PowerBook Adventures

Date: 2008-11-02 11:52:02 Created: null

Or: new adventures in Wi-Fi.

July 22nd, 2007

A bit more time has passed, and Pomum is trundling along nicely. Right now it feels like the new drive is a little bit noisier but running slightly cooler than the old one. Disk access also feels quicker, quite possibly because I know it should to be. I still haven't done any kinds of actual tests, and I'm not going to either. It's more than enough for me that things are stable, and spacious, again.

July 9th, 2007

A few weeks ago Pomum's hard drive started to behave badly again. As it is by now well out of warranty I decided to take the do-it-yourself-route. Or, to be exact, the provide-the-parts-and-ask-a-more-skilled-friend-to-do-the-actual-work-route. I bought a nice new hard drive and enlisted the help of Niclas. It turned out to be a great decision, especially since we ran into a rather severe snag. Turns out those Apple-approved folks who replaced Pomum's drive the first time went a bit wild when closing the patient again. One of the screws on the back was pulled really tight. Worse, the tracks in the head were too worn to provide any grip. We could open the case and peek at the drive, but not get at it. No fun.

So, it was time for powertools!

Drilling my PowerBook

Even after some careful drilling, we couldn't actually remove the screw and get the case completely open. But fortunately we could get a gap wide enough to to what we came for nevertheless. Victory was ours!

On the almost-a-bonus-front, I didn't even have to do any re-installing of things. After the old drive started misbehaving I made a backup of it using SuperDuper. I figured I could save myself a lot of reinstallation and configuration work if the backup was free of errors. Happily, the backup seems to have been completely error free, because I could put it back on Pomum and boot back to where I used to be without a hitch. There is a pause on power up where Pomum searches for boot drives before it boots from the hard drive, but that's the only ill effect I've seen so far. I'm curious to see if I'll notice any speed or heat differences with the new drive, but it's way too early to say anything about either of those yet. What is clear is that the drive makes different sounds than the old one, which always takes a while to get used to but is of course completely natural.

To sum up, Pomum now has a scar like this on the back:

Drill hole in PowerBook

But it works just fine again, and who said life never has a rough spot or two?

June 24th, 2005

After last year's hard drive death I've become much better at making backups of my data. At first I simply archived my more important folders and burned the archive to a CD or DVD. This worked, but felt quite manual and clunky. Also I'm not a big fan of using lots of discs for every backup, so I kept to a minimum of things. That meant my photo and music libraries wouldn't get backed up (four or five DVDs on a 2x burner every time you want a backup? Rather not, thank you ...), and I certainly wouldn't want to lose them if something went wrong again. The solution was, of course, to get a nice large hard drive and connect it using a FireWire box. Suddenly it was almost feasible to just drop the complete contents of Pomum's hard drive onto the new drive every now and then, but I do have a sense of conserving space (and, to at least some extent, time). So, what I do nowadays is run a nice little application named Phew every once in a while. What Phew, in turn, does for me is create a copy of my home directory (you can choose what it backs up, of course), on the external drive. Then, every time I click the friendly blue "backup" button, Phew takes a long, hard look at my home directory and the copy and updates the copy with any changes and new items. Nice, simple, quick (since only changes have to be copied) and built using those industrial-strength UNIX underpinnings Apple's so fond of mentioning. When I've got some time to leave Pomum to entertain itself I tell it to create an archive from the backup. In all it feels like a good balance between security and convenience.

January 20th, 2005

A month or so ago my brother called out of the blue and asked if I wanted another monitor. 17 inch Dell thing that was to be discarded he said, no guarantees on working state or defects. Not much to hesitate about, and it proved to be a real hit. It's bright, sharp and does higher resolutions at better refresh rates than any other screen I have. I connected it as a secondary screen for Pomum and haven't looked back. It makes me move Pomum about even less (even though it's a two-second operation to disconnect and OS X automatically moves all windows on-screen for you) but man ... starting with a 12 inch 1024*768 screen and adding 1344*1008 brilliantly bright pixels refreshing 90 times per second is just great. The difference your monitor can make to the feel of computing is as startling every time.

And since this monitor is working perfectly I have to wonder why it was to be thrown away. All I can think of is that the previous user got something even better ...

June 17th, 2004

Long overdue update here: Pomum quickly came back from repairs, with a fresh new hard drive and exactly none of my data recovered.

Anyway, the subject for today is, once again, batteries. While looking for rechargables of a different kind I happened to check the status LEDs of the PowerBook battery I currently don't use. No lights at all! What the heck? It wasn't that long since I took it out of the computer, was it? No, surely not. I just put it back inside, and so far I'm seeing lots of "calculating time to full charge" and, at one time, a guess of nine-something hours. At least the percentage indicator shows slow but sure charging (for what that's worth). That's the kind of stuff the wicked battery in mom's iBook says, and that one needs replacement. Once again, I should have saved myself the money and skipped a second battery, it only gives me worries.

Uh oh, and now it jumped to indicating full charge ... And so do the LEDs as well. I'll risk disconnecting the power and see what happens ... If I'm not back in five minutes you know what to do ...

Well, it didn't die right away ... And the indicated time remaining seems reasonable. Perhaps it was just some kind of momentary fluke? But I'm going on a trip tomorrow, so it would be nice if the batteries are still reliable.

Okay, everything seems normal. Have been running on battery power for a few hours now, and the charge seems to drop as it should. No sudden jumps, no sudden sleep or power-off, everything's calm. Good to know. Back to our scheduled programming ...

May 8th, 2004

It hasn't been a year yet (it will be in exactly one week), but I've already made use of Apple's warranty repair system. Seems like a relatively strange case too. The end result was that I quickly (it was picked up on Tuesday afternoon and returned on Friday) got Pomum back with a new or at least restored-to-state-of-original-delivery-hard drive. Can't help but wonder why they couldn't put Panther back while they were at it, but never mind. The strange part was how, or when, the error occured.

It all started on the dark evening of April 28th. New software updates and an iPod updater, fun for all the family! I downloaded and installed to my heart's content, as I always do. And for a while, it was good. Then I decided to run the iPod updater before the mandatory reboot, totally forgetting that I have to use the Windows version since I've got my iPod Windows formatted. Anyways, the updater launched and got an icon in the dock, but that was it. No window, no responses, not even force quit worked on it. Fair enough, I thought. Perhaps it was a bad idea to run it after updating QuickTime and iTunes and other stuff and before the system had a chance to get used to all the new things (i.e. have a reboot inbetween).

So, I shut down what I could and told Pomum to reboot.


The iPod updater is not responding. Click proceed to force quit it.



The iPod updater is not responding. Click proceed to force quit it.



The iPod updater ...

Pretty please?

You get the idea. At this point I felt the good old power button had to be a fair and motivated way out. I never tried kill through the terminal, but doesn't feel like it could have made much difference. So, I held down the power button until Pomum turned off.

When I turned power back on, I got the dreaded flashing system folder and question mark icons indicating the computer couldn't find a volume to boot from. Time to break out the hardware test CD!

And I was like ... huh? The hardware test couldn't run because it couldn't find a volume to scan. Same thing when I tried running Apple's hardware test CD, and when I tried reinstalling Panther; there just wasn't any hard drive to test or install to. The next day I called Apple's support line right away, and without further ado a box was sent out for me to package and post Pomum in. And here we are again, with most things reinstalled and with a refreshed will to do backups more often.

March 27th, 2004

Since people sometimes find this page through Google and other places by searching for "no battery available" I should provide an update to my experiences. The problem has occured at least once more since I first mentioned it, but no restart is required. Simply keeping the power connected, putting the computer to sleep and re-seating the battery gets things back to normal. No need for more drastic experiments :-) ...

January 30th, 2004

I think everyone who has ever considered purchasing a laptop has seen the opportunity to computer from anywhere within their own home as an advantage. The thought of taking the website you're reading with you to the kitchen table or mailing from your bed has some appeal. And I do these things too, these days I can compute in so many more positions than I could a year ago.

What recently struck me is that many of these positions probably aren't very good positions. Say what you want (and I do) about how nice laptops are, there are long-term advantages to working in front of a larger screen. With a large keyboard at good height and movable in relation to said screen. And sitting in a very comfortable office chair while computing too. A 12-inch laptop on your couch-side table just doesn't offer the same ergonomy for more long-winded work.

I think what I'm getting to here is either making more use of Terminus, setting up something of a proper workplace for Pomum, or both.

July 26th, 2003

I got an extra battery for Pomum, thinking it would be a generally Nice Thing to have twice the time between power plugs if needed. If I'd done a bit more research I'd probably have skipped it though. There's only one battery bay, and to change battery you need to shut down first. Apparently at least some other PowerBook sizes can have their batteries changed without needing a shutdown. Since I don't like shutting down and ruining my uptime statistics (yes, I'm a geek like that) I kept wondering if it was possible to run off the power cord while changing the battery. The documentation doesn't say a word about this, and nobody on the Internet seemed to have tried it either. The only warning I could find about battery changes was that doing it without shutting down first may lead to data loss. So I decided that trying with the plug connected couldn't hurt. Lo and behold, it worked! I can switch batteries whenever I like without shutting down! Yes yes, it's a very small step for mankind, many kinds of men are unlikely to care at all.

I've been extremely sparse with running from battery power lately, fueled by reading too much about discharge cycles and other black arts. But with easy change between two naturally aging batteries I think I may be able to relax a bit and enjoy true wireless again. Yep, this is typed on the sofa.

July 4th, 2003

Today I've had the doubtful honour of running into some semi-scary battery issues. When I woke Pomum from sleep this morning I noticed the battery icon in the menu bar had a big cross over it. "No battery available", they said. Very weird. Then I thought up a hopeful little theory about the computer shutting down the battery when connected to mains power for long enough. I've had it connected non-stop for over a week, so that's where I got the idea from. Another theory was of course that the power manager had just gone nuts. The ring on the power cord didn't indicate charging either. To try things out, I pulled the power cord.

Black screen.

Oh no. Dead battery for real? Qucikly, I connected the power cord again. Nothing seemed to happen, the screen remained black. Not quite black though, I saw the shadow of a window. Looking closer (very close) revealed the Pomum was still on, it was just the backlight for the screen that wasn't. I didn't notice what the cord indicated at this point, but I shut down, reseated the battery (pressed the indicator button on it, and it logically showed only one lamp blinking desperately) and restarted. That got me the backlight back, and the battery charging. The estimated time was way off the scale though, it kept going up, finally ending somewhere above 9 hours. Then, it did the same worrying jump as I've seen mom's iBook make, straight to indicating full charge.

So now I'm using Pomum from battery power, and the charge seems to be decreasing according to normal expectations. Everything seems normal, and I sure hope it remains that way. If things stay like they should, my theory/hope is that some accidental pulling of the power cable led to a slight glitch (or a tripping of some kind of battery protection) that stopped the battery from charging. Doesn't explain the nine-hour jump in charge time of course, but I hope that one only goes for charging and not recharging ... If more strangeness appears, I'm going to start making use of my free phone support period ...

June 1st, 2003

Ran into the same situation as I've done once or twice between May 12th and now again this morning. Only this time I was able to get out of it without rebooting. Last night I did some file transfers from Terminus, and then I'd turned it off without disconnecting on this end. When I tried to drag the fileshare icon to the recycle bin the problems started, with just the same kind of troubles as I wrote about on the 12th. But then I turned Terminus on again this morning, and noticed the fileshare icon was back in place again. I think it was gone inbetween, but I'm not 100% sure. After I disconnected it successfully everything seems to be back to normal! Faith in the OS stability is still strong :-) ...

And remember kids; always unmount your fileshares!

May 26th, 2003

Entertained myself last night by discovering the wealth of great looking icons availavble for OS X and downloading a few samples. My hard drive icon on the desktop now has a nice cowskin look, and I've hopefully changed the "my computer" icon in Finder to a PowerBook as well. I say hopefully because it takes a restart to update it, and I haven't had a need for that yet :-) ...

May 17th, 2003

Have spent the whole morning trying to get php and MySQL up, running and serving my website for development purposes on this computer. To my great joy and satisfaction I actually did it, so now I can hack my site wherever I go!

A central hurdle was getting MySQL up with the right users, permissions and my website database inside. I've never done the whole configuration without any kind of graphical help before (and I sure wouldn't have said no to some friendly interfaces this time eihter), but this time I did it all with just a command prompt (and a lot of web searching and manual reading :-).

Php was easier, I found a nice step-by-step instruction to installing it that did almost everything I needed. All I needed to do by hand was creating a php.ini file in the right place (this was mentioned in the instructions too) and adding the settings that brings on the old-school long variables I'm using. So now it's all here, let the celebrations commence!

Late May 12th, 2003

My first day of Mac ownership is coming to an end, and I might just have come across my first reboot-worthy system problem. I think it started when I tried to run the developer tools installer, from the folder where it resided on the hard drive. Perhaps I did too many other things at the same time, all I know for sure is that it took a long time to open the package or whatever it said and then pretty much locked up. After a forced exit of the installer all other programs have started to take long breaks right after launching. During the breaks they do nothing at all, no responses, no processor time taken, they just sit there and produce the beach ball of death for long enough that the system writes them off as not responding. Finally, they give up whatever it is they hoped for, and then they work just like usual. Watching a few system log messages made me think it's Finder's fault, and it took something like an age or two to restart Finder as well. Didn't seem to help either, so perhaps a reboot is in order.

A reboot, from problems, on my very first day. What a letdown :-) ...

Oh, I've discovered the fun of having post-it notes on the inside of the screen again as well. And to think I'm supposed to not be a fan of clutter ...