Thinking of updating your mac to Snow Leopard? Do this FIRST!

While I’m here on my 3rd Apple Store visit in as many days to try to recover from a disaster triggered by my attempt to upgrade my Mac to the Snow Leopard OS X, here are some tips that might save other Mac users similar pain and frustration.

1. Back up your entire machine onto TWO EXTERNAL DRIVES. It’s a good idea to run Time Machine backup as often as possible. But when you’re running the risk of having to hand over your mac AND your backup drive to a technician (which is always the case when attempting a significant operating system update), it’s a good idea to have a separate copy of your backup in your own possession.

2. Verify the condition of your hard drive. Apple is marketing Snow Leopard chiefly as a way to enhance performance. However, if your hard drive is developing problems (as mine apparently was), that will impair performance. Installing Snow Leopard won’t fix HD problems, and it may even cause your drive to fail during installation (as mine did)

So Verify your disk using your Mac’s Disk Utility before you upgrade. That can indicate HD problems. It’s not a perfect predictor of problems, but it’s at least some help. Had I thought to do this, I might not have lost 3 workdays and be freezing my ass off in an over-air conditioned Apple Store right now.

If your disk verification process indicates problems, and if you’re experiencing decreasing performance, it’s probably a safer bet to get your HD replaced and data restored correctly BEFORE attempting to upgrade your operating system. If you have to go to the Apple Store to do this, make sure they put in the work order that you do NOT want the OS upgraded yet.

3. Check your warranty coverage. I purchased Apple Care when I bought my mac a couple of years ago, and it’s still in effect. So Apple replaced my HD for free. I’m not sure whether the warranty covers drives that are having problems (rather than have already failed), but it’s worth asking about.

4. Line up a backup computer. If, like me, you work or life could get seriously screwed if you lose your computer for a few days or more, make sure you have handy access to a functional backup machine BEFORE doing a significant system update. Load it up with all the software & data you’ll need to do what you need to do, and test it.

Personally, I’m getting a Linux netbook ASAP.

5. Check your ProCare staus. ProCare is Apple’s preferred service program. It costs about $100/yr, and it’s worth it if you depend in your Mac. If you need a speedy repair, make sure you have current ProCare coverage. You van buy it on the spot at the Apple Store if you need it.

6. Don’t leave the Apple Store without your computer the way you need it. If your OS X update goes dreadfully wrong (as mine did), required them to wipe your drive, have the Apple Store staff restore your operating system and data from your Time Machine backup. Don’t do all of that yourself.

My experience shows that this installation/restore process is trickier than Apple claims. It’s surprisingly easy for the Time Machine restoration to not work right with a freshly installed OS. Make them do everything you need do your machine is up and running. Bring this blog post with you if they balk, and stick to your guns.

This means bringing your external HD with your current Time Machine backup to the Apple Store with you, of course. And before you leave, sync your iPhone and make sure it works. My iPhone sync is not yet working, so I’m staying put in this store for now.

7. Check the “Lemon Law” in your state. The details if this federal consumer protection law are defined by each state. In many states, including CA, lemon laws cover not just vehicles but also consumer products. This may give you recourse if you get screwed by Apple on mac-related issues, like a disastrous OS update you paid for.

Also have the phone number of the local Better Business Bureau handy, and be willing to file a complaint if necessary.

8. Don’t attempt a major system update a couple of weeks after having knee surgery. I’m just saying, it makes everything that much more difficult, aggravating, and risky.

My Snow Leopard Disaster: live updates from 3rd Apple Store visit

I’m sitting in the Apple Store at 5656 Bay St., Emeryville, CA. It’s the third time I’ve been here in as many days, thanks to a series of unfortunate events spawned by my misguided effort to upgrade my Macbook Pro to the latest OS X, Snow Leopard.

I’ve been here about 3 hours so far.

THE HIGHLIGHTS:

  1. My mac was increasingly having performance problems, and Snow Leopard is marketed mainly as a performance enhancer.
  2. When I tried installing SL, it failed because my hard drive crashed. HD problems were most likely the cause of my performance problems.
  3. Apple replaced my HD, installed SL, and told me to restore from my Time Machine backup. The TM restore failed in a weird way.
  4. On my 2nd Apple Store trip, they wiped my HD, installed SL, and gave me new instructions for restoring from TM. Last night that failed too.

For more details on exactly what went wrong, see my posts from yesterday and this morning.

So today, on my third visit, my goals are:

  1. Get my HD wiped again. Tech reports this was done.
  2. Get the regular Leopard OS X installed, NOT Snow Leopard. Really, screw SL at this point! Tech reports this was done.
  3. Restore my apps and data from the CORRECT TM backup, something the SL installer would not let me do.
  4. Avoid unnecessary walking. I had knee surgery Aug. 13, & doc says I must avoid unnecessary walking until my leg is much stronger, to avoid developing a hard-to-correct limp. Trouble is I don’t own a car, so had to take bus to Apple store, which involved walking a few blocks. I’m staying put in the Apple Store (they gave me a chair) until my mac is fixed. Been here nearly three hours so far.
  5. Check everything out BEFORE I sign off on this repair & leave. And if it’s not fixed, they’re getting a big ‘ol dose of NJ loud ‘n pissed, plus possible action under CA’s lemon law. (Been doing sone research, and it applies to consumer products, not just cars.)
  6. Get a refund for Snow Leopard. Yeah. Seriously.
  7. Try to avoid homicides. Just on general principles. Especially at the Apple Store. Too many witnesses.

If all goes well, my mac will emerge from brain surgery in the next hour. I hope so, because I’m getting hungry.

It’s cold in here. Glad I brought my goodie.

So far I’ve lost 3 days to this. Most of my work-related data is in the cloud, but not having a backup computer leaves me outta that loop. So I’m researching which Linux netbook to purchase. I’ve been wanting one for travel & portability, but now I see having a backup machine running Firefox with all my plugins and that I can actually type on makes the difference to keep me in business.

Because writing on an iPhone truly sucks. I loathe this #^*+%# touch keyboard. Good thing I remembered to charge up & bring my backup battery.

I’ll post again when I know more. Stay tuned.

My Snow Leopard disaster continues

It’s the third day since I lost the use of my only computer, a Macbook pro, and I’m about to head off to the Bay St. Apple Store in Emeryville, CA for the third time to try to get it working again.

Please see my post yesterday explaining how a failed update to the much-heralded Snow Leopard OS X left me macless.

Last night, after the Apple Store wiped my brand-new hard drive, I went home and followed their instructions for installing SL again and restoring from my Time Machine backup. The SL install worked; the TM restore failed because the Snow Leopard installer does not allow you to specify WHICH TM backup you want to restore from!

That’s right: SL automatically grabs the most recent backup — which in this case was a backup of the lobotomized virgin system captured after my first SL install.

Tom worked hard for several hours last night via iChat screen share to try to manually restore the correct TM backup. Below are his notes

Right now I’m en route to the Apple Store. I plan to be there when they open and stay there until they fix this. I’ll be updating on this blog and via Twitter” throughout the day.

…BTW, I’m having to run all these errands at a time when my orthopedist has cautioned me to walk as little as possible. I had knee surgery Aug. 13 to repair a torn ACL. I have a leg brace for getting around during recovery, but walking too much now impairs my recovery. So managing this Apple ordeal is putting my physical well being at risk. No exaggeration.

Anyway, here’s Tom’s account of what happened with my mac last night and what I’m trying to achieve today….

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Snail mail blues: Temporary change of address = Almost no mail for a month

USPS temporary forwarding = total crapshoot

USPS temporary forwarding = total crapshoot

Although I live in Boulder, CO, I’m currently spending a few months with friends in Oakland, CA. So just before I left Boulder on Jan 6., I went to my local post office branch and submitted a form for a temporary change of address. That was the only option they mentioned at the post office, and it seemed like it made sense.

Nearly a month later, very very little of my mail has gotten forwarded so far. It’s starting to freak me out. Most of my clients pay me by check, and I haven’t been receiving most of the checks sent on outstanding invoices. I am running out of cash, and it’s really pissing me off. Plus, this is the month that 1099 tax forms get sent out.

I expected some delay in receiving my forwarded mail. The US Postal Service says to expect a delay of up to 10 days. A couple of days after I arrived in CA I did receive a confirmation of mail forwarding via snail mail from the USPS, so I didn’t worry. By Jan 15, I started receiving a few pieces of mail — some Netflix DVDs, some junk mail, and a couple of small checks. I figured the rest would be coming.

Today — Jan. 27, nearly two weeks later — I’m still receiving only a trickle of mail. Today I called my local post offices both here in Oakland and back in Boulder. The Boulder postal clerk confirmed the forwarding order, and explained the continued delay:

Get this: The USPS must generate and apply forwarding labels manually (!!!), which according to the clerk I spoke to can causes delays in delivery of up to a month!!! Nowhere — not at the post office, on the forwarding form, on their site, on their information line — was I informed of this. Yeah, I’m annoyed… Continue reading

New Guns N Roses = Free Dr Pepper? But wait, there’s less…

Want that free Dr. Pepper coupon? Hurry up...

Want that free Dr. Pepper coupon? Hurry up!

Today’s sleazy, shortsighted marketing move is brought to you by Dr Pepper. This company made a grand, fun, high-profile gesture and got considerable positive publicity for it. But then, they made it such a hassle to cash in on their offer that the truly cynical nature of this marketing ploy is laid bare.

In the world before the internet, they might have gotten away with it. But online, people do talk.

Apparently, today — and today only — you can get a coupon for a free Dr Pepper soda. And you can thank Guns N Roses singer Axl Rose for it.

…That is, you can get the coupon IF you jump on it before 6 pm ET today, and if you jump through a bunch of hoops. And if the site doesn’t crap out on you. Then you wait 4-6 weeks for your coupon to arrive in the mail. Once you get it, you’d better use it fast!

Here’s the backstory, and why this could become a perfect example of anti-marketing in the online age…

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