The long journey of my new computer

My current laptop is getting pretty old, close to eight years. That by itself does not bother me since I use it mainly for writing, email, and the internet and do not really need any of the fancy doodads that manufacturers keep adding on. But it has started to show disturbing signs of being about to kick the bucket, such as the screen suddenly going dark and then getting the ominous ‘black screen of death’ message in about eight different languages saying that some mysterious problem had occurred and that I needed to hit a key to reboot. While it has been rebooting, I have been told that this is a sign of an impending hard disk crash and that one of these days, it will never come back to life.

For me, the computer is my main link with the outside world, much more so than my phone, so I decided to buy another MacBook Air to replace the one I have before it packed up, so that I would not be left high any dry. Given the pandemic restrictions, the local Apple store was closed and so I bought it online from the company. I placed the order on August 16 and I kept checking the UPS tracking number they sent me but nothing happened to my order for eleven days until August 27 when I got a message saying that my order had finally been processed and that my credit card had been charged. What surprised me was that my computer was being shipped from China!

That Apple makes a lot of its equipment in China is not a surprise but I assumed that the products were shipped in bulk to the US and other distribution centers around the world and then individual orders were sent out from there. The idea that individual computers were being sent to buyers around the globe from China seemed weird to me. Surely that cannot be cost effective?

Intrigued, I started following its journey. After two days, the computer arrived in Hong Kong on August 29 and hung around there for another two days, no doubt to do some sightseeing and enjoy that city state’s famous street food and also maybe take part in the demonstrations. Then I got an update on September 1 that said the computer had arrived in Anchorage, Alaska and been cleared by customs. After that it started moving rapidly. A couple of hours later, it had left the Anchorage facility and the next day it arrived in Louisville, KY. Then it quickly went to Oakland, CA, then to Sunnyvale, CA before arriving at my home on the morning of Thursday, September 3.

The fact that it got here in just two days after clearing customs in Anchorage, and that it was in the custody of UPS all the way, suggests to me that it actually had been individually shipped from China. But the fact that it took 18 days to arrive made me glad that I did not wait until the old computer completely died before I ordered the new one. Going that long without a computer and the internet would have been difficult for me.

While my new computer seems to be working well, transitioning to a new one always involves a tedious period of transferring files and and talking to customer service representatives. I spent almost the entire day yesterday first talking with a senior engineer at Apple because the customer rep I first spoke to could not handle my biggest issue, which was that all my mail folders were missing. Then I had to talk to people at other companies about transferring my anti-virus software accounts and my cloud backup accounts. I finally got the major items fixed but that was why my blogging was light yesterday.

A word of warning to anyone thinking of buying a new Mac. It comes with the latest Catalina operating system and that is incompatible with my Microsoft Office 2011 suite of applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and also with my older versions of Acrobat Professional, Photoshop, etc. I was not in the mood to shell out more money to buy the latest versions of those products but fortunately Apple’s proprietary software Pages, Numbers, and Keynote that come bundled free with the machine can convert Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents into their formats and, if necessary, convert them back into the Office formats. Similarly, the Preview and Photos applications on the Mac can also do some of the more commonly used Acrobat and Photoshop functions. So as far as I can tell, all my old files are still usable, which is a relief.

I am sure that there will be more glitches that I will discover later and need to fix but right now, I am back in business.


  1. Jean says

    I’m curious to know if the fact that Apple is phasing out the Intel CPU and going to its own ARM-based CPU entered in your decision for a new laptop especially since you’re likely planning on keeping this unit for as long as possible. I’m also curious about the choice of a laptop instead of a desktop but I don’t know your personal habits.

    Part of my curiosity is probably due to my personal bias against Apple (based on rational and irrational aspects) and the fact I have no use for a laptop and would be annoyed by the limitations at a higher price.

    As for the shipping efficiency, I’m not sure that the efficiency comes from the shipping but rather from the lower cost of the single storage facility and cheaper labor. They also probably have enough volume to get grate rates to the US hub.

  2. kestrel says

    Congrats on getting the new computer to work and actually do what you bought it for! That can be a huge challenge.

    I, too, will face this some day very soon and I do not look forward to it. For one thing, holy cow, these things cost a LOT OF MONEY. Good to know it is possible, however.

  3. TGAP Dad says

    Apple broke a lot of applications when it released Catalina, which removed 32-bit compatibility in favor of 64-bit. The hard one for me was a free 3270 (Yeah, some of my work still lives on the big iron) emulator maintained by one person alone at Brown University. He (obviously) can’t spare the time to completely redevelop the software, from the ground up, for free. So we were then thrown to the commercial market to seek out our own solution (at our own cost). The other software I missed was Audacity, an audio editing freeware application (think photoshop for sound). That, like most other software was remediated in a matter of a couple of months (or sooner perhaps -- I went back and checked, and found it remediated). Overall, I like Catalina for its performance improvement especially. As for Microsoft, is anyone really surprised that they wouldn’t remediate a release-old piece of software? If you are so inclined, you should check out the free, open-source LibreOffice suite, which is also compatible with MS Office documents. My big need is for Visio, which has no Mac version, and no reasonable, commercial alternative.

  4. billseymour says

    I have two laptops, one running Windows 7 and the other Windows 10. I need a laptop because, prior to COVID-19, I was traveling to ISO standards committee meetings three times a year, and will probably resume the travel once the virus is taken care of.

    My older box gave me the blue screen of death a while back and absolutely would not reboot. I got a fellow at a computer store to reboot it (by way of running some version of Linux which I found interesting); but I lost all my files and programs and had to reinstall everything. It happened again just the other day; but this time it did a crash dump and rebooted all on its own. It also lately has been losing power intermittently as if the power supply is just shutting down for some reason; but that fixes itself right away.

    I’d like to stick a solid-state hard drive in the older box, and fix the power supply problem if it’s fixable, but I’d also like to keep Windows 7 and I can no longer find my installations disks. If I do that, I’ll have to go with Windows 10. Does anybody know how to get the old sol.exe to run on Windows 10?

    The newer box is smaller and lighter, so I’d rather travel with that if I can. Ultimately, I’d like a dual-boot box, Windows and some version of Linux. I have no interest is getting any Apple device of any kind because of vendor lock-in.

  5. consciousness razor says

    Does anybody know how to get the old sol.exe to run on Windows 10?

    Heh. The Windows 10 version really is awful.

    Based on this, it looks like you’d just need a copy of the old sol.exe and cards.dll. Then paste them both into the same folder.

    If that’s not an option, there is a Classic Solitaire app for free in the Microsoft Store. That may be easier anyway. I haven’t tried it, but the screenshots do bring me back to the good old days when I used to play it once in a while.

    The new and improved Win 10 version of Minesweeper is also an abomination. That’s the real tragedy here.

  6. Mano Singham says

    Jean @#1,

    I switched to a laptop when I was working. I used to have a desktop at work and another at home but since I did a lot of work at home, maintaining continuity was a pain. I also needed to take my computer to other departments and to conferences.

    Once I switched to a laptop, I have never felt the need to go back to a desktop because my life became much simpler. Now I can take it out to the garden or the balcony or to bed and when I am traveling. I do not need the extra power and big screen that most desktops provide so the tradeoff works well for me.

  7. Holms says

    As a general rule, Apple’s products are massively overpriced for what they deliver. I remember when assembling my current PC (9 years old and still fault free!), I did a part-to-part comparison to the nearest Mac Pro specifications. My entire PC including monitor and cables was cheaper than the Pro excluding same. Worse, the components I’d selected were the same or slightly better in every category.

  8. says

    I’m curious to know if the fact that Apple is phasing out the Intel CPU and going to its own ARM-based CPU entered in your decision for a new laptop especially since you’re likely planning on keeping this unit for as long as possible.

    Then you should know that my keyboard just started going bad on a mid-2015 MBPro and the upcoming processor switch is weighing heavily in my decision to repair or replace. I’m going with repair, even though a new keyboard is stupidly expensive.

  9. Dunc says

    Yeah, when my old laptop (originally Win 7, upgraded to Win 10 but never entirely happy about it) got too unreliable, I decided to try Linux Mint as a last gasp before buying a new machine… And that’s what I’m still using.

  10. mnb0 says

    @5 Jörg: “I have converted several customers from Windows 7/10 ….”
    How nice. Do Chessbase products already run on it? No? Then I know lots of customers you’ll never convert.

  11. lorn says

    A new computer is almost always a time of mixed feelings. If you’re like me you have spent thousands of hours with your old machine and have tweaked and personalized the heck out of it so it works the way you think it should. Recreating that homey feel on a new unit is tough. Especially because you have to learn the new setup.

    Don’t ditch the old comp too soon. Take it to a shop if you don’t want to mess with it. A new hard drive, I would go with a solid-state drive, A one TB unit is relatively cheap, is easy to install. Have them check if the CPU and GPU can be upgraded. Older processors are cheap compared to their original prices and upgrading is usually as simple as unclipping the old one and clipping in a new one. Anew CPU, GPU, HD may be only a couple hundred dollars and you may get a much more capable machine. Albeit one a few steps behind your new one.

    And older machines are, depending on the details, usually a good base for a free linux OS. Mint has a well deserved reputation for working with older hardware. I’m less experienced converting Apples but I’ve been told that, with a few exceptions, it can be done. Mint allows you to download the OS and run it from a DVD it runs slower but you can check for compatibility with the hardware at no risk because you can always go back by removing the DVD and rebooting.

    Just a thought.

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