The Big Think

March 11, 2009

Things Break

Filed under: Apple,Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 4:15 pm

*UPDATE* I got things working again! Well, I got the old hard drive to live long enough to pull the needed data off of it. Quicken stores historical stock data in a weird non-standard place, so even if you back up your Quicken file, all those important numbers can still get lost. I had almost a decade of hand-entered numbers (daily) in that file, and not having them there really messed with the graphing function of Quicken. Thankfully, it’s restored now and working correctly. HUGE sigh of relief. I still have to spend tomorrow formatting the new drive and reinstalling all my apps (and removing the old drive to send to the firing range), but it looks like I got all my data back. Stupid Intuit!**

Gahh, what a frustrating day. It started out just fine as I continued doing the mastering for Word, then my hard drive decided to take the big dirt nap on me. Fortunately, it was a problem I’ve had before- hard freeze in OS 9, followed by not being able to see the X partition. Reboot with system CD, run Disk Utility, and all is well. Unfortunately, this time was different. The OS X partition didn’t mount and couldn’t be resurrected, even using arcane Terminal commands.

I have a nice new 320 gig drive on my desk all ready to install when the new RAM arrives in a few days, and to have the drive crap out THIS CLOSE to the full reinstall is maddening. Yes, I had most of the really critical stuff backed up (Quicken and most of my work), but I’ve been working on a few things this week that were fairly important that didn’t get backed up. I mean, what are the odds? Now I have to go back and redo about three days of carefully done work.

I did manage to get most of my old documents off of a backup DVD, and I’m in the process of reinstalling apps and getting my Mail application as I like it. I lost a bit of email, but some of it’s on the new laptop. For some reason not all of my mail makes it to the laptop (it seems that if it’s destined for a subfolder in the Mail app, then the laptop doesn’t even bother to download it. Here’s the weird part: if I login to the service, I can’t even see that stuff online! Proven and verified by the Apple store employee. I don’t know what it means and Erin is having the same issues, so I’m a little flummoxed.). Anyway, one of the benefits of this quasi-cloud thing I have going is that much of my data is “out there” somewhere. This blog is hosted on a service (note: backup blog), my mail is scattered between gmail,, and yahoo, and my bookmarks, address book, and other digital sundries are all synchronized to a fare-thee-well. So now instead of taking three days to completely reinstall everything and get it all up and running it’ll only take me a couple. I’m sure there will be the inevitable weeks of micro tweaking as I get the environment back to what I was used to. It’s like when your neighbor borrows the car and everything-seat, radio, mirrors- are all subtly out of whack. It vexes me, it does.

I used to make it a habit of wiping my drives down to bare metal once a year and rebuilding, but that hasn’t happened in a few years, and the drive that went belly up was the original 80 gig drive that came with this G4 six years ago. I bought a 320 gig drive to replace it, but after seeing the problem (a crash in OS 9 corrupts the OS X partition), I decided that I’d rather not have this issue again, so I went to the Blue Box today and shelled out another $90 for an identical 320 gig drive. Instead of running them as a redundant RAID (that seem to temp the gods), I’m instead going to keep my OS’s confined to their own drives and cross-backup the data. I also have a tertiary half-terabyte for working data (that can also be cross-backed-up). I need to devise some sort of automatic backup system here so this doesn’t happen again.

The only big loss, besides the aforementioned work, is that I have to spend $30 upgrading MarsEdit. Long story, but since I’ve been using it for years it’s probably time.

One note: thank goodness for the new MacBook. Without it as a secondary repository of syncable data through the .Mac service (bookmarks, address book, calendar, mail rules, etc) I would have been emseriously/em screwed. Now I’m just slightly hosed.


  1. Yakkkkk. What a hassle. Makes my argument with the midi interface look like a pleasant cup of tea. (Turns out I’d mixed up a couple of cables: sheeesh. 4 hours wasted.)

    Anyway, question: you’re still working in OS 9 enough to justify those expenditures? I thought you were finally making the switch!

    Comment by barrybrake — March 12, 2009 @ 7:35 am

  2. Dude, automatic daily backup is CRITICAL.

    If you’re on OS X 10.5, Time Machine works great. If on OS X 10.4, SuperDuper is highly regarded. I use both at home for various machines.

    Comment by seanmctex — March 12, 2009 @ 10:57 am

  3. SuperDuper, huh? That looks pretty neat. Is it worth the $28? I guess I’d pay more than that to have my data back if I hadn’t been able to recover it. I use Carbon Copy Cloner to keep a perfect copy of my work partition (the one that, up until today, was working fine- the whole drive is going south). I’ll look into that.

    Right now I’m living dangerously. I’m finishing a project today that has to go to Fedex by 7pm. I just have to listen through one more CD and make some labels, but I have to do all that work on the going-south partition on the bad drive. I know, I know, but at this point recreating everything would take longer than just today and I have to be done by tonight.

    My plan now is to look into an offsite backup strategy (.mac? Mozy?) and supplement with manual cross-backups between my three drives. The only problem is that cross backups like that tend to get rather complex and after time I forget where everything is. I like Time Machine but my work machine is a 1.25Ghz single chip G4 and won’t run 10.5.

    Ah, the joys of tech.

    BTW, Sean, is my blog going to speed up after they do the update? It’s really slow to hit and post to.

    Comment by jasony — March 12, 2009 @ 11:30 am

  4. They haven’t said anything about performance improvements, though I complained about it in that ticket I sent you a link to. I hope so — my blog is on the same machine (and has the same issue).

    Comment by seanmctex — March 12, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

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