When there were no new iMacs announced at Apple’s “Hello Again” event in October I decided to stop waiting and replace my ageing late 2009 model with an Apple refurbished late 2013 one (I had a friend who was eager to buy my old one). I had also held off installing Sierra so my old machine was running El Capitan.
I was looking at Date & Time preferences on my iMac and under Time Zone I checked the box where it said “Set time zone automatically using current location”, at which point a message popped up telling me to “Turn on WiFi to determine your current location”. Since my machine is connected to the router by Ethernet I don’t normally have Wi-Fi turned on and in fact I had deleted the interface in Network preferences. So I added a Wi-Fi interface and turned it on. When I went back to Date & Time preferences there was now a pin on the map marking my closest city, which it had correctly determined to be Hatfield – United Kingdom (though strictly Hatfield is a town not a city). When I unchecked the auto time zone box the pin disappeared but the closest city was still set to Hatfield, as if I had set it manually.
I have been with The Co-operative bank for a long time and have no plans to switch despite the problems which arose during the tenure of disgraced former chairman Paul Flowers aka the crystal Methodist. I use the online banking system and one day (a long time ago) when I went to log in I was prompted to download and install some security software called Rapport from a company called Trusteer. Being naturally wary of such things I did a search and immediately discovered that people were having problems with it, so I declined. In fact the only options were to “Download” or “Remind me later” so I clicked the latter and proceeded as usual. I find the reminders mildly annoying but as long as they don’t make use of Rapport compulsory it is not a big deal.
Until fairly recently I was running OS X Mountain Lion on my late 2009 iMac but on October 22nd I noticed that Mavericks was available as a free upgrade, so after doing a Time Machine backup I went ahead and installed it. The upgrade ran smoothly and once I was running Mavericks I checked for updates and found that new versions of the iWork and iLife applications were also available at no cost, so I installed them too. This is not going to be a general review of Mavericks because John Siracusa has already done a far more thorough job than I ever could in The Ars Technica Review. What I will do is document the problems I had and and the solutions I found, but first a couple of general comments.
This post will be about reinstalling Mountain Lion on my iMac but I want to explain the background first. I am still using the iMac I bought in December 2009 when it came with Snow Leopard. In February 2012 I upgraded to Lion and wrote about it here (I upgraded again to Mountain Lion in September). Meanwhile I was thinking about replacing the machine as it was coming up for three year mark where AppleCare expires. My iMac is the one that was released in October 2009 and since then there had been two new models released at intervals of 280 days, but it was another 577 days before the most recent model was released in November 2012 (I got those numbers from the MacRumors Buyers Guide). If any of my friends had been in the market for a used iMac I may well have traded up but for me there was a downside to the new model – it has no optical drive. Although I accept that optical media is on its way out I wasn’t ready to make the break so I would also have needed to buy an external drive. Of course Apple has an interest in seeing people switch from buying plastic discs to downloading stuff from the iTunes Store so I can understand why they might want to leave out the optical drive, though to be fair a lot of people probably have made the break and would prefer not to have to pay for a built in drive that they don’t need. However, having watched the announcement it seems to me that at least part of the reason for omitting the optical drive was to allow a thinner case, or at least a case with a much thinner edge. Yes the new model does look very cool but I don’t understand the obsession with slimness in a desktop machine. My iMac has not moved for over three years since I unpacked it and the new model would not take up any less desk space. The upshot is that I decided to keep my current machine for the time being and wait to see where Apple goes with the next iteration. Having decided to keep the machine I also decided to have a fresh start and do a complete reinstall of Mountain Lion.
My current computer is an iMac that I bought in December 2009 when it came with Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” and iLife ’09 installed. I really only use one iLife application, iPhoto, so when iLife ’11 came out in October 2010 I didn’t really think it was worth paying for the whole new suite of programs. In July 2011 Apple released OS X Lion, which was only available for download from the Mac App Store (the App Store itself only came online in January 2011 with the 10.6.6 update to Snow Leopard). Whenever I have upgraded a computer to a new major version of OS X (10.2 to 10.3 on my G3 iBook and 10.4 to 10.5 on my first iMac) I have done an erase and install because I like to have a completely fresh start. Since Lion did not come on physical media there was no simple supported way to do an erase and install and that is part of the reason I was still running Snow Leopard until this week – that and the fact that although I like to keep up to date I had no particular need for any of the new features in Lion. I had thought I might get round to upgrading in the New Year and this week I finally made the transition.
Although I keep a Time Machine backup on an external drive I was starting to think I should have an off-site backup too, so before getting started I copied my home directory on to a new 500 GB portable hard drive and took it away for safe keeping. I had never used the App Store (or indeed the iTunes Store) but buying Lion was pretty straightforward. It took an hour or two to download but once that completed the installation was fairly quick. The individual iLife applications are available on the App Store so I also treated myself to the latest version of iPhoto.
I make extensive use of a number of command line tools that I install using MacPorts so it was important to get it up and running. Basically I deleted the whole MacPorts installation, grabbed the new Xcode (a free download from the App Store) and installed that, then downloaded the Lion package installer from MacPorts. Once I had the MacPorts base system installed I started installing packages – mutt, msmtp, gnupg etc. It all went OK until I got to lbdb (Little Brother’s Database) and there was a problem which prevented it from installing. I use lbdb to query the OS X Address Book from within mutt so I will either need to solve the problem or find another way of doing it.
After using the new system for a few hours I decided it was time to back it up so I connected my Time Machine drive. It should have backed up automatically but the process appeared to freeze and when I tried to gain control the drive icon vanished from the desktop with a warning about not unmounting. This had happened to me a couple of times before and I responded by turning off Time Machine temporarily, starting up Disk Utility, and clicking on “Repair Disk”. However, when that seemed to be taking ages to do anything I felt more drastic action was required so I erased the drive and let Time Machine start afresh with a full backup. That means I have lost the ability to restore old files but it is fairly unlikely that I would have needed to. It also made me glad I had started out by making an additional backup of my home directory.
One of the first things you see when you upgrade to Lion is a message about the change in scrolling behaviour, you now have to swipe up on the surface of the Magic Mouse to scroll down! This is not as crazy as it sounds but it takes some getting used to. Basically you have to think of it as if you are pushing the text up with your finger rather than moving the cursor down. A major reason for this change must have been to achieve consistency with iOS behaviour on touchscreen devices.
Other surprises included radical changes to Address Book and iCal. It seems like a lot of people were pretty upset about the new Address Book but I think it is fine. I have also been using the “Faces” feature of iPhoto and Address Book has a way of choosing photos from Faces to use as custom photos for people.
I have not yet explored the new Launchpad or Mission Control features and I am sure there are all sorts of other enhancements to discover. In fact I should now probably go back and read the Ars Technica Lion Review to remind myself what to look out for.