computers


Today would be the two-week anniversary of me dropping off my iMac at the Glendale Apple Store, to replace a failing logic board, but fortunately the work was completed and I was able to retrieve it Saturday.

I’d written about the issues I had with being forced into paying for a data transfer option by the tech at the store’s Genius bar when I delivered the desktop, and then again about the additional issues that resulted from a call from a tech who had wondered mistakenly why my computer had no RAM in it and expressed little confidence the data transfer — that I considered entirely unnecessary in the first place — was going to be successful.

In the end it all worked out. The new board was installed and a test-fire of the computer showed all my files still alive, and when I went to to begrudingly pay the $50 donation to Steve Jobs’ Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund data transfer fee I was pleasantly surprised to hear from the tech that there would be no charge. I wasn’t told why and I frankly I didn’t care. I just appreciate that Apple could’ve taken my money and decided to do the right thing.

Yay.

Cell phone rings, it’s one of them geniusesses from the Glendale Apple store.

First thing out of his mouth after introducing himself is “You don’t have any RAM in your computer.”

“I mull that weirdly accusatory statement and offer a rephrasing that was more specific: “My computer most certainly had RAM in it when I dropped it off, so any RAM that the computer doesn’t have now was removed by someone there after I left it in your hands.”

“Oh.

Turns out what the genius saw as no RAM was in fact no additional memory chips installed beyond the 512 megs that came with the computer and are apparently a part of the motherboard, which is what needs replacing.

Good thing I could help him figure that out, though I’m sure that anyone using an Apple computer with anything less than 1 meg of RAM inspires snickers and calls of “wanna-be!” amongst the geniusesses, but that’s just how I’ve rolled this last three years.

Then he tells me that all he’s getting is the folder-with-the-question-mark icon when he boots it up and that clearly means my hard drive is done for.

So I then have to counterpoint out that after the phone session with the Applecare tech I was getting that same icon but that after a minute or two of just letting it blink it would cycle over and everything would load in fine at least until the motherboard got pissed off and put the whole machine to sleep, which is why the machine is in their in the first place.

“Oh.”

So then he tells me he’s trying to complete the data transfer but that it’s going reeeaaaaaallllly slowly and he’s not sure if it can be done, and I envision all my files just going poof because he’s sitting there shaking the thing vigorously to see if he can’t loosen whatever’s blocking the bits ‘n bytes from being moved to a safe back-up haven.

I change the subject: “Has the motherboard arrived?”

“Yes!”

I’m heartened by that good news.

“Well then answer me this: is it feasible to remove the old motherboard and install the new one without doing anything to the hard drive?”

“Sure.”

My mind reels with accusatory WTFs as to why the data transfer needed to be bothered with, but I know it’s useless to get into a debate about that topic so instead I offer up what I called “Plan B,” wherein I suggested that if the data transfer doesn’t succeed, just leave the drive alone, install the board and let me have my computer back.

The genius agrees and tells me he’ll keep me posted.

That was Tuesday.

In a perfect world, Apple Store Genius Bars would be populated by actual geniuses with ready access (or at least minimal delay) to whatever part was needed for repairs.

In reality my almost 3-year-old G5 iMac’s need for a new logic board installation (thank goodness the ‘puter came bundled with Applecare protection) will now be a week in the waiting as of tomorrow, and the best  knowledge the “genius” I spoke to at the Glendale Galleria branch could drop on me yesterday was that it’ll be a “couple more days at least” until the part arrives.

Why did I call to check knowing the news wouldn’t be good? That would be because the “genius” who received my desktop for repair last Monday evening told me the part would take no more than three days to arrive and it should be ready for pick-up by “the end of the week.” Guess not.

And here’s the kicker, I’m being dinged a $50 data transfer fee so that they don’t actually wipe away — among many other things — the 90,000 images in my iPhoto library.

“Did you back up your files?” the genius asked me.

“No, I couldn’t back up my files because the computer’s failing logic board won’t leave the computer operating long enough to allow me to complete such an intensive task.

“Oh. Well, that’ll be $50 if you want us to do that.”

“But why would I be charged for something that couldn’t be done because of the failing component of the computer?”

“Because data transfer is not covered under Applecare protection.”

“Right, but the back-up is a direct result of the failed part that’s covered.”

“But it’s precautionary, not required.”

“I understand that, but why would my files be at risk if it’s a hardware issue and not a software issue.”

“That’s up to the tech to decide.”

“But it’s already been decided.”

“But the tech may decide to wipe the drive.”

“But why? I did a full drive/software check over the phone with the support guy and the drive’s entirely OK.”

“It’s up to you.”

“Can’t the tech just take out my drive and put in another during the logic board install?”

“You want us to give you a new hard drive?” the “genius” asked sarcastically enough that I had to take a deep breath and stop myself from losing my cool and instead repeat myself using smaller words and a slower speech speed re-explaining my idea of a temporary alternative that would prevent my data from being touched — especially when it was already proven that it needn’t be.

Silly me. The look on his face was textbook: Does Not Compute. So insead the “genius” simply reiterated that it was my choice whether or not I wanted to utilize the precautionary option for a $50 fee. I considered one last query as to how the tech might be able to back-up my disk when I couldn’t, but I had a funny feeling the answer might be that the back-up — if at all — wouldn’t take place until after the logic board was replaced. Not wanting to laugh myself to death I just authorized the option, and got the hell away from all that intelligence.

So the DSL modem went into what turned out to be its death throes last night, its panel of three LEDs raging in a blinky fluttering show of red and orange and green desperation.

I unplugged the thing and let it sit a bit before reconnecting it, but that didn’t help things. Then I pulled out all the ethernet and phone cables and let it sit some more but it seemed the hardware had come to its end at the sad young age of 2.

Too soon. Waaaaaay too soon.

This morning. Nothing. Not even the faintest blip of light emitting diode flashed and so I called AT&T’s tech support and after getting connected to “Jeff” in Banganila and dutifully redoing the steps I’d already done he declared the 2Wire 1701HG Gateway deceased, and without even so much as giving me a chance to grieve over its corpse offered to send me a new and improved 2Wire 2701HG “free” if I upgraded my account… which meant a price bump of about five bucks a month.

No thanks, bastards.

I’m pretty sure they killed it with some sort of self-destruct code sent from an underground bunker in Bangor. Or maybe Bangalore. Damn them.

But I’m not getting suckered into their scheme. Instead I hauled out the old lapper and plugged in a phone line and did the old dial-up thing, the 56K-speed connection screech brrrrp sound bringing back memories of the early ’90s. Then I promptly (meaning “glacially” in terms of surfing speed) found a bigbox store nearby that has the new 2Wire 2701HG unit and I’ll be picking that up today on my way back from a job fair down in Anaheim.

UPDATED (9:33 a.m.): Wow, I actually resurrected the 6-year-old Apple Airport base station that’s apparently too old and obsolete to be effected by AT&T’s Biennial Gateway Decimatrix Pulse. I’m still cruising the internuts at 56K, but at least the lapper ain’t tethered to a phone cord.

UPDATED (3:58 p.m.): New wireless router/modem installed. Ahhhh. Much better.

UPDATED (7:00 p.m.): Might I add that my term “Biennial Gateway Decimatrix Pulse” is my new favorite invention ever. I might even get it put on a shirt.

Tuesday afternoon I get on my bike and roll over to Samy’s Camera on Fairfax because I’ve been long overdue in replinishing various lens caps and covers and such that have been since sacrificed to the lens cap gods and gone for some time. On my list is a 58mm cover for the big telephoto lens, plus a bayonet-style cover for the rear of the thing. Then there’s the 62mm UV filter that we never got for the lens that came with the Canon Digital Rebel we bought almost two years ago, and someone along the line I lost the cap that fits into the lens mount on the Rebel’s body.

West L.A. is my least favorite cycling territory, especially in the middle of the day. Perhaps because that area of the city supports so few bikes and significantly more people who wouldn’t be caught dead on one. Not to get all sociological, but on the easterly side of town street riding is a lot more comfortable and I feel more accepted on the road not just because bikes are more prevalent, but also because more people who live and work there come from places or backgrounds where bikes were a more entrenched part of their lives and communities.

On the westside on a bike at 2 p.m. among the hip-hop Hummers and the blinged-out Benz’s I’m either invisible or a target, neither doing much to make me feel anything but a stranger in a strange land.

Coming up Sunset to Fountain over to La Brea and down past the huge crowd lined up outside Pinks to Beverly then west to Fairfax and south I arrive at Samy’s south of Third Street and lock up the bike outside the main door. I forego the really slow elevator and instead two-at-a-time the stairs to the third floor where the cameras and gear are and eventually hook up with a semi-crotchety old sales dude who gathers up all the goods on my list and then surprises me at the register by discounting every discountable item.

“That filter’s $18.95. You don’t want to pay that do you?” he asks and then before I can answer that indeed I didn’t not want to pay that amount he’s already punching in some code that magically changes the price to $13.95. Saved me about $10 total. Didn’t have to do that. Not sure why he did. Maybe it was the “One Less Car” button on my backpack, which he remarked that he liked. He also said he liked my decidely unreadable signature on the back of my credit card.

“You must be a doctor… or a plumber or someone important,” he winked.

“Worse,” I said, “a writer.”

He smiled.

I think it’s the first time I’ve ever ever ever refered to myself out loud as a writer. Not that that’s any type of epiphaneal moment of revelation and proud acceptance. It was just a better way of saying I’m presently nonemployed.

Exiting Samy’s I unlock and mount up in front of a blonde animated on her cell phone in her convertible with the engine running who looks at me as if I have a scarlet “DORK” embroidered across my forehead and roll back up Fairfax across Third. Passing Dupars and the Farmers Market I decide to dive right and head into the Grove and its Apple store. Locking up to a bench outside it because there are no dedicated places at the Grove to lock up your bike because no one bikes in West L.A. (hell, some people take the lame-ass Grove trolley because even walking in L.A. in an outdoor mall is too much a chore).

I head across the store’s threshhold past its facade of gleaming stainless and glass and go up to the stuffy and hot second floor sauna where the air is clearly not being properly conditioned and soon find what I’m looking for: a cover for the iPod Shuffle I bought last week. I scoff at the ridiculous price and scoff even harder that I don’t turn around and walk out, but then I decide on which $20 cover thingy I want for the $60 music player because I’m a sucker and just can’t find a way to tolerate that in the scant days I’ve owned and used the thing it’s already gotten scuffed up and marred (from all that strenous sitting in my pocket). Making the things white is the obvious stroke of genius, but personally I think there’s a more covert system at work; that the markings are built in and masked by a layer of something that quickly disintegrates after being removed from its box.

That Steve Jobs is fucking after-market brilliant!

Before I hit the register I make the mistake of looking across the floor to the games area. I’d just read a review in the current issue of “Macworld” that had mostly positive things to say about a new first-person shooter release called “Quake 4″ and see it on the shelf. But when I get over to all the gaming goodness I find myself drawn instead to “Doom3.” Released to great acclaim for PC and gaming consoles awhile ago, it is a pleasant surprise to find it finally ported to the Mac platform. And now that I sported a desktop with the capability to handle just such hardware-busting software, it was high time to test it out.

It’s the first Mac-based video game I’ve purchased in more than two years. Not just because of any machine obsolescence, but moreso because I’m all to well aware of my short-term addiction to whatever game I’m playing, which goes a little something like this:

  1. Install game.
  2. Do little else but play game for the next week or so.
  3. Finish and/or get bored with game, go online find cheat codes.
  4. Use cheat codes and play game with reckless abandon for another day or two until reeeeeeally bored and increasingly self-loathed as I realize what a waste I’ve made of my time.
  5. Remove software from system.
  6. Put disks and manual back in original packaging.
  7. Put packaging away somewhere and forget totally about it for a month or more before finding the packaging and put the game up for sale on eBay.

Sure enough, Tuesday evening when Susan got home from work there I was getting the crap scared out of me (the game truly lives up to its hype as a genuinely unnerving experience). And after dinner and a bit of TV I was back at the keyboard creeping cautiously through the darkened corridors hoping not to get the hell beat out of me by any of a slew of hideous creatures.

When Susan went to bed I said I’d be there in a few minutes. Yeah, right. More than three hours later, so engrossed in the game I didn’t even hear Susan come to the doorway until from the peripheral shadows she sleepily called out “Whatcha doing?” and I jumped and almost peedmypants.

“Uh… the computer,” I answered oh so lamely and more than a little bit sheepishly. “The computer…” she reIn the darkness I couldn’t see her rolling her eyes, but I so know she did as she turned around and shuffled off back to bed.

At least I had sense enough to quit out of the game a few moments later and sneak into bed, but the reception I got was noticealby cool and any attempt to cuddle up was rejected by her cat Bink being firmly positioned between us and like Monty Python’s seminal Black Knight allowing known to pass.

The good news is that yesterday after immersing myself in the game for an amount of time I’m too embarrassed to say, I found myself already getting bored at the “creep around terrified and shoot anything that moves until it dies and then a couple extra rounds just to be sure” redundancy and thinking about cheat codes, which could spell the accelerated doom of “Doom3″ and a return to normalcy.

We’ll seeeeeeeee.

Hey there. In reference to the last item on the To Do List I posted yesterday that I’ve been working on ALL DAY, I just wanted to check in and simultaneously rip out all my hair as I wonder why the hell on earth is iMovie automatically letterboxing all 4,345,345 preliminary and entirely unedited clips that I’ve culled from the bazillion hours of raw footage we shot in Africa.

Indeed, I had just finished importing the last of close to 200 clips when the next thing I know I’ve got a dialogue box popping up that’s titled “Letterboxing” and below that it says “Please wait. This may take awhile.” EVen better there’s no “cancel” button. It’s just going to go ahead and letterbox.

And gawd damn right it’ll take a while. Those clips range from several seconds to several freaking minutes and I’m well aware how long it takes to letterbox one much less all of them (which it is doing — and did I mention I didn’t tell it to?). Not only that, but they’re unedited. I may just end up with a few choice seconds of most of them AND BY CHRIST I DID NOT WANT THEM FUCKING LETTERBOXED BEFORE DURING OR AT LEAST NOT UNTIL AFTER THIS ALREADY TORTUROUS ORDEAL!

Case in point: 15 minutes into it and it’s letterboxing clip number 10. Ten! Do the math 200 divided by 10 = 20 times 15 =300 minutes equals five fucking hours! At this rate it would be quicker for me to force-kill the program and just START THE HELL OVER!

You know that scene in the Diane Keaton’s Baby Boom where she’s up in Vermont or Maine or Nova Scotia for all I give a shit and her well’s gone dry and she finds out how much it’ll cost to tap into the county line and she has a four-alarm hysterical before fainting flat into the snow?

Oh but I can relate.

UPDATE (5:07 p.m.): I couldn’t take it anymore and I stuck a virtual shotgun to iMovie’s head and force-quit its ass. I feel better now.

So you may have slogged through my nervous breakdown post last week in which I went to Fry’s Electronics store in Burbank and left with a hard drive and the voice of Steve Jobs in my head, all but doomed to get me some iMac goodness because my nearly four-year-old eMac is, well, just a cranky shadow of its former, loveable entry-level self.

But I was good. In the weekend that passed I avoided the nearby Apple stores. Yes, I dallied online at MacMall and MacWarehouse, customizing the purchase of my new computer. But I never got down to actually making the buy because I just get worn out and preturbed by all the free-after-mail-in-rebate sidecrap that you end up buying with the computer: gigabytes of RAM and a graphics tablet, and an Epson all-in-one printer. By the time I got to the checkout, the bill was up over $2000 — and that was without the three-year and $169 AppleCare Protection Plan.

Sure, after printing out and completing the not-easily-found rebate forms and being sure to submit them within the required time window with the corresponding original UPC codes, receipts, an original sonnet and a notarized blood sample I’d be getting $300 of that back in various checks that may or may not arrive in six weeks to four months.

Keep all that bullshit, I said.

Then came yesterday. I had to go to Samy’s Camera on Fairfax to pick up my repaired Canon G3, and guess what’s near there? Yes, The Grove. And what’s in The Grove. Yes, an Apple store.

But I was good. After I got the camera I headed up Fairfax to Third and made a right. With The Grove slipping past me on my left as I headed east, I said to myself “No, I will not be buying an iMac at The Grove today.”

The voice of Steve Jobs inside my head cursed.

But there was reason to my resolve. See, Apple Stores only carry the brandest of the brand new iMac’s with their Intel chips, and from my excursions online with MacMall I found they’re clearing out the last of the iMac G5s at a pretty substantial pricebreak. Being something of an Apple loyalist, I scoffed at the news that it would be putting Intel inside its next generation of computers, and decided I would get me one of the last remaining “true” Apples. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the 20-inch iMac G5 was only a couple hundred or so more than its newer 17-inch counterpart.

Sot there I was, proud and resolute and on my way to Costco to get various fruits and such in bulk. I got tangerines and mangos and coldcuts and coffee and artichoke hearts and hearts of palm and grape tomatoes and sweet mini peppers…

And an iMac G5.

It couldn’t have been better scripted. Thanks to Cybele on her Candy Blog spotlighting Lemonheads and the other awesome-sounding flavors I never knew they made (grape… and cherry!)I made one last turn down the candy aisle jonesing in hope that some mass quantity of Lemonheads would appear. They did not.

So at the end of that middle aisle I jogged over to the electronics section, came down past the line-up of high-def TVs just for the fun, bore right at the end and there right in front of me next to the Verizon Wireless kiosk were stacks of iMac G5 boxes. The 20-inch version.

The. One. I. Wanted — and get this: included in the purchase price was the three-year $169 AppleCare Protection Plan. Included. No rebates. Nothing to complete, stamp, mail, and pray. Pure Apple computer iMac goodness. Just grab it by the handle and go.

Which I did.

And the voice of Steve Jobs inside my head wept.

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