Homage to a Great Machine

by Micah Walter


As you may have noticed I have been a little behind on my weekly blog submission. Well, I have a pretty good excuse. In the past couple of weeks I have had some serious computer problems. The fans on my MacBook Pro quit working, and the tropical temperatures here in Dominica were just too much for it to handle. So, laptop number one is out for repair. Then, just as I was getting ready to usurp my girlfriends MacBook (and in the time between her downloading her pictures and the scheduled backup) her hard drive crashed.

So, all of the sudden we found ourselves fresh out of Apples. After playing around with the MacBook I realized that I was able to get it running off a USB drive that I had previously set up as a boot drive. So, once I had her laptop up and running, tethered to the USB drive I began the immediate task of recovering her precious photos. She had erased the card in her camera before making sure to backup her computer, so I downloaded PhotoRescue just before realizing that I didn't have a card reader for her SD card. Attaching her camera via its USB cable didn't work either as for some reason the Canon point and shoots don't show up as a card and so PhotoRescue wouldn't recognize it. After asking a few friends for help I acquired an all-in-one card reader and PhotoRescue went to work.

PhotoRescue is pretty amazing. It was not only able to retrieve all of her photos and movies, but just about everything she has shot on that camera since we bought it nearly two months ago. If there is one application you should just go ahead and buy, it's PhotoRescue. You can download and install a free copy, and then when you run into trouble like I did, you can recover the card to your hard drive and then worry about paying for the license to unlock your photos later.

Well, yesterday our new 250 gig hard drive showed up at fedEx. Living on this island means that if you want to order something like a hard drive, you usually have to order it to a friend or relatives house in the states and have them ship it to you via fedEx. It's very expensive to ship things here, and you never know exactly how much you will get hit with in import taxes.

I had my father ship us the drive and my old Titanium PowerBook as well. So, yesterday I took a transport to the capital city airport where my package was waiting for me at customs. After the hour long ride, I walked into the customs office and was surprised that my efforts of convincing the customs agent that the laptop was old and used had payed off. I walked away without paying a dime in taxes. Happy with my success I hitched a ride on the next transport home, walked into our apartment with a smile on my face and began installing the new drive in the MacBook.

It was kinda fun actually. My father had packed my old laptop in its original box, so it was like getting a brand new seven year old laptop. This old PowerBook and I have a great history together. It was my first Apple computer, and not only that, but the first computer I ever bought on my own.

The PowerBook, when I bought it brand new I believe was about $2000 bucks. It's a 667MHz model, and it came with a 30-Gig hard drive, 256-Meg of RAM, and a DVD burner. I had to buy a Wifi card that fits into the PCMCIA slot, and I eventually added another 512-Meg of RAM. It has USB 1.0, and a FireWire port. It really is a nice machine, and has served me well. I mean, it has never had a single issue, I have never had to repair it, and in the seven years or so since I bought it, I have only re-installed the OS twice, and one of those times was yesterday.

The PowerBook isn't pretty anymore. The paint has chipped, and certain areas have yellowed. The screen resolution is pretty low, but hey, that means it's also very easy on the eyes! I keep trying to use the two-finger scroll feature on the trackpad, and if I sit at my desk with no shoes on, and my feet on our apartment's tile floor, the PowerBook's case still gives my wrists a low level shock!

After spending the day reinstalling the two laptops, waiting for software updates to complete, and reassuring my girlfriend that her pictures and all of her files were safe and sound, I have to say I was enjoying my trip down memory lane. The PowerBook and I have been through quite a bit together. It was my only computer the entire time I lived in Israel, I carried it across Europe by train, and I have used it on more news assignments in D.C. than I can count. I can remember always having to burn my images to CD just to make a little more room on the little 30-Gig hard drive. Of course my workflow wasn't quite as precise as it is now. But, I used to get by pretty nicely with PhotoMechanic, PhotoShop CS, and iView MediaPro. Shoot, edit, burn, delete--that was my workflow.

When Aperture came out I had to have it, so I got a MacBook Pro and jumped in with both feet. I have been pretty happy ever since, but I do miss this old PowerBook. If anyone out there is able to gut my PowerBook and fill it with MacBook Pro parts, I would be really happy to hear about it. I mean, don't me wrong, I really like the Intel machines, and my MacBook Pro is finding its way into my heart at a rapid pace, but the Titanium PowerBook's were really wonderful machines. They were a great leap forward in design. They were durable and well made, small and sleek, and very very reliable. Kinda like an old Chevy.

While I await the return of my MacBook Pro, I am really going to enjoy typing on this old keyboard. The keys on the old PowerBooks had a great springy feel to them and Pages (my word processor of choice these days) seems to run just fine.

I am sure that once my MacBook Pro is back this old PowerBook will find its way back into its box. There it will sit idle, powered down for cold storage, and waiting patiently to be resurrected to save the day once again.


2007-08-03 13:18:47
I have a similar story: I bought the same model PB also with a PCMIA wifi card. It was the first computer I ever owned.

It's currently being used as a tethered shooting station in my studio. My Mac family has grown to include 4 new members, but it always feel special to use that PB.

David Anderson
2007-08-04 02:56:50
That's a modern PowerBook compared to my Black PowerBook G3 400MHz (PISMO). I often get asked if this black beauty is one of Apple's latest MacBooks!
2007-08-04 22:20:19
don't put it back in the box! Make a digital frame out of it. Just take the hinges off of it and put the screen on the backside of the laptop body, and hang it. See link, I made one out of an old laptop with one broken hinge.


Neil Anderson
2007-08-05 17:21:13
Still ticking along on my PowerBook G4. Great machine!
2007-08-05 23:07:30
There's really something special to the "first laptop" that one owns. I am still sticking with my Powerbook G4 although I've been thinking of upgrading to the new MacBook Pros. It's still a very trusty machine and I don't want to sell it in order to upgrade my machine. Like you - it has also pretty much traveled with me wherever I go...

With your post, I'll decide to keep it even if I get a new machine! :)

2007-08-06 06:34:40
Sorry Mike, you're wrong.
There's really something special to the "first" MAC that one owns...
My first laptop was a windoze me machine.......I shouldn't have to say more than that, but I will. I have invented a device that crosses an electric shock dog collar, with a cell phone.
Everytime your computer displays a blue screen, it dials the phone and discharges a huge electric shock thruogh the collar. If anybody out there wants to hold down Bill Gates, while I put it on him...........
Mihalis Tsoukalos
2007-08-06 07:08:18
Can you please tell us more information about your MacBook Pro?
Do you also work with desktop machine? Does aperture works well with your MacBook Pro?
Are you working with jpgs or RAW files?
Neil Hokanson
2007-08-10 17:53:12
I love my old Titanium PowerBook G4 400 MHz! It does limited duty each day and is always on standby for situations like you mention in your story. I wrote about a recent experience with it in a "My Turn" article at Low End Mac "The TiBook Marches On: 400 MHz Productivity in the 2 GHz". It is truly and old friend!
2007-08-12 13:32:50
I would not compare the TiBook to a Chevy. I would compare it to an SR-71 Blackbird. They are both titanium, sleek and way, way ahead of their time.

But I can't call them reliable. Mine has had a few problems.

The screws in mine (inside and out) loosened over time. Not enough thread lock on them. The play that resulted from the loose chassis ended up wearing out the ribbon cable that goes to the trackpad. Pressing just beneath the left command key causes the Titanium PowerBook to crash because it will short the trackpad ribbon cable (which is on the internal USB Bus). I took the whole thing apart and re-routed the ribbon wire to prevent further wear and solved the crashing due to the short. (This was a very, very delicate procedure of my own invention, but necessary).

The clips that hold the RAM in place wore out. I cut a pencil eraser to size and compressed it against the left clip to shim it against the RAM.

The silver paint has peeled off...

More important, the rubber stand-offs that prevent the screen from rubbing the keyboard while closed, literally melted with palm grease. I had to create my own from the rubber feet of another gizmo.

Both fan's bearings both died and have have to be oiled annually just to prevent me from going insane with from the noise.

Hard drive had to be replaced twice (each time I upgraded to more storage and performance after SMARTReporter warned me).

DVD player no longer plays DVDs but continues to burn CDRs fine... just threw in a superdrive I was gifted, works fine.

The TiBook is still very usable running 10.4.10 and great for e-mail, web, and iView Media Pro and iTunes/Audio/MIDI projects. I wish it ran Aperture, but there is no way to hack it. The moral of this story? I LOVE MY TITANIUM POWERBOOK G4 800MHz! There is nothing I can't fix about it. (next up, attempting to replace the backlight which is getting dim and yellow after over 5 continuous years of use.)

2007-08-20 01:25:48
For physical crash Hard-disk please check the www.hdrconline.com. They are having good tools for platter exchange and read write exchange tools.