Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Mac is dead, long live the Mac

The Mac Powerbook G4 that Morey Straus sent me about a year ago finally bit the dust about an hour ago. I'm missing it already.

A month or so ago, my mouse and keyboard (the machine was set up for desktop use, plugged into a monitor and set atop a pair of cooling fans) started acting up. They'd stop working for no apparent reason.

I quickly realized that it wasn't the mouse and keyboard themselves, but the USB hub they were plugged into that was the problem. Unplug the hub and plug it back in, things were back to normal. So, I bought a new USB hub.

But, it wasn't the hub. The problem continued, and got worse. It was the USB port the hub was plugged into.

Well, no. It wasn't just the USB port, it was either of the machine's two USB ports.

The problem arose more and more frequently, until it seemed like I was unplugging the hub and plugging it back in every 5 or 10 minutes.

Then unplugging it and plugging it back in stopped working, too. I had to re-start the computer to get another few minutes of use out of it. The computer didn't know that it had a USB port problem -- the ports showed up as operational in hardware information.

I'm not writing the machine off completely -- maybe something can be done with it -- but it's six years old, used when I got it for rock-bottom price (a commitment to do a little writing/proofing for Morey and it was mine, complete with still-working flat-screen external monitor), and I've used it an average of 10-12 hours a day for the last year. So I can't complain. But I can mourn.

Right now I'm working in JoliCloud on the ASUS EEE netbook, on the tiny screen while I wait for Tamara to get home with a DVI-to-VGA adaptor so I can plug the monitor into it. A couple of things are saving my bacon with respect to work stuff. Those two things are Dropbox (which allows me to keep important files synced between machines) and Firefox Sync (formerly Sync Weave -- like Dropbox, only specific to browser stuff like bookmarks, history, etc.).

Time will tell whether the netbook has enough horsepower to keep me happy on a regular basis -- it's been a joy for working outside, checking in from the road, etc., but I put a lot of wear and tear on a machine. In the meantime, I'll be keeping my eye out for a good deal on another Mac.

Update: After having used it quite a bit without a hitch or problem that I can remember, I finally found the first problem with Jolicloud: It doesn't want to detect and add my external monitor. From what I can tell they're working on that, and hey, the OS is in beta, so I can't complain.

Well, yes, I can complain -- I'm working on an 8.9" netbook screen instead of my 17" screen. I can complain a lot. But I can't really blame Jolicloud for not having known that some guy would be needing to get an Asus EEE PC to work with a Hanns-G 17" flatscreen ASAP. I'll be looking for a machine that can support the big screen, and straining my eyes until I find it.

Update, 06/15/10: There's good news, and there's ... more good news!

First good news: It looks like I have two computers -- a desktop from MS and a laptop from DS -- on the way. They're used and they have specific problems, but I suspect they'll both be great for my needs, and that they'll put me back in the position of not being royally screwed if something breaks.

Second good news: The Mac isn't dead after all. Apparently it was just pining for the fjords. After putting it away for what I thought was good and trying to make do with the 8" netbook for several days, I thought "hey, why not give it another shot?" and got the Mac back out yesterday.

My guess is that what was at play was a heat problem, even though I kept the top open and ran a cooling fan under the unit. When I started it back up after several days cold, the thing ran like a top. I'm keeping my fingers crossed -- and shutting the machine completely down any time I plan on being away from it for more than 15-30 minutes instead of just letting it go into "sleep" mode -- and so far, so good.

Not sure what scheme of use I'll come up with. I'm thinking of Linux Mint for the laptop that's on its way, and probably Puppy for the desktop ... but I may go Hackintosh with one or the other if it's not too terribly complicated. In any case, I will get both machines 100% up to usability before I relax.

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