Dougal Campbell's geek ramblings

WordPress, web development, and world domination.

Macbook + Coffee = Bad

Everybody knows that you shouldn’t keep beverages too close to the computer, right? The reason is because eventually, your toddler is going to run up to give you a big hug before she leaves for daycare, and is going to bump your leg. Your leg, in turn, is going to bump the TV tray where you set your coffee cup. The cup is going to tip over and spill several ounces of coffee directly onto the keyboard of your Macbook. And as a consequence, the Macbook is going to cease to function.

Yes, that’s what happened here at Castle Campbell last Friday morning. I tried to disconnect power and battery as quickly as possible, tried using a blowdryer on it, sat it out in direct sunlight for about an hour, and continued to let it air out for quite a while after that. But it still would not power up. I scheduled repair with Apple Care, figuring I’d end up eating just about the full cost of a refurb laptop.

Fortunately, I tried booting once more today, with the power supply connected, and it did boot. It still won’t boot under battery power, but at least I know now that it didn’t fry the entire motherboard. And I can get one last Time Machine backup before I send it off. Hopefully it will be back to normal after Apple cleans up the innards (keyboard, CD drive, etc).

Without the Macbook to work on, I had to fire up my old Sony VAIO laptop. It’s really not a bad machine, despite its age. It’s got a 2.4GHz P4 with 1GB of RAM (the maximum that this model can have, unfortunately). Its biggest problem, hardware-wise, is that the battery won’t hold much of a charge anymore, so I have to stay tethered to the wall. But I do that when I work anyways.

I booted it up, let it install a bazillion updates for Ubuntu 8.04, and restarted. And it ran as slow as molasses. What the? After doing some diagnostics, I discovered that I was running a bunch of services that I didn’t really need. Samba? Netatalk? Winbind? Turn those off, I’m not using them on a regular basis. MT-DAAP, Tomcat, avahi-daemon, tor, and even apache and mysql — not needed right now. Turning all of those off helped a lot.

But the performance still seemed sluggish, especially once I had Thunderbird and Firefox running. My final tweak was to switch from the default GNOME/metacity setup to xfce4. Once I got that configured, the system became much more useable. Even now, with Thunderbird, Firefox, Pidgin, Tomboy, a terminal, and several xfce panel plugins running, almost half of my RAM is still free.

Still, I’ll be glad to have the Mac back. It’s got more screen resolution, a slightly bigger hard drive, and several newer CDs of ours in iTunes that I don’t have ripped on the VAIO. And I’m getting antsy about the fact that I can’t sync my iPhone at the moment. Not that I have anything terribly important that needs to be synced, but it’s the principle of the thing.

So, anyways, let my mistake serve as a lesson to you all. Really keep your beverages faaar away from your equipment. It’s not just the repair cost you have to worry about. For me, the time I’ve wasted in getting another machine set up as my working environment was at least as valuable as what I’ll be paying for repairs. I don’t know about you, but time is something that I can’t spare much of.

About Dougal Campbell

Dougal is a web developer, and a "Developer Emeritus" for the WordPress platform. When he's not coding PHP, Perl, CSS, JavaScript, or whatnot, he spends time with his wife, three children, a dog, and a cat in their Atlanta area home.
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16 Responses to Macbook + Coffee = Bad

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