Monday, November 2, 2009

I have my computer back from the icy jaws of the Snow Leopard bug.

My Halloween was truly scary. Computer borken.

Apple users, be afraid, be very afraid. Heed my warning: Apple does not have it's mind around this problem yet. It is a file system problem. My guest account has been disabled since Britney Spears was good-looking, I've never used it, that had nothing to do with this.

What happened? I fired up MacFuse, the Google-code user-space file system wizardry, using an old version of MacFusion as a front-end, and I had not updated either code for a long, long time, specifically, I had last used them with Tiger. They failed to mount the targets, locked up, and I did a force quit.

Then, I started getting a weird popup, the source of which I never identified. It was a typical brushed-chrome apple window, and it was telling me my Palm desktop background could not be located. It had one button, an OK, and clicking that just made it reappear.

I rebooted, it came back.

I shut down the system overnight. When I booted up the next morning it took forever to come back up and it looked like the snow leopard bug. Some of my software was there, some of my data files, but 100GB was gone, including all of my music, pictures, and movies. Those folders, standard OS architecture, were gone.

Lesson learned # 1 == The cloud is good. I was using Xmarks in Firefox, GMail, Google Docs for my most important works in progress, PicasaWeb and syncing up my contacts with my iPod Touch. I do my HTML/CSS coding directly on my web server, so when the OS on the HD slipped down the drain I was, at worst, annoyed. No panic, no lost work, no lost media (I had a TIme Machine backup, the one from which I just restored), I just had to work in a default environment, I missed iStatPro's monitors on the title bar, I couldn't get Quicksilver to work for some reason, and my dock was all big and in the wrong place. That's as bad as it got.

Lesson learned # 2 == Apple can be full of shit. They don't know what's going on with this bug. If you are using Snow Leopard, please have Time Machine going frequently. This story ain't over. It is a file system problem, clearly, and it wasn't just entire directories that were gone. There were odd Library tree files missing too.

Lesson learned # 3 == The Mac OSX Install Utility on the Snow Leopard upgrade disk is teh awesome. I rebooted with the disk, selected the Utility menu, chose restore from Time Machine backup. I plugged in my Time Machine disk, selected it, chose the latest backup (the Time Machine disk was not plugged in when things went bonkers) and let her rip.

It calculated the restore time as 3 hours and 17 minutes, it actually took 1 hour and 17 minutes.

Lesson learned #4 == As soon as I rebooted with the restored image the machine started doing something it had been doing before, i.e., running hot with mdworker32 (Spotlight indexing) eating up all the CPU. I Googled that, and found that removing a file called "Microsoft Office.mdimporter" from /Library/Spotlight will tame this process. Sure enough, it does. What a surprise.

So, I've had two computer consulting clients (using Windows XP) resort to buying new computers instead of paying me to repair a virus-infected system (Ironically, it's cheaper too). Who says Windows is cheaper? This fix cost me nothing.