Leopard Support Still Pretty Spotty

Here is the next installment in my Leopard upgrade woes saga.

I spent most of Sunday morning searching around for any resolution on the Apple support site and the Internet in general. Found lots of people having the same problem, a few that had no problem at all, but nothing by way of solid solution. One thing that seemed to work for a few folks was to select an install option that only did a base install, no additional fonts, printer drivers, X11, etc. I thought if I could get at least that far it would suit my purposes. So I initiated this bare-bones install and it proceeds without a hitch. Just as I am about to declare victory (within 2 minutes of completion), I am rewarded with this gem:

The source media you are installing from is damaged.
Try installing from a different copy of the source media or contact the manufacturer for a replacement.

Again, this is so not what you want to see after the install program spent 45 minutes ‘validating’ that the install media was good before it initiated the install.

Right. So still a few hours before the AppleCare phone lines open, I thought of another way to test out the media. I put the G5 that I was trying to update into Firewire target mode (hold down T while the system is booting) and ran the install media from the Intel Duo that I had successfully updated on Friday. Of course this won’t work to produce a viable boot image on the G5, but it should tell me 1) can I complete another install on the G5 using the same media and 2) is there some hardware component on the G5 that is hampering the install. I am beginning to suspect the DVD drive or possibly the hard drive itself. However, running the most current version of Apple’s recommended diagnostic tool TechTool Deluxe repeatedly on the G5 showed no errors or warnings of any sort. The target mode install was successful, but as I stated previously, would not yield a bootable G5 because of the cross architecture install (Intel->PPC). I am now more confident that the media is not the issue.

After killing time trying various options until the AppleCare support line opened, it was time to open another call on my existing case with Apple. After sitting on hold for 47 minutes (noted from the call timer on my phone) I finally get a live person. I gave him my case number and he went away for about 8 minutes to read the case notes to date. Then he comes back on and it faltering English, reads back the notes to me and asks me if they are correct. Of course they are. When I ask what the next step was he put me on hold again for 4 minutes, came back on the line and asked me if this was something to do with installing Leopard(!). Sigh. Yes. Well, then, I would need to speak with a product specialist. I then get dumped into another call queue. Where I sit for another 48 minutes without even so much as a ‘call volumes are high’ message. At one hour on hold, I grab the other phone and call back in to AppleCare on line 2. After 36 minutes on hold, someone answers on line 2 (still nothing on the specialist queue). They review my case notes and ask what the product specialist advised. I told them that I didn’t know because I am still still on hold now for just shy of 2 hours waiting for a product specialist. I request that this case be escalated because this is now the fifth time I have called. I am told ‘there is nothing that can be done’. I ask for a supervisor and am told that is not possible either. So this is what you get for premium support?

After three hours and 12 minutes on hold a ‘specialist’ answers the line. She (yet again) reads the case notes back to me and asks a few questions. Then she wants all of the serial numbers off of the spindle of the DVD disc, product numbers and other details off of the box. I suspect part of this was to try to determine if I was using some kind of bootleg install media. At this point she proclaims that it is probably the install media. I remind her of the test that I had conducted and the successful install I had on the Intel box. Silence on the other end of the phone. I even pointed out to her that the DVD drives were the same base unit (PIONEER DVD-RW) with different firmware. She then asks me to go into system profiler and tell her what the DVD drive specs where. Sigh. I reminded her that I had just given her that information literally 10 seconds ago. I am then instructed to go to the nearest Apple store and give them the case number and they will give me a new set of media (ie she is not investigating the drive angle at all). I ask what I need to take with me to the store (a 30 minute drive) the G5? the install disc? serial numbers? No, I am told, you just need the case number.

On to the Apple store in the mall. I walk to the back of the store to the Genius Bar. No one behind the bar dares make eye contact. I see three employees standing around shooting the breeze, so I approach the group. One of them asks if I need anything. I explain my situation, reference the case number and that I was sent here to get replacement install media for Leopard. He wrinkles his nose, stares at his shoes and says ‘we don’t do that here’. WTF! After I press him, clearly losing my patience, he goes back to the Genius Bar and talk to some peachfuzz, who glances up at me slightly, shrugs his shoulders and the other guy motions me over. Starts asking me questions about when and where I bought my G5. I cut him off and try to focus him on the fact that AppleCare support sent me here to get new media because they think it is the cause of the install failure (and now dead Mac). Oh, you want a copy of Leopard? We can get you one, if you give us the old media back. WTF! I asked explicitly about this and was told that I didn’t need to bring the old media.

Sensing my growing frustration he offers to have me speak with the manager. She tells me (prophetically) ‘service and sales are different organizations, we can’t give you anything without getting the old media first’. I explain that AppleCare assured me that I didn’t need to return the media and that if I buy a second copy it leaves them open to refusing to accept it as a return because it would have been opened. She offers ‘but you’ll have a case number’. I point out that I have a case number now and it does seem to be buying me much. Blink. Blink blink. Nothing, she just stares at me.

I tell both of them, that I have the G5 in the car — can I just bring it in and see if the new disc installs (so we can eliminate that canard in the support process)? Uh, yes, if I buy a copy of Leopard because ‘service doesn’t have their own copy’. What! Why would I buy one when I was supposed to get a replacement for free. Her logic was: I could buy it and if the install worked I could return it and if it didn’t work, then I could return it. I pointed out that if the end result was that I was going to return it, why did I have to buy it to begin with? Apparently, she was so desperate to get credit for a sale she would stoop to hatching such a farcical scheme. She was saved from certain death by the guy who I originally talked to. He said jumped in and offered ‘Look, let me talk with the guys in the back and see what we can do’. Meanwhile the ‘manager’ is just standing there, saying nothing, doing nothing. Blink. Blink.

I haul the G5 in from the car, through the mall, back to the Bar. I sit for about 15 minutes, then they finally get to me in the ‘standby’ queue. The three names before me were apparently no-shows. So the guy behind the Bar starts asking me about the issue. But wait; here comes the guy who was the third name on the list. While he is still three feet away from the counter, he pulls his iPhone out of his pocket and launches it in a clean arch in front of him, clattering to a stop on the bar top in front of him. Bar guy cheerily says, ‘I guess I’ll deal with you both at the same time…’ iPhone boy sneers at him ‘No, finish what you are doing so you can focus on my issue, this is the third f**king time I have been here…’ Bar guy suggests that iPhone boy talk to the manager (blink, blink) and goes off to wrangle her into what is shaping up to be at least her second near-death experience of the day.

Bar guy returns to me and I cover what the issue is, give him the case number and reiterate that I am here because AppleCare thinks the issue is the install media. After he hears the parts about the successful installs on the Intel box and the Firewire target install, he just shakes his head and says ‘its not the install media’. He tells me, ‘we will install from the service copy of Leopard that we have — you don’t have to buy another copy’ as he sweeps the Leopard retail box (that the manager had thoughtfully left for me) off the counter. Hmm, ‘service copy’ — didn’t Blinky just tell me they didn’t even have one of those? Liar.

Initial diagnostics appear to point to the volume layout on the disc. He tells me that they can ‘see bits and pieces of all of the install attempts that I had made and that was probably what was causing the problem. WTF! In the course of trying to get the install to work, I had re-partitioned the drive several times. It anything was left directory-wise after that, I would be amazed. Anyway, they think they have the directory and partition sorted out and they are going to do the install of Leopard. An hour or so later we return and are told it will take another 45 minutes or so for the install to wrap up. Unfortunately, we need to leave to pick up my daughter. As much as I would like to take the G5 home, I am out of time. I make arrangements to pick it up first thing on Monday morning.

Before we even get home, the Apple store had left a message saying that they had found some other hardware issues and need to order parts (disc drive among them). Might be until Wednesday until the unit is ready. From 45 minutes to 3 days is quite a variation in estimate. In any case, it sounds like they are on to something. Hopefully, I have a working, upgraded Leopard-toting G5 sometime this week. So the Apple store manager was right, sales and service are different — sale’s only concern is making a buck, service is there to keep the customer happy. I am waiting for my day to be happy about Apple customer service.

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2 Replies to “Leopard Support Still Pretty Spotty”

  1. Ace: That is ultimately what ‘fixed’ the install on my G5. The Apple store had my system for over a week, replaced the hard drive, DVD and finally the (Apple supplied) RAM. Only when the RAM was replaced did the install succeed. Which led to my other post asking why Leopard is so hard on RAM.

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