Monthly Archives: May 2008

Fix Front Row Crash while playing divx avi

While watching a tv series encoded with divx, in avi package format on a Macbook installed with Leopard, I noticed that Front Row would randomly crash and return to the desktop.

First step in investigating what was causing the crash is to look at the syslog.

  • Open up Terminal (Applications => Utilities => Terminal)
  • Go to the /var/log directory (cd /var/log)
  • View the syslog file (less system.log)
  • Go down to the latest entries in the log file (Shift + G)
  • Look for a line saying “Saved crashreport to /Users/[username]/Library/Logs/CrashReporter/Front Row_2008-04-27” or something to that effect. The username will be your Mac OS X username and the date attached to the Front Row text will of course be different.  These crash logs are created whenever a program you are running stops for some unknown reason (i.e. a crash).
  • Press “q” to quit the “less” program.
  • Goto the CrashReporter directory (cd /Users/[username]/Library/Logs/CrashReporter). Replace [username] with your username.
  • Open the latest Front Row crashlog with “less” (less Front Row_2008_2008-04-27). If you’re having trouble typing the name, just hit the Tab key, which will attempt to fill in the blanks as best as possible, creating spaces with escape characters.
  • Look for the line saying “Crashed Thread” and note the number beside it. In my case it was “22”.
  • Now use the search function within “less” by hitting forward slash “/” then typing “Thread 22”. This is case sensitive so make sure you capitalize “T” in Thread.
  • You should see Thread 22 Crashed: followed by what file was related to the crash of Front Row.  In my case it was listed as “com.yourcompany.XviD_Codec”.

If you continue reading, you’re doing the following AT YOUR OWN RISK.  You can royally screw up Front Row and any type of movie/video watching by performing the following, so if you have any qualms, do not perform the next steps.

My fix was to move the AppleIntermediateCodec.component and AppleMPEG2Codec.component files from /Library/QuickTime to a backup directory and replace it with Xvid_Codec 1.0 alpha.component which is detailed in another post on how to watch xvid encoded avi files on Mac OS X. To move these two files elsewhere, create a backup directory on your home directory (mkdir ~/QuickTime_backup) then use the “mv” command (mv AppleIntermediateCodec.component ~/QuickTime_backup/) (mv AppleMPEG2Codec.component ~/QuickTime_backup). Now install the alpha xvid component for Mac.

Make sure QuickTime isn’t running, or fully Quit QuickTime and then start Front Row and attempt to watch the same file that was causing Front Row to crash before.

The reasoning behind removing these two QuickTime codecs is that they aren’t on another MacBook book of mine, which doesn’t have Front Row crashing problems.  That’s the only logic I have behind this fix.

So far, the change has worked.

Best of luck.

Joining Split files on Mac

With large files, sometimes it’s easier handling them split into many smaller files.  In order to rejoin the files one typically uses a file joining program.  I came across two that could possibly perform file joins: MacHacha and Split & Concat.

Turns out that MacHacha has some issues, perhaps related to Leopard, as after reaching the last file of a 75 part file series, it simply hung on searching for the next part (which didn’t exist).

Split & Concat on the other hand, handled the files without issue and has the option of specifying the output directory though the Options button before the start of a join session.

My vote goes to Split & Concat for file joining software on Mac OS X.

Hot MacBook Pro Temperature

To reduce the temperature of my MacBook Pro I use smcFanControl by Hendrik Holtmann.  Normally my MacBook Pro would run somewhere close the 55-60C mark without doing anything intensive, say a 10-15% average CPU utilization.  I found this somewhat hot for my tastes, especially when using the built in keyboard where it would be uncomfortably hot to touch the speaker/heat dissipation grilles on either site of the keyboard.

I generally run the two internal MacBook Pro fans at 2600rpm each to keep the temperature 50C or below, depending on ambient temperature.  The cost is a little fan noise which is noticeable in a dead quiet room.  If you’ve got any music or background noise, you won’t notice it.  Either way, it’ll blend into the background quickly since it’s “white” noise anyways.

I’m unsure which version is the latest for smcFanControl so here’s another link to smc Fan Control version 2.1.2 in case it’s more recent than the above link.

This post was due to a comments discussion on how to turn off the macbook pro display when using an external display for Front Row.

Turn off Macbook Pro Display When Using External Display

To use an external display only when watching a movie on an external TV or projector it’s nice to not show the video on your Mac’s main display since it’s distracting. Closing the lid on a MacBook Pro makes it go to sleep and the only way to prevent the MacBook from sleeping with the lid closed is through some serious kernel hacks.

Apple’s Front Row has a feature that makes the secondary screen will go blank and dark when the Front Row is started. The trick to make your main MacBook display go blank when outputting Front Row to the secondary screen is to make your secondary screen the primary display. This is done through System Preferences => Display Preferences.

When you have the DVI to Video Adapter connected to your MacBook Pro and connected to a TV or other type of external display, open up Display Preferences. Within Display Preferences, choose Arrangement. You should see two blue squares that represent each display, main and secondary. On the main display you’ll notice a bar along the top. Simply click and drag this bar from the Main Display (usually on the left and large) to the secondary display, to make it the Primary or Main display. Close Display Preferences. Launch Front Row by hitting Apple key + Esc or by hitting the Menu on your Apple Remote. Front Row will launch and turn off the MacBook main display so that you can enjoy a distraction free viewing experience for your movies and videos on an external display.

Enjoy.

Mac High CPU After Copying PDF Books ATSServer mdworker

Apple Spotlight PDF ATSServer

I recently copied over a set of PDF ebooks from an external drive to my “home” folder (usually your login name under Places within Finder) and a few minutes after that my Macbook Pro fan started to go nuts and I noticed my CPU temperature was up near the 70 degree C mark.

Cutting to the chase (fix): Open up System Preferences -> Spotlight Preferences -> Click Privacy button -> Click + button at bottom left and add the directory where you’ve just put your PDF files. In a few minutes, ATSServer will stop going nuts.

I quickly loaded up Activity Monitor (found under Applications -> Utilities in Finder, if nothing shows up after starting Activity Monitor, hit Apple key + 1), sorted processes by CPU descending (by clicking on the CPU column) and noticed that a process called ATSServer was hitting about 60% CPU time with mdworker below it at about 23%.

These two processes were really chewing up processor time and I had no idea what I had done to set this off, having never seen ATSServer before, I googled “What is ATSServer?” and found a forum thread on support.apple.com where people were batting around theories of what was causing ATSServer to go nuts.

For me it turned out to be the PDF books that I had just copied over to my Documents folder. Turns out that Spotlight, Apple’s file and text indexing service, tries to parse text in files, make thumbnails of pdfs (dear god),
and many other things including the kitchen sink.

Here’s an excerpt from Apple on Spotlight (warning PDF file) when they released Spotlight with Tiger (OS X 10.4):

Spotlight is comprehensive. Spotlight searches across your documents, images, movies, music, PDFs, email, calendar events, and system preferences. It can find some- thing by its text content, filename, or information associated with it, known as metadata. This allows you to find a photo by entering the brand of camera that took it, the name of the person who emailed it to you, or the date you last opened it.

I guess Spotlight is a bit too ambitious when it comes to PDF files. Simply copying over 300MB worth of PDF docs shouldn’t cause Spotlight to lose its mind. My guess is that it’s attempting to parse all the text within the PDFs and put those results into Spotlights database. Result: nastiness. PDF’s are exactly “fun” to parse I guess.