OS X hangs on login to iTunes and App Store

I just picked up a MacBook Pro 2008 model and installed Mountain Lion. Everything appeared to be working okay so I upgraded to El Capitan to see how that looked. After the update, trying to login to iTunes or the App Store resulted in the spinning ball of uselessness. However, I was still able to login to Apple’s web site via Safari and Firefox, so I figured networking and firewall were non-issues.

Some research on Google directed and redirected until I ended up at http://rogersm.net/icloud-problems-mountain-lion-serial-number. Turns out this can be a common problem with machines that have been serviced, which can apparently wipe out the serial number stored in the firmware. The solution listed on that site worked like a charm. You can verify this is the problem by clicking on About This Mac from the Apple menu; if your serial number is blank or otherwise appears unavailable, you might give the utility a shot.

A couple of additional notes, however. For those that aren’t really Mac savvy or have been away a while, Disk Utility will work fine for this and can create the serial number utility on a USB memory stick. To accomplish this, start Disk Utility from Applications -> Utilities. Insert your memory stick and if any partitions mount, select the in the list and unmount them (don’t eject the memory stick). Once all partitions of the memory stick are unmounted, click on the memory stick itself and then Edit -> Restore. In the window that pops up, click Image and select the .dmg file described in the above article. Once everything is completed, you can reboot and try the serial number utility. Make sure you read the article completely, however, and that you absolutely use the correct serial number. There is no second chance…

MacBook 6,1 and 640 GB Hard Drive

After my recent memory upgrade to 8 GB, I received my hard drive upgrade. Going from 250 GB to 640 GB was intended to provide sufficient space for several virtual machines for development and other purposes. I first connected the 640 GB drive via USB and used Carbon Copy Cloner to image the system drive. I then physically swapped the drives inside the MacBook. However, one step that I neglected to consider was setting the 640 GB drive to be the boot drive. I had to boot the MacBook from the original drive via USB (thankfully, the MacBooks are capable of doing that) and use System Preferences to change the boot drive.

I now have a white, polycarbonate body MacBook (6,1 or late-2009 model, whichever you prefer) up and running with 8 GB RAM and 640 GB hard drive. Works great!

MacBook 6,1 (Late 2009) and 8 GB RAM

In looking to upgrade my MacBook to a more robust machine (capable of running several VMs without coming to a standstill), I wanted to get the maximum memory possible. Although Apple supports a maximum configuration of 4 GB, I found several references for the 2009+ MacBooks indicating that there was really no reason why the system couldn’t work with 8 GB total. Several users indicated that their machines were running fine this way and I decided that it was worth a 20% restocking fee to give it a shot.

I ordered item #CT2KIT51264BC1067 from crucial.com, which is a kit containing a pair of 4 GB, DDR3, PC-8500 memory sticks. These installed perfectly in the machine and resulted in OSX happily reporting 8 GB system memory available. I also have enough memory to comfortably support a Windows 7 or Ubuntu VM running with OS X rather than requiring me to halt all work except on the specific program I need on the VM.

A caveat: be very careful with the screws on the bottom cover. They are easy to lose (I’m short 1 now as I’ve had the cover off about 3 times). Also, although they appear to be standard Philips (+) screws, they are actually machined screws and you must be very careful with standard screwdrivers as they do not properly contact the screw slots. The correct screwdriver is available but costly, so I used a regular jeweler’s Philips screwdriver and a lot of care.

Next time: upgrading from the 250 GB drive to 640 GB (to make room for full-blown Windows 7 and Linux development  environments).

MacBook 6,1 and Linux Mint 9 (Ubuntu 10.04)

(If anyone knows how to get this added to the MacTel FAQ or other pages on Ubuntu’s site, let me know. I’ve had 0 luck trying to do so myself.)

Installation of Linux Mint 9 Isadora (or Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx) onto MacBook 6,1

(sole installation, DO NOT USE IF YOU WANT TO KEEP OS X and/or WINDOWS!!! Also, this is NOT for the MacBook Pro)

There is a lack of support for the MacBook 6,1 and Linux, I suppose due to the newness of the system. While some information from Ubuntu’s site is useful, I’ve found several things to be incomplete or in error. I have used the following procedure on a number of occasions to install Ubuntu and Linux Mint on my MacBook 6,1 with no problems at all. Please make sure you read the steps completely, though, and try not to take shortcuts. I’ve tried to document the procedure completely, but YMMV. Also, it’s your Mac in question and your responsibility, so if you’re not sure about something, leave Mac OS X installed.


– process begins with power off

– hold down C key and press power button

– immediately insert Linux Mint 9 CD; if apple logo and spinner are displayed, power off and start again (you might have to power down and back up with C held a couple of times)

– if screen stays white and CD spins up, wait about 30 seconds; Mint’s menu will eventually show up and you can release the C key

– select the top menu option or allow the 10 second timer to expire

– the Mint logo should appear; it might take up to 10 minutes or more for the system to boot into Mint completely and the system might appear to hang… be patient

– once the system is completely booted, you should eventually see a prompt for Restricted Hardware Driver availability

– click on the Hardware Driver icon, select the Broadcom device and click Activate; this process requires 3 to 5 minutes

– upon completion of the Broadcom device, don’t bother installing Nvidia’s driver yet

– go ahead and activate your wireless and connect to the internet (you may have to click the wireless icon in the panel and start the wireless 1 or 2 times before it works the first time)

– wait a few minutes and the system will probably prompt to download updates, which is probably for the best

– by performing the wireless steps during installation, the system updates and also stores the values you input, so the driver will load when your reboot after installing

– once updating is complete, click on the Install Mint icon on the desktop

– go through the normal installation process; when you reach the drive partitioning, the system should allow you to completely erase the existing partitions and either use the entire drive or make changes manually

– again, DO NOT USE THIS METHOD if you are planning to keep OS X and/or Windows; you will not like the results

– the system will run through the installation process and finally report completion

– after selecting Restart, the system will process through the normal shutdown procedure to the point where it ejects the CD

– after removing the CD, press and hold the power button for several seconds until the power is off (we’ll have to fix that problem later; it’s simple but requires a minor change)

Initial Configuration after Installation:

– turn the power back on

– the screen may stay blank for up to 30 seconds so be patient

– once the boot process begins, it is pretty quick and your system should be up and waiting for login within a minute

– the following steps should fix the problem that requires you to manually push the power button during shutdown or restart…

– use Menu ? Terminal and enter “gksu gedit /etc/default/grub” (without quotes); enter your system password if prompted

– find the line that says GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash”

– change the line to read GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash reboot=pci”

– double-check that you have correctly entered the above and have included the proper quotes

– save and then exit from gedit

– still in the Terminal, enter “gksu update-grub” (without quotes); you should see a few brief messages informing you that it found various files

Sound Configuration:

– my experience with both Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) and Linux Mint 9 is that the sound is actually muted in multiple ways when the system first boots; you can test the following method with the live CD prior to installation if you want to prove it works on your system

– start Firefox and browse to a radio station or play a media file that has a sound track of at least several minutes; start playing the track

– click Menu ? Terminal

– in the Terminal type “alsamixer” (again, without the quotes)

– use the left and right arrow keys to move to the Surround with MM above it and type M to unmute the surround

– now move to the right to the Surround that shows 00<->00 and use the up arrow to raise the volume until you can hear it

– you might need to tinker with the settings, but I had headphones working this same way; you can also change Front Sp(eaker) setting, but the sound quality doesn’t seem as good as Surround

– type ESC to exit; you can now control volume using the speaker icon in the panel and the volume control on most media player apps

– please try this method first; I used all of the other methods that were recommended and discovered this one completely by accident

Graphics Updating:

– use Menu ? Terminal to open a Terminal window and type “glxgears” (without quotes)

– every 5 seconds or so you’ll see an update showing the frame rate; my MacBook shows around 2900 frames in 5.0 seconds prior to updating the graphics driver

– in the panel, click on the hardware driver installation icon or click Menu ? Administration ? Hardware Drivers

– click on the Nvidia driver for version 173 and then click Activate; I’m activating the older version first as I’ve had some issues with going straight to the newer version

– this takes several minutes to activate usually so do something to help reduce your stress; remember, I’m doing this procedure as I go along on my system and everything is being typed on my MacBook under Mint 9

– when complete, the window will show the message “You need to restart the computer to activate this driver” near the bottom

– close everything down nicely and then restart the system; remember, you’ll have to manually power the system off so wait until the logo animation has stopped for at least 30 seconds and then press the power button for about 5 seconds or so

– when the system starts back up, the logo will appear different and you’ll hear the Mint(y) sound when the login appears

Graphics Confirmation and Current Version Update:

– run Menu ? Terminal and enter “glxgears” (without quotes)

– you should see an update in the Terminal every 5 seconds; my MacBook now shows approximately 14,300 frames every 5 seconds, about 6 to 7 times what it was prior to the update above (this is before we’ve changed anything at all on the Nvidia display configuration)

– now, repeat the step above to install Hardware Drivers, except we’ll choose the “version current” option this time; this procedure may take several minutes again

– when complete, close everything down nicely and restart the machine; the system should restart this time with no interaction from you

– run Menu ? Terminal and enter “glxgears” (without quotes)

– my system now shows about 16,300 frames every 5 seconds; YMMV

– if you’d like to tweak the video settings you can now do so using Menu ? Administration ? Nvidia X Server Settings

– I don’t really have any reason to touch these as everything is currently set to a value that works for me; the only point of interest is that my core temp is 54 C unloaded and rising through 92 C with glxgears running

– if temperature becomes an issue to you (as noted by discoloration of your white MacBook or through graphics slowdown), use Menu ? Terminal and issue the following command: “echo 3000 | sudo tee -a /sys/devices/platform/applesmc.768/fan1_min”; this sets the fan speed to 3000

– above 3500 or so, the fan is audible but doesn’t seem to be a problem

– this is a known issue with the drivers and will probably be corrected as more of the 6,1 MacBooks get into the right hands

See https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MacBook6-1/Karmic for more suggestions if you find things that don’t work; this guide didn’t really help me too much other than the reboot issue and the fan speed

MacBook 6,1 and Ubuntu 64-bit 10.04 (short version)

Looking to get Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) running on your MacBook 6,1? Calm down! Take a deep breath. Then, before you consult all the web pages on how to get sound working, follow these steps. This might not work for everyone but the steps are non-invasive and it won’t hurt anything to try this before moving on to the surgery-level steps that other blogs are recommending.

  • Go to the terminal and run alsamixer. Make sure no channels are muted and that all channels are turned up (probably above 60% or so is a good starting point). Especially make sure that the Surround channels are un-muted and turned up.
  • Install VLC and try playing back a media file (just about anything; VLC just works). Turn the volume up in VLC and in Ubuntu’s panel.
  • If all volumes are turned up sufficiently, you should already have sound and will not need to hack around installing Alsa and the other libraries that are mentioned on sites prior to April, 2010. I wasted many hours and was running Windows 7 (gasp!) until yesterday, when I decided to give Ubuntu a try again.

YMMV, feel free to comment if you’d like some details/screenshots of alsamixer.

Yes, I know Mac OS X is a very nice operating system. I bought the Apple MacBook for hardware quality and performance, not for the OS. My next trick is to see if OS X actually virtualizes properly now as indicated on some other blogs…