Ever had a computer that wanted to make your life difficult?

Right now, I can’t use my MacBook Pro. I’m using C’s computer to write this blog post.

The photo shows what the display corruption looks like while booting. After that, I get the white screen of death.

Now, my laptop may come back, because it eventually came back the two times it did this last week.

Frankly, it’s a little annoying.

What happens is, I’ll be doing something that stresses some part of the machine’s capabilities… but not always the same part. This time, I was watching a video and fast-playing through the boring bit, possibly stressing the video bandwidth. Last time, I was trying to start an application when the thing was already too busy, thus stressing CPU and disk bandwidth. The time before that… I don’t remember. In each case, the display suddenly corrupted, once in a diagonal banding pattern as you see in the photo, the other times with much worse corruption. Simultaneously, the computer crashed, hard.

Maybe my computer’s rebelling, because it’s become sentient, like the computers in Star Trek.

Afterward, in each case, I got the white screen of death. The first time, I finally got it working again by holding down the power button on power-up until I got a loud beep… I still don’t know what that does, but it’s a recommended procedure to try to get your Mac going again. But in the other two cases, this procedure didn’t help. The last time, I also tried resetting the low-level controller and wiping the PRAM, all to no avail.

It sounds like a hardware problem, right? But get this: I can boot into safe mode just fine, proving that the display works and it’s not a hardware problem. (And that’s at least good enough to back up my data.) So maybe a disk problem? Data-corruption? However, I can not boot the install DVD, proving that it’s not a disk problem.

This computer’s been acting up ever since I had it refurbished and upgraded to Snow Leopard. So I don’t know whether it’s the new mainboard or the new OS (or a combination of the two) that’s causing my problems. Since then, applications crash frequently, and the computer often slogs along through easy, straightforward requests… got plenty of free RAM, free disk space, CPU bandwidth, disk bandwidth, network bandwidth— That sentience theory is looking better all the time. I don’t know what it waits on, but it gets busy waiting on something while I wait for it to open a web simple page or my move word-processor cursor to the next line or whatever.

I’ve also been having wireless network problems. If I open up a large number of connections in sequence (such as by refreshing my RSS feeds), the wireless network will completely drop out for 30 to 40 seconds. It fortunately comes back, eventually. But get this: My wireless network works fine with my daughter’s MacBook, proving that it’s not my wireless router causing the problem. But my laptop works fine with other wireless access points, proving that it’s not my computer causing the problem.

I’d bring the laptop back to Apple, except that I don’t know what to show them or tell them. Even the white-screen-of-death problem hasn’t been consistent enough.

I once had a car like that: every time I took it to the mechanic, it stopped sputtering and stalling. I eventually gave up and just prayed it didn’t drop out on me while I was on in the middle of a Boston rotary.


UPDATE: This time, after I had backed up all my latest data, I rebooted the machine. I did not get the white screen of death! (Yea!) But my desktop display was a corrupted version of the “Apple” startup screen, as you can see in the photo. However, this corrupted display had a working mouse cursor. (I dare you to find it in the photo! It’s there, but it’s corrupted, too.) And the computer was actually live: I could hear the hard disk clicking away as Spotlight reindexed it. I shut the lid, and it successfully suspended. I opened the lid, and it successfully resumed… with the same corrupted display. So I forced power-down and rebooted, planning to reset the PRAM just for yuks, when—to my surprise—all the display corruption was gone, repaired, just like that. Oy vey!

So back up and running… for the time being.

UPDATE 2: Finally had to get the mainboard replaced.