I am the Resurrection

Again, seriously old piffle from March 2010

A little saga has, I hope, resolved peacefully. Lately, the iMac in my office has had some problems on startup. A few times, an ominous folder labelled with a ‘?’ appeared in the centre of the screen, instead of the traditional chomped apple. I ignored this, thinking it was perhaps caused by a bad shutdown. Anyway, on the second attempt, the boot into OS X would be flawless.

But yesterday evening, things took a turn for the worse. MS Word crashed in a familiar way- a document containing updating fields became unresponsive, with a flashing cursor but no way to access the application. Following a brute force ‘restart’, I got nothing. Ten or so attempts at a restart were futile. Apple Hardware Test failed to run (hold down ‘d’ whilst restarting). A bit of searching told me that this test is on a hidden partition in post-2007 iMacs. This fact, plus the ominous ticking from the hard disk, told me to prepare for the worst. I’ve had a few disks die on me in the past. But this one, at 13 months old, would be a record. And out of warranty.

I wasn’t scared to lose data. I have a Time Capsule under my desk. This has saved me when I accidentally overwrite a file, and I would expect to recover everything. I was scared of losing vast amounts of time, and money, trying to get the machine fixed. Running out of time at the end of the day, I gave up.

I endured the obvious schadenfreude comments – what a waste of money, why buy a Mac! I won’t go into the details of why I don’t agree with that point of view, but you’ll see below one of them. Safely back at home, I realised: I’m out of warranty, what do I care? The computer belongs to me. I can replace the drive myself. It seems a lot of people have the impulse to do this, even when the HD is OK! I found a number of YouTube videos on  the subject. It doesn’t look so hard. After all, I used to make my own computers.

So, I was psyching myself up for this, came into work and the machine started like normal! By now, I had also realised I could run the Apple Hardware Test from the bootable Install DVD, and also could check the disk with Apple’s wonderful Disk Utility. You can run this from the DVD as well, just hold ‘c’ whilst starting and then go to ‘Utilities’ – ignoring the installer. To cut a long story short, there were a few errors on the disk and the permissions were also damaged. 20 minutes later, everything was fixed.

Ultimately, it’s a great advert for Apple. Remember how you would try to solve the same problems in a Windows box. In my experience, with sick Dell machines at UCL, it involves downloading and burning a bootable system rescue disk, which runs as a live Linux install.  A lot of techy fun, but ultimately tedious and appalling for productivity. Apple gives this all to you, and tells you how to get it going. Vertical integration has a lot going for it, if you ask me.

It’s a shame in a way, I was beginning to look forward to putting in a 1 TB drive! Perhaps I’ll get my chance soon enough; or maybe I’ll just give it a try for the hell of it! What was that about productivity?

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