I'm about to go to DHL to ship my laptop to Apple. As I mentioned last month, my manifesto caught the eye of the “God level” tech support people, and I'll be getting a new hard drive and motherboard.
I just got a call from Curtis at Apple. He read my manifesto about my PowerBook’s numerous problems, and has been researching the issues I reported. He agrees that, since I can boot up a different machine with the same OS, software and files without suffering the same problems, it must be a hardware, not software, issue — specifically, either the hard drive or main logic board (which are two of the few components that haven’t already been replaced). So Apple is going to send me a box to ship my computer back to the repair center, whereupon they’ll replace those components, “whether or not they pass testing,” and send it back to me. And if that still doesn’t fix the issues, then they’ll consider replacing the whole machine.
In addition to proposing this highly amenable course of action, Curtis apologized for all the trouble I’ve had. “It just seems like it’s been one thing after another,” he said. Indeed it has — and it’s so nice to hear an Apple employee say that! I think I’m beginning to understand why Bill Clinton’s “I feel your pain” line, while corny, worked so well. :) It really makes you feel better when somebody at least acknowledges your hardship. Oh, and he also gave me his personal office number, which is great, because it means I won’t have to navigate the labyrinthine Apple phone system if I have a problem in the course of this repair. I can just call Curtis.
Suffice it to say, I am a much more satisfied Apple customer right now than I have been for the last several months.
Anyway, once I receive the box, I’ll have up to 30 days to send the computer in — so, since this computer remains functional (albeit with lots of frustrating issues), I’m probably going to wait until Hurricane Dean is done and my website is moved off the dedicated server before sending it in. Indeed, I’ll probably wait until just after Labor Day, when my job has started and I won’t have much free time for computer use anyway. I need my computer too much for the next two weeks to part with it, even for a few days. So yeah, Mother Nature, if you could arrange to have a handful of hurricane-free days in early September, I’d appreciate it. :)
The last time I updated my PowerBook saga, I said I hadn’t “decided yet whether IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m going to follow [Apple Genius Mike’s] prognosis Ã¢â‚¬â€ which is to reinstall the OS again…or contact AppleCare and try to press my case through them. The problem is, Apple doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t offer e-mail support, only phone support, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.” In response to which, a commenter helpfully wrote: “You can send a letter to Apple, and this would probably be the best solution. Send it to AppleCare Executive Relations, 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 95014. This will get your letter to the ‘God Mode’ customer service people. These people are immediately under Steve Jobs, they WILL get the letter, and WILL be helpful.”
Well, the bar exam put everything on hold, but now that I have some free time again, I’ve decided to follow that advice. So I’ve updated and expanded my manifesto to Apple — it’s now fully nine pages long — and I plan to send it off tomorrow, along with a CD containing various files (video clips, screen grabs, etc.) demonstrating the problems described in my 2-page letter and the accompanying 7-page list of problems. You can read the whole thing for yourself, if you dare, here. I’ve uploaded and embedded some (though not all) of the referenced video and audio clips; for instance, here’s the video showing an instance of the PowerBook’s “erratic sleep behavior” on June 23, just three days after I got it back from repair:
Again, the whole manifesto, with additional video clips, is here, if anyone’s interested.
P.S. On my previous “manifesto” post, Burkeman asked: “Now IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m concerned about buying an Apple for my college-bound daughter. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve always had issues with my ipods. Would you still recommend Apple?” My response was: “Burkeman, can I get back to you after this situation is resolved? At the moment, I would say yes, I still recommend Apple, because when their computers work, they work better than other computers; they don’t break any more often than anyone else’s computers; and when they do break, Apple is generally quite good at making its customers happy. It’s that third point, though, that hangs in the balance depending on how this is all resolved.” So, yes: much hangs in the balance. What will happen at the “Infinite Loop”?
I solved the Mail bug. It had nothing to do with hardware problems, and everything to do with the fact that, several weeks ago, I renamed my “bloy[at]nd.edu” account to “brendanloy[at]alumni.usc.edu” (an address which, in actuality, forwards mail — for the moment — to bloy[at]nd.edu). Details after the jump.
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.
Alas, all continues to be not entirely well in PowerBook-land. Yes, last month’s catastrophic system failure mysteriously fixed itself, and yes, some of the problems I initially complained about in early June have been solved… but some are back, and there are some new ones as well. In particular, ever since I got the computer back, it’s been experiencing a rather annoying glitch whereby Mail isn’t saving my outgoing messages properly. Not to mention continuing core-app crashes, UI glitches, and erratic sleep behavior.
I’ve been planning for a while now to take my computer back to the Apple Store, but today I finally wrote up my latest manifesto listing and explaining the problems — and demanding a real solution this time — so I’ll be taking it, and the letter, in tomorrow morning. Here’s the money quote:
Although the problems appear software-related, I believe they are caused by some physical defect of the computer, not the operating system or software, and I do NOT believe they can be solved by simply erasing the hard drive, reinstalling the OS, and/or otherwise tinkering with software settings. I say this for a couple of reasons. First and most obviously, the problems picked up right where they left off after the hard drive was erased and the OS reinstalled last month. Given how stable Mac OS X normally is, it seems highly unlikely that a freshly installed copy of the OS would develop such severe problems so quickly. Nor did I install any unusual applications that would be likely to Ã¢â‚¬Å“poisonÃ¢â‚¬Â the OS in some way. Secondly, during the times when my computer was in repair, I used a bootable clone of my hard drive to run my system on another computer (my wifeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s old iBook), and although it was slow (itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a G3 with 500 MHz), none of these problems occurred when I was using the same OS, and the same set of programs, on a different physical machine. So I think something is wrong with the machine itself, and unless we can pinpoint whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wrong and fix it, I think the time has comeÃ¢â‚¬â€this being the fourth repair in 12 months, and the third in less than six weeksÃ¢â‚¬â€to consider replacing the unit. …
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t meant to be picky or rude, but I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unreasonable to expect a professional computer of the PowerBookÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s caliber, with a world-class operating system like OS X, to perform without these sorts of frequent, Windows-like glitches. I bought the AppleCare warranty so that I could depend on the functionality of this computer for at least three years, and yet here I am, halfway through the life of the warranty, bringing it in for the fourth timeÃ¢â‚¬â€and several of the very same problems remain unresolved from the first of those four repairs, back when the computer was barely six months old. (And in several cases, the problems actually started when it was only two or three months old, in March or April 2006.)
The full text of my letter, detailing all the problems, is here. A couple of them may seem like small potatoes, but remember the big picture: this computer hasn’t been working right — I mean really, entirely right — since, well, ever, or at least since around March 2006. (I bought it in January 2006.) And I’m sick of having it be gone for a week-and-a-half, only to come back half-fixed, if that. So I don’t think I’m being unreasonable here. I didn’t pay $2,500 for a top-of-the-line PowerBook that’s as buggy as a crap-ass Dell or Gateway, and I didn’t pay $350 for a warranty so they could not fix the bugs and glitches. If they can’t actually get my damn computer working properly, then I want a new one.
Anyway, suggestions are welcome.
P.S. If anyone reading this blog has any pull with Apple, and wants me to send them the referenced video clips and additional files, as well as the original version of the letter (with my address and phone number not redacted), just shoot me an e-mail at brendanloy [at] alumni.usc.edu. :)
As happy as I am to have my computer back in good working order (knock on wood), I still wish I understood what exactly happened to it last Wednesday, and how the heck it magically fixed itself en route to the Apple repair center in Houston.
The loud popping noise that precipitated last Wednesday’s apparently catastrophic system failure — which turned out, mysteriously, to be temporary and self-repairing — sure sounded like a short-circuit or something similar, and the computer’s subsequent refusal to power up (regardless of the power adapter being used) was consistent with that diagnosis. But fried motherboards don’t just un-fry themselves, now do they?
Anyway, the lack of answers makes me nervous that the same thing might happen again, so I’m looking for any clues I can find as to what exactly occurred. Apropos of which, there were a couple of weird anomalies that occurred last Wednesday, prior to the “pop” and shutdown. They don’t seem relevant to what ultimately occurred — they seem software-ish, rather than hardware-ish — but who knows? Maybe our resident techno-geeks can construct a theory. Details after the jump.
My PowerBook does indeed seem to have magically fixed itself. Weird. But its trip to Houston wasn't totally pointless: Apple finally replaced the "top case," which seems to have fixed the loose plastic above my CD/DVD drive.
According to the DHL tracking info, my laptop was shipped from the repair center in Houston last night and arrived this morning at the Apple Store here in Knoxville. Woohoo! And about damn time: with the exception of the 2 or 3 hours when it was working, pre-”POP,” last Wednesday, I’ve been PowerBook-less for more than two full weeks. (I initially brought it in on June 5.) Hopefully it’s actually fixed, and stays fixed, this time. If my “repeat repair” turns into a need for a “three-peat repair,” I am going to start seriously lobbying them to just replace the damn thing, because this is getting ridiculous.
(Apropos of which, I’ve created a “PowerBook Problems” category. It was time.)
Brief update to my ongoing PowerBook saga: it turns out Apple’s repair technicians really did need information from me; the woman who told me their request was an error, was herself in error. It only took five days, four phone calls to AppleCare and two trips to the Apple Store to figure this out. :|
Anyway, apparently the information they needed from me was, “Uh, what did you want us to fix again? Your computer’s working fine!” Yeah, it seems my dead laptop magically resurrected itself en route to the repair center, and is now booting up without any difficulty (whereas before, neither I nor the Skeet Ulrich lookalike at the Genius Bar could get it to start up at all). So I guess the “POP!” sound must not have been the motherboard? Or the fried circuits somehow re-aligned themselves and started working again? Or a temporal anomaly in the Devron System has created a collision between time and anti-time, causing time to run backwards and thus fixing my computer? (Sorry, I just watched the Star Trek: TNG series finale on TiVo…)
Anyway, I have a question for our resident techno-geeks. According to the latest person I spoke with at the repair dispatch center, the most recent notation in my file states, “Unit powers on fine and loop AMT.” He didn’t know what “loop AMT” means, and neither do I, so I’m just wondering if anyone here does?
So, this is brilliant. I just got an e-mail from Apple stating, “We need additional information about your POWERBOOK G4 (17-INCH DOUBLE-LAYER SD) before we can repair it. Please call 800-APL-CARE and refer to Repair ID [number redacted].” (Except it didn’t say “number redacted,” it had my actual ID there.) So, I dutifully called the number, and after some frustration navigating the automated menu (which doesn’t have an option like “press 5 if you got an e-mail telling you to call us”), finally reached a person at AppleCare headquarters. I gave her my Repair ID, wherepon she checked my record, saw the same message I’d gotten, and then put me on hold while she checked to see just exactly what “information” the repair technicians needed. She came back with words to the effect of: “Okay, they left a message saying they need more information, but they didn’t give any information about what information they need.” So she wrote a note to the repair techs asking for details, and said I should call back later today or on Monday morning (!).
It’s times like these I wish I had a MySpace or LiveJournal blog, so I could end this post with one of those emoticon-producing tags like “Current mood: Exasperated.”
UPDATE: Apparently the e-mail was sent out in error; they never actually needed more information. My computer is still undergoing various tests.
And away goes the PowerBook… back to repair. :(
UPDATE: The Work Authorization form says “PROPOSED RESOLUTION: diagnose/replace.” Hmm. Replace? I wonder what that means. (The “ISSUE” is described as “Repeat repair - Unit made a popping sound and now is a dead unit wont turn on at all. Plastic above optical drive is sagging.”)
It may or may not be completely fixed, though. Stay tuned.
UPDATE, 12:09 AM: The computer just spontaneously shut down, for no apparent reason, and now it won’t start back up again.
I’d been using it for a few hours, reinstalling all my third-party applications and such (because they did a clean install of the OS), and I was just drag-and-dropping some files onto an application on my Dock when — POP! — the screen went black. And I do mean “pop”: it made an audible sound, like maybe it had short-circuited or something. The battery was nowhere near dead, so that wasn’t it — and it gives you warnings before a low-battery shutdown anyway. In this case, there was no warning. (Well, no official warning. I did notice, as I was walking across the room with it a few minutes before the unexplained shutdown, that the screen flickered off for a split second. In retrospect, that was probably a warning sign.) Anyway, like I said, now it won’t start back up again. I tried unplugging everything and removing the battery, giving it a minute, and then hooking it back up, but… nope.
So, it looks like I’ll be returning my PowerBook to the Apple Store less than 24 hours after getting it back. And now I’m officially getting annoyed. They “repair” it, and within a few hours, it commits suicide? Not cool.
Oh, and they didn’t even fix one of the original problems I complained about: the loose plastic casing above the CD/DVD drive. They replaced more than $300 worth of parts (none of which I had to pay for, thanks to AppleCare), including the CD/DVD drive itself, but they left the loose plastic untouched! Well, they may have done something to it, because it’s not as loose as before, but it’s not secure either — it’s just back to where it was maybe six months ago, which suggests to me that it will sag again, and eventually start obstructing the drive again. Why didn’t they just replace that part? WTF? (This is why I originally said it “may or may not be completely fixed.”)
More urgent, though, is the computer randomly shutting itself off. Seriously, at what point do they throw in the towel and get me a new one?
UPDATE 2: The armchair diagnosis in comments is that the motherboard is toast.
I promised earlier that I would explain why I was at the Apple Store yesterday afternoon and evening. Well, my PowerBook is having some issues, both hardware- and software-related. (Details after the jump.) I’ve been putting up with them for a while, largely because I didn’t want to be computerless for any period of time during my final semester of law school. But I don’t need a computer to study for the bar (indeed, its absence will probably induce me to study more and blog less), so I finally decided to bite the bullet and take the computer in.
Just like the other time I brought in my 17-inch PowerBook for repair, its absence leaves me using Becky’s old iBook — her extremely slow old iBook — as my primary computer, albeit with a FireWire clone of my PowerBook’s hard drive as the startup disk. (The resulting squishing of 51 Dock icons, which fit just fine on my 17-incher, onto a 12-inch screen, is rather amusing.) Everything takes an excruciatingly long time… so I think it’s fair to say I’ll be doing less with the computer for the next little while, out of sheer frustration.
Anyway, like I said, there are more details on my latest computer saga after the jump, if anyone’s interested.