Tag Archives: hardware

When disaster strikes

It’s been a bad week for technology at Snaptophobic Towers. Our “standby” MacBook Pro developed a fault with its logic board, which meant it failed to boot and went straight to a kernel panic. On a recommendation, we took it to an authorised Apple repair agent in Kingston upon Thames, and it’s hoped the machine will be fixed for a reasonable price and back with us again pretty soon. (The failed machine is used by Best Beloved, and so has everything set up for someone who has difficulties with sight, so it would be handy to have it back again.)

Having been out on a shoot today, I returned and set about backing up the RAW files to my backup drives before I imported them Aperture. I have a pair of matched 500GB external drives, Archive A and Archive B, and I literally manually copy from the CF card to each drive in turn. Once the copies have been made, the drives are unmounted and powered down. The reason for making backup copies this way to try to eliminate the risk of data corruption that might occur copying from one drive to another: each copy process is from the original card image. With two matched drives—not in a RAID configuration, I may add—if one goes down, at least the other ought to remain, at least until I can source replacements.

Anyway, I powered the drives up, but only Archive B mounted to the Mac’s desktop. I’d been having some odd issues with Archive A, which ought to have warned me this was likely to occur eventually. I launched Disk Utility to see if it appeared in the drives list. It did, but only the drive itself. The partition was greyed out.

I unmounted the drive through Disk Utility, and tried connecting it with a different socket. Same problem, and the same again when connected with USB. Running First Aid reported some errors on the catalogue, so I let the repair process run its course. All came back as passed, but the drive partition still refused to mount. I ran First Aid a couple of times, but no joy.

At this point, I was resigned to the drive having failed completely in some way. I tried taking the drive out of the case and connecting with a caddy system to see if it would mount that way. Nope. Not playing. Putting it back in the case, I considered my options. Both drives were nearing capacity, and I was planning on purchasing two new drives to start a fresh archive. The old archives were to be stored, preferably one of them off-site. With one working archive drive, I thought perhaps it was time to bring that purchase forward.

Meanwhile, with nothing to lose on the “broken” drive, I decided to try erasing and reformatting it. Would you believe it? The drive mounted as normal after this. It lives to die another day. I’ve set about copying the Archive B over to the reformatted Archive A, but I am still going to replace them both with new units. Having checked out the prices of 500GB external drives, I realised it would be more sensible, not to say economical, to purchase replacement internal units and re-use the old cases. The old internal units can be safely stored off-site, and I can restart the archive on the “new” drives.

The moral of this tale is, I suppose, if you use electronic media to store valuable data in any form, back it up. There is a saying you should back everything up three times, on three different forms of media, and in three different places. That’s not always practical, so I try to do the best I can. I like to think my system of two identical drives, plus my Aperture libraries, gives me some measure of reassurance. The sad fact is, though, that any hard drive is living on borrowed time. Drives will fail, it’s just a case of when, and making sure you have backups of your data so you can restore things and not lose anything.

It ain’t pretty…

Img_4109

…but it works.

The ongoing saga of my ancient laser printer entered a new chapter today. The network card has been squiffy for a while, essentially randomly disconnecting itself whenever it felt like it. 

Fed up with marching to and fro, cajoling and applying percussive maintenance, I decided to get to the bottom of the problem. I reasoned the issue was with the RJ-45 connector alone, and I looked at the possibility of replacing the component.

That proved impossible, and another repair also looked unlikely, namely tweaking the little sprung contacts. After about an hour of further investigation, it became apparent that once connection was made, any movement of the printer—even just the movement made when the print engine kicked in—was causing the cable connector to shift micrometres and disconnecting.

In desperation, and not wishing to buy another used JetDirect card which may end up with the same “fault” I resorted to wedging the connector in the socket with folded bits of paper. This survived the “thump and bash” test to my satisfaction.

As I said, it ain’t pretty, but it works. Old Faithful lives to fight yet another day.

Related: Hello, old friend! / Farewell, old friend

Decisions, decisions.

I’m in the fortunate position of owning two Apple laptops.

One was an upgrade decision, and replaced my previous G4 PowerBook as my main working machine. The other is the result of an unfortunate incident involving water and the PowerBook. In the latter case, the house insurance provided us with a new MacBook Pro, which Best Beloved uses for his hobbies and stuff. I also regard it as my backup machine should the worst happen to the main box.

As things turn out, the main machine has had all the love and attention, and is currently running the latest variant of Mac OS X 10.5.8. It’s a prime candidate for the move to 10.6, now the wrinkles have been ironed out with that release. It’s a bit of a no-brainer, as the “upgrade” cost for Snow Leopard is £25.

I’d quite like to bring both machines up to the same level. I spent a fair bit of time today updating the second-line machine’s OS, and it’s reminded me how old OS X 10.4 Tiger looks. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be possible to simply upgrade Tiger to Snow Leopard. It would have to be a “wipe and install”, which isn’t something I’d be happy to do for a second-line machine.

Now, Apple’s answer to this is to offer what they call the Family Pack. This comprises Snow Leopard, all the iLife apps, and all the iWork apps, licensed to be installed on up to five machines. I would actually quite like to upgrade all the iApps that came installed on the laptops, so this – at least on the surface – seems like a good plan.

Then you spot the price. The Family Pack is a not unreasonable £183. That is, however, quite a big jump from the £25 I had mentally budgeted for. That would also eat up my Aperture 3 upgrade price into the bargain.

I do have a Leopard “upgrade” disc. This is the one that you could acquire from Apple if you bought a new machine with an old OS installed, just before they announced a new OS. I could upgrade the Tiger machine to Leopard, then get the £25 Snow Leopard disc. I wouldn’t then have the iApp goodness, but then I have to wonder whether I really need them anyway. I don’t use iMovie or iDVD much, iWeb never gets used, Garageband is fun to play with occasionally, so only iPhoto would be useful – and as I use Aperture iPhoto is not really essential anyway.

That leaves the iWork package. I’m not sure I really need Pages or Numbers, but Keynote might be useful – especially if Best Beloved gets invited to make more talks. A single user iWork box is £71.

Decisions, decisions.

I think, on balance, Best Beloved is happy to retain Tiger on his machine. At some point we could upgrade it to Leopard, then jump to Snowy. I can get Snowy and run it on my machine, save some cash to get Aperture 3, and then we can consider iWork down the line.

I had kind of convinced myself and BB that we should shell out for the Family Pack. Having now worked it through, I think the cheaper route is the better one.