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Learning the hard way

You know how when you buy a new Mac you look at the price of factory-installed RAM and snort, knowing full well how much cheaper RAM can be bought at any computer store in the world and easily self-installed? It’s only RAM, after all; it’s a standardized, mass-produced stick of crap you’re going to upgrade sooner or later anyway, right? Where’s the risk in third-party stuff? Why pay twice as much for the pleasure of AppleCare-protected RAM? Well, that was what I thought at the beginning of last year when I bought my PowerBook. Feel free to tut.

Halfway through my trip this summer gone I noticed things were starting to slow down on the ol’ lappy… particularly when I was running iPhoto. Though I noticed the slowdown, it never really worried me; or rather, it didn’t set off any alarm bells. My photo library had exploded from one thousand to six thousand pics in a matter of months as we snap-happy tourists set about capturing the globe on memory stick, of course it was going to run a little slower.

Later, the crashes came. iPhoto would bomb intermittently, and I dreaded even launching it because I knew how it would dog the system. Later still, the kernel panics came, and I became concerned. I’d seen them before, obviously, though never on 10.3 and never on this PowerBook, but when they happen twice in a week you have to be a little suspicious. Opening the ‘About This Mac’ panel for no reason in particular, I was told I have 512MB of RAM installed. Hold up… there’s 256MB on the logic board, and… uh… there’s supposed to be another 512MB in the expansion slot. The math definitely didn’t work. Unless I’m stupider than I look.

System Profiler confirmed it: the built-in 256MB shows up fine, but the 512MB DIMM was reporting itself as 256MB… half my fucking RAM was corrupt. Or, I should say, is corrupt. I’m still waiting on my replacement and my copy of Tiger (which should arrive tomorrow), and refraining from anything too strenuous in the mean time. At least the new stick is officially endorsed and AppleCare-protected should anything happen in the future. It just kinda smarts that I’ve now paid twice for something that only saved me a little cash in the first place.