You get my back up!
After being a techno-jinx at the end of April, I have finally got things back into a manageable state.
BACK FROM THE DEAD
Well, what a time of it.
The computer issue was long running and provided long headaches, but it is finally standing proud once more and everything is rescued and back where it needs to be. Below, I will give some more details about the computer problems and how I resolved them, in case it ever proves useful for anyone else who experiences the same and is searching the internet for assistance.
Its strange how used to objects you can get – particularly how dependent on a piece of technology. When it is removed from your everyday life, you suddenly realise the impact it has. My camera’s and my computer are two of my most essential possessions, in terms of achieving my creative goals. To loose both for a month was difficult at best.
The computer, perhaps less so. That mainly just annoyed me. I was annoyed (once again) that computers are shiter than they should be and far from robust. I was also annoyed at the sheer amount of time I wasted to get it back up and running, when seemingly it is meant to be a time saving device!
I have a love hate relationship with computers though. I love what they can achieve and the fact they have democratised many things that ordinary folks like myself would not be able to do otherwise. I hate the fact they have developed and progressed at an alarming rate and reached a position where I feel they are being asked to do things that they are not really 100% capable of doing! Computers go wrong more than they should and that can only be down to bad design, bad usage and bad expectations.
Things I hated about not having a computer for a month:
1) Not being able to process any digital images
2) No internet and therefore no blog or email
3) No being able to watch Sci-Fi series from the comfort of my bed
4) No access to years worth of documents, images, emails and bookmarks
5) Fear that I would loose all my data
Things I loved about not having a computer for a month:
1) Being free from the shackles of social network sites
2) Not being a slave to a screen
3) Realising computers are not ‘The Shit’ but are actually ‘A bit shit’
4) Peace, freedom and liberation!!!
5) Not being addicted to checking the headlines on BBC News
So that’s that, my comprehensive study on computer use!!!
The Camera was less of a mixed bag; perhaps we need another list to illustrate the point? Another list everyone?
Things I hated about not having my digital SLR for a month (and still):
1) Not being able to take digital images, see, process and upload them instantly
Things I loved about not having my digital SLR for a month (and still):
1) Not being able to take digital images, see, process and upload them instantly
Anyway, let’s put all this behind us now and get normal service to resume. My digital camera is still out of operation due to no lens, but I shall press on with blogging the blog as much as possible in other ways. I have now sourced a new camera and just need to raise the cash to purchase it.
Until next time, enjoy this study of my face.
For those who might be interested, I will give an account of what occurred to my iMac and how I sorted it out below. There is some more info at this post.
This might not be 100% accurate as whilst I am fairly good with computers, I have no interest in makes, model numbers or other computer related figures. But I have an iMac 2.16 GHz with 1mb Ram. It is an Intel core duo or whatever the term is, I think the late 2006 model. 17” screen.
The computer was working fine, just getting a bit sluggish over the period of a few months. I tried downloading a few things to speed it up and ultimately decided I needed to invest in some new RAM. Then, one evening as I tried to open Photoshop, the spinning wheel of doom cropped up and the Mac froze.
I turned it off by holding the power button down and then restarted it. The computer never restarted properly – it just hung on a grey screen with a spinning wheel. Nothing I could do would get it to get past this stage.
ATTEMPT TO RESOLVE
I did some internet research as know my way around the back end of a PC but not an apple machine. Found various bits of advice, most of which are included on this great little guide I found – TECH TIP: MY MAC WON’T START! A TINY GUIDE
Check it out as it’s a good place to start.
All I could get to work was booting from the OSX instillation disc. Once this was running on the machine, I ran the disc utility programme on my hard disc which in some cases can repair minor issues with a hard disc (either by choosing to repair the disc errors or disc permissions).
Disc Utility failed – stating that my hard drive had an invalid node structure and could not be repaired. It also sometimes said there was an error in the catalogue structure of the b-tree (or something like that).
I then calmed down and did more internet research. This seemed to point to getting some software called Disc Warrior which can do some rather magic things to damaged discs. You can buy direct from them or from most apple stores – however they tend to be expensive. I ended up getting it from Amazon as it cost me less.
Discwarrior is easy to use – you just boot up from the disc (be patient as this can take over 5 minutes as it runs from a basic version of the operating system which is stored on the disc). Discwarrior then allows you to check any disc…which, for a decent sized internal hard drive can take quite a few hours.
The theory of the software is that it will repair all the data errors on the disc, the permissions, the structure of the data and any problems there in. Then it creates a new disc image which you can replace the damaged one with. I.E it will simply replace all the data on your hard disc with a nice working version of the same data.
Discwarrior did its stuff and eventually told me that it had repaired the disc, but could not replace my current one due to a serious malfunction on the disc.
SAVING MY DATA
So I knew that Discwarrior had saved my data, it just could not replace it on my existing hard drive. The software has a preview function that allows you to view the new disc it creates before replacing your old one (to check all the data is there etc). The great thing about this is that you can also copy the new repaired data to an external drive or another internal drive that’s working.
I attempted to do this on my Lacie external hard drive, which I use for backing up. However, it didn’t work. I asked Alsoft (the makers of Discwarrior why) and they said the disc must be formatted to work with Apple machines – I.E it must be Mac OS Journal formatted and not FAT32 (as my disc was). I couldn’t wipe my external drive and re-format it as it had my only back up on it.
Luckily, a few phone calls later and my friend agreed to lend me his external drive, which was empty and formatted in the right way. The extra benefit of that was it was firewire so it would transfer the data much quicker (USB drives do work with Discwarrior, it just takes longer). I plugged his drive in and Discwarrior recognised it and allowed me to back up all my important data. I was also careful to copy over ALL the LIBRARY folders as there contain most of the programme specific data you need (to recover emails, bookmarks, Lightroom database information etc). There are numerous Library folders, so make sure you get them all!
So I now had the back up of everything I needed so booted the computer from the OSX instillation disc again and re-formatted my internal drive, zeroing all the data. After doing this, I re-installed the operating system on the drive and the computer booted up fine. However, I then restarted it as a final test and the computer froze again during loading – proof if proof be need be the drive was beyond repair.
So I bit the bullet and bought a new hard drive – opted for a Western Digital 500GB drive – which is nice! If your need to know, you need to get a SATA 3.5” disc for the type of iMac I have (can be SATA or SATAII)
Replacing the hard drive yourself is not easy. I have built PC’s before, but never tinkered inside a Mac. Versions before my one (late 2006) are considerably easier, but it seems Apple are keen for users to not update their own machines (apart from the RAM). But – speak to an Apple shop or Apple technician and they want to charge an obscene amount for the procedure. I decided to go ahead and do it myself due to being poor!
Again I did a large amount of internet research to find the best way forward – after reading and watching many guides, I stumbled across the official Apple Service Manual – which was invaluable. I printed the sections that concerned me and used it as my guide. It took a good hour and involved cutting through special electric shielding, suspending screens and generally panic – but managed to get the drive changed and working. The site I got the service manual from was: http://www.baconeggs.co.uk/manuals/
With the new drive installed and the computer seeming to work, I re-installed the OS and then all my software. Then I dragged all the stuff I backed up from the external drive to my internal and put it back where it should be. I managed to get my emails back into Entourage and my bookmarks into Firefox and my Lightroom databases in place. To do this I basically installed the software and then copied the data folder for each. A quick search on Google should point you in the direction of which files to move over for your applications.
Then…job done – the computer was back to how it was before the drive when tits.
Hope that helps someone, at some point, who experiences what I did and is spending hours on the internet looking for advice!