Computer-related Misadventures

by Eric Schwartz
From the AmiTech Gazette
Dayton, Ohio, June 2020

This year just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it? The less said about that, the better for the moment. On a slightly closer-to-home topic, We shall be trying our first MEETING meeting since March, repeating the March location of Prez. Mike Barclay’s place. Check the front page for location info. I’ll be demonstrating the use of the RetroTINK 2X SCART video scan converter in he best way possible—by playing games on an Amiga CD-32. I hope you’ll be able to make it—I hope anyone can make it. If you are unable to attend, the AmiTech Discord channel will be open during the meeting as well. We’ve had a pretty poor attendance track record these last few months, regardless of the nature of the meeting, so PLEASE make the smallest effort.

As I mentioned previously, the country, not to mention the world at large, has been going through a lot this year, from disease to racial unrest. There’s little I could say about it all that hasn’t been done far better by someone else, so instead I shall be bitching and recounting my computer-related misadventures over the last few weeks. I’m starting to wonder if there have been some solar flares or something, as I’ve heard reports of computer issues from several people I watch online, and I’ve been having my own runs of bad luck lately.

A little over a couple weeks ago, after a power outage that lasted a few hours, and cable TV & internet showing terrible signal quality (It turns out water was getting into an electronics box along the line), my G5 Mac, which is/was my current MorphOS work horse machine, suddenly decided to stop working, no longer booting properly. I’ve been unable to nail down the exact problem, as I am far from a hardware diagnostic genius. Best guess has something to do with the power management unit (PMU), which seems to be a common failure point in Powermacs. I was unable to get the machine any closer to actually starting up, leaving me unable to use it for my work, and trapping needed files on its hard drive. Thankfully, Prez Mike Barclay has a G5 system he wasn’t using much at the moment, and he allowed me to borrow it for a while. I was able to simply replace his system’s hard drive with my own, and it worked almost as if it were my own G5, though the OS has reverted to “demo mode,” as it was keyed to my old hardware. Still, it allowed me to get my work done, in half-hour chunks.

Also, I should be able to use my G4 Powerbook to handle some of the workload, or so I thought. In what in hindsight might have been a bad move, I tried to upgrade the OS on the Powerbook from MorphOS 3.12 to 3.13, and in the middle of the update, the hard drive started giving errors and killed the upgrade in the middle of the process. Since then the drive has not been working properly, appearing as though it may have suffered a hardware crash, rendering the system partition potentially useless. This poor Powerbook with the dented casing has always been a bit flaky and quirky, but it may be officially wrecked enough to require a new hard drive, which would be its own mess as Mac systems such as this one are notoriously unfriendly to any user hardware modification.

So that’s two different MorphOS Mac systems down in about two weeks. At least they both had years of use. I’m working on obtaining a replacement tower so I won’t have to keep imposing on Mike and his system, using money from my Vampire stand-alone system fund, and I’ll see if any of our resident hardware gurus has enough Apple hardware knowledge to possibly fix whatever is broken. Hopefully I will get something up and running in full before too long, and what has already happened will be the worst of it. At best, perhaps everything can be repaired and/or recovered, and my stable of MorphOS systems will be stronger and more numerous than ever before. All I’ve got is hope at the moment, which, with a little luck, will be enough.

All I want are computer systems that last forever, or at least as long as I’m able to make use of them, and I don’t think that should be too much to ask, do you?