kernel panic

19 Oct
Today I learnt what a kernel panic is. In fact my powerbook G4 started to experience it yesterday morning. It’s only today I learnt what it was, and how to fix (and boy do I pray I don’t have to do that again).

It all started when I opened the lid of my computer. Let’s call it Precious, for the sake of simplicity, since it is called Precious. So Precious had been sleeping all night and as I opened the lid, nothing happened. I didn’t hear the friendly rattling of the disk, I didn’t see the screen’s colours came back to life. Only the capslock key gave me an indication that Precious was still on.

After a little while I decided to sacrifice its 74-day uptime on the altar of pride (besides, it’s not really like I did have a choice) and pressed the power button. I pressed it again and after a little while I was greeted by the grey and black screen telling me in four languages I had to restart my computer. Uh oh… That was it. A kernel panic. But I didn’t know that. And it doesn’t matter, come to think of it.

So I fished out the Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger DVD and fed it to Precious. I looked for the Disk Utility in the Utilities menu and checked the disk. It needed repairing and was repaired pretty quickly. At which point I restarted and all was well. Whew. Good, because it was already time to leave the house to commute.

Nothing to report regarding the morning incident after my day at work. When it was go-home-o’clock, I closed the lid. I wasn’t done for the day and once home, I opened the lid. Guess what? Yeah, black screen again. I knew what to do, of course. Except there was nothing to repair on the disk, this time :(

I tried all the key combos on boot that I know of; Zap PRAM, Clear NV RAM, boot into Open Firmware. Then I tried these again *without* the battery. To no avail. Then, and since it was bed o’clock, I thought I would remove the battery and let Precious discharge all night, and see what the next morning had in store.

Nothing new. Today was Precious’ 2nd birthday. I don’t know if that’s ironic.

Anyway. I took my external HD with me and as soon as I was at the office, I called Apple Care and told them everything!. I learnt of a new key combo: “shift-ctrl-option-power”. It resets the power management unit. I also found out a little while later that it fucks up the clock. It was 31 Dec. 1969.

Where was I? Ah yes. Safe boot mode. I was instructed to trash the StartupItems dir from my Library, and then to visit the System Preferences, look for my account and remove the login items one by one.

Then I was instructed to remove the PCMCIA card reader. For good measure.

The next step was to boot again in safe mode and proceed to a backup and then to boot on the installation DVD and perform an “erase and install”.

I made an appointment at the CGASGB (Cambridgeside Galleria Apple Store Genius Bar) for 2:20 pm. At this stage, I didn’t mind at all to get a second opinion. A friendly genius did a pretty quick “archive and install” and tada! Precious was exactly how I like it! My genius sent me back home but before I left, I wanted to make sure I could close the lid and reopen it and still be happy. And I was. So I left.

The thing is that in the 20 minutes it took to be back at the office, Precious had spaced out. I called the genius and he said I needed to “erase and install”. He said also that if the problem still persisted, I would have to call Apple Care and have them set up a dispatch. All righty!

It was 4:30 pm and by 4:45, I knew my Tiger DVD was not OK :( No idea why. Scratches, fingerprints? Yeah, sure. I ignored and installed anyway. That was not so smart. Precious was not fully installed. The installation stopped after 25 minutes. And I could no longer boot in safe mode.

It was so tempting to open the window and just drop Precious. Assuredly, I would get a new one.

The next two hours I spent trying to eject my Tiger DVD, and other various things. Then I ran a hardware test (the extended one). Naturellement, no hardware problems had been detected.

I called Apple Care for the 3rd time today, gave a status report and was given my new instructions: Use the retail installation disc that came with Precious when I got it. Lucky me, I have them both with me. I was advised to install Panther and then upgrade to Tiger. At this point I had lost hope that it would ever work.

It was nearly 8 pm, I think, and it was time to go home, that bit was certain, and I was wicked hungry.

[here is the dinner break that was a very enjoyable moment, and that I couldn’t possibly describe, for the sake of not spoiling this entry with happy facts.]

At 9:30 pm I booted on the Panther disc and by 10 pm, the installation was successful.
At 10:15 pm I inserted the Tiger DVD and attempted to upgrade. By 10:50 pm, it was upgraded to Tiger! By 11:25 pm I had the XCode Tools (and I’m not certain that was needed…).

Then, I wasn’t too sure whether to rsync from the external HD to the internal disk or to use the Migration Assistant. Turns out I started to rsync, then changed my mind. I cleaned up and fired the Migration Assistant. But the account I wanted to transfert was 43+ GB and the space remaining was “- 8.5 GB”. Grumble…

At 00:50 am I realised there was a huge .Trash in the account on the external HD. It freed a little less than 4 GB. Almost. I moved a bunch of big directories in the other partition of the external HD and freed enough space that the Migration Assistant eventually announced the after the transfer, the space remaining would be 855 MB. By then, it was 1:10 am, the Migration Assistant was ready to migrate, and it was done at 2:30 am.

The thing now is that the available space on my internal disk is only 1.67 GB and it’s far less than what I had before (around 9). So I suspect I didn’t do the right thing. Also, I’m not sure what happens when I restart. Will I find my settings? I hat to see such a large dock at the bottom of my screen. I prefer when it’s thin and when it appears only when I go fetch it. I don’t like the blue background so much, I prefer the image I had selected. I don’t like that the items on my desktop have icon and name and that the font is so big. I have no idea if my home-made scripts are worky. And I hate the white background in the Terminal. That kind of things.

I’ll find out tomorrow at work what was the right thing to do, and whether I can still do it :)

I still love this computer. Go figure.

Update: It turned out that Precious didn’t wake from sleep :( The Apple Care people told me it looks like a hardware issue and that they will fix it. They’re sending a box for me to ship it to them. It will arrive Monday or Tuesday. They can’t say how long the repair will take.

I had been considering getting a personal MacBook Pro since last June (the last time Precious was being repaired –replacing the DVD drive). I made up my mind and purchased it yesterday. I’ll use it for work while Precious is borken.

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