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mac.column.ted: Detours on the road to success with Leopard

A frustrated Leopard "user's" tribulations.

Ted Landau
December 2007

Dear Mr. Landau:

I bought an iMac about a year ago and have been delighted with it. It was my first Mac, having previously owned several Windows machines. It did take me a bit of time to get used to all the differences. But it was worth it. Actually, the biggest adjustment I needed to make was a very pleasant one: I needed to get used to the idea that my Mac would not crash every couple of hours, would not need to be cleaned of viruses every other day, and would not require that I completely reinstall the operating system on a regular basis.

The other day, I purchased Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5), eager to dive into all the new features I have been reading about, expecting my pleasant experience with the Mac to continue unabated.

Unfortunately, a problem occurred before I could even get the new operating system to install. After booting from the Leopard Install DVD, I progressed as far as the "Select a Destination" screen and waited from my iMac to appear. It never did. Eventually I gave up and restarted. My iMac booted just fine. Clearly, it was still there.

At this point, I figured I would need some help. I know I could have checked MacFixIt, but I decided to go right to the source: Apple. I went to Apple's Support site and searched for an answer. I must admit I was somewhat overwhelmed at first. Even though the operating system is only about a month old, there are already dozens of articles describing various things that could go wrong with Leopard.

Happily, I soon found the one article that covered my specific problem. Apple's solution was very simple: Be patient! The article assured me that if I waited longer, my drive would eventually appear. And they were right. I went out and did some holiday shopping and when I returned, sure enough, my iMac was listed and waiting for me to select it.

My joy, however, was short-lived. The Installer would not allow me to do a simple upgrade from Tiger to Leopard. Instead, the only selectable option was Erase and Install. As you might guess, I was not intending to erase my hard drive just to install Leopard. I figured there must be a way around this. So I quit the Installer and went back to Apple's Web site. I have to hand it to Apple; they had the solution to this new problem as well. In fact, it turns out there are two possible solutions. It's all covered in this article. As it turns out, in my case, the cause was that I had previously set up an eDrive from Micromat's TechTool Pro. The solution was to delete the eDrive, as described in this Micromat document. I did as I was instructed and set about to install Leopard, now on my third try.

The third time was a charm. It worked.

I did have to wait about 20 minutes at the end of the installation, after all the steps were supposedly complete, before the Installer actually said that the install had completed successfully. But I had already learned that patience was a virtue for Mac OS X installations. And indeed my patience was eventually rewarded.

I restarted and sat back, ready to enjoy my upgraded iMac. Startup progressed as far as the blue screen. But the login screen never appeared. My iMac remained stuck at a blank blue screen. Now I was truly worried. Was my hard drive corrupted? Would I need to erase it after all? Would I lose all my data? I wanted to go back to Apple's site for answers. But I no longer had a Mac with which to do so!

Fortunately, I have an iPhone. I could use the phone's Safari application. By now, I was getting quite skilled at navigating Apple's site and came up with the relevant article in next to no time. Several potential solutions were offered. The one that worked for me required that I start up in something called single-user mode. I had never even heard of this mode before. But I followed the instructions and wound up at a black screen with lots of white type. As none of the words made much sense to me, I was beginning to feel quite nervous. Frankly, this was the sort of thing I thought I was leaving behind when I abandoned Windows. Apparently not.

I entered the commands listed in the Apple article and my iMac rebooted. This time the login screen did appear! I entered my password and logged in successfully (which was a relief because I had seen some Apple articles during my earlier searching that had indicated possible problems here). Whew! This was it. My problems were over.

Alas, they were not. Spotlight and the Apple menu appeared in the menubar. But then everything once again ground to a halt. I had no access to the Finder. No matter what I tried, it would not load. At least the Dock was there and I could click the Safari icon to launch the browser. However, for some unknown reason, I now had no working Internet connection. I put this problem on my "to do' list of things to solve after I figured out how to get the Finder to load. In the meantime, I grabbed my iPhone again and went back its version of Safari.

By now, I am sure you can guess my destination. Leopard may have many problems. But Apple has at least as many answers. Once again, they had an article that told me what I needed to do. Apple explained how I could use Spotlight to search for and launch Terminal (those clever Apple folks!). I next needed to enter some Unix command (I have no idea what it does; I was just trusting Apple at this point) and the Finder should load.

Having just successfully "mastered" single-user mode, I was less intimidated by entering commands in Terminal than I might otherwise have been. But I was in for yet another disappointment. After typing the command, I was next told to enter my password. I entered my password but it was rejected. I tried again but the password still would not work.

At this point, ready to give up in despair, I called for reinforcements. I contacted a friend of mine who knows much more about Macs that I do. He told me to go to the Dock, launch the System Preferences application and select the Accounts pane. Once there, we discovered that my account was now listed as a Standard, rather than Admin, account. This, my friend informed me, is why Terminal would not accept my password.

He had heard of this problem and directed me to the Apple article that (yet again!) had the solution. I needed to login as the root user and change my account status from there. The only problem was I had never enabled the root user. This meant that I had to restart back at the Leopard Install DVD (much to my chagrin) and use the Reset Password command to enable the root account. I won't bore you with all the details. Suffice it to say that, with my friend's help, I was eventually able to sort it all out. I got my admin access back and then proceeded to fix the problem with the Finder.

At long long last, I was able to complete a successful login to my account in Leopard!

Of course, there was still that problem of no Internet connection. I had Wi-Fi access from my iPhone, so I figured the problem was restricted to the iMac. But what was the solution? Sure enough, Apple was one step ahead of me. An Apple article explained that, after installing Leopard, I might have some problems with "connecting to some 802.11b/g wireless networks." The solution was to install something called Login & Keychain Update 1.0. The only problem was that I needed to download the update before I could install it. And I could not download it because I could not connect to my wireless network!

This time, I was able to come up with the solution myself! I bypassed the Wi-Fi network by connecting my cable modem directly to my iMac via an Ethernet cable and making the needed adjustments to the Network settings. This was something I had learned to do with my PC; it did not take too much effort to figure out how to do the same thing on a Mac. I now had Internet access on my iMac. I downloaded the Update and installed it. Next, I tried to reconnect to my Wi-Fi network. Unbelievably, it still failed!!

One last trip to Apple's support site lead me to the Apple article with the answer: AirPort cards might not work properly after installing Login & Keychain 1.0. To fix this, all I needed to do was startup in Safe Mode and then restart again. I did so.

Hooray! My iMac was at last able to connect to my Wi-Fi network. Finally, everything appeared to be working.

Except for one "minor" glitch that I discovered the next day. I opened the Users folder at the root level of my hard drive and was shocked to see that my Home directory was not there! My heart skipped a beat. By now, I was confident that Apple was already on top of this. Indeed they were. An Apple article told me "Don't worry." All I had to do was launch Terminal and type a command: chflags nohidden ~/. As predicted, my Home directory was visible again.

Even this has not exactly been the end of all my problems. For example, I still have been unable to get Back to My Mac to work as described. But Apple appears to be aware of its shortcomings here. I have seen various places (such as this TidBITS article) where Apple has told users: "If you find that you cannot access your remote Mac right away, please be patient as we work to improve the service." No problem. If nothing else, I have learned the value of patience when it comes to Leopard.

At least I have Leopard successfully installed, I can log in successfully and can successfully connect to my Wi-Fi network. Of course, when I first set about to upgrade to Leopard I wasn't expecting that this success would require overcoming so many obstacles. But it did. By the time I was done, I had to navigate blue screen crashes, Finder failures, single-user mode, Terminal commands, root user logins, safe mode boots, and more. I know that not every user will have to run this gauntlet. Still, it makes me wonder whether, despite Apple's delay in getting Leopard out the door, the upgrade was really ready to go.


A regular reader of your columns

To send comments regarding this column directly to Ted, click here. To get Ted's latest book, Take Control of Your iPhone, click the link.

  • MacFixIt
  • Apple's Support site
  • article
  • article
  • Micromat document
  • relevant article
  • article
  • Apple article
  • Apple article
  • Apple article
  • Safe Mode
  • Apple article
  • TidBITS article)
  • click here
  • Take Control of Your iPhon...
  • More from Mac Musings