1729 words on Hardware
As I’ve reported here a few times, my Powerbook is giving me a hard time. While I can get it to run again, it will do unexpected crashes. And it completely can’t be used anymore when it’s not solidly standing on a straight and non-moving surface. So while I can get it to run, I always have to fear crashes (and had to endure at least one complete rebuild of my Mail folders because of that) and moving the computer and setting it up elsewhere gives me a 50% chance that it’ll just kernel panic after waking from sleep.
So I’m stuck with a computer that’s at most half way working and ceased being portable. Not a nice state. Perhaps I should’ve seen that coming. While I still consider the Titanium Powerbook to be the sleekest and best looking computer I’ve ever seen, I’ve had much more trouble with mine than I would’ve considered possible. Off the top of my head, I find:
To avoid any misunderstandings: This Powerbook has been treated well since I got it. I always use one of my padded Powerbags to carry it or before putting it into yet another bag. Unlike many other Powerbooks, the machine doesn’t have any dents or scratches from my handling of it. It has been used regularly, though. Which is exactly what I got it for.
And of course there are all sorts of nagging questions now: Is the right screen hinge breaking related to the feeping noise coming from the same place? Is the crashing problem I am seeing right now a consequence of Apple giving me a new main board for no good reason? (If yes, could I please have the old one back then?) Would Apple’s service people have been able to find and fix my Powerbook’s real problem at its the second, third, … tenth journey to them? None of these questions can be answered for sure. By me at least, as both Apple’s hardware and their services are rather obscure and I don’t understand them.
And this brings us to the problem I have now. The machine as it exists at this moment isn’t very usable. Typing stuff and not saving it feels a bit like Russian roulette. By Murphy’s Law it’s bound to start crashing as soon as I need it urgently and it stopped being portable. So this might be a good time to get a new one if I want a machine that I can use reliably.
However, from my past experiences with Apple, I am not really inclined to throw even more money at them. The last time I did that
Don’t even start thinking about bitching that Apple’s service is in fact great. It may be in the U.S. but it definitely isn’t in Germany or Europe. While they may have a person or two who can read or tell an airport card from a power supply, the impression they left with me and others was that they’re at least one of incompetent or lying.
And frankly, I don’t think companies with a single one of these properties should get more of my money. The problem with that of course being that I don’t have any other option than Apple. There’s no competition forcing them to make better products or treat their customers well – at least for those who are Mac users. And my problem is that I’ve been a Mac user for well over a decade. That I actually like OS X, that using Windows or KDE or Gnome makes me feel nervous as things work even less than they do in OS X. That I have a lot of data in the Address Book, in iTunes, in XCode projects and other applications and even in my preferences which have been set up over years. So switching isn’t really an option.
If I really have to get a new Mac, it’ll probably have to be the small iBook. While those stopped looking good since they switched to the G4 iBook and its cheap white plastic, it avoids the blandness and high price of the aluminium Powerbooks and the needless monstrosity of its larger brother. Most importantly it has a three digit Euro price (in the education store), minimising the money going down the drain if the machine goes to hell.
Getting such a machine will probably mean not seeing it for a few weeks when it needs to go for a repair (most of the iBooks I’ve heard of have done that trip – scary!) and it’ll also mean spending another 60-120 Euros for an extra 512MB to 1GB of memory and extra money for a bigger hard drive (why exactly do Apple charge a reasonable €50 to give you an 80GB drive instead of a 40GB one in a Mac mini but €100 to do the same thing for an iBook?!)
Perhaps I could try selling the parts of my Powerbook. There’s still the bottom plate, a keyboard (with a white control key), an Airport card, modem, invertor whatever, screen, the new battery, PC Card slot and possibly more. But doing that might take some effort and be of dubious success. Some other effort might mean I could use the computer + iPod promo they have which gets you a €150 discount. I’d just need to find someone wanting an iPod.
Ugh. I’m writing about potentially getting a new computer. And I’m not excited by it as the new machine won’t be as pretty as the old one and will have a smaller display. Who thought any of that would happen?
Heya, very sorry to hear about your horrible experience. As a Windows computer admin who dealed with quite a few different kinds of desktops and laptops over the years, however, let me tell you: the alternatives aren’t looking much better. The only company that seems to have consistently been reasonably high-quality is IBM with their ThinkPad line, and we all know what’s happening to that these days (call me prejudiced, but I don’t see Lenovo producing as-good-quality notebooks). For me, IBM certainly is not an option due to their atrocious design (after all, you do have to look at your computer extended amounts of time almost every day), although (most of) the models tend to allow for easy replacement of the hard drive and other components, something Apple laptops are very weak in.
Certainly, don’t get anything from a “no-name” brand such as Gericom, Medion, etc. My brother has a Medion laptop from 2001 and seems okay with it, but while I don’t want to speak for him, I don’t think he’d want to use it as his main machine.
Back to Apple. I’ll probably post about my own (much less infuriating, and also mainly in Germany) experience on my blog later when I find the time to, but I do want to respond to this, even if you’re going to delete it ;-) :
“Don’t even start thinking about bitching that Apple’s service is in fact great.”
My only two direct experiences with Apple’s service were in Germany and Canada, and the one in Germany certainly was more painless than I expected it to be. My iBook’s battery started dying after about 18 months (well after standard warranty expiration), and I e-mailed Cyberport (the online store where I had ordered), who responded within a few minutes, pointing me to Apple’s hotline. Surprisingly, calling them up resulted in their offer to send me a box (sound familiar, yes, I know) to put the battery in, and to have it replaced. It was, however, entirely free! They didn’t even bother asking for details; I merely told them it would only charge to about two thirds of its original capacity. The new battery worked much better and would continue to, if it wasn’t for…
…the good ol’ White iBook G3 logic board issue. My iBook has been in repair about it for the past few weeks; we’ll see how that turns out.
Again, your experience sounds truly horrifying, and makes me wish Apple would resume producing on their own, rather than outsourcing to cheap ODMs like Quanta and Asustek.
As you might have noted from reading my weblog, I had similar problems (not quite as many; no hinge issues and a few other things) with my PowerBook. It’s just a flimsy design; and I don’t particularly like the current 15” PowerBook, so I sold it and got a 12” iBook as a temporary measure, and I couldn’t be happier. The new ones have most of the features of the newer PowerBooks anyway (Bluetooth 2, accelerometer, 512MB RAM, etc.)
On the other hand, I’ve never had anything but great experience with Apple service (in the US). My friends who have had the G3 iBook logic board failures bitched a lot, but they all eventually got G4 iBooks as replacements.
As someone who had a PowerBook with many of the same problems, and switched to a 12-inch iBook, I can report that the iBook is better-built.
Some of the problems with my aluminum PowerBook were:
The problems I’ve had with my iBook are:
I have service done at a local Apple-authorized shop, instead of dealing with Apple directly. I also found that different shops considered different things to be covered or not covered by warranty. Naturally, I now use the most liberal shop for repairs.
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