mode
1st Generation “Scroll Wheel” Menu + Play Previous + Center + Next Previous + Next
2nd Generation “Touch Wheel” Menu + Play Previous + Center + Next Previous + Next
3rd Generation “Touch Wheel” Menu + Play Previous + Center + Next Previous + Next
4th Generation “Click Wheel” Menu + Center Previous + Center Center + Play
5th Generation “Click Wheel” Menu + Center Previous + Center Center + Play
Published on March 23, 2006

I work at a small but fantastic place fixing up computer hardware of all kinds. Most of the time, this involves desktop PCs, laptops, and rackmount servers, but every so often a unique item comes by that makes you wonder what it’s capable of. Today, this item was a Montana state lottery ticket machine. While the machines used ancient computer hardware and had no trace of lottery related data (darn!), I did spend a couple minutes testing it and, naturally, launching Doom! The LCD on the machine was monochrome and only used the top left quarter of the video output. With some configuration, video could probably be sized to use the available space, but I didn’t want to put more than a couple minutes into hacking, as this is work, after all.

Click below for larger images at Flickr.

Published on March 19, 2006

For those who own a shiny new Intel Mac and a copy of Windows XP, it’s now possible to install Mac OS X and Windows on different partitions and pick a system at startup. Driver support is, not surprisingly, still lacking, but should be brought up to par in the next few weeks. Apple’s transition to the Intel architecture has opened the door both ways — Windows can run on Macs, and Mac OS X can run on PCs. Choice is good.

Published on March 8, 2006

John Siracusa at ArsTechnica points out a bug I’ve experienced more than once with various Macs. High frequency changes in CPU power draws on some Macs’ power supplies can cause them to emit sounds.

Then I noticed a strange noise…a chirping sound. I chased down the source, I searched the net for solutions, and I eventually wrote about it here at Ars in March of 2004. The summary: the power supply in the revision 1 Power Mac G5 made chirping noises, and there was no hardware-based fix in sight.

Sure, it’s hardly an OS crippling bug, but in a quiet environment it can be quite distracting. This bug also affects more than just G5 hardware — I can hear my PowerBook G4 (1.25 GHz 15″) making sounds at I type. I’m positive of the source for two reasons. For one, I use MenuMeters to display a small CPU usage graph and ATA bus read/write indicators in my Mac’s menu bar. Neither are active, yet I can still hear the faint clicks. Second, John links to a utility called SystemLoad which will actually play a scale on the power supply by adjusting CPU usage levels. Hearing my machine’s power circuitry play a tune is, well, creepy and unsettling.

John goes on to say that a feature of the processors, CPU “napping,” allows the unit to temporarily lower its power consumption and “wake up” as needed, often many times a second. I’ve found that this feature can be controlled by installing Apple’s CHUD (Computer Hardware Understanding Development) tools and disabling the napping option in the new Processor system preference pane. (As a side note, the Processor prefpane icon changed from a Motorola chip to that of an Intel Pentium 4 style chip many months before the Intel transition. At the time I wondered why they made the change, but only recently has the tiny interface tweak become clear.) Upon unchecking the box, the change is immediate and the clicks are silenced. SystemLoad no longer plays tunes with my analog hardware. With napping disabled, though, the CPU tends to generate more heat. In return, the fans come on more often and kick up even more noise than the faint clicking. This situation is lose-lose, and is one I should not even be dealing with considering the original selling price of the machine. Apple needs to get with the program and start producing quieter analog electronics. I know digital is all the rage these days, but electricity isn’t going anywhere for a long, long time. Or, more accurately, it’s going everywhere all the time, but it should not make noise doing so.