Bootstrapping a User out of a Panther

Gather round, children, it’s story-telling time. I bring you a strange and terrible tale of Mac OS X, Unix and recalcitrant Apple computers.
When I’m visiting with my parents, it’s often time for a little Apple System Administration. Ultimately, it was me who brought them on the internet and on Apple computers. Discarded ones from me in the most cases. This time around it was time for my dear mom to migrate her user account off the old but still stylish iBook G3 to a “new” PowerMac G5. Easy job, I thought. I’ll just put the laptop in Target Disk Mode, link it up to the PowerMac with FireWire, then use Migraine Assistant to pull her user account onto the new machine. Little did I know.
First of all, after more than a decade of service, the hard-drive in the iBook G3 was a bit flakey, it seemed. It would go into Target Disk Mode, it would mount from the PowerMac G5, but the Migration Assassin wouldn’t see content on it.
Next try was hooking the two computers up with a patch cable. Thanks to an auto-sensing Ethernet Port on the PowerMac, they soon were on an ad-hoc network. The program spoofed above could have worked over this connection as well, IF it had had a counterpart on the laptop. Apple Mac OS X 10.3 was what was on the iBook G3, and it was never upgraded. No Migration Assistant on there! The PowerMac G5 is as high up in the hierarchy of Apple OS-es as it’s PPC processors will allow, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. There was one silver lining to the gathering dark cloud, though. The content of both hard-drives was visible over the ad-hoc Ethernet network, and one could log on over AFP.
This, of course tempted me on a lengthy and needlessly unixy detour. Having a look at commands like cp, rcp, rsh, ditto, ftp and so on and looking at how Carbon Copy Cloner does it (and not understanding half of it), I stalled for days. But I managed not to shoot myself into the foot and preserved the original user account on the iBook and an administrator account on both machines.
Finally, I found the solution yesterday: I made a disk image of my mom’s home folder from the admin account on the iBook and copied that over to the PowerMac. Again from a admin account on the latter computer, I unpacked the disk image on top of a virgin user account I had created there only minutes earlier using my mom’s username and password. This of course wasted file ownership in that account. A “sudo chown -R” took care of that.
And, hey presto, after no more than five days, I had my mom’s digital life on a PowerMac G5! Lots of room to breathe.

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One Response to “Bootstrapping a User out of a Panther”

  1. Server Set Up in a Day (plus Holiday Activities) « Mostly Black & White Says:

    […] Mostly Black & White It’s the Arts … « Bootstrapping a User out of a Panther […]

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