Saturday, August 12, 2006


I have just discovered a 'law of conservation of defects'; when one defect materializes, another one suddenly corrects itself. This was demonstrated in an intriguing piece of detective work that me and our nifty electronics expert for the department did on Friday.

My behemoth 17 inch Mac Powerbook was giving me trouble, big trouble, the second time in one year. The problem was interesting; when I started it up, it ran fine for some time, but then after an hour or two, even a slightly hard tap on the keys would freeze the whole machinery. The only resort after that would be the Mac's equivalent of Ctrl+Alt+Del a.k.a painfully slow suicide. I was having a hard time typing, and had to save long written pieces (like blog posts) amidst the fear that dearly beloved would suddenly depart for heaven.

As I was about to send it to the Apple Store, our resourceful electronics expert decided to first do some fiddling on his own. For some reason, he focused on the two memory modules and their two slots shown below.

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Tim The Intrepid soon discovered that one of the modules fit loosely into one slot. Voila! What was happening was that that memory module was the boot (sic) cause of the problem. Apparently, it fit snugly into the slot at the beginning. Then, as I typed and jolted the keyboard, it would suddenly loosen a little sometime. That's when G4 would go into septic shock.

But still, what was the root cause of this cause? A little observation on my part revealed a nanosized crack inside the slot. What was happening was that not only the shock but the increasing temperature after start up was apparently expanding that crack, thus adding some additional pow to the loosening.

So this was the little culprit that had made my life mentally unstable for the last couple of weeks. To verify our hypothesis, I am running my Mac with only half the memory in the other functional slot, and pounding away to glory over the weekend to see if the problem still persists. Until now, the machine's humming away with resplendent efficiency. I am quite positive now that that was the problem. Interestingly, I don't really notice the difference with only half the memory. Hail the compensatory abilities of the Mac. Have made a mental note to grab hold of iCurve, the 'invisible' laptop stand, as soon as I can.

As one error manifested itself, another one corrected itself. My beloved Nikon Coolpix 3200 fell down and hit itself in unknown crannies a few months ago. I was despondent, especially because I seemed to have misplaced both the warranty and the receipt. Today, just to take another wistful look, I unpacked that compact delight from its case. What had happened was that when it fell down, the shutter, like a drooping eyelid, refused to close. I figured some complicated mechanism inside had dissociated itself from the shutter. Today, after having taken a look at the whole debacle several times, I noticed that the ring on the outermost rim of the lens looked as if it was pried open just a little. That's the thin white rim indicated by the red arrow below.

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Just for the heck of it, I tapped it and it seemed to fit back where it was. Idly then, I tried manually closing the shutter yet again, and dear mother of Darwin, it stayed there! When I again restarted and shut down the camera, everything slid together back in place, right as rain. That's the conservation of defects. Or maybe just conservation of luck.

To celebrate the resurrection of Coolpix, I took it to a Korean wedding in an Indian Baptist Church, a curious oddity which I encountered for the first time in my life. It even seems to be run by a Maharashtrian. Or it may just be my perception brought on by the intoxicating Kimchi and all.

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Incidentally, one of the pieces in the wedding, sung in Korean, was the famous chorus from Beethoven's 9th. If Korean Christians sing an originally German piece in Korean, do Indian Christians sing it in Hindi or Marathi or some other Indian language in their weddings?? Now drown me in Kimchi, o Messiah!


Blogger Patrix said...

Where was that church sign at? I have often seen one on North Druid Hills & Clairmont. Is it the same one?

9:15 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Yep, that's the one!

5:28 AM  
Anonymous anya said...

hah .. that was a good post. quite an enterprising find .. the loose memory module. try if a new one fits properly. kimchi .. its been a while since i've had that. Beethoven's 9th in marathi? That would be quite a find.

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Technology and the manufcturing process has become so complex that maintaining quality is becoming exceedingly difficult. Think of the Apple and Dell recalls recently ... Dell had to do the recall because a there was a fault in a battery made by Sony. Each of those parts is probably offshored through a long chain of suppliers forming an intricate chain of dependencies. I think Asimov (and Orson Scott Card) had it right .... in the future everyone will know how to use technology, no-one can repair electronic items and the *chosen-ones* will be worshipped as God because they atleast know how to manufucture :)

On a side note thats a very odd combination: Korean wedding in an India Baptist Church in Atlanta :).


10:29 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Yep I agree. Basically, as engineers are well aware, when a system becomes very complex, something called 'normal accidents' start cropping up, accidents which are the result of the sheer compelxity of the systems, and supply chains would not be exceptions.
Asimov's vision is a scary one, isn't it! Thank god people like me have people like you as friends! ;)
As for Dell, I just heard that they are now going to start stocking their laptops in places like BestBuy. I also was not aware that the whole of Georgia Tech has a contract with Dell, so that they get computers with big discounts.

10:46 AM  

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