Adagio laptop does not like drinking cafe mocha

I spilled a full Cafe Mocha into the Macbook Pro 15″ enroute from New Zealand to New Caledonia. Yikes – we love that laptop – this is definitely not a Good Thing! That is the first time that has happened — Adagio got hit hard enough by a beam sea that it just blasted my coffee cup straight up, it turned over at the top of the arc, then fell straight down in the middle of the keyboard. Mocha splattered over about a 2 meter radius of the saloon. It was such a mess I didn’t even make a log entry of the incident, but rushed straight into the task of minimizing damage.

Key priorities for a laptop keyboard spill: cut the power so you don’t fry any delicate innards; get the contamination out without doing more damage; be sure all is completely dry before reinstalling the battery — again to avoid electrons traveling unplanned paths.

I turned the MBP upside down – removed the battery, washed externally with fresh water whilst maintaining the MBP inverted position (messy!). Then I sprayed all the crevices with contact cleaner to drive out as much of the water as I could. I left the laptop out to dry for 3 days, then reinserted the battery and restarted. The Macbook Pro booted up normally with its happy sound. After some brief testing I noted at least 3 keys were not working, so we connected a spare keyboard and mouse. The MBP seemed to run fine for about 3 days.

Then we noticed that the menu bar charge status showed “charging” but battery state = 0%. The next day the magsafe connector green light was dark, and the MBP would not boot. Wanting to enjoy NC for a while (instead of pretending to be an Apple service center), we then switched to Backup Number Two, our trusty old iBook G4.

Which iBook I had been using happily just a few months ago — for our very-outdated CAD software which will not run on the modern CPU and OS. Dang — after a few hours we start getting hard drive errors! I did some directory repair, no joy; erased the drive; then installed a diet-clone of the Mac Pro boot drive; that worked for a day; then more drive errors. OK — I already had a 150GB Firewire portable drive running an older clone of the Mac Pro — I booted the iBook from the portable drive. That worked – so we hauled the iBook + external drive to Kou Bugny for one brief internet session. Inconvenient trying to balance laptop on lap + external drive + cable which must be firmly connected at all times, etc.

Over the next few days we found that the iBook booting off the external wasn’t reliable – possibly because the Firewire connections aren’t absolutely 100%.

So, on to Backup Number Three — the Dell Inspiron 5100 laptop. It doesn’t have internal wifi, so I inserted the EnGenius 200mW wifi PCMCIA card, wrestled the Windows configuration “Lizard” until it finally said “Uncle – OK, I’ll connect”. Then I downloaded and installed the latest Google Chrome browser so Dorothy would not have to fight with Internet Explorer. Hmm… Google is so smart, that noting our IP address in France it insisted on installing the French Chrome. More practice for Dorothy 🙂

But after a couple of hours, the Dell wouldn’t recognize the wifi card. Sigh… So we have decided to focus on Newcal and just use Adagio-accessible wifi, which means iNet around Noumea or the Hotel Coral Palms wifi at Ilot Maitre. We’re looking forward to Telstra NextG wireless broadband when we get to Australia.

So in the space of a couple of weeks we have had more computer problems than the total of nine years since 2001. 2001 was the year of the Windows infestation with the “cursor from hell” which caused a fruitless month on the phone with Dell “support” in Malaysia. I finally figured out that Windows Professional was doing a logical OR of the GPS NMEA stream with the mouse. That is a Windows feature (not a bug according to MS$).

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