PowerBook 170 SoundApp Error-11

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ian1035nr
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PowerBook 170 SoundApp Error-11

Post by ian1035nr » January 29th, 2020, 12:49 am

Howdy, everyone, I've been tinkering with my old PowerBook 170, but I've run into some trouble.

I installed SoundApp on the machine and copied over some music to see how gracefully the 170 could handle some multimedia. Transferring songs over serial takes forever and a day, but playback itself works great, until it doesn't.

The issue is completely random, but sooner or later, the PowerBook freezes with error -11. It could be a matter of hours, or minutes, but sooner or later, it literally bombs.

I've tried running the PowerBook with all extensions disabled, and it didn't solve anything. I tried various formats and encoding schemes for the songs, but no joy. I left the About this Mac dialog box open to keep an eye on RAM consumption during playback, and when it freezes, the laptop still has about 4.3/8 megabytes of RAM available.

I've left the machine running for hours doing all sorts of other tasks, and this is the only thing that makes it crash. I tried looking into error -11, but most information is about an error in the 68k emulator used on PowerPC Macs, which isn't applicable here. 68k specific information pegs it as a general hardware fault, which isn't especially helpful.

I will note that the bottom of the PowerBook does get pretty toasty after a while, that 25MHz CPU doesn't really get a break.

Do you y'alls think the machine is simply running too hot? And if that's the case, is there a small heat sink I could pop on there to better dissipate the heat, if there isn't one installed already (I haven't popped this thing open since I upgraded the RAM and HDD in 2007, I can barely remember the layout)?

The PowerBook is running system 7.6.1, and it's running the latest, 2.7.3 version of SoundApp. For reference, the songs are in the AIFF format and encoded at 8bit, 22000KHz with mono sound

Any insight or even an alternative to SoundApp that might not crash is appreciated.
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Turboladdade
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Re: PowerBook 170 SoundApp Error-11

Post by Turboladdade » January 29th, 2020, 3:44 pm

I would first try narrowing down whether it's a heat/hardware issue, or a bug with SoundApp. I suggest opening one of these sound files in QuickTime player, setting it to loop, and let it run for a long time — long enough that you know would cause SoundApp to crash. If it keeps running fine, then you know it's not your hardware.

If it's a bug with SoundApp, I would try browsing the Info-Mac Archive — Graphic & Sound Tool folder to see if there is an alternative app that might work for you. You also might search the Music & Sound category over at Macintosh Garden.

That being said, keep in mind this machine is very old and software back then was just infinitely more buggy than compared to today*. A Mac or PC crashing and needing a restart several times a day was considered completely normal and within expectations. Times have really changed :shock:

Keep us posted!
I am now telling the computer exactly what it can do.
ian1035nr
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Re: PowerBook 170 SoundApp Error-11

Post by ian1035nr » January 30th, 2020, 1:04 am

I was in the process of transferring QuickTime over to the PowerBook (ETA was 90 minutes through ZModem) so I figured I'd bring the 170 to work with me along with my old netbook and let the transfer run. I forgot to bring my charger and the netbook died halfway through! So the QuickTime trial will have to wait until the morning.

But I decided to fire up SoundApp and see how it behaved on a desk in a well ventilated area. It ran much cooler, surprising no one, but still crashed with error -11 after 15 minutes or so. So it's probably something with Soundapp. I might even try some older versions to see if they play a bit nicer with an over the hill 170. And there's other programs out there for me to try. If that doesn't pan out, well, this was obviously just a fun experiment, it's not like I'll be making a DJ career out of this machine.
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Turboladdade
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Re: PowerBook 170 SoundApp Error-11

Post by Turboladdade » January 30th, 2020, 4:21 am

How are you transferring directly from a PC to your 170?
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ian1035nr
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Re: PowerBook 170 SoundApp Error-11

Post by ian1035nr » January 30th, 2020, 4:59 am

I have Hyperterminal on my PC transferring the .bin.smi files over serial using ZModem. It's been my saving grace for the 13 years I've had this PowerBook, I don't have any other options on hand for transferring large files
ian1035nr
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Re: PowerBook 170 SoundApp Error-11

Post by ian1035nr » January 31st, 2020, 12:21 am

I got QuickTime installed on this bad boy. And it was.... rough. I definitely shouldn't have put the last version made for 68k machines on something so old, that poor decision was the result of my own hubris. Playback was choppy and there wasn't a repeat or playlist option, so I couldn't let it run steady to see if it would cause a crash.

I put Mpegdec on the 170 as well just to see what would happen, and it wasn't pretty. Even with the quality of the MP3 files reduced drastically, playback skipped a lot and the entire system was locked up until it finished playing whatever song was loaded,

I decided to give Soundapp another go, it's smooth as silk during playback and I can run other apps concurrently without it skipping a beat, it's great apart from the system-halting crashes. I went in the PowerBook's memory settings and bumped the disk cache to a full megabyte. I also went into Soundapp's preferences and set the playback cache to 512 kilobytes.

Somehow, that seems to have fixed it. I let it run on repeat for 5 hours, and it didn't crash. I have it at work with me now to test playback on battery power. It's been an hour and so far, so good.
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Turboladdade
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Re: PowerBook 170 SoundApp Error-11

Post by Turboladdade » January 31st, 2020, 4:07 am

It’s possible that SoundApp simply relies on QuickTime (as most multimedia apps of that era do) and updating the extensions is what fixed it.
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ian1035nr
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Re: PowerBook 170 SoundApp Error-11

Post by ian1035nr » January 31st, 2020, 5:06 am

I considered that possibility after getting QuickTime installed, so I ran SoundApp yesterday after the QuickTime 4 installation and it still crashed. After that, I uninstalled QuickTime 4 completely since I won't be using it anytime soon. Waiting around for the 170s slow hard drive might have been what was tripping SoundApp up. I might never know, but it's definitely happier with a lot of cache available
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