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Friday, October 2, 2015

Mac OS: Scaling El Capitan

Other than installing routine security patches, I haven't bothered to update the operating system of “Ansel”, the Macintosh Pro I installed in 2009 primarily to do photographic and video production. The applications I use were primarily developed for that platform, and while I prefer to avoid proprietary software, it's a much better choice than anything tainted by Microsoft.

I was finally pushed to bring the system up to date due to nagging by Apple that upgrading my iPhone and iPad to iOS 9 might cause problems synchronising with the old version of iTunes on my desktop system. (I haven't investigated the details of this, but no newer version of that regrettable application is available for the old operating system I was running.) I decided to jump all the way to the newest release, “El Capitan”, posted as an official release on 2015-09-30.

I downloaded the update and started the installer, after making sure I had a complete Time Machine backup of the existing system. The installer ran for about a minute and then said it was restarting to perform the installation. It went into a shutdown process and hung with two blue screens and nothing but the cursor on the screen.

After about 15 minutes in this state, I discovered I could log into the system with SSH, and that it was still running the old system with an uptime indicating no reboot had happened. I did a

    sudo /sbin/reboot
after which my SSH window disconnected and the cursor on the blue screen was replaced by a spinning disc icon.

This persisted for more than half an hour, during which time the system would respond to pings but not an SSH connection. Finally, it spontaneously restarted into an installer screen which said it had about half an hour to go.

After around 45 minutes, it rebooted again and came up into what looked like an initial setup screen, warning me that two applications were not compatible with the new system. As I was about to look around the new system it crashed, rebooted, and came up with the "problem" screen and then the desktop.

Just about everything I tried would bounce me out after a few seconds to what looked like a login screen, which would require me to enter the password for a few seconds more access, after which it would bounce again. I made sure screen lock and screen saver were off and even removed my login password: nothing doing.

I was also getting weird tearing on the screen, failure to refresh windows when uncovered, and a frozen cursor, after which the inevitable pop.

The network settings were lost in the “upgrade”. I re-established the WiFi connection to Fourmilab with settings as follows:

    Search: 	lan.fourmilab.ch dmz.fourmilab.ch fourmilab.ch

The “upgrade” disabled SSH logins. I went into System Settings/Sharing and set “Enable remote logins” between pops to the login screen.

Now I was able to SSH login from Hayek and access the system in text mode without pops.

Tried iTunes. Of course, it doesn't see the Apple TV. I restarted the Apple TV—nothing doing.

A wired sync of the iPhone to iTunes seems to work. I did not dare to try installing the iOS 9.0.1 “upgrade” it's been bugging me about.

I unplugged the Time Machine backup disc. If this ends up as badly as it looks right now, I'll want that as a clean backup to start over on a new machine.

Based on a discussion of the login crashes, I backed up and deleted the following in /Library/Preferences:

-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel   229 Oct  1 21:18 com.apple.loginwindow.plist
-rw-r--r--  1 root  admin  2084 Jan 26  2010 com.apple.loginitems.plist
-rw-r--r--  1 root  admin   787 Jan 26  2010 loginwindow.plist
No improvement. It still pops.

Further research on login crashes discovered mentions of display switching on various video boards, so I unplugged the right monitor. The pops appear to have gone away, at least for the moment.

I went to the Mac App store and dowloaded 395 Mb of updates, including good old iTunes. Now I appear to be able to run iTunes without popping. It shows the Apple TV in the Preferences panel and says that it's “Syncing” but I cannot find any sync progress indicator anywhere so I have no idea what it's doing. A

    /usr/sbin/tcpdump -l -nn -x -i en2 host
doesn't see any traffic going to the Apple TV so I'm not sure I believe it. All I see is the Apple TV sending multicast broadcast “Hello. I'm here! Anybody out there?” messages.

Naturally, the new installation of iTunes created its own library file in “/home/[me]/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media” and did not respect the library I was previously using in “/Volumes/Vault/[me]/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media”. When I set the library location to there, it still didn't see the files, since it continued to use a new “iTunes Library.itl” file which it had created containing only content in the “cloud”. I had to restore the backed-up previous library:

    “/Users/[me]/Music/iTunes/Previous iTunes Libraries/iTunes Library 2015-10-01.itl”
    “/Volumes/Vault/[me]/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/iTunes Library.itl”
then start iTunes while holding down the Option key so I could navigate to that directory where it could then find the .itl file. Now it appears to see the local content.

With iTunes repaired, I was now able to wipe the computer association of the Apple TV (because it couldn't possibly remember something like that across an event as momentous as an operating system upgrade) and start the re-sync which, if experience is any guide, will run for more than a day.

In order to get public key logins via SSH to work, I had to:

    cd .ssh
    cp -p authorized_keys2 authorized_keys
on Ansel. “authorized_keys2” no longer works.

At the moment the machine is running with one of the two monitors I paid for unplugged, dark, and useless, but at least I can use the machine without bizarre abstract art on the screen or popping back to the login screen every minute or so. I'm sure I will discover plenty more as I try to do actual productive work with this machine. I'll add the details to this post.

Posted at October 2, 2015 02:06