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Things Designers Do When They Are Stressed…

Continuing from where I left off yesterday. The almost resolved and recovery from the System Meltdown. Here’s a pic to prove that I can still monkey around in times of distress.

By the way, that’s the kevlar plastic casing from a spanking new eMac on my head. My partner-in-crime Andy and I took apart two eMac 1.25Ghz machines to upgrade the puny 40GB to a more acceptable 160GB. This is the first time any of us have ever seen the internals of an eMac, let alone disassemble one. A great source of Mac apps, files and resources – the iRC channel, #macfilez, provided 350MB of Apple service manuals of its product range – from Apple iMacs to PowerBooks to XServes. Referring to the manual diligently, we took 30 minutes to disassemble and reassemble the first. How we wished it was a proper desktop/tower. It takes the removal of at least 30 screws to access the hard drive module. A true engineering feat by the Apple Design team to cram that much of hardware into the white eMac casing, but it is really sheer hard work for a simple hard drive upgrade. User-installable items like the RAM and Airport card is simple though.

The upgrade of the 2nd unit went smoothly, initially, taking just 10 minutes to disassemble. But a really clumsy Verne dropped a screw into the depths of the motherboard, much to the disappointment of the unofficial IT-team (that’s me and Andy, by the way!). Swearing as we went along, we managed to wiggle the screw out from the motherboard, then went on our way to reassembling the remainding parts.

Certainly a challenging task, and I don’t recommend this to be done at home, really, not if you want to void your Apple warranty. Want a hard drive upgrade? Bring it to an Authorised Apple Reseller or Service Centre.

Shame we didn’t take pictures of the process, would have been great to feature on this blog. But anyways, to hell and beyond!

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System Meltdown

Not quite the Holocaust or Armageddon, but however I look at it, the past three days have been rather hellish to say the least. Firstly, our laggy 1.25Ghz dual processor G4 server went down like a bitch. Locking up at startup, faster than you could say “Apple Rocks”, the server just refused to boot. Entering single user boot while attempting to repair using “fsck” brought no improvements.

Our server is configured with a software RAID, 2x 160GB mirrored drives for data, and another 2x 160 mirrored for the system. We use the server as a short to medium term backup facility for our 20-odd users. Mission critical? Yes, I would say so. Containing data almost to full capacity, we were certainly worried, especially for unofficial Mr. Techie (that’s me!) and official Mr. Techie (partner-in-crime, accountant cum IT cum AV man Andy).

Went through the usual troubleshooting – safe mode boot, single user boot, zapping PRAM. No luck. Eventually tried it with a Panther-compatible Norton Utilities 8.02 bootable CD. Breathed a sigh of relief as the server finally booted up and the familiar Norton Launcher presented itself on screen. Attempted to scan and repair the system. This took hours as I configured it to scan every damn bits of the drive including media, catalogue structure and files. Initially suspecting a damaged catalogue B-tree which can cause havoc in the system, Norton froze half-way. Nice. Norton has saved me many times, although not the best disk utility on the Mac platform (don’t agree? shoot me…), it has proven its worth many a times of trouble.
Re-booted, and re-attempted scan/repair. No luck yet again.

Finally got hold of our tech support guy from our Mac supplier to come over. Hardware failure? You bet. After some tests, we found that the 2x 160GB RAID containing the boot-up Mac OS X 10.2.8 Server software had failed. Both the hard drives. That explained the lagginess of the system of late, despite optimisation and what naught. The failure was unexpected, the server being quite underutilised and untested mostly. Fortunately, we had a new 80GB spare, just purchased and we plugged it in, installed Panther 10.3 Server,, and got up and running in about 30 minutes.

Thanking our lucky stars that all data was intact, we placed an order for another 4x 250GB hard drives to be delivered in a couple of days. I have to say that Panther Server is quick, and most notably when running on a DP (dual processor).

Backing up has been a tough process, with lack of spare storage space and all. Had to format my personal 120GB and 80GB externals just to backup the server data. After 2 days, the data have been successfully backed-up and ready for a clean reformat of the drives when the newer ones arrive.

Adding to the system meltdown, our trusty B&W G3 350Mhz used as a scanning machine also refused to boot-up. I suspect a hard drive failure as well. And as if my hands weren’t full enough, I formatted my G5 1.8Ghz, reinstalled Panther and restored all my data. It’s been a long time coming, the G5 not performing to its full potential for some reason. It’s been laggy and buggy to say the least. And for some reason, have always had problems with FLASH-memory based cards/drives. 100% data corruption of anything from GIF files to JPEGs to PDFs. After all the time and effort, the problem has been solved, and I’m happy that the G5 is back to being zippy and responsive again…

I’ve got another story to tell…but I’ll leave it to another time. This time round it isn’t computer/system/hardware failure. It’s human error. Pure and simple. Grrrr…

Word of advise before I end this – BACKUP YOUR DATA!

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Top ten real reasons Rob Glaser is going after Apple

This is really good. Published by Bill Palmer of iPodGarage, this pokes fun at the current fiasco between Real Networks and Apple, and obvious ramblings over the ‘opening’ of the iPod and iTunes. Check out the list of top ten Real reasons below:

10. Didn’t think that ten years of crappy versions of RealPlayer had generated enough badwill for the “RealNetworks” brand name.

9. Felt bad about Steve Jobs being in the hospital, wanted to cheer him up by giving him something to laugh about.

8. Took at a look at the value of all that RNWK stock he’s holding, realized he couldn’t afford 99 cents per song.

7. Pulled the whole stunt just to help launch the comeback of Devo.

6. Actually thought he was signing up for a free VIP Pass for the South Beach Party.

5. Figured why steal music, when you can just steal the whole iPod?

4. Secretly planning to launch iPod-padlock accessory, as pictured here.

3. It was all just a plot to get this “Real vs. Apple” logo created.

2. Really just wanted to see his name on the iPod Garage Front Page.

and the number one real reason Rob Glaser is going after Apple…

1. It’s a complex strategy (buffering…) that involved many hours of (buffering…) intense discussion regarding (buffering…) various aspects of (download has failed).

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When medium, is a large not small problem

And… I’ve just made another coaster. My fourth attempt to burn a backup of my stuff has yet again, failed. Lying in the bin, in no particular order, are 4 spanking new Sony CD-Rs. Unusable.

Toast Titanium 6 (the best CD-burner app on the planet?) kept bugging me with a “Medium Error”, just when it needs to do a “lead-out” to close the burning session. This is annoying. And I hate errors which really don’t tell you anything. Like a “Type 1” error. Or a “Type 2” error. What the fuck? How’s anyone supposed to know? Might as well just be “I’ve fucked up. It’s not my fault. It’s the system.”

My 1.8 Ghz G5 PowerMac in the office has been intermittently freezing on me. It’s not supposed to do that. It’s supposed to be uncrashable, thanks to its UNIX underpinnings. But, oh no, it has a mind of its own. It thinks it’s Windows of some sort. Hell, even the console startup is like DOS. (Well, at least there isn’t a “blue screen of death”).

I take care of it. I run maintenance scripts frequently. I do an “update_prebinding” to optimise the system. I delete and clear system + user cache. I verify and repair permissions. I do all that is possible to keep the system free of crap and running optimally.

What the heck’s going on?

And you know what’s funny? The G5 I have has a serious problem with Flash memory. Plug in any Flash-based peripherals and files get 100% corrupted. Without fail. And this has happened since upgrading to Panther (Mac OS X 10.3). Panther is quick and superb, but also introduced some nagging bugs with the update.

So, I thought – why not backup all your data then reformat the 120GB SATA drive and do a clean reinstall of the system? Shouldn’t take more than 2 weeks I reckon. But oh no…Toast just had to act up. Doesn’t want to burn a damn thing. Crap.

Don’t you hate it when things don’t work? The worst is when it doesn’t work and you don’t know why. Just spend your whole day figuring out through trial and error what could be causing these anomalies. Grrr… Maybe I should just format the damn thing, for the heck of it. Screw the data. Format and zero all data on the hard drive. Then leave the country.

Case closed.

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