Well, the news from today’s trip to the Apple Store is a mixed bag. I got to work with my favorite Mac Genius, the Skeet Ulrich lookalike Mike (he’s the guy at left in the photo), and he was patient, friendly and helpful as always. Unfortunately, actual solutions to my PowerBook’s problems remain elusive, and nobody’s offering me a new computer yet. Details after the jump.
First of all, we ascertained that my Mail problem (i.e., Mail’s mysterious refusal to save most outgoing messages) is definitely not endemic to this physical machine, because when Mike created a new user account, and set up a new Mail account under that user, outgoing mail consistently worked fine. We still don’t know what’s actually causing the failure to save, but at least now I know it isn’t part of the broader list of problems with my PowerBook that seem resistant to even drastic attempts at curing them (like reinstalling the OS). And at least I know how to work around the Mail issue: archive my old mail messages, start from scratch, see if that fixes it, and then perhaps gradually re-import the old mail and see what happens.
As for the rest of the problems I’ve been having — unexplained core-app crashes, weird UI glitches, erratic behavior when waking up from sleep, etc. — we’re no closer to solving those, but Mike doesn’t think they’re hardware-related; if the problem was hardware, he said I’d more likely be experiencing issues like kernel panics and such. The buggy behavior I’m experiencing “definitely sounds like software,” according to Mike. Even so, he ran the Apple Hardware Test… and found no problems. That brought us back to the “probably software” diagnosis. When I pointed out that we just wiped my hard drive and reinstalled my operating system, and these problems started up against almost immediately afterward, he asked whether I’d copied any applications or system-type files over from the old, backed-up OS. And I had to plead guilty: although I did almost everything “from scratch,” there were some preference files and other such things from the Library (like my old Mail folder) that I copied over wholesale. Mike thinks maybe I inadvertently copied over the source of the mysterious problem.
As personally helpful as Mike is, I’m skeptical of his diagnosis, and I haven’t decided yet whether I’m going to follow his prognosis — which is to reinstall the OS again, being careful this time not to copy anything from the backup except documents, movies, photos and the like — or contact AppleCare and try to press my case through them. The problem is, Apple doesn’t offer e-mail support, only phone support, and it’s very difficult to explain my list of problems (and the relevant history) by phone. I wish I knew where could send my letter, plus all the accompanying documentation (screenshots, videos, etc.), with confidence that it would get to somebody who could help.
If I do reinstall the OS again, I’ll do it by the book, documenting every step I take and every program I install, etc., so that if these problems arise again, I’ll be able to prove once and for all that, dammit, it’s not the software.
P.S. If you thought getting my computer repaired on Friday the 13th was bad, check out this screenshot of Mail.app after Mike set it up on the aforementioned new user account, and downloaded all messages still on the server of my Notre Dame e-mail account: