Swiss Army Surgery on a TiBook

by Derrick Story

The last thing I wanted to do was connect my PowerBook G4 to a jerry-rigged power supply. Yet, there I stood with plug in hand thinking, "My god, not only am I going to fry my Mac, I could short out the entire floor of the Marriott in Times Square." But what choice did I have?

I'm in New York City for Macworld. I have a ton of work to do. Aside from my regular publishing duties, I'm preparing iPhoto demos for the O'Reilly booth plus another demo for an iPhoto session with Rick Smolan. Everything starts on Wednesday. So Tuesday night was my last chance to pull things together.

That's when the power supply for my TiBook failed. It's not Apple's fault; it's mine. I have this bad habit of grabbing my notebook and dashing off with the power cord still connected. Every time I swear I'll never do it again.

Well, my bad habit caught up with me. Tonight, after I had run the battery down to 10 percent, I plugged in the power supply and ... nothing happened. No juice. Nada. Zippo.

Madly I tried jiggling things and sampling different outlets -- still nothing. I called around Times Square for a replacement, but the only computer stores open that late had nothing that would work. I had to do something. There was no way I could wait until the Macworld expo floor opened on Wednesday at 10:30 am to get a new power supply.

Power Supply on the Mend

Power Supply on the Mend. I chose to use my last two adhesive bandages on the power supply wires (white circled area) instead of my bleeding knuckles. It was a good call.

In desperation, I did the unthinkable. Like an old country doctor, I poured myself a stiff drink, grabbed a Swiss army knife, and prepared for surgery.

It was ugly. I don't know if you've ever tried to pry open an Apple power supply, but it's not easy. After 30 minutes of dogged persistence and two knuckle cuts later, I pried the sucker open.

Now what? Everything looked OK. I wiggled and jiggled wires in search of the problem. Then I found it. The inner sleeved wired (leading into the power supply) had a dark spot where it had worked loose and shorted. With great care I separated the wires, pulled back their coverings and attempted to reattach their nerve endings. I knew that if just one thread of the black sleeved bunch touched any part of the white sleeved group, me and my PowerBook were dead.

Then it was time to close. Since I didn't have any electrical tape, I used adhesive bandages to wrap everything up.

At last, the moment of truth. I plugged the power supply into the electrical outlet and held my breath. Everything was OK. Gently I pushed the plug into my PowerBook begging the gods to spare my machine. Lo and behold, the orange ring light powered up, and I was in business.

Now I know I voided every warranty on the planet and risked life and limb of my TiBook, but I was desperate. No way was I going to face hundreds of people at Macworld totally unprepared -- at least not without a fight.

So, the moral of the story? First, don't yank on your power supply. It will pick the worse possible time to retaliate. Second, always carry a Swiss army knife and a first aid kit.

The life you save may be your Mac's.