Kernel Panic

So, my first-generation flat-panel iMac at home crashed this morning, for the first time in at least a year. I’d rebooted the machine about three weeks ago, but only because of the move; unless I’m updating software, there’s never any reason for me to restart. Needless to say, I was not expecting a kernel panic.

And, frankly, have never witnessed one like this. The old 10.2 kernel panics were terrifying to behold: the screen image would suddenly shatter and sort of melt, and there wasn’t any real sense of what was going on. The 10.3 panics are eerily calm: the screen greys out, from top to bottom, as if a shade were being drawn, and a soothing message appears on-screen informing you that the operating system has become unstable and needs to be rebooted. I’ve only gotten a couple of those since upgrading to 10.3, but while they lack the sheer terror of the old schizoid panics, their very calmness instills a different kind of fear, as if your secretary were to call you and announce, in a too-even tone of voice, that the Department of Homeland Security wished to have a word with you.

This morning’s was something else entirely. I’m still stuck with my dial-up connection, as Verizon hasn’t gotten its DSL act together for me yet, and so I passed by the computer on my way out of the room, selected “connect” from the modem menu, and went off to take care of something else. When I returned, a minute or so later, my screen had turned into a PC, circa 1990 — pre GUI, black screen, white pixellated text scrolling up and up and up, as if DOS had gotten caught in some mid-boot loop. On the screen, the kernel panic info:

Exception state (sv=0x00337230)
PC=0x00337380; MSR=0x0001030; DAR=0x003373D8; DSISR=0x003373E0; LR=0x003373C8; R1=0x003372B8; XCP=0x003373E8 (Unknown code)

Backtrace: backtrace terminated — unaligned frame address: 0x003372B8

Yes, I wrote the whole thing down. Something about it seriously creeped me out: the thing I love about OS X is that I can see the machine’s command-line guts if I want to, but I don’t have to. I felt weirdly like my computer had suddenly opened its raincoat to show me something I most distinctly did not want to see.

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