A bad day in Mac OS X

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
August 4th, 2003 • 5:03 pm

My dual G4 had been up and running for nearly a month. I had a couple of things to install which required a restart (including Apple’s latest Security Update), but I kept putting it off because, well, HAVING to restart is a pain when you are used to 99% uptime and no crashes beyond individual application crashes.

Even my applications were well behaved. Safari had been up for almost a week without crashing, and I had several web page windows left open with things that I had loaded several days ago, and hadn’t had time to read yet.

I put the computer to sleep last night (deep sleep), as usual. This morning, I pressed the mouse button to wake the computer up. It woke up, and froze. The mouse was still moving, but nothing else worked. The computer had stopped responding. I tried everything, from cmd-tab to cmd-opt-esc, hoping that things were being held up by a single, misbehaving process.

I went to my laptop and established the dialup connection in my AirPort Base Station, in the hope that the problem might be that OS X on the G4 was desperately attempting to establish a network connection for something. No luck.

I tried unplugging and plugging back in various FireWire and USB devices, in the hope that one of them was the culprit, and unplugging it would fix the problem. No luck.

Since I know far too little about trying to “remote login” via the Terminal from another computer, I had no choice but to force a restart by holding the Power button down for five seconds to shut down the machine, and then start it again.

Then I figured I should at least take advantage of this to install the software that required a restart. So I restarted with the shift key down, in ORDER to prevent my many Login Items from loading. Unsanity’s Application Enhancer extension (used by Audio Hijack and other valuable utilities) warned me that it was off with a dialog, before the rest of the desktop appeared. I mounted the Security UPDATE disk image and installed it. The Installer asked me to restart, and I did so.

I had another piece of software that I wanted to install, so I restarted with the shift key down again. The problem is that I thought that, once I got the Application Enhancer warning, I could release the shift key down, because OS X should have understood that I wanted to restart without my Login Items. It was a mistake. If you don’t hold the shift key down long enough, OS X still launches your Login Items. I don’t know how long exactly you have to hold the shift key down, but it’s until several seconds after the Application Enhancer warning appears.

Anyway, so Mac OS X started launching my Login Items just the same. This is a process that takes a while, because I have quite a few of them. So I started quitting some of them as soon as OS X launched them, while it was still in the process of launching other items. Second mistake. OS X obviously didn’t like my interfering with the login/startup process, and locked up again. The symptoms were different — there was still some activity in the Dock for a while — but the end result was, again, that I was forced to reset the whole system.

Two hard resets in the space of 15 minutes. Not good. The second one was “my fault” in a way, since I tried doing things while Mac OS X was still in the process of launching my many Login Items, and it obviously didn’t like that. But the first one appears, once again, to be a sleep-related issue. I have already described several of them. It’s a long-standing problem with Mac OS X, and, while the problems are not all that frequent (fortunately!), they still exist. This is something that Apple really needs to work on, either by reproducing the problems themselves, or by providing us users with better tools to troubleshoot and report such problems.

Right now, there’s nothing I can do. Since it was a hard freeze, there is no crash log. There might be information in the Console Log that might be useful to Apple, but I wouldn’t know where to start looking.

Let’s hope the rest of the day is better than this.

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