Seven: not Apple's lucky number

My laptop is running Mac OS X 10.5.7 --i.e., the seventh revision of their overhyped operating system-- and Apple still doesn't know how to deal with network issues properly. If it's not the dreaded "Your wireless network has been compromised" error, it will be this new and absurd behaviour: you close your laptop's lid, leave it to sleep, come back the next day, open the lid again and... surprise! the laptop is unable to reconnect to the same network it was connected to some hours before! The only explanation: Connection timeout, once and once again.

As you may easily deduct, there haven't been any changes at all to my router's configuration, so with all other factors remaining the same, why should it stop working?

Searching for answers to that question unveils a crazy painting spattered everywhere with mystifying cargo-cult affirmations. First comes the number one mac-advice: repairing permissions, which seems to be the magic fix-it-all for all mac-pains (although it doesn't seem to be related to anything else than applications which are not properly installed). There's also the classic it's not me, it's you argument, also known as it's probably a fault in your router's configuration, and that, as expected when trying to give subjective explanations to an objective fact, can be translated to a myriad of reasons:

  • you're using { nothing | WEP | WPA | WPA2 } but you should be using { nothing | WEP | WPA | WPA2 }
  • you need to update your router's firmware
  • you need to select a different wifi channel
  • your router is incompatible with your computer
  • you need to reset your router's and computer's configuration and start anew
Obviously all of them are useless, since the fault is not in the router but in the computer itself, miserably unable to rejoin the very same network it was using before going to sleep.

However, since cargo cult is so tempting, solutions multiply, like loaves and fishes. No one seems rational, and worse of all, you feel like there's nothing else you can do but surrender and try them all, or at least consider them for a second -- such is the absurdity of the Mac world:

  • You can't have Bluetooth activated at the same time than an Airport card. "Then I will need to sacrifice my wireless mighty mouse", argues another person whose mac doesn't behave as expected. But Jobs sayeth: "in life, thou shalt need to make choices, painful as they are".
  • You need to archive and reinstall
  • Or even worse: you need to start from scratch, and reinstall Leopard in an empty disk
  • You need to create a new user, log in with that account and then try to connect to the wireless network, to discard it's not a problem with the former user account (like if the router had developed a certain animadversion to that user)
  • You need to activate and deactivate Airport (probably inherited from Windows)
  • You need to open Keychain Utility, delete every appearance of your Network passwords, log out and try again
  • Same but restart and try again (very Windows style)
  • You need to remove some arcane* property lists from the /Library/Preferences folder. Oh wait, or was it in ~/Library/Preferences? Never mind, log out, or restart, and try again.
  • You need to make sure that System is in the /Applications folder (I would have thought that the main point of bundles was to be able to have apps wherever one wanted to place them, but if this one is true, it would prove another of their magic features false)
  • Then there's the most bizarre solution of all: open Safari and type in your favourite address. Since the computer is not connected to any network, it will suggest you to run the Network diagnostics utility. Then select Airport, and choose your favourite network name, and it might connect. In fact, I tried this one, and it "worked", but just once, and I think it was just a coincidence, because the next time I tried, following the very same sequence of steps, it didn't work again.
And it's not like my computer's hardware is new and the drivers aren't totally fine tuned yet (Apple is well known by the unreliability of the first versions of each computer model). It is a 2005 PowerBook, which is one of the last models in that family of products, before they got replaced with the MacBookPro. I would expect Apple to know an awful lot about their own hardware -- after all, that's their whole selling point: since we are the ones that build and program it, It Just Works™.

But they don't seem to know that much (maybe their China assemblers are keeping some juicy bits to themselves), and it just doesn't work.