June 21, 2010
Usually when Apple pushes out an operating system update I wait a day or so to see if there are any reports of major problems or gotchas, and then I update my system. The release of 10.6.4 recently was no different. After waiting a day I saved all my work, closed all my running applications and started Software Update.
For the first time in the more than seven years I've been running Mac OS X the update failed. It very nicely recovered and rebooted me to 10.6.3. At first I thought the download must have been corrupted so I tried it a second time, with the same unsatisfying result.
Over the weekend I downloaded outside of Software Update the package and tried to install it. Still no luck. This evening I hunted up the combination update package and tried it with no success. I ran Disk Utilities to verify the disk and correct the permissions, and tried the combo updater again. Failed.
Searching for "10.6.4 update fails" on Google lead me to this Apple forum thread, which talks about SmartBoard software as being the potential culprit. Just a couple of weeks ago we installed two SmartBoards at work and I installed the drivers and application on my laptop so I could interact with the boards. The Apple forum linked to a thread at Smart Technologies that explained the issue and how to resolve it.
It seems in a fit of incredibly poor software citizenship, the Smart installer sets a limit on the number of open files - for the entire operating system and all programs running on it. This file handle limit not only prevented my update from running, it caused me to get some fairly vague messages that had me thinking something was corrupted.
Once I deleted the /etc/launchd.conf file that Smart Technologies saw fit to spam onto my computer the update ran smoothly and completed without a hitch.
Bad Smart Technologies, bad!