December 24, 2009

The Deadliest Catch

I call this: computers,mac,On the Road Again — Posted by KP @ 8:53 pm

“What Happened to Your Laptop?”

Entertain conjecture of a time in which I’m on the road with Henry V. We have just concluded our very successful run in New York, and have set out on the next leg of the tour. When our story begins, we’re in Nashville. We have arrived there the day before, after a layover in DC, to board our buses to go the rest of the way to our first performance at Mississippi State. No one understands how it could possibly have been cheaper or more efficient to do it this way, but nevertheless that’s why we were in Nashville.

After we spent the night for (as far as we can tell) no particular reason in a Nashville hotel, the cast departed in the afternoon and the crew was given the entire day to hang out in Nashville while our driver slept, as we would be leaving around midnight and sleeping on the ride down.

It wasn’t all that exciting, as the crew had actually been to Nashville earlier in the tour, because our bus’ water pump was broken and we had an extra day between shows, so we took a detour. While the bus was being repaired we ate ribs, listened to the live bands on Broadway, bought cowboy boots, ate way too much, and did all the things one does in Nashville. So for our second visit, we had lunch at a nice outdoor place we had visited the first time, researched potential sushi restaurants for dinner, and otherwise just kind of hung out on the bus watching TV.

Somewhere in the course of watching TV is where things get interesting.

Now I must introduce Daphne. Daphne was our props supervisor. We must have been watching the Discovery Channel, and it was at this point that Daphne realized that the season premiere of Deadliest Catch was coming up, and that we would be in the middle of our first performance in Mississippi while it was airing. My assistant Nick, who you have already met, was also disturbed when this was brought to his attention. Apparently Nick and Daphne really like Deadliest Catch.

It was something of an urban legend that the bus had a DVR. The satellite remote had buttons that referred to it, but when we tried to program the show to record, it became obvious that we were missing something that would allow that to happen, as it could be programmed, but nothing would happen. This was also one of our first experiences with our new bus, which we would later come to realize sucked in every imaginable way. Maybe the original bus had a working DVR, but this one didn’t appear to be fully equipped.

This minor setback was not going to dissuade us, however. We would just have to go a little low-tech. The bus had a VCR, we reasoned. All we have to do is find a place that sells VHS tapes and we can record it the old-fashioned way.

On our way to our sushi dinner, we passed a drug store. Daphne went in, and a few minutes later happily emerged with a set of three VHS tapes.

When we got back to the bus, we naturally set about doing a test run and trying to record a show. What we found was that the VCR apparently could play tapes, but the satellite connection didn’t pass through it, so it couldn’t record anything. This was very annoying! But given that all these electronics are mounted behind panels and on opposite sides of the lounge from each other, we didn’t feel comfortable tearing the whole bus apart to get at the wiring. We accepted defeat, and the VHS tapes were stacked on the kitchen counter.

Fast-forward a few days. My laptop was having battery issues, so after using it in the front lounge after the show, I set it down on the couch where I had been sitting, and left it to charge overnight.

It’s now the middle of the night. All of the crew are asleep in their beds. We encounter some bumpy and/or hilly roads. At some point in the night, a clattering is heard from the kitchen. This isn’t really unusual. Somebody’s coffee container or soda bottle is usually falling off the counter in the night. I, having the bunk on the other side of the kitchen wall, remember hearing this and thinking that it didn’t sound like anything breakable or containing liquid, so I didn’t even really wake up.

In the morning I was alarmed to find my laptop had 3 black smudges on it. I wasn’t concerned about smudges but at first I couldn’t tell if they were smudges or dents. I frantically rubbed on them, and thankfully the black marks came off. Two of them left no sign, but the largest of them revealed a dent in the aluminum cover of the laptop! I was totally confused about how this had happened, until we started to look at the forensic evidence. On the couch, laying casually, were the three VHS tapes. They looked like they had just been tossed there from when we were trying to get the VCR to work, until someone remembered that they had been stacked on the kitchen counter, and most of us had heard the crash from the kitchen during the night. So I went back to the tapes, and sure enough, each of them had a corner bashed in, where their black plastic had been worn off.

And that solved the mystery of how Daphne and Nick’s love for The Deadliest Catch dented my laptop.

The afterword to this story is that whenever I open my laptop I am reminded of Daphne and Nick, and how badly they wanted to see The Deadliest Catch. They never did get to see that episode. I’m not sure if they’ve seen it in reruns yet. I still have never seen an episode, but I am very curious to see what’s so special to have created such a fervor on our bus. And that’s the story of what happened to my laptop.

April 23, 2009

My Week in Computing

I call this: computers,mac,phones — Posted by KP @ 10:17 pm

The biggest event of my week was yesterday when we visited the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania. As befitting a giant mall, of course there is an Apple Store. I decided to take my chances on a walk-in visit to the Genius Bar to see if anything could be done about my Macbook Pro battery.

A little background, because I don’t bitch about my battery nearly enough for you to have known it was going on: my computer is not quite two years old, and its second battery has withered and died. The first battery lasted pretty much a year exactly, before the battery life got to a point where it was really negating the purpose of having a laptop (somewhere around a half hour). I probably had a case for premature failure, but I just bought a new one, and was happy.

Cut to ten months later. While the battery life on the second one had not become quite so brief (maybe an hour to an hour and a half), the battery was all confused. Diagnostic programs reported the battery health at 40% after 90-something charge cycles, which based on my perusal of the Apple Support forums, is way worse than a lot of people who were able to get their batteries replaced. Worst of all, instead of simply dying quickly, it was misreporting its charge, so that the computer would show it maybe 30% full, and instead of showing a low battery warning or forcing the computer to sleep, it would completely shut off without warning, which is, um, terrible, in so many ways. It had just started doing this before the logic board failure, so when the computer died I thought maybe the battery was not to blame after all, but the problem continued after the repair.

While my computer is sadly without Apple Care, the battery is less than a year old, and thus has its own warranty. It’s clearly indicated on the receipt, which I made sure to have on my iPhone in PDF format before going to the store.

So I walked into the store and was able to get an appointment right away, and within 5 minutes was talking to the genius. He booted my computer from an old iPod nano which had some diagnostic software on it (as I tried to stifle my excitement at this idea of using my old nano as an 8GB flash drive), and after a few seconds, the screen popped up with this big red box with the word “BAD” in it in huge letters (artist’s rendering above). It was really comical. Well that settled that! I showed him the PDF including the warranty date, signed some papers and walked away with a brand new battery. Between the logic board and the battery I feel like I have a brand new Mac.

Right now I’m using my days off to be a good little girl and train the battery properly. It’s probably going to want to be shut down soon — oops, there goes the warning — so bye!

April 3, 2009

On Apple Repair

I call this: computers,mac — Posted by KP @ 3:29 pm

I am typing this from my Macbook Pro. If you’ve been following my continuing adventures, you will know that last Friday, a week ago, a day that will live in infamy, I opened my computer at the theatre and found that the graphics had crapped out. This was in Phoenix. Since we were leaving Phoenix Sunday, I decided to wait until we arrived in Tucson on Monday (which also has an Apple Store) before taking my poor electronic friend to the Genius Bar to see just how screwed I was.

Monday morning at 11AM, I went in, and was saddened to be told the logic board needed to be replaced, and inconveniently, this graphics failure doesn’t happen to be the same Nvidia graphics failure that would have offered me a free out-of-warranty repair, it’s just one that looks exactly like it. Now I’ve heard horror stories of logic board replacements that cost more than a new computer. I was really surprised to be quoted about $350 for said repair. Considering I don’t even like the current version of the MBP (mostly due to the glossy screen) I was far happier to pay a relatively small amount to get my current computer back rather than have to buy a newer one. So I counted myself lucky, and bid farewell to my friend for a while. Because we’re only in Tucson for a week, and the repair was estimated at 4-6 days turnaround, I felt it unwise to have it sent back to Tucson, so reluctantly I gave the Acting Company’s office as the return address. I expected it to arrive today (Friday) or maybe Monday, and then I would pick it up first thing Tuesday morning when I got home on vacation.

Then yesterday morning I awoke around 9AM, and grabbed my now-incredibly-important iPhone off the nightstand to check my email. I had an email from our office manager in New York, saying my computer had arrived, and did I want it shipped out to me, or would I pick it up? Well I had every intention of keeping it simple and picking it up when I got to New York, but I never imagined it would be there Thursday morning. I counted, “Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday…” and made a quick calculation that perhaps the cost of overnighting an object of such value, while excessive if it were anything else in the box, might be worth the benefits of having my computer for four and a half days when I otherwise wouldn’t have it. So I asked for it to be sent to our hotel, and it arrived during our morning matinee. So far everything appears to be fine, although it’s hard to tell because the internet here at the Hotel Arizona is an embarrassment to the entire hospitality industry.

Anyway, I have never had a computer so utterly crap out on me in my life (well once, in 1993, and it was a Packard Bell, and it sucked). It has always been my absolute nightmare to have such a catastrophic failure while out on the road. And I am so impressed at how smoothly the process went to get it fixed, at every step of the way. Like most things Apple, it just works. Make an online appointment at the Genius Bar, show up, they tested it on site, took some basic information, and sent it off for me. I see now from my receipt that came back with the machine, the repair center in Texas received it the following day, and repaired it that same day. Two days later it was in New York first thing in the morning. For a computer out of warranty to need the replacement of its most essential part, and to be processed so quickly, and have it only cost about $350 including tax, is pretty amazing. I hope never to have to go through it again, and I know there are horror stories out there, but I feel really good about how it all went, and God forbid I should ever have something like this happen again in my computing life, I will at least feel like Apple will make the process go as easily as such a huge inconvenience can be.

So now I’m back, and can get about the business of catching up on my tour blog, and my big review of my new computer bag.

Oh, and P.S. — bravo to the iPhone. I can’t believe a person as geeky as myself could survive for a week without a computer and not go completely insane. This was only made possible by the fact that the iPhone provides so much of the essential connectivity that a person such as myself relies on. It can’t do everything, of course. There were things that I had to borrow Nick’s computer for, such as doing the show report, blogging, and other things like paying my credit card bill, that I just felt better about doing on a full computer. But for email, calendar, Facebook, keeping my Flickr photos updated with my traveling adventures, reading emails and documents, podcasts, my phone was sometimes a little more cumbersome, but it allowed me to continue doing most of the things I needed to do. The quality of Safari on the iPhone is also pretty amazing. Although it doesn’t support all the more advanced functions of certain web pages, and can be unwieldy to use with pages of unconventional layouts, I was surprised at how many pages I was able to use that I figured would just not work. It wasn’t always pretty, but when I had no other option, I was glad just to be able to keep running my life at all.

March 31, 2009

The Ongoing Adventures of a Geek Without a Computer

I call this: computers,mac,On the Road Again — Posted by KP @ 10:24 am

Day 5 without computer. The 4″ iPhone screen is feeling extremely claustrophobic. I don’t mind it so much for reading web pages, but for any page that requires input and typing (blogs, forums, etc.) it can be really frustrating to use, and usually doesn’t render properly.

I’m currently using Nick’s Macbook. It’s load-in day, and we’re basically done after an hour, as usual. So I’m grabbing this opportunity to bogart his computer once again. It’s kind of comical how many copies I have of my “TAC” folder with all the show stuff in it. It’s still on my computer somewhere out there in the bowels of Apple repair world, it’s on my backup drive, on Nick’s computer, and on two thumb drives. The only thing left for me to do would be to hide the two thumb drives in different places — like put one of them in my suitcase. Which is probably a good idea since normally all three of my thumb drives live side-by-side in my computer bag (which I suppose should now be referred to as “bag”).

We’re loading in in Tucson, where the Arizona Theatre Company has another venue. A lot of the department heads are the same folks we worked with in Phoenix, so it’s been very easy. The theatre is not quite as fancy, but it seems very nice so far. I took some video of our truck driver, Scotty D., backing the trailer at a crazy angle to their loading dock.

Well I must move on and do all the other things that one does while one has a computer.

March 29, 2009

Technical Difficulties

I call this: computers,mac — Posted by KP @ 11:56 am

Greetings from Phoenix. My beloved Macbook Pro has had a graphics failure and is pretty much out of commission (I think and hope it might be the known failure of the 8600M which would mean it’s still covered under warranty). This has happened before.  Last time it magically fixed itself on the morning I was to bring it in to the Genius Bar.  We shall see.  I have an appointment at the Apple Store in Tuscon tomorrow.

The computer is completely functional except that the internal and external displays don’t work.  I’m actually typing this on it now, by screen sharing from Nick’s laptop.  Like an idiot I had turned screen sharing off about a week ago, and had to do some Terminal hackery to enable it through SSH.  I don’t know much about unix, so that made me feel pretty damn cool.

Anyway, as the only way I can access my computer is by borrowing someone else’s, I’m pretty much restricted to necessary purposes, so I may not be blogging much for a while.  We are home in a week, so whatever happens, I’ll have my PC and my poor Powerbook, which surely can’t withstand another tour.  Or can it?