Tuesday, May 2, 2017

May Day Update

If you've had experience with increasingly ill, elderly cats, you've probably witnessed how they'd often unexpectedly perk up and rally just as you and your vet were about to have that sad, serious discussion about The End. Our vet told me her patients do it all the time. I think cats understand us; while they may not get a tremendous amount of meaning from our actual words, I believe they get some. I think they probably pick up more of our meaning from our voices, facial expressions, body language, and behavior — in ways that would amaze us.

Apparently laptops do the same thing.

Yesterday I packed snacks, water, and a few old New Yorkers, and took my laptop to the Genius Bar for One Last Try to get it working again. I figured I'd be there all day, as they wiped it clean and took it back to the previous operating system, Yosemite.

The first person I met at the Genius Bar was basically doing triage — finding out the severity of the problem to direct me to the right Genius. She had the slightly harried but business-like manner of an ER receptionist. She told me my laptop couldn't possibly go back to Yosemite. I showed her an email from TWO Apple Support Specialists (having two is rare), recommending that very solution. She left.

My Genius was young and bearded, with very long, pale hands. He had the quiet, sympathetic bedside manner of a good vet, and handled my 7-year-old laptop with the same respectful tenderness I've seen in vets examining old cats.

Software issues aside, he showed me that it's battery is nearly shot, and it's nearly out of memory and storage, too. Its days are numbered and I know it won't be long before something else goes kaput — screen, power supply, etc. That's what happens.

The Photos diagnostics data I'd spent many hours struggling to send to Apple last week hasn't been evaluated by the engineers yet, so I still don't know why my older photos are shrinking from normal sizes to about 50KB (bigger than a postage stamp but not much) when I edit them in the Photos app. That's been my biggest concern. Saving my photos matters more to me than saving my laptop.

So the Genius and I investigated the problem — and discovered that those shrunken photos are still stored in their original formats and sizes on my hard drive. I thought they were iPhone photos stored in the Cloud but I'd taken them with my old Canon camera, and carefully archived all of them in folders by month and year. What a relief. (I've only been using my iPhone camera for about three years but it feels like forever. About ten Apple Support Specialists never figured that out.)

The Genius then showed me how to store hard copies of iPhone photos, too, using Image Capture. Then I can stop worrying when iCloud screws up.

Then he gently led me through a discussion of my options, which felt similar to how my vet and I evaluate an old cat's quality of life. We agreed that there was not much I could do to repair or upgrade my laptop's aging parts. It might buy "us" more time together, but would that time be quality time? The answer seemed to be a resounding No. We let that sink in.

Then we considered option two: replacement. Now, this is not a topic anyone should ever bring up around a patient on the examining table. But, you know, later on . . . after a decent interval, it's the right thing to do. The best way to honor a cat we've lost is to rescue another. You free up a spot so the shelter can save another life — and we often rescue ourselves in the process, too. I'm well aware that one cat can never "replace" another but they all do have a way of burrowing into our hearts and lessening our grief, which we thought would be vast and endless.

Laptops are not cats. They both like being on our laps but that's pretty much it. For me, the laptop's final journey goes like this:

I realize the companion I've had on my lap for many years is one I'm increasingly wanting to throw out the window.

Eventually I cave and shell out four figures on a new companion, a speedier, shinier one that I  nevertheless know will prove to be annoyingly different and inferior in surprising ways.

For about two weeks, I will want nothing more than to throw the new laptop out the window. I will gaze longingly at the old laptop and may even try to resurrect it.

Eventually I stop whining and adapt. I forget how much better the previous laptop was (except for Microsoft Office. It's impossible to forget how much better the previous, very-lousy version was compared to the new, even lousier one). But even so, my husband stops needing to use his Patient Voice all the time.

My Adjustment Period will be starting either Friday or Monday, when the new laptop arrives. I rejected the latest models, with their lack of ports and no mag-safe plug, and especially their nasty, noisy, cheap-feeling keyboard. (Its speakers are awesome, I'll admit.) The previous model was still available, so I bought that. It will look and feel more like my current one, but there will also be plenty of "improvements" to drive me mad.

Keep checking the shrubbery in front of my apartment, if you know where I live, and you might find something silver and expensive stuck in there later this month.

But, you know what? I'm done talking about computers. I'm sick of the subject. You are, too. So I'm going to spare you as much of the Transition as I can (hmm, we'll see).

And you know what else??? I can freely write about other things, illustrated with photos, because, ever since it came home from the Apple Store, my old laptop is running quite decently, letting me export photos and open more than one application at a time without crawling at a speed reminiscent of 1993 and my PowerBook 165c, (Apple's first color laptop and my first home PC).

It's like it knows its days are numbered and hopes to convince me to let it live a little longer.

Maybe laptops are learning to understand us, like our cats.


  1. OMG...too hilarious! I mean, no, it's not funny when we are talking about our aged cats, but the computer comparison just tickled my funny-bone! I received a new laptop at the office last week, and today is (almost) the first time that I've been able to work without contacting IT about this or that. I am curious about which laptop you purchased, since when I was in the Apple store recently, I was only shown the newest models.

    1. Hi there, this is the "leftover" model I ordered:
      They currently sell three 15" models: two new ones with screens instead of function keys, and this older model from 2015-16. I don't know how long they will carry this one, but I think I am lucky to get it since the newer ones don't appeal to me.
      Best of luck with all of your own laptop woes!

  2. I can so feel your analogy cat vs laptop. and kudos to that genius for saving your photos


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