Laptops are complicated wee beasties!

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Last night when I went to bed my new (to me anyway) Powerbook G4 was working fine. This morning when I got up it was severely misbehaving - there was 9.5gb of RAM in use and nothing was responding. I started shutting everything down and at one point tried to turn off the local ColdFusion 8 server using sudo, only to have an error that my account wasn't in the sudoers list; given that my account was an administrator, this was not good. I left it to continue rebooting but when I got back, a half hour later, it had pretty much frozen up trying to load a few starter apps. This, along with the noise coming from the drive, told me what I already knew - the drive was dead.

Given that I bought the laptop off a guy on ebay two weeks previously, and that there was no extended warranty on it, I was up the proverbial creek. Given that I had to go meet someone anyway, I jumped in the car and picked up a new drive, along with an external USB chassis for the off-chance I'd be able to access the data one last time.

Well, that was the easy part. The tricky part was opening up the blasted laptop. There is a covered panel on the bottom of the 12" Powerbook G4 (1.33ghz model) that for some reason in my anxiety I mistook to be where the drive went, despite the obvious fact it was too small, and the fact that the nice KLACK!! noise came from elsewhere. The first problem of the repair - I didn't have a screwdriver the correct size. So off I go looking for a repair kit that would have a full set of screwdrivers and other tools; the first store I checked stopped carrying tools because they wanted to sell their services (or simply a new computer), and finally I got the last set of six "precision" screwdrivers at Wallyworld. After opening up said panel I felt like slapping myself as I was presented with: the memory upgrade slot. Yay.

At this point google was my friend and I found a full manual that detailed exactly how to disassemble our Powerbook. Let me tell you, this was a complicated wee beasty - tonnes of screws all over the place, some hidden behind keys on the keyboard. In addition there were two "allen"-type screws that I didn't have a correctly sized key for, so off I go to Lowes. Some of the screws were also very tightly in place, and there were several times I had to awkwardly put pressure on this tiny little screwdriver so that it would break the seal, but not so much pressure that it broke anything else; and did I mention the screwdriver was tiny so it was difficult to twist?

After much frustration I finally got all the way down to the very last screw holding in the dead drive only to realize that a) the screw was really tight, the screwdriver was wearing away and would probably rip the threads off the screw, which would have been bad. So off I go to Lowes again to get another set of screwdrivers, and this time I struck gold - a larger screwdriver with interchangeable tips, which worked wonderfully well, and I wish I'd had it earlier.

So finally I get the new drive installed, close it all back up, boot and... it works! After last week's data loss I'd made a full backup of the now dead HD to an external drive so was able to do a restore off it. Eight hours after discovering that the drive was dead I was finally able to work again. ARGH!!! <sigh>.

On the other hand, I'm looking forward to OSX Leopard's new Time Machine backup system. Since I'd ran the backup I'd copied about 100 pictures off a camera memory card and saved some timesheets - the pictures I'll probably be able to recover off the card, but I'm going to have to retrace my time for the timesheets, and hope I get it right.

Oh, and annoyingly, with the price of the replacement drive and all the hours of work I've lost for the day, I could have bought a refurbished MacBook that had an actual warranty. Argh.

So, did I mention that you should backup often?