Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mac Pro update

I still don't have a Mac Pro. (I do have a very nice 23-inch Cinema HD display, but I've never really understood the concept of hooking an external display up to a laptop. Do people just stick them off to one side as a secondary monitor? So beyond testing it out once, I haven't done that.) The Apple Store tells me it will ship by February 14, which is still two weeks away, and a full five weeks from placing the order. Still, given I barely avoided ordering an obsolete model, I'm not complaining.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Goodbye WEP, hello WPA!

I forgot to mention this a couple of weeks ago: wireless networking just stopped working on both the MacBook Pro and the old PowerBook G4. From memory, it went like this: wireless on the PowerBook stopped working, and as part of my preliminary debugging, I power-cycled the MacBook Pro to see if it would reconnect. It wouldn't. I've had numerous problems with WiFi at my house in the past, though I thought they were all behind me. On a whim, I flipped the router over to WPA2—both Macs reconnected. As an aside, my Palm TX would no longer connect, though, to be honest, I use WiFi on the Palm so infrequently, I actually can't be bothered debugging that at the moment.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Time Machine: Backup failed with error: 11

I've been using Time Machine since installing Leopard, keeping my hourly/daily/weekly backups on the 250G Lacie drive that saved me back in October. It works well, though I've never needed to use it. Lately, it's been doing some unusually large backups which I was having trouble explaining, but otherwise things were going fine. Until this:
Jan 11 21:32:56 ralph mds[35]: (Error) Backup: doBackupIndexFile could not stat backup location /sw/share/terminfo/w/wyse160-vb /Volumes/Lacie Backup/Backups.backupdb/ralph/2008-01-10
-8F96-8F0A0A4170E8/Macintosh HD/sw/share/
terminfo/w/wyse160-vb. Error 2 with uid 0

Jan 11 21:32:56 ralph /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[1703]: MDBackupIndexFile returned -1101 for: /sw/share/terminfo/w/wyse160-vb, /Volumes/Lacie Backup/Backups.backupdb/ralph/2008-01-10
-8F96-8F0A0A4170E8/Macintosh HD/sw/share/

Jan 11 21:32:56 ralph /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[1703]: Aborting backup because MDBackupIndexFile failed
Jan 11 21:32:56 ralph /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[1703]: Canceling backup.
Jan 11 21:32:56 ralph /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[1703]: Copied 21765 files (39 KB) from volume Macintosh HD.
Jan 11 21:32:56 ralph /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[1703]: Copy stage failed with error:11
Jan 11 21:33:00 ralph /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[1703]: Backup failed with error: 11

I repeated the backup several times with similar results. Google was minimally helpful, though I did work through some of what Sven-S. Porst describes in his article "X.5 Time Warp 2". Specifically, I tried deleting (or, actually, renaming) the Spotlight Stores folder corresponding to Backups.backupdb and running mdimport on /Volumes/Lacie Backup/Backups.backupdb. Didn't help. Interestingly, the backup was failing on a different file every time, but my patience was exhausted.

I hadn't used Time Machine to recover anything, and its incremental backups were becoming unusually large lately—so I wiped the external disk and started from scratch.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My name is Paul and I'm an irretrievable Apple fanboy

Recall that yesterday I posted about finally ordering a Mac Pro. The order was placed on Sunday 6 January. Steve posted a reply last night (8 January) pointing out that new models had been released. I didn't see Steve's reply, but noticed the new models independently this morning. They're hard to miss—they're currently being advertised on the front page at both www.apple.com and www.apple.com/au/.

There are at least a couple of factors which objectively mitigate my stupidity:
  1. I knew this was going to happen. I knew it was going to happen when I placed the order, and I admitted it yesterday. It's happened to people before, and it will happen again, as long as Apple continue to keep product releases secret ahead of time. But I placed the order anyway because...
  2. I'm not paying for the Mac Pro, and to get reimbursed for it the invoice had to be lodged by Monday 7 January.
These facts provided some minimal level of comfort this morning.

What I'm not so happy about is what happened next. After these initial rationalisations, I stepped it up into full fanboy mode:
  1. "2.8GHz isn't that much faster than 2.6GHz." (Those figures represent the second-to-bottom CPU configuration in the new and old models.) It's a clock speed increase of 7%. But the CPUs are quad-core in the new models, and dual-core in the old models.
  2. Then I left the planet: "At least it won't be a first run version of new hardware that probably got shoved out the door with minimal testing." Yeah, it will just be a box that's obsolete before it's even shipped.
  3. Then I left the solar system: "The new models don't even have a Bluetooth option." That's right, they don't. It's standard.

The story has a happy ending. I managed to reel myself back in. I got my wife to call Apple (the order is in her name), and since the Mac Pro itself hadn't even shipped yet (the monitor has), she simply insisted they cancel the order and she proceeded to read out the new order I had dictated. The ship date has blown out to 2–3 weeks, but there's less damage on my credit card.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Two new Macs

Last week, my wife brought home a new 13" MacBook. It's nice—white case, gloss screen. At first glance, the keyboard looks awful (almost reminiscent of a chiclet keyboard from the bad old days), but it's actually quite respectable to use. I've now set up Leopard three times in as many months. It was mostly painless, though Mail seems to spend about 3 uninterruptible minutes "testing the server connection" or something equally as pointless. During a previous setup, I tracked that down to it looking on some bizarre port for either or both of SMTP or IMAP. This time I just ignored it. Something new I tried was hooking her up with a free 60-day trial of (the ridiculously over-priced) .Mac service—having spent some time setting up her account on the MacBook Pro, it seemed like a great use case for the syncing functionality of .Mac. It worked, though I stupidly selected a merge on the first sync when I should have over-written the MacBook with the MacBook Pro. We got there in the end.

In other news, I finally ordered a Mac Pro at the weekend. I'm almost reluctant to talk about it, because I know it will probably be superseded before it's even delivered. The harsh reality of getting someone else to pay for it meant I just couldn't put it off any longer. That's a trade-off I will probably learn to live with.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

MacBook Pro problems: so close, yet so far away

I just couldn't make this stuff up.

About 10 minutes ago, I'd typed half of the following title for this post: ‘MacBook Pro problems: finally "fixed in Leopard"’. And then the MacBook Pro locked up:
Jan 1 20:54:15 ralph kernel[0]: NVChannel(GL): Graphics channel timeout!
I had just checked the uptime for the purposes of the original post: a bit over three days. Anyway, as an update to what is now officially an ongoing saga, here's the current low-down:
  1. The lock-ups continue, though certainly they're currently so infrequent that until just now, I thought they had stopped. The problem seems to be widely reported on the web, yet despite this, my regular Apple Service Centre at Next Byte Glenunga claims to be unaware of the problem. I suppose that might mean they're unaware of any official recognition of a problem, but either way it's useless for me—there's no way that can spell anything other than days, if not weeks, of replication-investigation-repair time. I'm seeing uptimes of 14 days and more, and I can barely remember the lock-up prior to this evening. I'm just going to keep sucking this one up.
  2. I installed the MacBook, MacBook Pro Software Update 1.1 a few days after its release. To be honest, it took me several days to even decide whether it had fixed my dropped-keypress problem, possibly because I had become so used to it over the preceding months. Currently I'm willing to tentatively mark that bug as fixed.
So I'm down to one outstanding issue from an original three. Frankly, for the price of the machine, it's still completely unsatisfactory. It's just don't see a better solution than living with the (fairly infrequent) lock-ups for now.