Friday, April 9, 2010

Third Time's a Charm!

She's back.

It took me a year and a half, but tonight (after two hours of work) I finally repaired my Powerbook G3 Lombard.

My beloved Nadia is alive and kicking.


Nadia died (for the second time) in December 2008.

I remember it was on a Saturday morning. I was browsing eBay and checking the soccer scores online when the phone rang. A friend of mine wanted to meet for breakfast, so I quickly checked the bus schedule and made my way out the door. I left Nadia on, and let OS X's Software Update do its thing. After a half-hour had passed, Nadia went into "Hibernate" mode.

She never woke up.

I tried everything in my power to get her to boot. Tried resetting the Power Management Unit, tried zapping the PRAM settings, tried pleading and swearing, all to no avail.

I took the laptop apart a couple of times, to look for any obvious problems and found nothing. After a couple of weeks of researching, poring over repair guides, and asking around on Mac forums, I gave up. Nadia was put in the Lab along with all the other machines in need of repair. The Pile of No Return, as it has since come to be known.

Fast forward to today.

I've been wracking my brain trying to fix my Compaq Armada (aka iBludgeon) since it died last week. I've managed to get the thing to boot off of floppies or CDs, but only if I remove the hard drive. Remembering that I had a nice 60Gb drive sitting in Nadia's lifeless shell, I made the decision this evening to donate some of Nadia's organs for transplant purposes.

I was removing her hard drive when I noticed a tiny broken connector on Nadia's sound board.

I remember I'd been having trouble with Nadia's speakers before she died... then it hit me like a ton of bricks: the power switch on the Powerbook G3 Lombard is also routed through the sound board!

Son of a bitch! Could the solution be that easy?

I grabbed the spare non-working Lombard I'd bought solely for its battery and tore out its sound board. I slowly and carefully took Nadia apart, removed the old sound board, popped the replacement in, put her back together, powered her up, and...

"Startup Chime"

Yup. It was the power switch after all. Somehow it must have come loose or broke during our travels.

The hard drive whirred to life and booted into OS X. Guess that settles that!

I've spent the last hour checking her out, making sure everything does what it's supposed to do. The internal PRAM battery is dead, so she's not keeping date & time current. The main battery is depleted, hopefully it'll still hold a decent charge. The speakers work well (listening to Luxuriamusic as I write this), and overall Nadia seems ship-shape.

I have my mobile blogging machine and Girl Friday back again.

Hopefully for good this time.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sometimes the Voices in My Head Are Right

You know, it's my own damned fault.

I usually ignore those voices in my head, they tell me things I dare not repeat. But damn it all, this time, they were right.

"Don't do it, CJ," they plead, "You're just gonna screw it all up!"

"Nonsense!," I exclaimed, "We meet the system requirements, there's no reason this shouldn't work!"

Famous last words. Especially when a Windows product is involved.

Sure enough, the Blue Screen of Death popped up on my laptop screen... and the system shut down.

And wouldn't reboot.

The monitor's "soft-adjust" app conflicted with something else I had running (likely my webcam suite) and caused the BSoD... which in turn wiped the boot sector of my hard drive.

Thus my $10 laptop became a $10 paperweight.

But let's backtrack a bit.

I bought the laptop in question (a Compaq Armada 1750 I soon nicknamed "iBludgeon") for ten bucks back in the fall. I spent a couple of weeks locating a few things I'd need to get it going (hard drive caddy, power cord, etc), all of which were found easily and inexpensively. A couple of days later, the unit was good to go.

Since then, the laptop has been used for the sole purpose of controlling my Ten-Tec RX320D software-defined radio. It performed the role admirably, and using this combination I was able to pick up shortwave stations I am normally unable to receive on some of my other radios.

After a while, it seemed that the laptop was being wasted in such a role. I could easily cobble together a more powerful desktop system to take its place, and free iBludgeon up for more portable use. With my schedule the way it is, and with Nadia a long way from being fixed, I decided to use iBludgeon as my new mobile office, photography, and blogging machine.

Indeed, I've spent the last month loading iBludgeon up with my Office suite, camera software, photo printer suite, GIMP graphics editor, and a few other apps I felt I needed. I bought a Wireless-G wifi card on closeout for $30 at Staples on Thursday, and I even found my old webcam and installed that!

Life was good.

This morning, while checking on an eBay auction, I came across a docking station for the laptop. I snagged it for a fiver (plus $30 shipping), and sent payment as soon as the invoice hit my inbox.

"So," I thought to myself, "This is good. I can leave my photo printer, Ten-Tec radio, and USB 14-in-One card reader hooked up to the docking station instead of constantly connecting and disconnecting everything from the laptop whenever I want to go out."

Which is cool, because it's a pain in the ass to constantly connect and disconnect everything... I know from experience.

I was in the process of cleaning off my office desk when I had an idea. The docking station has an external monitor port... and I have a nice widescreen LCD monitor that's been sitting on my other desk unused since my Linux box died.

I checked the monitor's manual, and sure enough, iBludgeon met the requirements... 200MHz processor, Windows 98 through XP. I'm running Windows 2000 SP4 on a PIII 850 (running at 700MHz).

This should work!