No, don’t find our Mac!: The saga of our latest iMac 27″ (late 2012)

For the first time in over 20 years, I find myself wondering if this is the last Apple Mac I will buy. Apple had been great to me until this iMac 27″ running Yosemite 10.10.1. My wife and I have been noticing the decline in quality of Apple products and services for a couple of years now but we have stuck with them, we were die-hards! My iPhone 5 suffered the stuck wake button as well as random, unexplained issues. Her iCloud documents were usually backups from prior revisions that would just show up and change right while you were looking at them load and sometimes….they were just gone like Keyser Soze! This iMac and/or Yosemite just made us realize that Apple might have just lost grip on quality assurance.

Before iCloud, things were really good. From the Quadras, PowerMacs, Powerbooks, to our trusted and revered late 2007 24″ iMac, I would say that aside some exceptions, Apple always delivered. Actually, the 24″ iMac it’s still rocking with Yosemite after years of continuous relocations and cross-country drives on car trunks. We also have a MacBook that we revived like Lazarus with a pair of tweezers on the motherboard after a significant accident where Mac met cup of water and they did not get along. It should be no wonder why we were so surprised when this iMac started acting up and kicked off our research and struggle. 

About 2 weeks ago my wife started mentioning about random freezes, crashes, and wi-fi disconnections that started happening on this Mac. We restarted and kept moving on until some days later we got the dreaded gray screen with the flashing question mark. Dang it!, we lost OS X! No big deal, we both have a habit of reloading our systems every now and then. Could it have been my custom Python installation? PostgreSQL? XCode command-line tools? Armed with “no disc” and patience, we started Disk Utilities and formatted our disk and proceeded with the Yosemite re-installation.

Everything went smooth as we are used to and added our first login, our iCloud account. Mac was happy and when we launched Safari…we get that spinning beach ball that somehow doesn’t blend anymore with the minimalism of the OS look. Of course we went: “anh, it’s probably catching up and doing it’s thing“…but it never came back. WTF, disk had no errors and installation went smooth..WTF. It must have been a glitch we said, let’s be on the safe side and redo the whole thing again since we have backups. Repeated everything and the silly beach ball again. Now we think our drive went bad so ran the 80’s Atari-looking Hardware test (boot with ‘D’) and ran Disk Utility and everything said our iMac was perfect. Perfect to throw away is what we determined.

Half a day goes by and we start hitting the web to find possible answers. Forums and Apple Support are full of poor, lost hordes of users like us who can’t get straight answers and no help from Apple on such forums. We are all collaborating, finding our own answers and essentially troubleshooting blindly. The issues described range from updates gone wrong to subtle differences on Apple releases across the years. In other words, no one knows!

Tonight, we have a working Mac and want to share what we have done thus far to get it going again and then we will undo the changes one by one to be certain of whatever is plaguing some iMacs like ours out there. So, here are our troubles from the beginning until what we think finally fixed it:

January 3, 2015 | STATUS: Dead

  • Reformatted and re-installed Yosemite 3 times
  • Disabled Safari from iCloud Drive per an online search
  • Gave up for the night

January 4-5, 2015 | STATUS: Crashing

  • Disabled handoff due to reports of hangs on Finder:
    Apple > Preferences > General:
  • Disable handoff
    Disable handoff
  • Created a local account, removed the iCloud one.
  • Console log has an enormous amount of errors about a process called lsuseractivityd
  • lsuseractivityd has virtually no information on the man page:Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 8.06.24 PM
  • We give up for the day since the information above is soooo detailed. However, we realized that now we are hitting something.

January 6 2015 | STATUS: Alive for minutes, mostly dead

Through online research we found a developer who reported Safari crashing on a Yosemite developer seed that had a Safari issue that was hounding him. The issue sounded very similar to ours so we performed the following commands at the Terminal after making sure Safari wasn’t running:

rm -rf ~/Library/Caches/com.apple.Safari/Cache.db
defaults write com.apple.Safari ShowFavoritesUnderSmartSearchField 0
defaults write com.apple.Safari NewWindowBehavior 1
defaults write com.apple.Safari NewTabBehavior 1

The post also reported an issue with the glassy transparency effects on Safari and the dock that would cause the freezes on that Yosemite version. What the hell, we’ve come this far, let’s do it also:

Disable transparent effects
Disable transparent effects

We left Safari and Activity Monitor running overnight and went to sleep. Safari had stayed running the longest period since this issue and we were optimistic. The devil was gonna get caught!

January 7 2015 | STATUS: Briefly dead, now alive!

We woke up to the miracle of a running iMac and a culprit in red on Activity Monitor:

com.apple.geod Not Responding

The process was killed and all of the sudden the Wi-Fi icon has the letter “k” in front of each SSID. Quickly we launched Safari, it crashed and hung the iMac. We were now on the right path! A relationship between Safari and this location service process.

An Apple discussion forum states that this is common when network is disabled or offline. That is incorrect, we ensured nothing went to sleep and we have two other Macs on with Yosemite that do not show this problem. This service is now officially buggy in our late 2012 iMac.

Sadly, to get away from the effects of that plugin, we had to disable websites trying to get location information from Safari:

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 8.33.27 PM

Then, my wife had an epiphany and disabled Find my Mac on our iCloud settings via the iCloud website to ensure nothing was using any kind of location service. One final restart later and now I am writing this post on our iMac via Safari. Let’s see if tomorrow it is still working…woo-f’n-hoo!

Meanwhile, my Ubuntu laptop at work is rock solid and impressing me right now. Funny how those Linux basement kids seem to be winning on this right now. Apple….you have to go back to your Jobs-era ways.

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