Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 126 / FEBRUARY 1991 / PAGE M2

Getting started with Mac INITs. (Macintosh computers; initialization resources) (Point & Click) (evaluation)
by Donna Barron

Applications make up the meat and potatoes of Macintosh computing, but it's the utilities that add the spice. Berkeley Systems' After Dark screen saver can send winged toasters or assorted fish floating across your screen whenever your Mac isn't otherwise occupied. QuickKeys 2, a keyboard macro program from CE Software, can pack a whole string of commands into a single keystroke.

There are various types of utilities. Initialization resources (INITs) are startup utilities. Unlike desk accessory (DA) utilities, which must be loaded manually from the Apple menu and then turned off when you're done with them, INITs load automatically when you boot up your Mac and stay in RAM until you turn off the computer or disable them.

Some INITs - such as Power-Station, a desktop manager from Fifth Generation Systems - go to work as soon as they're loaded, but others just sit invisibly in RAM, waiting to be called into action. After Dark works in the background to monitor the keyboard and takes over the screen if there's no keyboard activity. During boot-up, most INITs place an icon in the lower left portion of the Mac screen to let you know they're loaded and ready to go to work.

INITs are sometimes confused with another type of utility - the Control Panel device (cdev). You can find the Control Panel under the Apple menu. When activated, it displays a scrollable list of cdev icons along its left side. Clicking on one of these icons brings the cdev's control panel to the screen. It shows you the existing setting for the cdev and the choices available if you should want to make changes. To change these sound your Mac uses a warning from a beep to a boing, for example, you would click on the Sound icon and select boing from the sound control panel.

What gets confusing is that some INITs are associated with cdevs while others are not. With After Dark, you go to the Control Panel to switch from flying toasters to fish or another screen image. Power Station, on the other hand, provides onscreen menus for changing the settings. In addition, not all cdevs are tied to INITs. (Many of Apple's own cdevs are this kind.)

In order to be self-loading, an INIT must be stored in your Mac's System folder. Beginning with System 3.0, Apple made it possible to install INITs by simply dragging them into the System folder. Any INITs in the System folder load into memory at boot-up time just as if they were part of the operating system.

Installing one INIT is like trying to eat just one potato chip. Unfortunately, the more INITs you install, the more likely it is you'll run into some sort of conflict - with another INIT, an application, or maybe even the operating system itself. A conflict may keep you from doing what you want to do, crash your system, or, in the worst case scenario, keep your computer from booting up at all (you'll have to reboot from a floppy if this happens).

There are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with INITs. Although INITs may be invisible, they still take up memory. If you're getting an out of memory message, check About the Finder under the Apple menu to make sure you have enough free memory to run your application. If not, try dragging any INITs you can part with out of the System folder and reboot.

If you run into problems during Save or Open operations, you may need to replace your System with a newer version.

Since one INIT can disable another, avoid installing two INITs that do the same thing. Also, many INITs are picky about their loading order and demand to be loaed first or last. Since the Mac loads INITs in alphabetical order, renaming an INIT to change its position in the loading process may solve your problem. On the other hand, some INITs won't run properly if you change their names.

If you add a new INIT and experience a problem, the new INIT is the most likely culprit. However, if you have been running a number of INITs successfully and suddenly begin having difficulties, the problem can be much harder to diagnose. Your best bet is to remove all your Mac's INIT s and reinstall them one at a time until you reproduce the problem. There are a number of commercial INIT managers that can help to simplify the job.

INITPicker from Microseeds Publishing, for example, makes it possible to activate and deactivate your INITs without your having to move them in and out of the System folder and to rearrange their loading order without your having to change their names. A bomb guard feature goes into action if your Mac crashes on boot-up due to an INIT conflict and automatically restarts the computer, disables the problem INIT, and advises you which INIT caused the crash.

Two Canadians, Gary Ouellet and Glenn Brown, have put together a guide to INIT problems and fixes call INITInfo, which you can down-load from either CompuServe or MacNET. For more information about INITInfo, you can contact Ouellet at 73277,2757 on CompuServe or Brown at GLENNBROWN on MacNET.