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Slowly recovering...

May 4, 2006


I use to keep a record of the what I did last year that I am the most happy about. I don’t know about last year but I definetively know what the biggest mistake was: Moving to It has been a continuous irritation due to the way it managed to slow the whole system down.

Three days ago the hard disk died. No early warnings it happened instantly when hitting the “Get Mail” button in I know I might be over-sensitive and superstitious but I have had it with Since installing Mail it has been writing more or less constantly to and from the disc whenever it was open even if I was not doing anything but keeping it in the background. The disk was three years old and it has been pushed hard all along the way so it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise but earlier on I have always got some signals about disasters about to happen so that I could take precations. Not this time. Below is a partial record of what I have been doing to recover in case I might need it again:

Changing disk.

The disk was no longer able to mount and I was not able to boot from it. So I had to change it. I had a similar fairly new and unused disk laying around. Instructions for how to change the disk were found here.

Installing OSX on new disk.

Reformatted the disk and started installing. The OSX 10.400 installer tended to crash midway through the installation. It turned out that the laptop went to sleep while installing(!). To avoid that I had to keep it awake by moving the installer window around every now and then. This might have been caused by me zapping PRAM and resetting PowerBook and iBook Power Management Unit (PMU) beforehand. I also made sure to install X11.

Once installed I also installed Xcode and uodated everything to latest version.

Data recovery

This took me two days. I had a FireWire hard drive box that I could mount the disk in and borowed a 3.5" to 2.5" IDE bridge from Marieke (thanks!). The disk was in such a bad shape that it did not seem to make much sense to try to repair it. Disk Utility saw the disk but reported it to be in a very bad state (some S.M.A.R.T. failure) and Disk Warrior was not able to deal with it.

The most important obviously would be to get the data of it and then throw it away. I had stumbled across Data Rescue II a few weeks ago. I first attempted rescuing data using the assistant mode but that did not work out well. The disk tended to stop functioning after a while. I also tried to clone the disc. That did not work either. What did work out in the end was using Expert Mode doign a quick scan and than recover small part of the data at a time by dragging to Finder while holding the disk in my hand and turn and tilt it whenever it stopped working. At the moment it seems to be fairly happy about lying sideways on top of the power supply for the laptop. Maybe it is picking up some good electro-magnetic vibrations from the transformer?

Along the way I also went out to pick up an extra FireWire disk ending up with a LaCie Mini disk. If I had not been in such a hurry this model would be even better providing a bigger disk and additional FireWire and USB connections but I was on Mission Desperate. Now I only need a Mac Mini to put on top of it.

Getting rid of

I am now going to give Thunderbird a thorough ride. If you never hear me complaining it has turned out to work well and I will never look back at Here is how to do the transition:

As of OSX 10.400 saves every single mail as a separate .elmx file so that they can be spotlighted. Thunderbird can’t import this proprietary format but a workaround do exist and it is fairly trivial. The emlx to mbox Converter does exactly that. I converted one folder at a time. The conversion tended to hang if I dropped to many mails on it a time (some of my mail folders have more than 20.000 mails) so I dropped them in portions of 1000-4000 mails at a time until I had gotten all of the folder content into the converter. The convertion itself was straightforward. More details on importing in Thunderbird can be found here. Searching around the net some blog posts seemed to indicate that attachmnents would be lost in the process. As far as I can see attachments seems to come through just fine so I believe that these posts are now dated refering to earlier versions.

The Mozilla Calendar is a plug-in working with Thunderbird and Firefox that syncs to iCal. Now mail and calendar are connected more tightly that they used to be with and iCal. iCal Thunderbird and Firefox now all stay synced but they will only update according to changes in other programs when they are started.

The Address Book was imported according to this OSX hint.