Sad Mac 400x400

Two days Ago I had an event in my Computer.

I was running along nicely having a pretty normal day when out of the blue my machine started asking me for passwords to email accounts.

This made little sense because those passwords are all stored on the system and shouldn’t be required.

I entered the first password without thinking then the second one, the the third one and that’s when the event caught my attention.

I thought Whoa! Something bad is happening. So I saved my work, closed the programs I had open and told the computer to reboot.

That’s when all hell broke loose! What I got back after that reboot was a system that had been mostly reset to it’s factory defaults. 

I don’t have esoteric settings in my systems. For the most part I’m an average kind of user.

I work at being just an average user I’ve spent so much time being a “Test Jocky, Monkey, Software Quality Assurance guy” that when it comes to my home systems I just want to sit down turn the computer on and do what I’d planned to do without a lot of drama. God save me from endless updates and reboots.

That’s why I use a Mac.

99.998% of the time I fire up my Mac and don’t think anything of the fact that I’m using technology, because it’s not in my face.

Well, two days ago was the .002% of the time when I was reminded.

This machine is barely 3 months old and it’s possible it was experiencing a hardware issue. So I pulled up the console logs and saw some very weird stuff. As I was stepping through the log I realized I didn’t know enough about the way Apple does things, to really be able to tell if the errors I was seeing were do to the failure or due to normal errors (Yeah… there is such a thing as a “Normal” error).

So I called Apple. I figured that the data was toast and I was looking at minimum at a restore of my system from my backup. I had a couple of questions, the first of which was how do I send log files to Apple?

After dealing with a first line phone rep for all of about 2 minutes (Thank you BTW for realizing that I wasn’t calling with anything ordinary.) I got transferred to this really great guy whose initials are RR.

RR listened carefully to what I said and we started walking through some items. This makes sense because he couldn’t see my screen and he must get 1000 calls a day from people who’ve forgotten to plug their system in.

Within a few minutes of talking, I’ve got a log collection tool running and he’s looking at my screen. (He can’t actually click on anything or control it… that must be maddening.)

After poking around for a bit he admits he’s never seen anything like what happened to me ever.

The logs get sent to the Gurus in Apple engineering.

Then I’m pretty much ready to call it a day and restore my whole system from the backup. When RR says, “you know… that might not be a good idea.”

I think about it and don’t like at all where he’s going, because he’s absolutely right.

Since we’d pretty much ruled out a hardware problem. That means that software has to be to blame. (Hardware Engineers around the world are rejoicing… Industry inside joke.) 

If I simply restore my system from the backup, it’s likely that I’ll be resetting the conditions that created this problem in the first place.

Which leads inexorably to a complete format, & rebuild of the system. Including reinstallation of every single piece of software. Then we get to pick and choose the bits from the backup that we absolutely can’t do without. Like the data!

As much as I don’t want to… RR is right.

Best to bite the bullet, reformat the drive, reload a completely pristine copy of the OS, then reload copies of the applications and then make a backup of the computer in this new pristine state.

You’d think that given the age of the machine I’d have a pristine backup… Well you’d be wrong.

When I got this machine a few months ago, I moved all the programs from my older MacBook to this one. Then I upgraded the Operating System on the new machine, so god only knows what bits of incompatible flotsam and jetsam may have been floating around on the disk.

Approximately 20 hours of work later I have a system that is mostly like what I had before. I know that I will be stumbling over bits of unlicensed software for weeks to come.

When I stumble over one of these applications I’ll have a choice. Find the license key… or toss the software. Realistically if I haven’t used a bit of software for weeks… I probably could do without it.

I like a clean system that works. So I’ll probably be tossing these little bits of software.

I did notice while reinstalling software that there are an awful lot of applications that ask for access to my contacts list. I understand Word asking… It’s trying to make writing letters easier by linking contact data. But some of the other applications made no sense at all.  Needless to say they were denied access.

I’m kind of a fan of Apple, NO… I’m not a rabid fan boy. But I like Apples machines.


Honestly, Apple does it right most of the time.

There are some things that they screw up on in big ways but in general they do a good job in design, implementation, and support.

If you’re thinking Apple for your next computer purchase. A word of advice…

Buy the full boat machine. Max Memory, Max hard disk, top of the line… You’ll never be sorry and the machine will probably have a usable lifespan of at least 5 years possibly more. Think about it, you and your Mac go to College and graduate with a Masters degree 6 years later. Can you say the same of Windows?

As I’ve been reading email & writing this blog, my machine has been backing up to a different TimCapsule drive. I want to keep the old backup for a few weeks in case I need to go pick something out of it that I can’t recreate or live without.

I’m back online, back to working and Hopefully this is a “One Off” event.

RR wherever you are… Thank you!

Talk about great service! RR called me several times to see how things were progressing and was always there when or if I hit a snag. He’s the consummate professional and genuinely knows his stuff. Even if I did make him a bit nervous by fiddling with the UNIX underbelly of the Mac OS.

I hope that if he reads this he’ll take what I say next, the right way. I hope I don’t have to talk with Apple again. But If I do I’m going to see if I can have a chat with RR.

Now on to the next thing…