Quarter Life Crisis

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Mac Frenzy

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This weekend has been one of a computer frenzy. Mac frenzy, that is, of course. It involved me, the new iBook, a number of hard drives which were to be swapped between computers and my parents wanting Tiger upgrades finally. Altogether it was a complete mess and my nerves a pretty worn by now.


The new iBook is there now. It’s a reasonably nice computer but I fail to be completely happy with it as a matter of principle. More than four years ago I got a computer that’s as good or better than this new model in may respects. Those range from more pixels on the display, to being thinner, to having the traditional and very nice typeface on the key caps. Of course the iBook has advantages as well: The smaller overall size, the keyboard that feels slightly better, the trackpad which seems larger and does the really cool scroll magic, the speakers which are OK (at least in comparison to those in first generation titanium Powerbooks which are about the worst speakers ever). Bluetooth, faster Airport, a built-in CD writer, the better graphics and a more megahertz are nice as well but not exactly the exciting leap of technology you’d expect to see after more than four years. And while it is somehow faster than the old Powerbook, it doesn’t really feel much faster in many places. So I guess OSX needs even more work.

But I should stop complaining. The main advantage of the new computer is that it actually works…

And my mum quickly made a new corduroy bag for it as well. Not a PowerBag but an iBag, I’d say. It’s simpler than the old PowerBags as we changed the design to not have a flap anymore. The main usage of the flap was to put paper in there. And with the iBook being smaller than A4 there’s not much point to this anymore. So we simplified the design to open on the short side with the opening being held together by velcro. Looks very simple and neat in my opinion.

Mac OS

And the iBook itself wasn’t what made my weekend horrible and kept me from doing nothing but enjoy the brilliant redcurrant cake my mum made. The software was the problem. I was trying to do many things at once: Move my data to the new computer, make backups for my parents, upgrade my parents’ computers, and, for my mum, also the hard drive – 10GB being rather small these days even for people over 60 thanks to the magic of iPhoto…

I had all the tools I needed in place: cables, USB disk enclosure, writable DVDs and so on. And I had loads of problems to run into. To begin with, the MacOS transition assistant which got rave reviews completely failed me. It started working, it took hours and just stalled towards the end – leaving the system in a more-or-less undefined state. That sucked without even requiring me to worry whether it copied all my dot-files, settings and my TeX installation because we didn’t even get that far. I ended up having to copy everything manually which was quite quick… although I’d like to note that copying over an account isn’t fun and doesn’t work too well, particularly when it comes to the Library folder and preference files which could be overwritten. System migration was far from smooth. Not quite what I expected.

Making backups for my parents was quite painful as well. Not only do DVD writers and the different kinds of media they semi-randomly accept or refuse suck. So does the somewhat aging Toast software which likes to stop copying stuff from your Library folder half-way through the session despite having ‘checked’ everything beforehand… which meant more manual preparation and copying was needed. Once that was sorted, there started to be update problems. OS X installers somehow require perfect hard drive structures to work. And OS X’s disk tool is quite good discovering these problems but incapable of repairing and but the most trivial ones.

And even after that, things continued sucking. My parents’ DSL router refuses to work with X.4 (or the other way round). But not only that – once a single computer with X.4 is on the network, no computer will be able to go to the internet. Manually entering the DNS server into each computer solved that problem. But it once more sucked, and finding this out required using the internet… vicious circles. Then Mail lost a few hundred messages from my dad’s e-mail during upgrading to the new version, giving us extra suckage and need for manual intervention. I think at that stage my dad started being happy I had put him through the suffering of making a backup first…

More problems started happening. Like backups being on DVD-RWs and the Pismo not being able to read, those requiring more copying back and forth. Like the new iBook being the only computer which could power the drive in the USB enclosure via the bus. Like gazillions of updates and restarts being necessary on the computers before everything was up to date. Even the iBook which shipped with X.4.2 strangely had iTunes 4.8 on it.

There were many more problems on the way. But altogether what should’ve been the trivial tasks of upgrading and copying turned into a nerve-wrecking mess. Parents looking at what’s going on and asking questions all the way in between didn’t really help either.

While the first impressions of X.4 weren’t too good because of this, the Dashboard’s weather widget was instantly appreciated (but only because of my assistance of telling them to enter stupid things like ‘Gottingen, Germany’ or ‘Heidelberg, Germany’ and then hitting return to validate those and get the weather report they were looking for). So was the dictionary and Spotlight. Everything else remained unnoticed and the only other change I hope to see is that iChat audio connections start working again which haven’t been working properly recently.

Old Powerbook

So there remains my old Powerbook. I’ll try to sell it and I am wondering what’s the best way to do that. I could rip it apart and sell the parts, quite a few of which are still good. But that’d be a lot of work and hassle. Two parts that I can definitely sell separately are the Airport card and the battery which I bought last year which still has 80% of its original capacity. That’ll revert the Powerbook to its original state. In which someone good at electronics might even be able to fix it, or be happy with the unreliability if it’s only used for things like watching videos. Otherwise parts like the modem lower case, trackpad, invertor board, display, left hinge or keyboard could still find use in other computers. I’ll have to figure out how to make the most of that. If you have interesting offers to make, send them in.

September 4, 2005, 23:23

Tagged as software.

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