A Side Trek Through Complications


Nathan Thompson

Originally Posted: 2006.06.22


Fully intending to continue the ongoing saga of my own personal Mac OS past, present, and future, I was resoundingly thwarted in this attempt.

Unknown conspirators set forth their dastardly machinations and succeeded in not only delaying my contributions to AppleSwitcher, but completely restructured my computing hierarchy by unseating my reigning Macintosh. I should have seen the downfall coming, hindsight clearly illuminating every deceitful step in this march towards betrayal. Alas, there is no patsy to hold aloft and take the blame for these delays and internal computing unrest. I was happily complicit in this coup, if unknowingly at the time, by allowing myself to grow overconfident with my troubleshooting prowess. I thought I could take any straggling Mac and after a suitable testing period, put these rehabilitated systems to productive use. Worse yet, I stopped maintaining my fully primed back up system in case I encountered a setback with the newly designated leader.

Sometimes the best laid plans fail most miserably. A flaming ball of detriment cascading off a cliff sort of failure. I had two, count them — one and two, articles ready to go when my boot partition went poof. Ironically enough, my boot partition stores my recent working files and I fully intended to back up the new work directly after finishing my download quota from eMusic. Big sigh… One of those, “What the hell am I supposed to do about it now?”, exhalations of air. Oh my, this last week has been an interesting adventure and while the tale has not yet reached a wholly satisfactory conclusion, I think the culmination is near. I should further explain or else be found guilty of being overly cryptic with my writing.


During the process of writing for AppleSwitcher and downloading music, my lovely Power Mac Blue and White G3 (rev 2) started throwing up random errors about problems from my data volume.

I have one hard drive installed, a 120GB Seagate ATA drive. The Seagate is partitioned three ways Mac OS 9, an OS 9.2.2 boot volume; Stash, a large chunk of the drive reserved for saving data; and Mac OS X, a currently empty volume awaiting installation of OS X. All volumes were formatted as HFS+ using the Disk Utility application found on the Mac OS 9.2.1 install disc.

I did not think much of the errors because Disk Utility on my boot drive reported nothing out of the ordinary and the errors stopped not long after. Maybe 30 minutes to an hour later the same errors started popping up, but now the problems were reported with my Mac OS 9 partition. Thinking the problem is likewise a false alarm, I didn't do anything right away. When the error popped up for the second and third time, I scanned Mac OS 9 with Disk Utility. Not good. Errors are reported, but Disk Utility cannot do anything. Time to delve into my stash of legacy software utilities, but the system freezes before I can shutdown or restart.

Rebooting from my Mac OS 9.2.1 CD gives me a warning about the Mac OS X volume (currently empty) and I dismiss the prompt explaining how I can format an unrecognized volume (strangely not the OS X volume). More puzzling, the Mac OS 9 volume cannot mount, but the Stash and Mac OS X volumes check out fine according to Disk Utility. I pulled out an old Norton SystemWorks disc and tried booting from it. Good news finally. All my volumes were able to mount, but diagnostic software discovers a major problem on the Mac OS 9 boot volume. Not fully trusting anything named Norton, I decided to postpone the repair procedure until I could transfer all important user data to a backup FireWire drive. Everything proceeded smoothly until I experienced a system freeze before I could get to my articles and browser preferences. Not a good sign, but I figure things cannot get any worse.


Clearly, I'm a gigantic moron who does not understand the nature of personal computers.

Booting from either my SystemWorks disc or TechTool Deluxe disc causes the computer to freeze. Booting from my Mac OS 9.2.1 disc allows the Power Mac to boot, but I cannot mount the Mac OS 9 partition. Consequently, I could not rescue my articles nor browser preferences (bookmarks and other such niceties). Round and round I went until I realized the Cyclopean scale used to measure the excess of my ineptitude.

Anywho, I later discovered the data integrity issue, or lack thereof, was a concentrated problem centered within my preferences folder. Attempting to access the folder initiated the freeze during my initial data recovery session. Subsequent attempts to boot from the Systemworks disc would fail while opening up the windows from the first session, one of which was a window to my preferences folder. Yes, I realize I could have booted with all desktop windows closed (for the classic Mac OS only: on boot, hold down the option key), but I had not yet diagnosed the exact problem. I circumvented this whole bag of worms by simply booting from the Mac OS 9.2.1 CD, canceled the volume initialization prompt and proceeded with a minimal OS 9.2.1 on the currently empty Mac OS X partition.

Once the installation was completed, I booted into this fresh and clean system with success. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I went ahead and ran some tools off the Norton Systemworks CD. While I could not excise all the corruption on the Mac OS 9 partition, I was able to do enough to get it to mount. I swiftly backed up every last bit of data I needed and then shut down the Blue and White G3. Here it continues to sit untouched as I decide how to proceed with this unit. Not wanting to risk further data corruption, I made up my mind to get back to work on one of my other computers, but which computer or computers would I choose. I dearly could use a thinning of the computer herd, but which systems should I relieve from duty. I have a few final decisions to make before I let my course of action be known to all.


Wow, edge of the seat excitement with shocking cliff hangers with every recent blog entry. While this article is a mere digression to explain my mysterious absence, part two not only serves to conclude this tangent, but also to continue the Mac OS and I series. Cutting this article into two parts will also serve to lesson the bleary eyed boredom inherent in reading someone prattle on about computer maintenance. All the fanciful word play in China, something is not quite right with that declaration, cannot obscure the inherently limited audience for overly tech focused subject matter. I do try to make the whole shebang one grand adventure, so please stay tuned or the man behind the curtain, I mean great and powerful wizard will say mean things to mean and pluck out my nose hair.

Audible gasp from the audience and then silence. Cue darkness.