Involuntary Reboot Log #13 and #14

Today is not a good day as far as this computer is concerned.

About an hour ago I left the computer running while I was in the shower. On returning I found the screen blank, the light off and no noise coming from inside the enclosure. Moving the mouse, clicking buttons and pressing keys had no effect. The power had not gone off: the UPS was up with a green light and other peripherals in the same room all had power.

I immediately checked the power cable running into the back of the machine. Sizzling sounds and the UPS beeps in protest. The power socket feels all too wonky considering the immaculate care I take with this machinery. So I reseat the plug as securely as possible and turn on the machine.

As I noted in my post, "iMac reliability woes", the machine doesn’t have a working optical drive at the moment, so I couldn’t follow my usual involuntary reboot procedure and run Disk First Aid after booting off the Mac OS X install disc. Of course, HFS+ is a joke filesystem anyway and I’ve had hideous experiences with it in the past, so running Disk First Aid is a bit like replacing blown fuses on the Titanic, but even so it’s something I like to do as part of my "defense in depth" data integrity plan.

Well, the fun didn’t end with my first involuntary reboot of the day. Number #13 followed suit 2 minutes later when I fell off my chair (what a day) and lightly knocked the keyboard tray. Boom, as Steve Jobs would say. The lights are out again. To add insult to injury at that very moment a bunch of ball bearings spring from the rollers and bounce across the floor. This desk is on its last legs too, it would seem.

So this time I rip out the power cable and use a substitute. More sizzling noises, but the plug seems well seated.

Not much more I can do about this now. This machine is of critical importance to me — it’s my sole production machine which I use to make a living — and so I don’t really want to send it in for maintenance right now; too much work to do and I can’t live without the machine.

So what I really want to do is get a new machine. I had wanted to save up for a nice beefy Mac Pro and purchase it some time after Leopard comes out (I don’t really want an 8-core machine before then due to technical reasons; the main app that I run which would benefit from 8 cores is Xcode, but problems with Tiger can actually make it run slower with 8 cores than with 4). But I am beginning to wonder whether this machine will survive that long. I can’t afford a Mac Pro right now, so if this thing keels over I might have to hand over the credit card and get another iMac to replace this one. Ouch. I prefer to live debt-free.

This machine really is showing signs of its age (a whopping 18 months, more or less)… isn’t it possible to buy decent quality components any more? I know that Apple tries to use quality materials and good brands, but it seems that the entire market is engaged in a race-to-the-bottom to see who can churn out the cheapest, nastiest trash possible in the name of making a quick buck and forgetting about things like quality of user experience.

Remember the days of the Commodore 64? They were built like bricks. I think I was 9 or 10 when we got one in our family and I subjected it to years of abuse (literally, abuse, I even took to it with a soldering iron). Then came the Amiga and again years of use without a single hardware problem. Likewise with my first "PC", a 486SX-33; never skipped a beat. My first Mac was a PowerMac 7600 and it seems that it was the last reliable machine I ever owned, and even in that case the 1GB hard drive that it came with started to make scraping noises after a couple of years.

Since then it’s been nothing but trouble: a G3 PowerBook that needed the power socket’s circuit board and its motherboard replaced; an IBM rackmount server that had repeated disk problems; my G5 which again was plagued with disk issues; and now this iMac which seems the worst of the lot. I guess an honorable mention needs to go to my PowerBook G4 which I purchased in the middle of this era of woe: it’s run for years now without any problems.

On an up note, the tracking info for my order suggests that my Pioneer DVR-K06 has arrived in Spain. With any luck I’ll get it on Monday. Not being able to backup to DVD is a worrisome shortcoming with a machine as unreliable as this one, so I’m keen to get the new burner installed.

Involuntary reboot stats to date

  • Operating system version: 10.4.10
  • Kernel panics: 6
  • Hard resets: 8
  • Total failures: 14
  • Start of recording keeping: 21 May 2006
  • Total days to date: 454 days
  • Average time between failures: 32 days
  • Uptime at moment of failure(s): several days, then less than 2 minutes