Rise of complaints follows Apple Mac OS X 10.5.6 update

An unusual spike in comments posted to Apple's support forums since yesterday afternoon points to the possibility of certain problems in particular with the company's latest rollup to the Mac operating system.

The blue screen has typically been the unofficial Windows logo, at least in and around Macintosh circles. But this morning, users of Mac OS X have been reporting a number of problems, most of which fall into the same category, and some of which are leaving users' computers booting up with nothing on their screens but a field of blue.

"my mac pro has startup issues since update: after login i can only see a blue screen," reads one complaint posted to Apple's support forum early this morning.

Many of the problems reported since yesterday appear to be with the software updater version of the rollup package. Users who updated their systems with the stand-alone version of 10.5.6 are reporting few or zero problems upon reboot. Yesterday afternoon, one business reported a simultaneous hang in all seven of its Macs, using the software updater. Folks trying to help him out suggested that he may have installed too much third-party software on his system, with the result being that the automatic installer might not be able to adequately interpret changes that software may have made.

The problem could come down to an inability of the software updater to reconcile disk permissions, which is the Mac's way of determining which applications have permission to use certain resources, by means of an audit trail. Apps that have been installed using package files, especially those made by Apple itself, leave bill-of-materials files (.BOM) on the system. These files can later be used in a reconciliation process by means of the Disk Permissions utility, which can restore permissions to their proper state.

But that's assuming software uses the package installation process, and many third-party apps don't. As a result, they could load startup drivers into memory whose resources could conceivably be locked out once the software updater (theoretically) overwrites those custom permissions with system defaults.

Ironically, this could lead to troubles with Apple software anyway, including most notably Time Machine, the company's innovative system restoration feature. Many users since yesterday have been reporting permissions failures in that program, which appear on the screen with messages like this: "You don't have permissions to back up file x in Time Machine 1." Also, users who had their USB devices chained with third-party tools in a lower order, and Apple devices (such as the keyboard) higher-up, are receiving low-power warnings, which could be linked to permissions for USB device drivers. Some have been able to rectify these problems by swapping out the order of these devices.

One individual who faced the entire problem down and successfully worked around it, reported his travails this way: "I noticed Software Update was downloading a 190 MB update. I tried installing the update normally on both machines. I encountered the hang. Forced reboot (hold power button) and tried downloading the update and installing it. Same problem. Force quit installer. Went to Apple's support page and downloaded the 10.5.6 Update (not the combo) which was 372 MB (not 190) and it worked just fine on both systems. Apple needs to fix the 190 MB package they have on Software Update."

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