When your PowerBook G4 screen goes dark

I had a panicked call last night from Estaminet, whose PowerBook G4 laptop screen was going dark just seconds after booting up and staying dark. She had a paper due tomorrow morning. Could I help her out?

I have a karmic obligation to answer these kinds of support calls, considering that the lemon laptop in question used to be mine. So I Googled the problem while I talked her down. The most likely answer (though we’ll know for sure once she has it seen by a specialist) was that the inverter board went south. This is a hardware failure and can’t be remedied by poking about in the system, but since it’s confined to the video subsystem the rest of the PowerBook was still working.

Racking my brain to figure out how to get her paper-in-progress off the machine, I had her try a tip from the MacOSXHints forum: shine a bright light, like a flashlight, directly at the screen to see what the computer is doing, then turn on iChat. I then sent a screen sharing request, which she was just able to see and accept, and then I saw her whole desktop clear as day on my machine. I fired up Firefox and Gmailed her paper to her so that she could work on it on another machine.

So, in summary: iChat screen sharing is your friend if your screen fails.

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