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I don’t often like to shop at the campus computer store —the place is staffed by nincompoops and the parts department is always bereft of stock due to what I can only assume is a paralyzing fear of obsolescence— but time constraints occasionally force my hand. I needed my PowerBook examined pronto, since massive (and I mean massive) hangs and a weird, transient clicking noise emanating from beneath its aluminum skin led me to believe there’s something very wrong with it. Getting it in for a service, however, took more work than one would expect…

Hi, I’ve been having some trouble with my PowerBook, I think there’s something wrong with the hard disk. As far as I know it’s still under warranty, can you guys take a look at it?
[After checking I’m still covered by AppleCare] Why do you think it’s the disk?
I don’t really know… I’ve been getting some really huge hangs —like minutes at a time— when I’m launching apps, saving a bunch of work, that kind of thing. I checked out the CPU usage and it’s not lagging there… so I, uh… yeah.

The guy’s stare is piercing. Why can’t I say that I think there’s a problem with I/O and it’s causing a blocked process to stall for fucking ever while the disk gets its shit together? Is he employing some kind of mind-control beam? A pheromone spray, maybe? Why don’t I mention that as the hangs wear on, more and more apps become unresponsive, suggesting that now they’re queueing behind the first for I/O and getting bubkes? I’m looking like an idiot who doesn’t know anything about computers… and he’s on the other side of the desk looking like a smug fuck.

Have you repaired permissions?
No. No I haven’t


You should really repair permissions… that’s often the cause of a lot of these kinds of problem. Plus you’ve missed our hardware order, so even if I found something wrong with it today you’d have to wait until Monday before we can order new parts from Sydney.
O…K. Can you transfer my old data across if you do need to put in a new hard disk?
We can’t guarantee it, so it’s probably best for you to back it up yourself. Also, if we can’t find anything wrong, or that the problem is in software, then it won’t be covered by warranty and we must charge you half an hour labor time.
Alright. I guess I’d better repair permissions and back everything up. I’ll bring it in on Monday.

Again, I’m dumbfounded. Why don’t I tell him that I reinstalled the whole damned operating system just last week, specifically to exhaust all possible non-hardware issues before I brought it into the shop? Why don’t I tell him that I think repairing permissions is a bullshit solution to a problem he hasn’t even started to investigate? Why don’t I tell him I backed everything up three days ago, and that I’ve done nothing so important in those three days that he can’t take it right now? A perfect information asymmetry… he’s a professional, an expert, he’s supposed to know his shit, so I go home and do what I’m told.

In order of time spent performing unenjoyable tasks:

  1. Repairing permissions: fruitless.
  2. Backing up: so I did it again anyway, and retired from doing anything serious thereafter to ensure things didn’t get too far out of sync. Thank god I finally bought that new 250GB drive for my firewire enclosure.
  3. Using the laptop through the remains of the weekend: painful. Monday couldn’t come fast enough.

Stepping into the store on Monday I dealt with a young woman who was more than happy to take the computer off my hands. The catch: by noon I had already missed the hardware order and now, almost a week later, I’ve heard nothing back. I’ve come to assume that there was definitely something wrong with the hardware, otherwise they would’ve rung me already and demanded their fifty bucks for not solving my problem, but I shudder to think how long the parts will take to arrive. After all, it took them three weeks to get a 512MB stick of RAM in stock, how long could this take? To think of all that time I saved visiting the campus dealer instead of driving out to DigiLife

Updates as events warrant. In the mean time, I’m working from my backups on the ol’ eMac. The extra screen space is almost intimidating after being stuck at 1024 × 768 for so long.


As it turns out, it was the hard disk. So that’s one bet I’ve won against myself this year.

The brilliant minds of the service industry being what they are, I have to wait another week before I can see my PowerBook again. Why? Because AppleCare carries a new-for-old, like-for-like warranty on hardware… meaning my faulty 40GB hard disk drive is being replaced with another 40GB hard disk drive; something I wouldn’t protest if 40GB disks weren’t becoming increasingly rare and if Winthrop IT actually kept any stock on hand.

Instead, I have to wait for this disk to arrive from being on back-order. My offer to just pay the difference between the cost of the 40GB and some other, more easily acquired, disk was met with difficulty. “Sorry, we can’t do that. The warranty is like-for-like”. Shit. Of course, old Serge was nice enough to suggest I just buy a whole new hard disk outright and have them fit that… but that would completely negate the benefit of having a warranty, wouldn’t it? Jesus.