Rebuilding My Macbook Pro

I’ve been quiet here lately. After the trip to Mexico, I took some time off to unwind and enjoy the family unit, and I decided to bite the bullet and do a clean install of OS X as the final attempt to resolve the wifi issues that have plagued me for 18 months.

Prior to the Mexico trip, I took the 10.8.3 update, just on the off-chance that would fix the problem.

It didn’t, and actually, it made life a lot worse.

Right after the update, I couldn’t even launch Chrome. After some digging and experimentation, I discovered that playing any audio caused the coreaudio service to go nuts, maxing out the CPU and running the fan very loudly.

So, I spent my trip tap-dancing to avoid that problem.

Upon my return, I invested in a 2 TB network backup drive and took a full backup (more on that in a minute) to prepare for the rebuild.

After a few days, I’m about 90% back to normal, and so far, no wifi drops. The audio problem also resolved, and I’m able to install the new VPN client that previously (and mysteriously) failed.

Everything seems to be good, fingers crossed.

The one major coda is that I’ve lost the local WordPress install I did about a year ago when I migrated off Posterous.

Since my wife got pregnant, I’ve kept a journal for my daughter to document events in her life. Seemed like a good idea. I started on Posterous, then moved to a local install when they were acquired by Twitter.

I decided to use MAMP to run WordPress locally so I could control all the services. When it came time to install MAMP again, I recovered the old WordPress files and prepared to import the old MySQL database. For the unfamiliar, WordPress stores all its content in MySQL tables; if you have those database files, you’re good. If you don’t, you’re hosed.

MAMP installs itself into a directory within Applications, where it keeps the MySQL database files.

However, when I headed into Time Machine, I didn’t see anything in Applications. I couldn’t even open the directory.


After a few hours of Googling, I finally broke down and called Apple Care, and after about an hour of support from two techs, both very helpful, I am hosed.

It turns out that Time Machine will only do full OS backups to Time Capsules over a network connection, not to third party, network-connected drives. I found this out from the senior tech at Apple Care; Time Machine didn’t alert me to this fact, so I mistakenly assumed I had a full backup.

Update: Tim’s comment has prompted me to clarify my statement. Time Machine’s restriction is that it won’t do full OS backups over a network connection to third party drives. 

I specifically avoided getting a Time Capsule because of its history of hardware failures, but to be fair, recent models seem to have fixed those issues.

Unfortunately now, I’ve lost about a year’s worth of journal entries. I did have the foresight to take an export from Posterous, salvaging some content, but all the entries after I migrated are lost for good.

That is unless some WordPress expert can correct my understanding of where the content lives.

I’m not angry, just sad that I’ve lost the record of some big events in my daughter’s life like her first steps, holidays, family visits, parties, etc. Luckily, all the pictures and videos from those events were backed up, so it’s not a total loss.

Actually, I’m really sad, but that will pass. Unfortunately now, she’ll have to rely on my terrible memory for that stretch of time.

Retracing the steps of how I got here is a bit funny.

I used a free service, which was probably the first mistake. That service was bought and shuttered, so I migrated to a local solution, assuming that my backup strategy would preserve the data. That assumption was flawed, but only because of a hardware choice.

Technology is hard, so be safe out there.

Find the comments.




  1. Yikes!

    What doesn’t Time Machine backup if you use a 3rd party drive?

    Important stuff goes on to my desktop and NAS, but I have a backup drive with me when I travel. Question now is, do I really have a backup drive with me? 🙁



  2. @Tim: Sorry, to clarify:

    Time Machine does backup to third party drives.

    TM can do full OS backups to third party drives that are directly connected to your machine, e.g. via USB or Firewire.

    TM can do full OS backups to Time Capsules over a network connection.

    TM won’t (dependably) do a *full OS backup* over a network connection to third party drives. This was my setup 🙁

  3. Phew! Thanks for the clarification. I was just having a Google frenzy and getting nowhere fast. 🙂

    Sorry about your loss etc. Regarding the WordPress thing, if you don’t have the MySQL database, then as you said, you are hosed. 🙁

    I tend to keep physical and logical backups of my MySQL stuff. I do the logical stuff using mysqldump.

    mysqldump –user=root –password=mypassword mydatabase > mydatabase_backup.sql

    (mysqldump has a bunch of other options)

    Once you get things going again you might want to consider putting something like that in place as a belt-and-braces type thing. I know it’s closing the stable door after the horse has bolted… 🙁



  4. @Tim: Yeah, important clarification, sorry for the freak out moment.

    I’m taking a few days to let the emotion go, and then I’ll ponder new options. I may entertain non-blog options, given that I can’t do network backups, or maybe go back to an attached drive.

    Dunno, the wound is too raw to think straight right now.

    On a lighter note, will you be in Denver next week? If so, see you there.

  5. Hi Jake – sorry you lost your log, that’s bad news 🙁

    I keep a diary too, but use a PC. I’ve use a free tool called SyncBack from 2BrightSparks to back up MySQL via a local XAMPP install, and then do periodic dumps of the diary tables into a .sql file for paranoia’s sake.

    Like Tim said, I guess these are strategies for after-the-horse-has-bolted. If your data was on the web I suppose you might have got something back via google cache which I used recently to get back content from a site that died during a WordPress upgrade botch.

    Hope you feel better soon re. the loss of your journal, hopefully you’ll be able to piece together things using your photos and videos…

  6. @Jim: Thanks dude. I’m pondering new strategies and plan to get back on the horse soon. Appreciate the tips.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *