April 05, 2010

I Never Thought It Would Happen To Me

Old Hat vs. The New Shiny My first home computer was a 512KB Fat Mac, and I've stuck with Macs as my main computer through three processor architectures, running Systems 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and X. The latest of which now powered by a quad-core i5 with 8192-times the memory and orders of magnitude more CPU power compared to my first. Throughout that time I've waited patiently for Apple's product refreshes, and waited even more patiently to save up enough money to afford them. I bought idiosyncratic Apple-only accessories: the AAUI Ethernet transceivers, and numerous ADB keyboards and mice, all without much complaint, even though Wintel equivalents were cheaper and more available. While I'm not out there on the front-lines arguing for Apple on the Internet Battlefront, I've certainly put my money where my mouth would be.

My main purpose for upgrading to the iMac was to support the extra storage and processing requirements of my photography. Sure it's mostly just pictures of food and family, but those baby pictures are precious just the same. The bigger hard disk meant I can shoot RAW files instead of JPG, the improved CPU and GPU lets me run Aperture at acceptable speed, and the humongous 27" LED-lit IPS display makes it all look great. Apple even added an SD-card slot to make it easy to download pictures from the camera without having to fumble with cables.

The screen of the iMac being so wide meant that the side surface with the card slot isn't readily visible. But with such a thin profile it's easy to find the slot by feel and push the card in blind. So there I was ready to check out wife's latest lot of baby pictures as I tried to pop in the SD-card fresh out of the camera. Funny how that slipped in more easily than usual, I thought. Waited for a few beats and the card didn't mount on the desktop. Peered my head over the side and found the SD slot to be empty. That was when I realised to my horror that I'd pushed the memory card into the adjacent DVD slot by mistake.

Panic! But a closer look showed that a corner of the card was still just visible. Quickly grabbed a utility knife to try to nudge the card out. But in my haste I failed the DEX check and bumped the card into the dark abyss behind the felted cover of the DVD drive. Now it was time to PANIC, as I was pretty sure that this wouldn't be covered by AppleCare. Did some more fishing with various thin implements on-hand, but in my agitated state I couldn't snag the card hidden in the invisible mechanical labyrinth.

At least the inert memory card wasn't doing any harm sitting inside the DVD drive. So I could power down the computer safely and sleep on the problem overnight. Tried to do some preliminary research to see what's the best way to go about retrieving the lost memory card. But most of the Google results consisted of incredulous comments lambasting the special kind of imbecile that would mistake the DVD slot for the SD slot. Heck I would've been one of the hecklers, too, if I weren't on the special-imbecile side of the story. Thankfully, a thread on Apple's support forum offered a ray of hope, as other people who made the same mistake were able to fish out the memory card using an unbent paper clips and careful patience.

Come the next evening I was ready to give it another shot. Carefully unbent a biggie paper-clip into an L-shaped hook, stuck it into the DVD slot, and started scraping hoping to catch the SD card.


Kept twirling and swiping with the hook and still no luck. Now it's time for drastic action. The card's obviously stuck in some nook deep within the DVD drive and a bendy piece of wire wasn't going to dislodge it. On the Net one person had to swing and swirl his stricken iMac get the SD card out. I was hoping it wouldn't come to that since the 27" iMac is a heavy mofo. But now it seems like it's time to Hulk-up and do the shake-shake-shake. I figured the unibody-aluminum enclosure should be able to handle it, but the smooth surface doesn't lend it self to a good grip, and one can easily imagine the whole machine flying out of my hands and crashing to the ground in the course of centrifugal action. That would've been about the only way for this situation to get any better. Where by better I mean worse, of course.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. So I wiped my hands to make sure they were dry, then grabbed on tight and swung that iMac like they do in Dancing With The Stars. First try didn't yield any results, so I had to try a couple more times, swinging along different axes to apply normal forces on the hidden memory card. Finally, just as my back and shoulders were about to give out, I saw to my immense relief the blue corner of the SD card just peeking out of the DVD slot. Immediately grabbed my unbent paper clip and this time got a good grip with the L-hook to pull the entire thing out.

The moral of the story? Maybe Apple is capable of design flaws in their new machines. And when it comes to Apple gear, always keep paper clips handy. They're just as useful for Macs now as they were back in 1986.

Posted by mikewang on 09:18 PM