Monday, October 10, 2011


That's the sound my newly refurbished iMac makes.

For a few years I'd been chugging along on a G4 iMac, bought in late 2003, running the Macintosh 10.3 operating system. Lately, I couldn't do many normal things on it: view YouTube videos, use Flickr or Ravelry, run my Bonanza site, even pay bills or browse my bank account. Aaargh! What to do? Well, what I did was to buy a new brain for the thing. Not a new hard drive- a new operating system, a new way for it to think. I decided to buy OS 10.5 because it is (I am pretty sure) the most recent OS that will work with my coprocessor (which is, of course, several generations out of date). Found a reseller with brand-new authorized DVDs at a great price and fast shipping. Came the DVD, I inserted it into the iMac (nick-named Galadriel, as all our Macs have Lord of the Rings names; we're weird that way) and- got the spinning gear of death. I shut down all ops, examined the DVD for scratches, wavy lines, flaws-- nothing; the DVD is pristine. Tried again in geeky ways (safe start-up; single-user mode; other modes I learned when I subscribed to MacWorld, MacLife, MacAddict, MacCrack, MacUniverse, and All-Things-Mac). Still got the spinning gear of death.
So I contacted reseller and we schmoozed by e-mail about what Galadriel's problem is.
Reseller: You need a coprocessor with a speed of at least 867 GHz.
Me: Mine says it's 1000 GHz. Check.
Reseller: You need a G4, G5, or Intel coprocessor.
Me: It has a G4 coprocessor. Check.
Reseller: You need at least 500 MB of RAM.
Me: It has- it has (sob-- can this be true?) 256 MB of RAM. But it has an empty RAM slot.
Reseller: Aha! There's your problem. Buy more RAM and try again.
Translation: I needed more random access memory (RAM) for the OS to install. A 512 MB RAM chip cost me all of $21. I kid you not. I ordered it and waited 3 days for it to come. Then, even though I've installed RAM myself in a previous iMac (the original G3 iMac), I was taking no chances with Galadriel. I called a local expert recommended by the Apple store near me (while there, I bought a new keyboard and scroll mouse; the space bar on the old keyboard broke and the old mouse was held together by cellophane tape). He came Friday late morning. In 10 minutes he installed the RAM, made sure Galadriel was running fine with the new RAM chip, took a look at our other Macs ("they should keep on running for a long time with proper care and maintenance"), and played with Rocky while I wrote out a check. He left, I stirred the split pea soup again, and loaded the 10.5 DVD-- VOILĂ€! I haz installed OS 10.5 (OK, the actual installation took over an hour, but you get the picture).
Uploading a new OS was step one; the rest of the steps consisted of finding all the outdated apps and updating them. Firefox! Microsoft Office! (I had bought a new Office Suite at a deep discount through the university- but couldn't use it. Now I can.) Adobe Reader! And so on. So now Galadriel goes WHOOSH when I turn her on, and I can surf again like a modern person. Cost for refurbishing Galadriel: less than $300 (including keyboard and mouse); cost for having Galadriel refurbished: priceless.

When the repair fellow was over on Friday, we spent a little time eulogizing Steve Jobs, the man behind Apple and Macintosh and iPod. On Thursday, I wore a black turtleneck and jeans to the office. I could swear I heard my iPod Frodo crying from its dock next to my bed when the news broke Wednesday night. In a NY Times article the weekend, I read something about Jobs' design philosophy. It wasn't just about the look, though that of course was a big part of the appeal of Apple products. Design was about the workings of the thing- the computer-human interface had to be as pleasant as possible. The word pleasant was actually in there. Now I never took a computer course in college (when languages like BASIC and FORTRAN ruled), never thought of myself as particularly geeky. Until I worked for pharma- and Macs invaded because the chemists and crystallographers required Macs to design molecules and display crystals. I could use a computer. Soon I could install a computer and its software, troubleshoot a computer, network a computer, and fix some computer software problems, as long as the computer was Apple. Thank you Steve Jobs for showing me a new world.

In memoriam: Steve Jobs 1955-2011

1 comment:

Donna Lee said...

We felt like we'd lost a friend. Thanks to Mr Jobs, we have truly portable music and informational devices.

He will be missed.