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Some weeks previous the Power Mac G4 was given a new home with my youngest sister and her husband, and their three year old son.
So far as I knew at the time, the only problems the G4 had been exhibiting prior to the move was the occasional need to disconnect and reconnect the keyboard to enable typing at boot up. Other than that and the long-time problems in regards to printing web pages, it seemed fine.
I was surprised to find the original boxes for the G4 and its display in WebFLUX HQ storage, so I was able to well pack it up for its journey. We also bundled with it all the original CDs (recovery, etc.), required.
However, not long after it was 50 miles away, I began to hear from my brother-in-law of possible problems with the machine. Like the DVD drive and ZIP not working.
I emailed them the address of this user log for the G4, which included our own experiences with DVD drive ejection problems early on, and how we fixed them, plus reminded them of the need to zap a Mac's PRAM on occasion.
Alas, nothing seemed to work for him, and he ended up buying a replacement DVD drive, thinking the original had died.
But the second drive acted just as dead as the first after installation. And he couldn't try re-installing the OS, since he couldn't use the DVD drive.
The ZIP was still dead too.
In his efforts to get the things working, he'd also broken the mechanism which opened and closed the little door covering the drive tray, so that now it just hangs open all the time.
He'd consulted some folks closer to him distance-wise than me, who'd advised him to buy the second drive I believe.
Finally stumped by the problem-- plus unable to pour lots more time into it anyway, due to being a father and husband with a full-time job, he packed it all up and brought it back to me.
As long-time readers of this log know, I don't exactly relish troubleshooting Macs these days. Plus haven't used one regularly personally for maybe seven or eight years now. And besides that, Steve Jobs completely destroyed the original Mac interface and OS by replacing it with his NEXT abortion, and calling it OS X. YUCK!
I do not like OS X. Not one bit. It's not half as good as the original Mac GUI (graphical user interface). And for its five first years or so on the market actually didn't work as well as the original Mac OS either-- crashing and hanging up and stonewalling users with its still incomplete interface code in a manner the original 6 through 7.5 versions of the OS only did when infected with viruses and hurting bad for RAM or hard disk space. And OS X would act like this when its host Mac possessed more RAM and hard drive space than 95% of all other computers in town! Sheesh!
But now-- by mid-2008-- Apple has finally squashed most of those bugs. So that OS X is at long last matching the original Mac OS in basic functionality (not overall functionality, but basic functionality).
But it's still nowhere near as easy to use as the older 6 through 7.5 OS Macs.
For instance, the G4's current problem sounded like it was missing a DVD driver in its operating system. And we couldn't load its recovery CD to fix it.
And although the G4 can still surf the net, get email, and supposedly transfer files over the LAN, we could easily be stymied in any or all those routes in regards to restoring its DVD driver.
One problem is that ever since the very first version of OS X was released, I've never ever been able to get two OS X Macs in the same building to talk to each other over the LAN. Windows XP PCs here do it every day (with some occasional complaints and glitches). But OS X absolutely refuses to do anything in this regard.
And System 6 through 7.5 Macs gave me no problem I can recall on this point.
No, for two OS X Macs here to communicate, they must do it via FTP or email through a thousand miles of internet and back again. No direct talking to the other Mac sitting beside them on the desk is allowed.
Of course, it has been maybe a couple years since I last tried it. Maybe Apple finally got around to fixing that too, by now.
But I sure don't look forward to testing that hypothesis.
Plus, there's the software obesity problem. OS X is freaking huge. And monolithic. That is, to fix a single problem like a missing DVD driver, you somehow gotta get hundreds of MBs of software into your Mac-- and let it completely take over your machine to do the restore.
Unless you're a UNIX geek (maybe). Then perhaps you could cut through much of that crap and just do what's truly needed. Since OS X is UNIX.
But UNIX geeks are rare in all the parts of the country I've ever lived in. And I sure am not one myself. So I don't know the cryptic command strings to give OS X to get it to let me fix a Mac.
On an older System 6 through 7.5 Mac though, things like this could be lots easier to fix. Like as easy as dragging a single file from one folder to another on the desktop.
I really miss the old Macs.
So here I was, having to dig into a Mac OS X box again for the millionth time, to try to make it work poorly (the normal condition for an X box new from the factory, compared to ancient Macs).
Even with all modern X Macs' many, many faults, I still thought it odd that such big problems had cropped up on the G4 so soon after leaving WebFLUX Central. Although it hadn't been used regularly here in its last few years, still, it'd often been used as much as four hours a day once a week or so, over that time. For a sufficiently wide variety of tasks that such problems should have shown themselves to us.
I wasn't sure where to start with the latest Mac problem. So I did some internet searches hoping to collect some clues.
There was surprisingly little to find there.
Oh sure: lots of poor Mac users had lost the use of their DVD drives and posted pleas for help about it online. But they'd gotten darn few useful answers. Many had gotten no answers at all! Yikes!
But I took notes of what meager tips there were to be found there, just in case. Things like different ways to get a drive to open and close besides the usual methods; the possibility of corrupted firmware; even a bad firmware update from Apple itself that had disabled a lot of drives a few years back. None of that really seemed likely to pertain to my case, but I jotted them down anyway.
Plus, things had been made more complicated by the fact my brother-in-law had replaced the original drive with another. I knew from past experience that you can't just install any old drive in a Mac: Apple often goes to great lengths to make many devices IN-compatible with their systems. So I had to worry that the new drive wasn't compatible, too. Atop the original problems encountered.
In my net research I did run across some software some Mac users recommended for overcoming such drive incompatibilities.
Here's a sampling of what I ran across:
OS X Settings? Pioneer superdrive in G4 MDD doesn't mount - Mac Forums
Power Mac SuperDrive Update for Mac OS X : Information and Download
Frustrated that I could find nothing better online, there was nothing left but to gather info personally from the machine. So I turned it on.
I heard the boot up bong. But got no display. I did hear the whirring of drives and fans though.
I pressed the reset button on the front of the Mac. And got the same result.
My brother-in-law had told me another new problem was you often had to open the G4's side panel and close it again to get the machine to boot. So I tried it. And it finally booted. Whoa! This puppy was sick indeed!
I ran the System Profiler, and sure enough, it could see no removable drives at all; just the hard disk.
"No burning device was found" was its cryptic answer for the DVD.
Apple's Disk Utility couldn't see the drives either.
I noted for any boot up or restart I always had to open and close the Mac's side door while it was running.
I own no special Mac diagnostic software, so all I could do next was look inside for any obvious loose connections or what not.
In my personal experience I had seen maybe three hard drives go dead-- but two had suffered from unusual factory defects, and the third died of old age (dying after maybe ten years of ownership). A CD drive quit on the Performa 6400 too, some years back. That was pretty much it, over decades of personal use involving dozens of computers.
I shut down the Mac, and opened the case for a look-see.
Being an elder geek, I actually own a wrist grounding strap, and was using it here. As well as regularly touching some handy metal surfaces of the Mac's exposed innards, to try to prevent a static charge build up which could hurt the chips.
My notes show that I immediately noticed an out-of-place looking Apple Airport Extreme card inside the Airport slot of the G4.
Keep in mind I hadn't been inside this Mac for quite a while. And barely used it for years and years. So I wasn't sure what to think about the Airport card being there. Had the G4's previous owner stuck it in there before giving it away? Had my brother-in-law put it in there? I couldn't recall him saying anything about installing an Airport card.
So for all I knew that card had been in there for months-- maybe even years. Plus, it seemed unlikely the card would be interfering with the drives, even if it was new.
Nothing else seemed unusual inside.
The card did seem a little out of kilter connection-wise. So I pulled it out some and tried to give it a better connection. That's when I noticed the card's I/O and the G4's seemed awfully mismatched, according to what I was used to. But the card's bladed type interface did slide inbetween the G4's pins, so it sort of seemed to match. But the card was so loose in the slot there seemed no way an installer could insure the proper card edges met the proper pins. What the hell was going on here? I wondered.
Note that it didn't even occur to me at that moment that someone might have inserted the totally wrong Airport card into the G4. Such a thing was simply unthinkable to me. Maybe because I've personally always tried to be so careful about such matters.
Plus, I'm awful behind on new gadgets these days. And hadn't fiddled inside a computer now for quite some time. Ergo, the reasons I was slow on the uptake here.
So I moved on to other issues. Closing the case and booting up again. Trying the various obscure drive eject commands I'd found online and at Apple.com.
Around that time I also recalled something from previous Mac experiences. Namely, with the 6400, I'd had to press a special reset button inside the machine after installing a PCI card or something, to make sure the Mac would recognize it had new hardware upon boot up. I wondered if the G4 had such a requirement?
I also remembered a reader writing in to me about a PRAM reset button near the battery inside, which could be used in place of removing the battery for certain Mac glitches.
I also tried zapping the Mac's PRAM via keyboard to see if that helped-- but had to look through several of my own Mac user logs to find the key combo first.
I got zero results.
I went to Apple's G4 user manual PDF, looking for info about a possible internal reset button to press after installing replacement drives. But found none.
So I began checking out the manual's info about Airport cards in the G4.
Yes: the location was correct. That was indeed an Airport card slot inside the G4. And the manual's illustration of an Airport card resembled what I'd seen inside the Mac....
Out of curiosity I ran the System Profiler again, to see what it said about the Airport card.
For something didn't smell right here.
If my brother-in-law had installed the Airport card, how come the G4 so easily synched up with the Ethernet connection at WebFLUX Central?
Previous Airport installs on Macs here in years past had been nightmares of configuration. Both to switch from Ethernet to Airport, or back again.
The profiler found just as much about the Airport card as it had the removable drives: zero.
Note that I had another Mac in a nearby room where I could reference the internet regardless of the G4's condition during all this.
And I was following several different lines of troubleshooting investigation simultaneously.
I opened the Airport software in Mac OS X to see if it could see the card to begin a set up. But it saw nothing either.
Another slim lead in the forums had been repairing disk permissions on the hard drive to fix some balky removables. So I called up Disk Utility, and sure enough it found some problems to fix. But those fixes didn't bring the removables online.
I began thinking maybe I should check for a loose connector in the vicinity of the removables.
Inside the G4 again, I decided to try removing the Airport card. Since it wasn't working anyway.
When I did this, I realized something.
Namely, the Airport card was wrong-side-up, according to Apple's manual PDF! Yikes!
That, combined with the looseness in the slot, and the mismatching pins and blade interface, made me commit to removing the card to see what happened.
However, I never expected any fix to be that easy. So before cranking up the Mac again I began exerting pressure on the connectors at the rear of the removable drives, to make sure they were firmly in place...
I moved my left hand to the front of the Mac to counteract the pressure, and accidentally hit the reset/power switch there, which caused the Mac to switch on while I was inside it. Yikes!
Well, there was nothing to do then but extract myself from the innards and let it boot.
I noticed that it booted fine. In fact, much faster than it had the previous times. So I decided to check the System Profiler again.
Eureka! The removables were visible there!
However, I didn't try the eject function or anything else, since the case was wide open. Instead, I shut down, closed it back up, and turned it on again.
Yes! The disk tray ejected just fine! It also read a OS X CD. I retrieved one of my PC ZIP disks, and the G4 read that fine as well! Yay!
I checked several of the mainstream eject command actions on the G4 to make sure they all worked (they did).
I also checked to make sure the G4 could still see the internet too (it could).
Somehow the Airport card had interfered with all the removable drives on the machine.
It turned out my brother-in-law had bought the wrong Airport card for a Mac laptop they owned (maybe an iBook?), where it wouldn't work, and tried sticking it in the G4 (where it also wouldn't work). Then forgot about it, by the time he got around to trying to use the DVD drive and ZIP.
The Airport card had even been installed wrong-side-up. But you could only know that by examining the PDF manual online at Apple.
I sure do hope this helps some of the other Mac users out there where "No burning device was found".