About a year ago I started having problems with my Powerbook. The most common pattern was that I would try to restart it (after, say, a software upgrade), and I’d be faced with a black screen, requiring me to reset the Power Management Unit. This was a hit-or-miss affair, and required at least one trip to the Genius Bar. My diagnosis:
The PMU is dying, slowly, and inducing a variety of failure modes. The trick is going to be inducing a hard failure, or at least a failure that the Genius will take seriously.
In March this year I bought myself a MacBook Air, intending to use the Powerbook as a remote CD, print server, iPhone backup, and media hub. Realizing that the PB might fail at any time, I shifted my iTunes and photo libraries to an external HD.
Last week, things took a turn for the worse. I installed some new software on the PB, the restart failed, I reset the PMU (with difficulty), and when it rebooted I decided to check the disk. There were lots of errors. I rebooted from the OS X DVD, repaired the disk, and restarted. A day later, the system failed again, and Disk Utility reported more errors. And this time, when I tried to repair them, I saw:
And just to make sure that I didn’t try anything rash, Disk Utility marked the HD as unbootable.
What to do? I had a complete backup on my Time Capsule, so I had the option of scrubbing the disk, reinstalling Leopard, and then restoring my backup. But how much could I trust the hardware? I decided that the time had come to replace the PB – but with what? I couldn’t really use the MacBook Air for all of those functions, but I didn’t want to spend much money.
At this point I remembered that I still had my Samsung monitor. When I first arrived in Seattle, I bought myself a nice SyncMaster 940MW that could work as a TV or a computer monitor. A few months later, I acquired a Sharp HDTV, and the SyncMaster was relegated to occasional use as a second screen for the PB. I had a mouse (plenty of them, actually), so the obvious solution was to get a Mac Mini and an Apple keyboard. I decided that I didn’t really need a DVD burner or extra RAM, which meant that I could get the basic Mac Mini (1.83 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 1 GB RAM, 80 GB Hard Drive, Combo Drive) and be up and running for around $700.
So I ordered the Mac Mini and an Apple Keyboard on Monday, and they arrived yesterday. Basic setup was a breeze, and it all just works – though I’m holding off for a couple of days before restoring stuff from the Time Capsule. I love the minimalist design of the keyboard – like the keyboard on the MacBook Air, it’s way ahead of what I was used to on the PB, and significantly better than the white MacBook I’m using for work. And the Samsung monitor works perfectly, via DVI. (No VGA nonsense here.) It’s looking good…..