Emergency computer shopping

My seven-and-a-half-year-old Macbook is dying. Maybe not today, maybe not even this week, but it’s becoming clear that its demise is imminent.

It started showing signs a few months ago, when that annoying thing that Apple calls the “spinning wait cursor” (and others apparently call the Spinning Beach Ball of Death or the Marble of Doom) started appearing more frequently and sticking around longer. I ignored it.

Now, in the past week or so, it has taken to shutting itself down for no good reason that I can determine, whether it’s running on battery power or plugged in. So far, this has been damned inconvenient, but has not actually caused me to lose any work. (The main reason it hasn’t caused me to lose any work is that I haven’t been doing much writing work this week, what with the strawberries coming on like gangbusters and the weeds trying to suffocate the carrots and one whole day spent having Big Fun in Portland, Brunswick, and the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village.)

Yesterday, I had just finished writing a story for the paper, saved and closed the file, and opened a new document when my laptop shut itself off. This time, when I tried to turn it back on, it went as far as bringing up the gray Apple symbol, then shut itself down again.

This happened repeatedly, about six times, and each time it looked like it was going to come back up, I held my breath and crossed my fingers and felt my heart racing. In the same way they say your life flashes before your eyes when the end is near, I went back over in my mind everything I had worked on since my last back-up, a week ago.

I had emailed the document with my saved progress on my big project to myself when I closed the file a couple of days ago (whew!), but, besides the story I had just finished for the paper, I had another story partly written, and notes for another saved. I had transferred photos for two of the stories to my laptop and deleted them from my camera, so if the computer had crashed completely, they were gone, gone, gone.

Fortunately, on about the seventh try, the computer came back on (and has stayed on ever since—go figure), but I’m taking no chances. Within thirty minutes, I had emailed myself several files, started my weekly back-up, and was on my way to buy a new laptop with my personal computer consultant (my son Will), without whom I wouldn’t know how to do a back-up, what kind of laptop to buy, or how to move my files from the old one to the new one.

This old Macbook, which was originally Will’s, is the first Apple computer I’ve really used much. I’ve had it for a little over a year, and I love it (or, at least, I did until it became unpredictable). At the time that Will bought it, it was fairly state-of-the-art, and he ran a lot of fancy graphics programs and game-design software on it.

I’m a writer, not a graphic designer. I don’t play on-line games (well, OK, Words With Friends, but that’s about it) or create videos. I take a lot of photos, but I use an inexpensive camera, and most of my photos fall into two categories: Adorable Cat Pics (seriously, you have never seen cuter cats than mine—I’m positive about this) and Fun With Food (or “No Wonder I Don’t Get Anything Else Done”). 

We looked at all the pretty, shiny devices in Best Buy, and ruled out several things.

The new (new to me, anyway) combo tablet/laptops looked cool, but extreme portability isn’t high on my list of needs and, besides, they felt flimsy to me. And I have aging eyes that prefer a bigger screen. 

We decided against a touch-screen, since I mostly use my laptop to write, and usually with a separate full-sized keyboard, so I wouldn’t be likely to reach over it to use a touch-screen.

We looked (briefly) at the Macbook Air, but I decided I couldn’t justify spending three times as much to get a Mac vs. a PC when a PC would suit my purposes just as well.

We ruled out the bottom-priced HP laptop we had looked at on the Best Buy website before we left, because it had lousy reviews.

In the end, we came home with a basic Toshiba laptop with a 15-inch screen (two inches bigger than I’m used to, which should be good for my eyes). It’s a little lighter than my old Macbook, but feels solid and dependable, which is all I really ask.

For $400—less than a third of what I paid for my first desktop—I got the computer, a sleeve for it, a wireless mouse, a flash drive, and anti-virus software, all packed up in handy box with a handle on top. We were in and out of the store in thirty minutes.

Will spent several hours last night fiddling with it, getting it set up for me, and this morning he’ll move my files. Luckily for me, he actually likes this stuff, because if it were up to me, the new laptop would probably sit in its box until the Macbook really crashes and I lose everything.



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