Dear Lazyweb: My new Macbook Pro…

…is beautiful, and fast, and useful. However, it has a tiresome bug. Frequently the Airport wireless connection will drop, and on reconnecting it will fail to hand out an IP address. This is true whether my base station is set to act as a dhcp server itself or whether it is bridging to my linux box for dhcp. The Macbook just sit there with its dhcp default address asking for an IP.

When the server side is the Linux box, i can see it trying to hand out an address without any success, showing that the request is being heard. Somehow the response back to the Macbook falls on deaf ears.

This is especially true if the machine has been sitting for a while or comes back from sleep. It will work for a few minutes and then the wireless connection will totally drop, down to zero, and nothing works on reconnection.

The only fix is to power down the Macbook and come back up. This is suboptimal.

I am going to scour the usual help sites and the apple message boards, but anything the Group Mind has to contribute would be great.

apple blues

The hard drive on my 15″ Aluminum Powerbook G4 is clearly defective and has been for some time. It likes to hang and say “disk0s3: I/O error” into the logs at times when certain files are touched. The Disk Utility thinks the drive is fine and so does the “SMART” status. Maybe a cable is loose in there. The voice of authority in the form of dr_strych9, who knows, told me to get it replaced but I didn’t.

Now of course it’s worse. An unknown number of my music files now make this thing happen, and the new iTunes insists on doing a “gapless music analysis” on each file on startup each time that can’t be disabled and keeps hitting the problem. I remove a file and it “finds” another. Plus, the update prebindings thing that installers like to do sets it off. My computer is becoming less and less usable.

I realized that I haven’t fixed this mainly because I hate dealing with AppleCare and the Apple Store. The last couple of times I went to the Genius Bar, the Genius gave me the third degree. Well sir we might have a K key to replace this broken one, we have some in the back, but if we don’t you’ll have to pay for a new keyboard. Yes I know you have AppleCare but the wear & tear, sir. Pointing to the spots where the sweat from my wrists had pitted the aluminum and talking about “moisture corrosion damage issues,” looking for anything that meant I had been using the thing to hammer nails, etc.

They’ve clearly been told to be hardasses and refuse AppleCare to anyone they can, especially laptop owners. I understand that they’re plagued with people who pour a Coke on their computers and try to get a new one, but being treated like a criminal isn’t fun. Considering the expense of the computer and the AppleCare plan itself, I’m aggrieved to find myself having used car lot conversations with a supercilious geek every time I need help.

Plus, of course, I put in my own memory which invalidates everything because Apple wants to insist on selling RAM at a huge markup over retail.

It’s hard not to see the whole thing as a scam, and it makes me angry, and I don’t like being angry. It’s particularly humiliating to have to defend my computer maintenance skills in public to someone who’s just going to win if he wants to and has poor enough social skills that he’s going to push all my buttons.

So I guess I’ll just buy a new hard drive with cash and try to transfer the data over somehow. I’m not sure I’d buy a new Apple now, though, and I’m certainly not very jazzed about AppleCare. It has been useful before when undeniable problems happened early in hardware ownership, but I don’t any longer think it’s better than another computer vendor’s warranty.

I needed native x86 and Windows for radio stuff so I ordered a cheap-ass low-end Dell this week. I paid for the accidental destruction coverage on it. Maybe Apple should offer that separately from the service at a higher rate, instead of making us fight with their employees about whether we’re good stewards every time something goes wrong.

I freely admit that my own problems with conflict and my button pushes are at least as much the problem as Apple’s policies, but I’m also tired of bait and switch, and tired of Apple’s denial about actual design flaws like the AC Adapter. They do so much so well, and then the Reality Distortion Field intervenes and says “We’re perfect, and you, the customers, are imagining your problems.”

dot mac: not worth it for me

My .mac membership will renew in 22 days and and I don’t think I’ll keep it. I don’t need the email or the net storage, and the backup was the only thing I really liked. I’d successfully restored my settings more than once after some mishap. But everything else was either redundant for me or just missing. They kept promising all kinds of cool freebies but nothing showed up for about a year. Liars with pants on fire.

Today my daily backup fired off and crashed with the message that my iDisk was full, which is un-possible because I don’t put anything there. Attempts to find out what were filling the disk failed; it was so slow that I couldn’t even find large files or directory sizes on it without timeouts. Meanwhile the attempt made my entire system grind to a halt; other applications stopped receiving clicks, the screen began to update slowly, the whole overload drill. The logs got spammed up with diskarbitrationd explaining in detail that each application was not responding.

I finally managed to unmount the sonofabitch and ran backup again, and manually removed all my backups. Once again everything ground to a halt, no progress bar, nothing, and I lived by faith as the LORD commands. After about fifteen minutes it suddenly finished and there was all my disk space back.

The backup doesn’t clean up after itself and I see no option to fine tune that. I’m not paying annual rent on something less configurable than a product I can buy. Foo on them.

So that’s it for dot mac.

are this how i am buying computer machine

Dear Lazyweb:

I may need to buy/build a new linux box soon, for home server use. So, I probably need to get an x86 box because I don’t want the new hobby of making PPCLinux replace the iggy box on the blue G3. Therefore, I need either to buy a prebuilt system or all the parts in a sack so I can screw them together.

I don’t need:

great graphics
gamer anything
windows anything

I do need:

hardware that plays nice with recent linux
a decent processor, preferably dualcore
lots of RAM
good I/O so I’m not always horking because the disk is running
good cooling features
expandibility for drives and cards
ports ports, ports, ports

I might end up just doing a Dell BYO box because I have credit with them and I’d never pay interest on their plan, it’s no interest for 18 months. I’m sure I’d be paying extra because brand name, but I also get 6% off and no shipping cost there because of a corporate deal. It won’t be perfect and it’ll be about $1800 for what I want to do, but it will be on payment and done.

But If someone has a preferred vendor for this kind of thing or a suggestion of how to do this way better for way cheaper, I’d be delighted. What I don’t want is to go to Fry’s, or spend six weeks nerdinating learning all about exactly the best combination to get 0.05% more efficiency. I’m going to upgrade from a 300MHz Gateway Pentium II box from 1997 that’s been doing good service for years, so I don’t need my edge to cut much less bleed.

Linux kernel annoyance (geekfilter)

My old server, which is actually a Gateway desktop machine from 1997, has an old SCSI card in it. It’s an Advansys. The Linux driver for this card hasn’t been updated in forever. There are apparently problems with the driver, although I have had none.

Therefore when I configure my kernel build, I have to check a box marked “Use broken things” or I can’t check the box for my SCSI driver.

Lately, the “use broken things” box has disappeared. On investigation I find out that the kernel tree ships with that configuration unavailable. I have to edit init/KConfig and add in a description for the “broken things” option, and then the box becomes available.

I understand that I should probably just get a new SCSI card, or actually a newer computer, but this is annoying. Do the kernel maintainers not trust the people building the kernel to know when to check the “Broken” box? If I’m building a kernel then I can always fuck myself by leaving out my filesystem or my network card, it’s not like I can’t destroy everything anyway.