Dear Apple: For the Last Damn Time, Not Everyone Has Always-On Internet.
March 29, 2008 2:21 AM   Subscribe

For the default Calculator app in Mac OS, how do I permanently disable the behavior that results in the "unable to update currency exchange rates" warning at startup?

I recently ran Software Update on my Mac, so it's now running OS 10.4.11. This update came with a very unwelcome (to me) "improvement" in the basic system application Calculator. Calculator apparently now tries to connect to the internet every time it starts, in order to get currency conversion rates (!?). I am not online most of the time. This means any time I start Calculator, this obnoxious dialog box pops up telling me the app was "unable to update currency exchange rates."

Even if I use Little Snitch to tell Calculator it's never allowed to connect to the internet, this doesn't fix the problem that every time Calculator starts it will give me that stupid "unable to update" dialog box that I have to click OK on before I can even add two numbers together. To me, the point of Calculator is to start immediately and be dead simple.

Please tell me there's a way to disable this new feature. If there's not, what is a tiny, free, third party calculator app for Mac OS? (I can't believe I'd have to install a third party app for something as simple as a calculator, but I will if I have to. I don't need anything but the most basic functions.)
posted by lorimer to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Try setting the converter to area or distance before closing the calculator next time, so it doesn't need to look anything up when you open it. If you need currency conversion can you update to 10.4.3? Apple specifically mentions calculator was modified again in that update. There is also a calculator available in dashboard that I use a lot.
posted by Science! at 2:54 AM on March 29, 2008

I'm not sure this is a new feature. On my machine, if it can't connect to the internet, it just uses old values for the currency converter, or won't do any conversion if it has no values. This makes me wonder if Calculator on your machine has got into a weird state. In which case, it is worth resetting it as follows: Quit Calculator. Delete the directory '~/Library/Application Support/Calculator' and the file '~/Library/Preferences/'. Restart Calculator.
posted by beniamino at 2:56 AM on March 29, 2008

I'm not sure about a setting, but I think you should try Longhand. It's a ridiculously simple concept, and it'll make you realize how absurd it is to try to model a physical calculator when a computer is capable of so much more.
posted by AaRdVarK at 3:42 AM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've NEVER used any kind of convertor function in Calculator (and it's never given me this message before the system update I did from 10.4.8 to 10.4.11).

I followed beniamino's instructions. I've restarted Calculator several times, these two things still both happen each time it starts:

- first, the spinning rainbow ball goes for several seconds (which I've never seen happen for Calculator until this system update I did);

- then Calculator starts, with the same dialog box covering it, "Unable to update currency exchange rates at this time."
posted by lorimer at 4:28 AM on March 29, 2008

Something did change in 10.4.11 - this support article talks about it fixing roughly the opposite problem in previous versions. It's fine for me running the PPC version of 10.4.11 here however.

Interestingly, if I disable the network adaptor on the Mac (by unchecking it in System Preferences - Network - Network Port Configuration), the "Update Currency Exchange Rates" option in Calculator is greyed out, and the button in the "Convert - Currency" popup disappears.

What happens if you disable the network adaptor, blow away the prefs as per beniamino's instructions, then open Calculator before re-enabling the network adaptor?
posted by Pinback at 5:11 AM on March 29, 2008

(Sorry, I meant this support article).
posted by Pinback at 5:12 AM on March 29, 2008

Response by poster: Great thought, Pinback -- we're clearly on the right track, but not there yet:

TEST 1: quit Calc, disable network adapter, start Calc.
RESULT: success! instant start, no error dialog.

TEST 2: quit Calc, re-enable network adapter, start Calc.
RESULT: same problem: error dialog.

TEST 3: quit Calc, disable network adapter, trash the prefs folder & file as instructed by beniamino, start Calc.
RESULT: success! instant start, no error dialog.

TEST 4: quit Calc, re-enable network adapter, start Calc.
RESULT: same problem: error dialog. (Have tried several restarts of Calc.)

(Anytime network adapter is enabled, problem is still happening)

posted by lorimer at 6:14 AM on March 29, 2008

List of a bunch of free osx calculators.

If you're only using the basic functions....why not use the calculator in the dashboard?
posted by filmgeek at 7:57 AM on March 29, 2008

Even better than the Dashboard calculator is the Spotlight calculator. Just click the magnifying glass at the far right end of the menu bar (or hit command-space), type in your calculation, and it solves as you type. It's a very speedy way to do quick and dirty calculations. You might never use the calculator app again.
posted by teg at 8:55 AM on March 29, 2008

Do you have a View > RPN Mode option? Turning that off (at least in Leopard) disabled the Convert menu, hopefully obviating any need to download rates.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 9:25 AM on March 29, 2008

Best answer: Well, I dunno - apart from also deleting the '~/Library/Caches/Calculator' directory, which Google suggests may have solved other converter-related problems in earlier versions of

WCityMike: or you could just type 'bc'.
posted by Pinback at 3:42 PM on March 29, 2008

Response by poster: Spotlight calculator would be PERFECT -- unfortunately seems to be only a Leopard feature (I've got 10.4).

I tried deleting '~/Library/Caches/Calculator' and quitting & restarting in RPN mode, no luck.

Command-line calculator is actually great, and it starts if you type "bc," as Pinback says. I'll go for that!

Thanks everybody!

posted by lorimer at 4:30 PM on March 29, 2008

Also, there's a simple calculator function in Quicksilver (if you use it). It's one of the plugins.
posted by dhruva at 5:52 PM on March 30, 2008

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