Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

Apple cratered my Mac

Apple cratered my Mac

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apple I decided last night to finally let the Apple update software download and update my Apple MacBook Pro.  I received the Pro a little less than a month ago and immediately upgraded it to "Leopard" which is OS X v10.5.  As with all of the modern operating systems, OS X includes a tool that notifies you of software updates, security patches, and other updates to the OS.

Last week I went to Georgia to visit relatives and play with the newest members of our family.  Before doing that, I took a moment to look at the Apple forums to see if anyone was having issues with the OS X v10.5.1 update.  Sure enough, there are quite a few problems.  The problem is that I mostly forgot about those checks and when I pushed the button last night, I was in denial.  There's no way that could happen to me.  Not the kid.  No way.

Wrong!

You know that little sixth sense that tells you not to do something?  Most good IT Pros have it.  That's why we're Pros.  Well, pay close attention to that sense.  I didn't.

More importantly, I broke a cardinal rule.  I didn't run a backup first.  I mean come on.  This is Apple with those cool Vista versus Mac commercials.  There's no way in hell they would dare release an update that would cause a catastrophic failure of my Mac.  Right?

Wrong!

So what happened exactly?  Heck if I know.  All I know is that the Apple app said it had an update for iPhoto and OS X that would require a reboot.  Let's see, I wonder how many updates I've applied to Windows XP and Windows Vista in the last 5-6 years that required a reboot.  I have never cratered a Windows machine such that it would not do anything other than boot from DVD.  Sure, I've had blue screens on bad video drivers but those are exceedingly rare now.  I've had to boot to safe mode a few times.

I take that back.  I cratered a Windows Server drive one time.  I shut down my Windows Vista machine in a hurry, pulled the drive out of my laptop, and popped another drive into the laptop with Windows Server 2003 on it.  Just as I popped the drive in and it connected, I noticed Vista wasn't really done shutting down and it wrote to my server drive.  You ever have that sinking feeling in a moment like that?  I knew, just knew bad stuff happened.  Sure enough, that drive got whacked somehow by the write.  Good thing I had a dupe of those demos.

Back to the story on OS X.  I messed around with the machine doing drive diags and such.  I knew this wasn't a hardware failure.  I knew a kernel component or something got replaced or hammered and was missing.  I started to take it down to my local genius bar and say, "Here genius, you fix it!!!"  But I'll be darned if I'm going to let an OS X update hose my Mac and get away with it. 

What to do?

When the tough get going, the tough restore.  Yea, I punted.  I figured the only way out of this mess was to resort to a backup from Time Machine.  Sure enough, I had several to choose from.  The last good one was from 11/13 so I thought about what I would lose.  Since I didn't take the Mac to Georgia, I knew not much.  In fact, the only thing I added was a new version of the Messenger:mac beta I'm testing.  That's all I lost by using the backup.

Which brings me to a point.  Are you backing up?  I know many people who don't.  Imagine losing the hard drive of your Mac or Windows machine right now.

Let that sit on your brain for a moment...

Can you afford to lose EVERYTHING on that hard drive?  Your email.  Your pictures.  The serial numbers for electronic copies of software you purchased.  Your music.  The doctorate you've been working on for months and months.  The proposal and presentation you are delivering tomorrow that might make or break your company and job.  Scared?  Good.  Go buy an external hard drive tomorrow and plug it into your machine and do a backup.  Do one every Sunday night before you travel on Monday.

Whenever my Mac gets used during the daylight hours, I plug in the Time Machine dedicated drive and let it do it's thing.  It's a good thing I do.  Saved my bacon.  Back up and running in less than an hour.  I'm still upset.  I never expected such a catastrophic failure.  I guess I should not be surprised at this point.  My Mac has been far from bug free.  I crashed it day one with Time Machine.  I crashed it twice trying to work with HD video.  Now this.

Somebody needs to re-write some commercials I know...

[UPDATE]  Sorry, but I just couldn't help adding a reference to "Leopard is the New Vista, and It's Pissing Me Off".  I'm pretty sure there are some inaccurate statements in the article, but it's a worthy read.  Summary, there's work to do in the Apple and Microsoft houses.

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  • Ugh, I hate those commercials. So untrue.

  • "The problem is that I mostly forgot about those checks and when I pushed the button last night, I was in denial.  There's no way that could happen to me.  Not the kid.  No way."

    LOL

  • Apple has the highest customer satisfaction rating in the industry, but it's NOT 100%.  Apple is #1 in customer service, but there are still those left unsatisfied (Google "Apple Sucks"). Macs also rate highest in reliability, but as your personal experience shows... they do break.

    What does this mean?  

    Macs have FEWER problems,  NOT "zero" problems!!

    Macs are BETTER machines, NOT "perfect" machines!!

    Stop living in a binary world where the choices are:

    a) 100% flawless, or

    b) Just as bad as Windows.

    There is a choice "C".  It's closer to "A" than "B".

    Protect your data.  Do regularly scheduled backups.

  • Tedious and all,

    Do we have empirical evidence to support the fewer or better comments?  Not really. I agree the MacBook Pro is a great machine.  See http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/archive/2007/11/03/my-macbook-pro-first-impressions.aspx for my initial comments.  As you can see, they are very favorable.

    I also have a Lenovo ThinkPad T61p that is just as good if not better in several ways.  It has a better LCD panel, better thermals and is very reliable with Windows Vista Ultimate x64.  I dig both machines and as you can see, I am spoiled rotten.

    But the evidence at this point is anecdotal.  That isn't the point of my post or for that matter any other post on my blog.  My goal is to inform not to generate an Apple versus Microsoft and Windoze (to coin a favorite Apple fan term).

    The real main point of this post is to point out as you noticed that backups should be a part of everyone’s daily or weekly task list.  It’s really no longer and option with our move to digital assets of all sorts.  You also picked up on my second point.  None of the software and hardware on the market is perfect.  That is the goal, but Bill and Steve would agree we aren’t there yet.  It’s a destination.

    I will reinforce a point I made in the post.  I do think Apple has an advantage in some ways.  They built the hardware.  They built the software.  Is it right to assume it would have a higher degree of “certification” and success?  I think common sense probably says yes.  Like many of you, my Mac OS X environment is no longer pure Apple.  I have VMWare Fusion installed.  I have installed the beta of Office:mac 2008.  I have Firefox installed.  Could one of them had an effect on the result of the outcome of the update?  Absofreakinglutely.  Do I expect some tester in the Apple org to have tested this update on a similar config before I got it?  Yep.

    Developing, testing, releasing and supporting hardware and software isn’t easy.  Apple get’s that.  So does Microsoft.  Progress will be made by both companies and guess who benefits?  You.

    Cheers,

    Keith

  • Keith, you are a realist, and speak the truth.  Tedious, you're an #$iot - from a Windows terms, he must be an Apple fan boy.  BTW, I like by FREEBSD next to Windows 2008 =)

  • An interesting alternative to Time Machine:

    http://www.crashplan.com/features/timeMachine.vtl

    It's has many more features while remaining quite easy to use.  It also runs on win/linux!