What a relief. After 11 days, my MacBook is back from Apple Repair and running as good as new, understandably so because it essentially IS new. I’m glad computer warranties don’t expire after a certain number of “use hours.” Automotive warranties usually have both a time and mileage expiration: 3 years or 30,000 miles. If computer warranties came with a similar limitation on usage, “3 years or 10,000 hours of use,” I would probably be in trouble.

Key lessons from this recent experience include:

  1. AN EXTENDED WARRANTY IS KEY: Never, EVER purchase or have your organization purchase a laptop computer without an extended warranty. I learned this lesson many years ago, and am SO thankful (yet again) to be fully covered for mechanical problems with my computer. Regardless of the platform, hardware problems DO happen. Buying a laptop without a warranty is a VERY bad idea, whether the laptop is a Macintosh or another brand. I conservatively estimate my $300, three year, extended warranty has saved me at least $2000 in repair bills in the last year and a half.
  2. BACKUP REGULARLY: We hear it fairly often, but how many of us REALLY back up our files often enough? I don’t. Thankfully, despite the intermittent shutdown problems which eventually forced me to relinquish my MacBook for repairs, I was able to make a full backup to an external hard drive before sending it off. Thankfully, when I received it back from repair the hard drive was untouched and unchanged: No formatting had been necessary. If it had been, however, I was prepared. (Again, the reason for this was my past experience with data losses on a small scale.) Being aware of my need for regular backups, I’m quite interested in purchasing the newly announced “Time Capsule” wireless router and wireless backup solution / hard drive in the near future.
  3. HAVE READY ACCESS TO ALL ACCOUNT INFO: At least a year ago, I started maintaining a list of my account userids and passwords on a secure, web-based service. Having multiple blogs to move between different servers, all of which have different logins, would have been MUCH more challenging without these account details at my fingertips.
  4. MAINTAIN NEEDED APP LISTS ONLINE: I’ve maintained a comprehensive list of the third-party applications I use on my Macintosh for a couple of years on a wiki site (wesley.jot.com/macapps.) Had my hard drive been formatted or replaced during the laptop repair process (something which is always a possibility) it would have taken a LONG time to re-install applications, if I did not have a backup of my applications or the applications backup restore failed. I actually do NOT currently keep a full backup of my applications, because it has been easier (and required less external hard drive space) to just backup my documents and files. Again, having had to previously do a full re-install of my applications, I’ve learned the value of keeping an up-to-date, linked applications list. If we purchase a 1 terabyte “time capsule” backup solution for home, I’ll likely opt for a full backup (including applications) since available storage space will be plentiful.

I essentially live on my MacBook. Being without it is analogous to losing the use of my arms. Not a good feeling.

Adding to the challenges of being without my MacBook for the last week and a half, my blog host continued its pattern of poor performance and unreliability last week, encouraging me at last to make the move to a new hosting company. So, without access to my MacBook, I needed to migrate 2.8 GB of files and four WordPress blogs to a new server. The prospect of doing this was not something I relished, but fortunately our present era of web-based applications and services made this process much less arduous and frustrating than it could have been.

Aside from my professional email account (which is on MS Exchange) I spend most of my time online working with web-based services and sites. Social bookmarks (del.cio.us/wfryer), wikis (mainly teachdigital.pbwiki.com), Google Documents, Google Reader, Yahoo mail and my blog comprise my “most used” web-based tools. In the past, probably before 2003, the prospect of not having my laptop and having to work on a “loaner” or alternative laptop would have been much more challenging. Working as I do now, predominantly “on the web,” this temporary situation proved to be a fairly minor inconvenience.

There WERE some “client-side” applications I needed to install locally and use, however, to continue working, processing information, and publishing media. Fortunately my wife was willing (voluntarily, I assure you) to loan me her MacBook during the time mine was off for repairs. The following screenshot of recent applications from her laptop on my login shows most of the applications I either used which were already installed, or I installed as they were needed, to continue my work in the past week:

Most essential client-side Macintosh applications

The following third-party programs were already installed on her computer, and I used them frequently:

  1. FireFox
  2. Skype
  3. Flock

These third-party programs had NOT been previously installed on her computer, but I had to have access to them to work. These included:

  1. MarsEdit (blog post editor)
  2. Skitch (screencapture publisher)
  3. TextWrangler (text reformatting and notes)
  4. CyberDuck (ftp)
  5. CallRecorder (Skype recording)
  6. Audacity (podcasting)
  7. FeedForAll (podcast XML feed creation, editing and publishing)
  8. TaskPaper

There are many more third-party applications I have installed on my computer and use, but the applications above are ones I consider now to be ESSENTIAL. Without these, I couldn’t work effectively.

Because I have a .Mac account I pay $100 for annually, my bookmarks sync across Mac computers within the Safari web browser. This is wonderful, since there ARE many client-side bookmarks which I use constantly each day and really didn’t want to remember and re-create. There are several different free plug-ins for FireFox which sync bookmarks across computers (even across different platforms) but I do not use any of those currently. I use FireFox or Flock for Yahoo Mail, updating my PBwiki, and editing my pages on WordPress, but other than those purposes I generally use Safari. I find Safari to be the fastest browser on the Mac, and I like speed. ūüôā

The only client-side file I created during my 11 days with a “MacBook loaner” which needed to be transferred over to my computer was my TaskPaper to-do list. That certainly wouldn’t have been the case before the advent of web 2.0 applications.

It is both a joy and a relief to have MY OWN MacBook back and be using it again. (My wife is glad to have hers back too!)

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4 Responses to Surviving 11 days without my MacBook

  1. Willy says:

    I use Mozy online backup for my Mac, and have been very satisfied. For $50 a year, all of my important local files are automatically backed-up. I prefer Mozy to some of the free choices out there.


  2. Trina says:

    Glad the computer is back and running! Also, some great tips on where and how to back up things we don’t always think about backing up, like applications lists. I back up most of my data to external hard drives and an external server, but I have to admit I haven’t given much thought to keeping an application list. Something I’ll have to attend to…

  3. […] Blog post about how a user survived when their MacBook went down and the apps that were a necessity! There WERE some client-side applications I needed to install locally and use, however, to continue working, processing information, and publishing media. (hint: one of the critical applications was FeedForAll Mac!) […]

  4. Ryan Collins says:

    In this situation I would’ve pulled the hard drive and stuck it in an USB (or firewire) enclosure (the hard drive comes right out of the Macbooks). Then you could’ve booted your wife’s MacBook off of the external drive and access everything normally.

    Now with leopard I setup the unsupported Time Machine hack and back up to my iMac running Tiger for my backups.

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