Jan 7, 2014

Vulnerable when Unpowered

My MacBook Pro will be with me for 3 years come April. It is an extremely well-travelled laptop during its short lifespan - completing my lengthy journal report while transiting in Narita, sending happy pictures of me and Dr. Drazen, editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine from Boston to my family, checking my residency application status while vacationing in Bali, and blogging from New York.
It is easy to forget how convenient life has become when so much could be done by pressing the on button and navigating billion dollar investments with a stable internet connection. However, we usually take the power / battery for granted as life gets too easy for us.
For Macbook users, you'll be familiar with the MagSafe adapter which Apple fanatics love to call the "tofu":

My "tofu" is as old as my MacBook Pro now and I must confess I did not take good care of it, especially so when I travel. As the laptop gets up to 8 hours battery life on a single charge, I usually chuck the tofu into a checked luggage and only see it after we're settled at our destination. During the period, the luggage usually went up and down 14576 steps, into 34 puddles, and got smashed along with 287 other luggages in a temperature of -97^C under your comfy cabin on the airplane.
After 3 years my tofu has finally decided to quit me last Saturday. The usual assuring green or yellow LED did not light up when I happily plug it in at my duty room. Convinced that things designed by Steve Jobs would not fail, I plug it into another outlet. I must imagine the green dot so hard I think my retinal cone cells almost revolted against my grey matter for the hallucination. No green. No yellow. Just plain blackout.
With the remaining battery, I troubleshot my problem from the Apple Support website. First, make sure your power supply is working - blimey, I always thought Apple users were smarter than that. As I was plugging into a hospital-grade uninterruptible power supply I'm positive there is sufficient electrons to kickstart a laptop. Or else the 50 ICU patients wouldn't still be breathing.
Second, unplug your adapter and let it rest for 60 seconds. Replug.
I must have tried no. 2 at least 60 times. During the final frantic moments I almost wished electricity would pass through me while I hold on to the computer. I don't mind being electrocuted as long as I can get onto Facebook!
Then comes some key combinations which would reset your whatnot - something similar to Clt-Alt-Del on Windows - still not working. Finally, I booked an appointment for an Apple genius to call me. Apple tried to charge me NT1,790 for the call but thank God there was a "I just bought OS X Mountain Lion" option allowing me a free call. I managed to save 2 weeks' living expenses for a family of 5 in the Philippines.
5 minutes later an Apple genius with a fake Mainland Chinese accent called. I explained to him the steps I had done. After a series of questions like what temperature is the room now and did you drop your adapter into hot soup, the genius told me the problem probably lies in my tofu and advised me to go to the nearest Apple store, which is 119 km away from my current location.
With 4% of power remaining, I checked the Apple Store for a new adapter. Apparently if you think a call costing 2 weeks living expenses for a family of 5 is exorbitant, an adapter would likely feed an entire zoo.
Like Sandra Bullock in Gravity (2013), with the computer screen blurring every 3 seconds and apocalyptic warning signals flashing away, I went to Ruten, the Taiwanese version of Ebay, and found the same product for half the price, including delivery. With 1% power to spare, I clicked "purchase" before the laptop went into a deep coma.
The following day, I forced politely asked my junior for his adapter to infuse some much needed electrons into my baby which is barely breathing (sleep indicator of MacBooks resembles breathing patterns).

I must admit hearing the "puck" sound when the cable attaches magnetically to the laptop is like God speaking himself that morning. When I plug on, the familiar yellow bulb flashes on - even utopian Shangri-La seems slum-like when compared to the warm glow of electrons flowing through. My MacBook is saved!
After 2 days, my own adapter arrived. As I lay the old tofu to rest, it seems almost a joke to me that while our computers may produce medicines that cure cancer or save the planet, they are still just a metal casing made from recycled Cola cans when unpowered.


SleeplessInKL said...

When my tofu died on me and I was forced to buy a very expensive new one, I could not bear to throw it away knowing how much it cost me. So to this day, it lies in the box (of its replacement), a reminder to myself to be more careful in the future *sigh*