Last Monday, as Geoff Duncan was preparing the TidBITS issue for distribution, Software Update notified me that I could install Mac OS X 10.2.8. It was late, I was tired, and I let it download and install without really thinking about the consequences. (Bad Adam! Always back up right before installing a major upgrade!) While all 40 MB were coming in, Jeff Carlson and I made the decision to post an update on the TidBITS Web site the next day rather than try to squeeze it into the issue. I’m glad we chose to put it off, since the update proved troublesome for many users. I lucked out; the update just moved the menu bar to my secondary monitor, confusing Classic and requiring a second restart, after which everything has worked fine.
Others weren’t so lucky. We received numerous reports of problems from people who upgraded to Mac OS X 10.2.8 right away, including kernel panics at boot. In particular, we verified that Mac OS X 10.2.8 was incompatible with some drivers for external FireWire audio devices for recording and producing audio. Many other users experienced the loss of Ethernet on Power Mac G4s. If you’ve been impacted by the Ethernet problem, there’s a reported fix posted on Apple’s discussion boards that involves reverting to a previous AppleGMACEthernet.kext file. Obviously, this solution is not endorsed by Apple, and we at TidBITS have not confirmed it.
Needless to say, Apple pulled the 10.2.8 update quickly, but the company hasn’t given any indication when a replacement will arrive. If you downloaded Mac OS X 10.2.8 but haven’t yet installed it, toss that file and wait for the replacement. If you’re one of the unlucky people who have had troubles, you’ll have to decide if you can work through them or if reverting to a backup is a better option. Remember that you can hold down the Shift key at boot to perform a Safe Boot that disables all non-Apple kernel extensions and drivers. That will probably help those experiencing kernel panics at boot, but I can’t see it helping with the Ethernet problem.
What was in the update? Mac OS X 10.2.8 included a number of Bluetooth improvements (partially to enable support for Apple’s new wireless keyboard and mouse) as well as unspecified enhancements to the Safari Web browser. It also included security updates for the Unix applications sendmail and OpenSSH’s sshd, support for USB 2.0 devices (even if you added USB 2.0 ports to a Mac using a PCI card or PC Card), and a fix for a problem mounting external FireWire drives.