Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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MacBook shutdown problems

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Bringing my MacBook to the local dealer after its recent temperature failures didn’t help a bit. Essentially they said they couldn’ reproduce the problem. That’s how these edge case problems go. Perhaps it depends on the environment temperature to add those few extra degrees needed to easily get the shutdown (it was around 25°C when I had the problem frequently and 20°C when the MacBook was at the dealer’s), perhaps the desk the machine is standing on plays a role as well in sofar as it has to ‘reflect’ the heat the machine generates while perhaps they had a thinner desk passing heat through more easily at the store.

Who knows. It should be tricky to get an entirely controllable environment for this. I just know that the machine shut itself off on my desk several times the other day just for running on a high load for a while. It’s a real problem for me and I’m facing denial. What is one to do in such a situation? Apple and their minions will ‘helpfully’ suggest blowing another €250 or so up their butts for AppleCare, but I think it’s not too much to expect a machine that just keeps on working, without that.

I was told I could contact AppleCare again and try to get that problem sorted by them. But judging from my past experiences AppleCare Germany is a bunch of idiots/liars, and it will play out like this: Sven explains the problem to them exactly on the phone, indicating when it happens and what he suspects to play a role. They tell Sven to send the machine in. Just to the sure™, Sven puts a written description of the problem inside the pacakge before sending the MacBook off. They neither manage to understand or reproduce the problem. They exchange some random bit of the machine so they can say they did their job. They lose my hard drive on the way. They require weeks of repeated calls to present a family of selected lies about what happened to that hard drive and to finally send me an equivalent replacement. At least that was pretty much the experience I had with my Powerbook a few years ago. And I’m not looking forward to repeating it.

But what to do? Warranty is running out soon and I don’t want to be stuck with a machine that’s both keen on running its fan at high speeds all the time and some overheating. Perhaps the fan just needs some cleaning? Which would be a matter of bad design in the machine but at least a plausible explanation. I guess Apple’s style of Just Works™ high quality design means that I’ll need to find some special tools and take a look myself. I.e. do the things didn’t want to do in the first place.

But that’s not everything. The MacBook’s shitty battery (it’s the second one already I have in this one) yesterday mis-estimated its endurance once again. Which meant I had another shutdown of the machine while it was going to deep sleep at the end of its battery runtime. Usually that problem fixes itself after a while (battery recalibration or whatnot?!) but, again, this is something that should never happen  – and I had it around a dozen times already with the collection of two MacBooks and four batteries I used so far.

Quality Engineering indeed. I think I should start to join the leagues of people lobbying for OS X on non-Apple hardware. Simply so I can have hardware that works reliably.

May 16, 2008, 8:01

Tagged as apple, apple defect, broken.


Comment by g: User icon

Well, at least you can easily swap out the hard drive and replace it with a cheap piece of kit before you send it out. Preserving all the essential stuff.

May 16, 2008, 11:00

Comment by ssp: User icon

Yeah, but that’s hardly the point. Having to deal with those people again is. And the suspicion that it won’t help.

May 16, 2008, 11:37

Comment by LKM: User icon

I had the same battery problem. Apple exchanged my battery in a recall, but the new battery I got stopped working within a year. Fortunately, I kept my original battery (the one that may explode at any moment) and went back to using this one, which kept working for another half-year or so (and never exploded, fortunately). I bought a new MacBook Pro now; hopefully the issue with the batteries is fixed.

For the fan problem, I’d have a look at something like smcFanControl. Maybe you can make the laptop run cooler?

May 16, 2008, 15:27

Comment by ssp: User icon

The thing is of course that in the next attempt the battery worked all right again. So it’s hard to convince anyone that the battery is faulty. It’s the randomness that’s infuriating there.

I am not inclined to use such fan control tools. Not just because I really think the machine should work well without them but also because I can understand if Apple refuses to take responsibility for problems you get into after using such tools. I do expect them to take responsibility for the default setup thought, which they effectively don’t either.

That said, the tool won’t help me, my fans is running at the 6200rpm maximum even when there’s a low to moderate load on the machine anyway. It’s noisy and not very effective.

May 16, 2008, 16:25

Comment by Scott Johnson: User icon

Hey Sven,

We knew each other in an online context a while ago. I have a brand new MacBook I just got and while I’ve seen the same constant fan noise you seem to have, I’ve found that killing large memory using apps seems to kill the fan also. I have 4 gigs of RAM and Safari often grabs a gig plus of real memory so what I do when I want the box to be quiet is simply force quit safari and then use the History menu’s Reload closed windows command (I forget the exact wording and Safari isn’t running right now) to reload what I lost when I later restart Safari.

Just thought this might help.


May 16, 2008, 16:49

Comment by ssp: User icon

Hi Scott, good to know you still exist…

Interesting theory. I ‘only’ have 2GB but I’m sure I’m giving them a good workout. No idea why but the machine surely loves being slow and swapping. Safari is usually in the 300MB ‘real’ memory (whatever that means) for me.

If your theory is correct it might explain the difficulties they had reproducing the problem at the shop: they surely just started it and ran a test application, most likely not using more than 200 to 300 MB in total.

Now what’d be an tool that gives the RAM a good workout?

May 21, 2008, 23:28

Comment by Scott Johnson: User icon

Hey Sven,

Here’s a link to follow up on for ram testing a Mac:


Note — I’m not saying that your ram is bad more along the lines of “I’ve seen the same problem and this is how I work around it”. Perhaps its something like “If the bulk of your physical ram is full then the fan runs continuously regardless of whether or not its done”.

Great pesto advice btw. bookmarked. Thank you.

May 22, 2008, 1:38

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