September 30, 2007
Spotlight definitely broken on my machine
Lately Mail.app has only been returning a subset of the expected results when I search for a particular mail. For example, if a customer that purchased a Synergy license in the last week asks for their registration information to be resent then I can find it, usually within seconds; but if someone who purchased back in 2003 asks me then Mail.app never turns up any results. Using Spotlight from outside of Mail.app also fails to return any results even though the emails are known to exist, so I can only conclude that Spotlight is broken. A manual search (sorting by column, manually scrolling, and visually scanning) is not a viable option; I have 6 GB of mail dating as far back as 1996.
In other words, given that Mail.app depends on Spotlight for its searching, a broken Spotlight leads to a broken mail application as well. In these cases I have to engage in a time-consuming search which involves logging into PayPal to find a record of a transaction which took place almost five years ago, and I can then confirm using grep -R from the command line that the registration notice is indeed still present in my ~/Library/Mail/ folder.
So Spotlight is great when it works, principally because it's so fast. But if forced to choose between slow and broken, I'll chose slow every time. I just blew away the Spotlight index for my startup volume (sudo mdutil -E /) and it will now be rebuilt automatically (will take many hours — the Spotlight menu bar is telling me that there are 23 hours remaining — and the ultra-flakey mdimportserver process has already crashed, only two minutes into the scan). I'm hoping that that will fix it.
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Posted by wincent at September 30, 2007 3:44 PM