Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Technology, finances and poor decisions

I love my sister even if she is a frustrating individual. She and her husband have three children and income has not always been steady, making finances sometimes precarious. When I purchased my 14" iBook G4 in summer 2005, I rendered my perfectly usable iBook SE Graphite obsolete. Of course I wanted faster, better, shiner hardware! But I still had this iBook I did not know what to do with. Enter my sister and her husband! They did not have a computer and I thought "Hey, I can give them one for free!" They were under no obligation, but I did say if they did not need it anymore, I would take it back.

In preparation for the iBook's new home, I wiped the hard drive, reinstalled the system software, installed Appleworks and Office suite of software and gave them the pristine box complete with everything I had received when I first bought the iBook. Yes, I save my boxes and keep them in good condition. In addition, I offered my sister and brother-in-law free tech support, telling them to call me if they had any questions. They walked away with my iBook and I had one fewer computer in my life.

Fast forward to a month ago. My sister tells me she wants to buy a new MacBook. I was surprised since she already had a Mac laptop (the one I gave them) and I thought their finances were not robust enough to support the purchase of a $1,100 computer. She said they did not use the iBook, that it was packed away. I asked for it back and she seemed amenable to that.

A couple weeks later, my sister and her family came over for our monthly family dinner (switching off homes every month and it was my month to host). They forgot the iBook but my brother-in-law proceeds to tell me that there are keys missing from the keyboard. (They have small children and I guess the iBook was accessible to small fingers.) Well, I was disappointed that the iBook was not usable out of the box as one of the keys missing was the space bar, but was determined to use it anyway.

Unfortunately, I had already purchased an Airport card to install in the machine to add to my wireless network not knowing there were issues with the iBook. I looked up information online and a new keyboard would run me about $70. Not a large sum of money, but bigger than I thought I would need to run the iBook.

On Easter Sunday, I finally get the iBook. My pristine box has a big stain on the bottom and running up the sides by wick action. All the CDs and accessories I gave them were present. However, not only were there keys missing on the keyboard, more were loose and the DVD-ROM drive bezel was gone. I knew there was an issue with the bottom case as some of the vinyl had pulled away when I owned it. Of course it had pulled even further away. I was also unimpressed as the DVD-ROM drive, while functional, does not seem to have clearance from the case, making it hard to eject.

What really irks me about this whole thing? I wish they would have told me the full extent of the damage. I would not have bought the Airport card, an indulgence really. In the face of all that needed be repaired, I realized it was not worth it. However, my anger at the poor treatment of my beloved older iBook nearly drove me to make a poor financial choice. I found a newer 17" MacBook Pro on craigslist at a great price and I thought "I want it". I was going to put another laptop on my network and this was one way to do it, but did I want to spend $1,500 on top of what I already have plus dealing with the old iBook? I regained my senses after sleeping on it and decided to upgrade the RAM in my fully functional (if somewhat slow on certain web sites) iBook G4.

I learned two lessons here. One, do not lend anything to my sister and her brother-in-law if there is any expectation I will get it back. I am disappointed that my generous donation ended up a trashed and barely usable iBook. This machine would have been fine for basic functions like word processing, e-mail and web surfing even now with its older technology. Second, do not let disappointment and hurt feelings drive me to make a purchase that will not serve me well. I would have been happy with a barely used MacBook Pro, but I would not have liked to remove $1,500 from my savings account. I regretted showing interest in the laptop and I truly would have regretted making the purchase with its drain on my finances.

For me, family, technology, emotions and finances do not mix well and I will be more wary if a similar situation arises. Hopefully, I will protect my savings and plan better for a new laptop, however desired.


  1. Good lessons to learn. You did say that you "gave" your sister the old ibook not "lent". Your generosity was not appreciated. That's too bad. :(

  2. What is there to say? I loved that iBook and it served me well. While I should not be attached to a thing so much, it is still difficult to look at its condition now, knowing it did not deserve this fate.