I was using one of our laptops on New Year’s Day, and it froze with an odd graphical pattern on the screen. I force-rebooted the computer, but it hung in the middle of the reboot; repeating the attempt showed that this was not a one-time coincidence. Whoops; I have bad luck with computers these days, it seems.

Though, to be honest, it wasn’t much of a shock: the computer was one of the original Macbook Pros, which meant that it was almost five years old, quite long in laptop years. So I’d been thinking about replacement plans for a while; in fact, disk space concerns might have forced my hand on that over the next few months anyways. (And kudos to Snow Leopard for reducing disk usage enough to not have forced my hand a year ago!) I talked it over with Liesl and Miranda, and we decided that my tentative plan of replacing it with a desktop machine plus a second iPad made sense, and that it also made sense to hold off on purchasing the second iPad for a few months, until the next model is released. (We have a Macbook around the house, too, so we’re not exactly lacking in options in the interim.)

So, the next day, I went to the Apple store and got a replacement (a base model 27″ iMac, specifically), along with the new Apple trackpad, an external drive for backup purposes, and a copy of iWork that was on sale. (Though, in retrospect, not on sale enough, given the appearance of those programs on Apple’s Mac app store the next week…) And, fortunately, for the second time this year, my backup strategy proved to be up to the task: when I turned on the new computer, it asked me if I wanted to restore from a Time Machine backup, I did so, and all our files and applications were back.

Though, as it turned out, not all of those restored applications worked. Almost all of the problematic ones didn’t work for the same reason, namely DRM. Some of that was straightforward but annoying (I had to re-enter license keys for a bunch of Popcap games), but I ran into real bugs with Spore and with iTunes’s ability to play Audible files that took some amount of googling to figure out. (The Spore problems were particularly special; the joys of PC gaming…) Also, on a non-DRM front, I ended up deleting and reinstalling Macports after some problems there (which, admittedly, may have been partially my fault); not my favorite piece of software, that.

Still, all in all, I’m quite happy: I’ve had two computers die on me this year, and in both cases I had a quite functional replacement working the next day. I still don’t feel entirely comfortable with my Mac backup strategy—Time Machine is magic enough that it seems to me that there’s more scope for bugs than I’d like, and the backups there are physically colocated—but it’s definitely passed the test so far. And the new computer is really nice (and Miranda seems quite fond of it indeed, it turns out that she really likes 27″ screens), and I’m quite happy with Apple’s trackpad as well.

I’m tentatively planning to install Windows on it as well at some point: I can’t imagine playing major new Windows releases, but it would be convenient for indie games or for Vintage Game Club stuff. No urgent plans along that front; I’m tentatively thinking a Boot Camp install plus Parallels, but I might go pure Parallels, or change my mind entirely.

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