OSX Acting Wonky
March 8, 2006 6:49 AM   Subscribe

Recent problems with my iBook make me wonder if I am looking at major problems. Last week, software update failed to install the security upgrade & the recent iTunes update. Now, instead of the Mac log in screen, I get a Darwin/BSD full screen console log in screen. I am running OSX 10.4.5 on a G3 750Mhz w/640Mb RAM. I know how to troubleshoot PCs, but Macs ae like women to me--beautiful but inscrutible. Any help? (for the Mac problem only please).
posted by beelzbubba to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Best answer: A friend of mine couldn't get a Software Update last week, either--I think it was just a short term server issue, though.

As for the booting problem: If you have AppleCare, you should have received a copy of DiskWarrior or something similar--boot from that disc, run the diagnostics & any repairs it deems necessary.

Sounds to me, though, like something is just borked in the system software. In a situation like that, I'd just boot from my system CD and reinstall the OS. This is a *much* less onerous process than it is for Windows, at least as far as I can tell from the way Windows users shy away from it.

There are options when you reinstall to archive your existing user data and such so your files and settings aren't lost.

Once you get restarted, install the utility Applejack--it will give you some command line utilities you can use if you get that dreaded DOS-y text screen on boot.
posted by bcwinters at 7:17 AM on March 8, 2006

Response by poster: Rebooting does sound less onerous, except for the 60 mile drive to my office where resides my system CD. Bought the iBook used, so no AppleCare. Before anyone warns of the dangers of buying used, I know the previous owner & he has a copy of Disk Warrior; just that he's coming over this weekend.

So, it sounds like I'll solve my problems this weekend. I hope nothing else derails me before then.
posted by beelzbubba at 7:24 AM on March 8, 2006

jooc, what does it say? is it actually a login prompt (i.e. says something like Darwin/ver.sion.numbers and then computername login: a few lines down) or does it say something about fsck and single-user mode? it might be that your disk is hosed and that's why it's dropping you to a console at boot (so you can run fsck manually).
posted by mrg at 8:00 AM on March 8, 2006

Response by poster: It looks like the former: Welcome to Darwin/bsd (version), then the computer name, and below it

Says nothing about fsck or single user mode, and in fact, I have tried successfully to log in using each user account name.

For the un-Unix crowd: fsck? What is?
posted by beelzbubba at 8:47 AM on March 8, 2006

fsck==file system check.

Sounds to me like something is messed up with permissions perhaps.

Try rebooting and press command-s after the bong (sound).

It will look similar to what you've got now, except you can't really hurt anything (worse).

This is where you type "fsck -yf"

Also, have you turned it completely off? Shutdown v. restart I mean. Curiously, sometime a complete power-down will fix bizarre problems.
posted by lrivers at 9:12 AM on March 8, 2006

Response by poster: My motto is "when in doubt, cold boot." Yeah. And I've run disk utility to verify and fix permissions. I've checked the disk health. All come up clean. Is the fsck -yf different than the disk utility permissions? I'll probably run it anyway.

I figured you meant sound with the "bong" reference. The other type is waaaay in the past and is not the problem with the OS.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:46 AM on March 8, 2006

wait a minute... if this thing has one or more SODIMMs, try removing them one at a time and reseating them. this is a common problem which can manifest itself in all kinds of crazy ways.

even after you fix the memory, if this is the problem, the OS might still be b0rked due to corruption caused by the badly-seated memory.

one thing you can do is use memtest to exhaustively test the memory and see if it's actually okay. i always do this right after installing memory on any machine.
posted by joeblough at 10:19 AM on March 8, 2006

This sounds as if your computer may be "stuck" in single-user mode. This person addresses how to possibly solve that.
posted by WCityMike at 10:21 AM on March 8, 2006

seconding the RAM.. that machine does have memory soldered to the motherboard so you can just remove whatever expansion cards are in it (there's probably a 512MB SODIMM under the keyboard - on an iBook there's only one slot so it's pretty easy). if you've got a PC notebook handy you may be able to test the memory out in that and run memtest86 on it. tiger may boot with the base 128 but it will not be happy about it. if it doesn't then the memory on the motherboard may be bad. joeblough's right, bad memory in a Mac can make it act in all sorts of weird ways.
posted by mrg at 11:35 AM on March 8, 2006

Response by poster: Right now, the iMac is in hour 3 of running the memtest as linked above. Running test sequence 2 out of 3.

Now, before that, I ran the command-s; fsck -yf at the prompt and everything ran fine, the machine starts up and does everything EXCEPT allow me to authenticate if I need to unlock any system preferences (such as adding an account) and it won't follow through on installing the software updates. Doesn't seem to be an installer problem, since memtest downloaded and installed just fine.

Question, with intro. I "grew up" with dos commands, and the evolution of Windows systems. The progressions there make sense to me. I have been using macs for about 5 years now (along with pcs) but they still seem a mystery. Is there a learning path that will increase my understanding? So I don't wind up mystified when my iBook won't do what I need it to do?
posted by beelzbubba at 1:47 PM on March 8, 2006

i have seen the authentication problem before, but it was the result of installing 10.3 on top of a user account that had previously been used with 10.4. i dont think you have this problem.

one thing you can try is to boot from the OSX installer disk. one of the menu commands in the installer (under the apple menu or maybe file...) is an option to reset the root password. you should probably try doing this and then try to authenticate again using that password, or user: root, pass:

you know, i've been using unix since probably 1987 and macs since 1984 and i'm just so deep into it that i cant really give good recs on learning it. there is probably a book from o'reilly press that will come close to what you want, though.

posted by joeblough at 3:48 PM on March 8, 2006

oh yeah - of course if you are comfortable with the dos command line, you can use Terminal.app to interact with the mac, do shell programming, run perl programs, etc. etc. it's just like any other unix shell. by default apple uses bash, but i use tcsh just because i'm used to it.
posted by joeblough at 3:50 PM on March 8, 2006

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