Mac OS X 10.3.5: No pain, no gain

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
August 13th, 2004 • 4:43 am

As far as I am concerned, the latest incremental Mac OS X update (Mac OS X 10.3.5) has been painless. I waited the customary 48 hours before installing it. I saw no reports of any major issues that might affect me.

Sure enough, I didn’t encounter any problems during the update, and I haven’t noticed any new problems since.

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, the update provides no fixes for any of the many problems that I have been experiencing lately: unreliable AirPort connection, system-wide freezes, etc.

The freezes are now fairly well documented on the Mac web, and it’s fairly reasonable to think that they are not directly related to any third-party incompatibility. In my case, they have been rather unpredictable, but also too frequent for my taste lately. In the past couple of weeks, I have been getting one every other day on average!

There are some subtle variations in the symptoms… Sometimes the freeze happens while the displays are asleep and I can’t wake the computer up. Sometimes the freeze happens while the displays are asleep and I am able to wake the displays from sleep, only to find that the screens are frozen in a state that dates back several hours (based on the time in the menu bar clock at the time of the freeze). Sometimes the freeze happens right while I am working, after the computer has been on for a while (a day or two) and I have had the opportunity to launch and keep open a number of applications. Sometimes the freeze happens soon after a reboot.

More intriguingly, the last flurry of freezes happened right when I proceeded with the Mac OS X 10.3.5 update. I first thought I’d clean up my caches with Cocktail, so I launched the application. Typically when I launch Cocktail my computer becomes unresponsive for a second or two, and then I get the authentication dialog. I never got the authentication dialog this time. The computer froze. I did a hard reset, let it restart, was able to launch Cocktail this time and cleared the cache. Typically, before applying an update, I also run the Repair Permissions process in Disk Utility. So I launched Disk Utility and started the Repair Permissions process. Within a few minutes, the computer froze again, right in the middle of the Repair Permissions process.

Finally, after force-restarting the computer a second time, I managed to get the Disk Permissions process to complete properly, and applied the update. I then restarted the computer and everything appeared to be fine. Unfortunately, within 24 hours, I experienced another freeze while working. And then last night another one while the displays were asleep.

You might be thinking that this is an awfully large number of freezes for an operating system that is supposed to be rock-solid. Unfortunately, you might be right. At this point, I am faced with a dilemma. Either I continue to live with these unpredictable freezes (which make me feel like we’re back in the later classic Mac OS period) or I do a complete cleanup, clean install, and try to live without any third-party add-ons for a while and see if that makes any difference.

As for the lousy AirPort connection, well, what can I say? Either my house is jinxed, or this technology simply isn’t suited for the type of environment in which I am trying to use it. Maybe it’s designed for urban settings where space comes at a premium and people live piled up on top of each other. Still, when I can actually see the Base Station from where I am, sitting on a shelf less than 10 feet away from my desk and my computer, with no obstacles, and all of a sudden the signal drops and disappears completely, I cannot help but think that there are major bugs in the software, and Apple is not particularly interested in fixing them, especially if they only affect people with older (non-Extreme) hardware like myself.

There are days where one really feels like joining the clan of the Luddites…

3 Responses to “Mac OS X 10.3.5: No pain, no gain”

  1. Paul Robertson says:

    These posts are driving me nuts with frustration ;-) – I really want to know whether my previous suggestion will solve your problems!

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Yeah, it’s pretty much the next item on my list :-). Testing the RAM, removing the RAM, etc. I’ll keep you posted! Doubt it will fix the AirPort problems, though…

  3. Shin says:

    I’m having the same problem… And I wait until last week to see if there problems with this release.

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