The Random Griffith

Apple = epic fail?

Posted in Uncategorized by Jackson Griffith on 09/03/2010

Dunno about you, but I’m one of those people who needs a computer to get work done. I’m a writer, and a professional one, at least when people pay me to write stuff. To me, a computer is, um, kind of an essential piece of equipment, not just an accoutrement for shopping. (Or, for some, wanking to porn.)

So, well, as you may have deduced from reading my blog, my two-year-old MacBook has been having some rather gnarly little issues. First, the OEM hard drive roasted in August. Because I stupidly opted not to pay $300 extra for AppleCare when I bought the computer at the end of 2007, I was SOL. So I got a friend to replace it with a 500GB Seagate hard drive bought from a supply house he recommended. It worked fine, until recently. Then it started doing things like tell me that I had no space to save MS Word documents, or for anything else. I was getting the spinning beach ball with every task I performed.

Then the DVD stopped working. Actually, that particular component started crapping out on New Year’s, when a friend visiting from L.A. insisted on playing me a burned disc of some recording projects he was producing, and the CD got stuck in the drive. Eventually I was able to eject it, and then a DVD of Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? got stuck. That disc finally got around to popping out, but other discs refused to load. (And from talking to other people with MacBooks, I’m not alone with this problem.)

So now the disc drive won’t read the original install disc that came with the Mac. It whirrs and stops three times, then spits the disc out. Other discs, the drive will eat and not give them back. So, after the gracious help of a friend who was able to figure out that the problem was a failing hard drive, we were able to save my preferences and libraries on an outboard drive, and then another friend had a small (150GB) drive he’d maxed out before replacing with a larger drive on his Mac.

Having plugged that drive in, I couldn’t get the DVD to read the install disc, so I figured I’d take it in to the Apple Store and maybe, just maybe, they could help me. I figured that, if worse came to worse, I could get the top plastic piece containing the keyboard replaced, because a couple of people pointed out that the cracked and flaking plastic on mine was some kind of MacBook defect that Apple would fix, free of charge.

Which I was able to do. I also will point out that the manager on duty, Susan, was very nice, especially after I’d checked in when I got there and then my name disappeared from the waiting list. “Oh,” she said, “I think someone crossed you off when another customer we helped fit your description.” I had to laugh, because there weren’t too many 6’7″ white guys dressed like hobos meandering around the store. But that’s okay. Mistakes happen.

So, then, let us talk about Apple’s “Genius Bar.” If this constitutes genius, then please give me an option for a subgenius bar the next time I visit. I don’t even remember the name of the woman who helped me, except to say that I described my issues, told her the replacement hard drive was under warranty (which replaced the original hard drive that crapped out after a year and nine months of use), and she snipped, “I have to tell you that if we detect any water damage when we take the top off this, we’re going to have to charge you money.” Then she figured out that I didn’t have the extended warranty (“I thought you told me your computer was still under warranty!” she hissed), and that it would cost $280 for a new optical drive, plus labor, and it would cost north of $80 just to have them look at it.

That was her “genius” solution. Fail.

Now, if I was working, I’d probably take the hit, let the Apple Store fix it and move on. Or I would get those stars in my eyes that glaze over and I would slip into a monotone and reach for my credit card: “Must have latest, grooviest Apple product now. Give me top-line MacBook Pro, and reserve me an iPad for April 3!” But here I was, being treated snottily by someone who has a job, the kind of gig I could do and treat people with much more respect and compassion. Which kind of sucked, y’know?”

All I wanted to do was: a) get the top fixed on my MacBook (mission accomplished), and: b) maybe get the current (replacement from somebody else’s computer) hard drive wiped and with a fresh install of OS X via an outboard DVD through firewire or something, so I could reimport my settings (mission definitely not accomplished). So I walked out of the Apple Store pissed off and depressed, pissed that I couldn’t seem to get what I wanted done, instead getting hectored by a so-called genius, and bumming that I don’t have a job and that someone who probably shouldn’t, does. Then, to compound my misery, walking out of the mall through Macy’s, I looked up and saw, on a far wall, a display for Paris Hilton’s shoe line. Gaaah.

Speaking of Hilton, and people who get paid big bucks to show up at parties, jeez, the whole Arden Fair Mall experience was like careening around in a funhouse and getting slammed by bumper cars driven by people with massively outsized entitlement issues. Maybe it’s because I kinda look like King of the Road in the Roger Miller sense these days (hey, my birthday’s coming up on the 21st, and I sure could use some new pants and shirts and shoes, or how about a goddamn job so I can buy the stuff myself?), but I felt like I was getting run off the road, metaphysically speaking. Actually, physically, too: Benzes, SUVs, WTF is up with you people? Can’t you respect a guy on a bicycle?

Anyway, I’m just kinda beat from this whole experience. Tired. I’d rather be working, and not worrying.

Which is why I bought a Mac. I wanted to be worry-free. People told me, oh, yeah, your Apple will last you, it’s a good investment, my old Macs still run, yadda yadda. Yep. So two years into owning this Mac, and I’ve had two hard drive fails, and now my DVD is all jinky. What’s up with that, Mr. Jobs? If I’d have known that I’d be having these kinds of problems a couple years into ownership, maybe I would have spent my money elsewhere. Yeah, Windows PCs suck, but maybe I should have considered one? Don’t get me wrong. I love Macs, and I prefer OS X over Windows. But if you can’t build a goddamn computer that lasts for more than a couple of short years, given the inflated prices you charge, then maybe you’ve lost my business.

And here’s an irony: Because my undependable Mac toasted, I’ve lost out on several hundred dollars in work assignments just this week, jobs that I couldn’t perform because I didn’t have access to a functioning computer. That’s at least enough money to get my DVD drive fixed by the Apple Store’s technicians.

Dear Mr. Jobs, please let me give you a piece of advice: Nearly everyone raves about Apple’s clean industrial design and elegant GUI interface, the way they use to go on about the superiority of Italian automobile design. But maybe there’s a lesson in what happened to Fiat, the Italian automaker, in the American market. Fiat and its subsidiary Alfa Romeo built some terrifically sexy cars, but eventually they got drummed out of the U.S. by selling cars that spent more time in the mechanic’s garage than they did on the road. (Well, until the U.S. Government pretty much handed the failed Chrysler over to Fiat, gratis, because no other automaker was crazy enough to take it, not even a Chinese or Indian carmaker, and because it provided a revived Fiat an easy entry back into American showrooms, but that’s another story.) Remember the old acronym, “Fix It Again, Tony”? All it takes is a few seasons of people buying Apple products that crap out before their time, and your company will be in the same predicament. Trust me on this.

I would hate to see that. I really don’t like Microsoft at all. Even if Microsoft owns a nice-sized chunk of Apple, it sucks. So maybe you could put a little emphasis on building stuff with a modicum of durability. At least more durable than my MacBook has proved to be, or my iPod, which crapped out without a lot of use.

You see, Mr. Jobs, not everyone is a kajillionaire these days. Some of us are hurting from the fallout of this economy; we can’t waltz down to the Apple Store and buy the latest cool gear from your company. I, for one, haven’t worked steadily for over two years. I’ve lost a house, a car, a marriage and a whole bunch of other stuff I’d rather not go into here. Everything, really, except my dignity, and I kinda lost a bit of that visiting one of your stores the other day. I still can find freelance work, and so when I spent a chunk of my severance pay from the last job I had on a new computer, I was counting on it being a piece of equipment that would last, and that I could depend on to help get my jobs done. I still have one roasted hard drive that I don’t have money to get the data extracted from it, which includes a couple of partially completed book projects, a bunch of other writings, and an album’s worth of song demos I recorded in GarageBand. C’est la vie, I guess.

At any rate, Mr. Jobs, color me massively disappointed. Guess the Kool-Aid’s wearing off. —Jackson Griffith

Update: Now my computer periodically sounds like a jet revving for takeoff on the runway, and the Disk Utility application is feeding me the same information, when I perform the “repair permissions” task, that I was getting from it right before the first drive failed. Which indicates it may not be the drives, but something else in the computer that’s causing them to roast. Epic fail, Mr. Jobs.


4 Responses

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  1. Warren Bishop said, on 09/03/2010 at 22:39

    I don’t know if this will help, but I had a beater G-3 that was a hitchhiker from the last graphic supply job that I got rid of over the weekend. I extracted the hard drive from it; now it probably won’t fit in your laptop, but I was planning to get a box for it to live in and use it for an external. If you have a way to hook it up, I’d be glad to wipe it and give it to you until you can get the other one replaced or fixed.

  2. jaxong said, on 09/03/2010 at 23:49

    Thanks, Warren. I got a drive put in that works. I just am stuck with the previous setting, because my DVD drive won’t read the “install disk no. 1” so that I can wipe the drive and import my settings and libraries we pulled onto an external firewire drive from the failing drive. So I’m back in business, but I’m just kinda rattled.

  3. Warren Bishop said, on 10/03/2010 at 06:12

    Is it possible the the OS DVD is dinged?

    • jaxong said, on 10/03/2010 at 06:17

      Could be. I have someone with another 10.5 install disc we’re going to try. And someone suggested I pick up a copy of Snow Leopard yesterday at the Apple Store, but I just wasn’t in a buying mood.

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