RetroMacCast

Where great old Macs live again!

PRAM "You're going to miss me when I'm gone!"

What is PRAM, who uses PRAM, for what? Who Cares: Stored settings? Clock time if the laptop battery drains. Hmmm. I don't really need to worry about that if my G5 PPC clock battery dies. It stays plugged in, right? It's not like I'm going to lug that huge cheese grater to work, or on vacation with me. Well, I would if I were going on a really long vacation, but that's not the point.

PRAM is not just for clock setting. Or even time zone, or even internet settings. Seems all kinds of thing go screwy when the PRAM battery begins to drain. It doesn't even need to be dead. Oh no, it wouldn't be as simple as, "Hey, my clock won't keep time when I unplug the computer. The battery must be dead. I should really replace that."

It begins with hiccups, and burps. Little things that make you think of corruption first. Apps crash. Then more Apps crash. The fans are stuck in take off mode. Then your computer forgets that he and the printer are, and have been, good friends for some time now. Then suddenly, G5 wakes up and not only refuses to acknowledge old pal printer, but will not play nice after introductions are re-installed. But, that is not where the dementia ends, it gets worse, much worse. And sad, very sad.

Waking up from sleep, that doesn't happen, mostly. Sometimes yes, mostly nope. Pushing the little power button to force a shut down really hurts, almost as much as pulling the plug. But then, there is still hope, another push of the button and it chimes back to life, but at a - molasses in a blizzard - rate of speed, with a long stop-off at a grey screen. A, "Forget it, go take a shower, get dressed, make some coffee and come back later, type of stop off. Come on Apple, can you put a different color there? How about a nice Red screen with Black Bold print that says "Check your PRAM battery dumbass!"

After you have showered, dressed and had your coffee you are now greeted with your login screen. All goes well, until you try to use your trackball, which the G5 has shunned, and 86'd from it's A list. So now you get to experience a freeze. Drat!

Ok, push button, push button. Go take another shower, this one to cool off and get away from the G5 which is really too heavy to throw through the window. Must be the extra hard drives.

Explain to the trackball that it will be invited back soon, and dig through the desk drawn for an Apple mouse. Oh boy, my hockey puck. And, for the record, they really are not that difficult to use. Just a little adjustment period needed, of course this one has the little dip in the front clicker to keep one oriented. G5 now plays nice with the hockey puck, but nothing else of a peripheral nature that requires a driver. Ok, starting to narrow down possibilities of issues. G5 opened, dusted, connections checked. Every thing is locked up tight. The clicking sound was my external WD MyBook. I think it's dead. So much for the iTunes back up.

Mouse in hand, Safari is clicked, and crashed. Bummer. Firefox loaded, but no internet is found. Bigger Bummer. iPhone see the internet and the router is lit like a Christmas tree. A very tiny Christmas tree.

Process: Peripherals removed. G5 doesn't remember them anyway. System Archived and Installed. Won't upgrade. Clean system installed on alternate internal disk. Seems to be running fine, printer reintroduced. Paperwork for work faxed in the nick of time. Internet usable. But some Apps still crash. Won't shut down, and fans are still in take off mode.

What problems can a little teeny, tiny, weak 3.6v battery cause? About a months worth of problems. And the funny thing, the clock never lost time when it was unplugged, so it doesn't even need to be 'dead,' just drained. A little tiny $15 item can bring a G5 to dementia and near fatal seizures, with an amped up turbo-fan that any drug-running, speed boat owner would be proud to have.

All is well now, except I am still using the hockey puck mouse. Baby steps, baby steps.

Views: 66

Comment by Lars (WhyOSX) on June 11, 2009 at 7:28pm
It's a difficult thing with the PRAM batteries. With decreasing voltage, an older model behaves as normal, but some applications and first of all the Finder tells you, the time and date settings are wrong. This usually happens in two steps: step one leads you back to Aug. 15th, 1956, if the voltage goes further down (less than 3.3V), the affected machines work, but startup is slower and the date is Jan. 1st, 1904 then.
After that, a startup can be completed only by holding down cmd.-opt.-R-P on startup to erase PRAM info.
Alert time - a weak battery tends to leak !
An iMac will not startup at all with reduced voltage - I don't know what recent machines do.
The Books are a litte bit more complicated, since they have two batteries, a recharchable/removable and a static - but if the built-in reaches its lifetime, there may be no startup at all - this is the case with one of my 1400s, a 'Happy Mac' is kind of a special reward for endurance; there are these troubles with a cs/133 right now.
Comment by Hillbillybear on June 11, 2009 at 8:31pm
Thanks Kathryn, I'm only in the early learning phase of diagnosis and repair, so that was helpful and entertaining. I've been purchasing a few powerbooks from the 90's and discovering a few small problems. I'd better get inside and replace these batteries. Thanks Lars. Cheers.
Comment by Lars (WhyOSX) on June 12, 2009 at 6:02pm
I'm so sorry, it's Aug. 27th, 1956, 12:35.
Comment by Mark Frischknecht on June 13, 2009 at 3:55pm
Hockeypuck mouse..... but you could to to wallmart and buy a 10$ optical mouse....
Comment by Kathryn on June 13, 2009 at 5:15pm
Ah, but that was an issue. Non Apple mice need drivers of some sort, usually and the PRAM would not accept settings from peripherals. Therefore, hockey puck. I did get my Logitech trackball working fine again. And, I brought my Apple mouse back from work, just in case.
Comment by Lars (WhyOSX) on June 13, 2009 at 7:45pm
To be featuring my beloved accessories a little, have you seen this:
http://retromaccast.ning.com/photo/unitrap-mouse-adapter
? ;-)
Comment by Kathryn on June 14, 2009 at 1:45am
I just looked at your photo, very neat item. Those would really help to keep the mouse orientation correct.
Comment by Lars (WhyOSX) on June 14, 2009 at 3:20am
There is a contour.com site, but no informations about this experiment of a decade ago are offered.
I can't believe it was a success economically.
Comment by James Wages on July 4, 2009 at 5:29pm
I heard about your Pismo woes on the latest episode of RetroMacCast. The CUDA switch could be your ticket to a working machine again. Read more about that and PRAM on this extensive page:

http://www.geocities.com/texas_macman/pram.html
Comment by Lars (WhyOSX) on July 4, 2009 at 6:11pm
This is an interesting page to read, thanx for linking that up !

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