Mac OS X 10.4.10 AirPort Bug Undermines Use of MacBook Pro on Battery Power

I’m sitting in bed using my six-month-old MacBook Pro, and I have to tell you that I used to really love this computer. Used to.

15" MacBook ProSince I was going off to college, I needed a replacement for my 400 MHz iMac DV. And I needed something portable.

I settled on a MacBook Pro, because, quite frankly, the 13″ screen of the MacBook is too small for my young eyes. I felt like I needed reading glasses to read the display. But I digress.

Apple Reliability

Just like my faithful iMac, I was getting reliable performance from my MacBook Pro. I expect reliability. That’s the reason I switched back over to the Mac.

But all that changed after installing Mac OS X 10.4.10.

I am an early adopter when it when it comes to OS updates. I have never had a problem with my computer after I installed a new update – until 10.4.10.

AirPort and Kernel Panics

And I’m not alone. A bunch of MacBook Pro users over at the Apple Forums are experiencing kernel panics from Apple’s built-in AirPort when running on battery. This problem has been most commonly seen in the new Santa Rosa MacBook Pros, but it can occur in other models.

My MacBook Pro doesn’t contain the Santa Rosa chipset, and I am experiencing random kernel panics when browsing the Internet while running on battery.

I didn’t discover this problem until recently. I usually use my MacBook Pro plugged in, and the problem only occurs while running on battery. And when I do use it on battery, it’s at my university. I don’t experience kernel panics there.

But when I come home and browse the Internet while running on battery, I get kernel panics. In the panic.log report, it lists the AirPort kernel extension, so I know that the buggy AirPort extension introduced in 10.4.10 is causing the problem, as it did not exist with 10.4.9.

In my informal testing, the MacBook Pro panics only while connected to wireless networks that use a certain chipset. The wireless DSL modem at my house is made by 2Wire. There is something about the chipset in this wireless modem that my computer doesn’t like – but I never had this problem until I installed 10.4.10.

My friend has a Santa Rosa MacBook Pro and also has a 2Wire DSL modem. And just like me, he only experiences kernel panics while browsing the Internet at his house while running on battery.

According to Hard Mac, Apple has acknowledged the problem (“Apple Centers are asked not to exchange affected notebook as this is due to a unidentified bug in the Atheros driver, and should be fixed in the future with a simple AirPort system update.”) and will be releasing a fix. But their temporary solution is ridiculous: They recommended either using the AirPort only while plugged in or connecting to the network via ethernet. In other words, Apple is telling me to use my laptop like a desktop.

I could reinstall Mac OS X 10.4.9, but I have better things to do with my time. I bought a Mac for it’s reliability. I’ve gotten used to reinstalling Windows on my PC every six months, but I refuse to fall into that mentality on a Mac.

This is madness!

I hope Apple releases a fix soon. But after they do and I install it, I will not be installing any more updates until months after they have been released. I will not be bitten by a bad update again.

Publisher’s note: Apple did not release OS X 10.411, the next and final version of Tiger, until November 14, 2007, and for some users that still didn’t fix their AirPort connectivity problems or even created first-time issues.

Further Reading

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