AMITIAE - Sunday 15 December 2013

Cassandra: Setting up a new iMac for the Second Time

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By Graham K. Rogers


In September this year, I went with a friend who wanted to buy a new iMac for the family. He already had a G5 iMac, which had begun to have some limitations with software and his company provide a MacBook Pro, so he is not unfamiliar with Macs and OS X. He also has a company iPhone, and bought an iPad for the family. While this makes it appear that this is a modern, Apple-centric home, he asked me to help set the iMac up for the family's use.

Mavericks On the iMac I updated OS X, to 10.9 Mavericks at that time, installed a number of applications from the Mac App Store and set up the Admin account as well as user accounts for each of the family members. After dinner, I went home feeling happy with a good day's work (and a bit happy from the wine he plied me with).

Despite being rather careful with the creation of passwords for each of the four accounts on the new iMac, it was not long before I had a phone call. Number One son (who is now 5, and very bright), had gone into Dad's account and changed the user password. Although he has been asked a number of times, it is still not clear how he did this. As for "Why?", I expect the answer would be, "Because he could."

Things went from bad to worse. A week or so later, when the iMac was started up, the computer could not find the operating system. Some users may have seen the unhelpful sight of what looks like a No Entry sign instead of a spinning cursor at startup. As I was not available, I suggested he take it into the Copperwired service agent in Amarin Plaza.

A few days later he had it back in his hands. Then it did it again. This time the hard disk was replaced under warranty and I had a message early in the week, "Graham . . . if you are free sometime. . . ."

On Saturday lunchtime, I turned up at his condo for a look. I was not exactly sure what would be needed, so travelled light. The iMac was already on, when I arrived, but even from the door, I could see that a panel was displayed that would need attention. I confirmed that the computer had arrived back from the warranty repair and that, apart from turning it on, nothing had been done since.

Keyboard The panel was a warning that the computer could not find a keyboard. This was in a drawer just below the iMac and when I pressed the button to make it discoverable, the green light came on only for a moment.

Fortunately, this is a well-organised house and there were spare AA batteries to hand. When I put a new set in, the keyboard was recognised and we were ready to roll.

While I had it in mind, I looked at the menubar icon for Bluetooth devices. The keyboard was now showing a full charge, but the Magic Mouse showed only 18%. As there were more batteries available, these were also changed. I may expect a phone call in early March when the keyboard cannot be found. . .

While this iMac originally came installed with OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.3) and I had updated it in September to Mavericks (10.9), the new hard disk now had Mavericks installed. This was going to save me the necessity of downloading the operating system update again: thank Heaven for small mercies.

There were, however, a number of other downloads shown as available:

  • iMovie
  • iPhoto
  • iWork
    • Pages
    • Numbers
    • Keynote
  • GarageBand

There were also a number of third-party downloads ready: previous purchases that needed to be reinstalled. Before I began to download the updates, I decided to start creating the accounts for the computer.

The single account created by the service agent staff was named Apple Admin as is common practice here. Also in line with practice, there was no password: the Enter key was used if a password was required. In this state, a computer is insecure.

In the Admin account (Apple Admin), I created a new account with Administrator privileges. I restarted the computer, logged into the new account and then deleted the Apple Admin account. From here I began to create the new accounts:

  • A "Standard" user account for the man of the house
  • An account - "Managed with Parental Controls - for Number One son
  • A "Standard" user account for the good lady wife.

With the Standard accounts, I asked the account owners to enter their own password choices out of my sight. This was their business, not mine. There was some pouting when hours restrictions were turned on in Parental Controls to limit the amount of time Number One son was allowed to use the computer each day.

Once the accounts were set up, I turned my attention to downloads, but this was not as easy as I had hoped. As I noted back in September, "As happens so very often here - far too often - the Internet is the weakest link in the chain."


Over the next few hours, the downloads trickled down at a depressing rate, sometimes as slow as 14 Kb/s or even a dead stop. A couple of times, the downloads were shown as "failed" by the Mac App Store and I clicked again, although this did not mean restarting the whole download.

Things took a slightly better turn when my friend asked me to mix a couple of drinks. He acknowledges that I make the best gins and tonic that he has ever had, so as well as fixing his Macs, I am delegated to mixing his gins.

Feeling slightly more relaxed, I took a small gamble and restarted the router. This made a significant difference and download speeds were much higher from then on. I was able to complete the updates and install iWork. As he was not familiar with this, I opened each of the components - Pages, Numbers, Keynote - and showed him briefly what these could do.

With this second setup, I hope that, for my friend's sake, that some stability has now been returned to this new iMac.

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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