Two failures, not just one

About a month ago, I wrote about problems I was having with my NewerTech miniStack’s Firewire connection (namely that there didn’t seem to be one, at least not consistently). I eventually got around to calling their tech support (high praises to them for being open on Saturday!), and after doing some diagnosis, they gave me an RMA. In the meantime, I’d mounted my external disk in a spare USB enclosure I’d bought to solve a problem on some other computer, so I could get to all my data.

Friday, the unit arrived home, with a note saying that the internal Firewire bridge had been bad and they’d replaced it. So I moved the disk over, and, sure enough, it mounted just fine.

Then I tried to boot from it — and all I got was the grey screen of death. So I tried again, this time using Apple-V to get the console log displayed (is there some way to make that permanent? I find system messages to be reassuring, not scary), and found that, just as had been happening before I sent the unit in for repair, the boot failed with these two messages:

Load of /sbin/launchd, errno 88, trying /sbin/mach_init
Load of /sbin/launchd failed, errno 88

I took everything apart, put the drive back into the USB enclosure, and made sure that /sbin on my internal and external drives were the same. Then I put it back into the miniStack…no dice.

I couldn’t call tech support, since they’re not open on Sunday. So I did the next best thing — I Googled the messages. And I discovered that I was not alone.

And now the problem wasn’t hardware — it was software. Apparently my installation of OS X 10.4.7 on the external disk hadn’t quite succeeded, but I didn’t realize it. And in the meantime, 10.4.8 had arrived.

To make a long story short, the recovery procedure was:

  1. Download the latest Combo Update from Apple, putting it on the internal disk as /tmp/update.dmg
  2. Boot from the Install DVD
  3. Bring up Disk Utility from the menu
  4. Verify the external volume and, after discovering problems, repair the external volume
  5. Bring up terminal
  6. Mount the update image:
    1. /Volumes/Internal/usr/bin/open /Applications/Utilities/ /Volumes/Internal/tmp/update.dmg
    2. Click on the update.dmg in Disk Utility’s left navigator
  7. Install the update:
    1. /Volumes/Internal/usr/bin/open /Applications/Utilities/ /Volumes/whatever-it-was-called.pkg
  8. Wait a few minutes for the install to finish
  9. Reboot

When the machine rebooted, it was with OSX 10.4.8 from the external disk. *whew*

I thought this thing was going to be an appliance….

My thanks to everyone who’d documented their experiences with similar problems, especially those who posted to the Washington Post‘s “Security Fix“. The discussion on OSXFAQ was also helpful.