J. Spencer Love (jslove) wrote,
J. Spencer Love

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Sometimes you are doomed

Haven't posted in a while, but life has not been boring.

My brother-in-law, P, has had a very hard time. He had been bothering me for at least a week, maybe ten days, about the hard disk on his iBook. He lives in Palm Beach, FL, and I live in Massachusetts, so he spent a lot of time on the phone to free tech support (me).

We did the usual things. Disk Utility didn't help. He has Retrospect Express, which I made him buy, but his last backup was in May. This is not my fault! I made that backup, and left really clear instructions for making more, on all four of his family's Macs, but he never bothered. I really do not like being collateral damage to karmic justice.

Anyway, Retrospect refused to make a backup of his hard disk, but we hit upon the idea of making a backup in pieces. (We got almost everything and found where the corruption must have been.) The main thing was to recover all the files under his home directory; everything else ought to be a bonus, but now I am glad that we got everything we could, because AOL for MacOS X seems to be storing its account data in someplace other than ~user/Library.

P had an external Firewire (IEEE-1394, aka i.Link) hard drive, and we backed up onto that. When we had everything saved there, I had him reformat his iBook's hard drive, and then we restored the May backup onto it. Next, it was time to restore the new backup of his home directory, but we discovered that the external hard drive had gone unreadable. It wouldn't mount, complaining about an invalid header.

Needless to say, my BiL was not pleased with the prospect of losing almost nine months worth of work. The amount of torn hair on the floor was getting noticeable. He may, I say, may finally be a convert to the Church of Regular Backups (all members experienced battlefield conversions), but time will tell.

Poor P was hanging fire for several days, but here I came to save the day. Fortunately, I was going to Florida the next week. This was intended to be sort of a vacation, but it was also a command performance by/for my Mom, who wants to show off her family (in installments) to her Palm Beach friends. This can be stressful, to put it mildly, and tends to reduce the relaxation aspect of a so-called vacation.

So I show up with my PowerBook, several Firewire disk drives, and a whole pile of compact disks and DVDs containing various software. It's amazing what you can fit in an airline carry-on. I was also carrying, in my head, some advice from my friend, juseppi, who does this sort of thing for a living.

If anything more were needed to deep-six this vacation, it was all the time I spent at my BiL's on his computer, including the all-nighter the last night we were there. What worked didn't actually take that long, but I went loaded for a bunch of different recovery strategies, and had to make images of sick drives to try things out on, etc.

The first order of business was to run a bunch of diagnostics on the iBook to find out why the disks were getting corrupted. No luck on that score: P couldn't find the diagnostic disk that came with the iBook (we found several others), and the latest version of TechTool Pro has been emasculated (particularly its memory tests). DiskWarrior rocks. I finally left my sister's house at 8AM on Friday (flying out at 18:45), with his iBook completely restored, and all its software updated, as well.

That afternoon, I was taking my daughter, T, window-shopping one last time at a ludicrously expensive venue, the outdoor City Place mall in West Palm Beach (Worth Avenue, in Palm Beach, is even more outrageous), when my cell phone rings. P has accidentally poured a cup of coffee into the iBook, and it's a goner.

All that work, wasted.

Subsequent developments: the iBook, a 1-GHz G4, was two years old. Although he had bought AppleCare, which extends the warranty from one to three years, they do not cover acts of stupidity, just defects. So that doesn't help. He did not buy brain-damage insurance. I believe that CompUSA sells that, but they take weeks to process claims. AmEx might have covered that in the first year, I think, but probably not now.

The low boop that he gets, instead of a start-up chime, suggests that the motherboard may have been damaged, but if not, then the display board is surely toast. Certainly it won't do anything useful, not even Firewire drive emulation.

If he sends it back to Apple, they will replace both display board and motherboard, because they have to warrant their fix for 90 days, or some such period. By the time he has finished paying for that, he'll have shelled out the cost of a replacement machine, so the guy at the Genius Bar at the (almost) local Apple Store suggests he go directly to that step, save time, and have a faster notebook in the bargain.

Since P doesn't really want to spend that much money just now, free tech support has since spent a long time on the phone, with more expected in the morning. P is not really a computer person, but still, telling him what to do over the phone is much better than telling my sister, R, who is practically phobic. I should buy Apple Remote Desktop.

My niece, C, now at boarding school, has left behind an eMac, and I have been helping P restore his files to that machine. So far, just his home directory (2.7 GB). Everything is working now except AOL. I have to figure out how to make that work, so I am installing AOL here and next will try to figure out in what nonstandard place it is keeping its configuration files.

I should set rates for this.

On other fronts:

I gave the most important women in my life jewelry for Valentine's Day. (OK, I did not give any to my mother, nor to any of my, depending on how you count them, eight sisters -- three full, two half, and three step, nor to any of my uncounted sisters-in-law, aunts, or nieces, but they are less immediately important.)

This necessitated the explanation to my daughter, T, that no, she did not have to buy her Dad anything for Valentine's Day; that can wait until Fathers' Day. What she got was kind of a bonus at the jewelry store.

Continuing the theme of doom, there was a knot in the chain of the necklace, too fine to risk untying, and there were some other problems, so it's back to the store in the morning to get them sorted out. I hope to resolve this quickly. The 60-percent-cocoa dark chocolate that went with it probably saved me. Look for my obit in persis's journal, otherwise.

I have a new chiropractor, and will get adjusted in the morning. All my stress goes straight to my back, and I've been having sciatic pain, which suggests the stress is getting out of hand. The lovely dlanger gave Doctor Dan a glowing recommendation, and I have signed my whole family up there. It's an experiment; I hope it isn't also doomed.
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