eXtensions - Wednesday 17 January 2018
eXtensions: The Wednesday File (40) - Mac Failure Thrice Over
By Graham K. Rogers
That has not been going too well recently and there has been a series of highly-publicised problems (perhaps more publicity than other companies have) which suggest that the Mac is no longer as secure as I have been telling my friends: not that I am experiencing problems.
Last week I answered a query on Facebook when a local user's Mac failed to restart after the download of an update. I immediately downloaded the same 10.13.2 update to the 15" MacBook Pro I have available (and the next day also to the Mac mini at work) with no problems.
Older MacBook Pro models
When he had a failed update last year I had to rescue all data before erasing the disk (it was that bad), so I asked about a backup. No: because the backup disk he had been using had crashed. A check with Disk Utility in the Rescue Partition showed that the main disk failed to mount. With the other symptoms, I wondered if the necessary initiation files had become corrupted. We arranged to meet the next day.
That started properly, using the Option key, but was unable to recognise any drive that could be repaired. Without a backup and with essential data on the computer, the first priority was (if possible) to retrieve that data. Among my collection of external drives, I have a hard disk with a working version of macOS so I started the Mac with that. After accessing user accounts I copied about 60GB of data across: Saved.
Hard disks including a rescue disk with macOS installed
This time, the download and installation went smoothly. The account was intact and all data safe. I began my lecture on backing up data and went through alternatives to the external disk (which I was promised would be replaced the next day). As part of this, I outlined how I make use of the iCloud feature to backup the Desktop and Documents. Not everyone likes this, but it is a pretty safe solution and gives me the luxury of being able to access the files from any Mac I have or iOS devices. The files could also be available via a browser on a PC.
iCloud Drive Viewed in a Browser Showing Desktop and Documents Folders
Focussing on Photos, we turned on iCloud Photos, but as with Desktop and Documents in iCloud I explained that this would not be instant: best to leave the devices on overnight and the files would begin to upload to the cloud, then become available on other devices.
Apple Photos on a MacBook Pro
In the iLife store, which is part of Copperwired (they run the iStudio stores in Siam and elsewhere) I found a few suitable hard disks, including Seagate and WD. The 1TB Seagate Ultra Slim was priced at 2,340 baht, but was instantly discounted to 1,990 without me even asking. I sent a message and bought the disk, although at this stage it is still here waiting for collection. We clearly have different priorities.
External Disks on Display
Seagate Ultra Slim disk (left) and WD 512GB SSD
An attempt to install a Time Machine backup (at least this user had this) came to nothing as the Mac again failed to complete the installation. After making a couple more suggestions (Single User mode did work and a file system check was reported to be OK), I suggested Disk Utility in the Rescue Partition and an Erase of the main disk. When that was done, he was surprised to find that macOS could be installed anew from this Rescue partition.
Utilities in Rescue Partition
I am troubled sometimes by the amount that long-time Mac users don't know about the devices and software they use. Commenting on another criticism of Apple, The Macalope writes this week, "Honestly, while the tech press rightly throws a fit about these flaws (that's what we're here for), most Mac owners probably don't know anything about them" adding, "Come to think of it, taking Apple to task for inadequate education on such matters is probably a more valid criticism than saying "Macs have bugs so don't buy Macs"."
I am clearly not alone.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. 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. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)
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