Thursday September 01, 2005

Tiger Yes, G3 No

I upgraded to Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) last week. That was the easy part. Then the problems started.

My cursor was freezing several times a day. Unplugging and replugging the USB cable would get it moving again but... that's just not right. Once, my keyboard stopped sending signals (although the mouse was working that time).

Then there were the crashes. Oy!

I think the crashes may have been brought on by the too-frequent resetting of the USB and mouse but... at least twice a day, sometimes three or four times, always at the worst possible time. Crash. (Actually, Mac OS X is usually very polite. "We're sorry. You need to restart your computer.")

System 6 wasn't this bad. Even Windows isn't this bad!

What could have gone wrong?

I'm blaming my hardware platform. I've been using a blue&white PowerMac G3. This is, to describe it politely, "older hardware" at this point. Of course, Rich ran Tiger (the Beta and also Tiger 10.4.0) on his own blue&white G3 before upgrading to a G5 and it didn't freeze or crash regularly.

Rich insisted it had to be some kind of configuration problem. But, said I, we tend to have similar configurations and run similar sets of applications.

Although, thinking it over, there are some differences.

  • We vary slightly in which apps we run regularly (e.g. our web browsers differ) or keep open a lot (many Terminal sessions for Rich; lots of BBEdit windows for me). None of this seems like something that would affect the mouse, the USB, or the kernel, however.

  • I use a trackball; Rich uses a mouse. That's probably not an issue, although it is a difference. They're both USB devices with the same drivers and same manufacturer. Kensington Tech Support knew of no outstanding issues.

  • I run the Cisco VPN client for 8 hours a day. In fact, the need to run VPN was what postponed my upgrade to Tiger for so long; I had to wait until the VPN client was supported and out of Beta. I could believe Cisco didn't do a lot of testing on blue&white G3s... and a kernel incompatibility in Tiger was what caused the VPN client to not work straight off. Maybe there's still some incompatibility hanging around?

  • I make heavy use of Multiple Users. I have my "Work" personality and my "Home" personality. Both run most of the time. I tend not to log out at the end of the work day; instead, I just switch users. I've noticed that the CPU load is very high with Multiple Users running. Maybe something gets confused over time?

Hardware or software, I decided that the Signs and Portents pointed to my upgrading to a G5. After all, it couldn't hurt. Besides, it's easier to replace the hardware platform than try to debug the software configuration. And I had been planning to upgrade "eventually". And Rich has a G5. And...

On Friday morning I placed an order for a PowerMac G5. I also started hunting for my Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) installation discs so I could survive the period between order and arrival without putting my fist through the old machine.

On Sunday evening, I borrowed a set of Panther discs from a friend (I still can't find ours anywhere). Then I reverted my system to 10.3.9.

My cursor has been working as expected ever since. There hasn't been a single freeze. I haven't had a crash since Sunday night. Panther is now, as it was before, stable as a rock.

Tomorrow is Friday. If the new G5 doesn't arrive tomorrow, I probably won't see it until the middle of next week. Then I'll probably wish I'd paid for expedited shipping. Sigh.

Much as I enjoy reading mystery fiction, I don't enjoy having a computer system mystery on my own desk. I rely on my computer. I get paid for the work I do with it.

I haven't solved the mystery, but I've worked around it by temporarily reverting to Panther. I sincerely hope my upgrade to a new G5 will be a workaround of a different stripe. I'm not exactly fond of unsolved mysteries but... sometimes "it works now" is a good enough answer. I just hope it will still be the answer on the G5!

Tiger Yes, G3 No ( in category SciTech , Trivial Pursuits ) - posted at Thu, 01 Sep, 18:39 Pacific | Comments (0)