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Bad, Sad Mac


Non-geeks leave now...

IT-wise, it's been a lousy week. I'd upgraded to OS X 10.6.7 when it came out, but decided to leave it a few days before I did a clone back up to mke sure that everything was stable. What I hadn't done, which I should have, was to clone the 10.6.6 build immediately before the update. Stupid, I know.

Anyway, I decided to install XCode 4, Apple's development tools for the Mac and iOS devices, because it allows you to enable the iPad as a development device which allows access to the expanded multitouch gesture set. First mistake - I didn't realise that XCode was so big - 4.5 Gb compressed big, expanding threefold when installed - nor that, unlike other apps from the Mac App Store, it needed further installation when it was downloaded. Duly downloaded, it started to install and then hung up. No CPU activity (so not decompressing anything), no HDD activity, and the task manager reporting that it was "not responding". Never a good sign.

Anyway, long and short is that after a couple of ours I restarted the computer, and was immediately faced with a folder icon adorned with a question mark. For those of you that don't speak Mac OS, that means the computer cannot find a valid operating system folder.

I am prepared for this kind of thing; the clone back up allows me to externally boot the computer up, and Time Machine (the built in operating system back up routine) covers the gaps in between. I realised that the clone backup was the previous OS version and more than two weeks old (bad Dom!) so decided to restore from Time Machine, going back to two hours before it all went pear shaped so I'd be reinstalling OS 10.6.7 not 10.6.6. A scramble to find the Snow Leopard install disk followed so I could do this.

However, every Time Machine recovery I tried (four if I remember correctly, at around 6 hours a piece) failed to produce a computer that would boot. The clone worked, but even restoring back a day before failed.

In the end, thanks to a great suggestion by Neil Ford, I reinstalled the cloned back up, updated to 10.6.7, and then restored the user folder using Time Machine. This had one further problem - the 45Gb space I had left wasn't adequate to do a Time Machine restore, so I was deleting individual folders, for example Music and Video, to make sure there was enough space. It was painful, and reminds me why I really need to back up regularly. I've not lost any data, but it was a pain.

The restore did trigger a complication; I had to resync all the photos on the iPad (at 10 Gb for the last 12 months not a quick thing to do as it includes optimisation of the local copy).

Once everything was back to normal, I decided to install the iOS 4.3.1 update that had just been released. The iPad worked fine, but the iPhone update got messy, as iTunes froze during install and lost the USB connection. This bricked the iPhone, requiring a full installation and restore from backup. As I manually manage my music, it was a pain as I had to add everything back in. On the more positive side, I now have 3Gb of space on the iPhone compared the 800Mb I had before.

I'm hoping that everything will be simple and happy from now on, like it usually is.