TORONTO, ONTARIO - My computer problems may have been solved for less than $100. With an appointment made, I decided to take a trek out to the Apple Store at Sherway Gardens mall today to talk to the Genius Bar about my 2005-era iBook, which had the non-functional trackpad. After I presented the history, the Mac Genius had some ideas for workarounds, and after more than fifteen minutes of trying, he managed to get a mouse fully working by forcing the setting to disable the trackpad (which was very difficult to do without the trackpad itself or an external mouse working). That gave me a backup computer that I could use.
Then, he agreed with my assessment that my 2008-era MacBook probably did have a failing drive, and pointed out that any 2.5" serial ATA-drive could be installed. So, I went across the street to Tiger Direct and purchased a $10 mouse (for the iBook) and a new $65 hard drive which is twice the size of the drive that had been installed--that's almost a justifiable upgrade, never mind the need for repair.
First, I satisfied myself that the backup computer was working. It's rather funny how many settings just worked, even after two years of sitting in the closest. One of the first things I did was to tune in the KUOW internet stream, and the old RealPlayer software and old URL worked just fine and the audio started playing. I had forgotten how much I liked the feel of that iBook. Furthermore, as a G4 machine, it can still run in Classic mode, so I was able to launch Word 5.0 for the first time in two years. I now have the project of going through the process of printing all my old Word documents (which don't open properly in newer versions of Word or OpenOffice) to a Postscript file, and then opening them in Preview (which automatically converts them) and saving them as PDF files that I can open on more modern computers. It's a slick process on the old computer, essentially impossible on my newer machine.
Once that was in place, I changed hard drives in my MacBook and started the long process of installing the system software, performing updates, and re-installing all of my software, settings, and documents. The process went smoothly, and I am actually writing this blog entry on the new computer. There so far has been no sign of the issues I was having, so it appears that the problem was indeed the hard drive--and now I have one with a lot more space available.
I still don't think the logic board (or perhaps cable) in my iBook should have ever failed, and the hard drive in my Macbook shouldn't have failed. But, if I can fix all my problems for less than $100 (even including my transit fares yesterday) and Apple will provide in-person help with the issues at the Genius bar, that's better than any other computer manufacturer would do. Apple probably saved itself from a lost customer today.