A widely reported problem Avid users have been having this week with their MacOS Media Composer systems failing to boot apparently wasn’t an Avid issue after all. Instead, users discovered and Avid later confirmed, the glitch was caused by a Google Chrome update wreaking havoc with the file system on certain MacOS workstations.
The bug hit Avid users hardest and fastest, as productions saw entire editing rooms go offline. On Monday, for example, assistant editor Michael Kamens reported on Twitter that the “whole team at Modern Family” saw their systems shut down. Editors scrambled, Variety published a news story highlighting the issue, and Avid swung into action, declaring the issue a “top priority” for engineering and support.
Google Comes Clean
But the solution to the problem came from a different source: Google. Late yesterday, a Google Chrome support manager posted a statement revealing that a recent Chrome update “damages the file system on MacOS machines with System Integrity Protection (SIP) disabled … including machines that do not support SIP.” Specifically, the Google Chrome update attempted to delete a symbolic link, or symlink, to the /var system folder. (And thus a hashtag was born: #varsectomy.)
If a Mac had SIP enabled, the attempted change was blocked. But if SIP was disabled on a given machine, the file system was damaged, rendering the Mac unable to boot. Google’s statement includes a set of commands that can be run from the Mac Terminal in order to remove the affected Google Software Update package and repair the file system.
Calling Dr. Macintosh
The Mac blog Mr. Macintosh covered the issue in great detail, posting alternate solutions including a fix appearing at Reddit that’s said to work on “Hackintosh” systems (systems running Mac OS on PC hardware not provided by Apple). Other users had already been able to resolve the problem by reinstalling MacOS — being careful to avoid formatting their disks and destroying their data in the process.
If the problem really was caused by a Google update, why was Avid blamed in early reports of the problem? For one thing, users who want to run specific graphics hardware in a Mac sometimes turn SIP off to make the cards work, and it seems likely that many of those users are video editors. For another, Media Composer users on tight production deadlines are among the most demanding of Mac’s user base and thus raised the alarm earlier than others.
Avid Lands ‘in the Right Place’
For its own part, Avid said it had received no reports of the problem on systems that weren’t running MacOS, and that none of its affected customers had reported data loss.
“Avid is pleased that the reboot issue facing some customers is solved and while Avid products are not the root cause, we’re keeping an intense focus on bringing all of our customers back online and back to work,” said Avid CEO Jeff Rosica in a statement released this morning. “Over the past 36 hours, the deep dive of due diligence working closely with Apple, [iLok anti-piracy system provider] Pace and other partners exhausted all options and we’ve landed in the right place as quickly as possible. We owe our special thanks to Avid’s customer and user community for their typically strong show of support at this time, especially to those who welcomed our engineers into their studios.”