Not every problem you encounter is related to running applications. Sometimes trouble strikes before you even get that far. The following are examples.
When you see the cheerful, multilingual dialog box shown in Figure B-2, you've got yourself a kernel panic—a Unix nervous breakdown.
(In such situations, user panic might be the more applicable term, but that's programmers for you.)
Figure B-2. A kernel panic is almost always related to some piece of add-on hardware. And look at the bright side: At least you get this handsome dialog box in Tiger. That's a lot better than the Mac OS X 10.0 and 10.1 effect—random text gibberish super-imposing itself on your screen.
Kernel panics are increasingly rare. If you see one at all, it's almost always the result of a hardware glitch—most often a bad memory (RAM) board, but possibly an accelerator card, graphics card, SCSI gadget, or USB hub that Mac OS X doesn't like. A poorly seated AirPort card can bring on a kernel panic, too, and so can a bad USB or FireWire cable.
If simply restarting the machine doesn't help, detach every shred of gear that didn't come from Apple. Restore these components to the Mac one at a time until you find out which one was causing Mac OS X's bad hair day. If you're able to pinpoint the culprit, seek its manufacturer (or its Web site) on a quest for updated drivers, or at least try to find out ...