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Tuesday, 08 July 2008 07:35

Mac OS X updates - stuff happens sometimes

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My experience with Mac OS X updates has been generally positive, with the exception of 10.2.8 which caused a major graphics problem with the 'Lombard' PowerBook G3. But updating to 10.5.4 didn't go quite as smoothly as I've become accustomed.

My usual practice for installing updates is to restart the Mac, run Software Update, and restart again (which is generally mandatory anyway).

This time, I knew I wouldn't have time to do the installation during my ISP's off-peak period (those of you still on unlimited download plans should make the most of it while you can - metering is almost certainly coming your way), so I downloaded the updater for later use.

Everything seemed to go well. There were no glitches during the installation, and various pieces of software appeared to work without any issues.

Until I got to Entourage, the email client in Office 2008. It does more than just email, but that's the side of it where I ran into trouble.

Each time I checked for new mail, Entourage would become unresponsive. A process of elimination showed it was happening when my .Mac account was accessed. Trying to open the account settings was another way of causing the application to freeze.

So I created a new account (using the same settings as before), and that worked fine. The only problem was that duplicates of recent messages sent to my mac.com address showed up in my Inbox, as I leave messages on email servers for a few days to provide an additional level of backup.

Once I was happy, I deleted the old account from Entourage. (Hint: if you're using the Mail program that comes with Mac OS X, be very cautious about deleting accounts - when you do that, any messages received by that account that are sitting in the Inbox will be deleted as well.)

So was this 10.5.4's fault? I'll tell you what I think on page 2.


It's tempting to allocate blame in the direction of 10.5.4 or at least the update process, since Entourage was working before the update but not afterwards. And there's always the possibility that Entourage did something strange the last time I quit the application. However, I'm inclined to write the issue off as just one of those things.

I suppose I could have restored the Entourage files from the backup I made immediately prior to the update, but that would probably have taken just as long and there was always the possibility that the corruption had in fact occurred before I installed 10.5.4.

I've seen a few reports of Entourage issues following the 10.5.4 update, but they don't match my problem and they don't appear to be widespread. Examples include an unusable Entourage database, and Entourage failing to sync with Exchange.

The moral of the story? Stuff happens, and one swallow does not a summer make. Though given the negative nature of the subject, maybe that should be paraphrased as 'one snowflake does not a winter make.'

If you run into a problem when you update a piece of software, don't immediately run around accusing the vendor of shipping a POS. In my experience, it's more likely that prior damage to your system caused the problem rather than any inherent fault in the new update. That's why running the combo updater is a widely used troubleshooting method after an incremental Mac OS X update goes astray.

And always back up your most important documents (if not the entire system) before updating an major application or the operating system. You should be making regular backups anyway, but an extra one provides additional reassurance.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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