eXtensions Diary

Bangkok Diary Sunday 11 November 2007: (2) A second install on the MacBookPro

Graham K. Rogers

Time Machine Initially I had no problems with Time Machine. Both my students and I are impressed with what it does and how it does it. Others did experience difficulties and there was much space taken up online by this feature which did not work for some people.

I had several local users contact me with complaints and warnings (too late, I was already on the road) as well as some fears. One user, C. J. Hinke of FACT (Freedom Against Censorship in Thailand) provided me with a Bangkok Diary article that I put online.

My problems were not initially Time Machine problems, although that may have become broken on the way. An older scanner in our office was needed on Friday afternoon and the technician was frantically hunting about for the drivers to put it on a PC. Despite having the disk, the office girl was in the middle of other work and it was not a good idea to run the risk of installing software on a Windows system at that time.

I offered the Mac as I had already installed the drivers for the Mac and used the scanner a couple of times for book covers and other images: one at a time. The software had been fine on the PowerPC G4 processor, and then it had worked a few times on Tiger, but now we had a new oerating system.

The first picture scanned, but to bring in another image after the first is saved, the Hewlett-Packard software calls on a second application and this did not work as planned. The only way, in the end, was to force quit, restart the scanner and reconnect the USB cable. It was as if something was getting stuck down the cable and detaching it, freed the Mac, but only by rstarting the scanner was the process able to be continued.

Afterwards, I put the computer to sleep as there were meetings with students. Later, in my office, I reactivated it, and swtiched to the correct wifi network, then plugged in the external hard disk. The trackpad/cursor locked solid and there seemed to be no activity; although I could hear that the hard disk was reading very slowly.

I pulled the plug.

Not immediately, but after one of those apparently interminable waits when the system is not responding to any input at all, I decided this was the most economic action. I did check the disk afterwards and all appeared OK. When I reconnected the hard disk, Time Machine began its process slowly but eventuallyt reported that the backup was made and showed the next scheduled event, so I went home.

A different network -- one that is considerably less flaky than that in the office, had me online with no apparent problem, until an email from my sister in the UK. She asked about the weather. As it is getting (comparatively) colder in Thailand -- it still has most tourists sweating -- I thought I would gloat by telling her the coldness of the temperatures (22 deg Celsius, 71F). There were no widgets.

Widgets The screen darkened slightly and the + sign appeared at the bottom left. I was even able to see the Widget management tool and all widgets lying in wait at the base of the screen. Clicking on any one of these, closed the widget tools and returned me to the desktop. As I had before, I went round the system deleting the cache, the references and the rest, with no success. As with the other situation after the QickTime install, it was again system wide. Something is missing and I cannot put my finger on it.

What I am also aware of is that on Monday at 9am I am again teaching my Thai students with session 2 of the Introduction to Macs, which this week is covering software. The new Safari and its widget tricks are on the agenda: or were.

Despite being normally only Windows users, this group of students has one Linux user and two Mac owners. One of these is on his second MacBook, while the other has it for the Windows partition his Dad put on.

I am facing the same dilema as with the eMac: do I take time to track down and repair (if I can find the cause) or cut my losses? With the eMac the easy part was making the decision. The hard part was realising that there was not enough disk space so I would have to erase and begin anew.

Once more, I bit the bullet, but this time had plenty of space for the Archive and Install, a process I had not tried since my G3 iMac.

    Update: this would actally appear to be a bug with Parental Controls. Others are reporting similar behaviour after turning on certain of the controls and restrictions from an Admin. account, although I used the Admin. password from my ordinary user account. My decision still stands, bug or not. The problem has been cured by the reinstall (see below) and I can worry about Parental Controls later.

    Note: Along with others, I reported this as a bug. The Apple's department that deals with this sent me email, part of which stated, "this is a known issue, which is currently being investigated by engineering."

I didn't agonise. In with the disk and on with the install. I am glad I checked the option and configure buttons. The former to select the install method and the latter to trim down the language localisations and remove some of the printer drivers.

While the MacBookPro did its stuff, I toyed with the idea of watching a DVD on the TV. I had two newly-arrived: Forbidden Planet and Torch Song Trilogy. Either might have been apt.

SUCCESS After half an hour, though, we were done. I compared the new installation with the Old System folder. I did see that this folder included the Developer Tools, which I moved back to the disk. I checked and was not surprised to see that the widgets were back. Switching to my User account I was pleased to see that my desktop (a Kandinsky) was back. All seemed well. Spotlight was reindexing the disk, so I left it alone and went back to the TV..

Bit by bit, when Spotlight was done, I went through the applications and found that iTunes and QuickTime needed updating as well as several others, esepcially from the iLife suite.

One notes that there is a change in the way updates are made. There is a major part of the install that occurs after the Restart button has been pressed. And on restart I saw that Little Snitch failed to make an appearance. The configuration application told me that, "Little Snitch is broken". As the download was still in that new downloads folder (maybe we will get used to that after all) getting it on was quick, but resulted in another restart. Little Snitch began to run and I saw that, thankfully, the new serial number was recognised, which saved me another hunt.

Time Machine The MacBookPro has had more restarts in the last few days than in the previous 6 months it has been in my hands, which perhaps may give a clue to the way problems were beginning to build in the background.

As I went round the computer I checked what was working. Safari was fine and all of the RSS feeds I had subscribed to in the past were listed. The new desktop tool worked as designed, so I have one of my demonstrations for the class set up. While running through the system, iTunes gave me a fright when the application itself started but failed to display the panel with the tunes lists. After a couple of randon clicks, I had all my music back.

It was time to dump the Previous System folder. Were there really over 120,000 items in there? Before I trashed it, there was 48.37G of space on the hard disk. Afterwards, 62.05G, which was more than I had before. I am not sure if that is a good thing or bad.

    No major update to an operating system is effected painlessly and it is not a major surprise to me that I had a couple of problems on the way. With the eMac, and latterly with the MacBookPro, I am fairly confident that weaknesses were either promotoed (or at best not helped) by 3rd party software and by my own actions.

    Others have not been so lucky and there are two possibilities: Apple did a lousy upgrade; or the users have weak installations. These are somewhat simplistic views and may not cover all situations, but if Apple did provide us with faulty software, one would expect that worldwide there would be an outcry. Clearly that has not happened and some people (myself included) have been successful.

    I am also not convinced that some third party devlopers did enough. As a registered user of many products I have been irked by the number of times in the last couple of weeks that I have found out about upgrades -- or worse that the software was unstable (or even risky) -- from online news sources and not directly from the developers themselves.

    I was particularly upset with Little Snitch, to whom I wrote the day I ugraded (27th) as the software clearly was not working properly, but had no reply until the week began. I then had to pay for an upgrade to a beta version (which later did become a full version).

    With some success and some dubious events, I guess the score for me stands at 50:50


See also Part One: OS X Leopard: Success and Failure in my hands

Made on Mac

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