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September 4, 2003

A Crashintosh Fix

Posted by Mike on September 4, 2003 9:54 PM

Been a while since a Mac post, so here's one:

Jon Udell has a column up about Mac flakiness, specifically when he changes the network under which his Powerbook is operating. The engineers at Apple haven't quite figured out how to keep OS X from going into a screaming tailspin when a Samba share disappears out from under it. It took me about two weeks of crashing my iBook when I first started taking it on campus to figure out what was up and come up with a solution:

The problem seems to be related to some hidden level of complexity under the Mac surface. Sure, you can tell it to dismount a network share, but it doesn't seem to ever give up a belief that the server that share came from is out there lurking somewhere. So I created a network location entitled "Nowhere" that handles the job of shutting down all the network interfaces "officially," so the Mac gives up its belief that secretly it's supposed to still be connected to that Samba share somewhere. This beats dismounting shares one by one, because it will handle multiple shares at once, and it seems to be more thorough than a simple "drag to the garbage can."

The way to do that is to hit the Apple menu, pull up "Network Preferences" under the "Location" menu, select "New Location" under the "Location:" pulldown, and create a "Nowhere" location. Under the "show" dropdown, select "Network Port Configurations" and uncheck each of the interfaces (ethernet, airport, and modem).

Selecting the "Nowhere" location has the net effect of turning off all network interfaces, which in turn causes OS X to perform an orderly and complete detach of any open shares. At least, that's the way it has worked in my experience. Since adopting the "Nowhere" location, I've cut my crashes and hard-locks from a few a week to never (when it comes to changing networks). (Quick added note: It helps, by the way, to switch to "Nowhere" before you shut down and move, not after you're peered up with a new network.)

This doesn't all go toward the substance of what Jon has to say about how much we let Macinbigots get away with ignoring the ever-increasing stability of Windows. Having run WinXP Pro on a fairly consistent basis for a few months now, I'm happy to admit that it's much less squirelly than Windows 9x or ME ever managed (even on the day of a fresh install). Apple isn't in a position to rest on its laurels yet, even if I don't think I'll ever like a notebook more than I like my iBook in terms of sheer "pack up and go and expect it to work" simplicity.


Superb. The hint of the year. I've bitched for a year about OS X's awful handling of SMB shares -- like Jon Udell I find OS X is LESS reliable than XP, though like him I stress OS X more than XP.

I am DEFINITELY going to try this, and put a usenet post up as well.

Posted by: John Faughnan at September 5, 2003 4:40 AM

So OS X is less reliable than XP? Go and try some Web Application Development and learn how an integrated browser (IE) can make fun with crashing down the whole system while the OS X Kernel would just kill the process and go on without thinking about it anymore...

Posted by: Anonymous at September 8, 2003 8:47 AM

So OS X is less reliable than XP?

Posted by: mph at September 8, 2003 4:25 PM

Awesome tip. Thank you.

Posted by: Scott Johnson at September 8, 2003 8:05 PM

Great idea and really nicely written up too.

".. but it doesn't seem to ever give up a belief that the server that share came from is out there lurking somewhere."

Wonderfully worded.

Posted by: Maggard at September 9, 2003 11:21 PM

I connect to SMB shares all day long on my PowerBook, and never have this problem as I always log out at the end of the day, or if I move to another location. Logging out is just as effective as this. In my experience anyway.

Posted by: Anonymous at September 24, 2003 11:56 AM

Well, logging out is a way to do it, but it's peskier if you have a lot of junk to load at login. I get tired of waiting for my chat, ssh-agent, pilot daemon, and everything else to launch. Since I move between networks at least twice and sometimes three times a day, I prefer the two seconds it takes to toggle "Nowhere" to sitting through three or four logins (especially since my ssh-agent wants a password every time it starts).

Posted by: mph at September 24, 2003 12:00 PM

I don't seem to have this problem. Is it only on laptops with SMB shares and lots of moving around?

I'm on a desktop, lots of SMB shares (red-hat, sun, windows) but rarely log off, shut down or restart. However I do trash my connections when not in use.

I do have a unique way of connecting to my shares quickly and easily.

There's a folder in my home folder called servers. I have a shortcut (excuse me, alias) of the server in there. I then drag it to my dock and/or window toolbar (so as, not to get that pesky question mark when the server is not mounted).

This makes it easy to get back to the server and less likely to keep it mounted constantly. If the network hick-ups (or whatever) no beach-ball : )

Thanks for the tip though. That could come in handy in certain situations.

Posted by: Deal at September 24, 2003 2:40 PM

I use this technique for our home iMac; it starts up much quicker when it doesn't bother checking for network services.


Posted by: Harry at October 16, 2003 3:17 AM

They finally fixed all these problems in Panther. Now when it loses the network to a share it gives you the opportunity to disconnect immediately. I have yet to see any crashes from SMB use.

Posted by: Sam Pullara at November 16, 2003 2:58 PM