Help Desk

Glenn Fleish­man an­swers your most vex­ing Mac prob­lems

Macworld - - Feature -


QSys­tem soft­ware is up to date. I use Suit­case Fu­sion ( and it’s also up to date. I tried boot­ing up with­out Suit­case but that made no dif­fer­ence. Copy­ing the cam­ou­flaged text and past­ing into Tex­tEdit re­veals the orig­i­nal let­ters, so the un­der­ly­ing in­for­ma­tion isn’t lost– just hid­den.

AOther peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­enced the same prob­lem, some­times in Mail and some­times in Sa­fari, have solved it by re­solv­ing font cor­rup­tion or duplication. You can use Font Book for both, a font util­ity found in macOS’s Ap­pli­ca­tions folder and part of Ap­ple’s sys­tem soft­ware.

Open Font Book. First, try val­i­da­tion: 1. Click All Fonts in the side­bar at left. 2. Click in the fonts list to its right. 3. Choose Edit > Se­lect All (or press Com­mand-A). 4. Choose File > Val­i­date Fonts.

If you have a lot of fonts in­stalled, the val­i­da­tion can take a while. When it com­pletes, re­view the list of prob­lems. Font Book shows a yel­low yield sign for mi­nor prob­lems and a red stop sign for cor­rup­tion. On my Mac, I had 15 mi­nor prob­lems out of 452 fonts, and the is­sue ap­peared to be duplication, which can some­times cause the ques­tion-mark prob­lem in ques­tion. You can se­lect those fonts and right-click on the se­lec­tion to pick Re­solve Du­pli­cates, and then choose whether to re­solve man­u­ally or au­to­mat­i­cally. You should quit Mail and launch it again, and if

it doesn’t solve the prob­lem, restart the Mac just in case there’s a caching is­sue.

If that still doesn’t help, you can use a sort of nu­clear weapon: in Font Book, choose File > Re­store Stan­dard Fonts. This prompts a warn­ing, as it will move all non-Ap­ple font files into a Fonts (Re­moved) folder with­out delet­ing them, and copy back orig­i­nal ver­sions of fonts, in­clud­ing any that might have been re­moved un­in­ten­tion­ally.

Don is us­ing Suit­case, so I’d use Suit­case to dis­able all non-Ap­ple fonts be­fore per­form­ing this op­er­a­tion. Suit­case can ref­er­ence fonts you have in­stalled in lo­ca­tions others than the sys­tem Fonts fold­ers (there are separate ones for all users and for each user), which means dis­abling those fonts won’t move them to a new lo­ca­tion. Af­ter restor­ing fonts in this man­ner, most peo­ple with re­main­ing prob­lems found them­selves back to nor­mal.


Ce­cil Usher wants to give his grand­daugh­ter a 2010-era 27in iMac. How­ever, there’s a prob­lem.

The screen goes com­pletely black and stays that way for no ap­par­ent rea­son, some­times shortly af­ter turn­ing the Mac on and some­times not all. Some­times the screen sim­ply never turns on and stays com­pletely black. When the screen stays on, it looks per­fect.

He took the iMac to an Ap­ple-au­tho­rized ser­vice cen­tre that couldn’t repli­cate the prob­lem and their di­ag­nos­tics found noth­ing wrong. How­ever, he writes that: “We took the ma­chine home and the screen came on at startup and within a minute went blank. This has been hap­pen­ing for over a year.”

The iMac works with an ex­ter­nal dis­play just fine, whether or not the in­ter­nal dis­play is blank.

With­out lay­ing hands on the com­puter, my guess is this is an elec­tri­cal fault that has a ther­mal com­po­nent. While I haven’t seen this re­cently, in my youth – when I was more hands on with sol­der­ing irons and cir­cuits – it was rel­a­tively com­mon to have faults that only ma­te­ri­al­ized un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances in which heat­ing or cool­ing caused ex­pan­sion or con­trac­tion that caused a tem­po­rary gap in what­ever con­duc­tive ma­te­rial was pass­ing elec­tric­ity.

(As a child, my fam­ily had a

colour TV set, but when it heated up, it shifted to black and white. We had to bang it to get colour back. Bang­ing the set jarred the dis­con­ti­nu­ity in the solid-state cir­cuit that did colour de­cod­ing. Yes, I’m that old.)

With mod­ern man­u­fac­ture, that sort of non­sense is much less likely, but given that mov­ing the iMac into a dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tion made the prob­lem im­pos­si­ble to repli­cate lends cre­dence. In move­ment, it might have been jarred, or the re­pair fa­cil­ity might be heav­ily air con­di­tioned or not at all, while Ce­cil’s home is the op­po­site.

I sus­pect the re­pair shop only ran hard­ware di­ag­nos­tics via soft­ware, which wouldn’t re­veal this, and didn’t open it up. It might cost £100 or more to have some­one qual­i­fied crack the case and look for signs of fail­ure, at which point un­less they’re handy with a sol­der­ing iron and it’s some­thing that can be fixed with molten tin and lead, it won’t be worth re­pair­ing.

Just to on the safe side, I al­ways sug­gest the fol­low­ing as part of di­ag­nos­ing video is­sues:

Boot in safe mode. This some­times re­veals prob­lems with video cards that don’t ma­te­ri­al­ize other­wise. That seems un­likely here, but if the iMac runs for hours in safe mode with­out the screen blank­ing, there’s a soft­ware-re­lated prob­lem.

Re­in­stall macOS over the ex­ist­ing in­stal­la­tion. If there’s any sys­tem soft­ware is­sue, as bizarre as that might be, this would solve it.

Un­for­tu­nately, an ex­ter­nal mon­i­tor is likely the best way to keep us­ing this iMac if the two above trou­bleshoot­ing op­tions don’t help fur­ther.

We also rec­om­mend you check the vent holes on the back and bot­tom of your iMac for dust. You can use a vac­uum brush at­tach­ment or com­pressed air. (If you use com­pressed air, re­mem­ber to power down the Mac, and place it in a po­si­tion so that you keep the can of air up­right. Other­wise, you can spray liq­uid out of the can that evap­o­rates so rapidly it causes freez­ing on sur­faces it touches, and can dam­age the case and the screen.)


Ross Mil­lard wrote in with a com­plaint about Pho­tos for macOS. He notes that he can’t eas­ily find in

which fold­ers his images live on his com­puter when us­ing Pho­tos. He’s used to in­ter­act­ing di­rectly with his me­dia via Aper­ture, and hav­ing it di­rectly ac­ces­si­ble. iPhoto also made this easy.

Pho­tos, like iTunes and iMovie, doesn’t have a great way for you to ac­cess the me­dia and other items that it man­ages, but there are some work­arounds.

Ap­ple grad­u­ally changed its app de­sign to rely on li­brary ’files’, which are a spe­cial kind of folder, called a pack­age. To the Fin­der, and for the pur­poses of copy­ing and mov­ing items, the li­brary is a sin­gle folder. In­side, it con­tains all the sausage­mak­ing in­gre­di­ents used by the apps, in­clud­ing orig­i­nal me­dia files, mod­i­fied ones (in the cases of Pho­tos), pro­ject com­po­nents, and one or more data­bases that track what’s in­side the li­brary.

With Pho­tos, when you mod­ify an im­age, it re­tains the orig­i­nal and stores a mod­i­fied ver­sion. With the in­tro­duc­tion of the HEIF im­age file for­mat in macOS High Sierra and iOS 11 later this year, it’s pos­si­ble Ap­ple will take ad­van­tage of that file for­mat to in­cor­po­rate mod­i­fi­ca­tions as a separate layer, just in­clud­ing dif­fer­ences or in­struc­tions on how to take the orig­i­nal im­age and pro­duce the mod­i­fied one. That should make images more por­ta­ble, as they’ll be con­tain­ers in them­selves.

Once you buy into Ap­ple’s model, you don’t need to know where files are, be­cause you’re al­ways work­ing with their in­ter­face for ma­nip­u­lat­ing files. That’s not the model Ross wants to use, so Pho­tos is not ex­actly the right tool. In a pinch or for some

Boot in Safe Mode

If Font Book finds du­pli­cates, you can re­solve the prob­lem man­u­ally or au­to­mat­i­cally

What the ??? is go­ing on? Maybe a font cor­rup­tion prob­lem or a font miss­ing al­to­gether

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