My subscription to Life expired, but I still have a subscription to Mad.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

got e-mail?

If anyone e-mailed me last week and did not receive a response (I respond to almost all my e-mails), please resend your e-mail because yours was likely lost when my hard disk crashed on Saturday.

had a bad day

When I sat down at my G4 17-inch Powerbook last Saturday to read and answer e-mails and do other assorted tasks, I noticed that everything was running in slow motion. I had experienced this problem two or three times in the past two months and eventually things get so slow that I would have to reboot the computer to return to normal.

As expected, things got so slow that I had to reboot, but this time the reboot did not solve the problem. Instead, my Mac would not load the operating system and was hung up in limbo. Uh oh!

I booted up off the OS install CD-ROM and after running some tests and the disk utility software, it was apparent that something was wrong with the hard disk. I do an automatic weekly backup every Sunday morning (using Retrospect), so I did not fear losing much except a week's worth of work, but I did fear having to reinstall everything. It is not a hard job, but it is time-consuming.

I figured that some file on the hard disk was corrupt and the hard disk was still redeemable, so I tried to reinitialize the hard disk and reinstall the OS. After reinitialization, the hard disk icon on the computer desktop acted flaky. Sometimes it appeared on the desktop, sometimes it did not. That was not a good sign, but I proceeded to reinstall the OS anyway.

The installation program started normally, so I let it do its thing while I went away to do other things (normally the install should take about 30 minutes). When I returned a half hour later, the installation program was only 6% complete and indicated that it would take 28 hours to complete the installation. That was not a good sign.

I quit the install, ran some additional tests, and concluded that there was no saving the hard disk.

What to do now? I had two choices: take the computer to the Apple Store for repair or fix it myself. I have fixed a lot of computer problems in the past including replacing hard drives, but I have never worked on a G4 Powerbook and the task looked a little foreboding, so I was leaning toward going to the Apple Store on Monday.

Then I found a web site that described in detail how to replace a hard drive in a G4 17-inch Powerbook. The web site is and it has online guides for fixing a variety of problems for various Mac and iPod models. The hard drive swap looked a little difficult, but I've worked on worse problems, so Monday morning I ordered a new 160-Gbyte drive and had it shipped via next day delivery. (The only good news in all this is that this was a size upgrade. The dead drive was a 100 Gbyte drive, so I gained 60 Gbytes for my trouble.)

The new drive arrived Tuesday morning and that evening, I tackled the installation.

This was not my father's Oldsmobile! Twenty-five very tiny Phillips and Torx screws had to be removed in order to take the computer apart and remove the dead drive. Those 25 screws came in about a half dozen sizes, so as I removed each screw, I dropped it into a compartment of a divided parts box and labeled each compartment with a sticky yellow note to indicate where the screw had come from.

The screws were bad enough, but worse were the four interconnections that I had to disconnect in order to complete the task. Again, this was not my father's Oldsmobile! The interconnections used fragile metallic ribbon cable and the connectors were smaller than the fingernail of my pinky. Disconnecting and reconnecting these connections was not for the faint of heart!

It took me about one hour from start to finish to replace the drive. And after a couple of false starts, the computer came alive booting off the OS install CD. I initialized the new drive and installed the OS in a half hour.

Last night, I recovered my backup and began installing software. I expect it will take another night or two to finish the job. And so it goes.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Surfin': Go Fly a Balloon

This week's installment of Surfin': Go Fly a Balloon is now on line. Read it, then leave your comments here.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Surfin': Reflecting on Airplanes

This week's installment of Surfin' talks about bouncing RF off aircraft for DX.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Surfin': About Airplanes

Read about my fascination with airplanes in this week's installment of Surfin'.

Oh yeah... there is an Amateur Radio connection in there, too!

Friday, November 3, 2006

Surfin': PCB Times One

If you only need one prototype of your printed circuit board design, read this week's installment of Surfin' and leave your comments (if any) here.