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Make sure there is no battery corrosion on the battery contacts. If there is rub it off with a pencil eraser (nothing abrasive or it willget worse) until bright and shiney. If this does not fix the problem it should be sent off for service.
I'm sure this won't work for everyone but I used a long thin flathead screwdriver to scrape some corrosion off of the contacts that would be touching the positive side of the battery and then it fired up fine. I'll use some swaps dipped in alcohol to give them a better cleaning later but after the scraping (gentle) it fired right up.
Nikon hot shoe is rated up to 250V (canon's is rated up to 6V) so you can use almost any tipe of flash, except maybe for old studio flashes. Vivitar 283 (older versions) is ~200V rated, and much lower on newer versions. It should work.
Remember that even though sb-600 is wireless, it is based on infrared. This usually means having a clear line-of-sight between flash commander and remote flash. Any object that gets in way can block signal from flash commander. Weak batteries in flash will also cause remote operation to be sporadic.
I have sent my SB-600 to Nikon twice in the past 6 months to resolve this problem. They have fixed it both times, but never told me what the problem was. I've had it back for exactly 1 day now, and it's started back up again already. If I receive a solution (or replacement), I'll let you know!