Getting lucky when things break down

8 Nov

November 8, 2010

By Geoff Meeker

Just a few weeks ago, my 27” iMac began misbehaving. It was slow to load programs, open files and even switch between windows. It began locking up, without warning, forcing a restart.

The computer was just six months old, still shiny and new, so I was puzzled. I had been converting hours and hours of family videos, from VHS tape to digital, and the 1 Tb hard drive was more than three-quarters full. All that data shouldn’t affect operating memory, but still… something was up.

I pondered the idea of backing up video to DVD – something I’d need to do anyway – when the computer locked up again. This time, it took five minutes to find the hard drive and reboot. That was a painfully long five minutes.

I could see the writing on the wall. It was time to back up my hard drive. In my closet was a one Tb external drive, still in its original packaging, which I hadn’t used because the computer is so new. I connected the drive, initiated backup sequence, and waited.

Six hours later, just before bedtime, the process was complete. I had complete redundancy.

And good thing – the next morning, my computer refused to start. I had a blank screen. When I booted from the utilities CD and ran diagnostics, it warned of a “fatal error”. Oh, dear.

I called the retailer, and learned that the Computer Purchasing Centre of Memorial University is authorized to repair Macs. They were professional and friendly, and I was still under full warranty. They replaced the hard drive and were able to recover some of my data, though it was patchy and the most important files – my photographs – were gone.

So I connected the external drive and began loading the back up. Next morning, I restarted and, to my astonishment there was my familiar old desktop, a motley mess of files and folders, scattered all over the place. A folder that had been open during backup opened again, exactly as I had left it. It was a miracle, really.

I had saved my data just in the nick of time. Fortunately, I had some warning. But I should have known better – I should have been using that external drive, and backing up every day. (Actually, Macs have a Time Machine program that automatically backs up your data every hour.

Learn from my close call people! Back up your data. Do it today!

SHINE A LIGHT

Do you own a rear-projection, wide-screen TV?

I do. I bought a Sony 50” back in 2004, just before the prices on plasma fell straight through the floor. Yeah, my timing was not great. You can buy a 50” plasma for half what I paid back then for rear projection. They don’t even make models like mine anymore. But there you go. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

That said, there is nothing wrong with my Sony. The image quality of the DLP (digital light processing) system is still breathtaking, especially for high definition programming. One downside is the 14” depth of the unit, which is portly compared to today’s flat panel screens.

People who own these rear projection units will, by now, likely have dealt with another downside: the lamp.

The DLP processing unit is driven by a very powerful bulb with a fixed shelf life. (The manufacturer claims 10,000 hours, but who knows? Who keeps track?) When I bought the unit, the price of a replacement lamp was $700.

So, when the lamp in my unit failed recently, I was filled with dread. I knew the price had gone down, and a call to West End Electronics confirmed that a replacement lamp was now $300.

Better than $700, but still a good chunk of change. A quick Internet search turned up TVlampscanada.com, where a replacement bulb was just $190, including two-day delivery. I share this information, knowing there are hundreds of owners of rear projection TVs out there who will need a new lamp very soon.

After purchasing online, I was emailed a receipt with this startling note:

“We sincerely need your help. Times are tough and we need all the help we can get to sell more replacement TV lamps in our dying industry. We… kindly ask that you spread the word online on forums and blogs and to friends and family who can benefit from this… We appreciate everything that you can do for us.”

It’s not often you receive such a bluntly-worded appeal from a business, but I can understand why. With rear projection TVs out of production, theirs is a slowly fading industry. As people abandon these old units for the latest flat panels, business will eventually dry up altogether. I hope they’ve got a diversification plan in place.

Geoff Meeker is a communications consultant with a soft spot for technology. He also writes a blog about the local media scene, which is hosted at www.thetelegram.com.

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