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MBP, R.I.P. (maybe)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 22, 2010 in Technology

One would think somebody who graduated with a degree in, say, Computer Science wouldn’t be so surprised by the fallibility of modern electronics.

But there I was this afternoon, trying to open up an Excel spreadsheet with my final exam schedule, sitting there perplexed by the lack of noticeable activity. Little did I know the truth: my 4-year-old MacBook Pro was sitting there dying in front of me :(

I eventually shut it down, thinking this was just another Microsoft Office bug and that would be fixed by a quick restart. I power it on, hear the familiar chime, see the Apple logo come up, and…

…nothing.

Restart and try it again, thinking it’s a fluke. Same result.
Restart again and try to boot into the Windows Vista partition I use for ExamSoft. This time it freezes at the initial Windows progress bar.

Fear starts to creep into the back of my mind. “Just relax,” my mind reassures itself, “It’s probably just a corrupted hard drive we can fix in about 20 minutes.”

Grab my Snow Leopard install DVD and try to boot from the disc. Nothing.
Reset the SMC and PRAM then restart again.  Nada.
Restart in the Unix equivalent of “safe mode.” Nil.

I notice the complete and total lack of noise from the hard drive, meaning it’s something other than a failed drive (usually a corrupted disk makes a clicking sound). Fear turns into dread.

Restart in verbose mode to to see how far along the boot process gets, and notice it hangs at:

ACPI: System state [S0 S3 S4 S5] (S3)

My heart sinks; dread turns into panic. The inner-geek in me notices that particular line was a stumbling point for the Hackintosh1 folks when there was an incompatibility with the motherboard and the OS.

Translation for MBP users like me: the motherboard is dead :cry2:

I run to my old desktop in the other room (used for doc archives) to see if I can load the laptop’s hard drive in FireWire Target Disk Mode. It works, so I’m thankfully able to at least pull off the docs I’ve modified since my last backup.

I promptly schedule an appointment with the Genius Bar at the local Apple Store. Pack everything up. Jump in the car. Speed to the Apple Store. Plaintively explain everything to the guy at the Genius Bar.

All to no avail.

20 minutes later, after trying a few other tests I didn’t have the resources to try myself, my fears are confirmed — the logic board has failed and my laptop won’t be booting any time soon. I reluctantly agree to have the laptop shipped to a repair depot, where hopefully a logic board transplant will get it in good working order again.2 It gave me a better understanding of what this feels like.

That’s pretty much how my afternoon/evening was spent today. I’ve lost hard drives before (always backup your data!!) but never a logic board. It put me in a sufficiently frosty mood when I got home that I neglected to follow one of the cardinal rules of cooking as I made dinner, ending up with grease burning the heck out of a couple of the fingers on my right hand :beatup:

BUT, on the bright side, this means I’ll have to pay attention in class for the next few days since I won’t have the news or Facebook to distract me :D  I’m determined to find a silver lining to this whole scenario…

  1. A hacked installation of MacOS X on non-Apple hardware. []
  2. The downside is that I’ll be out a few hundred $$ and have to give up my laptop for 5-7 days… 1 day before meeting with my partner on our Legal Research project, 4 days before the monthly UNCASG meeting, and 9 days before midterm exams. :beatup: []

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So, this iPad thing. Why?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 29, 2010 in Technology

Let me preface this post by stipulating 1) Steve Jobs is one of my role models, and 2) I  really do :heart: Apple and its products — I used to work for the company in undergrad, only buy Macs, swear by Keynote for my job, and will snap up an iPhone if they ever come to Verizon Wireless.

But why get an iPad?

I finally got around to watching the Quicktime stream of the iPad unveiling, after intentionally avoiding all non-weather-related media since Wednesday afternoon so I wouldn’t learn about any details before seeing the video.1

The positives seem compelling.  The technology in the iPad is impressive, especially given its size. The price point is lower than I think any rational person would expect with the components packed into it. Being able to seamlessly run iPhone apps is a perk to everyone with an iPhone. And there’s plenty of potential for gaming.

How many of those are compelling enough to justify adding another gadget to your technology ecosystem though? My reflexes are too slow for gaming,2 I don’t have an iPhone so no already-purchased apps, and as much fun as reading the news looked in their demo I’d just as soon pull out my MacBook Pro or read it on my BlackBerry.

I’m sure it will eat into the Amazon Kindle market, and there will undoubtedly be niche markets for the gaming folks or the type of people who use the MacBook Air. But (at the moment) I don’t see the hook into the broader market. It basically reminds me of the G4 Cube, which was a huge flop until Apple tweaked the idea into the Mac mini.

History favors Steve though — after all, while he’s making $$$ reinventing entire markets, I’m shelling out $$$ to join one of the slowest-evolving professions in the world :beatup:

Time will tell I guess :) Have a great night folks! :D

  1. Yes, I’m one of those people :P The good folks over at MacRumors.com help with their spoiler-free stream links :) []
  2. I have to stick with turn-based strategy games like Civilization :beatup: []

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And we’re back!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 31, 2009 in Technology

Sorry for the abrupt and only partially-explained disappearance over the last couple days.  I’m actually the guy in charge of that statewide student advocacy group mentioned in Friday night’s post, so any time they have a business meeting I usually go without sleep the day before making sure everything is totally prepared, stay in a very stoic über-focued “ASG mode” shepherding legislation and other initiatives through the end of business on Saturday night, then party with everyone after it’s over, go to bed late, and drive home the next day.  That quasi-ritual gets slightly more extreme when things go really really really well and I get everything I want done (as happened this weekend), so the plan to post something on Sunday never materialized.

The upside?  Not only do I have more stuff to write about for the rest of this week, but my absence has helped fix the disproportionate traffic stats on my server logs :D

My apologies if you were expecting something more significant :)  It’s been agitating me for weeks that such a high percentage of our August traffic was showing up as MacOS X 10.5.8 / Safari just because I was the only visitor here when the blog got started.  Since I’m no longer in the CSC game I don’t bother trying to do “graceful degradation” of stylesheets to accommodate the majority browser(s), but it’s still nice to know that the high volume of Mac visits was partially an anomaly (though there are still quite a few non-me Mac users as well as Windows Safari folks stopping by).

In a minor bit of law-related news before I devote the rest of my night to Contracts reading, a couple folks asked how my campaign for SBA Representative was going (and thanks to Evan Schaeffer at the Legal Underground for including the post in his Weekly Law School Roundup!).  Our “platforms” were due to the SBA folks today by 3pm and are now available online for the Class of 2012 to review.  I put “platform” in quotes because we’re actually supposed to put it in the form of a letter, which runs counter to everything I’ve ever learned as a student politician.  If you’re bored and want to see how awkward a platform in paragraph format looks, feel free to check out a PDF copy of my letter.  Basically I’m hanging my hat on getting earlier refunds for everyone, and praying I can overcome my general distaste for pandering for votes to introduce myself to the other class sections tomorrow and Wednesday.

Also missed both of my classes today, ironically in both instances as a result of dealing with government agencies (State Motor Pool and the Internal Revenue Service, respectively).  If I’m in a sufficiently salty mood later in the week I’ll rant about one or both of those great bastions of government efficiency (</sarcasm>).

Finally, installed Snow Leopard on my laptop last night.  Have to confess to being disappointed so far, largely because of the things it breaks (Little Snitch), bugs it creates (had to create a new Location in Network preferences to properly use NCCU’s wifi), and UI improvements that don’t really improve anything (the new Dock context menu background sucks IMO).  Hopefully I’ll be more impressed as time goes on.

That’s it for tonight — off to study Contracts!  Thanks for sticking around through the hiatus and reading this far through the post!  Have a great night! :D

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Random updates

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 27, 2009 in Randomness

It’s probably a good thing that RSS readers play such a big role in the traffic to law:/dev/null, because this whole plan to consistently write earlier in the day has been pretty hit-or-miss (with slightly more miss than hit).

I actually had plans for an entry last night, but I ended up staying up late celebrating with friends — one of my former protégés in the NC State Student Senate, a mere sophomore, got elected President Pro Tempore last night over seasoned opposition (congratulations again Jackie! :D). So I cut short reading my Contracts cases to head to Raleigh and meet her and other folks at the Carolina Ale House for food and drinks, and didn’t make it back to Durham until around 1am or so.

Then after classes today I headed back to Raleigh to knock out my Physical Fitness Test for the United States Marine Corps (joining the JAG after law school) — don’t think I’ve ever been more physically drained since I moved to North Carolina over a decade ago.  I’ve let myself turn into a pudge-ball over the last 2 years and have a lot of work to do before Officer Candidate School next summer.

A brief nap, dinner, and some Torts readings later, and here I am realizing I forgot whatever my earlier poignant entry was going to be, so instead you get random snippets on miscellaneous miscellany :)

  • I announced to the class that I’m running for one of the SBA representative positions for the Class of 2012.  Almost got thrown off my game by a young lady I’ll call Madame Prosecutor, who called me out right after I tested the microphone and goes “Mr. Tdot, are you running for office?”  It made me smile… but then broke my concentration on my speech so I could make 110% sure I remembered her name and figured out how to incorporate her commentary into my own.  I tend to get crazy nervous when speaking to a large crowd, and that brief lapse in focus made me acutely aware of how large the room looks from being up front.  Not sure anyone noticed it though, because I even got some pity applause when it was over :)

     

  • Refunds tomorrow!  (hopefully)  I need $$.  And I’m fairly certain I’m going to make getting refunds sooner the central platform plank of my campaign, because I’ve basically leveraged my position with that non-profit group I work with to start a conversation with our Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer on how to make it happen.

     

  • And Snow Leopard gets released tomorrow too.  It’s like Christmas in August :)

     

  • First graded assignment turned out pretty well, so the Professor is actually letting us skip Friday class if we want.  If sleeping in is the reward for good grades, I’ll be a 4.0 student by the end of the year ;)

     

  • Still enjoying the people in law school too.  No matter how monotonous the material in any class gets, all of us cut up in the back of the room.  Folks are getting more comfortable with each other too.  Even though we’ve got some clear cliques already, people actively talk to the folks in the other groups.  Still haven’t found study partners of my own though because I’m still trying to shake the K-12+college habit of studying on my own.  Hopefully I’ll get that fixed soon.

     

  • First business meeting of the UNC Association of Student Governments starts tomorrow night at UNC Wilmington.  There’s a hurricane off the coast of North Carolina (naturally), but I’m still going to have fun ;)

     

  • We’re officially on the radar of spammers as of about 48 hours ago.  I wasn’t running Akismet originally, but after logging in to find two dozen comments on “crack smokin’ grannies” and other various topics that can’t be mentioned on a quasi-family-friendly blog, I went ahead and got a WordPress API key and turned it on.  I’m still amazed people actually spend so much time in their day writing scripts to discover spam-able blogs and then carpet bomb their comments sections…

     

That’s it for tonight, off to wrap up the Torts readings and head to bed.  Have a great night everybody! :D

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Week 0 Retrospective Part III (or, “You can breathe now.”)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 18, 2009 in The 1L Life

First let me say these OFF! PowerPad lanterns are a big bundle of fail.  I bought one for the deck where I usually type these blog posts and I swear the mosquitos must be hungrier than a hobo with the munchies because I’ve been getting eaten alive.  Moved it so it’s now right next to me, which probably can’t be good since I’m basically breathing in the fumes… but I figure it can’t be worse than dying of West Nile Virus right? :)

Second note:  these server logs are just plain fun to look at.  I’m still 75% of the site’s traffic, but it looks like I’ve got about a dozen people who aren’t me willing to visit the site on occasion.  And seeing who gets here via a Google search is interesting, with 1 visit apiece from people querying “ncsu” (my alma mater), “tgd 1l blog” (TGD being my nom de guerre), “ave maria law” (noted in this entry), “duquesne university school of law” (ditto), and some poor soul who found me while searching for “mountain dew” (I pity them for ending up here but salute them for our shared caffeinated beverage of choice! :D ).  There are also quite a few folks getting referred from the Facebook Inbox page, meaning the URL is getting passed around in private messages… which kinda worries me since I know who at least a few of the folks sending it are :P

Speaking of Facebook, some of you have been harassing me for current details now that both Day 1 and Day 2 of “real class” are over, so this post will finish the look back on orientation so there can be something fresh here for tomorrow.  I’d skip the rest of orientation entirely, but a certain someone has demanded I explain the rocking chair comment so she can stop trying to figure it out.

—===—

After very firmly planting my size 12 white Adidas with Wolfpack red highlights in my mouth and then pretending like I never said a word, I think the Big Guy Upstairs took some pity on me because the rest of orientation wasn’t that bad at all.  There was a lengthy discussion on financial aid that included questions from a few folks that were the same as ones I had (“Do we count as first-year students as 1Ls with respect to the Dept of Education’s 30-day delay on loan disbursements?”), some questions that lacked a bit of common sense (“On this table there are disbursement dates each week, does that mean you pro-rate our refund and give us a portion of it each week throughout the semester?”), and some that were just plain funny (“You have our money on the 7th but refunds aren’t until the 28th.  Do you think we go home to our mamas or something?”).

And although my memory’s a little bit hazy, I think I knew the guy who asked that last question.  The lady from financial aid looked like she was about to jump over the podium and smack the taste out of his mouth.  I don’t live by many personal rules, but one of them is this:  there are 3 types of people in this world you simply do not try to piss off — people who clean up after you, people who cook your food, and people who control your money.  Had it been someone from the Bursar’s Office standing in front of him, I’d wonder if he’d get his refund on the 28th…

Dr. Psych spoke with us briefly about learning styles and gave us a quiz on the topic, prompting the purchase of that aforementioned rocking chair.  Turns out I’m heavily-tilted toward “tactile” learning (“learning by doing”) with a secondary preference for “visual” learning and no interest at all in “aural” learning.  In talking with Dr. Psych afterwards I found out that’s a likely reason for why I’m good at remembering faces but forgetting names, like being outside on rainy days, and tend to fidget when sitting still (my right leg bounces so bad it shakes the desk and makes it damn near impossible to type on the Mac mini). She suggested a possible solution to my lack-of-furniture-in-the-domicile problem would be to get a cheap rocking chair and put it out on the deck, giving me a chance to study in an environment that lets me enjoy the light movement of the trees out back while also employing that “nervous energy” in a non-distracting pursuit since the laptop screen would end up moving in tandem with the chair.

So far I think she was right.  This has probably been the highlight of my day, carnivorous mosquitoes notwithstanding :)

We also had a presentation by the Police Chief, who happened to be wearing the same NC State polo shirt I have.  One of his memorable comments:  “The odds of you getting a ticket during your 3 years at NCCU are 100%.”  To which I thought “I bought my permit way before school started, I’m good.”  (see the start of yesterday’s entry for the twist).

And then there was the smug joy of watching the IT staff scurry around the room for about 20 minutes trying to coax all the new Lenovo / MS Vista-based laptops the students get to borrow to recognize the wifi network… while my MacBook Pro had been connecting fine since before orientation ever started (yes, I’m one of those sanctimonious Apple-loving bastards you’ve heard about and quite proud of it ;)).

The second day was fun and had me almost convinced law school wouldn’t be that bad at all.  We had an introduction to civil procedure that basically outlined stuff I had picked up during my years as a paralegal and assistant clerk of court, an intro to briefing cases that I probably should have written down in my notes but didn’t when Professor Contracts said he’d post the slides online, and had our pictures taken for what I’m guessing will be a book of the incoming class.  I got my Student ID with a picture that looks like I just got caught doing something illegal.  There was the reception that prompted this exchange on starting law:/dev/null, and a night workshop on ethics and professionalism that prompted my other major realization of the day…

…I am impressively awkward.

If you did a union on a pair of tuples with [large venues, small venues] and [structured format, unstructured format], my natural home is in the [small venues, *] area.  With only comparatively few people to face, folks naturally interact at some point and I have the opportunity to utilize my limited but occasionally witty sense of humor to make friends and win arguments.  I can also handle the [large venues, structured format] as a secondary preference (e.g. speaking in front of a large group of people), a learned skill from spending the past couple years as a student politician at NC State.

But put me in a room with a couple hundred people and no real expectations on what to do or who to talk to, and I tend to gravitate to the edge and talk to people… on my BlackBerry.

The upshot is that I’ve got a few folks now who I can shadow and are far more people-oriented than I am (DMoff) or far better known (Delta the 2L — I’ll talk about this angel of mercy at greater length in a later entry).  So slowly but surely things are coming together :)

—===—

That’s all I’ve got on the orientation rundown — I ended up skipping the last 2 days due to obligations I had to a non-profit board I work with on higher education issues.  That’s a good thing though: imagine how many more entries I’d have to post if I had more… ;)

Off to brief cases for the rest of the night — Wednesday is my hell day in terms of scheduling, with 4 classes I’m thoroughly unprepared for back-to-back-to-back-to-back.  Good night everybody! :D

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