TLDR summary: When I have my external monitors plugged in, Skype locks up my computer periodically, as if it is causing some kind of overload. In fact it happened JUST NOW while I was typing this damn post. Someone was calling me and I went to answer it and $&#@@@#@&^%. Elaboration posted below the specs.
2.3 GHz 4-core processor
16 GB RAM
MacOS X 10.6.8
Thunderbolt Port Firmware Version 22.1
USB (always attached: )
• FaceTime HD Camera (built-in)
• Bluetooth USB Host Controller
• Apple Internal Keyboard / Trackpad
• IR Receiver
(nearly always attached: )
• Microsoft Nano Transceiver v2.0 (wireless mouse)
• Logitech Wireless Headset OR Logitech USB Headset
• iMate, USB to ADB Adaptor ==> Apple ADB Keyboard
• Dymo LabelWriter 450
VillageTronic ViBook Plus USB-based display adapter
apparently relevant software:
Skype – actual version=126.96.36.1996; presenting as version 188.8.131.524
• Using Skype with my external monitor(s) attached doesn’t always cause a problem, or even usually cause a problem. But if the problem crops up, I am definitely using Skype and I had an external monitor attached.
• What happens is that, first, the external monitors go black; when I am at home, the one powered by USB goes dark first, then the one plugged into the Thunderbolt port. But I get this behavior when I am at my other girlfriends’ homes as well, where I am only running one external, always plugged into the Thunderbolt port. Anyway, after the external monitor(s) go(es) black, the main built-in laptop screen also goes black. I am always using Skype at the time. Sometimes the audio (and internet) keep working long enough to tell the other person “I am about to lose you”.
After all the screens are dark, I will generally hit the screen brightness control key (it’s the F2 key on my keyboard) and doing so causes the fans to shut off. Computer is now acting as if it has been shut down.
I hit the F2 key again a few times. Fans come back on. Built-in laptop screen comes back on. Image onscreen is as it was when it went dark, though: the clock in the menu bar, which is set to display seconds, is not updating. Mouse cursor doesn’t response to mouse movements. Then the external monitors start coming on. (This involves reloading desktop pictures and configuring the overall size of the Desktop and all that). Then the clock catches up, the mouse cursor begins working again. If I had a database open in FileMaker, I will have lost the connection; if I had a VPN connection going, the VPN will no longer be working; and the Skype call is disconnected. In short, the internet connection went down and now comes back up, and anything that requires perpetual connection in order to function gets disrupted. (Web browser screens don’t work that way. The web server doesn’t care if you lose internet connectivity, doesn’t notice, doesn’t matter, and neither does the local computer).
I was thinking “power supply” before I noticed that it is ALWAYS when I’m on the goddam phone, using Skype.
Skype use involves the use of a USB headset – wireless at home, non-wireless USB elsewhere. That got me thinking it has something to do with overloading the USB bus with so many devices? But the headset is plugged in whether Skype is running or not.
Then there’s the external monitor business. Limited experimentation at home seems to indicate that the behavior doesn’t happen when I only use the ViBook USB based external monitor, but only when I have a monitor plugged into the Thunderbolt port. So that got me thinking I’ve got an issue with the Thunderbolt port. But what’s Skype got to do with it?
Skype itself is a massively out of date app. It dates back to a time when Skype would register its own URL type – callto://12125551212 is recognized by the OS and by various other applications as a URL that gets passed on to Skype which does the dialing. The folks who make Skype broke that a long time ago. No freaking idea why. I rely on the URL type for my home-made address book so I refused to update Skype and thus break this functionality. At some point along the line, Skype’s servers were set up to block any use by such ancient versions of Skype, but being a stubborn person I went under the hood into the “package” that Skype.app consists of, and I modified the relevant strings in its innards so that it reports itself as being version 184.108.40.2064, which fools the Skype servers and Skype continues to work for me, can make and receive phone calls and send and receive text with other Skype users, etc. Except that, well, it also seems to be involved in putting my computer into a coma.
I’m inclined to take the computer to the Apple Store genius bar folks, but my instinct says this one is going to be difficult to diagnose. Intermittent problems are always a PITA. Obsolete software running on an obsolete operating system isn’t going to help.
What do you think could be causing this?