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10.3: Fix broken Panther with Jaguar
Authored by: krishna on May 04, '04 08:16:08PM
I suspected some deviant startup app, but without being able to so much as open a Terminal, I was lost.

After much travail, I came across the brilliant idea of dividing and conquering the problem (especially since I *could* ssh in), and realized something about X upgrades in the future.

I wrote a small script to keep reopening 'system preferences' until it stayed up. I then created a user admin account with *no* customizations in it and logged in with it. This served the purposes of being able to see if the problems were upgrade-related or account-related, and if I had a suspicion of what was wrong with my account, I could sudo over to my account and fix it (like removing some startup items from loginwindow.plist by carefully editing the file, or moving my dotfiles out of the way temporarily, etc) from the working account.

From this, I eventually traced it down to a problem with the Codetek Virtual desktop I was starting on login. Turning this off made everything else work (and in fact, everything else started working just fine from that point on).

I'm familiar with UNIX, but still wary that Apple might circumvent the UNIX model (not maliciously, though) one way or another in MacOSX. As a result, I decided that always having an uncustomized, unused user account (I had it with admin privileges, but that may not be necessary) makes a lot of sense, and can serve as an 'escape hatch' when problems like this come up. Even if the problems show up on the uncustomized account as well, that information will immediately divide the problem between the user customization space and the system space, which can get you to the bottom of things faster.

I'd go so far as to say that creating a fresh, uncustomized user account, should be a mandatory preparatory step during a major upgrade. The account could be deleted after the upgrade for security reasons, if desired. Especially considering how popular the laptops are, and that they only usually have a single user account, this simple step would go a long way towards troubleshooting, even if someone else does your troubleshooting for you.

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10.3: Fix broken Panther with Jaguar
Authored by: krishna on May 08, '04 10:40:52PM
Which I submitted as a hint, posted here.

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