it was 39 degrees this morning when i rode my motorcycle out to burlington. this coming from a guy who has a hard time getting out of bed because it's too cold. but cold is a relative thing, and to some extent you can "mind over matter" it. plus, since i knew it's going to be cold, i'm dressed for the weather. still, i don't think i was entirely prepared for how cold it was outside. for the most part i was fine, with the exception of my fingers which were freezing despite having two pairs of gloves on. whenever i had the chance i'd put one hand inside my jacket to warm up. i took a new route to the burlington, from arlington heights down [mike] lowell street all the way down to the mall.
it took well over half an hour before i arrived at an office park where i was meeting somebody to buy their used video card. this time around it was a radeon 9000, much inferior compared to my bricked radeon 9700 but since it only cost $10 i figured it was at least worth a try flashing it with the mac ROM. one look at the card though and i knew it wouldn't work out: it was missing a crucial switch on the circuit board that needed to be set in order for the card to work on the mac. despite realizing this, i still bought the card anyway, partly because i came all this way (didn't want my sacrifice to be for nothing) and partly because i thought maybe there was still some way to tweak the card so it'd work on a mac.
9 miles to get to burlington, another 9 miles to get back home. i wasn't looking forward to the return trip and neither was my body. the freezing conditions started to take a toll on my body and i could feel myself unable to generate the crucial body heat to keep me warm. i almost abandoned my bike on the curb in my rush to get back into the relative warmth of the house. my fingers were so frozen that i couldn't even grasp at the chin straps to take off my helmet. i immediately jumped into the bathtub and took a hot shower to warm up.
after some online research, there doesn't seem to be any way i can get this particular radeon 9000 card to work with my mac. all is not lost however: i can still give it to my sister. this video card outperforms her current card (which i'm very familiar with, having cracked open her PC last weekend) by several generations.
not feeling happy about the outcome of the radeon 9700 pro card (the one i got after riding through a torrential downpour), i decided to give it another try, re-installed it my mac. i flashed the ROM with a few other versions but none of them got rid of the screen artifacting. it was only when i booted the system into safe mode did i notice something unexpected: the artifacts were gone! so that meant whatever's causing the screen errors isn't hardware related but rather software. some bad driver or maybe some kind of extension conflict. although the artifacts were gone, running in safe mode meant most of the features were stripped from the card, including adjusted fresh rates (it was just fixed at 60 Hz) and no support for core imaging or quartz extreme. i went online searching for 9700 drivers for the mac, but turns out the 9700 was only ever a special OEM build option from apple, and the card itself was never released commercially for the mac, so ATI doesn't officially support it.
while playing with my new discovery, i found some user hacked extensions for the 9700 and installed them. after a restart, the artifacting was even worse, to the point where the screen was just diagonal lines of random pixels. returning to safe mode, i threw away all the ATI extensions. that's when i realized that my one and only working video card is an ATI card as well, and without the proper extensions, it might not work, so i found the same extensions on my macbook pro and i did an extension transplant. the transplant didn't work however, and successive reboots would display the warning that my ATI extension was improperly installed and wouldn't function.
i figured the easiest way to undo my mistake would be to just reinstall the system. the installer would put the correct extensions in place, problem solved. unfortunately it was problem expanded. after a fresh OS X install the computer rebooted and staring right in front of me was a kernel panic, the mac version of the PC blue screen of death. this wasn't even a normal kernel panic, it was like two panics overlaid on top of each other. i involuntarily reached for my camera but was too traumatized to attempt to take any photos.
i then spent the rest of the afternoon and into the wee hours of the morning trying to get my mac to work. for some reason the IDE controller card was zapped (or maybe it was the boot drive) and i couldn't get any of the internal hard drives to boot up. i had to install a fresh system on an external firewire drive and boot that way. i must've installed the system 6 separate times, and each time it'd work for a few trial restarts before either freezing on the next startup or giving me another kernel panic screen. i stopped briefly to have dinner and then later to make a pumpkin pie (more on that later) but i attempted every single trick i knew: zap the PRAM, reset the open firmware, fix the permissions, reset the PMU (worthless, but i did anyway), trash the preferences, even did a sweep with disk warrior. nothing worked. finally i was down to my last option: hard drive "brain" transplant, swapping the external firewire hard disk with the internal non-booting disk. after i screwed and plugged everything back, i restarted my mac. my heart was beating so loudly from nervous anticipation i almost couldn't take it anymore, as the grey apple logo popped up. was it going to freeze now? or crash? i saw the spinning dial. what seemed like a long time but probably mere seconds later, it successfully booted into the desktop. it worked!
so i then started transferring all the files from the old startup drive to the new startup drive. 3 hours. which brings me here, writing an entry from the comfort of my bedroom, lying in bed, the warmth of the laptop acting like a heated comforter. one of those rare times when i'm actually glad the macbook pro runs so hot.
zhu lei's girlfriend arrived this afternoon, she'll be staying for the next 3 nights. he actually didn't tell me, but i just sort of assumed she'd be coming up here for thanksgiving. and all subsequent related information i had to ask them myself, he didn't volunteer anything, like when she was arriving, and more importantly, when she'd be leaving (saturday morning). his girlfriend sort of rubs me the wrong way. we're cordial, but she's the kind of bossy know-it-all women that i absolutely can't stand.
which brings me to earlier tonight, when i was busy making my pumpkin pie. both zhu lei and his girlfriend were watching, since they'd never seen somebody make a pie before. it didn't take long before she was imposing her will on my cooking. first, there were the derisive remarks, like when i put the pumpkin halves in a bowl of water into the microwave to heat and soften. she was all, "when we prepare melons, we simmer them in a steamer." i don't mind advice, but when my every move is critiqued, it's pretty maddening. when i was scooping the meat from the pumpkin, she just grabbed one of the halves and started cutting. i was all, "please don't do that," but she already had the knife and cutting board ready, cutting the pumpkin into little pieces. the reason why i scoop out the pumpkin is because it turns the flesh into pulp. when she cut them, they remain hard chucks, which made it impossible for me to squish further into a pulp. i had to resort to the blender, which kept on clogging, and she'd stand next to me and laugh, like i was the worst cook in the world. i almost wanted to tell her to STFU but i resisted, went to my happy place. when she finally left me in peace to cook by myself, that's when everything went back to normal. she came out from the bedroom and started asking me some questions, but i was in no mood to talk with her, and kept my answers short.
also today, i had to turn down some work. lisa floated me a last-minute project, some company in england with a coding crisis. they got in touch with me this morning and revealed that the project deadline is actually this friday. although i could use the money, there's just no way i can get the work done. not only that, but it seemed like there was so much work, even if i skipped thanksgiving (never!) it still couldn't be done. and it seems like work always barges in at the most inopportune time; client N got in touch with me as well, and now i've promised them something for friday. at least that assignment is something i can actually do.