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.

September 5, 2007

Can I Have a Do-over on today?

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 4:37 pm

Today was a totally wasted day. I woke up this morning hoping to get a big jump on work after being gone all day yesterday on the Thanksgiving shoot.

Instead, I was greeted with timeout and error messages in my email client. AT&T has been bugging us recently to change over our email settings in order to coincide with theirs. I thought I had done that but called ATT to make sure. First mistake. The “tier one” people who populate the phone lines at ATT have two job requirements: do not to speak the English very well, and make sure you take long periods to read the ineffectual phone “help” script before you tell the customer something that will further mess up his system. After fargling my email client even farther I asked to be escalated to tier 2. When I got there I got the well known complaint:

I’m sorry, sir. I’m not trained on the Mac. Well are you trained on email, meathead? So I finally got to tier 2 MAC support. Now this dude, this Todd guy, really knew his stuff, and he spent the better part of an hour getting my settings back to normal and my system working again. It turns out it was the email servers that were down, but I had messed up the other server settings (AT AT&T’s insistence), and only by invoking the gods of email were we able to get things working again. In the course of all this, however, I had to give Todd my user name and password so he could check things on his end. Fairly standard procedure, I think, but I was still nervous about things as this information would let him get into my iTunes account and download stuff on my credit card, were he the nefarious type.

So once the email was all up and running again (and here I’m in hour FIVE of this fiasco), I did an even stupider thing: I changed my .mac password. Simple, right? Go online and type in the new password, right? That seemed to work, and I was able to access the .mac webmail just fine. But when I put the password into the Mac’s MAIL application and have it go out to find my email I get either a timeout or this:

Picture 1.png

So I am once again adrift, only this time the problem is with APPLE’s product, not AT&T. I’ve followed the letter of the law, made my changes according to their rules, and everything should be working, but no fuzzy dice, Batman. I can only hope that things start to work again of their own accord, because the alternative is either a lifetime of checking email with the web application, calling tech support for a $50 fix, or junking the whole thing and moving away.


June 19, 2007

Lost Without My Spotlight

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 12:15 pm

Apple, in their infinite wisdom, removed standard searching in OS X. Under the new system, called Spotlight, the computer looks at every single file you have, then adds it to a universal database index. It can take several hours to index a big drive the first time, but once it’s done it’s very easy to just search the index. You can also search inside many types of files, so you could look for instances of certain keywords within a file. Pretty cool. In theory.

The problem comes when, for obscure Unix/OS X reasons, Spotlight refuses to index the drive at all. When this happens there is no index to search, no files to look through, and no way to find a lost file on your hard drives short of looking through every folder. No way.

This is a MAJOR problem for me, and is the latest of a slew of crazy, unacceptable, “it shouldn’t happen in OS X” problems I’ve been having with this busted OS. Even after a complete clean reinstall I’m having issues. If Spotlight won’t index the drive, the OS doesn’t give you a fallback search function. In other words, you’re screwed.

So Google it! Oh, believe me, I did. I looked all over the place for solutions (it seems other people have had related problems). The best I can do is to delete the current “index file” (only a few K) and force Spotlight to reindex. When I do that, Spotlight takes three or four minutes to get its stuff together and then promptly quits indexing. Actually, it says it’s done, but you can’t search for so much as the letter “A” in Spotlight. No results. So it’s creating some kind of index, but it doesn’t have any useful data in it.

May be related: Every 5 seconds or so I get a new message in the console that says:

G4-MDD mdimportserver[335]: sniffer can’t check in… 1102

G4-MDD is the name of the computer and the number in brackets increments each time. The 1102 stays the same. I think it’s related somehow because “mdimport” is the name appended to files that are used in defining Spotlight searches. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

Again… this is a brand new install of the OS. As far as I know, it has clean preferences and apps. Where do you go when Apple and Google fail you?

*Update* I got tired of trying to solve this annoying problem and just downloaded EasyFind. It’s a Spotlight replacement that doesn’t need to index the drive. Good Old-Skool searching. Downside: it’s an app that needs to run all the time (and takes time to boot at startup). Upside: unlike Spotlight, it works.

June 13, 2007

Tech Update

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 2:42 pm

Not that you care, but for the internet archives.

I did a google search and discovered that the “Illegal name” issue was due to an Illustrator file. I had installed Illustrator last night and it installed a folder called “legal.txt” or something. In that folder were a bunch of localized files for czech, german, italian, etc. The file name on the vietnamese file had some illegal characters that caused OS X’s Disk Utility to freak out. Tossing the whole folder and emptying the trash fixed the problem. I ran Disk Utility (from another OS X partition) and it cleaned up the mess.

I don’t get the “Illegal file” error any more, but I still have that annoying 128 MEGAbyte partition cluttering up my desktop. Are there any cool Unix commands I can use to permanently disable or unmount an unwanted partition? I’d rather do this than reformat the whole drive and start over.

Don’t Let Me Near Technology Today

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 11:52 am

I’m at the end of a three day computer rebuild. My old system was giving me all sorts of problems (random lockups, much slowness, etc) and it’s been a few years since I’ve raked the thing down to raw metal and rebuilt it. When I do a rebuild I generally do it from the ground up instead of one of the quick and easy ways that you can do it. This way, all the pref files are new and there’s no way for the old problems to crop back up again.

Which doesn’t mean new ones can’t appear.

The system is up and running but I’m starting to see odd behavior that I can’t fix. I wiped one of the drives and made it my new boot drive, installed OS X on it, and got everything working. It worked great this morning but I started to see some little weirdnesses when I tried to install OS 9 onto my new business partition. For one thing, the software refused to install. I believe its exact words were “Can’t install on this computer. Please see documentation”. Gee, thanks. So I gave that up and booted back into X to Carbon Copy Clone my old work partition over. I’m not crazy about this since I’ll essentially be using a 4 year old system, with all its accumulated detritus, to run my business. I’d much rather start afresh, but when the system refuses to even install I don’t have much choice.

When I booted back into X I ran Disk Utility and noticed the the new drive suddenly had a 128mb ghost partition called “Uluru”- the name of the old partition that was on that drive. That’s weird. I had wiped that partition before creating the two new ones. And only 128mb? How useless is that? The undead “Uluru” partition was greyed out in Disk Utility and the only way I could access it was to erase it and make it a mountable partition. Now I have a useless 128mb stub hanging out my desktop.

To make matters worse, when I ran ‘verify disk’ in Disk Utility on my main OS X partition, I got an “Illegal Name” error and the dire warning that the disk needed to be repaired. Naturally, Disk Utility couldn’t repair it. Sigh.

So I’m at a brick wall here. I’m going to try and reboot into my old old old original drive, which is still around, and try to fix things from there. If that doesn’t work, the only recourse I can see is to go buy another new hard drive and start this whole farce all over again, this time using a known wiped drive. This really sucks.

If anybody out there has seen behavior like this or can offer advice, I’d appreciate an email. Something other than “OS X isn’t supposed to do that”, which is the most common frustrating advice I’ve been getting lately.

June 12, 2007


Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes,Uncategorized — jasony @ 2:46 pm

Sorry about the lack of posts, folks. I’ve been busy the last couple of days rebuilding my hard drive and reinstalling everything. Had a bit of a set back this afternoon when OS X decided to delete my entire applications folder (D’OH!). I’m less of an apologist for OS X now that I’ve been in the past. I guess I’ve regurgitated some of the Kool-Aid. When it works, it’s great, but it can still be a pain.

Oh, and when it nuked the Apps folder for no reason, it hashed up the permissions on about half of the files on the drive. Disk Utility caught and supposedly repaired tehm, but at this point I don’t trust it. Plus, some of my system apps just wouldn’t run.

Reinstall again! Ugh.

By the way, I’m trying to track down my MarsEdit password for the blog so I’m posting this within the web interface. So posting might be light for a day or so.

May 22, 2007

Dead Drive

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 12:30 pm

Grr… got a great deal on a 320gb drive from the other day. I installed the drive yesterday and put some data on it (a carbon copy clone of my OS 9 partition). I let it run for 24 hours, intending to wipe the other drives today and reinstall everything from scratch. Well, on one of my reboots that drive went completely belly-up. I get a kernel panic on reboot. Took the drive out and the computer booted fine. So it’s definitely something to do with the drive.

I have had really bad luck when it comes to drives. According to published statistics, the “infant mortality” of drives (failure within the first three months) is somewhere between 1-3%, so it’s odd that I would get one. I’ve also had terrible luck when it comes to brand new computers. Of the last six Macintosh computer I have owned (and LC, a Performa 635cd, a G3/333, a Powerbook, and my current G4, plus Erin’s new iMac), five of them have had to have their drives wiped and the OS reinstalled in the first 24 hours. In a few cases the computers wouldn’t boot at all after a few hours, and in some there were significant freezes or lockups that were solved by a reinstall. Fortunately, when it comes to a new machine, a complete lobotomy/drive wipe/reinstall isn’t that traumatic since there’s nothing of value on the drive yet, but it has made me very skeptical of newer machines and drives. Once my system is stable and functioning well I don’t like to mess with it.

May 18, 2007

OS X/Mac Weirdness

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 6:36 am

I’m having a very strange problem on the Mac and can’t seem to track it down. Every morning I come downstairs to the kitchen table (where my computer has been exiled while the studio is under construction). I start it up (cold start) and once it’s booted, open up my email client and Firefox. About three minutes after start the computer does something OS X is supposedly not supposed to do: it freezes. Total lockup. There’s no kernel panic dialog and never any evidence in the crashlog (the last crash it reports was nine days ago!). I have to hold the power button in for 5 seconds to get it to reboot

If I do not open any apps the mac will still freeze after about 3 minutes (iCal is set to auto open so that’s the only open app). I haven’t timed it but it feels like exactly the same amount of time each morning- about 3 minutes.

Here’s what’s odd. Once I do the reset button thing and reboot it the computer is fine for the rest of the day. It will occasionally freeze during the day (ever couple of days), but is otherwise normal.

What the heck could be going on?!? I haven’t rebuild the hard drive in three years. I need a bigger drive anyway so I’m going to be dropping one in and doing a complete rebuild, but does anyone have any idea what could be causing such strange and yet predictable behavior?

May 7, 2007


Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 9:23 am

I’ve been having some issues with OS X lately and am about to go crazy. The latest symptom (and there have been many): all of my podcasts in iTunes have vanished. I have about a dozen podcasts I follow. Each day iTunes dutifully downloads the latest and then puts them on the iPod when I sync. I went to sync today and iTunes opened up. No podcasts. Even the old podcasts I hadn’t listened to yet were gone. The entire podcast window in iTunes is blank and iTunes complains that “Podcasts on the iPod “Walkabout” cannot be synced because all of the podcasts selected for syncing no longer exist.” Well DUH. They no longer exist because you have spontaneously decided to nuke them all.

So now I have to go back and remember what they all were and resubscribe to them in iTunes. I still have no guarantee that it wont happen again. I had a similar thing happen last week when iTunes decided to wipe my entire 30gb iPod. I hadn’t changed any settings or altered anything in the program. I just plugged the iPod in and iTunes nuked it happily. Luckily it hasn’t erased all of my music off the hard drive yet. This stinks.

Oh, and I just noticed that all of my playlists are gone. Thanks, iTunes.

May 23, 2006

Time to Wipe the Computer

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 11:50 pm

Well, the issues with my Mac have become so widespread lately I’ve almost decided to just wipe the thing and reinstall everything. I don’t really want to, but I’ve reached the limit of what I can do under OS X. My current problem is with Mail. I got it up and working with the new SBC connection. It was working fine today, but now when I try and send an email via Mail I get a weird problem. I’ll hit “send” and the email will go to the “Drafts” box and sit there. The program won’t even try to send it. It happens with each of my five (!) email addresses. I’ve got email from every address to a variety of places that won’t get sent. There’s no warning or error or anything. It’s like I’ve just hit “save” and left it for later.

So if I don’t answer an email from you for a few days, it’s because of this ridiculousness.

When I tried to log into Apple’s support pages to post a question I got a message saying that my account had been disabled for security reasons. Huh?!?

At least my blogging software is working… I hope.

*UPDATE* I may have found a solution here, but it’s too late for me to try now. I’ll wade into this mess tomorrow. Thank goodness for Google. Oh, and thank goodness for Giles, too who helped me with some very late night troubleshooting. Off to bed…

December 13, 2005


Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 1:11 pm

Mac completely froze in Mail. I installed the new 512MB DIMM the other day and immediately began having problems. Typical manifestation is that the OS will totally freeze (clock, mouse, etc) and I have to force a reboot. It’s done this four times now, starting about 60 seconds after I first installed the RAM. Did it on reboot, then it was okay for a few days. I just opened up the box to remove an old hard drive, closed it up, and it froze on the next reboot after about 30 minutes.

Strangely, it never freezes when I’m logged in on Erin’s screen name. So is it hardware, software, or voodoo?

Frustrating. I strongly suspect the new RAM.

June 3, 2004

OS X Crash

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 10:09 am

Kernel Panic again this morning. This time I didn’t get the multi-language box. Instead I got the gibberish screen. I think it’s almost certainly related to my 2408/324 hardware. They’re not rewriting a simple driver because they want me to spend $200-$500 to upgrade my digital recording hardware.
The big dumbheads.

May 21, 2004

OS X Crash

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 11:07 am

Just had a kernel panic in OS X. Went to and immediately got a crash. Going to try it again to see if it’s repeatable.

May 4, 2004

OS X Crashed

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 7:26 pm

Yup, another one. I’m getting very familiar with the kernel panic screen. I think I’m tracking it down, though. It seems to happen often (though not exclusively) in Safari when I’m trying to play Quicktime movies. I think it may have to do with the MOTU 324 drivers for my 2408 digital interface. I play all my audio out this interface all the time, and this seems to cause the crash (though, as I stated before, it’s non-reproducible in the same Safari movie).
I’m all updated as of today (w/repaired permissions) and I still got the kernel panic.
I tried to use the internal speaker on the computer and went back to the same site to play the movie. No crash. However I really want to use my mixer and speakers to hear audio (after all, I spent a lot on these things) so I plugged a cord into the back of the machine and router it into the mixer. I can hear the sound but I get a horrific amount of RFI from the computer itself, and This Will Not Do.
So I guess I’ll go back to using the 2408 and just putting up with the kernel panics. MOTU doesn’t mention problems and I haven’t heard of anyone else experiencing similar things. Familiar story: I’m off on my own desert island of technical problems and there’s no tech support lifeboat around- nothing to do but resigning myself to the next 1000 dinners from coconuts. I had hoped that the new computer would be a crystal clear and pristine start over, with no sneaky problems anywhere, but I guess that’s too much to hope for. Even for a Mac.

For what it’s worth, here’s the crash log:

Tue May 4 19:03:01 2004

Unresolved kernel trap(cpu 0): 0x400 – Inst access DAR=0x000000001C084008 PC=0x0000000000000000
Latest crash info for cpu 0:
Exception state (sv=0x2D81C280)
PC=0x00000000; MSR=0x40009030; DAR=0x1C084008; DSISR=0x40000000; LR=0x00000000; R1=0x12013E20; XCP=0x00000010 (0x400 – Inst access)
Proceeding back via exception chain:
Exception state (sv=0x2D81C280)
previously dumped as “Latest” state. skipping…
Exception state (sv=0x00920500)
PC=0x00000000; MSR=0x0000D030; DAR=0x00000000; DSISR=0x00000000; LR=0x00000000; R1=0x00000000; XCP=0x00000000 (Unknown)

Kernel version:
Darwin Kernel Version 7.3.0:
Fri Mar 5 14:22:55 PST 2004; root:xnu/xnu-517.3.15.obj~4/RELEASE_PPC

panic(cpu 0): 0x400 – Inst access
Latest stack backtrace for cpu 0:
0x000834B8 0x0008399C 0x0001EDA4 0x000909C0 0x00093C8C
Proceeding back via exception chain:
Exception state (sv=0x2D81C280)
PC=0x00000000; MSR=0x40009030; DAR=0x1C084008; DSISR=0x40000000; LR=0x00000000; R1=0x12013E20; XCP=0x00000010 (0x400 – Inst access)
Exception state (sv=0x00920500)
PC=0x00000000; MSR=0x0000D030; DAR=0x00000000; DSISR=0x00000000; LR=0x00000000; R1=0x00000000; XCP=0x00000000 (Unknown)

Kernel version:
Darwin Kernel Version 7.3.0:
Fri Mar 5 14:22:55 PST 2004; root:xnu/xnu-517.3.15.obj~4/RELEASE_PPC

April 29, 2004

OS X Crashes

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 11:08 am

Just booted up the computer and had a kernel panic WHILE BOOTING. Very weird. I had gone about 20 seconds into the boot and hadn’t even reached the blue screen (still on the grey screen). I think I’m going to try and disable some extensions and see what happens. Frustrating.

April 23, 2004

OS X Crashes

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 9:56 pm

Okay, this is getting old. Had ANOTHER kernel panic just now (that makes 2 in 3 days). Panic.log says:

Kernel loadable modules in backtrace (with dependencies):

Whatever that means. I was playing a QT movie in Safari from (the Homer Simpson one). *Bam*

This is getting old.

April 22, 2004

OS X Crashes

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 2:35 pm

In Safari. Haven’t had a crash in awhile. I was clicking around online (doonsbury comic site on MSN’s Slate) and had a kernel panic. Just installed Panther a few weeks ago.

October 31, 2003

OS X Crashes

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 10:37 am

Another Kernel Panic. This time I was watching a flash/qt presentation in Safari when it happened (actually, I had just finished watching and tried to quit the program). Yesterday I had been watching QT in Safari. Maybe one of those is the issue?
For what it’s worth, OS X has been significantly LESS stable than OS 9 over my ownership of this machine. I’m very disappointed in it.
Fortunately, I can reboot into OS 9 and get my work done. Very glad I didn’t buy an OS X-only machine.

October 30, 2003

OS X Crashes

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 10:36 pm

Again with the frozen computer. Clock, keyboard, mouse. Everything just froze. I was playing a QT video and it went south. That’s twice in one day OS X has completely locked up on me. Not good, Apple.
Repaired permissions but there were none wrong.
I could run Disk Warrior, but it can’t repair the boot disk. As I only have one OS X partition, I would have to install a completely different iteration of OS X on a separate drive in order to run Disk Warrior. An exercise in frustration.

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