Tuesday, August 25, 2009

PowerBook Failure

Imagine having a deep-storage battery in your basement; one that could power everything in your house without having to pay a cent to the power company. You recharge this battery by installing inexpensive solar cells or having micro-thin solar cells painted on to your windows with the most sun exposure.

That day is closer than you may think.

And don't let the fact that Ceramatec is owned by a trust run by a beer company magnate put you off. It appears to be the real deal.



A customer walked in to our shop one day with a dead PowerBook. He explained that the notebook computer "hung up" upon starting and, furthermore, the customer heard a "sloshing sound" from inside the casing while bringing it over to the shop.

"Has anything been spilt on this computer?" I inquired. The customer protested vehemently that no, nothing of the kind had happened. I took this with a grain of salt, understanding that probably no one would admit to doing something that wrecked the computer and totally voided the warranty.

Taking it back to my workbench, I powered it up and, sure enough, received an error message immediately after seeing "Welcome to Macintosh." I lowered my ear to the keyboard, at which point I heard a crackling sound and became aware of a rather sharp odor which seemed to emanate from inside the laptop. No sloshing sounds, however.

Flicking the computer off and unplugging the cord, I removed the battery from its compartment, only to observe that the entire battery casing was coated in a fluid which appeared to have a rainbow-like sheen, much like that in a puddle of soapy water ... oily and colorful. I also noticed that the same fluid was leaking out of the battery compartment and onto my static mat, but that liquid appeared clear rather than multi-colored.

My first thought was that the battery had leaked acid into the guts of the PowerBook, which would account for the sharp smell, yet the battery terminals were about the only part of the thing that were dry. Upon closer examination, I ruled the leaky battery theory out. The battery was wet, but not leaking.

Tipping the machine on its side, I watched as more liquid seeped out, pooling into a CD-sized puddle. I then separated the two halves of the PowerBook and the smell became a LOT stronger. The hard disk looked like a solid lump of rust, and the motherboard had about three barbecued chips. At this point, I had a pretty good idea what had happened, but I asked several of my coworkers in to take a look (and a sniff) and render their opinion, as well.

We were unanimous in our thinking, so I called the customer, who expressed some surprise when the first thing I did was ask if he had a cat.

As it turned out, he didn't have a cat, but he did have a "lovely, fluffy, bunny rabbit" who was seen in the vicinity of the PowerBook only the day before. Yes, there was no doubt, Fluffy had hopped onto the keyboard and downloaded some incompatible data. I checked the warranty, but alas, there was no provision for damage due to rabbit urine anywhere. He would have to buy a new machine.

A week later, after a thorough scrubbing of my work area, I contacted the customer to ask how he was enjoying his new PowerBook, if he had successfully restored his data, and, of course, how was his rabbit?

"Delicious," he replied.

[UK's Extremely Funny website]


WORDS for YOUR WEEK: "A person of intellect without energy is a failure." (Sebastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort, paraphrased)


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