It just so happens that this week, both Robert Scoble and I had problems with our Macs. I’m not sure what was wrong with his Mac, but in my case, I tried to install the OS X 10.4.11 update on my MacBook, and it didn’t take. When the installer was done, the Software Update application showed a little red X instead of a little green check, and then bad things started happening. Not knowing what to do, I restarted the Mac and found that it wouldn’t boot. Some Googling revealed that holding down Command-V while the machine rebooted would turn on the Unix boot console. I did that, and found that there was some kind of problem with “launchd.” A bit more Googling revealed that my machine was basically hosed. I could either try to manually apply the software update or I could reinstall OS X.
I went home, rummaged around until I found the DVDs that came with my computer, and then booted up from the Install DVD. I told it to reinstall using the “Archive and Install” option and to keep my user account and all of my settings. I’d never done any of this before. The install took a couple of hours, but once it was done, everything just worked. The only thing I’ve had to do to get my machine back to the state it was in before the operating system was hosed was reinstall Growl.
One thing I know for sure is that had one of my Windows machines gotten similarly corrupted, I would have been in real trouble. I would have wound up copying all of the personal data off of my hard drive and reinstalling Windows from scratch. I’d still be tweaking my machine to get it back into a usable state right now.
I don’t want to pick on Robert, but I guess I don’t get the angst over something going wrong with your computer. The fact that the install blew up (I still have no idea why) sucked, but Apple made it relatively easy to recover and start working again. I didn’t feel stupid because my computer broke, and I didn’t feel stupid because I had to use Google to figure out how to get it to work again.
My computer is a tool. It broke, I fixed it, and the only thing I lost is a few hours that I would have preferred to spend writing some code that I really need to finish up.
Robert says this is why some Silicon Valley movers and shakers he was having dinner with wouldn’t go on the record with problems they’ve had with their Macs:
It was because they all blamed themselves for the problems of their Macs and I think they also bought into the “Apple cult” which says that if you use a Mac you must be cool.
If that’s really true, it’s amazing that anything gets done at all out there. I don’t care whose software you’re using, if you believe that it will never break unless you do something wrong, you are a practitioner of faith-based computing.