E-Scribe : a programmer’s blog

About Me

PBX I'm Paul Bissex. I build web applications using open source software, especially Django. Started my career doing graphic design for newspapers and magazines in the '90s. Then wrote tech commentary and reviews for Wired, Salon, Chicago Tribune, and others you never heard of. Then I built operations software at a photography school. Then I helped big media serve 40 million pages a day. Then I worked on a translation services API doing millions of dollars of business. Now I'm building the core platform of a global startup accelerator. Feel free to email me.


I co-wrote "Python Web Development with Django". It was the first book to cover the long-awaited Django 1.0. Published by Addison-Wesley and still in print!


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Mac troubleshooting tips + bonus rant

DoctorMac Direct, a remote tech support service for Mac users, has a very handy Quick Checks and Fixes page that walks through a lot of good standard "try this first" troubleshooting techniques. If you're an experienced Mac admin or power user you know most of this stuff already, but bookmark the page for the next time you get asked for advice. We all have succumbed to the temptation to try short-circuiting the troubleshooting process, but often we just end up discovering the disconnected cable twenty minutes later that way.

I only have one petty nitpick -- the page perpetuates the "zap your PRAM three times" superstition. Unless I've been missing something all these years, to reset your machine's PRAM you just need to do this:

  1. Restart your Mac
  2. Immediately press and cold Cmd-Option-P-R
  3. Wait until you hear another startup chime
  4. Release the keys

After that the booting process continues normally. This means you will hear two chimes: one for the first restart, and one for the restart that happens automatically after the PRAM zap completes. The DoctorMac instructions have you restart the machine and then wait for three chimes, for a total of four. At that rate, naive users may think, heck, why not do it nine times to really make sure?

One theory I've heard for how this idea got started is that in the past Apple phone support wanted to hear the multiple chimes over the phone to ensure that the PRAM zap had really been accomplished (versus the simple restart that would happen if the user held down the wrong keys). But why three, or four? Why aren't the minimal two chimes enough? Why, why, why?

Oh, sorry, I'm ranting. I guess this has been on my mind for, oh, about ten years.

If I'm wrong about this, I really do welcome correction. (But you can't just say "An Apple support guy told me to do this once.")

Wednesday, August 24th, 2005
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