Pharyngula

Catastrophe!

I’m in the pleasant town of Kearney, Nebraska to give a couple of talks at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and something tragic and horrible has happened.

My laptop has died. The video card, she no longer generates the video. It makes it rather difficult to illustrate my talks with projected images. It also makes it difficult to get on the web and engage in the blogging (I’m using a hotel business office computer to post this).

I’m planning to stop at an Apple Store at the Mall of America when I get back to Minneapolis tomorrow and beg them to FIX IT RIGHT NOW, but until then, I’m crippled, with half my brain no longer functioning. It does make my talks more entertaining, though: I’m just talking. I’ve managed to fool them all so far, but today’s talk is all about embryonic development, and I’m going to have to show the evidence through interpretive dance, epic poetry, and finger puppetry, I think. It might be amusing, anyway.

Comments

  1. #1 Kel
    November 14, 2008

    and I’m going to have to show the evidence through interpretive dance, epic poetry, and finger puppetry, I think. It might be amusing, anyway.

    Someone better tape it and put it on youtube.

  2. #2 SkyBlue
    November 14, 2008

    Do you have a “Pro” card? It does cost $$ but should help you get the machine looked at faster. It bumps your repair to the head of the line.

  3. #3 Joćo
    November 14, 2008

    I don’t want to start another pc-Mac war but after that post of Obama using a Mac, I’d say you were asking for it.
    I’m really sorry for you, though. I too have been in the position of preparing for a conference and the computer suddenly dieing on me.

  4. #4 Matt Heath
    November 14, 2008

    Maybe you biologists are a less community spirit bunch than mathematicians, but could you ask someone to lend you a laptop for the duration of the talk?

  5. #5 Russell
    November 14, 2008

    Strip down to your underwear and no one will notice anything you say.

  6. #6 Dawn
    November 14, 2008

    Oh, PZ, that sucks. Good luck on the presentation. I suppose trying to go to Lincoln to get it fixed before the presentation is a little out of the way…

  7. #7 spgreenlaw
    November 14, 2008

    If you got the Pro Care coverage, you ought to be fine. I am really hard on my Macbook Pro (dropped it ten feet down a flight of stairs, for example) and they’ve fixed every single thing for free. The even exchanged the laptop with a new one recently, at no cost to me. I’ve never seen another computer company with better customer service. It’s a major reason, though not the only one, that I am so infatuated with Apple.

  8. #8 Wowbagger
    November 14, 2008

    Can you play the banjo? That’d be kinda cool.

  9. #9 Benjamin Geiger
    November 14, 2008

    If someone loans you another Apple, you can use Target Disk Mode to get to your files.

    Another possibility is Screen Sharing (which is just VNC). Use someone else’s computer (possibly even one installed in the lecture hall) to display what your computer would ordinarily show.

    Just a couple of thoughts from another Mac fanboi.

  10. #10 Sigmund
    November 14, 2008

    Get someon from your office or home to email the presentation to your gmail account and take it on a USB stick to the talk. Someone there is bound to have access to a laptop.
    Taking a copy of the talk on USB is a good policy as its not unusual to have temperamental projectors that refuse to recognise your computer even when it is working!

  11. #11 Fernando Magyar
    November 14, 2008

    but until then, I’m crippled, with half my brain no longer functioning.

    Just the other day I booted up my laptop and it went completely dead, I felt like I was suffering a massive stroke, I was completely panic stricken and all I wanted to do was read my email, I can imagine if I had to do something important. Call 911 for sure!

    Hmm, maybe this guy is onto something.

    http://revminds.seedmagazine.com/revminds/member/lambros_malafouris/

  12. #12 Confused
    November 14, 2008

    I had a development lecturer who loathed powerpoint, preferring OHP’s and improvised props. She used to explain neurualtion with a piece of paper, and Xenopus gastrulation with a rubber glove (blow it up, tie the fingers together so it’s a round balloon, and poke the thumb in to be the ingressing mesoderm).

    Someone once told me Mac’s were more reliable than PCs. Oh how I laughed.

  13. #13 Stephanurus
    November 14, 2008

    Whatever you do, don’t try prayer!

  14. #14 bunnycatch3r
    November 14, 2008

    I was in attendance at Kearney last night. I thought you did well. We’ve been discussing it all morning.

  15. #15 SEF
    November 14, 2008

    I’m going to have to show the evidence through interpretive dance, epic poetry, and finger puppetry, I think.

    If that happens, someone has just got to capture the evidence somehow. :-D

  16. #16 Andrea M
    November 14, 2008

    Just temporarily hook the hotel computer screen to your mac, in order to transfer the presentation to a USB stick. Then, at the conference, ask someone to lend you their laptop for the talk.

  17. #17 Eric TF Bat
    November 14, 2008

    I keep hearing about people with Macs that die, reboot constantly, can’t access their hard disks, spontaneously go supernova and wipe out entire sections of the galaxy, etc, etc, etc. Is this just confirmation bias, or is Apple producing much less reliable hardware than it used to?

    The advantage — the only advantage; this is a Linux fanboy speaking — of a Windows PC is that there are easily ten times as many options for repairs. You don’t need to find an Apple shop; any old computer repairer will do. Thus you get the advantages of competition: reduced prices, a wider range of skills. What you don’t get, of course, is the Rolls Royce service that Apple still generally gives you, albeit at nearly Rolls Royce prices.

  18. #18 clinteas
    November 14, 2008

    Kearney,Nebraska has a University but no computer store?

    And presentations on USB stick is a must.I carry mine on a 16GB stick that has a Linux OS installed,so I can just use any hardware thats available.And if I get stuck,theres always the wifi and office-capable smartphone…

    Ahhh,geekism….

  19. #19 Orac
    November 14, 2008

    You could always use some of that mad ScienceBlogs lucre to buy a new MacBook Pro. It is an awesome machine, and I just got mine delivered yesterday. I can’t wait to play with it this weekend. (No time yesterday or today.)

  20. #20 Zeno
    November 14, 2008

    Finger puppetry is possible of course, but puppetry comes in many forms. Don’t be afraid to be creative!

  21. #22 Ubi Dubium
    November 14, 2008

    Well, they are a university, so maybe they are equipped with that antiquated device – a chalkboard?

    Or you could try puppets. Especially sockpuppets, since you have so much experience dealing with them!

  22. #23 Cuttlefish, OM
    November 14, 2008

    Epic Poetry?
    That’s much too European–
    Try Burma Shave signs

  23. #24 Dianne
    November 14, 2008

    I’m going to have to show the evidence through interpretive dance

    For some reason I first read this as “…show the evidence through lap dancing…” Which would be an interesting way of doing it, but I don’t think you are supposed to produce embryos in this talk…

    Good luck with the talk. Maybe you should ask Cuttlefish for some epic poetry to get things going.

  24. #25 Michelle
    November 14, 2008

    Computers… Always dying at the worst time ever!

    Good luck. Hopefully the apple folks will be nice to you and give you hugs and candies (and a working computer.).

  25. #26 Romeo Vitelli
    November 14, 2008

    I’d make a joke about Bill Donohue and divine retribution but I’m still mesmerized by the idea of you doing an interpretive dance about embryos.

    Youtube, please!

  26. #27 dlnevins
    November 14, 2008

    Sorry to hear about your computer woes. There’s an Apple Store in Omaha, but that’s a bit of a drive from Kearney, unfortunately.

  27. #28 Brad Schwie
    November 14, 2008

    PZ,

    Quick! Plug your Mac into the projector. I bet it will still pump video out that way. I highly doubt your video card died.

    BS

  28. #29 JJR
    November 14, 2008

    If the high tech route doesn’t work, FedEx/Kinkos might be able to help you print up some visual aids or something. I also second the idea of carrying presentations on a USB portable flash drive AND on one’s laptop; always good to have a back-up, etc.

    Best of luck in any case…feel your pain.

  29. #30 Geek
    November 14, 2008

    PZ, are you sure the video card is dead?
    Could it be a failed backlight instead? (you would be able to see a faint image on the screen if you look closely).
    In that case it would still be OK to use with a projector.

  30. #31 cervantes
    November 14, 2008

    You’ll love this:

    The Rev. Jay Scott Newman said in a letter distributed Sunday to parishioners at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville that they are putting their souls at risk if they take Holy Communion before doing penance for their vote.

    “Our nation has chosen for its chief executive the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senate or to run for president,” Newman wrote, referring to Obama by his full name, including his middle name of Hussein.

    “Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ’s Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation.”

  31. #32 RM
    November 14, 2008

    If you start to lose the crowd, entertain them with some fancy pageant walkin’.

  32. #33 stevenb
    November 14, 2008

    As someone mentioned (without details)..

    Boot into Target Disk Mode by holding down the “t” key at power-on. You can then attach your Mac to another Mac via FireWire cable and your Powerbook/Macbook will mount on the other machine like an external hard drive.

    Also, there’s an outside chance that this is a problem with corrupted firmware. Remember, apple stores your Energy Saver prefs.. and one of those is the setting to control powering down the monitor.

    To reset the various setting..

    - reset the PARAM by powering on with the p – r- command – option keys all simultaneous until you hear the power up [POST] chime 5 times. It’ll go ‘bong, bong, bong, bong, bong’ if you’re doing it right.

    - reset the SMC if it’s an Intel laptop.
    Macbook MBPro: Power down, remove charger, remove battery. Press and hold down the power button for 5 seconds, .. then put it back together.
    Macbook Air: Turn off MBA, connect power adapter, press (left)shift-control-option buttons and the power button once. You must use keys on left side.
    Wait 5 seconds then turn laptop on.

    - reset the PMU if it’s a PowerPC laptop. There are various procedures depending on the Powerbook/iBook model. http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1431

    steven.

  33. #34 mr.ed
    November 14, 2008

    You could try removing the hard drive and swapping with another Mac.

  34. #35 GS
    November 14, 2008

    Don’t be sad PZ. Your pc is now in peace, watching over you from laptop heaven…

  35. #36 Lotus
    November 14, 2008

    You know, not that long ago when myself a my coursemates were spending all our time sat hunched over papers revising for our final year undergrad exams, we did comment that science would be so much more interesting if you had to present all your results in the form of interpretive dance. I mean, think about it, it would make going to confrence one hell of a lot more exciting. And who woudln’t want to read that pivitol paper the third (or twenty sixth, I forget) time if it was actually a DVD of the results presented through interprative dance. It would make lectures a lot more interesting too. I think it’s definetley the way of the future.

  36. #37 Benjamin Geiger
    November 14, 2008

    Eric TF Bat @ #17:

    There may be more repair options for desktop beige boxen than for Mac desktops, but laptops are still pretty much “send it back to the manufacturer”.

    stevenb @ #33:

    Yeah, I didn’t post the details because I figure it would be easy to look up on the off chance he gets loaned another MacBook (Pro).

  37. #38 Sili
    November 14, 2008

    :bites tongue:

    Well, if Marcus de Sautoy could dance a proof for the irrationality of sqrt(3), I don’t see what you’re whining for.

    I’ve done fingerpuppets in place of a poster abstract once (I’m notoriously bad at meeting deadlines …).

    Perhaps you’ve heard of this fancy new tech that’s around, though. They use something they refer to as “chalk” and when they touch it to this thing called a “blackboard” it leaves marks! You can write and draw and stuff! Without a mouse or anything!

  38. #39 varlo
    November 14, 2008

    While I have great compassion for your predicament, I believe you should know that Bill Donahue just issued a statement that half your brain never did function. As for the dancing, if all else fails, go nude. That will distract them (except, perhaps, the local constabulary which, if I remember Nebraska, is on the prudish side).

  39. #40 spork_incident
    November 14, 2008

    I’m in the pleasant town of Kearney, Nebraska

    Well, at least you have the Platte River nearby.

    That’s something.

    .

  40. #41 And-U-Say
    November 14, 2008

    Oh for crying out loud, PZ, get a USB flash memory stick and keep all needed materials on it. I, too, travel and present and I never leave home without it. Before the era of flash memory I always burned a CD. This is basic travel/presenting 101 stuff, you of all people should know better.

    Less whining, more intelligence.

  41. #42 Nick Gotts
    November 14, 2008

    Best of luck with the presentations PZ!

    I’m crippled, with half my brain no longer functioning. – PZ

    As I’ve said here before, the material basis of the human mind extends well beyond the brain; and the extent to which this is so is continually increasing.

  42. #43 PGPWNIT
    November 14, 2008

    This happened to a friend of mine on his mac when he played a pirated copy of Fallout 3.

    Are you stealing software, PZ. WELL…..ARE YOU!

  43. #44 Cat's Staff
    November 14, 2008

    I also say try hooking it up to a projector (or even the hotels computer screen) and see what comes out of the video port, it you haven’t already.

    Also if anyone there can loan you a Mac laptop you can do the target disk mode trick. If you used Keynote to make the presentation and they don’t have it installed let me know.

  44. #45 Gary
    November 14, 2008

    So how did the talk go?

  45. #46 Sarcastro
    November 14, 2008

    Is this just confirmation bias, or is Apple producing much less reliable hardware than it used to?

    I support over 200 of the things and I’d have to say no. Apple’s worst period in the 2nd reign of Steve was the later G4s, and that was mostly due to the counterfeit power capacitors that effected several manufacturers (especially Dell).

    Compared to the pre-Jobs Performa era (What’s in the box? Pain!) even those G4s were rock solid and well designed. And the modern Intel machines are works of frelling art.

    From PZ’s description my immediate diagnosis would be a dead backlight or a bad inverter board not powering the backlight. Shine a flashlight through the Apple logo on the lid while the machine is running. If you get a ghost of the image you’re supposed to see you gots an ex-backlight.

  46. #47 E.B. Simone
    November 14, 2008

    I would pay good money to see PZ’s interpretive dance.

  47. #48 Ranson
    November 14, 2008

    Cuttlefish breaking out the Haiku — don’t see that very often :)

    Much applause.

  48. #49 Virgil
    November 14, 2008

    @#41 – AGREED
    We do not come here to hear whining about incompetence with computers. I can get that from my parents, so why visit ScineceBlogs? Get with the program and buy a USB memory stick already!

  49. #50 Sarcastro
    November 14, 2008

    Also if anyone there can loan you a Mac laptop you can do the target disk mode trick.

    Unless it’s a current MacBook (non-pro) or MacBook Air which do not have Firewire ports (USB does not support targeted disk mode because… well, because USB sucks ass).

  50. #51 Silver
    November 14, 2008

    Macbook Pro?

    Core 2 Duo 2.2 or 2.4?

    Does it sound like it’s starting up fine, you just don’t have video? Turn on voiceover after it boots without video (Cmd-F5 or Fn-Cmd-F5 will turn it on) and if it talks to you then your video card just died.

    Good news is that it should be under warranty even if you don’t have Applecare and it’s more than a year old. Bad news is that they treat you like me, they are going to ship it to Texas to fix it. You’ll get it back in about 7-10 days.

  51. #52 Benjamin Geiger
    November 14, 2008

    Sarcastro @ #50:

    The real, non-snarky reason is because USB is strictly master/slave, while Firewire is peer-to-peer. Implementing Target Disk mode with USB would require both host and client circuitry in the computer. With Firewire, the host and client circuitry are one and the same, since the ‘host’ is just another device on the chain (a la SCSI).

    But otherwise, I agree: USB sucks ass.

  52. #53 Jorg Willekens
    November 14, 2008

    Sorry, to hear that. This is exactly how my trusty iBook died in 2004. Alas, Apple wouldn’t grant me the extended warranty because I didn’t find the bill anymore. (And you most certainly won’t have it with you) Great….

    That was the day I switched back to PC. Usually in run Linux though….

  53. #54 Stoic
    November 14, 2008

    If you start to get nervous, just imagine that your audience is naked. Better yet, strip down yourself. They’ll be so appalled they won’t notice your mistakes.

    “My eyes! My eyes!”

  54. #55 One Eyed Jack
    November 14, 2008

    You went to give a presentation without carrying a back-up of your presentation on a secondary medium? For shame.

  55. #56 Evolved Rationalist
    November 14, 2008

    This is why you should get a PC.

    (ducks incoming flames from Apple fanboys)

  56. #57 Paul Burnett
    November 14, 2008

    You went to give a presentation without carrying a back-up of your presentation on a secondary medium? For shame.” – Jack, #55

    I used to always take a backup CD, then switched to a USB drive – but over time have found the host’s backup laptop didn’t have a CD drive – or a USB port! Now I take both, plus e-mailing the PowerPoint to the host.

  57. #58 Luk
    November 14, 2008

    As a (soon to be) mathematician, I can only welcome you to the world of waving arms madly to exemplify difficult or abstract ideas.

    Come on, a talker’s true skills lie beyond projected images and laser pointers.

  58. #59 ILYa
    November 14, 2008

    If the video doesn’t work you can plug it into the local Ethernet use some other system to remote desktop into it and copy the files to a location where you can project them from. Oh, wait its a Mac!!! Never mind. :)
    Actually Mac being so advanced, superior and user friendly, maybe it would actually let you get into it remotely and do this. I am sure local IT folks in the University will help you out with that. As long as you will be OK with them pointing and laughing. ;) I am a PC, yo!

  59. #60 Dahan
    November 14, 2008

    When your voice starts to go you can just use mime. Much less stressful than the interpretive dance.

  60. #61 Benjamin Geiger
    November 14, 2008

    ILYa @ #59:

    “Screen Sharing” (it’s basically VNC).

  61. #62 N. Milum
    November 14, 2008

    This may be somthing that apple will fix for free. Regardless of the state of your warranty.

    Apple warns of faulty graphics processors in MacBook Pros:
    http://www.macworld.co.uk/education/news/index.cfm?newsid=23121&pagtype=samechandate

  62. #63 Paul Burnett
    November 14, 2008

    …a talker’s true skills lie beyond projected images and laser pointers.” – Luk, #58

    Speaking of laser pointers, check out http://www.wickedlasers.com – some of them can almost burn a hole in the screen if you let it stand still too long. My green 35 mW has folks coming up to me after presentations asking where to get one.

  63. #64 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    November 14, 2008

    This is why you should get a PC.

    Yeah, then he’ll be used to it breaking. ^^

    (ducks incoming flames from Apple fanboys)

    Nah, PC hardware is fine if you don’t buy the cheap shit. That’s all Macs are these days, after all. The difference is how that hardware is put into the case and what OS is running on it.

    Sounds to me like the backlight went out, though, if it’s not making horrifying beeps when it boots up.

  64. #65 Chuck
    November 14, 2008

    PZ–

    There’s an Apple Store in Southdale, too, in case the line at MoA is too long.

  65. #66 Tom K.
    November 14, 2008

    Come on, everybody. Let’s all get on our knees and really pray for PZ’s video card.

    *ducks*

  66. #67 Matt Heath
    November 14, 2008

    Luk@58: I’m a mathematician too. Seriously, LaTeX up proper slides. I’ve seen many speakers who thought they could give a clear presentation with just a whiteboard, markers and hand gestures. They are almost all wrong.

  67. #68 Steve
    November 14, 2008

    Cuttlefish, OM said (comment 23):

    > Epic Poetry?
    > That’s much too European–
    > Try Burma Shave signs

    We can help him along:

    The Zygote splits,
    And splits again,
    Becomes a Blastula,
    And then …

    At last the teen
    Leaves the home cave,
    And must resort,
    to Burma Shave!

  68. #69 rp
    November 14, 2008

    I’m certainly getting irritated enough with Windows to think about switching to a Mac. My printer recently died and when I was shopping for its replacement (fixing it is $85+, replacing it was $90), I rejected the printer/fax/scanner option because I already had a scanner. Turns out I had a scanner that wouldn’t run under Vissssssssta. That combined with a recent crash that required reinstalling Windows that I’ve never fully recovered from – there are a few things that used to work that don’t anymore, and I have no idea which magic updates will fix them without creating more problems. After that, Mac is starting to look like a reasonable option, even if I have to use a Windows emulator for my favorite program (Autosketch for drafting quilt blocks).

  69. #70 Tim
    November 14, 2008

    Most any computer can die inconveniently, have a couple of E-tower doorstops here, previous posters have covered the bases well on the possibilities, but always check out the least expensive remedies first, but the new MacBook Pros look wonderful, even if you’ll need new video adapters to hook them to projectors.

  70. #71 Matt
    November 14, 2008

    As an Evilutionist you must now place your laptop in a junk yard and wait for a strong wind to come along and fix it! Anything less is proof of God!
    - Matt
    p.s. Yes, sarcasm.

  71. #72 Greg Laden
    November 14, 2008

    YOUR CHANCE TO SWITCH TO LINUX!!!!!

    Seriously, I am very sorry this has happened. A fellow blogger fallen to the worst possible fate.

    Maybe you should have gotten that iTouch and the connecter to let it show power points..

  72. #73 Raynfala
    November 14, 2008

    Show them the evidence?

    Bah! Ask them to have faith in your evidence, instead.

    *ducks*

  73. #74 Zeno
    November 14, 2008

    While PZ is digitally disabled, we Pharynguloid minions can amuse ourselves by agreeing that “In God We Trust” should be removed from U.S. currency:

    MSNBC Live Vote

  74. #75 frog
    November 14, 2008

    Chalk Talk! Chalk Talk!

    It’s not just a good idea — it should be the Law.

  75. #76 Ken Cope
    November 14, 2008

    For greater dramatic impact, you could have killed your Apple during the presentation, like Marvin Minsky tried to do during a presentation about building fewer robots, and more simulations, at a Game Developers’ Conference. He knocked a glass of water over on it and the other people on stage nearly bi-located in their hurry to upend the laptop and mop up the mess in time to avert tragedy.

  76. #77 PZ Myers
    November 14, 2008

    We tried a bunch of the options mentioned.

    We can get it into target disk mode, and the hard disk/os are fine, all the data are still there. It’s clearly just the video.

    We tried plugging in a video projector. No go. It seems to be a problem with the whole video board.

    We tried moving it to my flash disk (yes, I have one), and putting it on another computer. Unfortunately, this really was just minutes before I was scheduled to go on, and I decided that rather than fussing over slowly transferring a big file over usb, the show must go on.

    I know that computers can do this. When I put together talks, I always have it in the back of my head that I should be prepared to wing it if technology fails, so it isn’t quite as traumatic as it sounds. I know how to use a chalkboard.

    The really bad news is that lack of a laptop crimps my blogging style. I actually have two Friday Cephalopod posts sitting there, ready to upload, and I can’t get it done. Your loss, gang.

  77. #78 Dr. Hot
    November 14, 2008

    Embryonic development…mmmm.
    I remember my best lecture ever. I’m a vet student, and embryonic development is a part of the curiculum. My teacher’s computer also died, but he managed to illustrate the keypoints using only him self, a rubber hose and 4 students. He got standing ovations after that. I was lucky enough to be one of the helping students. I was left side of the cardiovascular system. ;o)

  78. #79 Black Jack Shellac
    November 14, 2008

    Peasant town in Nebraska? That’s not very nice, careful though, especially if they’re being repressed,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o76WQzVJ434

  79. #80 Matt Heath
    November 14, 2008

    Chalk Talk! Chalk Talk!

    It’s not just a good idea — it should be the Law.

    Seriously, no. Maybe one speaker in twenty that thinks they can pull this off actually can. The rest just mumble into the board.

  80. #81 frog
    November 14, 2008

    MH: Seriously, no. Maybe one speaker in twenty that thinks they can pull this off actually can. The rest just mumble into the board.

    Yeah, but I think that only 1 in 20 should be giving presentations… the rest should sell cars.

    Let’s raise the bar!

  81. #82 Brownian, OM
    November 14, 2008

    Well, they are a university, so maybe they are equipped with that antiquated device – a chalkboard?

    Perhaps you’ve heard of this fancy new tech that’s around, though. They use something they refer to as “chalk” and when they touch it to this thing called a “blackboard” it leaves marks!

    Chalk Talk! Chalk Talk!

    Just great. In addition to the inevitable PC-Mac debate, we’ve got an impromptu chalk circle.

  82. #83 Nerd of Redhead
    November 14, 2008

    Oh NO. No cephalopod pictures today? Aughhh.

    Now back to our regular programming.

  83. #84 llewelly
    November 14, 2008

    OT, late-breaking news: PZ is building an army of co-operative green cyber-yeast that live in beards. Soon they’ll have green laser pointers with which to commit terrorism. This is a vital development in the takeover of the Militant Atheist Conspiracy. Evidence.

  84. #85 Capital Dan
    November 14, 2008

    I don’t know, man. If I was in your situation, I’d have to use balloon animals to illustrate my talk. They distract… like magic! *jazz hands*

  85. #86 J. Tode
    November 14, 2008

    I wonder how long before someone gets wind of this and pronounces it god’s punishment…

  86. #87 MikeM
    November 14, 2008

    Use your iPhone. You should be able to squeeze 2, 3 people at a time around it.

    The power supply on my parents’ desktop recently died. No big deal, $50, 30 minutes of work… Except it must have produced a spike when it died, because it fried the MB at the same time. That was a PITA. Luckily, their hard drive survived.

  87. #88 Jonathan Garvin
    November 14, 2008

    Sounds like a good reason to have been using the presentation software built into “google docs”. then you could just borrow a laptop, fire up the web browser, and Bam!, the show goes on.

  88. #89 Irene Delse
    November 14, 2008

    “Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil”

    Rev. Jay Scott Newman has mightily strange ideas about what constituttes a “plausible alternative”.

  89. #90 Zifnab
    November 14, 2008

    See, if you prayed to Jesus more, these sort of things wouldn’t happen. Hope you’ve learned your lesson.

  90. #91 Matt Heath
    November 14, 2008

    Yeah, but I think that only 1 in 20 should be giving presentations… the rest should sell cars.

    Let’s raise the bar!

    Except that the incompetent presenters (and teachers) are often the most brilliant researchers.
    If you’ve done some research and your main aim is just to give your peers the best understanding of it you can, slides at least offer a safety net that stops you clamming up and failing completely.

  91. #92 uncle frogy
    November 14, 2008

    I love it! Sorry for the inconvenience. Not to be snarkey but or anything but I am no longer surprised by this kind of stuff, things breaking.
    All computers fail from time to time one is not “better than the other” they are just different have their strengths and weaknesses that become clear when there are “difficulties”. I have a few computers some old (Kaypro which still works) some PC towers and a G4 powerbook have run most of OS’s all give me trouble from time to time.
    As a readers of this blog, a “Pharyngulite”, we have some understanding of “Scientific Laws” or principles but it has occurred to me that there is one that is not ever formally stated at least I have never come across it so stated. It is “Murphy’s Law” shit happens! The exact time a Murphy event will happen can not be predicted or even if it will happen but by definition it will happen at an inconvenient time be it a random part failure or an asteroid impact.
    I await the return of the Professor and hope it does not cost too much or take too long to solve this particular problem.

  92. #93 BruceJ
    November 14, 2008

    I keep hearing about people with Macs that die, reboot constantly, can’t access their hard disks, spontaneously go supernova and wipe out entire sections of the galaxy, etc, etc, etc. Is this just confirmation bias, or is Apple producing much less reliable hardware than it used to?

    Confirmation bias and the Squeaky Wheel Effect.

    I wrangle a bunch of them here, and we’re not really seeing an increase in problems, it’s just that there’s more places for the Squeaky Wheel Effect to happen.

    You read in some online forum that ‘My mac did this!!’ and all the squeaky wheels come an chime in and before long you wonder if Apple was secretly taken over by Packard-Bell or something.

    But the 99.99% of people NOT having problems never log on to say “Yep, it’s working like a charm. Boring. Ta Ta!”, so the effect is magnified.

    Real hard numbers research, like JD Powers and such, show Apple’s build quality to be superior most everyone else.

    Even model-specific issues (such as the ibook G4 video issue, where the manufacturer did not properly solder down the graphics chip, and the design let the MB flex right at the wrong spot) only affect a minority of systems, even if it sounds like every one.

  93. #94 Chris P
    November 14, 2008

    This sounds like what happened to my daughters Mac laptop. Apparently their is a reset button for the power supply/graphics card under one of the covers (I think).

    She’s teaching (science) at the moment so I cannot call her.

  94. #95 Brian
    November 14, 2008

    I sent PZ a couple of Photos from his talk last night. But without his Laptop working, he probably can’t access them anyway.
    Thanks for visiting us in Nebraska PZ!

  95. #96 Vagrant
    November 14, 2008

    As I recall, Macbooks use Nvidia 8×00 series graphics chips. Nvidia’s 8×00 series GPUs have..ah..’issues’ with reliability. Issues severe enough that Nvidia is being sued because of the problem. Searching for ‘nvidia defective’ on theinquirer.net will turn up a small mountain of information.

  96. #97 Josh in California
    November 14, 2008

    Re: #12

    Someone once told me Mac’s were more reliable than PCs. Oh how I laughed.

    Ever have to clean up someone’s virus and malware-infested Windows box? How about dealing with a Windows 2003 server that’s been royally fucked?

    After years of dealing with Windows, all I have to say is, “Fuuuuuuck you, Microsoft!”

    I’d recommend ANY operating system over Windows if you want a reliable machine for an average (meaning mostly clueless) user.

  97. #98 abb3w
    November 14, 2008

    One of my co-workers was forced due to a ill-timed laptop problem to do a presentation on the development of the Bell telephone via hand shadows. Literally. He says it turned out as one of the best presentations he has ever given. This has affected his attitude towards Powerpoint since the incident.

  98. #99 Mike V
    November 14, 2008

    I’m afraid all I ever got out of the Apple store at the MoA was ‘we’ll send it in and you’ll have it in approximately 2 weeks’. 2 logic boards, a screen, and a latch all went out on it in the 18 months I had it. Fortunately I bought Applecare on it.

    Of course, I went to an Alienware after that and ended up getting the Better Business Bureau and Florida Attorney General’s Office involved to get them to replace a battery that was damaged in shipping after they told me to ship it to them (in addition to going through a motherboard and 6 video cards), so at least Apple’s customer service was better, if not their hardware. Though at least Alienware bribed me with a newer model of laptop since my old one was clearly a dud. Apple wouldn’t even put replacement on the table until I went through 3 logic boards.

  99. #100 seamaiden75
    November 14, 2008

    Ah come on everybody. Let us not dispair! Have a little faith in PZ. I’m quite sure that his brilliant mind and scathingly witty sense of humor will get him through this presentation with nary a droplet of sweat from his brow!

  100. #101 Chris P
    November 14, 2008

    Daughter suggests:-

    1) remove battery and AC power, hold power button for 10 seconds before reconnecting.

    2) press the power button to turn it on and immediately press the apple, the option , the R and the P buttons until you hear the power on chime for the 2nd time.

    Try that and see what happens.

  101. #102 Ken Cope
    November 14, 2008

    #101, You forgot the most important part: Prior to initiating the procedure you must turn widdershins three times, and during the procedure, you must be standing on one foot only (your left).

  102. #103 usagi
    November 14, 2008

    Ur pain… i feelz it…
    Laptop bluescreened last night. I fear the hard drive is down for the count (hurray for relatively cheap external hard drives & good backup/mirror software).
    Last conference I presented at, Windows did it’s autoupdate trick before I got on the plane. When I got to the hotel, the computer would connect to the Internet (the second level tech had me running pings from the command line that showed there was a connection) but nothing would render. Fortunately, the AV techs were able to get me back on line. Finally found out a few days later, Win update conflict with my firewall.
    We wuz not amuzed…

  103. #104 Timothy
    November 14, 2008

    There’s that famed “Apple Quality(tm)” for you, PZ.

  104. #105 Bart
    November 14, 2008

    Any use for a 386 laptop with monochrome display, 4 Mb of RAM, 120 Mb harddisk and Windows 3.1 (German)? Still works and, as a bonus, has an in-built 2400 bps modem, so you can connect to the outside world… :-)

  105. #106 typo180
    November 14, 2008

    “is Apple producing much less reliable hardware than it used to?”

    Apple doesn’t make hard drives. They use Seagate, WD, Hitachi, etc… I’m not sure what general failure rates are, but laptop hard drives; by virtue of being smaller, hotter, bumped around a lot, and exposed to extreme temperatures and the elements; are more likely to fail. Backups are important.

    That being said – sorry you’re having laptop trouble. It can be very disruptive (especially on the road). Please be patient with the techs :)

  106. #107 SingularBlue
    November 14, 2008

    I’m fighting this…but I’m just too weak!

    “See…God punished you!”

    I’m a Recovering Roman Catholic, what do you want…

    Securlarly Yours,
    SingularBlue

  107. #108 Nathaniel
    November 14, 2008

    Funny, my mac laptop also died in almost exactly the same way just last week. Unfortunately the casing had been dented months ago. It was out of warentee, and the &*(&)ing Apple support refused to simply replace the logic card (i.e. the faulty bit) without also fixing the chassis… 1200 bucks I don’t have.

    So, I had to dip into starting funds and buy a new one. Yay for being a professor!

  108. #110 Ashlee
    November 14, 2008

    spork-incident ~ the Platte River looks more like a sad little stream at this point…stupid dams.

    Anyway, I heard that your developmental biology talk went over well and I know that everyone in my genetics class was excited to see you this morning. You were throughly entertaining. Besides, it was nice not feeling like the only ‘out’ atheist around…calming.

  109. #111 seamaiden75
    November 14, 2008

    I would suggest that you give it a good thrashing while saying “Bad computer! You naughty little thing! You should be ashamed of yoursef!”

    I do this whenever my daughter happens to clumsily run into something and it always leaves us rolling with laughter. :)

  110. #112 Longtime Lurker
    November 14, 2008

    I’m planning to stop at an Apple Store at the Mall of America when I get back to Minneapolis tomorrow

    The infamous Apple Store from which you blogged about your expulsion from the Expelled premier?

  111. #113 Longtime Lurker
    November 14, 2008

    I’m planning to stop at an Apple Store at the Mall of America when I get back to Minneapolis tomorrow

    The infamous Apple Store from which you blogged about your expulsion from the Expelled premier?

  112. #114 Ashutosh
    November 14, 2008

    Have fun paying them 600$ to fix it (or is it 800$?)

  113. #115 Abe
    November 14, 2008

    OOOO. Bummer. Hope they fix it. (Probably charge you.)

  114. #116 Joel Grant
    November 14, 2008

    I thought this kind of thing was rarer than rare with Macs?

  115. #117 jayh
    November 14, 2008

    May I recommend you buy something like this:

    http://www.granitedigital.com/emergencycopyusbtosataidebridgeadapter.aspx

    I have no connection with that company but I bought one of those a while back and it has paid for itself many times over. Dead computer? Pull out the drive, connect it up and plug it into a working computer.

  116. #118 The Swiss
    November 14, 2008

    Luk:

    As a (soon to be) mathematician, I can only welcome you to the world of waving arms madly to exemplify difficult or abstract ideas.

    Yep! that’s the best part of talks, as well as an endless source of fun for students. We keep dismissing physicists’ proofs as “hand waving”, but we actually do (and need!) quite a lot of that ourselves…
    Last week I mimed an infinite number of mutually perpendicular directions in front of the class, in order for them to see that the unit ball isn’t compact. It takes amazing skills :-)

  117. #119 stevenb
    November 14, 2008

    “Apple doesn’t make hard drives. They use Seagate, WD, Hitachi, etc… I’m not sure what general failure rates are, but laptop hard drives; by virtue of being smaller, hotter, bumped around a lot, and exposed to extreme temperatures and the elements; are more likely to fail. Backups are important.”

    Surprisingly, depending on what metric you use.. Laptop hard drives are significantly more robust than 3.5″ Laptop drives, modern ones, have one small data platter. That platter, and the much smaller heads, make laptop drives at least an order of magnitude more shock resistant than desktop drives.. especially when they’re ‘spun down’.

    Laptop drives are locked into small areas but they generate less heat than larger drives. Some of the new 1TB drives get so hot in a well ventilated computer case that they’re nearly too hot to touch.

    All in all, MBTF for laptop drives is less than for desktop drives. They do tend to carry the same warranty though which usually says a lot about functional life.

    “2) press the power button to turn it on and immediately press the apple, the option , the R and the P buttons until you hear the power on chime for the 2nd time.”

    Actually, Apple recommends that you let it chime several times.. generally 5-7. We used to go by three but I’ve seen Apple TechNotes that say 5 and some that say 7. Repeatedly clearing PARAM makes sure it’s totally reset.
    BTW.. in case anyone is curious, the chime is actually a Power One Self Test [POST], just like the thing that a Windows PC does at boot when you see the text scroll by at startup.
    Theoretically, if it chimes then the hardware is OK but that’s not always the case. The mac has to be really broken to fail POST.

    Aside..
    For the most part, the Dell laptops are very reliable though we see more PC hard drives fail than Mac hard drives. From our experience, we’ve got a pretty even Mac/PC split in our division. I’d guess it’s related to the fact that Mac laptops are wrapped in heatsink (aluminum) and PC laptops are wrapped in insulation (plastic).
    On the other hand, we see more file system corruption with Macs [HFS+] than with Windows [NTFS]. HFS just isn’t that great. Maybe someday we’ll get real ZFS support.

  118. #120 BillCinSD
    November 14, 2008

    at least you can still have some fun there since you can’t spell drunk without UNK. At least that is what my niece that went there always said

  119. #121 Wayne Robinson
    November 14, 2008

    Target Disc Mode isn’t of much use (Benjamin Geiger comment #9) unless you also happen to have a Firewire cable on hand too. I’m about to update this Apple laptop to the Mac Air, and I have been looking around for my Firewire cable for ages, to transfer the files to the new one. I doubt seriously that someone would actually travel with a Firewire cable, just in case.

  120. #122 hje
    November 15, 2008

    Remember when they used to have you “ZAP the PRAM” to solve problems? Ah, the bad old days of machine-gunning Mac SEs running OS 6.0.3.

  121. #123 john
    November 15, 2008

    another apple dead, good

  122. #124 ermine
    November 15, 2008

    One suggestion that I don’t see made so far: Be absolutely sure that it isn’t just the brightness turned all the way down! A friend I know had an Apple Laptop, and the brightness wheel somehow got turned all the way down one day. She was just about ready to buy a new laptop before someone remembered the brightness dial and thought to try it!

  123. #125 RickrOll
    November 15, 2008

    Uncle Froggy #92
    I have that book. It’s amazingly succinct. Wisdom of the ages.
    Interestinglly enough, i have recently lost my cell phone, which vanished INSIDE my house – completely gone! My Maui Jim unglasses are gone too! Not long ago i lost a camera that showed up 3 months later IN MY BACKPACK (natuarally this same backpack was emptied and searched before, on more than 1 occasion), just *poof*. These damn things come and go in my life. I think there must be some malicious propability field around me that does this sort of thing. It seem to be a related phenomenon to this. Getting back to electronics, i had 3 tv’s in my house fry in the same week (weirdly all on the same side of the house, now that i think about it), i could smell my tv cooking from the inside out. got a new one, a little plasma screen (well, another new one, once the original replacement died as well)
    my new tv actually sits on top of my old dead one! my room is too small, so we’re gonna have to deconstruct my bed to move the peice of junk out of my room lol. sorry i had nothin to add about your Mac though PZ, this was the best i could come up with off the top of my head lol.

  124. #126 Canuck
    November 15, 2008

    This is too easy to work around. Start your Mac in “target” mode (press the power key while holding down the T key). Your PowerBook is now an external FireWire drive. Borrow somebody’s Mac and shut it down. Connect the two with a FireWire cable and start the borrowed Mac with the Option key pressed. When you see the boot drive selections appear on the screen, pick the drive in your Mac to start from. The borrowed Mac will start with your system on your drive. It will be exactly like using your own computer.

  125. #127 Canuck
    November 15, 2008

    This is too easy to work around. Start your Mac in “target” mode (press the power key while holding down the T key – hold it for about 10 or 15 seconds, since you have no visual feedback as to the startup process). Your PowerBook is now an external FireWire drive. Borrow somebody’s Mac and shut it down. Connect the two with a FireWire cable and start the borrowed Mac with the Option key pressed. When you see the boot drive selections appear on the screen, pick the drive in your Mac to start from. The borrowed Mac will start with your system on your drive. It will be exactly like using your own computer.

  126. #128 jose
    November 15, 2008

    Apple, it just works my ass.

  127. #129 Philip Cunningham
    November 15, 2008

    Hell; A Warning To Atheists ; Bill Weise

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7w0zsIiKlw

    Ten foot tall and bulletproof
    He lived by a bloody swords edge,
    Ten foot tall and bulletproof
    With the manners of a sledge,
    To take by force, to have it all
    Were his only creed and call,
    Ten foot tall and bulletproof
    My oh my how hard they fall
    No love for life, no love to be
    Save the love he had for he
    Ten foot tall and bulletproof
    My oh my he could not see
    A need for God, A need for Jesus
    Despite his mothers plea
    Survival of the fittest and dog eat dog
    Or so he thought, thought he
    Thus, Ten foot tall and bulletproof
    Came to meet his fateful day
    With no clue of the fate
    For all of the hate
    That he had called his play
    Yes, Ten foot tall and bulletproof
    Without any slight delay
    Soon found the cost for all he had lost
    Was not in his strength to pay
    Yes, Ten foot tall and bulletproof
    Despite his own mighty strength to prevail
    Soon found out without any doubt
    That he was in the mouth of hell

  128. #130 Philip Cunningham
    November 15, 2008

    New paper on Human Chimp Similarity

    Chimpanzee?
    10-10-2008 | Dr Richard Buggs

    The author is a research geneticist at the University of Florida.

    He states in his paper that the actual similarity between humans and chimp may be below 70%

    excerpt …Therefore the total similarity of the genomes could be below 70%.

    Evolution is just getting hammered from every direction…Oh well you atheists still have hell to look forward to,,,Oh wait a moment, normal people think that’s a very bad thing.

  129. #131 Pat Cahalan
    November 15, 2008

    > (I’m using a hotel business office computer to post this).

    $0.05 worth of advice: change all the passwords that you used on that computer.

    Public terminals are rife with trojans and rootkits :)

  130. #132 Ken Cope
    November 15, 2008

    #130, #131,

    Citation please? It looks like there are couple of new Jack Chick tracts missing from my collection.

  131. #133 Ken Cope
    November 15, 2008

    Sorry Pat, I was referring to posts #129 and #130.

  132. #134 Rob Rusick
    November 15, 2008

    [..] but until then, I’m crippled, with half my brain no longer functioning.

    Reminds me of one of the characters in Charles Stross’s Accelerando. 90% of his working capability is carried by his heavily augmented sunglasses. When these are stolen in a mugging by a thief, the character is left dazed and confused. In the meanwhile, the thief having started wearing the sunglasses, is showing up for his victim’s appointments.

  133. #135 John Morales
    November 15, 2008

    Rob @134, very apposite. cf. Jerry Pournelle, for a very recent real-life example, after his radiation treatment.

    PS His site is one I read daily, and I admire him, though in many ways his beliefs and opinions are contrary to mine.

  134. #136 Quiet_Desperation
    November 16, 2008

    jose: Apple, it just works my ass.

    Wow! That’s way too much info about your private life, sport.

  135. #137 Chet
    November 16, 2008

    So, was that you and your wife I happened to see in the beer and wine section of the Lincoln HyVee on 84th street?

  136. #138 Thomas
    November 17, 2008

    Jeez, professor, just get a real computer! :)

  137. #139 Corn
    December 16, 2008

    Right, Thomas!
    It’s for a good reason I call these “Craple”.