TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Mar 95 Viewpoint
Volume Number:11
Issue Number:3
Column Tag:The Editor’s Viewpoint

The Editor’s Viewpoint

By Scott T Boyd, Editor

I recently came across the following e-mail closing:

“(Anxiously awaiting a protected memory MacOS)”

We all know what he was getting at, don’t we? If only we had memory protection, life would be oh-so-much better. As often as we hear this, read this, and utter this, it must be true.

Memory protection - it’s got to be good. Make sure that stray writes won’t damage anything else, and the machine will stand solid as a rock, impervious to the vagaries of programmer error and lack of foresight. Let’s go march in front of Apple’s R&D center with placards, bullhorns, and riot police, and demand our memory protection now!

pan•a•ce•a n. a supposed remedy, cure, or medicine for all diseases or ills; cure-all [Webster’s New World Dictionary, 2nd College Edition]

Memory protection sounds so good, but it’s a panacea, a holy grail. Now, that’s not to say that it’s necessarily a bad thing; far from it. Nevertheless, it’s not the solution. If it were, unix systems wouldn’t crash, and wouldn’t get corrupted, but they do.

What is the solution? I’ll get to that, but for now consider this - fixation on a panacea can distract us to the point of missing real solutions.

The writer of the e-mail I mentioned above listed a serious of difficulties he experienced recently while trying to install and use a complex environment. He also offered his workarounds. Let’s take a look at the problems.

Crashes. Workaround - reinstall MacOS from scratch (clean install). Reason - system corruption from repeated crashes.

Corrupted files and file system. Workaround - run Norton Utilities, Disk First Aid, and so forth. A bad file system often gets worse, so fix problems early and avoid more damage.

Faulty system extensions. Workaround - remove suspect extensions. These can cause trouble whether they’re intact or corrupted.

Unknown crashes. Workaround - power down the machine for a few minutes. Reason - don’t know, but it seems to work sometimes when simple rebooting doesn’t.

Incorrect parameter RAM settings. Workaround - zap PRAM. Reason - bad settings can result in improperly configured hardware and software.

While this list isn’t complete, let’s see what we can quickly figure out about what’s happening here.

Problem: corrupted system file. Possible causes include:

• power or system failure during a write to the system file, due to “natural causes” or “human nature” (see below).

• power or system failure before the file system cache is flushed to disk, or while a file is open

• faulty hardware (SCSI termination, SCSI drive, cables, etc.)

• bad software changing the system file unintentionally or incorrectly.

Problem: file system corruption. Possible causes include all of the above, as well as improper use of file system calls (e.g. it would be bad to write directly to any of a number of system-owned files).

Problem: incompatibilities introduced by extensions. Possible causes are too numerous to mention. It’s hard to write system software, and that’s what extensions are - system software. Extendibility makes the Macintosh interesting, and it comes with a price.

Problem: Only a shutdown, power off, then restart solves problem. Typically caused by equipment problems (overheating, for example). Might also be that something needs to be reset but doesn’t except during a cold start.

Problem: configuration settings improperly set. Probable cause? Someone or something writing to PRAM unintentionally or incorrectly.

Back to the suggestion that protected memory will fix lots of problems - will it?

Will it protect the file system from corruption in the event of power failure? system failure? Wouldn’t that really require a robust file system? Perhaps a transaction-based system, complete with commit/rollback (like most databases do)?

Power failure comes in many forms. “Human nature” runs deep, and I’ve seen power failure result from inadvertent use of what looks very much like a floppy eject button on the front of certain models of Macintosh (e.g. my PowerMac 6100). My 18-month-old daughter, who seriously enjoys inserting floppies into floppy slots, one day put one into my 6100.

When I explained that it can only hold one, and you have to take it out before you can put another in, she decided that she’d better get that first one out of there. Without hesitation, she reached right up to push the floppy eject button. The next 60 ticks flowed by as slowly as a glacier’s movement as I (calmly?) said, “NO!” and rushed to avert disaster.

If only I’d had protected memory, right? A system design along the lines of a PowerBook (such as a soft power switch and battery backup) might prove more efficacious. (Of course, moving the switch elsewhere might work, too!)

Will memory protection defend against poorly-written system software? Having written some Apple system software myself, I can assure you that it’s entirely possible that Apple might accidentally ship some system software that has a bug in it. Not that I ever shipped any bugs (not on purpose, at any rate), but I did ship a few bug fixes, some for buggy Apple code, some for buggy 3rd-party code. Any errors in the system software may bring it to its knees, no matter what kind of protection is in place. Ever see a unix kernel crash? I have. Ever see the Power Macintosh memory-protected nanokernel crash? I have (three times yesterday, and twice today, unfortunately). Computers are complicated beasts, and it’s extremely tough to cover all the possibilities, memory protection notwithstanding.

Will memory protection protect against someone writing to the system file directly? Nope. How about protecting against someone adding or changing resources in the system file? Again, nope. Is it possible to protect the system file? Sure. One example is the Macintosh Classic, which can boot from ROM (just try to change that system file!). By the same token, anything that is protected by a software mechanism, yet offers an API for writing, opens up the possibility that someone may use it incorrectly. This same reasoning covers what happens with PRAM. It’s generally pretty difficult to write to PRAM without using the API. Yet we still see situations where the PRAM (or the CUDA, which handles serial on the AVs) gets incorrectly configured. Bugs in Apple’s code? Bugs in 3rd party code? Sure. Will protection help? Not really.

What’s the solution? Modernization, certainly. Memory protection is a good thing (holy grails are nice to have), but it’s going to be a while yet. And keep in mind what it’s supposed to protect against - flawed software that goes astray. And who writes it? We all do! It’s time that we learn what mistakes we’re making, and then teach each other about them, and then devise methods to avoid them.

Finally, Apple could help out with overhauled and/or new APIs which help us avoid common pitfalls. Such APIs could help by making errors harder to make (reducing the error modes), and by offering services so we can stop writing some of the same old code for the umpteenth time. And how about offering only the calls we need, and not a few thousand calls of everything you could ever think of?

On a Slightly Different Topic

So you want to start a company and you’re sweating it out at your “real” job while developing your killer idea? Maybe you’ve taken the big step and gone out on your own to bring the killer idea to market. Maybe, just maybe, it looks almost like a product. Now what do you do? Why, marketing, of course! And how better to start than by building a “presence”? Not every upstart could pull it off, but the odd assortment of Collaboration Technologies, Mark/Space Softworks, MacUp, Mac the Knife, and even Apple filled Bondage A Go Go with wide-eyed MacWorld show-goers to mingle and gawk at people in black/leather/fetish attire. As with many marketing efforts, it’s hard to know whether Mac Black ’95 achieved the desired effect, but no doubt remains about whether the attendees will remember it!

Food For Thought

Have Net, will travel! - Brad Kollmyer

 
AAPL
$99.18
Apple Inc.
-1.57
MSFT
$45.90
Microsoft Corpora
-0.46
GOOG
$568.27
Google Inc.
-9.09

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Cocktail 8.0 Beta 2 - General maintenanc...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
QuickBooks 2015 16.0.0.1352 R1 - Financi...
QuickBooks 2015 helps you manage your business easily and efficiently. Organize your finances all in one place, track money going in and out of your business, and spot areas where you can save.... Read more
Mac DVDRipper Pro 5.0.1 - Copy, backup,...
Mac DVDRipper Pro is the DVD backup solution that lets you protect your DVDs from scratches, save your batteries by reading your movies from your hard disk, manage your collection with just a few... Read more
Apple OS X bash Update 1.0 - Fix for sec...
The OS X bash Update fixes a security flaw in the bash UNIX shell on OS X 10.9.5 (also on OS X 10.8 and 10.7 [see Related Links below]). OS X 10.9.5 or later Downloads for OS X 10.8 and OS X 10.7 in... Read more
SyncTwoFolders 2.0.5 - Syncs two user-sp...
SyncTwoFolders simply synchronizes two folders. It supports synchronization across mounted network drives and it is a possibility to run a simulation showing in a log what will be done. Please visit... Read more
FinderPop 2.5.7 - Classic Mac utility, n...
FinderPop is a Universal preference pane that extends OS X's contextual menus using a FinderPop Items folder much as the Apple Menu Items folder used to do for the Apple menu. It has other features... Read more
VueScan 9.4.45 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.2.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
calibre 2.4 - Complete e-library managem...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital... Read more
Default Folder X 4.6.9b1 - Enhances Open...
Default Folder X attaches a toolbar to the right side of the Open and Save dialogs in any OS X-native application. The toolbar gives you fast access to various folders and commands. You just click... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Manage Your Cloud – Wunderlist Now Suppo...
Manage Your Cloud – Wunderlist Now Supports Dropbox Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 1st, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Nexticy Review
Nexticy Review By Jennifer Allen on October 1st, 2014 Our Rating: :: IDEAL FORM CREATIONiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Nexticy allows you to make your own forms for research purposes or to organize your business better. It’s... | Read more »
Tiny Troopers: Alliance Marches onto the...
Tiny Troopers: Alliance Marches onto the App Store Tomorrow Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 1st, 2014 [ permalink ] Tiny Troopers: Alliance, by Kukouri, is a | Read more »
HeroCraft Introduces Unlimited Sequel to...
HeroCraft Introduces Unlimited Sequel to WW2: Sandbox. Strategy & Tactics Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 1st, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
RGB Express Review
RGB Express Review By Jennifer Allen on October 1st, 2014 Our Rating: :: DELIGHTFUL PUZZLINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Guide trucks along their delivery routes in RGB Express, a testing but charming puzzle game... | Read more »
The Sagas of Fire*Wolf (Games)
The Sagas of Fire*Wolf 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
BuggyFun Review
BuggyFun Review By Amy Solomon on October 1st, 2014 Our Rating: iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad BuggyFun allows children to create their own tracks for bugs to interact with for a unique open-ended experience.   | Read more »
Fold the Adventure Review
Fold the Adventure Review By Jennifer Allen on October 1st, 2014 Our Rating: :: AWKWARD FOLDSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Fold pieces of paper to create platforms for a princely rabbit in this puzzle game; something... | Read more »
WW2: Sandbox. Strategy & Tactics (G...
WW2: Sandbox. Strategy & Tactics 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: ***NOTE: Compatible with iPhone 4s and up, iPad 2 and up - may not work properly on earlier devices... | Read more »
apeFilter (Music)
apeFilter 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $6.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Amazon offers 13-inch MacBook Air for $899, $...
Amazon.com has the 13″ 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air on sale for $100 off MSRP including free shipping: - 13″ 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air: $899.99 Read more
Apple resting On Its iPhone Laurels? – The ‘B...
Apple calls its new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus “The Biggest Advancements in iPhone History,” but does reality live up to the hype? “Seldom have so many waited so breathlessly for so little,” tweeted veteran... Read more
Roundup of Apple Mac and iPad Education disco...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
Apple Boycotts German Magazine Computer Bild...
Apple has revoked its PR accreditation of Germany’s Computer Bild, Europe’s best-selling PC magazine, in reaction to Bild’s posting of a “#Bentgate” YouTube video. Axel Telzerow, editor in chief of... Read more
iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus Available in Chi...
Apple has announced that iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available in China beginning Friday, October 17 from the Apple Online Store (http://www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores, and an expansive... Read more
MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP, start...
Best Buy has the new 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP on their online store. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Prices valid for online orders only, in-... Read more
Apple Releases OS X Mavericks bash Update 1.0...
Apple has released a patch update for OS X Mavericks users to address the recently-detected “Shellshock” security bug in BSD UNIX’s bash shell. Apple says only a few Mac users who had manually... Read more
Pivotal Payments Ready for Apple Pay – FlexPo...
Pivotal Payments, a provider of merchant services and global payment processing solutions, has announced its proprietary FlexPoint platform will support credit and debit transactions through Apple’s... Read more
iStabilizer Announces Tabarm — First Friction...
iStabilizer, a specialist in universal lightweight compact tripods, steady cams, dollies, mounts, and remotes for smartphones, tablets, and cameras, announced today the iStabilizer tabArm, the first... Read more
IStabilizer Flex Smartphone Tripod Wins Usa T...
iStabilizer, a specialist in universal lightweight compact tripods, steady cams, and other products for smartphones, tablets, and cameras, has announced today that its iStabilizer Flex smartphone... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.