Tuesday, December 11, 2007

MacRanting and a Festivus Miracle

If Apple were really sincere about offering OS versions that were completely friendly and easy to install, they'd give them names like "Golden Retriever," "Collie," or even "Newfoundland." The fact that they name their OS X releases after cats should be the first tipoff.

Mind you, I love my Macbook Pro more than I love some of my relatives, and I completely expect upgrades to be relatively painless. I've owned Macs for roughly 22 years now, and have never had an upgrade problem. (Yeah, I know that dates me. Would you believe I was still in diapers when I got my first Mac?)

Then along comes Leopard. All the buzz I've read said, "Back up everything and it'll be easy as falling off a bar stool -- I mean log." Backups are Life Itself, and I maintain a small army of backup external drives just for such purposes, so this advice made perfect sense to me. Little did I know as I was backing up this time that for once, my anal-retentiveness might pay off.

I pulled the shrink-wrap off the Leopard box (wicked nifty packaging!), inserted the disc, booted, and prepared for a simple, un-Windows-like installation experience. The installation routine asked me all the usual questions, verified the install disk, and installed.

At the very end of the installation, it brought up a giant dialog box saying, "Sorry, but we couldn't install Leopard. Seeya." What it didn't say was that the upgrade process had also taken a bite out of the existing information on my boot partition. Not only did I not have Leopard installed, but my old Tiger disk wouldn't even boot! At least my Windows partition hadn't been corrupted, so I could run XP and be glad I had half a computer left. There are Mac users out there who probably have nightmares about only having Windows available, but any OS in a storm... My UNIX (Solaris) box was still running, too -- but I don't have to maintain it. Thanks to UNIX, I can bring this blog entry to you today. At least something in this office is running properly.

I'll say this for AppleCare: You may grow old and gray waiting for your call to be answered, but you always get a competent human being. The most exotic accent I heard on the other end of the phone was Canadian, eh? (Don't get me wrong. I have no beef with people in South Asia earning a living. When you're under a lot of stress, though, it's a blessing to be able to speak with someone who understands you without a struggle. South Asian callers probably hope they don't get someone from Boston on the other end of the line.)

During the first call, I waited on hold for 45 minutes before having to hang up and go attend a kennel club meeting. When I returned, it was too late to call AppleCare again, so I tried a few low-level UNIX tricks, got a few additional error messages, and made no further progress in repairing the damage.

This morning, I went through all of the usual automated quiz questions. If Apple had had an option where one could enter a case number instead of having to go through "MacBook Pro. No. No. Yes. No" a gazillion times, this would have been a good place to add it.

I did finally reach a second-tier tech, who listened to my issues and admitted, "I'll have to escalate this one. I can't help you any further here." While I waited on hold for the third-tier tech, I was accidentally (?) disconnected. Back to "MacBook Pro. No. No. Yes. No." a second time.

Reached another human, and got cut off again. "MacBook Pro. No. No. Yes. No."

Finally, the old cliche "Third time's the charm" proved to be just that. I reached the third-tier tech, told him my tale of woe, and was able to get the disk back to the point where I could erase and install Leopard onto it.

The first install failed, but the erase portion of the program had done its work. My disk had been wiped clean enough so that the installer could actually see it, and it appeared to have been repaired. (There was nothing left on it to corrupt!) Heartened slightly, I attempted a second installation, all the while attempting to breathe normally.

It was a Festivus miracle! The second time, the install actually took the expected hour instead of blowing up right away! I still held my breath, crossed my fingers, and knocked on wood at the restart... but there was the Apple logo, and the little spinning "daisy" thingie at the bottom, and...!

I saw a desktop! It even showed icons for all of my hard drives, including my boot drive! In the spirit of the impending holiday, all I had to say was Halle-frickin'-lujah! I was absolutely sure I'd have to mail my computer out to East Overshoe and wait until Groundhog Day to see it again.

Not that I'm back to normal just yet, but at least Normal is in sight. I still have to restore all of my preferences and get my files back to where I want them, reconfigure my wireless connection and my syncing setup, and reinstall anything I might have lost when I had to erase the disk. At least I was able to back up all of my data and at least most of my installed applications to my external disk, so things could be a helluva lot worse. In the meantime, I have a pretty new interface to explore.

Is there a moral to this story? If there is, it's that it pays to be anal, and spare hard drives are wicked cheap these days. Oh, and never trust any software that's named after a cat.


no-blog-rachel said...

Come on. Admit it. You were 5 when you got your first Mac!

cmw said...

The fact that they name their OS X releases after cats should be the first tipoff.

LOL! I've gone thru similar innocent upgrade disasters with my iBook.

I found your blog searching for dog show info -- I'm giving that a try this year with a Welsh Terrier pup.