OSX Yosemite – first week (not so) fun

Yosemite is characterized by granitic and remnants of older rock. Perhaps that’s why Apple chose that as the name for their latest operating system. Anything that turns a working computer into a rock should have a relevant name.

I’m just ranting a little bit here. I recently upgraded my Late 2013 rMBP to OS X 10.10 Yosemite, and it returned the favor in enticing me to help dust off my troubleshooting skills.

All that being said, the root cause of my issues technically wasn’t part of OS X nor the Apple ecosystem, but I wasn’t happy after my upgrade just the same.

The problem I faced made my Mac extremely difficult to use. Within 2 – 10 minutes of a power on, any running application became unresponsive (pinwheel at mouseover, could not perform a force quit, if Activity Monitor was already open then any apps I had running would show application not responding, and the finder itself would also show application not responding). I was also unable to open any additional application once the laptop reached this state. The behavior existed both after an upgrade to OSX 10.10 or after a clean install (once my applications were also installed). The only way to be able to function again was after a hard reset.

I tried to diagnose/repair using all the usual suspects:

Configuration changes I tried or checked  included:

  • Verified FileVault was disabled – encrypting the drive will slow your machine until that process is complete
  • Reduced transparency in accessibility options – one common thread in people who reported slowness issues was the thought that it was graphics controller related, so reducing overhead may help in come cases
  • Disabled graphics switching in power options – again, if there is a graphics controller issue, staying on one controller or the other may help
  • Reduced the number of items that Spotlight was indexing

None of these helped. Although I consider myself a power user, I don’t tend to have many applications running at a time. Typically just Safari, the Microsoft Office 2011 Suite, Terminal, and Remote Desktop. With a Core i7, 16 GB of RAM, and an SSD with 50% free space, it was painful to watch my rMBP struggle just to paint the screen with a minimal number of applications open.

Still, everything pointed at the Finder or a graphics issue. It seemed unreasonable to presume that several applications were having a simultaneous problem.

I downloaded and ran EtreCheck and saw nothing unusual. I went through all of my applications to see if there had been any version updates in the prior two weeks since I had last checked. One of them had – Dropbox – for a Finder related issue no less.

I downloaded and installed the (beta) update, hoping that it would resolve my problem. It didn’t, but it did make me take a long hard look at the only two Launch Daemons that had been consistent through all of my changes.

The first was Dropbox itself. The reason it was always consistent was that although I could switch browsers, productivity suites, shell applications, and RDP tools, I couldn’t imaging living without Dropbox. I use it to keep everything synched across 8 devices on 4 different operating systems (iCloud isn’t a good fit for me). It turns out that Dropbox modifies the Finder to add green checkmarks to files that signify that they have synchronized. Turning off that feature doesn’t impact Dropbox functionality, but it also isn’t a preference to be set. Users have to remove the resource from the Dropbox app with the following commands:

sudo rm -rf /Library/DropboxHelperTools

rm /Applications/Dropbox.app/Contents/Resources/DropboxHelperInstaller.tgz

The second daemon was DisplayLink. I use the DisplayLink application to drive USB and Ethernet graphics devices – usually for displays that are physically distant from my laptop. I’ve used it for years, and never had an issue. It turns out that now they have an issue. It wasn’t the issue I was having, but I’d found another app that was having compatibility problems with the Finder in Yosemite, and that made it suspect.

After removing DisplayLink and disabling the Finder modifications in Dropbox all my of issues with Yosemite have disappeared (other than that it’s ugly). My rMBP doesn’t run hot, hang, or have trouble painting the screen. I’ve had to disable auto update in Dropbox to avoid possibly reintroducing my problem, but that’s a small price to pay.

I’m confident that I won’t have to wait long to be able to use both of my problem child applications again. Each of them is mainstream and under active development.

But I’m not rushed.

2 thoughts on “OSX Yosemite – first week (not so) fun

  1. Just downloaded yosemite – I’m having a nightmare time getting Dropbox application to work (despite downloading most recent version). only way I can access it is through the web dropbox. Ugh.

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