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This keyboard is a result of the combined efforts of Roo K. Beker and her attendant What's-His-Name. What's-His-Name wore those keys down to the nubs. Roo K. deposited the dog hairs. Which one is the culprit will never be known.

This keyboard is a result of the combined efforts of Roo K. Beker and her attendant What's-His-Name. What's-His-Name wore those keys down to the nubs. Roo K. deposited the dog hairs. Which one is the culprit will never be known.

[This post gets a little technical, so it's not for everybody.]

It was a good night for Roo. Not a peep out of the mandolin, which she refers to as a future pile of splinters. 

It was quiet because I spent the night googling (not really googling, because I use Startpage, which anonymizes one's search activity instead of using it against you the way Google does) the trouble I was having with the computer. The tech had diagnosed it as a fried logic board and keyboard and a bad hard drive. Apart from the keyboard not working, the screen was flickering with fat black and grey lines tearing across it. The cost of repair would be way more than double the cost of a working machine of the same vintage.

It was dejecting news, and at first it seemed like the only solution was going to be to replace the computer. But, the more I thought about it, the less I believed it. The tip-off was the bad hard drive. Not to get too techie here, but the keyboard and logic board suffering some sort of joint failure made sense, but there didn't seem to be any reason for the hard drive to be damaged at the same time. Had the thing gone swimming, sure. But it hadn't. So, on the phone I searched for hours and hours and finally found a reference to the type of screen behavior my computer was displaying. It was undeniably bad behavior, and I recognized it because I'd seen it before, a year or so ago, and when it happened that time, it was indeed the logic board. But that time, it was one of a manufacturing run that Apple had admitted to containing a faultily-designed logic board and on which they extended the warranty on that part for five years. When they replaced it, though, they put in a re-designed board that wasn't prone to the same failure. The more I learned about it, the less likely it seemed that the Apple tech's death sentence was accurate.

There had to be another reason the screen could behave that way, and the solution started to form in the foggier depths of the support articles: The keyboard wasn't working. That was known. So if it was sending a signal that a key was being depressed, specifically the shift key, it would be telling the computer to boot in something called Safe Boot, a mode that doesn't load everything into memory on startup. It's used for troubleshooting a Mac. In Safe Boot, the computer crawls along at super-slow speeds. That would account for the tech's belief that the hard drive was acting up. Deeper yet in the support articles was a mention of the display "ripping and tearing" in Safe Boot. 

Well, then, that was good news. If it accounted for the bad display it could have been only the keyboard malfunctioning and the cascading effects accounted for the drive crawling.

I called the tech back and ran it by him. He recommended I take it to another shop. I don't know why. Maybe he felt I'd be wasting his time trying to investigate the same trouble a second time. Maybe he didn't want to admit that there was something wrong with their ability to diagnose the problem in the first place. Maybe it had something to do with that shop evidently making most of their money by re-selling old machines. After all, they plug computers in and run a diagnostic program. That program reads out the performance specs on everything in the system. He had already said the logic board, the drive and the keyboard were all bad. Why would he want to do the work to find the same things out. 

I took it to the other place and explained my theory. The woman there said it made sense, but she'd check it out. And sure enough, she called the next day, today, to say that her diagnosis was the same as mine. The only thing wrong with the machine was the keyboard. They stuck a new one in, and that was that. The thing works again. What a relief.

Can you imagine how many computers there are out there that have been condemned, like this one was, and actually suffer from something minor instead of something terminal? It's a bit much to expect that people who just use computers without learning to repair them or understand all the systems in them should second-guess technical determinations made by shops that are supposed to know what they're talking about.

Anyway, I'm now typing on a brand-new keyboard, the screen isn't acting up at all, and everything's back to normal. Whew.

Back to your regularly scheduled Roo programming.