Glenn Fleishman answers your most vexing Mac problems
WHEN FONTS WON’T DISPLAY PROPERLY IN SAFARI AND MAIL
QSystem software is up to date. I use Suitcase Fusion (fave.co/2gZZ14V) 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.
THE CASE OF THE iMAC SCREEN THAT MYSTERIOUSLY BLACKS OUT
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.)
TEMPTED TO MUCK ABOUT IN MEDIA LIBRARY FOLDERS FOR APPLE APPS LIKE PHOTOS? DON’T DO IT
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
What the ??? is going on? Maybe a font corruption problem or a font missing altogether
If Font Book finds duplicates, you can resolve the problem manually or automatically
Boot in Safe Mode