I briefly considered doing a fresh install on the old PowerBook to see if it could be used as a second laptop, instead of just wiping it to recycle, but quickly remembered that the reason we replaced it was a hardware problem.

Still, it would be nice to have two portable computers for when we travel. I have a horrible tendency to hog the laptop when we get back to the hotel.

The thing is, we don’t need a second laptop for normal use. So getting another MacBook, or even a full-size Windows laptop, is overkill. Would a netbook do the trick? What do I use a computer for when traveling?

  • Reading/writing email.
  • Managing & uploading photos.
  • Blogging & managing blog comments.
  • Twitter (and more recently Facebook).
  • Web access.

Yeah, I could easily get by on a netbook, freeing up the MacBook for Katie to use.

But do I even need the netbook?

Almost everything on that list is something I can do with my Android phone, assuming WiFi or a decent 3G signal. Not as quickly, perhaps. I type a lot more slowly on the G1 than a full-sized keyboard, and even at 3G speeds web browsing can be slow, especially on sites that don’t optimize for mobile use. And websites that require Flash still won’t work.

The real deal-breaker is (still) photo management. I can upload photos I’ve taken with the phone, but only one at a time — and I can’t transfer photos from the regular camera. The small screen size also makes it harder to look through a set of several similar photos and pick out the best one.

So I could manage with just my phone if I had:

  • A way to transfer photos from my camera to my phone. (The hard part. Android issue 738 is an enhancement request to be able to connect USB devices. It’s not clear whether the G1 hardware supports USB On-The-Go or not, but the drivers and Android OS don’t — at least not yet.)
  • An app to mass-upload photos to Flickr. (They exist, I just need to research and try a few out.)

I guess for now the best way to handle it is for me to just upload photos on the laptop, without taking the time to label them, then hand it over and move to the smartphone. Though if the network connection is particularly slow, like it was at Comic-Con International this year, that would still be problematic.

Of course, we don’t have any travel plans at the moment until next spring. Who knows? By then a netbook (or a newer phone) may be more practical.

Subject: An old G4 PowerBook laptop which locks up after several hours of use.

  • Test the memory so that, if it’s good, we can resell it instead of recycling it.
  • Wipe the hard disk so that we can recycle the computer.


  • Tech Tool Pro 4 disc
  • Tech Tool Pro 5 disc
  • Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard install disc
  • Mac OS X 10.3 install disc (came with laptop)

You’d think this would be easy… Continue reading

The problem with the PowerBook has been confirmed to be the RAM upgrade I put in back in 2004. It hummed along fine for 3½ years, but I guess it finally went bad with the laptop getting so much more use the last few weeks.

Better something modular and easy to get at (well, except for the one stripped screw) than something intrinsic to the machine. Under the circumstances, I’m just having the shop replace it.

Though I guess I should’ve known better than to trust this guy:

Sheep with a laser attached to its face.  Caption: O hai! I upgraded your RAM!
moar humorous pics

(Check out the original lolcat post if you don’t recognize the phrasing.)

Assuming the box continues to pass diagnostics with the new memory, I should be able to pick it up at lunch on Monday.

Update: Success! The computer is back, and working again!

After nearly 4 years of faithful service, our G4 PowerBook has crashed. This machine has been rock-solid through 2 OS upgrades, a RAM upgrade, and a battery recall. On Sunday, the hard disk finally gave out.

We only lost a few recent files. I had a chance to grab them on Saturday, but unfortunately I misread the signs and thought it was a software problem. Hey, you install a bunch of stuff including a system update, and the machine freezes, you figure it’s a software problem. Until it happens again, and this time it won’t come back up. 😡

After doing all the diagnostics & resets I could possibly come up with, I set up an appointment at the local Apple Store’s “Genius Bar” during my lunch break today. They confirmed it was the drive, and since it’s long out of warranty, they pointed me to a local repair shop. (They were willing to do the job, but can only order parts directly from Apple, so it would’ve been insanely expensive just for the drive.)

Fortunately, as far as laptop hardware failures go, a hardware drive is relatively easy to fix. If the case were simpler, I’d be willing to do it myself, but as the Apple tech joked, “It takes 36 screws just to get the case open.” At least, I think he was joking.

So instead of having to replace the entire computer, or send it in and wait several weeks, we’re looking at ~$200 and 3–5 days. And while I was at it, I sprang for double the capacity.

I can live with that.

Update: It turned out to be the RAM upgrade, not the disk, which makes it considerably simpler to resolve. Finally got it back the following Monday.

Mac OS X LeopardThe new Mac OS X disc arrived in today’s mail. I opened it up to make sure everything was there, and was surprised to see that Apple has really cut down on packaging. Instead of the ~8×10″ box with folds to keep the disc and manual in place, they’ve gone to a small box the size of a cardboard CD case. Just enough room for the DVD and the “manual” (which is mainly a “Look what’s new!” booklet).

“So,” I said. “I have to ask myself. Do I feel lucky?”
“Well,” Katie replied. “Do you? Punk?”
“What the heck.”

I’d done some research on application compatibility earlier this week, and the PowerBook looked ready. Katie’s desktop is going to need further study. The Mac Classic environment will no longer run under Leopard, and she’s still got a couple of Classic apps she pulls out occasionally. Also, Photoshop 7 is reported not to run under Leopard, and Adobe isn’t testing or updating anything older than CS3.

But the laptop? No critical data to back up (it’s all duplicated from the desktops), and everything we actually use on it has been tested on at least a pre-release.

So I fired up Netscape 4 for old times’ sake (and discovered that this theme is completely unreadable in it; then I switched the CSS around so that Netscape 4 won’t even try). Then I popped in the disc, selected some options, and let it install during Pushing Daisies.

No problems so far. Disk space is running low, but it’s a 3-year old laptop (so the drive is small) and I did an Archive and Install, so it has a backup of the old OS. Once it’s clear that everything works, I can free up ~6GB right there. It may also be time to wipe the Yellow Dog Linux partition. I haven’t used it in over a year.

Some highlights: I really like finally having virtual desktops (what Apple calls “Spaces”). The new search highlighting, previously seen in the Safari 3 beta, appears in other apps as well. Heck, Safari 3 is a big jump itself. (Hey, Apple, where are the Windows and Tiger releases?)