Helping out in Phuket: an Update to a Computer in the South

By Graham K. Rogers

Installation location

At the beginning of May I went to Phuket to help a user there with his 15" PowerBook. He wanted the latest version of OS X and I took the disks myself. A couple of days before leaving, I checked my PowerBook, running Disk Warrior to optimise the disk. I packed rescue software and my connecting cables with the PowerBook.

My first task was to examine the 15" PowerBook and gauge what needed to be done. While many files that used the older OS 9 were poorly organised, the disk was in good order after some maintenance. With a deep breath, I started the update and it started to rain.

installing in Thai rain
Picture by Pico

The brand new disk, straight out of its sealed box, would not work. I tried my own Tiger disk and that failed too. Both, however, worked in my PowerBook. When we tried a DVD movie the results were the same. The conclusion was that the DVD drive was faulty. I was told that this had been checked before the warranty ran out as the one movie tried earlier had failed. The owner was told that the disk itself was the problem.

One would presume that there was a conflict here. When I later took the computer into the local Apple dealer, staff put several DVD disks into the drive and some of these did work. The retail outlet agreed that they would contact the Apple office in Bangkok to re-examine the repair situation.

My journey to the south seemed to be wasted. However, by starting the 15" PowerBook in Target mode, I was able to run the installation from my computer.

Target mode screen firewire cable

In OS X versions before 10.4, Target mode is activated by restarting with the "T" key held down. In 10.4, Target mode may also be started using a button in the Startup Disk Preferences. The computers are physically linked using a 6-pin to 6-pin Firewire cable.

Target mode on screen

Target modedisk on master computer The screen of the slave computer has a moving Firewire symbol displayed. The hard disk itself appears as an external disk (with the Firewire icon) on the Master computer.

Once Target mode was started, I put the OS X 10.4 install DVD in my own PowerBook. When it appeared on the Desktop, I clicked on the Install icon. The machine restarted and the installation began. This is not something one can pause, so the advent of heavy rain needed an umbrella for protection. Even though we were under shelter: rain is horizontal here too.

The installer identified the correct disk. My own disk had 10.4.6 installed and it is impossible to update to the lower numbered system (10.4). I selected Update rather than Erase and Install as the owner wanted to retain his data (the last backup was made in January). There was also Archive and Install which installs a new system and retains the older system files. During the installation, I also chose "Customize" instead of the Easy install and deselected several languages to save disk space. At this stage, if wanted, the X11 window and Developer Tools can be included in the install.

The process took about 30 minutes and both computers were restarted. Once initial checks were done, I ran Disk Warrior. The version I have uses an earlier operating system than the PowerBook initially came with, so it is not possible to run Disk Warrior from the disk. Again, Target mode came to the rescue and I started this utility on my computer to check the slave machine.

The disk was 34% out of order (similar to fragmentation). Disk Warrior found a few problems and fixed them while tidying up the system. Before disconnecting the Firewire cable, I copied across some files including the 10.4.6 update which I installed.

Although the system was up to date with the files I had brought, I knew that there would be online updates. We needed a sensible Internet link. The following morning, we went down to Nai Harn Beach to an Italian restaurant, Pulcinella, which had WiFi. Software Update was a little reluctant initially, but after a couple of retries a list of files was shown. To start with, we downloaded some of the smaller offerings. Once these were successfully installed, we were a little more ambitious and, in two brief sessions, downloaded the rest.

Software Update location

The WiFi connection came from a TOT ADSL link which was faster than my home True ADSL link and considerably smoother. Instead of the peaks and troughs I experience, these downloads went to maximum speed immediately and were constant.

Where ToT links are available on Phuket, these connections are good. Some areas only have TT&T lines and local users are less positive about the service. I am told that some are unable to subscribe as Phuket needs more lines. Better links between the island and Bangkok are also needed.

Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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