Apple a la Service?

Why isn’t this a GeekStuff entry? Because it’s a Rant, even if it is of a Geek nature. I’ve had one of the new Apple PowerBook 12’s for a little bit over a month and a half now, and I’m about to send it in for service. For a second time. The first pBook that I got was a defective model that lasted a total of three days, due to a mostly dead ComboDrive. Since it was a new purchase – made at a local CompUSA no less! – I was able to return it and pick up a new and working model. This, being the second pBook and now a month old, is going back to AppleCare for servicing, for up to four different problems: wobbling, battery door problems, case concerns, and heat.

I was dealing with all of this with a grain of salt – given that this notebook is a wholly new model, I sort of expected a few problems – but then I got to thinking, mostly kicked into motion by Steve. This is my sixth notebook, over the last six years (or more). I’ve had on CompuAdd model, three Toshiba models, two Sony models, and this pBook and this is the first notebook that I’ve had any problems with. My two Sony notebooks – one of which I’m currently typing on due to the coming Mac-less week – were brand new models and didn’t have to spend a day of service away from me. Both Sony models, even at the time of their release, were under $2000. Yet, when I started having problems with the $2500 PowerBook (when including memory, wireless connections, and wedges) here I was ready to make excuses for it. Steve reminded me that no one, not even Apple, should be allowed to get away with bad products. What are my problems? I have many problems – not the least of which is having to damage control a brain damaged salesman – but I’ll keep the list down to issues related to the Mac:

Wobble – This was a problem that occurred over time, as it was once perfect when it came out of the box. I keep my pBook in a Brenthaven bag, I used a CoolPad when it’s on a desktop, and I wipe it with a diaper while it’s charging – there is no way that I warped the bottom of this notebook, so I’m inclined to believe that it happened on it’s own and I was right: When I was last at the Apple store in Hartford, I showed the Genius at the store the wobble and he was concerned. After a look in the message boards for Apple employees, he confirmed that there was a “known concern” about the wobble within the Apple technical support group but they hadn’t yet started to fix the issue yet. So at least they confirm that the problem does exists and it’s happening with more than one person.

Battery Door Issue – This is another problem that has occurred over time. When the pBook first came to me, the battery sat flush with the rest of the base. I had to remove the battery to install my AirPort Extreme mini-PCI card. Now the battery doesn’t sit flush. I followed the instructions that came with the part as well as taking the different methods of “reinstalling the battery” that I’ve read in the manual and from the Apple discussion boards; it doesn’t matter – the battery hasn’t been completely flush with the base ever since. At first I thought this was the cause of the wobble, but it seems that the wobble happens on the other feet and not the battery foot. This Apple hasn’t commented on this specifically but it is well documented on the discussion boards.

Case Concerns – I’ve discovered that without extra spacers in the top part of the screen, the front edge of LCD case can start to warp a bit. This comes from what I consider to be normal handling, i.e. taking the notebook out of the Brenthaven bag which is top loading. When you grip the pBook by any edge, the top and bottom parts of the notebook bend until they touch, which causes the case to warp over time. A useful tip came from a user online: just bend the parts back in the opposite direction to fix the warping. This pissed me off because I’m basically being told this should be accepted as is – I shouldn’t have to warp the case back into its original form!

Heat – Heat is subjective. Aluminum, which the pBook is encased in, conducts heat well. The 12″ is a small package with a lot of power. These are all comments that I’ve seen online and I agree with them all. However, the other day – and this is what prompted me to send it back for repair – I closed the lid, to put the pBook to sleep. I didn’t close it completely and the pBook stayed awake – since I was planning on putting it to sleep, I had plugged it into AC power. See, when I noticed that the pBook ran extremely hot, I had to make a number of concessions to keep the heat down. I had to prevent the CPU from running at full speed because it ran cooler at a reduced speed. I also had to give up using it with an AC adapter – once you plug the AC adapter in it heats up to an extremely high level even if it’s not charging, contrary to what some people think. What I found was that if it was plugged in, it could heat a small room for hours. In this instance I left it idle – still plugged in – and didn’t tell it to sleep. When I came back to the pBook after it sat there for an hour, I went to pick it up from the side with the hinge (so I wouldn’t cause more warping on the other edge) and almost dropped it because it was that hot. Looked to see if it was sleep and noticed that it wasn’t sleeping , even thought the LCD was turned off. I figured that it went to sleep so I pressed a cursor key to bring it back awake – nothing happened. I pressed some more buttons – nothing. I had to power it down and restart it, to bring it back to life. Hmm. A crash? Yep. Did heat cause it? I don’t care, but I’ve had enough. It needs to be looked at because I’ve had enough of these issues and I do believe that the heat is being caused by a faulty part and had something to do with this crash.

The machine, when it works, is beautiful. OS X has been wonderful to work with – Apple has built a good product here, with the PowerBook 12. However, it’s far from the great product that I’ve grown to expect from Apple. My iPod has never had an issue of any kind. My pBook has started with a couple of concerns that have grown into full-blown “I want it fixed and now!” issues. In fact, given that it’s not even two months old, I’m looking for Apple to replacement it for me. I’ve gotten pretty pissed off about this, over the weekend as I had time to dwell on it, and I’m looking for some action now. If I had to pick one thing wrong that pushed me to this Rant it’s from the call with AppleCare this past week. When I called into them, they were not very concerned with the door and the wobble probably because they are superficial issues to them. They were very concerned about the crash, which kicked them into motion and made them send me a box for shipping. They seemed to be annoyed that I brought up the heat issues at all. Annoyed that I was calling about it at all. They went on to tell me that “PowerBooks aren’t laptops; they are notebooks – you shouldn’t use them on your lap without anything else on your lap.” What the fuck is this about? There’s no difference between laptops and notebooks outside of a time-based “shift” of awareness and size. Heat never entered in the equation at any time! I’ve been working with hardware for over a decade and lived throughout the mobile desktop tower of an Osborne through to the current Tablet PC. They dare tell people this bullshit? Since when is it implied that a spiral bound notebook has to be handled with heat resistant clothing? That statement – which I’ve heard rumored also coming from a Dell CSR – is complete bunk and the people saying it should be publicly flogged.

If Apple tries to screw me on this, I will personally lead a class action suit against them for releasing the PowerBooks to the public without a heat warning. If some shithead can win millions from McDonald’s, for the lack of a warning label on a hot cup of coffee, I’ll demand millions for being burned by a notebook that shouldn’t get that hot in the first place, much less not having a warning label – it’s money in the bank, although given my Monday morning, I might just settle for a job in Cupertino!

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