Mac Pro network drops

As I already mentioned, the Mac Pro 2008 (10.10.5) I’m running the Retrospect server on, dropped its network connection for the first time in nine years (that I’m aware of) after installing Retrospect. Since then, it’s happened more than ten times, three times just during the last 24 hours.

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Is there life after Crashplan?

Dead Crashplan
Crashplan for home is dead

Now that Crashplan for home is gone, or at least not long for this world, a lot of people will need to find another way of backing up their stuff. It’s tempting to get angry, and there are reasons to be, but in the end you have to forget about all that and move on. Even though you may have months, or even a year, before Crashplan stops working, there is another reason you have to get something up right now, namely file histories.

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“App translocation”

When applications are in “quarantine” on OSX after being downloaded, they are run in a kind of sandbox; they’re “translocated”. You don’t really see this, but weird things then happen. For instance, Little Snitch won’t let you create “forever” rules on the fly, claiming your app isn’t in “/Applications”, which it clearly is if you check in Finder.

The problem is that the extended quarantine attribute is set, and needs to be reset (at least if you trust the application). Too bad Apple didn’t provide a GUI way of doing that, so here goes the magic incantation (assuming WebStorm is the problem in the example):

First check if the attribute is set:

xattr /Applications/Webstorm.app/
com.apple.quarantine

Then if you see that it is, reset it:

xattr -d com.apple.quarantine /Applications/Webstorm.app/

…and there you go. Life is good again.

 

Another couple of years?

My Mac Pro is an early 2008. Over the last few years, it’s been losing function by parts. It’s like chip rot. First the firewire didn’t work right, lots of transfer errors. It may even have been that way from the start, but I always thought it was the LaCie drives or firewire hubs that screwed things up. So I stopped using firewire entirely.

Then the RAID gave me trouble, which turned out to be disk bay 1 being flaky. With or without the RAID card, bay 1 would give me disk errors even after replacing the disk. The bad disks worked fine in other bays, though.

The last couple of months, the machine started beach balling a lot, getting so slow I would almost scream. Dragging selections in Muse could take ten or twenty seconds to do, while they were instantaneous on my Macbook Pro. USB started to be flaky about a year back, with bad sound quality and dropouts using a USB headset. A few years back the upper DVD reader stopped working, too.

After a couple of months, I reinstalled OS X to no effect. Running TechTool Pro and Diskwarrior on the disk had shown no significant errors, but it took forever. Very slow disk reading. I then moved my system disk from bay 4 to bay 3, and the beach balling went away immediately. So now I was down to two functioning disk bays.

I’ve been eyeing the new Mac Pro, but the lack of serious disk space keeps me from going for it. And the price, of course. Decent alternatives would be a second hand 2010 or 2012 model. Or, I figured, trying to fix my 2008. The only thing I could think of as being the cause would be the disk cable harness (unlikely), the motherboard, or the power supply. You have to start somewhere, so I figured a new motherboard would be a good thing to do. Turns out you can get them for a decent price nowadays. I found a vendor on eBay that has a stack of them for $165, and they claim they’ve been tested before shipping. So I bought one, and got it less than a week later.

Today, I switched motherboards. It’s a pretty invasive thing to do to your Mac Pro, but you can do it in two or three hours without rushing it. Nothing broke, and I’m writing this post on that machine a few hours later and everything seems to work. I’ve moved the system drive to bay 4 and the machine remains snappy. No beach balling. I’ve installed a 4 TB in the previously really bad bay 1, and it seems to work normally. I’m having a glimmer of a hope this machine will work fine for another year or two, or maybe more. At least until Apple releases a decent modern replacement (if ever…). Below you’ll find a few pics of the process.

The new board arrived completely intact and well packaged in a sealed antistatic bag.

New motherboard in sealed wrap

Looks clean.

New board unwrapped

The machine before the slaughter. Note the unused (and unusable) bay 1. Bay 4 only serves for a slow drive with some old info. That slot is pretty slow in itself, hasn’t given any errors, but lots of huge delays (beach balling).

The machine before the slaughter

After removing the memory risers and the cards:

After removing memory and cards

Out goes the front fan:

Front fan cage removed

Then the turn comes to the memory cage. There’s a trick to this involving sliding the fan into the cage after releasing a few tabs. Read up on it carefully before attempting. iFixit has a good description.

Memory cage

Now it’s time to remove the three heat sinks. The two CPU sinks must be removed to get the main board out of the case, so you can just as well take the third sink (north bridge) as well.

Heat sinks

“Interestingly”, all the sinks are held in place by 3 mm in-hex screws. Three of these screws are right in between the three sinks so you need quite a long hexagonal screw driver to get them out. Luckily, the iFixit kit has both the right bit and an extender that was just long enough and narrow enough to get the job done. Most online sources say “flat screw driver”. Don’t believe them. It’s a hex you need.

Extender screwdriver with 3 mm hex bit.

The north bridge sink:

North bridge heat sink

One of the CPU sinks:

Lower CPU sink (B)

Time to disconnect the antennas. Do snap a pic first so you can look up which cable went exactly where. They’re nicely labeled, but there are no markings on the boards to correspond with the cable labels. Also, the antenna cable labeled “2” is over to the side somewhere and is not connected to anything. 

Airport and bluetooth boards

Now you have to take out the speaker assembly in the lower front of the case. There’s a screw holding the motherboard in place that you can’t get at otherwise. 

Speaker assembly

After disconnecting a truckload of connectors and carefully wiggling for a bit, out comes the old motherboard.

Old motherboard

A good use for old iTunes cards: scraping thermal paste from the CPUs and the Northbridge. (The north bridge isn’t necessary, since this one is on its way out, but its a good trial run for the processors.)

Scraping paste

Use a decent cleaner and lint-free cloth to remove the rest of the old thermal paste after scraping it off with the plastic card.

Dissolvant

One of the sinks after cleaning. Looks great!

Clean sink

The processors look fine, too, after cleaning:

Clean processors

Time to strap up before removing the processors:

Antistatic strap

An empty case with a lot of loose cables:

Empty case

Putting thermal paste on the north bridge and the CPUs. I’m using the procedure recommended on the Arctic Silver site. Except I unintentionally modified it to be messier. With this procedure, very little paste goes on the sinks.

Past on chips

And then you put back the motherboard, the sinks and all the rest. And cross your fingers and boot. Oh, your machine now has a new serial number, but really, who cares?

I used the opportunity to blow away all the dust from all the parts using compressed and dried air. This machine has never been this clean before. 

Apple upgrades really don’t work

So the other day I tried upgrading my main work machine from Mavericks to Yosemite. Since we’re now at 10.10.1 I thought it might work. Not really. It took hours to install, hanging on the “4 minutes left” mark, but got through, finally. Then Mail wouldn’t work, freezing at the “updating mail database” (or something to that effect). Tried it multiple times.

This time I’d been smarter, having done the upgrade on a SuperDuper “sandbox” drive, so all I needed to do to revert was to reboot from the internal drive. Lucky for me that the “update” of the mail database hadn’t destroyed it. Worked fine on 10.9.5.

So I guess I’ll wait for 10.10.2 and try again then. Not that I think it will work.

Another near-death Apple upgrade experience

So I decided to upgrade my Macbook Air 11, late 2013 to Yosemite. After all, I’ve been holding off for a couple of weeks to make sure no major problems would surface and be reported on the net. Since everything seemed clear, I did it. Or, rather, I tried it.

First, I updated Audio Hijack Pro to eliminate a known problem with that. All other updates were done. I made a full image using SuperDuper (am I glad I did…). Then clicked the upgrade button in the AppStore. 

An hour for the download, fifteen minutes for the upgrade, which gets stuck at the “4 minutes remaining” mark for two hours, and then I do a hard reset. Boots, but crashes at login, back to login, becomes entirely unresponsive. No mouse movement, no nothing.

Now I’m in the process of restoring from the SuperDuper backup, which booted fine, albeit very slowly (running on an external USB disk, that’s to be expected). Let’s hope this works. It usually does, but you never know.

Really, Apple, what’s up with the quality control…?

Horrible Apple update quality

There are two updates waiting to be done on a Mac Mini Mavericks server here. Both cause problems.

Security update 2014-005 1.0

This one causes the App Store app to become corrupt. There’s no way to do more updates once this happens. Also, there’s no way I know of to download it and reinstall it. If this isn’t a FUBAR, I don’t know what is. Yes, I restored an image and tried again, same thing. The restore didn’t recover the app, though. Don’t know why. Had to take it from another Mavericks machine and copy it over (you have to use sudo to get past OSX’s reluctance to replace that app). Now I’m wondering if applying the update, then replacing the App Store app would work, but I’m sick and tired of this nonsense, so it will have to wait until I gather enough energy to try yet again.

OSX Server 3.2.2

This is the second update in the queue right now. According to the description, it brings all kinds of improvements, but in actuality, the only thing that it clearly brings is a total failure of the wiki system. There’s no connection to the database. Had to restore from backups every time I tried this update.

This is not good. Let’s just hope that some later update is better.

One more thing…

It would be good if I could tell software update I don’t want these two updates, but I don’t see how. So the machine continuously keeps bugging me about restarting to do them. Very, very aggravating.