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Assault and Batteries

November 26th, 2003

Well, last week I built the Panther based server. This week, I went to back it up only to discover that the iMac DV+ that was hosting the server was unable to access anything over Firewire. Plug a drive in. Nothing. Plug an iPod in and it would charge but would read, “OK to Disconnect.” Everything else still worked. I was faced with a dilemma. How without the high speed bus, could I get the data over to the server’s permanent home? As it turns out, I’d bought a couple of 2.5″ drive cases that had both firewire and USB 1.1 ports. Fortunately Panther natively supported the bridge chip via USB and after a Really Long Time I was able to mirror the iMac to one of the external drives. I was then able to copy the external drive onto another machine and move the server to it’s permanent home.

That said, the server is an older Powerbook that I use because: 1. I already own it and 2. it has 3 hours of battery backup. At least in theory. I discovered on booting the newly imaged server that the PRAM battery had died and the main battery refused to charge. The PRAM battery on a Mac is all important. It maintains the machine’s non-volatile RAM which holds untold amounts of data beyond the obvious day and date. Somehow, this also prevents the Powerbook from charging it’s main battery. I’m certain it’s the PRAM battery because refusing to charge but still seeing the battery is behavior that’s too weird to be nearly anything else. I’ve already ordered one, it should be here in a few days. In the mean time, the server can still do it’s thing.

Back to the iMac, though. I cycled power and logged back into the machine. It reported that the date had been reset to 1/1/1969. Another dead PRAM battery. Fortunately, there’s a Batteries Plus near here that stocks this battery and a quick trip and $8.99 later I had a working clock. More miraculously, the Firewire works again. The lesson that I have learned over and over again with Macs is that if it’s broken make sure the PRAM battery is good before writing off hardware.

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