Saturday, February 18, 2006

Computers took so much of my time this week—

I had no time left to blog on my computer.

Here's the story.

A week ago yesterday it occurred to me that it would be fun to network two of my macs together—my internet mac (the iMac I'm typing this on) and the G4 over there with Flash on it. Just for fun. Everything was working fine. Just thought I'd have some fun. Just for fun.

I had a short ethernet cable. Figured it might work, or it might not work—some Macs need a crossover cable, but some don't. Enabled my ethernet—settings I'd never messed with, but they seemed simple enough. Plugged in the cable. Hmmm. Nothing doing. Tried various things, but my macs never seemed to see each other. Oh well. Must need that crossover cable! Disconnected the cable from the iMac. Didn't turn it off first. Didn't think about it.

Then I noticed that the mouse cursor was frozen, up in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. Keyboard worked—cursor keys worked—but the mouse was dead as a doornail. Tried to think of things to do. Restart in another OS? Couldn't quite do it without the mouse. Start from a CD? Wouldn't work. Change the name of the boot drive to force a start from another drive? Wouldn't let me. Hmmm.

Got desperate and tried something foolish. I upgraded my operating system from OS 10.2.8 to 10.3.5 that a friend loaned me, foolishly thinking that this might clear things up. Hah!

It did get the mouse working. Ah! I had control of the craft again! I could steer it where I wanted to go! Except most of the programs no longer worked!

Perhaps a fresh install, after wiping the hard drive, would have helped. But a not-so-fresh install, without wiping the hard drive (wiping it would get rid of all those cool programs that came loaded on the iMac!) apparently had muddled things up horribly. I was introduced in a not-so-friendly way to the horrid world of "Permissions" and Unix.

OK. I'll just go online and Google "Permissions" and find out what's up. Then noticed that I wasn't online. DSL was always online. But I couldn't get online. Checked internet settings—nothing seemed to have changed, but DSL was no longer. Kept getting "Cannot locate a PPPoE server" over and over again. What exactly had I done in those Ethernet settings?

Hmmm. Well. DSL comes in here from the modem by an Ethernet cable. I checked the SBC DSL help page (on Bonnie's computer) and followed all the instructions. I tried logging in as if I were registering for the first time. I tried logging in as Bonnie. I tried everything I could think of. I gave up and went to bed about 3am.

This continued, off and on, for the next couple of days. Finally I got onto an SBC DSL helpline chat, using my dialup SVN connection. The first human I engaged said, well, get rid of all your settings. What? OK. So I undid all the stuff I'd read to do at the help page. Doing this disengaged me from the chat. Still didn't work.

Got on with another human, this time one from India (I asked what the weather was there)— and this time I was told to uncheck the "Use Ethernet" box. But doesn't it come in on Ethernet?
Well, yes, this helpful person said, but the modem takes care of all that. The iMac needs to do nothing at all. Oh yeah? Hmmm. You know, that sounds familiar... Well, I guess I had enabled ethernet to try networking the macs. Well. I was chatting on Bonnie's laptop this time, so I was able to tell the helpful person that, hey, it worked! Unchecking that one box did it. Counterintuitive it was, but work it did.

But meanwhile, there was that "Permissions" thing.

Every other time I'd try to run a program, or open a file, I'd get this "you don't have Permission to do that!" message. What?? I own this computer! I wrote that file! What do you mean, I don't have permission? So I went through about a zillion files and folders and applications, hitting Command-I for the Info screen, which I remembered had a Owners and Permissions thing that I'd never bothered with before. Hadn't had to.

So I'm thinking, if I set these things to give ME permission, that should fix things, right? And there's a box that says "reset permissions for all included folders and files." Great! that's just what I want it to do. So I did that, too.

Only it still didn't work. Firefox ran. IE didn't run. Photoshop ran. Mail didn't run. Tried importing Mail from the previous system, but all of it wouldn't import. Quicktime wouldn't run! Things that are included with the Operating System, just installed, wouldn't run! Yikes.

So I searched the internet for possible similar problems and possible fixes. Everywhere I turned there was talk of "Fixing Permissions" and "Clean installs" and the fact that OS 10's command to "reset permissions for all included folders and files" doesn't actually do that, but this utility called "BatchMod" could, and would fix things. Hmmm.

Downloaded this BatchMod. And it wouldn't run! Yikes again.

Also found online where OS 10.3.5 wasn't recommended for this iMac. Yikes. Ok. I had the discs for 10.2.5. It worked before. Maybe I could "De-grade" my OS to that. Ok. So I reinstalled 10.2.5, and then upgraded to 10.2.8 (where I was before all this foolishness) using an upgrade that I downloaded over DSL. Now things should be like they were.

Things seemed ok. But BatChmond still wouldn't run. Hmmm.... maybe an older version would work... Download from another site a slightly older version, and it ran. Hooray! Read a 25 page online book excerpt on Permissions, and figured I sorta knew what was up. Used BatChmond to reset premissions of all sorts of things. (And, by the way, most things had to be run through BatChmond several times before they somehow got fixed. How this is possible in a computer, which only does what it's told by its program, is beyond me.) Most now worked. Some still don't. I don't know why.

After "fixing" Mail it ran, but wouldn't download any mail. And there were no mailboxes! Imported my mailboxes from the Previous System—ah, there they are. All my mailboxes. Fine! at least that's working!

Only, when I checked the boxes they were all empty!

I'm tempted to just migrate everything to Gmail and be done with it, but I somehow don't feel secure having all my mail on a distant server. Just silly on my part, I suppose.

Emailed my dialup isp and asked about the mail thing. It still won't download mail, and the server's getting filled a little more than I'd like. Scott the SVN tech emailed back to call during business hours and talk to someone. Ok. I'll try to remember to do that.

Online I found that one helpful thing to troubleshoot is to create another "user" and log in as that user, and try to run things. Sure enough, as another user, I could run many things that wouldn't work if I was me. Quicktime still won't work, except sometimes, but IE now works. Only this other user doesn't have access to all the stuff I've got on the computer.

These permissions are a royal pain! Sure, if I'm running a network, or other people are using my computer, it might be very handy. But I'm from the one user/one computer paradigm of BYTE and Pournelle from the 80s, and I object to having to deal with this stuff.

Ok, I could go back to OS 9.2.2 where permissions don't exist. But I've only used OS 10 on this machine. It would be like starting over again. None of the stuff I've done for the last year would be accessable.

I'd gone a year without having to even think about OS 10 being Unix. Now this.



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