Interesting Rosetta problem

Having set up a brand new Mac mini for my parents (woo!), I tried running the excellent Eric’s Ultimate Solitaire – only to run into a hang while it was opening (this is on 10.5.7). Curiously, in two of the three user accounts (on migrated, one new), the hang occurred; but in the other account, also migrated, it booted fine. This was a pretty major problem, as basically my mother couldn’t live without “Eric”, as she affectionately refers to it. It’s been a constant companion ever since the demo shipped on our first Mac, a Performa 6320.

I deleted cache files, ran maintenance scripts, repaired permissions, deleted preferences… Everything I could think of, but to no avail. I finally ended up staring at the Get Info window for the app, wondering what was wrong, and noticed that it was a PowerPC application.

Universal Binary logo

Now, I know about Leopard’s Rosetta technology for running PPC code on Intel Macs, and I knew that Ultimate worked fine with it: not only did it work in an account on this new Mac, it worked when I tested it on my laptop. So, I figured maybe Rosetta was broken somehow in these two user accounts. I decided to try opening an application in Rosetta – you can force this using the checkboxes in the Get Info window of a Universal application – to test it out. I chose Chess.app, and it worked fine. Puzzled, I went back to Ultimate for the last time, and… it loaded!

I’ve since tested the solution in other accounts, and each time it’s worked: Ultimate was hanging on launch, I opened Chess in Rosetta mode, and went back to Ultimate to find it was fixed. Best of all, it seems to be permanent.

So, I don’t know if anyone’s ever come across a similar problem, or even this solution, before; but if you’re having trouble with a PowerPC application on an Intel Mac, I highly recommend opening an app like Chess in Rosetta mode and seeing if it helps to jump-start compatibility.

Addendum: Whether the problem lies with Ultimate or with Leopard I honestly have no idea. Ultimate has always been reliable for us (and it’s very heavily tested :)). On the other hand, I had to reinstall iLife Support and zap the P-RAM in order to solve a Leopard problem with slow screensavers (of all things) – that stemmed from using the Migration Assistant. So, I have my suspicions on this one…

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