AMITIAE - Sunday 22 September 2013

Cassandra: Setting up a new iMac for a Friend - Internet the Weakest Link

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

Normally my Saturdays start fairly late with me drifting into the center of Bangkok for an early lunch, some shopping, then a gentle ride back late afternoon to see what the evening might bring. This week, a friend with whom I studied at university in the UK, who coincidentally lives and works in Bangkok, emailed me and asked me to go with him to buy the iMac he had been promising himself for a while, and then to help setting it up. As there was an invitation to eat later, I readily accepted.

He is not a stranger to Apple products as he already had a G5 iMac at home that the wife and young son use along with an iPad. He also has a MacBook Pro that his company provides and has just taken delivery of a company iPhone (bad timing methinks) to replace the Blackberry he has been happily using for a couple of years.

The iMac needed a new hard disk last month - not bad after more than 5 years - but when it returned, it was not able to connect to the internet although it was able to see other wifi networks. This pushed him into buying a new computer and we met in Central, Chidlom early Saturday afternoon.

While I am not concerned about Apple products, I wanted to make sure that the box had not been opened and the computer already started. That is for the new owner to do, although some buyers here do ask for certain software to be added before taking delivery. The practice here is for the account that is created at the time to be called "Apple" and the password is the enter key. I am afraid many never change that and security in some homes must be abysmal.


He had already decided on the basic 21.5" model which has some fairly generous specifications for home use with its 8 GB RAM and 1 TB hard disk as standard. The price is 42,900 baht. With OS X installed, there is also enough software to start work out of the box, although most users will soon find they want to install other applications.

Having made the purchase, we walked the few hundred metres to his apartment and he unboxed it with Number One Son trying to help. As the power cord was connected it started up and we soon had the multi-language welcome page. I showed him how to turn on the Magic Mouse and the Bluetooth keyboard which were then recognised by the computer and we could begin the setup.


We had discussed the creation of accounts and he accepted my suggestion of an Admin account along with user accounts for each of the three users. In that way, when any software is installed, the process is not automatic and full details, including password must be typed in. It may take some extra time, but far less than if some malware were ever installed, with the cleanup that might require. I was later able to show this in action.

When that first account was being created - with Admin privileges - there was a screen that asked the user for Apple ID. He entered this, but the computer was unable to connect. For the time being, I pressed Skip as this could be done later. Once the account was up and running, a number of Software updates appeared. One was for OS X. The iMac came with 10.8.3 while 10.8.5 was current. There were also a number of other updates, including iPhoto and iMovie. I clicked install.

By the time the panel showed that the installation was likely to take a little over 8 days, I realised something was amiss. It was then that I was told that, not only had the G5 iMac had problems, but all devices were showing intermittent problems, and that the range - less than 5 metres - was less than the old router. I was also told that this had happened when the home had switched from a TrueMove Internet connection to a TrueVisions system: internet with the TV.

Restarting the Mac and the router, brought the signal back, but the speed of the download was not that great and it seemed to me that my limited 7 Mbps link at home was faster than the 14 Mbps link that my friend had. There was more (see below).

The downloads were completed and I set up each of the accounts, with each letting the user (friend and wife) enter their own passwords. For my friend's account I downloaded a couple of applications that he chose from the Mac App Store, mainly to make sure he knew how this worked. With Number One Son, a password was entered for him, and parental controls were turned on. At this stage only suspect web sites were blocked and no time controls were activated.

While the boy began to play games on the new iMac, I turned my hand to the MacBook Pro which, as far as my friend knew, had never been checked since he had had it, apart from the occasional permissions repair. Using my emergency version of OS X on a stick, I used Disk Utility and a couple of problems were found and fixed.

I then had a look at the G5 iMac which would not see the new router. I tried a few changes, but this had no effect. Other networks in the vicinity were recognised, and when my friend's son turned on the old router, that was also visible (although there was no longer an internet connection).

I also tried with my iPhone 4s. That, too, was unable to see the new router, although other networks nearby were visible. With the signal reportedly intermittent, I presume that either the wifi router 2.4 GHz antenna is faulty or that it does not have one. I suggested an early complaint with the True service that provided this device.

As happens so very often here - far too often - the Internet is the weakest link in the chain.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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