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I hate computers

Warning! This musing is both technical and disjoint. Blame my (mostly) dead computer.

This morning, the screen on my MacBook stopped working. Completely. It’s just black. I tried rebooting. No luck. I tried attaching an external monitor. No luck. It’s a particular pain because I have a lot of work to do on the computer today. [1] It’s hard to work without a screen.

I looked the problem up online. I found a helpful page on OS X Daily. I tried resetting the System Management Controller. No luck. I tried resetting the PRAM. I could see the screen for a moment during the boot process, but then it went off again. At this point [2], I decided that it was more than just a software issue.

But I had not backed up in about two days, and I’d done a lot of work in those two days. I also know that it’s sometimes a pain to get things off of a backup for another Mac. So I thought about what else to do.

My first goal was to log in. It seems that’s possible. I typed my username, a tab, and my password. I clicked the Play button, and iTunes started. So I know I was logged in. I then typed command-space and terminal to get to the terminal. I verified that I was in my terminal by typing

say Hello

I’m glad the Mac has a say command.

So the next question was how to make copies of certain folders. Some experimentation led me to the following series of commands. They are a lot of fun to type without seeing.

sap -r /Users/rebelsky/directory-to-copy /Volumes/Backups/Emergency/; say Done
diskutil list | grep Backups | say
diskutil eject /dev/disk3 2>&1 | say

If you care, 2>&1 is the bash command-line option to redirect standard error to standard output. It’s among the least intuitive commands I’ve used recently.

Of course, typing those commands also required that I know what directories I wanted to copy. Fortunately, judicious use of ls and say helped me identify some of the more important ones. I’m now waiting to see whether the copying of some of the bigger directories worked.

I have limited time right now, so I’m not going to write much more. Suffice to say that it’s also [a pain to switch back to an old laptop. Among other things …

  • Applications want to update themselves. Lots of applications. Particularly Microsoftware.
  • It takes awhile to download new email messages [3].
  • My disk utility software wants to rescan my old laptop. And rescan it again. Then it puts up scary warning messages [4].
  • And, of course, I need to transfer my digital workspace. Since my old laptop was in use two months ago, I’m going to wait to worry about that until spring break.

One more thing: I hate computers. But I’m glad that I know enough to figure out how to deal with a screen-less computer, at least for a time. Next up: Figuring out whether my third-party warranty company will fix the damn thing.

Postscript: Here’s the really sad part. After I did all of that, I shut down my old MacBook from the terminal with the command

sudo shutdown -h +1

I then reset the SMC one more time. This time, the computer booted with a working screen. So it will be difficult to send it in for repair and say My computer screen is not working. Did I mention that I hate computers?

And, of course, a minute after I typed that, the computer screen went blank again. It appears that computers hate me as much as I hate them.

Postscript: Did I mention that I got essential no work done today?

[1] At this point, it’s more of the a situation in which I had a lot of work to do today. That work did not get done.

[2] At this point = after about two hours of futzing around.

[3] Since is not happy about running on multiple machines at once, I needed to quit it on my dying Mac. Once again, command-space, terminal, and say were my friends. I used command-space to get to Mail. I crossed my fingers that Ctrl-Q would work correctly. I used ps in the terminal, along with say, to figure out if I’d succeeded.

[4] It turns out that the messages were easy to misread. I thought I was getting a SMART error from my disk, which is a sign that the disk is likely to die soon. But it turns out I just had some damaged files (which I had downloaded from somewhere).

Version 1.0 released 2018-03-11.

Version 1.1 of 2018-03-14.