log (2011/02/11 to 2011/02/17)

So M, who remembers things by some entirely different and more accurate method than I do, points out that the little boy's obsolete 800MHz iBook G4 mentioned yesterday actually used to be hers (M's), not mine. And that after saying that I'd installed OS X 10.6 on the new LCD-swapped one, I later described it as having 10.5.

These things happen!

Speaking of obsolete 800MHz iBook G4s, one thing that Apple (normally so hot on the whole User Experience thing) somehow completely doesn't get is that it ought to be possible to figure out which product you actually have.

For instance, this thing here is an Alienware M15X, which is a relatively well-defined class of things; one imagines that when they bring out a different computer, it will be called the M15Y or N17Q or Snuzzy or something. And the respectable work computer is a Thinkpad W500; different Thinkpads are called T60p or T410 or whatever. But the macbooks whose LCD displays I wanted to swap, and look up what kind of memory they take? Not so clear!

They are 13-inch macbooks, but that doesn't entirely narrow it down. For instance on the "macbook: how to remove or install memory" page, there are eleven different macbooks listed, all 13-inch, with extremely helpful names like "MacBook (13-inch, Mid 2007)". I don't know about you, but my having any idea when a particular computer in my house was acquired (let alone manufactured, which is what they probably mean) is as unlikely as a significantly unlikely thing! (And just when did "Mid 2007" start and end, anyway?)

But note! That page points to a "How to identify MacBook models" page, which will no doubt clear this all up. That page has not just one, but two, methods of accomplishing our goal.

First, you can enter the serial number, and it will tell you what you have. Terrific!

Sadly, when I enter the serial number of one of these, it tells me that it's a 13-inch Macbook. Woo woo! I knew that; I need to know if it is the Mid 2007 one, or say the Late 2006 one, or perhaps the Mid 2009 one, or for all I know the "Macbook (13-inch, made that day when Lenny came in smashed)" model.

The other method on the page instantly disqualifies itself from usefulness by starting with "If you still have the box or receipt from your MacBook...".

Ha ha!
Ha ha ha!

That is very funny, Apple.

You are such a card.

So anyway we just went with the information for some random submodel of 13-inch Macbook, and everything seems to have worked (so far touch wood).

And it is very nice having non-broken computers! And having a working computer with iTunes on it (although the latest iTunes' pathological obsession with "Ping" really needs a nice big "omg go away with the Ping stuff" button to push).

Just tonight for instance I have added to my library nine separate covers of "Hit the Road Jack", including Ray Charles (of course), two different reggae versions, and one from Thai Beat a Go-Go (Vol. 1), which should be interesting...

Start with:

One ancient 800MHz iBook G4, which I used to use a long time ago, and the little boy had inherited and suffered with stoically all this time, until recently he wanted to use something that really wants OS X 10.5 or better, which really doesn't want to install on such a slow machine (and although there are ways to trick it, he's suffered long enough),

One early Intel macbook, used intensely at college by the little daughter until it broke in various ways (significantly not including the LCD screen or memory) and she moved on to a macbook pro,

One similar early Intel macbook, used by me pretty much just for my music library, and in fact used so seldom that I eventually I left it in a corner somewhere where it got a heavy object dropped on it corner-first, resulting in the spiderweb pattern of cracks in the LCD that mean "this has had a heavy object dropped on it corner-first",

One PowerPro P 15:2 or something, which turned out to be a complete lemon (one suspects that somewhere in the supply chain, someone did some dumpster-diving to cut costs), and although the folks at PowerNotebooks are very nice, they apparently consider a machine falling all to flinders after a year to be normal wear-and-tear, and therefore out of warranty.


One cool purple-glowing Alienware M15x or something, where one has one's fingers crossed that large companies are less likely to ship lemons and claim that it's a normal thing, running Windows 7.

One perfectly respectable covered-by-corporate-maintenance-contract Lenovo™ Thinkpad™, supplied by the Employer, running Windows XP because businesses are conservative.


Swap the good LCD from the little daughter's former macbook with the cracked LCD in my macbook, using clever instructions from the Web.

Swap the 2GB of memory in the little daughter's former machine with the mere 512MB in mine while we're there,

Copy the 50G or so of stuff from my macbook (which now has a working LCD and 2GB of memory) onto the Alienware machine; this turns out to be Really Annoying because first they won't see each other on the network, and the macbook won't write to the NTFS-formatted USB drive that we have until I install a third-party NTFS driver, and even then it won't write from a command shell, and the Finder gives up 20 minutes into a four hour copy when some niggling thing goes wrong, but then finally they do see each other on the network for no apparent reason, and cp -nRvX moves the files in a mere six or eight hours. (Always amused that if you want something that works on both Windows and OS X, the answer is generally something with a Unix heritage.)

Use find . -type f -print0 | xargs -0 cksum to make sure that all those files came across okay (similarly).

Re-copy across the three that didn't (Green Day's "Holiday", Santana "El Farol", and U2 "Discotheque" (the Hexidecimal Mix)).

Install the Windows version of iTunes, swap in the copied-over library, let it update itself, let it "restore" my iPod Classic in "Windows format" (eww eww eww), and reload everything onto it. Re-import and re-sync the two tracks that didn't sync right because their names had somehow mutated ("The Men of the West" and "Whack fol the Diddle" from the Clancy Brothers' classic "The Rising of the Moon"). Make sure music actually plays.

rm -rf (gulp) the iTunes music library from the macbook, freeing up a few dozen GB; upgrade it to OS X 10.6 from whatever old thing it was running, and turn it over to the little boy.

Copy all the personal stuff (WoW, Second Life, collection of handcrafted Carol Cleveland desktop backgrounds, etc) from the old broken PowerPro machine, onto the Alienware machine.

Struggle mightily to get Lotus Notes and Rational Team Concert and OpenVPN and stuff like that working on the perfectly respectable Lenovo™ Thinkpad™, and all the relevant data copied over from the broken PowerPro machine and everything probably mostly apparently working (although I'm still afraid I may be about to accidentally regress some files in the source tree next time I check stuff in, and parts of Notes seem to think they are version 6 or even 4, when the rest is version 8).


One decently working macbook running OS X 10.5, with 2GB of memory, for the little boy to run stuff on.

One perfectly respectable Lenovo™ Thinkpad™ with work stuff on it.

One fancy glowing purple Alienware machine with personal stuff on it.

A pile of broken and/or obsolete laptop computers and pieces thereof to be filed away for later spare-parts scavenging and (in the case of the hard drives) "oh, I bet that's still on the old hard disk that's in..." moments.


I am proud that that eventually all worked, and disturbed that after all these years it's still so hard to do.

One thing that makes me sad is that I'm now Macless for the first time in years; I like Macs. But one makes sacrifices for one's children. *8)