Upgrade Hell

the big restore

Quick run down of yesterday’s Mac chaos. Although I’ve considered myself immune to it over the years, I fell for Apple’s distortion field–or as others might call it: upgrade hell. I don’t know what happened. I think it all started when I upgraded from Mavericks to Yosemite. It worked so well, so smooth, my digital (self) was flawless. Then, about ten days ago, I upgraded to El Capitan. The shit hit the fan. But first a bit of history. §My household server is a 2010 MacPro that I picked up awfully cheap at a German retailer about three years ago. Up to that point I was running a 2011 Mac Mini as our home server for files, backups and iTunes (aghast!) The Mac Mini isn’t the special server edition and before long it was tapped out, it couldn’t deliver to our duelling AppleTVs, our iPhones and iPads, or, every once-a-once, provide some basic desktop work. The question then was whether I go with a NAS or if there was something else. Maybe I should invest in a “server” Mac Mini? Or what about just building a freeNAS system? At the time I had an old quad-core AMD PC lying around. But I had some unfavourable experience with NAS before. I knew I wanted to avoid that route if at all possible. To me, NAS is but another complication in an already complicated environment. It’s not that NAS doesn’t work. It works great. But all those Synology’s, Qnaps, homemades, etc., they all mean nothing more than yet another GUI and more maintenance. Obviously I’m spoiled by the ease and grace of Mac. Plus I’m only a techi in my dreams. §Little side note. Network routers are also unnecessary complications in a complicated world. Apple is the first to figure that out with its Airport series of routers. But I digress. §Like I said, I happened across a 2010 MacPro (quad core version) that a retailer couldn’t sell. The retailer only sold cheap desktop devices and, because he wanted to show-off a bit, he ordered some Macs during a special re-opening promotion. A MacPro on a showroom floor of cheap to less cheap PCs is indeed appealing–but only to those who can appreciate it. After almost a year of it sitting in the middle of the showroom as a spectacle, I made him an offer on the dusty MacPro and he took it. I was out the door with a new home server. §A 2010 MacPro has four drive bays, multiple internal high-speed expansion slots, four firewire and six USB ports. Its CPU is server grade. It has two optical drive bays. From what I’ve learned about Macs over the years–especially the fact that they are inherently networkable–this would be THE solution for mega home networking–and if needed it would still have enough power to allow some serious desktop work. During the past two and half years I’ve upped our server capacity to 8TB. Remember, this machine has to serve (and store) twenty years of CDs, ten years of DVDs and, newly (or as others would say, finally), Blurays (which I stream with plex to big screens). Last spring I also installed a 500GB SSD via PCIe which means the MacPro is insanely fast. The server connects to everything through a 5th gen Airport extreme (top), a 2nd gen Airport express (middle) and I’ve still got a 1st gen Airport express running as well (ground floor). I am connected to a measly 16kbit DSL internet connection through 1&1 Germany. I have long-since disconnected my landline phone and the krappy router 1&1 issues. Instead I use the Airport Extreme to connect to the Internet via DSL modem which is set to “bridge” mode. If I need to make a landline call I use SIP software on my Mac to do so. Talk about cord cutting. My wife and I haven’t watched terrestrial or cable TV for years. As far as talking with friends, I use FaceTime or Skype. Also, between Plex, iTunes, a second optical BluRay drive that rips like a boss, a raspberry pi as a Plex media client… Need I go on? Ok. Enough tech porn. Back to upgrade hell. §Like I said, the other day I upgraded to El Capitan. The panic since then has been gradual–until yesterday morning. Even though the upgrade was working, the deal breakers were starting to appear. The most important deal breaker has to do with Disk Utilities and RAID. With El Capitan I could no longer access the RAID drives I had setup when I was running Mountain Lion because Apple removed it from Disk Utilities. COME ON APPLE! I’ve been itching to get rid of the RAID anyway–but now I couldn’t even do that. Note: I’ve since learned that I could configure the RAID drives using the CLI of Disk Utilities. No thank you! Moving on. §I know. I know. I should have checked with the readme files concerning El Capitan. But I didn’t, so there! My only excuse is the distortion field. My bad. §Disk Utilities wasn’t the only problem. Keep in mind, I’m a stickler with both how my system runs and how it looks. It not only has to function but it also has to be neat and clean. So get this. You know what else Apple changed in El Capitan? Since I’m running my OS on a PCIe daughter card, the new OS recognises it as an external drive. Ok. Ok. Actually, previous OS versions recognised it as external, too. What previous OSs didn’t do when I set my Finder preferences to hide HDDs on the desktop is show the SSD anyway. It used to recognise that the SSD was also the home of the OS, which means it recognised it as an HDD and hid it along with other drives when I set preferences to do so. In El Capitan you have to set Finder preferences that hide both HDDs AND external drives. This may sound neurotic but that kinda krapp makes my blood boil. COME ON APPLE! Ok. Moving on. §Two questions: 1) how do I get access to the RAID drives and 2) how do I get back to Yosemite? Then another question came up. Do I even want to go back to Yosemite? To me, all OSs between Lion and El Capitan suck. With that in mind, can you say Snow Leopard? I’m running Snow Leopard on my trusty 2010 MacBook Pro that also sporting a blazing fast SSD. Even though I’ve gone through the gauntlet of OS upgrades on my 2010MBP, most of which suck because of the battery, I’ve alway found myself returning to Snow Leopard. The fact is, I love simplicity, sleekness, minimalism. Which mean, I think I’m starting to hate The Cloud. IMHO, The Cloud is screwing up MacOS. Even though I love the idear of being able to type something on my iPad and then see it on my Mac, the way companies are implementing cloud services is not looking good . I have an iPhone, iPad, MacBookPro, MacPro. Notifications, which obviously relies on The Cloud, was driving me crazy. Not to mention that after I had them all updated, when I got a phone call, all four devices rang. Constantly something is beeping, poking, slipping onto my screen. COME ON APPLE! §Ok. I’d better get off that subject before my head explodes. §I got myself a cup of herbal tea in the late afternoon yesterday. It was good tea. Then I walked my dog. The whole time I was thinking: how can I best solve my problem. Then the solution hit me. I had enough space on one of the four internal HDDs to partition it and install Snow Leopard. Here I could possibly kill two birds with one stone. Not only would I be able to use the version of Disk Utilities I love but I could also test SL on the MacPro–it had Lion on it when I got it so I’d never used it on her. Within thirty minutes SL was installed. Yeah, baby! In a poof of happy smoke, a setting here, an OK there, my RAID problem was solved. Note: I was using Apple’s RAID1 settings to test data redundancy for my media library instead of backup. Even though it worked great, I’ve since concluded that it’s not a viable solution if I have to add new drives every six months. Reason: no hot-swapping and no RAID5. For that you ha
ve to buy an extra RAID card from Apple. But that’s OK, there are plenty of backup solutions and storage is cheap these days. In fact, I’ve just ordered a used 2nd gen Drobo with Firewire. §Ok. Problem solved. Almost. After about an hour of fiddling around with Snow Leopard, I realised that the other install of El Capitan wasn’t liking it. Restarts were getting confused. Optical drives weren’t opening. Trackpad settings were haywire. Etc., etc. Again, more panic. I decided that the most important problem (RAID) was solved. I also concluded that I’ll just go back to Yosemite and decide later what OS to use. So. For the first time in all my years of using Macs, I did a restore via TimeMachine. It worked great. Smiley faces, baby. And. Enough tech porn. Rant on. -tommi

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Tom

Just another expat blogger.