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RAM Charger 8 For Macintosh
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Diagnosing General Problems When Using RAM Charger


(Tech0031A -- 06/10/98)

Help Us Help You

If you are having problems then it may be hard to believe, but thousands of users are using RAM Charger without difficulty. If you contact us with "it doesn't work", we will both be in for a long haul. As much as we might sympathize, and want to help you, we need some real details to grab onto. So, please try and keep in mind that most problems are the result of some unique combination of software or operations. Keeping this in mind will help us, and you, diagnose the cause and find a solution. We promise, we work very hard. We are not distributing software to intentionally cause you problems!

The preliminary diagnostic is to examine our list of known conflicts. RAM Charger searches for known extension conflicts during installation, and automatically disables Charging of known problem applications. However, it is possible that an extension was installed after RAM Charger, or that problems are the result of enabling RAM Charger for a particular application in our list.

If the list of known conflicts does not cover your problem, then more details will have to be discovered to find out what is unique in your configuration. We recommend the following steps to help us both get to the solution as quickly and painlessly as possible:

1) Adopt The Proper Frame Of Mind

Unfortunately, problems can result from damaged files and/or interaction with any other software. Basically there are infinite possible causes, especially since most Macs are extensively configured with enhancements. When you have a problem, "usually" and "most likely" are words that are out of place, since the very fact that you are having a problem makes you a high candidate for being "unique". As a result, all of the infinite possibilities are reasonable candidates.

What this means is that it is not always easy to conclusively diagnose problems, and I offer my two cents that hasty conclusions should not be drawn. Many users are quick to assign blame to a particular product, only to find that multiple products were involved or file damage was responsible. On the other hand, some users casually recommend "reformatting your disk" and reinstalling everything, which can be tempting when confronted with problems, but your original problems may return when you get your system back together in the same configuration under the same usage - and that is a lot of work just to come to that end.

Avoiding the "symptom", by disabling software or rebuilding the system may get you back work, but the cause of the problem may come up and bite you again in some other situation. If you have time and ability, it is desirable to find the very source of the problem, not just hide the problem, though this is not always possible. The final steps of such an adventure can only be taken in concert with software vendor(s) when they verify your speculation by examining the code. Thus, you should remember your findings are really only speculation, and you should keep your mind open and temper your accusations or you may miss the real cause.

For example...one Dominant Software Vendor quickly told us that they had concluded that their products and RAM Charger had basic fundamental conflicts which could not be resolved, and thus they would not help us investigate. Nevertheless, working on our own we found two specific issues and resolve them. These were the "experts", and still hasty and erroneous speculation on their part delayed the solution.

The point to remember is that problems are often complex enough that it is even difficult for experts to conclusively cite a cause. Hundreds of thousands of operations happen per second on your computer, and many software products interact. So go in hoping to find the best suspect, do your best to simplify your configuration and test your conclusions, and work with vendors to verify the suspected causes.

2) Check For File System Damage

A disk check is a good start. Disk First aid provided by Apple, or a third party utility like Norton or MacTools, verifies your hard disk like examining a library's card catalog system.

All your software, including the system, is stored in files on your hard disk. If some of these files are damaged, then your software may not be working as intended. In such a case, since MacOS is "unprotected", it is possible for anything to wrong from the time you startup your computer.

Unfortunately, no utility can verify the contents of any your Mac files (data or software). This is because, in the lack of any "checksum" or similar technique, to verify the contents would require already having a listing of the file's contents (catch-22). Since it is impossible for any checker to conclusively verify that your files are not internally damaged, the best one can hope for is a proper file catalog (file structure consistency). As a result, your disk can check out OK, and things still not work as intended by the software vendors. However, file system structure will usually be damaged along with contents if something goes wrong, and thus running a disk check is valuable.

3) Find A Recreateable Symptom

If we don't already know about the problem, and you can't recreate it, it is very unlikely we will be able to find a resolution. So you need to find a specific set of steps, that can be performed from a fresh startup which will always produce the problem. Then, we might have some chance of being able to recreate the problems and diagnose it.

Though it may not be immediately apparent, almost all problems can be recreated if you perform the same set of operations after starting you computer (though you may need to "shutdown" rather than "restart" in extreme cases). Of course, the set of operations may be long and complex, which you will wish to simplify as much as possible. To help, be aware that the symptom may not appear immediately when the conflict occurs. So, every operation that happens from the time you start the Mac may be important. As an analogy, consider that when a car slams into phone pole, the original cause of this symptom may be the extra drink the driver consumed ten minutes before the accident.

It is also important to find the fewest steps, using the most common application and document (where required). Not only will this reduce the conflict resolution time (next step), but problems requiring an obscure or large application, a complex set of steps, or a complex document, are more difficult for the software vendors to reproduce your problems. When an application is required, we recommend seeing is SimpleText with an empty document can be used.

4) Simplify Your Configuration (Conflict Resolution)

Once you can reproduce the problem reliably, you need to try and determine the fewest system enhancements required to reproduce the problem. This is known as a "Conflict Resolution", and third party Extension Managers like "Conflict Catcher" and "Now Startup" automate the process.

The basis of a conflict resolution is to understand that your Mac will start with no Control Panels folder, no Extensions folder, and no Fonts folder. So you can move these folders to the desktop and restart (though you will be missing some fonts and enhancements, your Mac will start). If you have an Extension Manager, you can create a new "startup set" and disable all the items which is like moving them to the desktop.

The first step is to startup with just RAM Charger, and see if the problem occurs. If so, then the conflict is with the System (note RAM Charger and/or the System may be damaged). Otherwise, you need to add (enable) items, perhaps in groups, to find out what else is required. Obviously, first suspicion is best placed on older software, perhaps no longer in development for current MacOS releases.

5) Verify Your Simplification!

Once you have found the fewest items required, verify the problem still exists with just those items and goes away when any item is removed. Because conflict resolution can be a difficult and lengthy process, mistakes can be made. Moreover, problems are not always 100% reproducible, which can taint your results.

Startup with just the few items required, and verify that the problem happens. Then startup with each one of the items disabled and the others active, and verify that the problem goes away.

6) Fresh Install The Latest Versions

When you have the fewest products required to cause the problem, verify that you have the latest version of the products and reinstall them. It is quite possible that one of the products has been damaged internally, undetectable by a disk checker, and thus is not operating on your machine as intended by the software vendor. It is also possible that the problem has been fixed in a recent release. If either of these is the case, it will do no good to report the problem, since their is nothing the vendor can do.

Note that where possible you should download a fresh installer from the Internet since your old installer may also be damaged. Many vendors provide their installers online. RAM Charger is available here.

7) Evaluate Work-Arounds

If a disk check and reinstalling the few components required failed to solve the problem, then please try the following work-around to both verify the diagnosis and to keep you running while the issue is further examined by software vendors:

  • System Extension Conflict - If the problem only happens with certain system extensions involved, then try changing the order in which they load. Some third party extension managers let you drag items in the startup list to change the order. However, if this option is not available, items load alphabetically within folders, so you can change the names to change the load order. Also, some extensions, such as RAM Charger, may be placed in either the Control Panels or the Extensions Folder to change load order (check with the software vendor). Items in the System Folder load before items in the Extension Folder which load before items in the Control Panels folder.
  • Application Specific Conflict - If only one particular application is required to cause the problems, you should examine its RAM Charger settings. RAM Charger is not all or nothing, you may configure RAM Charger for each application. First, try disabling RAM Charger for the application to see if it works. If so, you may wish to try starting it in a larger size, or examining some of the other settings.

7) Report The Problem

Finally, contact all of the vendors of the products to let them know there is a potential conflict. Despite any symptoms, it is possible that any one of the software products, including Apple products, are responsible to the original infraction resulting in your symptom. Moreover, it is also possible that no one vendor is responsible, the problem may be the result of two products operating properly independently, but performing legitimate operations that can't work together.

When reporting the problem, be sure to provide your Macintosh model, MacOS version, and the names and versions of any applications or extensions required. Where possible it is helpful if you provide an Internet address (web page and/or email) for the vendors of nay other products involved. If a complex document is required, see if you can send that as well.

For problems where RAM Charger is involved, you can contact us here.


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