Saturday, January 17, 2004

Baffling

I upgraded Jane's Mac to Panther yesterday. Sounds routine, right? Well, it was odder than one would presume. Here's what happened.

The upgrade itself wan't too tough - as a MacOS install rarely is. It completed the last of the three CD's, ran the registration wizard, and then stated that it couldn't connect to Apple. OK, that happens. But then, when returning to the Finder desktop, the Software Update application ran (as it does on login the first time), and returned nothing but a blank list.

So I ran it again. This time, all the updates I knew it needed showed up in the list. I set them to download and left the room.

When I came back, they had all aborted with an error. OK. Next, I tried opening Safari and connecting to a website. No go. Then I tried connecting to my website, inside the firewall. Fine.

A little more testing showed that I could connect to and ping resources inside the network, but couldn't go outside the gateway at all. Hmmm. Figuring that a setting had gotten munged, I tossed a couple of preference files that should be at fault (after checking to make sure Panther did know my gateway address). Rebooted. Still bad. At that point I had to leave to go to a party for a departing friend, but I jumped back on it when I came home later that night.

Once I came home, my next trick was to do a reinstall, using the "Archive and Install" setting. After finishing, it still didn't work. Baffled, I tried it again, but this time I turned off the option to preserve and import the old account info - that way, all the preference files would be recreated from scratch.

And it didn't work, either.

So I started fiddling with cables - her Mac is connected to the upstairs switch through two patch cords and a intermediate cable strung along the baseboard and terminated in both her bedroom and my office. - three in total. I verified a live connection. Then I double-checked the cable fit. All fine.

Finally, I swapped out the only one I practically could - the patch cord in my office from the wall jack to the switch (I couldn't swap out her patch cord because I didn't have any other ones that long).

Suddenly, it worked again. By this time, it was the wee hours, so I let the updates run mainly unattended.

I have no idea exactly why it didn't work anymore with the update to 10.3, except that maybe the Ethernet driver is a lot more sensitive to a marginal condition than it used to be. But it is fixed now.

This is the only system I've ever had a problem like that with, and my first experience with a MacOS X update ever that didn't go smoothly. And it came down to a patch cable swap. Go figure.

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