My MacBook took a major crap yesterday. It was working fine on Saturday, and then started having mysterious problems on Sunday morning. Problems like not being able to resolve DNS names, but connecting to things just fine by IP address. Problems like continuously trying to connect to an Apple file server at work and popping up a dialog every 30 seconds telling me it’s not available. Uh, Earth to MacBook — I knew that. What I couldn’t figure out was why it was trying to connect, since the disk was not mounted, no programs were open, and nothing I could find was trying to access that server. I think it may have been related to Time Machine because it seemed to stop when I turned that off.
Anyway, the other problem seemed to start around that time too, and this is one that really bothered me because it doesn’t make any sense. I could type a server name (any hostname) into any application and it would just fail, saying there was a DNS problem. In Terminal, typing “ping google.com” would fail to resolve, but using one of Google’s IP addresses would work. Running “dig pixin.net” (or any other name) would time out. BUT - here’s the good bit – tcpdump and Wireshark showed requests going out from the Mac and replies coming back! So it was getting answers but somehow just ignoring them. I suspected a problem with mDNSResolver, but it seemed to be fine. Restarting did not help. Clearing network settings did not help. Resetting the SMC and the NVRAM did not help. It was the same behaviour on both wired and wireless networks. On different access points. With multiple DNS servers.
Most of my life is on this MacBook. All of my music, ideas, samples, loops, beats, works in progress, all kinds of other stuff. A short film I edited and scored. All of my paid work stuff. Documents, pictures, iTunes library, everything. I wasn’t particularly worried because I do have backups, but not being able to work on my new track was frustrating.
I decided to restore from the Time Machine backup from Friday night. I knew the system had worked on Saturday so it seemed like a good bet. One erased disk and three hours later, it still didn’t work. And: DNS had worked fine in the Recovery console because it found the backup server, and I tested it in Terminal! So now I was really puzzled and frustrated, and to top it off, I discovered that one of my Native Instruments folders was not actually backed up (it was excluded), so now I had lost a bunch of my Massive and FM8 sounds that I had created. GRRRR.
Most of Sunday had passed by this point. I decided to try a full re-install of Lion, biting the bullet of reinstalling all my apps and reconfiguring everything. I let it install overnight. Thankfully, it WORKED. DNS magically works again. I spent most of today reinstalling Komplete, which is a 5+ hour monster of 13 DVDs plus downloadable updates and packs totalling about 100GB of software and samples, which I just cannot live without. All the important stuff is now reinstalled .. I think. I did lose some sounds, which sucks, but I think I can recover at least the ones I’ve used in projects because they’re stored in the Ableton Live project settings. And the rest, well… I’ll just have to come up with new and better sounds.
I’m thankful that this doesn’t seem to be a hardware problem, because logic boards are bloody expensive! Also, it was maddening but, really, this Mac has been pretty much flawless since I bought it over 2 years ago, so I probably shouldn’t complain too much. Plus the weekend was not a total loss as I had a great steak dinner and laughed my way through We’re The Millers (freaking HILARIOUS) with the lovely and talented Maven of Mayhem. See? Now you’re jealous.
So in the unlikely event that you wanted to know about my weekend, you’re welcome.