My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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do NOT upgrade to Leopard (why I’m offline)

I foolishly decided to upgrade to Leopard five days ago, at the beginning of my trip east for the holidays. This was the worst idea ever so for everyone waiting for me to respond to anything, please be patient… I won’t really be online until I can get back to LA and wipe my machine and start over.

For the geeks, here’s what’s going on with Leopard:

  • I cannot seem to run more than 3 major apps (Word, Mail, Firefox) simultaneously or else one freezes and the entire machine halts to a stop, requiring a restart.
  • No major app seems to be able to quit without requiring a “Force Quit” to get it to stop. Restarting seems to freeze midway through and require a hard reboot.
  • Opening a folder in Finder seems to take a good 20-30s and results in a freezing of applications, making multitasking impossible.
  • And then there’s Mail… When I open Mail with no other apps open (on network or off), it’s a disaster – trying to open each message results in a beachball. The activity monitor doesn’t seem to indicate anything strange – no hanging or anything, just regular opening of mailbox, moving and saving to mailboxes, syncing, etc. But it’s impossible to open messages because they hang for 30s before they’ll open. I don’t have the patience to wade through my thousands of message with this level of hanging. I went through all of the Apple Support notices, updated my DNS servers, and am at a complete loss.

Anyhow, if anyone has any clue, I’d be happy to provide more details and try whatever. But I can’t balance this and family and holiday shopping and hotels and keeping sane, so I’m just going offline until I get home. Plus, I need to do a proper backup before I can feel comfortable turning this thing over to anyone else. Le sigh.

Update: Thanks everyone for your comments! I ended up re-installing my machine and it’s a much happier camper. I realized that I’ve been through 7 machines and 4 OSes without ever cleaning anything out – all I do is firewire to the next one. So far, so good. But damn is email overflow daunting.
PS: Sorry about my blog… apparently the spam killed my quota and thus caused a hiccup in the comment section. Ironic, eh?

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12 comments to do NOT upgrade to Leopard (why I’m offline)

  • I upgraded to leopard on my eMac over a month ago and only had trouble when trying to use more than about 5 apps. (Which I had on panther anyway). I hope that your problems can be solved so that we can continue to receive your wisdom about social networks.
    David

  • This is unlike any Leopard problem I’ve seen.

    It sounds like your hard drive is dying. The constant delays match up with a read/fail/retry pattern.

    (1) Is the drive making clicking sounds? Put your ear to the computer.

    (2) Launch Disk Utility. Click on the drive (first/top icon), and see what it says beside S.M.A.R.T. status. If it says “Failing,” you are toast, so back up ASAP and get the drive replaced. If it doesn’t say failing, it may still be your drive, but I can’t say for sure without seeing or hearing it.

    (3) Another clue that you’re having drive problems is the presence of I/O errors in the system log. Open up Applications > Utilities > Console. In the sidebar, click on system.log. In the search field type “kernel.” If you see anything like this:
    kernel[0]: disk0s2: I/O error
    …that is another sign pointing to the same conclusion.

  • Louije

    My problems with Leopard came from extensions installed in /Library/InputManagers or /Library/StartupItems. You could try to rename these folders to “InputManagers (disabled)” and “StartupItems (disabled)” and reboot. Be sure to uninstall any mouse drivers or interface customization solutions you might have put on your system.

    If everything fails, try a “clean install”.

  • Cheryl Morris

    I’ve been using Leopard since release date on two Macs – iMac and MacBook Pro. The only problem (intermittent) that I’ve noted is with Firefox “stalling”. I can’t force it to quit. Usually, I just reboot my machine at that point, as it has usually been running for several weeks.

  • I agree with Paul, sounds like a hard drive issue, similar to one I had a couple of years ago.

    The other issue is a clean install versus an upgrade. I did a clean install and have had no major problems (a few wireless connection issues), but others I know who did an upgrade were not so lucky.

  • I agree with Paul, sounds like a hard drive issue, similar to one I had a couple of years ago.

    The other issue is a clean install versus an upgrade. I did a clean install and have had no major problems (a few wireless connection issues), but others I know who did an upgrade were not so lucky.

  • Install Leopard on an external HD and then as part of the install copy all docs & apps over to the new HD from your dying machine. If you have an Intel Mac you can use a Firewire or USB HD… just reformat the USB to Mac Journaled. If it is pre-intel then Firewire only. Hopefully you have a back-up prior to the OS upgrade? Should work out OK if you do it quick before the internal HD really dies.

  • Install Leopard on an external HD and then as part of the install copy all docs & apps over to the new HD from your dying machine. If you have an Intel Mac you can use a Firewire or USB HD… just reformat the USB to Mac Journaled. If it is pre-intel then Firewire only.

    Use this external HD as your primary boot disk. Once booted from the external you can also use various disk utilities to see what is wrong with your old disk.

    Good Luck!

  • Danah

    Upgrading to Leopard is definitely buggy. When I upgraded my laptop, Leopard installed fine, but would not let me log in. It turned out that Leopard has problems with passwords over 8 characters long.

    The Apple geniuses did their thing, but the end result was a buggy system.

    You’ll get a lot of people telling you that they installed Leopard fine, so either you must have screwed something up or you have bad hardware. A quick search around Google or Apple’s forums, though, will reveal an unusual number of people with problems like you’re having.

    I think your best bet would be to get an external disk for backups. Then use Time Machine to backup your all your data to an external disk. You can save some time by excluding system files. Make sure you’ve got a good backup, do a clean install and then restore your data.

    I’d bet that you could get the Apple geniuses to take care of this for you, too. They’re usually really helpful, and the ones at our local store were well aware that updating to Leopard is a little buggy.

    Good luck with your computer! I’ve found Leopard to be reliable, after the clean install. Can’t stand the new illegible translucence effects, though!

  • Ahh, your description of your struggles and pain sound hauntingly like mine this past week- only without Leopard on my MacBook. Low and behold, I was trying to back up files- struggling in no patience mode- had to reboot and arrrggghhhh! Restarted to nothingness- not the blue screen- the grey one. Tried the disk utilities on the install disk and it would not even recognize my hard drive. So since Monday I have been without my Mac. I killed a hard drive in four months- do you think that is a record. With no experience with Leopard to compare to, I still suspect that you may also have an underlying hard drive problem.
    Good luck!

  • danah–I have a new Mac (I’m a convert but not an evangel, that’s for sure) with Leopard and think I am finally past a host of odd filing problems that persisted for almost a month. My Time Machine still doesn’t seem to be backing anything up, but other Leopard issues are finally sorting themselves out but it has been a real pain, with problems that even the smartest systems folks find bewildering. And I’m one of the lucky ones: I spent three days with relatives who had, under the guiding eye of the Mac Geniuses, installed Leopard, only to have it fail, and then had it installed again, more failure: and then were told since it had happened twice, everything that had been erased (as in everything) was irretrievable and nothing could be done about it. Clean Install v. Upgrade: rock and a hard place. Some people are doing this with no problems but it really is a disaster for others. My relatives got a free printer out of the deal, but they would rather have their address book and everything else back. Proceed with caution!

  • @Danah, did you upgrade from Tiger by choosing “Upgrade” when installing Leopard or did you do a clean installation from scratch?

    I’ve been waiting for Leopard-compatible versions of programs like PGP Desktop and The Missing Sync, so I haven’t installed Leopard on my main workstation yet. When I do, I’ll be installing Leopard from scratch and then manually copying over the contents of my home directory (including my home directory’s “Applications” folder — you have one, too, right?). It takes a little more time than clicking an “Upgrade” button, but I’ve never had problems with this in the past.

    It’s good to come across your weblog, Danah! Last time we talked it was about WYSO at Antioch.

    @James Lewin: Leopard does support passwords longer than 8 characters, but it looks like you’re experiencing the bug that Apple confirmed exists when updating from OS X 10.2 to 10.3 to 10.4 to 10.5. While it would be nice if everything from Apple would “just work” it’s really a good idea now and then to do a clean installation.