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Apple Woes

Aka Riots (2). My suspicion – prompted by the Apple Genius Bar in the flagship store at Oxford Circus – was that the internal 1/4 TB drive in my five year old iMac was clapped out. Indeed that turned out to be more or less the only thing it got right in two visits. Irritatingly, the drive was not totally clapped out, so I could do a fresh minimal install of Snow Leopard onto it, have it work perfectly for several short sessions and then have it suddenly freeze so that even Force Quit was impossible.

A hard reboot at that point would fail and the Disk Utility (accessed via the original install DVD) would indicate the drive was not repairable, thus putting me back to square one. The snag, of course, as with the earlier slowdowns, was it that looked like a software problem rather than a hardware problem. Anyway, after trying a few reinstalls, I gave up on the internal drive.

I had several external drives and the Genius Barman agreed reluctantly that might be a feasible alternative to a new machine. He failed to point out that I needed to get the correct boot record written onto the external drive before restoring onto it from the external backup. Oh, I should mention that the OS X “Time Machine” automatic backup works really well. The benefit of using it is that you do not lose all those apps which you installed direct off the web by downloading. The snag about a clean install is that you have to re-install all your apps, and that is often not possible.

So, having accepted the default boot record, I spent 4 hours restoring and discovered that (1) Snow Leopard would not boot from a drive with a “Master Boot Record” and (2) one could not change the boot record without wiping restored data.

At this point it occurred to me that I could do better than a measly 1/4 TB USB2 external drive. So I bought a 1TB drive with fast or slow firewire and USB2 leads for £70, formatted it with the correct GUID boot record, restored all the data and discovered that it would not boot. Why was unclear. At this point I started trying to find out more about “Booter” the OS X boot system and discovered that Apple preferred not to provide any useful documentation. But others on various forums had also had unexplained boot woes with external drives which they had eventually traced to obscure text in even more obscure (and totally undocumented) text files buried deep in the system. Needless to say I had junked unopened a massive and expensive third-party thousand-page book on “OS X Internals” in the course of moving house a few weeks earlier.

However, since writing the last post, I did the obvious which was to reformat the old 1/4 TB external drive, restore and bingo, as well as the less obvious, which was to drop the new 1TB external drive ten inches onto a wood block floor, since when it has not worked at all (at some point I will download the pdf manual and see if some kind of reset might work or whether it is a write-off).

The only tiresome point is that the 1/4 TB drive does not seem to be good at idling, so I have to shut down and turn it off after each session rather than putting the computer into sleep mode. Still, a 2 minute wait each time I turn the machine on is nothing after 25 wasted hours …

Police v Tories

Riots (2)
@Hugh Orde et al

This row seems to be getting worse – other chief constables have joined Orde in attacking the government. I am unsympathetic to the police on this one. I am sure it is galling to have politicians expose your errors of judgment in treating the first two nights of riots as protest marches instead of as the looting they had quickly become, and even more galling to have the politicians claim credit for your subsequent change of tack, which you would have done anyway without them flying back from holiday. So whilst I think they should have grinned and borne it, I would have been sympathetic to some discreet moaning on that.

[Photo of Bill Bratton by Dan Leveille]

Criticising Cameron for hiring Bill Bratton as an adviser on policing is quite another matter. It is totally inappropriate for the police to criticise the government’s choice of advisers. The government is free to hire any advisers it wants. Of course, it is widely known that Cameron would like to go further and appoint Bratton as Met Commissioner, but even there senior policemen should be wary of overdoing the public criticism of a plum job going to an outsider.

I am not quite sure why they feel so free to step into politics. Part of the problem is that they (and the security services) got used to being treated as omniscient by New Labour, which was forever justifying some outrageous new loss of civil liberties on the basis that the police or security services said they wanted it – an absurd justification, I always thought, but one that seemed to go down well in the atmosphere of over-excitement and panic that politicians and media had succeeded in inducing.

Several senior policemen also got far too chummy with New Labour generally (Ian Blair was a good example). It is time they grasped that it is not their role to interfere in what elected governments are doing or trying to do. Much of their advice/opinions would be better delivered behind closed doors.

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