My Mac Snow Leopard installation disaster so far

NOTE: So far I’ve had 3 visits to Apple Store to attempt repairs. SEE NEXT UPDATE.

I’ve used Macs for many years, and I’ve been lucky: never had a hard drive crash, or a problem installing a software update.

Until yesterday

I purchased the $29 Snow Leopard update, and tried installing it yesterday.

Midway through the installation, the installer choked & said it “could not change the contents of my hard drive.”

Then my mac would not reboot.

I packed everything up and went to the Bay St Apple Store (Emeryville, CA). They said it was most likely a pre-existing problem with my hard drive, and the OS update pushed it into failure. (this is plausible, my machine would often suddenly start thrashing, one reason why I wanted to do this update).

My mac was under warranty, so they replaced my HD for free. I renewed my ProCare subscription to make it happen that day. The Apple store also installed Snow Leopard on the brand new drive. They noted that they were unable to install the iLife suite on Snow Leopard, but said I should be able to install those programs from my original install discs.

I took home my brainwashed mac. I booted it up, it was like a brand new machine. After I established am admin acct, I was able to run a restore from my latest Time Machine backup.

The restore took 3 hrs, and appeared to go well. I watched the files copying onto the new drive.

When it was done, I was amazed to see that I could not access my restored data and apps. It was like the restore never happened.

I was stunned. Tom Vilot was available to help me troubleshoot. He shared my screen over iChat and investigated further, but we both ended up stumped.

Here’s his assessment:

“Attempting to do a Time Machine restore last night succeeded, but confusingly there are two entries in /Volumes:
– Macintosh HD
– Macintosh HD 1

“Everything restored to “Macintosh HD,” but it appears the system is running off of “Macintosh HD 1” and I can see no way to reconfigure it to run off of “Macintosh HD.” There is only one entry in the System Preferences -> Startup Disk panel.

“Why are there two entires in /Volumes like this? How do we tell the machine to use “Macintosh HD” instead of “Macintosh HD 1” and how do we get rid of “Macintosh HD 1”

….I really need help here I depend on this computer. If you have ideas or can help, please comment below. Thanks.

Everyblock’s New Geocoding Fixes

Tech Cocktail Conference - 08.jpg
Adrian Holovaty. (Image by Additive Theory via Flickr)

Recently I wrote about how a Los Angeles Police Dept. geocoding data glitch yielded inaccurate crime maps at LAPDcrimemaps.org and the database-powered network of hyperlocal sites, Everyblock.

On Apr. 8, Everyblock founder Adrian Holovaty blogged about the two ways his company is addressing the problem of inaccurate geodata.

  1. Latitude/longitude crosschecking. “From now on, rather than relying blindly on our data sources’ longitude/latitude points, we cross-check those points with our own geocoding of the address provided. If the LAPD’s geocoding for a particular crime is significantly off from our own geocoder’s results, then we won’t geocode that crime at all, and we publish a note on the crime page that explains why a map isn’t available. (If you’re curious, we’re using 375 meters as our threshold. That is, if our own geocoder comes up with a point more than 375 meters away from the point that LAPD provides, then we won’t place the crime on a map, or on block/neighborhood pages.)
  2. Surfacing ungeocoded data. “Starting today, wherever we have aggregate charts by neighborhood, ZIP or other boundary, we include the number, and percentage, of records that couldn’t be geocoded. Each location chart has a new “Unknown” row that provides these figures. Note that technically this figure includes more than nongeocodable records — it also includes any records that were successfully geocoded but don’t lie in any neighborhood. For example, in our Philadelphia crime section, you can see that one percent of crime reports in the last 30 days are in an ‘unknown’ neighborhood; this means those 35 records either couldn’t be geocoded or lie outside any of the Philadelphia neighborhood boundaries that we’ve compiled.”

These strategies could — and probably should — be employed by any organization publishing online maps that rely on government or third-party geodata.

Holovaty’s post also includes a great plain-language explanation of what geodata really is and how it works in practical terms. This is the kind of information that constitutes journalism 101 in the online age.

(NOTE: I originally published this post in Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits.)

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Los Angeles Police Geocoding Error Skews Crime Maps

LAPDcrimemaps.org has some recently revealed geodata flaws.

LAPDcrimemaps.org has some recently revealed geodata flaws.

Crime maps are one of the most popular and (in urban areas) ubiquitous types of geo-enabled local news — and they’re a staple of the Knight News Challenge-funded project Everyblock. This data comes from local police departments — but how reliable is it?

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported a problem with the Los Angeles Police Department’s online crime map, launched three years ago…

LAPDcrimemaps.org is offered to the public as a way to track crimes near specific addresses in the city of Los Angeles. Most of the time that process worked fine. But when it failed, crimes were often shown miles from where they actually occurred.

“Unable to parse the intersection of Paloma Street and Adams Boulevard, for instance, the computer used a default point for Los Angeles, roughly 1st and Spring streets. Mistakes could have the effect of masking real crime spikes as well as creating false ones.”

Apparently the LAPD wast not aware of the error until alerted by the Times…

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1Password is not for me: Doesn’t work with third-party applications

I use many, many online services that require passwords access. Some for important stuff like online banking, or gmail, or collaboration tools, or travel arrangements, or Twitter. Others are less important, like news sites that require logins. I was starting to get concerned about password security for all of that, so I tried the Mac application 1Password, which several people  recommended to me.

1Password seems pretty powerful. But it’s not for me.

Reason: 1Password only integrates with Web browsers, not with 3rd party applications. For 3rd-party applications, you can generate stronger passwords using 1Password — but then you have to store them in the OSX keychain or elsewhere. If you rely on such applications regularly, this vastly reduces the potential security benefit of 1Password.

This became a dealbreaker for me. Here’s why…

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Working with Journalists: What’s in It for Geeks?

NOTE: This post originally appeared on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, and there are some comments over there. I’m reposting this here because, frankly, this site poses fewer hurdles to commenters, and I’d like to get some diverse discussion happening.

Earlier this week I wrote about the internal and external obstacles journalism schools face when trying to achieve collaboration with other academic departments (such as computer science). That spurred a pretty interesting discussion in the comments.

This discussion got me thinking: Right now, it’s becoming obvious to many journalists that our field sorely needs lots of top-notch, creative technologists. Developers for whom software is a medium, and an art form. Developers with a deep passion for information, credibility, fairness, usefulness, and free speech.

However, my impression is that, so far, it’s not nearly so obvious to most “geeks” (and I use that term with the utmost affection and respect, as do many geeks themselves) how they might benefit from collaborating with journalists, j-schools, and news organizations.

So if journalists need geeks, but right now they don’t need (or even necessarily want) us as much, the question becomes: What’s in this for the geeks? Why might they want to work with us? Where’s their incentive?… Continue reading

Being a Citizen Shouldn’t Be So Hard! Part 2: Beyond Government

NOTE: This is part 2 of a multipart series. See the series intro. More to come over the next few days.

This series is a work in process. I’m counting on Contentious.com readers and others to help me sharpen this discussion so I can present it more formally for the Knight Commission to consider.

So please comment below or e-mail me to share your thoughts and questions. Thanks!

To compensate for our government’s human-unfriendly info systems, some people have developed civic info-filtering backup systems: news organizations, activists, advocacy groups, think tanks, etc.

In my opinion, ordinary Americans have come to rely too heavily on these third parties to function as our “democracy radar.” We’ve largely shifted to their shoulders most responsibility to clue us in when something is brewing in government, tell us how we can exercise influence (if at all), and gauge the results of civic and government action.

Taken together, these backup systems generally have worked well enough — but they also have significant (and occasional dangerous) flaws. They’ve got too many blind spots, too many hidden agendas, insufficient transparency, and too little support for timely, effective citizen participation…

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Is this thing on?

For the last couple of days I’ve been struggling with WordPress. The old version I was on (2.3) for some mysterious reason started slamming my web server to the point it would bring the site down whenever I’d try to write or edit a post. (Tech support at my web host, Bluehost.com, was spectacularly UNhelpful in troubleshooting this problem, BTW. Tom Vilot and I figured it out independently. Bluehost support utterly wasted nearly two hours of my time yesterday in four separate calls….   Grrrrr……)

So now that Tom helped me get WP manually updated to 2.6 (Bluehost only offered automated update options to 2.5.1 — another grrrrrrr……) WP now seems ready to cooperate. (Well, except that my secure login stopped working.) I’m trying it out with this post. We’ll see what happens.

Moment of truth: Is this thing on? If you’re reading this, it worked.

UPDATE: OK, now that I know I can use the site again, here’s a gripe I have that maybe WordPress developers can do something about:

Why is the WordPress update process so F*CKING OBTUSE???

Here’s what I mean…
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Nokia Talks More (Much More) About US Service Problems

Nokia Conversations Blog
Nokia’s Conversation Blog has launched an extended discussion on its myriad US service problems.

I’m happy to report that there has been some progress (small, but real) from Nokia in terms of addressing it US service problems, which I’ve written about extensively.

First, here’s their most concrete step forward so far: Today, Nokia announced that the long-awaited firmware update for the US N95-3 should be available by early June.

Note that this does not mean Nokia has improved its firmware update process — which (as Beth Kanter, Robert Day, and I noted) is PC-only and very cumbersome, confusing, and annoying. And, in my experience, Nokia’s firmware update process is also risky — it’s what bricked my N95 in April.

…But still, a lot of US N95-3 users have been waiting (and waiting) for this firmware update. News that it’s coming soon appears quite welcome in that community, judging by the initial comments to the announcement.

Also, I’m encouraged to see that Nokia’s Conversations Blog yesterday launched a series of posts on its myriad US service problems. So far, there’s been:

I think the fact that Nokia has made this discussion so public, and is respecting and addressing concerns raised by users, is a very positive step. Frankly, this is far more than most major companies are willing to do. Nokia is willing to publicly acknowledge its significant problems, and doesn’t seem to consider this inherently risky or bad for business. Many, many companies and organizations could take a lesson from Nokia on this front.

That said, Nokia’s blog does try (understandably) to put as positive a spin as possible on its US service problems. As far as I can tell, they’re not painting a specifically inaccurate rosy picture — but so far they haven’t directly tackled the hardest issues.

Therefore, it’s still up to current and would-be US users of Nokia N-Series phones to keep pushing for clear answers to our most pressing questions and concerns. This is going to take time, folks.

Here’s what I mean…

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My weird iCal/Leopard problems: Help!

I love iCal, but it’s driving me crazy lately. Help!

As you might have guessed, I’m a pretty busy person. If I didn’t have a good electronic calendar program, with alerts and reliable backup, I’d be totally lost. That’s why I’ve been a devoted user of Apple’s iCal program for about 10 years.

A few months ago, when I upgraded to a Macbook Pro with the Leopard OS (original install, not a Leopard upgrade), iCal started getting weird on me. I’ve been to the Genius Bar at my local Apple Store twice about it, and have yet to find a problem. But I’m getting concerned, because I depend so heavily on this program. If it totally flames out on me, moving to a new solution will be a big hassle.

So I’m hoping some of my readers, or someone in the iCal support forums, is smarter or luckier than me and the folks at my local Apple Genius Bar.

Here are the iCal problems I’m experiencing, and what I’ve tried (unsuccessfully, so far) to diagnose and fix it. Your ideas and suggestions for further measures are most welcome…
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