FatMac II: Die Another Day


As some people already know, I had a rather sad time the other weekend. The Friday night (the 27th of April) my Powerbook, affectionately known as FatMac (it seemed really big compared to my 12″ iBook), unceremoniously died. Damn.

It had a dint in the edge, next to the power plug, more or less since I got it – it was all packed up snugly in it’s case and hung over my shoulder at uni, while I was waiting for a bus under the David Myers building. And it slipped off, of course. I didn’t think anything of it at the time – it fell all of a foot, if that. But then when I was looking at it some time later that week, I noticed the dint in the corner. D’oh.

So, it’s always been a little dodgy, plugging in the adapter to that socket – occasionally you had to wiggle it around a bit to get it properly connected. But no biggy – it worked perfectly well for some two years or so.

Until the other weekend, that is. It stopped working. I’m not sure what happened exactly, but I noticed it was making crackling noises when bumped, and things were generally amiss. I was uploading photos to Flickr at the time, so I left it plugged in overnight.

When I got back in the morning, my Powerbook was dead. Battery was flat, adapter light was orange – not green – so not charging, and nothing I could do could get it to boot. At first, through my initial dozen attempts, pressing the power button while it was plugged into the adapter would make a short pzzzt noise. After a while it stopped doing even that.

And while I was playing with it, I happened to be holding the adapter up in the air, in my hand, completely unconnected to anything, and saw it arc from the centre pin to the shielding. A nice big blue arc, across that distance of 4 or 5mm, whatever it is. That’s not typically a good sign. When I then unplugged the adapter – as an electronics student I’m used to blowing things up, but I prefer not to do so with mains power – I noticed the cord near the adapter brick itself was a little loose feeling, and when jiggled made a distinctive clicking noise. The kind of noise you get when the wires have snapped inside the cable and are rubbing against each other. One again, this is not the sign of a perfectly fine power adapter.

So anyway, I was pretty stressed about that… I’ve been looking forward to getting a new machine ever since I got here, so I wasn’t really worried about the Powerbook itself – just my stuff on it. Like my New Zealand photos, most – but not all – of which had backups. And of course all my documents and stuff… I’ve got backups of 95% of my crap, because for the last twelve months or more I’ve actually been pretty good with backups. I made a backup before moving over here, too, for example. Unfortunately, I hadn’t done a backup since then. And a lot had happened since then.

So, long story short I couldn’t do much but live with it for the time being – I did go out and buy a 2.5″ external USB ATA case (for all of $10 something), which I threw the hard drive in. Just opening the Powerbook itself was a PITA – the first set of illustrated instructions I found on the web were exactly correct, except for one key detail – the latches above the DVD drive. Mine doesn’t have them. So I spent nearly an hour trying to gingerly force a screw driver into the DVD drive for these tricky latches, when of course they did not exist and were thus highly unlikely to become unlatched, regardless of how many times I poked them.

Anyway, after a while I realised something just wasn’t right, found a better tutorial, and realised all I had to do was forcefully rip the top of the case off. No damage done – it’s the way it’s supposed to be done – and requiring all of about three seconds. Damn my tentative approach!

So, long story short really this time – I threw the hard drive in, found that it was fine, no problems, and promptly started burning DVD backups of everything on it as fast as I could. Which took three days. Finder’s Burn Folders suck. Really, really suck.

Anyway. I took it in to be repaired, and somewhat surprisingly it came back to me later in the week, fully functional again. Yay! I’d almost been hoping it was too old to repair, so they’d have to replace it with a new MacBook Pro, but I guess my luck isn’t quite that good. 😉

So, I now have FatMac II – essentially the same machine but for a spanking new motherboard. And right now, in my new place, it’s sole purpose in it’s renewed life is to bridge the wireless internet connection to my wireless-less PowerMac. I’m sure there must be some irony in there somewhere.

And it must seem odd that, after not writing anything for a month, I spout out with this. But it’s just that I started writing it while FatMac was dead, so I had not much else to do – I’d planned on spending that whole weekend going through all my photos and writing up on New Zealand, but of course that went completely titsup with FatMac. Maybe this weekend instead, we’ll see.

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