Another self inflicted wound

Shot off my foot.

I was working on some scripts which I will use on some other people’s macs (my wife has a new macbook air, and there is another friend I need to do this for also). These are bash scripts to be run from the terminal, and are supposed to set them up so I can help them from afar. One of the things the script does is create a user for me to use. I guess I was kinda “practicing” the transfer of the script via email, and I thoughtlessly ran the script on my macbook. Oops.

It tried to create a user dee with command line tools, and there was already a user dee. This was in El Capitan (the latest my ancient macbook will run), and there seemed to be no safeguards against idiocy. It seemed to foul things up. I rebooted, user dee was hidden — it was partly the new one, partly the old one, it wanted to “repair” the keychain, but couldn’t. There were a bunch of question marks in the dock. It couldn’t run anything. It was a mess. I was able to get up under a different username, and I was able to make a good backup. But I couldn’t recover. So then, from this hole I was in, I started to dig myself in farther, aiming (so it seems) for the center of the earth.

Eventually I decided to reinstall Mac OS X using cmd-R, It whirled and spun, and eventually said, “no packages eligible for install” or something. If I had been smart, I probably would have looked harder at this message and done more research, because eventually this problem ended up being the one which had to be fixed. But not me, I kept on digging.

After trying several more times, I eventually got to the point where among the other reasons it wouldn’t install it said there was not enough disk – signalling that it had downloaded the installer onto the disk, thus using up a bunch of space, and couldn’t download it again.

So I erased the disk with disk utility. This was probably a bad idea, but I was trying to see how many bad ideas I could string together at one time. It still wouldn’t install, and now I had parted company with the only working OS X I had in the house.

Then I tried some more things, like installing onto another usb 3 disk (nope); and I tried using the El Capitan installer it had downloaded, and using the terminal app in the recovery partition to run the “createinstallmedia” app out of the Resources of the installer which had been downloaded, hoping to make a new install disk out of the usb 3 disk. It wouldn’t do that either. It said the El Capitan installer which it had just downloaded from the App store didn’t look like it was an OS X installer. What?

This macbook was at one time running ubuntu (at one point I got very angry with Apple, and punished them by installing ubuntu on the Macbook Pro. Boy did I show them! Take that Apple!) but I had eventually gone back to OS X six or eight months ago by installing from an OS X El Capitan install disk. I remember building that disk using that trick of the createinstallmedia app inside the Installer’s Resources, and it had worked then. I knew vaguely what I had done, but I couldn’t find whatever media I had done it with, so I was thinking I’m probably going to have to start over, and do the whole thing again, but I don’t have an El Capitan installer.

I looked around and I didn’t seem to be able to get one from Apple – at least I couldn’t figure out how – by now I was in a sort of single-minded frenzy, digging myself in deeper, and too busy digging to stop and think. There are various websites out there which are happy to let me download an El Capitan installer from them, but I am more than a little suspicious of getting an OS installer from some random website. I can’t get the OS X installer from the App Store, because (even if it is available there – and I don’t know if it is) I don’t have another Mac around with which I can log in to the App Store. Aargh. I tried using itunes on the Windows 10 box, I did an update and it says this is the latest iTunes, but “the item you’ve requested is not currently available in the U.S. store. I also tried the App Store with my iPad, but no joy there.

Eventually I found something to download from Apple, and downloaded it, but I needed a USB stick to move it from one place to another – grabbed a random USB stick, and inserted it, intending to erase it and, what do you know, this USB stick is an El Capitan installer – must be the stick I used to install this thing half a year ago. Hah! What luck.

Went back to the macbook, clutching my prize USB stick, booted with option, picked the stick, install onto that disk there… and… now we are back to “no packages eligible for install.” What! I installed El Capitan from this ery vusb stick onto this very disk drive in this very macbook pro less than a year ago! What can have changed?

The date, that is what changed. Now I did what I should have done several hours ago – I went and looked up that message, and there are various things out there suggesting that the installer is sensitive to date.

I set the date back to 2017, and it installed fine.

I’m hoping that my foot will eventually grow back.