OS X acting strangly..

jrsx

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Nov 2, 2013
1,057
11
Tacoma, Washington
Well, today I tried to boot into a Kubuntu 12.04 PPC liveCD, and for some reason, it wouldn't boot. I got a bunch of errors while booting, I can't remember exactly what they said, and then my Hard drive shut off. Upon reboot, OS X loaded a blue screen with a cursor, but nothing else. I rebooted again, and everything was acting strangely. First, it forgot my wireless networks passwords, then, my computers clock was set way back, and the date was messed up. Anyone know what happened here? Also, a lot of hard drive activity has occured since then, more than usual it seems.
 

Intell

macrumors P6
Jan 24, 2010
18,872
368
Inside
I concur that the hard drive could be failing. Because the date and time were lost, your PRAM battery may be starting to fail as well.
 

jrsx

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Nov 2, 2013
1,057
11
Tacoma, Washington
My HDD is the stock HDD from 2005. I don't really doubt that it's failing. The PRAM battery seems to be fine, though. I don't think that's failing at all.
 

Intell

macrumors P6
Jan 24, 2010
18,872
368
Inside
If this is your iBook, then it doesn't have a PRAM battery. It uses the main battery keep the PRAM contents and a 30 second backup capacitor if the main battery is removed.
 

jrsx

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Nov 2, 2013
1,057
11
Tacoma, Washington
30 second? When I've had my iBook apart it's kept the time for about 15 minutes (without battery in, of course)!
Yes, this link seems to agree that iBook G4s don't have PRAM batteries.
 

jrsx

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Nov 2, 2013
1,057
11
Tacoma, Washington
A hard drive can still be failing with a verified good SMART status.
So I've heard - I've also tested it with the Apple Hardware test (full surface scan), and it also said it is verified. But, being an old hard drive that's seen a lot of wear and tear, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was failing. This still doesn't really explain why OS X forgot my wifi networks and date and time.
 

iamMacPerson

macrumors 68030
Jun 12, 2011
2,744
863
AZ/10.0.1.1
Maybe the battery drained since the last time you used it? I know Leopard is a PITA to reconnect to WiFi if it losses PRAM power or the SMC/PRAM is reset. Drives me up the wall every time. 10.4 and older and 10.6 and newer don't suffer this problem. Just 10.5.
 

Intell

macrumors P6
Jan 24, 2010
18,872
368
Inside
Did you force off the machine via the power button when it was stuck at the blue screen? That may have disrupted the clock's time enough for it to reset.
 

jrsx

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Nov 2, 2013
1,057
11
Tacoma, Washington
Did you force off the machine via the power button when it was stuck at the blue screen? That may have disrupted the clock's time enough for it to reset.
First, I clicked the power button to see if a window with the restart, sleep, and shut down buttons appeared, but it did not. Then I just forced it off by holding down the power button for 4 seconds. That may have done it.
 

AmestrisXServe

macrumors 6502
Feb 6, 2014
263
1
I think that your PRAM is corrupted, which may have happened when you booted into another OS.

Hold Open-Apple + Option + P + R when starting, and keep holding it until the system resets two, or three times. This 'PRAM Zap' will clear your PRAM settings, and once you reset the clock, you should be back in business.

The clock set to a bad date can cause some odd behaviour in OSX, but you want to completely fluch your PRAM before doing anything further.
 

jrsx

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Nov 2, 2013
1,057
11
Tacoma, Washington
Well today.....

.....I put a DVD into the combo drive, and it would not spin. At first I thought the drive was dead, but CD drives usually spit the CD out if it is dead. So then I put the iBook to sleep, but no sleep light appeared. I opened it to discover that it was not on. I tried to turn it on, but to no affect. I took the battery out, and unplugged it for a couple of seconds, and tried again. This time it booted, but again into a blue screen with a cursor. I had to force restart, and when I booted again, it was indexing my HDD. I restarted and zapped the PRAM, and it's working fine now, but does anyone know what is causing all of this?
Also, how many times can you safely reset the PRAM on a computer before you kill it? :D
 

AmestrisXServe

macrumors 6502
Feb 6, 2014
263
1
When you loaded Kubuntu, it changed PRAM values to some outside of normal range for OSX, corrupting the PRAM. All of these symptoms are red flags for PRAM corruption.

PRAM holds settings for sleep, power monitoring, trackpad settings, time and date, power cycle, startup disc, and other variables. Thus, if it is corrupted, your system will act as if it is having a nervous breakdown.

Often, if your system takes a long time to start, it is just a PRAM problem, and startup disc cycling.

If you want Ubuntu for PowerPC, I suggest Ubuntu 10.04 LTE. The 12.04 release is not designed for this kind of system, and is pretty terrible on most older hardware, and the newer kernel doesn't have the right drivers and kexts for older portable systems. Most of the problems come from newer graphics drivers, and wireless drivers, but the mouse drivers in 12.04 also differ from those in 10.04 LTE: I was unable to use a built-in trackpad on a Dell 910 with 12.04.

The fact that it would not boot, and kernel panicked, says that it would not run on your hardware, and it changed, or scrambled, PRAM values when you tried to use it, as I have said before. That's what caused it.

As to how many times you can reset the PRAM: Essentially, as often as needed. Resetting it doesn't harm anything, and although the old technique usually called for a triple kick in the trousers, newer systems usually suffice with one or two. The only downside is re-establishing some of your preferences, each time you reset the PRAM, but it is often wise to reset it at least annually to fix bitrot, and general corruption over time.
 

jrsx

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Nov 2, 2013
1,057
11
Tacoma, Washington
When you loaded Kubuntu, it changed PRAM values to some outside of normal range for OSX, corrupting the PRAM. All of these symptoms are red flags for PRAM corruption.

PRAM holds settings for sleep, power monitoring, trackpad settings, time and date, power cycle, startup disc, and other variables. Thus, if it is corrupted, your system will act as if it is having a nervous breakdown.

Often, if your system takes a long time to start, it is just a PRAM problem, and startup disc cycling.

If you want Ubuntu for PowerPC, I suggest Ubuntu 10.04 LTE. The 12.04 release is not designed for this kind of system, and is pretty terrible on most older hardware, and the newer kernel doesn't have the right drivers and kexts for older portable systems. Most of the problems come from newer graphics drivers, and wireless drivers, but the mouse drivers in 12.04 also differ from those in 10.04 LTE: I was unable to use a built-in trackpad on a Dell 910 with 12.04.

The fact that it would not boot, and kernel panicked, says that it would not run on your hardware, and it changed, or scrambled, PRAM values when you tried to use it, as I have said before. That's what caused it.

As to how many times you can reset the PRAM: Essentially, as often as needed. Resetting it doesn't harm anything, and although the old technique usually called for a triple kick in the trousers, newer systems usually suffice with one or two. The only downside is re-establishing some of your preferences, each time you reset the PRAM, but it is often wise to reset it at least annually to fix bitrot, and general corruption over time.
Thank you!! :D
I figured it might have led down to either the hard disk or PRAM.
Do you think that's also what caused my system to shut down after I put the CD in the combo drive?
How does one deal with a corrupted PRAM? I reset it already, should that fix it theoretically?
 

AmestrisXServe

macrumors 6502
Feb 6, 2014
263
1
I would think that it shut down due to a kernel panic, but I don't have all the details. From what I read, it started to load, and then panicked, which could lead to a shutdown sequence initiated by the kernel.

PRAM is (physically) 'poor mans' NVRAM': it is Battery-backed RAM (BBR), and sending the open-apple + option + P + R command tells the firmware to clear its contents. You clear corrupted PRAM just as you did to resolve this, and in no other manner. The actual components (i.e. the physical RAM ICs) aren't corrupted: Only the memory record is corrupted.

Real NVRAM generally falls into two categories: Bubble Memory (if anyone remembers this), and NAND memory, which may be on newer models of Apple HW, but is not used on any PowerPC model.

Essentially, you have SRAM, or DRAM, or SDRAM, that has a battery for power when the system is off, and relies on main power when the system is on; else it would quickly kill the battery. Thus, the more often the system is running, the less you use your battery, and conversely, the less-often that your system is running, the more you rely on the backup battery.

Most systems use a flat cell battery, similar to those used in watches, and clocks. Some systems have a cylindrical battery module, and a few have a battery that is soldered into position (usually not Apple systems). The original Mac, through the Mac Plus, used a AA battery, behind a cover, on the rear of the unit, behind the monitor, that you could access without opening the system.

PRAM has been around that long, and is essentially a successor to the RTC cards in the Apple II days. The //gs used a form of PRAM that held system settings, for slot definitions and arrangements, screen colour settings, etc..

As the systems evolved, more and more settings were allocated to PRAM, with the following being typical, although possibly not an absolute list:

32-bit addressing (Classic, System 7-specific for M680x0 systems).
Alarm clock setting (Classic only; not OSX).
AppleTalk settings (may be Classic-only).
Application font (Classic only; not OSX)
Autokey rate and delay.
Battery/Power management scheme (for laptops).
Caret blink rate (may be Classic-only).
Charmap settings.
Desktop pattern (Classic only; not OSX)
Disk cache (An important setting, that if corrupted causes all sorts of mayhem.)
DVD region settings (stored for universal application access; you cannot change the value).
Highlight colour (Classic only; not OSX)
Lockdown firmware password (not all models).
Menu blink count (Classic only; not OSX).
Monitor configuration and display settings (Classic only; not OSX)
Mouse and trackpad settings, including click rate, tracking, acceleration, etc..
Network settings (Classic only; not OSX)
RAM disk (Classic primarily; RAM Disks in OSX are handled differently)
Recent kernel panic logs.
Screen resolution and colour depth.
Serial printer settings (may be Classic-only).
Serial-Port configurations and settings (may be Classic-only).
Sound input settings.
Speaker output volume.
Startup disk (a very important setting).
System sounds (Classic only; not OSX)
Time, date, timezone, and region settings.
Virtual memory (Classic only; not OSX).


The actual PRAM values differ based on the model of Macintosh, so some or many of these may not apply to a specific case.

Another command, similar to open-apple + option + P + R is the command to reset NVRAM, and is reset with open-apple + option + N + V. This too, may be model-specific, and not all Mac models can execute this command.

NVRAM holds more low-level information, such as:
Boot beep, error beep
Open Firmware
POST (Power-on Self Test)
ROM diagnostics

Tied to PRAM, it stores the values for:
aapl,tdm-units
ASVP
auto-boot
boot-args
boot-command
boot-device
boot-screen
boot-script
boot-volume
console-screen
default-client-ip
default-gateway-ip
default-mac-address
default-router-ip
default-server-ip
default-subnet-mask
diag-device
diag-file
diag-switch
fcode-debug
input-device
input-device-1
little-endian
load-base
logger-base
mouse-device
oem-banner
output-device
output-device-1
pci-probe-mask
playform-uuid
prev-lang
ram-size
real-base
real-size
screen-#columns
screen-#rows
scroll-lock
selftext-#megs
skip-netboot
use-generic
use-nvramrc
virt-base
virt-size


Some systems may store other values, and these are valid for NWR (Open-Firmware) Macs. OWR Macs, from the Platinum G3 desktop, and Platinum G3 tower systems, back to the original Macintosh, do not have these NVRAM-specific settings, and rely on PRAM settings.

Resetting PRAM usually also resets NVRAM, but I believe that resetting NVRAM only using the open-apple + option + N + V command does not always affect PRAM. (See this article on NVRAM

While it is possible in theory to have faulty PRAM chips, in thirty years of repairing Mac HW, I have never once seen that problem. I have had to replace my share of batteries, which is wise to do every so often (e.g. five-year to ten-year intervals in my case).

For Ubuntu on PowerPC, you may want to read this FAQ.

Note that I disagree with using 12.04, from various personal experiences of it panicking, or drivers not working. 10.04 LTE is really the widest, best-supported Linux PPC flavour; YDL 7 would be my second choice.
 
Last edited:

jrsx

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Nov 2, 2013
1,057
11
Tacoma, Washington
Okay, I think clearing my PRAM fixed it. Thanks! The only strange thing that's happened since is sound and mic drivers not working, but I think that's a different matter fixed by rebooting. As far as I am concerned, this issue is resolved!