It would appear that, somehow, I am the killer of Apple Powerbook G4 CD/DVD drives. It’s not that they stop working, it’s just that they refuse to relinquish their media. I had always thought it was a problem peculiar to my previous Powerbook, a 12" G4. It would often take days of attempt to get it to cough up the CD I’d inserted. So that I basically stopped using the drive wherever possible, particularly since having a CD inserted – even unused – whilst on batteries does unnecessarily drain power.
But no, my new (well about 8 months old) 17" Powerbook is exhibiting exactly the same quirk. I’ve just spent the past half hour tilting the machine like a pinball table, trying to coax out the DVD I’d just burned (I’m doing backups!). The eject mechanism spits it out partway – not enough to be visible or grabbable – then decides to swallow it back up and remount the disk.
I think I may have figured out the problem, though. I think I’ve warped the case slightly. See, I do type in a less-than-ergonomic position – my wrists are currently propped against the edge of the laptop case, downwards onto my desk. And the right wrist is doing that immediately over the CD drive slot, which does deflect slightly under pressure. I suspect I’ve concaved the case slightly there, which is obstructing the CD from ejecting. Oops. But it did give me an idea. Before trying to eject a disc, I pushed my thumbnail just into the drive slot, at the centre, and lifted up slightly. I could see it deflect, so I held it like that for a few seconds, then let go and pressed the eject button. It worked! A bit lethargically, but it worked all the same.
Not ideal, but at least now I have a workaround.