Hard drive upgrade for my laptop

Testing, testing, testing. I upgraded the hard drive in my computer yesterday, putting in a brand new SSD, and wow booting this thing up is smokin’ fast now.

The overall process I followed was:

  1. Take the computer apart so I could take out the old drive
  2. Put new drive in and put computer back together
  3. Install Catalina as a brand new install
  4. Use Migration Assistant to pull my data off my last Time Machine backup

The first big hiccup I ran into with this were that it took me three tries to get a viable USB installer for Catalina. Fortunately we have other Macs in the house, so all props to Paul for letting me use his downstairs system to generate the third USB installer, which was successful.

The second big hiccup was getting the new install of Catalina to actually see my Time Machine backup. Normally I run Time Machine over our house LAN, and the older laptop that acts as our Time Machine server saves my backups out to a USB drive attached to that. I attached that USB drive directly to my laptop. But Migration Assistant didn’t realize what backup I wanted to use until I specifically went into Finder and mounted the sparsebundle. Once I did that, Migration Assistant went “oh you mean THIS backup” and proceeded to let me actually pull data out of it.

That migration process went smoothly, though the wild vacillation of time estimates was kinda hysterical. It dropped from about “7 hours 57 minutes” (and Dara and I expecting this would have to run overnight) down to about “2 hours 20 minutes”, and then plummeted from there to somewhere around 20 minutes. For way longer than 20 minutes, at which point it also vacillated wildly between 20, 38, 17, 11, 18, and other numbers in the range. The speed at which the drive was operating kept fluctuating too, and we didn’t know why. Dara’s theory was that maybe Migration Assistant had to go up and down through various levels of Time Machine backup to get a good read on all the things it had to pull out. But we don’t know this for sure.

Third big hiccup so far was that the system was confused as to letting my Apple ID log in. I boot the thing up and it goes “hey your Apple ID needs to log in to allow various things to work”. I’m all “cool” and I try to log in with it… only to get an error message that said, and I quote, “An unknown error has occurred.”

This was, shall we say, less than helpful.

So I had to go googling as to what the hell to do to fix that. Tried several unsuccessful things until I landed on this article on AppleToolBox, which provided some terminal-level commands that ultimately did the trick.

Fourth hiccup: Mail initially refused to let me import messages, swearing up and down that I didn’t have enough space in my home directory. It lied. It was also confused as to WTF the actual problem was: i.e., a permissions issue, given that I had created a brand new user on the system when I pulled in my Time Machine data, and it didn’t think the Mail directory was properly owned by that user. So I had to fix that. What ultimately worked for me were steps provided in this Apple forums thread.

Mail also had issues letting me back into some of my accounts, but I think this may have been part and parcel of the Apple ID problem? Once I fixed that and reinstated my various mail accounts, Mail seemed happy accessing them.

Fifth hiccup: the program I use to manage my reminders and tasks, Things, also had a permissions issue. I wound up locating where it stores its database with the help of this article, and fixed the permissions on that, similar to what I did for Mail. (In this case, that meant getting into the terminal, finding the thing, and throwing chown at it.)

As of this writing, these are the things so far that have made the process bumpier than I would have liked. But major functionality on the system now seems to be in place. I am really pleased with how fast the thing boots up now. And hopefully once Catalina finishes going “OH HEY NEW DRIVE LET ME INDEX ALL THE THINGS”, I should see an overall general performance boost. Which should extend the life of this machine a little while longer, until it finally stops getting security updates and I have to upgrade to a new system.

Confirmed working so far:

  1. Apple ID login
  2. Syncing to my phone and iPad
  3. Dropbox
  4. Mail
  5. Logging into various things I usually log into in my browser (social media, mostly, but other frequently visited sites as well)
  6. Things
  7. Password manager
  8. RSS readers (I have two)

Still to check:

  1. Making sure all my documents and photos and other files came over safely off the Time Machine backup (means checking the Desktop, Documents, Music, and Downloads directories just to make sure everything looks in order)
  2. Scrivener
  3. Google Drive
  4. Calibre
  5. LINE (which I use to talk to my guildmates in Dungeon Boss)

Once all the major things have been checked, I’ll feel comfortable with reinstating Time Machine backups. But I wanted to get all this documented while it was fresh in my brain!

(And oh yeah, I can also report that doing a fresh install of Catalina does not appear to have fixed the weirdness in my playlists on my phone and iPad. Boooooooo. Apparently I’ll have to wait for Apple to fix that properly. Oh well!)

TechFail, December 2012 edition

Internets, I swear to gods, I am deeply grateful to have enough income to spend on Shiny Things. I DO love my Shiny Things. But wow, sometimes transitioning from one set of Shiny Things to the next is positively crazymaking!

As I’ve mentioned on the various social networks, I opted to get me a MacBook Pro rather than a MacBook Air–and among the many reasons for this was to allow myself budget to also upgrade my iPhone. The phone was still working okay, but as it was a 3GS, it was getting long in the tooth and pokey. I didn’t like the idea of being about to fall off the support queue for devices that could run current builds of iOS, and I was quite sick of the erratic performance of the 3G network in Seattle.

I swear on a stack of the complete works of Tolkien, though, that I I did not lose that phone just to have an excuse to get a new one. It was nevertheless deeply, deeply aggravating to lose my phone at work, pretty much necessitating me having to buy the new device. The old one, I note, never did make its way back to me.

Meanwhile, I got the new laptop yesterday! Which was shiny and lovely and all… but then things started getting aggravating when I tried to migrate data off the old laptop, Winnowill, onto the new laptop, Aroree. Mac OS provides a lovely Migration Assistant utility that’s supposed to let you hook two computers up and slurp data from one to the other. I had this going over an ethernet connection last night, and it was chugging happily away… until it hung at the “40 minutes left” mark.

It stayed that way for well over an hour, up until I finally decided screw it, I had to go to bed. So I put the laptops in our guest room, so that their cords would be out of the reach of the cats. And I went to bed.

Got up to discover that Winnowill’s hard drive had gone to sleep–but that when I woke her up again, she was still stuck at the “40 minutes left” mark. AUGH, I said, time to break out of the Migration Assistant and try Plan B. Aroree was happy to do this and return me to Mac OS.

Winnowill, not so much. When I broke out of Migration Assistant on that box, she froze up. I had to power cycle the box. At which point it completely refused to boot, and I got a flashing gray folder with a question mark in it. Mother Google informed me that this is Mac-OS-ese for “your startup disk has vacated the premises, your file system is fucked, and you better pray you have a good backup”.

AUGH, I said. But, my belovedest userinfosolarbird, possessor of wit and wisdom, proposed the plan of grabbing the external drive off our Time Machine server and slurping data out of my last backup directly from that. We enacted this plan. THAT worked, and I have as of this writing recovered the vast majority of my data off of Winnowill. I’m happily typing away on Aroree. There are still some kinks to be worked out, but by and large, I’m back in business.

Winnowill, though, is toast. Dara further cleverly proposed tonight that we take Winnowill’s hard drive and try to boot it in her older laptop, Kiliandra, just to test whether another computer could boot the same drive. This test failed, though conversely, Winnowill was able to boot Kiliandra’s drive. Relatedly, I had just replaced the battery in Winnowill; it was starting to bulge with heat damage. Our working theory at this point is that perhaps the battery going bad in Winnowill adversely impacted the drive, and I happened to get just lucky enough that the drive held out long enough for Aroree to show up AND for me to recover data out of my last Time Machine backup.

We have no way of knowing at this point, but that’s a real plausible theory.

And in conclusion, HOLY CRAPWEASELS, damn good thing I had a working Time Machine backup, innit?

Now to let Aroree’s first, gigantic backup (214.17 GB, baby!) complete. Then I’ll need to finish smoothing all the other little rough edges left over from the data transfer–and THEN I can get back to work.

Couple all of this with how a major project at work has been making my entire team kind of crazy, and I swear, I’ve been spending this entire week trying to remind myself that no, it is not advisable to throw ALL OF THE COMPUTERS OUT THE WINDOW. It only helps a bit that I was also amusing myself by bitching about this in French too. Because some things are irritating enough that you need a whole extra language to contain the bitchery!

Aren’t computers FUN?

Good news everyone!

This is definitely one of those times where I need me an icon of Professor Farnsworth from Futurama, because he’s totally in my head right as I type this!

But the news, oh, it is good. It is SHINY. Internets, I’m getting promoted! QA Engineer II, baby! This comes from an excellent year of slurping up Python and finally bending my brain around class-based coding–this is what I get for having learned how to code long enough ago that object-oriented programming wasn’t really a thing yet, so it took me a while to get the idea down. But it’s in there now and WOO! PROMOTED!

*does a little dance*

There is compensation involved, a raise as well as a bonus, and oh, there will be a Shiny Thing. A very, very Shiny Thing. It’s about time to upgrade my Macbook, and this news is going to let me do it!

Winnowill, mind you, has served me well (and only those of you who are fellow Elfquest fans will understand the number of giggles I get out of typing that phrase, ha!) and does hold the record to date for longest-operating laptop I’ve ever owned. I got this MacBook back in December of 2007, which means that as of this December, Winnowill will be hitting her five year mark.

However, that’s an eternity in laptop terms and Winnie IS getting a bit long in the tooth. Specifically, she is just a touch too old to be able to run Mountain Lion. So I want a laptop that’ll let me continue to be upgradable along with the OS, at least for the next five years or so! The only question is going to be, whether I commit to a higher-end Macbook Air (because SO SHINY), or whether I go with a Macbook Pro.

There must be much comparison of specs. And thinking hard about what I need out of the next Laptop of Awesomeness to join the Murknet.

Though I gotta admit, if I wind up with an Air, that box is totally getting called Aroree. <3

As to what I’ll do with Winnowill–actually, I’m not convinced yet I’ll be decommissioning her. Winnie DOES dual boot between Lion and Win 7, and having Win 7 around is handy sometimes, not only for testing purposes but also just for playing our games! And as Mac OS continues to develop, it’ll be handy as well to have a somewhat older version around. So we’ll see. If I wind up with an Air, Winnie could also continue to be my iTunes box since I DO have a certain number of bands for whom buying physical CDs is still absolutely essential! (Great Big Sea and Le Vent du Nord, of course!) So many choices before me!

And SHINY THINGS! And promotions! And another awesome year to look forward to at Big Fish! Which, I might add, is now the longest job I’ve had EVER, as I’ve passed my previous record of 3 years, 7 months–which was how long I was at Attachmate. This coming January will be my four-year mark!


Weird problem with iCal reminders, can anybody help?

This one’s for any of my fellow Apple users out there who have a Mac running OS X 10.7.2 (the latest update of Lion), and an iPhone or iPad running iOS 5.

I’ve got an iCloud account set up to sync reminders between my devices and my computer. This is working beautifully between my iPhone and iPad, and the reminders are also showing up in iCal on my Mac. But the problem is, on the Mac, I cannot edit them. I can’t even click a reminder to mark it as done; I have to go over to one of the iThings and do it there.

Here’s a screenshot of what I see when I try to doubleclick on one of my iCloud reminders from my Mac!

This don't make no sense
This don't make no sense

userinfospazzkat, who also has his Mac laptop and his iThings updated to the same revisions that I do, has not experienced this problem. However, the main difference I’ve been able to note between his system and mine is that he has a full MobileMe account, including an email address, that he set up to talk to iCloud. I don’t have a MobileMe account; I’ve got iCloud using my Apple ID, which is my gmail address, to log in. I would like to HOPE that this shouldn’t be causing my reminders to be showing up read-only on my Macbook, but hey, I’m QA–I know how theoretical functionality doesn’t necessarily line up with what the code is doing, even after it ships.

So what say you, fellow Mac geeks? Any of you experiencing this problem? Any of you know how to solve it?

The Anna upgrades to Lion report

So yeah! Decided after reading the ginormous Ars Technica writeup of Lion, and after reviewing my system this afternoon to see what PowerPC apps I still had (answer: nothing I couldn’t live without), I decided to go ahead and install Lion tonight. It was definitely the easiest OS upgrade I’ve ever done, I’ll give it that.

And in no particular order, here are things I’ve noticed about it:

One, once I rebooted into the new OS, things were quite a bit sluggish for several minutes–but there were two reasons for that. One, Spotlight went and reindexed everything on the drive. Two, I launched Mail as pretty much one of the first things, and that also needed to do significant updating of its database. So things were pretty pokey until both of these finished up their business.

Two, trying to launch iTunes got me an error message about not being able to open an iTunes Library file, but this was easily fixed by doing a quick check for software updates and downloading iTunes 10.4. iTunes then proceeded to load as per normal.

Three, goddamn, Mail is very… gray now. I’m not sure I approve of that, but we’ll see if it grows on me. Ditto for the new gray scrollbars.

Four, I quite like Launchpad, a new icon at the top of the Dock that’s basically a quick and dirty way to get at all of the apps on your system. If you’re an iPhone or iPad owner this interface will look very familiar, and it lets you swipe through it as well if you have a touchpad on your laptop like I do. You’re supposed to be able to organize the icons into folders like you do on iDevices, but I haven’t tried that yet. I like it less because of the similarity to iOS and more just because it means I can lose several less commonly used icons off my Dock.

Five, I discovered entirely by accident that you can set individual desktop backgrounds on the individual desktops available in the new Mission Control feature–which is cool. It’s a much nicer version of Spaces + Expose and even after playing with it for only a few moments, I’m grooving on it. And now I can go fwip-fwip-fwip-fwip through the Dashboard and all four of my desktops in a quick line, and I see LION! ELEPHANT! ISLAND! GREAT BIG SEA! It’s neat.

Six, if I have a Terminal window up and I’m connected to the MurkMUSH and I get paged, the icon starts bouncing at me and showing a little number on it indicating there’s something that needs my attention. Didn’t do that before.

Seven, hrmm, the Ars Technica review was talking about the dots on icons on the Dock that indicate which ones are launched going away. However, I still see mine!

Time Machine is now doing a massive 9.52GB backup–over our house LAN, no less, so this’ll be a while. But on the whole the upgrade appears to have gone swimmingly. I still need to verify that I can reboot into Win7 as needed, and that I can also launch Parallels to run that Win7 install as a VM, as before. (I did update Parallels since they deployed an update to talk to Lion, or so they took pains to inform users.)

Also still need to see if Safari’s new Reading List feature will seduce me off of Firefox, and what the new document handling model will be like once I get a hold of a version of a word processor that can talk to it. (Mac Word 2008 does not.)

But so far so good. And oh yes, speaking of Mac Word 2008–if you’re using Mac Office on your system, you WILL need 2008 or later if you want to upgrade to Lion, what with Rosetta support being removed. Be on the lookout as well if you’re at all reliant on Microsoft Query, which is part of Excel. That was one of my few PPC apps left on the system, and a bit of judicious Googling showed me that Microsoft has word out that they’re advising anyone reliant on Query to not upgrade yet until they fix that. They’re also reporting that Outlook is having trouble importing data out of Mail once Lion is installed, so people this might affect should keep an eye out for that.

AND! Since I am a Big Fish employee, it does behoove me to point out that older Big Fish releases, being PowerPC games, won’t run on Lion either. Be on the lookout for our powers that be to issue word on what Mac customers should do about those specific games. If there are particular games you don’t want to lose the ability to run yet, you might hold off a bit on the OS install.

More as I observe it! (And dammit, why don’t I have a Lion icon for posting to LJ and Dreamwidth?)

On the awesomeness of technology

Something that has really come to light for me in the last couple of years is that I’m really, really, really tired of the “my choice of technology is better than your choice of technology” attitude so many of my geek brethren espouse. Whether it be “Linux is better than Windows” or “Macs are better than PCs” or “Open Source is better than paid software” or “my smartphone is better than your smartphone”, I have yet to see that this is anything more than the simple human tendency to divide up into camps and loudly proclaim how one’s camp is superior to everyone else’s.

And you know what, folks? When it comes to geek technology, this is really kind of silly.

When you get right down to it, no matter what operating system it runs, a computer is pretty goddamn awesome. So are smartphones–I mean, c’mon, you guys, we are all carrying around tiny computers in our pockets. And when I think about this, especially when I think about how computers used to be gigantic boxy things that would take up entire rooms, it’s even more amazing to me.

I’ve been thinking about this this week because I’ve gotten the expected amount of shit for the fact that I’m getting an iPad. But really, I’ve been thinking about it ever since a coworker of mine showed up at work preemptively expecting that the team was going to give him shit for having a Windows phone. That struck me. If you’re going around automatically expecting your fellow geeks to hassle you about the device you’ve chosen to purchase, that really takes a lot of fun out of having it. And it shouldn’t, because again, computers are awesome. And smartphones are just tiny computers.

So I would now like to take this opportunity to celebrate all technology, no matter who makes it. I invite folks to join me in the comments to express love of whatever technology you have and why you love it. I’ll start!

I love my MacBook because it’s clever enough to dual-boot between OS X and Windows 7.

I love Windows 7 because it’s a version of Windows that is not only not sucky, it’s elegant, doesn’t get in your face with the UAC dialogs, and able to play nicely with Bootcamp.

I love Linux because I’ve found it to be an excellent platform to write Python code on. Also, excellent for running our home servers at the Murk, and for playing Nethack on, and hosting my web pages and blogs!

I love Open Source because of healthy respect for the ethic of creating programs just because you love to code.

I love paying for programs I need or games I want because I myself work in the computer industry, and I love supporting my fellow geeks for their work.

I love Firefox because c’mon, FOXES, how can I not?

I love Safari because it’s fast.

I love Internet Explorer 9 because whoa, hey, a version of Internet Explorer that’s actually fast and compliant to recent web standards? Awesome! Well done!

I love my iPhone because it’s a tiny, tiny thing and yet it lets me do so much.

I love my nook because it lets me carry around an amazing number of books with me, and in one small sleek package.

I don’t own one but I love seeing other people’s netbooks because small, cute technology that can go toe to toe with bigger laptops is awesome.

I don’t own one but I love hearing from friends who own Android phones or Windows phones just because a friend saying “I have a toy and it does this really, really cool thing” is awesome, too!

I love flatscreen monitors because yay for occupying less desk space, not to mention no longer throwing radiation at my poor neck.

And I’ll save telling you about why I love my iPad after I’ve actually had some time to break it in. :D

Your turn, people! What technology do you love, and why? (And remember, this is not about ‘I love technology X because it’s not technology Y’–please, let’s not snark. Let’s make this a celebration of all things that are awesome. Thanks!)

Ever wondered what the inside of a Macbook looks like?

Wonder no more!

Winnowill's Heart is a Scary Place
Winnowill's Heart is a Scary Place

My laptop had been making these weird rattly noises for a while now, as well as running periodically far hotter than it seemed like it should. Replacing the hard drive didn’t help (although it did double my hard drive capacity, which of course was awesome). Neither did taking a can of electronics cleaner to the interior of the machine. So finally I decided, due to the location of the weird rattly noises I kept hearing (i.e., pretty much smack center under the keyboard), that I probably needed a new fan.

There are three places locally I found that I could have taken the box to to have a new fan installed: the actual Apple store, an unrelated chain called The Mac Store in the U-district, and a place in Shoreline that does Mac repairs. In all three cases, though, I’d have had to pay for the cost of the part as well as probably $80-100 in labor. Screw that, I decided; I’ve taken apart plenty of computers in my time, and I was pretty sure I could just install the damn fan myself.

This proved pretty much trivial thanks to ifixit.com. They’re a site specializing in repair manuals and parts for Macs and iPods, and I gotta say, the site was incredibly helpful. Not only do they have a variety of step by step manuals on how to take your Mac apart and how to install different parts, they also sell those parts for you to order. And since the new fan I ordered for Winnowill arrived today, I settled in tonight with Dara’s help to get that put in. It went very simply and without aggravation!

So I highly, highly recommend this site to any of my fellow Mac geeks out there. If you’re up for fixing anything wrong with your own computer and saving yourself the cost of paying somebody else to do it for you, check this site out. They can probably help you get the job done.