Monday, June 18, 2007

OS X Macinations

I recently started using our Powerbook G4 after we dumped it's contents onto the Mac Pro. After using it for a few days I started getting kernel panics. Pretty randomly. They look like this:
After talking to my buddy over at Apple, I decided to scratch the HD on the machine and re-install OS X.

When we bought the machine, OS X Tiger had JUST been released and the machine came with Panther installed and an upgrade DVD for the user to install to bring the system up to 10.4.0 Tiger. However, since the time that we bought the machine and now, we have moved (bought a house and such) and in the process, we could not find the Tiger upgrade DVD.

So, I figured OK, no biggie, I will just use the Panther DVD and get the machine back up and running and I will call Apple to get a replacement DVD. So, I install Panther and everything is fine until I attempt to install the current edition of Apple's Xcode development system. It says "no dice - must have Tiger". Just for grins I try Adobe CS3 and it makes the same complaint...

OK, no biggie, I will just call Apple and get a replacement DVD. So I call Apple Care and give them the serial number of the machine and explain my dilemma and let them know that I have a default installation of Panther on the machine at this point. So they put me on hold for 30 minutes while they "research" the issue after which, they agree that I need a replacement DVD.

They ask me if I care about the iLife applications and I let them know that I don't. So they assure me that all that I will need is disk 1 of the PPC version of Tiger. So I pay them $17 to shoot me out a new DVD (beats the hell out of buying a new copy).

So while I wait for this to arrive, I continue my research into kernel panic causes on the Mac Powerbook. Seems that there is a manufacturing defect in the Powerbooks that has been there for a LONG time. The lower memory slot will fail over time. So I rip open the battery port and pull out the DIMMs, blow it out with compressed air and re-install the DIMMs.

Prior to removing the DIMMs, the machine was registering 1GB RAM. After this it will only register 512MB and indeed only the upper memory slot is working. I have a message into my buddy at Apple to see if Apple will fix this out of warranty gratis. If not, I will just get a 1GB DIMM and just use the upper slot.

So the Tiger DVD arrives and I do a custom install and request that no printer drivers or iLife applications be installed and let it rip. It chugs for about 90 minutes and then asks for DVD 2. Hmmm... Maybe I missed something in the custom selection. So I go back and uncheck EVERYTHING in the custom install window and let it go again. Same deal. It wants DVD 2.

I call the two Apple stores that are local to us and beg them to let me come in with the machine and just have them stuff disk 2 into the machine and let it finish the install but neither of the stores have the PPC version of Tiger DVD 2.

So I start researching on the net to try to find a way to bypass this. I even hook the machine up to the Mac Pro in target disk mode and, with my trusty OS X Internals book in hand, attempt to see if there is any way to force the machine to load the OS and skip the installer.

After a number of hours trying different things, it becomes clear that there is no simple answer and I am tired of screwing around with this by this point. I just want the machine up and running. So I call Apple Care again and after about 20 minutes of arguing with the guy about why I need DVD 2 he finally acquiesces and sets up an order for the DVD.

He claims that there is some issue with their database and he will have to call me back when he gets it fixed. He never calls back. I call Apple Care AGAIN 2 days later and spend a good hour on the phone with them trying to convince them to send me this DVD. Finally I just say "Look - just send me the DVD. This way the problem will go away for me AND for you." The guy FINALLY relents and takes the order and $17 later DVD 2 is on it's way.

So on this past Friday I get the DVD. I fire up the laptop and stuff the DVD in when it asks for it. It then proceeds to install ALL of the iLife applications - Even thought I had told it NOT to.

BUT... I have a theory...

Since I just did a default install of Panther, it installed all of the older iLife applications. When the Tiger upgrade ran, it saw these and decided that they had to be upgraded, regardless of my request that it not do so. And I guess this makes sense. After all, there might be some incompatibility between iLife for Panther under the Tiger OS.

So by Saturday I had Xcode installed and cooking and Soundtrack pro cooking with all of my previous Soundtrack projects up and running intact. So I am, finally happy.

I will update this when I find out Apple's policy on the dead memory slot on the Powerbook. Hopefully, someone else out there will benefit from my experience here and minimize their frustration.

The end.

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