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When Your Laptop Develops a Sleeping Disorder August 5, 2009

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Technology.
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Treat it with Insomnia.

At least, if that laptop happens to be an aluminum Powerbook G4. This much I found out none too soon.

Lately, mine had begun behaving strangely, suddenly hibernating even if not prompted. Since I could rouse it back to life and have it behave otherwise normally thereafter, I chalked it up to age (the laptop’s, not mine!). But over time, it became harder and harder to keep the bloody thing from going to sleep, especially if I’d be putting the computer to task running some simulations for my research.

When it came to the point that I’d be prompting it to wake up over a dozen times in nearly as many minutes — and that’s no exaggeration — I looked it up online and found that such narcolepsy was a common problem for Powerbooks of this variety.

My laptop had a sleeping disorder.

Like a good Apple fanboy, I hoped that resetting the Power Management Unit (PMU) and zapping the Parameter RAM (PRAM) would do the trick. Unfortunately, the problem was far more complex. Many an online forum have reported that the usual suspect for this malady is a heat sensor gone haywire somewhere below the trackpad that prompts the laptop to go to sleep and cool off. For this, the permanent fix would be to bring it in to get the logic board replaced.

So it wasn’t just a sleeping disorder. It was an expensive sleeping disorder.

Fortunately, while making one last push to find a software solution to this problem I came across InsomniaX, a utility that allows Mac users to forcibly prevent the computer from going to sleep. Thus far it’s been a huge help, faulty heat sensor be damned.

I also love the humor of calling a program that prevents a computer from going to sleep “Insomnia”. But that’s just me.

Seth Godin calls stopgap measures like this “bear shaving.” Ordinarily, I’d frown against such bear shaving and agree it would be better to address the root cause of a problem and not just find a palliative for the symptoms. Just not now. It’s not just the cost: as I’m in the middle of my research, I don’t want to do anything that can potentially rock the boat.

I’m kind of superstitious that way.

Hence: I have a laptop. With a sleeping disorder. Being treated with insomnia.

And I’m perfectly fine with that.

[Credit: InsomniaX logo by Semaja2 (a.k.a Andrew James)]

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