MAC ATTACK. True Story. Whatever do you do ? . .

October 2015. An evening, operating system, upgrade from Apple (Mac) OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 to 10.10.5 went well on the internal iMac hard (disk) drive. Until. It. Did. Not. Finishing-up and rebooting into the updated OS failed. Completely. What in the Hey (euphemism) is happening? Longer story shorter, the internal HD isn’t booting, at all. Failure to boot with an eerie silence as the usual HD booting sounds fail to happen. Black screen. Epic fail. Feeling the perspiration begin to rise through my epidermis as the immediate physical response to flee or to stand ground and face down the blooming realities of the catastrophic hardware defection occupy my immediate now. What to do?

Don’t panic.

I’m out of my routine competencies. Mac hardware repair demands a Mac hardware capable repairman. Who ya gonna call? TechMasters got the call. Nope, never used him before. Found him on the web. Kapiti local. Make contact, arrange drop-off (free pick-up available) and affirm promise of rapid assessment. Few days later, as agreed, Keith calls. And the news is doozy. Yup, your iMac HD is undamaged. What? Yup, the problem is a singular failure on the iMac mainboard. Specifically, the communications controller. Meaning, no internal HD access, no internal removable optical disc drive access, and no networking access by either wireless or plugin LAN socket (at the back of the iMac). Are you kidding me? Nope, sorry. Apple HQ in NZ never heard of it before you. Sigh. So you are telling me that my trusty iMac is good for parts? Yup. A new iMac mainboard from Apple is NZ$1,400.00. Wait, what? That’s twice what I paid for it! Apple don’t fix mainboards. Some PC repairers do, but you may or may not have any luck. None in Wellington do. Oh. Thanks Keith, appreciate all you’ve done including them secret Apple incantations at start-up to reawaken the non-responsive communications controller part. Pick-up is a frowny day and conversation is polite and avoiding. Good man that Keith. Nothing more he can do. Is this a parts machine now? Write-off? Buy another Apple PC? What do you do?

The Hero’s Journey or Monomyth :-}
Thinks. Hard. Re-examining the facts offers possibilities. Apple, officially, allows users to boot and depend upon external HD, just like the internal HD, using the USB, firewire and ports situated at the back of the iMac. (Unlike Microsoft who officially do not.) Check.

The unusable iMac internal removable media optical disc drive is, anyway, not in use these days because cd and dvd optical discs are rarely, if ever, used in my current, streaming (what is streaming media?) media, experience. Unlike when the iMac was originally made (2011). Thumb-drives and memory-sticks are, these days, favoured, using any of the available USB ports, to physically transfer (big) data and software among nearby physical storage devices. Check.

And, I do, fortunately, have access to an external Apple USB connecting removable media optical disc drive, originally acquired along with a Macbook Air (with no internal removable media optical disc drive), which is back-up if needs be. Never has and likely never will be needed.
Nowadays, modern iMac PC’s have deliberately excluded any internal removable media optical disc drive in favour of online content, streaming, delivery and using the USB and ports to connect any memory stick / thumb drive / external hard drive for data transfer. Just ask my Editor (who is a recent model Apple iMac PC user). Right, Ed?

Leaving the lack of networking, wired and wireless, to be, possibly, resolved.

Recapping. The iMac is in every other way operating fully. Add an external boot HD, which I happened to be using at the time of the iMac mainboard communications controller component failure (still am), and the iMac works good well, just like before the event. And have since added another external boot HD. That makes two. Yup, back in the game but without networking. On the substitutes bench then. Meaning zero Internet access and no webby goodness.

Accidental Inspiration

I slump into the chair opposite the boy tapping his Macbook Air keyboard and see that he has a USB adapter jutting out the side serving audio to his headphones. Why? Because the inbuilt headphone socket has failed physically from the in and out of everyday usage. Common he tells me and web-searching for the solution was easy. Many others with the same prob. The fix is to use a USB adapter and any supplier software that converts the USB port into a sound output port for the headphones where the adapter specifically accommodates the 3.5mm input jack from the headphone cable. As Apple aware readers will know, Apple is going to abandon the 3.5mm input jack from headphone cables in the immediately foreseeable future on incoming latest model Apple devices. The headphone jack port failure problem features among the iPhone user pain-points for hardware failure too.

[ Momentary aside. In fact, his iPhone 5 (now my iPhone 5 but not in use, yet) needs a fixing too. Headphone jack, on/off button, and home button. All failed and reason why he abandoned his iPhone in favour of a cheaper though similar specs, cheaper plan, Samsung mobile phone. Yes, the original two-year purchase and use iPhone contract was up and yes, he simply transferred his number to the newer phone. Aside complete. ]

The Aha Moment !

One last thing to, satisfactorily, resolve before we are back, fully, in the iMac game. Networking. Observing the USB headphone jack substitute for the Macbook Air suggested that, just like in the Windows PC reality, a similar solution may exist for the similarly afflicted Apple PC users. Web research, on a Windows 10 computer, delivered the update on USB compatible, wired and wireless, networking adapters availability for the Apple PC. Pickings are slim and Mac OS X version compatibility patchy. However, doable with attention to operating system version release and USB port availability and router, wireless comms, standards compatibility. I jumped and ordered an Edimax EW-7711MAC direct from the USA.

Edimax 5GHz EW-7711MAC wireless adapter pics. Tap the tiled images for the full-screen carousel of 13 images total including individual, captioned, display.

Edimax wireless adapter arrived and put to work. Not bad but not great. What is the prob? Compared to the, now non-functioning, Apple wireless network adapter included inside the iMac, performance data is patchy. Why? Standards. Know your router or router / modem standards. 5GHz is a fine standard for open wireless networking environments but performs poorly in closed spaces where floors, ceilings, doors, and walls obstacle the router and wireless adapter transmission and reception.

Solution? Edimax EW-7722UTn V2 2.4GHz (what’s the diff between 5GHz and 2.4GHz?) wireless networking adapter purchased here (price check).

Edimax 2.4GHz EW-7722UTnV2 wireless adapter pics. Tap the tiled images for the full-screen carousel of 12 images total including individual, captioned, display.

Good news. Problem solved, satisfactorily. Meaning, iMac PC is fully functional with wireless networking, external HD and the spare Apple external (by USB connection) removable media optical disc drive. So, back to running the iMac into the ground with use and time, until equipment failure do us part. Like the last iMac. Check.

Writing this true story, for you, on the disabled and now satisfactorily re-enabled iMac. Nice. Among you are those who may be curious about the stickier particulars of networking adapter hardware and software of non-Apple origin. Here’s the nitty-gritty. Edimax is the chosen manufacturing supplier of both of the wireless adapters trialed. OS X version compatibility can be limiting but Edimax wireless adapters support consecutive versions of Mac OS X from 10.6 (Snow Leopard), and earlier, to 10.11 (El Capitan). Having personally used both the Edimax wireless adapters on Snow Leopard (10.6.8) and Yosemite (10.10.5), the outcome is as promised by Edimax. Nice.

Edimax 5GHz versus Edimax 2.4GHz pics for the otherwise-didn’t-happen-crowd. Tap the tiled images for the full-screen carousel of 4 images total including individual, captioned, display.

One may learn many things, along the path, about wireless networking the Internet, some, that may serve you too. Beginning with SeniorNet Kapiti posts from 2013: Your Home Wireless set-up and Using WiFi at Home. And always for an on-ramp, and much relevant further reading linkage, to the invisible world of wireless networking technology, wireless adapter technology and wireless router technology.

Researching, at length, the seemingly bottomless knowledge pool of wireless adaptation technology while focusing on the particular problem at hand and labouring to filter the FYI, from the latest wireless networking software and hardware developments, from the opinion, from the, well, you-get-the-picture-by-now-don’t-ya, is fully informing and rather tiring. Gaps exist in my new found knowledge that will only be filled as demanded by the situation, meaning highly unlikely I shall become a wireless adapter expert on Apple devices. But never say never.

Distillation is challenging but here’s a few more, useful, references that offer plain English explanations and help you to assemble your own personal roadmap to wireless networking domination. 10 reasons your Wi-Fi speed stinks and what you can do about it.

One last reference to keep you in the loop with latest wireless networking communication standards. Beware the rabbit hole is deep and consuming.

At Journey’s End !

So here we are, January 2016, and my iMac continues to serve as if fully operational. It is. Malfunctioning contagion is absent and the described communications controller mainboard component meltdown is entirely contained. (And advantaging ourselves with the opportunity to reconfigure data and applications and backups and installs and everything on the external hard disk drives is super.)

And remember, the helpful volunteers at SeniorNet Kapiti are ready and able to help you unravel the mystery wrapped in an enigma and boxed in a whatever that is wireless networking β€” for your best world-wide-web, and local area networking, outcomes πŸ™‚

So where’s the catch? Perhaps the matter of instantaneous wireless connectivity is in doubt since the driver loads after the OS X is up and running along with any other on-load apps. Meaning recovery without Internet recovery access could be a problem for some afflicted users who have lost access to their OS X install / HD (internal / external) at boot-up time and have no other recourse available (i.e. time machine back-up, Apple’s recovery partition, Apple’s Internet recovery, and OS X clean install). Solution? Follow the Apple guide to prepare for that possible outcome for the OS X version(s) in-use (or, e.g. go here).

Anything else? Unlikely, for moi, as we are running everything off external USB connected HD’s including separate time machine(s) partitions and data partitions and keep full Yosemite installer .dmg and full Snow Leopard installer .dmg ready-for-use on the external HD. In all, adding up to three external hard disk drives and totaling several partitions. Sigh. Still we are, in fact, grateful to Apple for offering the external HD OS X boot-up feature (yes, Windows, looking, balefully, at you) and keeping the iMac in-full-use for the foreseeable future :-}

Last chance to grumble (mustn’t grumble, eh). Well, perhaps minor irritation at the unusable but perfectly good Apple parts stashed inside the iMac (500GB Hard Drive, Optical Disc Removable Media Drive, Airport Wireless Networking Device and LAN Wired Networking Port). Wired networking will need to be resolved in the same way as the wireless networking solution, if, ever, required, by the addition of another (Edimax) USB wired networking adapter. But that may yet be another story for another time. Will Would keep you posted but fear at the rate of previously published content missing in action you wouldn’t be able to refer to this primer to spectate any concluding update to the (Mac Attack) storm in a tech-cup. Ah well, so long and thanks for all your eyeballs.

There’s more, fluff, but my Editor says no. And he’s definitely certainly likely almost probably right. ‘Nuff said. :-}

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1 thought on “MAC ATTACK. True Story. Whatever do you do ? . .

  1. BoutiqueLife is Stuart. And my contribution to the boomer community of volunteers, who selflessly donate time and energy to help SeniorNet members and friends learn the ins and outs of technology together, is a collection of posts that may assist fellow boomers to gain more (knowledge and practical usefulness from your technology lifestyle. Your questions, queries, concerns, comments and contributions are invited and welcome. Do join the conversation and expand our horizons by learning technology together.
    Thank you :-}

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