I’ve had this Powerbook since February last year, in the course of which I did a complete reinstall (on the first day – that was with 10.3) and then did an upgrade install of 10.4, aka OSX “Tiger”, when I got an – well, the – early review copy.
I’m starting to think that upgrade installs are a Bad Idea. Or else that something has got really screwed up in the past year or so.
Item: my wife’s (formerly my) 5-year-old iBook is on 10.3.9. It’s a 500MHz G3, running Eudora, Safari, Word, a few things like that. It wakes up and goes to sleep like that. Open: awake. Shut: asleep. No muss, no fuss.
And in the red corner, my 1.67GHz G4 with 1 gig of RAM (two 512MB chips, if you’re going to really enquire). I run Camino, Eudora, NetNewsWire, MarsEdit, Word, Address Book, VoodooPad, iCal, Preview…
I close the lid: there’s at least a 10-15 second delay before it goes to sleep. Sometimes longer. I open the lid: sometimes the screen wipes and it seems to be having a think before we come back. And there’s often some more musing on the machine’s part before we’re ready to do battle. Call it 30 seconds from opening the lid to being ready for business and you’re probably right.
Now, I’ve complained before that NetNewsWire and MarsEdit are resource hogs: NNW because I keep a lot of old articles; MarsEdit because it just seems to be a resource pig that refreshes web preview pages and part-pages that were fine unrefreshed, thanks (and on which you’ve clicked “Don’t refresh”). The folk at Ranchero know about the latter problem. A fix may be in sight, but not to me. (And while I was writing this MarsEdit lost all my shortcut settings for putting HTML tags in. This is just insane behaviour. Unless I somehow managed to press “Reset All”, which is not the sort of thing I’d try to do ever. Even if I’m considering a Reset All on this machine.)
That could be one cause of the delay. But more stuff is happening too. For example, from time to time applications hang all over the place, and there’s no recovery. Right now there’s a group including Camino, Mail, VoodooPad Pro (I’m testing the beta; it’s great), iCal, MenuCalendarClock and VoodooPad (stable version) which are all sitting in Activity Monitor, which declares that they’re “not responding”. Arse. I’ve got pages in Camino that I really don’t want to lose by force-quitting.
What makes this more annoying is that I had exactly this problem earlier today, when a whole bunch of other apps all just gave it the thousand-yard stare. Camino wasn’t going to do anything more. I couldn’t even launch Activity Monitor to find out what was hung; it bounced a few times, sat in the Dock but never came to life. “Can’t contact AppleSpell”, Mail said plaintively, in between giving me the SPOD. I had a Terminal window open, but couldn’t create a new one. Force-reboot was all that was left; even pressing the power button and pressing “Restart” didn’t work.
So that’s twice in one day that I’ve had a big crash, and in both cases it’s lost me work in progress. I’m starting to think that something in 10.4 has got badly futzed up somewhere along the line. Problem is that there’s only one way to properly fix that: back up, wipe, reinstall.
Here’s why I don’t want to do this.
- I have tons of apps in /Applications which aren’t Apple ones. Which means (a) moving those all to a special folder and backing that up (b) getting all the licence details out of /Preferences and /Application Support. Argh.
- Backing up my home folder is going to be one of those hellish processes that will take forever. Even though I’ve moved all my music out, there’s still a ton of stuff in there – 29 gigabytes. Which means it’s too big for any attachable HFS+ disk I’ve got lying around. (Although.. hang on, 15GB of that is ripped DVDs from DVDs I own. OK, so 14GB. That’s closer to manageable. Though only just.)
That’s not all: there are other users on this computer. They’ve got their files and settings. Not huge, admittedly, but still there.
There’s a huge folder of browser downloads, which I put in “Shared” – which the Finder tells me is another 5.78GB.
It’s going to take an age which I’d rather spend doing, well, pretty much anything. Back up all the data in a manageable fashion, check it’s been backed up – and all backed up – wipe the machine, reinstall the software you’re missing, reinstall the users, futz about with permissions, try to get MySQL and PHP and Apache set up as they ought to be – did I remember to back up those databases and their data, and the settings files? Hmm… – and then I’m theoretically back in the place where I shouldn’t have had to do all this anyway.
It’s such a dread-full process even thinking about it that I’d much rather hear someone tell me in a lazy comment that it’s perfectly simple, this is a known bug in lookupd or configd or some other piece of Unix underpinning that can be fixed by a quick bit of bit twiddling. God, I hope so. The alternatives are
1) have machine that craps out occasionally for no obvious reason
2) have machine that has consumed huge amount of time but might still crap out for no obvious reason.
One thing I do know about my wife’s iBook: I did do a clean install of Panther on that. I backed up all the data and so on and did the move. In those days I had so much time….
(Postscript: all the time I have been writing this post – about 40 minutes – those apps mentioned above have been hung. I tried force-quitting Address Book and restarting it. It starts – but just goes into the SPOD. Same with VoodooPad Pro. And VoodooPad. Apps that weren’t running before start fine. Apps that were hung stay hung. What the hell is that about? Something not releasing? It’s infuriating. It feels as though the whole thing is just succumbing to digital cruft, heading into a spiral .. oh, hang on, Proteus (an IM app) started up but now is “not responding” too. I might have to save this post to stop it disappearing up some sort of “not responding” fundament.)
Post-postscript: I’ve had to restart the whole thing (and now MarsEdit’s shortcuts have come back. I feel ill..), because apps that I quit wouldn’t restart. Then I had the bright idea of looking at the
Jun 19 17:26:51 Charless-PowerBook kernel: AFP_VFS afpfs_unmount: /Volumes/Technology, flags 524288, pid 39
Jun 19 17:26:51 Charless-PowerBook KernelEventAgent: tid 00000000 found 1 filesystem(s) with problem(s)
Jun 19 17:30:06 Charless-PowerBook ntpd: sendto(126.96.36.199): Can't assign requested address
And that’s pretty much when the troubles started – this evening, at least. Which makes it all seem like the system got very, very upset when I pulled the Ethernet cord out rather than pressing the “Eject” icon on the screen at work (the link to “/Volumes/Technology” went down, see). Which seems pretty rubbish to me: can’t this system withstand a loss of network? Sometimes I wonder if some of these apps aren’t so determinedly network-aware that if there’s not a network there they go into a complete tizz.
Doesn’t stop me suspecting I’m going to have to reinstall the whole dawg, though.