The Slow Decline of a Longterm Companion

Dramatic title, but my beloved 2006 MacPro1,1 is dying!

For the longest time the hard disk has been thrashing at start up. It’s the original disk, which has never been wiped during the last ~7 years, and has received every OS update until 10.7. After that the hardware is unsupported – EFI Bios version does not support a 64bit kernel.

On Saturday morning the keyboard / mouse weren’t responding, and i had to move things to another USB port. The one they using was apparently dead. Odd, but nothing bad came of it…

On Monday morning, when the Finder failed to start, with a helpful popup telling them that the Finder had failed, and options to ignore, report, and retry (none of which were clickable…) my first thought was that the disk thrashing had got so bad that it just wasn’t starting in time. Seemed reasonable… so, i rsync’ed[1] the root disk with it’s backup disk, rebooted holding down the alt / option key. Er, where is the backup disk?! Back to the original disk. Search for a command to make a device bootable. Ah, bless! Yes, the command ‘sudo bless –folder /Volumes/Backup/System/Library/CoreServices’ will make a partition bootable.

Reboot, select the backup partition… same problem, the Finder dies at start-up. On the positive side, it all happens with a lot less disk thrashing!

Unfortunately this is the last coding / bug fixing week of a release, which means that i don’t have time to mess around moving to another machine (even if i had another machine lying around…) Time to get creative!

While the Finder might have failed to start i can still start a terminal. The first thing i try is sending SIGHUP to the login process (find loginwindow with ‘ps aux | grep loginwindow’ and then ‘sudo kill -HUP’ it’s process id) for this session. That kills the failed login attempt and dumps be back out at the login screen. Logging in again works and everything starts up normally.

That sort of thing is usually dumb luck, but going through the same process worked again this morning. Fingers crossed that no more wheels will fall off the wagon before the new machine turns up, and i can get things moved across. The timing is, of course, absolutely terrible… but that’s hardware failures for you!

1. This is the rsync command that i use: ‘sudo rsync -vaxEXA –delete –ignore-errors –exclude-from=rsync_excludes.txt / /Volumes/Backup/’. The rsync_excludes contains:

.Spotlight-*/
.Trashes
/tmp/*
/Network/*
/cores/*
/afs/*
/automount/*
/private/tmp/*
/private/var/run/*
/private/var/spool/postfix/*
/private/var/vm/*
/Previous Systems.localized
/Volumes/*
*/.Trash
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3 thoughts on “The Slow Decline of a Longterm Companion

  1. Good old MacPro1,1

    Have the same here at work but I am still with 10.6 because it works and I am not borking it up with Lion. Lucky neither the original HD or any port have failed here and that Mac is running pretty much 24×7 unless I am out for long time (one week). Let’s do some heavy wood knocking here.

    Backup I have with TimeMachine, no rsync here, but I do have a RAID1 (Software) for the main disks.

    Anyway, countdown is running for an update. This time to iMac. Somehow that droid/ash try/trash bin MacPro is not really so much usable for me here.

    • Indeed, it has done sterling work and will retire with a gold watch!

      Timemachine didn’t exist when i started using rsync, and as you can probably tell, i’m not much for change…

      Yeah, i’m struggling to see how the MacPro is going to sell to developers of regular code. All the power seems to be in the GPUs, which is great if you’re using it as a rendering / content creation machine, but for me it’s raw processor unf that would make the difference. In this case my laptop is also falling apart, so i’ll work on it’s replacement, connected to a display and keyboard.

    • Oh, and looking at system.log i wonder if the issue might actually be software. There is a bunch of crap in there from launchserviced complaining about things not starting, bad versions… so it’s possible that a clean install might actually make things better.

      Will experiment when it no longer matters.

Wise words...

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