Upgrade story: Mac OS X Leopard

So, this was the advice I gave myself about upgrading to Mac OSX 10.5 “Leopard”:

* don’t rush – wait for the war stories
* don’t rush – do some major backups
* don’t rush – do some serious housekeeping
* don’t rush – check you’ve got the serial numbers and details of all applications ESPECIALLY those little plugins that you forget about until they’re not there.

Anyway – I lasted less than 24 hours.

I had a rather horrible experience with the user accounts being disabled after log in. Ouch. I’d log in, all would be as normal, except that the Keychain (where passwords etc are stored) was corrupted. Worse, after 3 attempts to open Keychain it kindly told me that I was locked out. No problem, thought I, I’ll do something else and get back to this. Unfortunately the user account then disappeared!

There was no mention of the account on the log-in screen and even when I fired up terminal and tried to ‘su’ to the user the password wasn’t accepted.

Panic was alleviated by my being able to see all of the user accounts on the drive so I knew that the data was intact (and because I had root access and the system disks as a boot option I knew I’d be able to recover everything).

Interestingly I had a realisation about backups. Even though I had a full backup of everything (read/write) and a disk image (‘ghost) I could use to fully restore the machine, the very thought of losing 24 hours of restoring time was just exhausting. I therefore chose to continue my efforts at recovery.

There’s about 250Gb of data and stuff on the G5 and if I can’t be bothered to restore then goodness help me when there’s a couple of terabytes there!

My insight from this is to fully separate the OS and vital applications from data. As of today the data is kept on an external drive and both the data and the OS on the desktop are backed up to a second external NAS drive. I sorta knew this would be better but it took a prod like this to make it happen.

I tried to rectify the log-in problems every which way. Googling gave me myriad answers and I did the basics: restart from the CD, reinstall the OS, repair privileges, recover the keychains from backup, recreate the keychains, run the keychain repair, install the keychain patch… All to no avail.

Finally, I found this most excellent support document: “Unable to log in to an account after an upgrade install”. Interestingly, this support document was created 2 days before Leopard was released to the public… Would have been nice to have been told!

Anyway, starting in ‘single user mode’ (a unix-like startup) and doing some stuff as root fixed everything. Huzzah!

Armed with this knowledge I upgraded the laptop last night and, well, it took 45 mins and worked like a dream. Mac-like, indeed. I left it overnight to index my mail and 100Gb of HD contents and this morning it was zippy and lovely.

The interface is slick, perceptibly rapid and all of my plugins and apps work fine – apart from (sob) MailTags. The Apple “Discoverers” are truly awesome and astoundingly accurate but my workflow really needs the MailTags approach to which I’m now habituated. I hadn’t realised its utter non-workingness. Pity – and roll on the upgrade due at the end of the year. Note how, in my new well-behavedness, I’m not going to install the beta version… 😉

So – what have I learned from this?

1) Backups are vital, but it needs to be a real catastrophe to make me do a full restore. The time taken and effort required are simply too onerous for a ‘minor disaster’. I need to improve my backup approach
2) Separate data and OS/apps really clearly – makes a sensible backup and recovery process easier (I hope)
3) take care to synchronise settings (keychains, preferences, licence keys etc) – this is what makes your computer “yours” and you’ll be kicking yourself for months without these…

The final lesson is the most serious one, however. Don’t mess with “production” machines! Bit by bit ‘my’ collection of Macs is no longer mine. Vicky really relies on the G5 for her design work and having me “upgrade” the computer where the improvement is, erm, being locked out and losing a day’s work is not acceptable. I’ve now taken myself off _her_ machine and will get it ready for full production support.

Of course, this means that I now need a dev/test machine… 😉

House of Fraser – a user experience review | Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke has written a very nice review of the launch of the House of Fraser ecommerce site on the e-consultancy blog.

As you may know I’ve been working with HOF since February on this project (and recently posted the Telegraph’s coverage of the launch on this blog).

Paul’s coverage is much more thorough and it’s rather spooky that he’s noticed (and credited) the areas upon which we worked really diligently, as well as picking out some areas of great annoyance that – yes indeed – the HOF team are beavering away to improve.

To give a bit of ‘behind the scenes’ perspective, while the Board determination to commit to fuller multichannel operation was in place during 2006 it was only in January 2007 that the company started to develop the functional requirements. From that date (ISTR it was January, the day after I’d been chatting to Paul in Manchester at a Digital Shorts evening…) House of Fraser and the wider group have: created a new platform and best practice company (www.ecommera.co.uk), procured an ecommerce platform (Demandware), appointed lead system integrators and lead creative agency (Javelin Group and LBI respectively), established a contact centre (www.becogent.co.uk) and an outsourced warehousing and logistics operation (www.iforcegroup.com). On top of the platform itself there’s some nice imaging magicke from the good folk at Scene7. All of this has been put in place, from first meeting to launch, in 6 months.

Now, there are many further blog posts on my views on developing a complex system with so many partners, and of course many blog posts that I’m totally unable to write on the matter (!). However, it’s a remarkable achievement and very much to the credit of HOF: their Board for a supportive, clear vision and ongoing engagement in the project; a wonderful project leader (step forward, Colette Wilson), a massive level of ambition from all the partners that this would be a high-water mark and reference for them all; and finally immense amounts of good will and common endeavour from the parties.

With the launch now receding in the rear view mirror the adrenaline’s subsiding and the ongoing questions of performance improvement and site development come to the for. Welcome to eCommerce!

InCirculation – Monetisation Model article

I was pleased to be asked to write a column for InCirculation Magazine on the “monetisation model” that I’d developed with Craig Hanna of e-consultancy. We’d been engaged by one of the UK’s leading publishers to work with their senior teams to incorporate digital revenue streams into their daily activities. This model was the result – a workshop-based approach that takes a structured approach together with brainstorming, forming and evaluative techniques.

Here’s the pdf archive of the article.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the Model, or the workshop/training programme it supports, please either contact me or Craig Hanna (Training Director) at e-consultancy.com.

“Cult of the Amateur” – Andrew Keen. Innovation Reading Circle: 05: Amateurism, culture and excellence

Congratulations to Nico Macdonald for another interesting Innovation Reading Circle, attended by Andrew Keen, the author of “Cult of the Amateur”.

Charlie Beckett of Polis has written a succinct review of the evening, noting in particular that Andrew blames the internet (and the undefined “Web2.0”) for:

pornography, gambling, death of quality literature and music, the death of newspapers, a celebrity-ridden, naricissistic culture, decline of democracy, end of the family

Charlie continues:

Unfortunately, for all the people who share these fears about the internet, at a seminar he told me that he doesn’t really believe his own work:

“I am not interested in abstract forms of justice, I am interested in building my brand as an author and a polemicist”

My own comment, posted on Charlie’s blog follows:

Good summary, Charlie, and I agree it was an interesting evening. My main disappointment with both the book and Andrew’s argument in person was the superficial level of the debate: as if the provocation alone equates to reasoned argument. For someone decrying the death of even-handed, quality investigative journalism the sweeping generalisations about the ills of the internet, the lazy characterisations of “Web2.0” and the inconsistencies (eg decrying Craiglist for undermining classified ad revenues while later decrying Google for creating an ad-funded business model) sadly masked interesting and important areas of consideration. What are appropriate and sustainable business models for ‘the Working Web’ (a better term that Web2.0 imho)? What can we learn from the ‘assault on standards’ occasioned by lowest-common-denominator TV, and to what extent does the anonymity and check-less state of the web reflect those trends? Isn’t it too easy to confuse ‘self expression’ with publishing, and therefore the anti-blog vitriol is largely pointless – tilting at windmills?

Overall, this book rather “stole my time”. While outspoken and purposely provocative views have their place in a soundbite interview or a networking event in the valley (“Gee, isn’t that Brit an eloquent firebrand?” etc), when put in print I can’t see that it’s any different from the assertive, blinkered myopia of the extreme blogs Andrew so despises. Clearly, other authors less immediately concerned with the splash they can make will need to reflect more fully on the important topics that Andrew jogs past in his climb up the Amazon sales ranks.

That said, he seems to be enjoying himself. Maybe he should blog 😉

Spiked! “What next for humanity” survey

spiked | What next for humanity?

This is a nice project from Spiked! (and makes a change from the risk-worry-related events of the last year or two). A forward-looking, fun and wide-ranging set of views on the ‘future of 2024’.

There’s such a broad range of views that it’s difficult to synthesise, so I won’t even try: skim the site for some interesting thoughts. If we were talking politics we’d call this extensive consultation, the Big Talk or such tosh. Bravo to Spiked! for calling it a survey 😉

Here’s one summation worth quoting:

To sum up so far, in the words of television producer Paul Marquess’ contribution on new trends in broadcasting, ‘And where will that all lead? Haven’t got a clue. But it could be interesting.’