Panther freezes: Still there in 10.3.4

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
May 29th, 2004 • 5:30 am

It’s always the same, isn’t it? Just when I decided that I had enjoyed a long period of stability and started bragging about it here, bam! I get hit with another system-wide freeze.

The symptoms are exactly the same as in the last freeze a week ago. I leave my computer running doing various tasks. After 15 min, as expected, the displays go to sleep (I can verify this later when walking by the machine, without touching it). And then I come back to the machine about an hour later, press a key on the keyboard to wake the displays up from sleep. They do wake up, but the system appears frozen. The mouse can still move, but I can’t click anywhere. And things that are supposed to be changing on a constant basis (menu bar clock, AirPort status) are frozen as well. Only a hard reset brings the machine back to life.

The USB ports on my secondary display are still working, so there doesn’t appear to be a relation with that other chronic failure here. And I can no longer call this a “screen saver freeze”, as I did last week, because the screen saver was not involved. It’s now set to “never” and never comes into play.

There is absolutely no clue either on the screen itself when it was frozen or in the system.log. It’s a mystery.

Of course, with my luck, the computer was in the middle of burning a CD when this happened. And one more coaster for the garbage…

I don’t suspect Toast (the CD burning application) here because it wasn’t involved in the previous freezes of a similar nature. And I can’t really suspect my hard drives either… So we’re pretty much back to square one. It’s got to be one of three things:

  1. a bug in Mac OS X 10.3 itself, which was not fixed in 10.3.4
  2. something in my hardware setup (computer, USB devices, FireWire devices)
  3. one of the processes that are running in the background while I am aware from the computer

My gut feeling is that it’s either #1 or #3 — and probably #1, especially if you consider all the processes running that are part of essential pieces of the Mac OS X environment, such as iCal, Mail, etc. I don’t really separate Apple’s applications from the OS system here, because there are so many interactions between the two, as demonstrated by the fact that most Mac OS X updates include improvements for the applications and not just for the system itself.

So now I am going to start calling these freezes “display sleep” freezes. That’s pretty much the only clear factor involved. I don’t get the freezes if the displays are not asleep. Whether the freezes happen when the displays go to sleep, while the displays are asleep, or when I wake the displays from sleep is another matter. I don’t think it’s when I wake them, because the menu bar clock is usually frozen on a earlier time, not on the time it is when I wake the displays up. I’ll have to try writing down the exact time when I stop working on the computer and leave it alone, and then compare this to the time of “death” as indicated by the frozen menu bar clock. Maybe it’ll give me some clue.

3 Responses to “Panther freezes: Still there in 10.3.4”

  1. Pierre Igot says:

    Mmm, I have waited more than a few minutes on some occasions, and never got the machine back.

  2. HpTroll says:

    I had the same problem recently, but discovered that instead of rebooting, I could just wait for a couple of minutes, so that the various background processes involved in whatever causes the freeze get back to their senses.

  3. Joris says:

    My TiBook started freezing about a week ago. I don’t recall installing anything on that day, or doing someting special. After a lot of watching all kinds of system info, going through logfiles, I still wasn’t anything closer to a solution.
    I now believe it has something to do with my AirPort? reception. The only thing I changed was the location of my computer. Instead of being close to my AirPort BaseStation, I was now in a location with a lot of interference. The reception jumped quite rapidly between 3 and no bars in the menubar indicator.
    I moved my computer back, and have not experienced a freeze, BUT, it is still a short while since I moved it, so maybe I am cheering too early…
    (I also changed some other things in the configuration, so these could also have affected the stability. I removed and put back my memory modules, and I insulated the orange ribbon near the memory modules as I read in some thread about freezing powerbooks.

    The problem is difficult to track, since the crashreporter thinks nothing is wrong so nothing turns up in logfiles…

    May be this will help you and others.
    Good luck.
    Hope my computer stays up for a while so I can do some work again.
    If my computer is ill, so am I.

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