The internet sure is a wonderful resource. Back when I owned a Apple Authorized Repair Center, I had amazing repair guides from AppleCare, Apple’s excellent support division. While I’m glad to be out of that business (the day of mom/pop computer stores is long gone), I still need to fix my own Apple hardware.
Photo by krossbow. Released under creative commons attribution license.
That brings up the Powerbook G4. It’s old and a bit dinged and dented, but it’s my day-to-day machine. I want to replace it. I really do. The problem is that Apple hasn’t made the machine I want to buy next. I’m not traveling a lot these days, but I still am on the road more than the average bear.
Photo by jeremyfoo. Released under Creative Commons Attribution license.
The 12″ Powerbook was, when it arrived on the scene, the perfect machine for my lifestyle. It was small but had the processing power, and more importantly, the ports, to meet my requirements for a desktop system. The DVI video out was especially important.
If you’ve listened to my podcasts lately, you know that I always get a bit excited every time Apple gets ready to make a product announcement, hoping that the computer I’m looking for is going to be released. I’m talking small, lightweight, powerful, and with enough video to support an external 19″ monitor. I don’t care about having a dvd/cd as long as I can do updates from the internet.
Anyhow, Apple hasn’t been paying attention to what I want and so, as long as it behaves in a reasonable way, I’m going to stick with the little Powerbook. For the last 8 months or so, it hasn’t been reasonable. The 80GB hard drive was running close to full. I moved my iPhoto library to an external Firewire drive and that helped for a bit but soon the little notebook was full again.
This past weekend, after a short power outage, my Powerbook woke up to a question mark. The boot loader couldn’t find a hard drive. I launched Safari on my Mac OS server and ordered a 250GB Western Digital hard drive from Other World Computing. It was an easy experience and the drive was delivered in good shape on time. I probably could have saved a few dollars by shopping around, but so far, OWC has treated me well.
A few years ago, it would have been a lot harder to do without those wonderful Applecare manuals. These days, Google is your friend and a search for 12″ Powerbook G4 brought me quickly to iFixit.com. Their free web guides took me step by step through the process. I’ve repaired a lot of laptops in the past, developed and taught repair classes across the US, so I had a bit of an advantage. I’m still convinced that anyone who can pay attention, has good eyesight and the right tools, can do this and other repairs successfully.
The proper tools are very important. The screws and fasteners in a Powerbook are tee-entsey. Using a screwdriver that is too small, or too big, or not exactly the right shape can damage the screw and make it a lot more difficult to remove.
Speaking of screws, there are a lot of them and they come in several different flavors. The iFixit guide gives you a pretty good screw guide, but I go a step farther. I take sheets of heavy paper or cardboard and Sharpie(tm) a circle on it for each screw I remove. I tape the screw to the circle and write down where it came from. When I take off big pieces with several screws, I draw a sketch of the piece and put the circles in the approximate place where the screw comes from.
I know that this might sound a bit compulsive, but it’s a real good thing to do. Back when I had a shop full of technicians, I made everyone do this; even the ones with good memories.
The rumor sites are suggesting that Apple will announce new laptops next month (October). I’m going to hold off on getting excited, but hope that my next computer is in the lineup.