Sunday, July 31, 2011

Boise MacLife, A Summary of Events

Arthur brings in iMac on 07-15-11

Intermittent display issues and the computer gets hotter, faster.
Sometimes the display freezes and won't come back up after more than one reboot.

Arthur is told by the MacLife Technician that it could be the Screen, Logic Board, Video Card or a combination.

Arthur returns on 07-20-11 (3 Business Days Later)

During that time the Technician has installed a new screen and is confident that this will correct all the issues. Arthur is skeptical, still believing that the Logic Board and/or video card are somehow involve and relates those concerns. Also, Arthur did not approve the repair, only the diagnostic work to determine what repair should be required. The Technician offers to put Arthur's screen back in, no harm done, if he doesn't want it.

The Technician says that he’s had the new screen in a couple of days and that he’s run my iMac without any problems.

Arthur and the Technician discuss the cost of a logic board noting that if that were required, it would be nearly $1100 to fix. That being put into context, Arthur agrees to take the iMac and try it out on the condition that he be given a refund and his old screen back if the repair does not fix all the issues.

Arthur takes the iMac home and discovers that it has dead pixels but that it fixes some of the heat and display issues. Freezing and start up failure issues persist in the wake of the repair. Arthur takes some time to troubleshoot on his own before giving up and returning the iMac to MacLife.

Arthur returns on 07-26-11 (4 Business Days Later)

The Technician was wrong in their diagnosis relative to the screen. The iMac is still having issues. After a freeze it needed to be unplugged for several minutes before it would come come back up again. Virtually same problem as before.

Arthur asks that the Technician do as he agreed, refunding his money and reinstalling the screen. The Technician says that he will "try" to find the old screen and refund Arthur's money. Not understanding the Technician's apprehension he asks him some questions. Apparently Arthur’s screen was sent back to Apple. Arthur is baffled, but assumes that they will honor their agreement and give him his iMac back whole and his money.

Not having received a call, Arthur returns on 07-30-11 (3 Business Days Later)

The iMac is not fixed.

Arthur questions the Technician and Maclife Staff discovering that the screen was an exchange part, as opposed to a stock item, and that his screen had to be returned to Apple within two days receiving the replacement. Apple will not return said part, the Technician says it’s already left their warehouse on it’s way to limbo.

The Technician contacts the owner while Arthur waits.

Arthur discovers that the owner is willing to give him his iMac back, without a screen, and $375 of the $500 paid originally. This essentially deprives Arthur of $125 and a $500 part on an iMac that was mostly functional and now useless.

The Technician states that he will attempt to call Apple on monday to see if they will refund the money for the screen, resulting in a larger refund but still no screen in the iMac. Arthur is angry beyond the point of being rational and departs to spend a day in contemplation.

Arthur returns to MacLife on August 1st, 2011. Stay Tuned.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Post-PC Depression

I've felt like there has been a computer shaped hole in my soul for the last couple of weeks. My iMac is on the blink, and I've been craving a dedicated Windows Machine for my work with Windows Phone 7. In my mostly late night quest to find the perfect machine to round out my workflow, I did as I always do. I read dozens of reviews, looked at hundreds of machines and did no small amount of contemplation.

As usual, I bumped into a lot of animosity toward Apple Inc.

It occurs to me that there is a lot of misunderstanding about why people buy Apple computers. Marketing magic aside, the Apple will appeal to the sort of person that takes a year to make a decision when buying anything over $1000. They have long activity cycles which completely infuriate the folks who want to buy the latest thing, right now, this second, as quick as it can be shipped. Apple tends to update their gear once a year, and that's roughly how often you'll have the latest and greatest hardware.

I bought all my Apple devices shortly after they were refreshed so that the hardware was current at the time. With my MacBook Pro it was simply happenstance (my Asus got hosed unexpectedly), but with every other device, it was purposeful. I bought them in such a state as to allow for some ability to upgrade later. Roughly the fifteen month mark was my plan.

I like to have a plan.

The production cycle for Apple is an important measure of whether and when you should buy their products. The fine folks at MacRumors have figured this out and concocted this handy buyer's guide based on how long it's been since a product has been refreshed. No other computer manufacturer seems to have this habit of creating expectation relative to their products. Most seem to update as soon as there is new stuff to through into the interior.

There was a certain infamous article written recently where the author charged Apple with trying to convince consumers that specs don't matter, and that's why the technical specifications often lag somewhat behind competitors. I would argue the opposite, those things matter a great deal to Apple.

Most people do not buy and use a computer in the same way as a tech reviewer. They seem to be writing those articles for each other as opposed to the average consumer of electronics. I think the people who write computer and device reviews have so much tech pass through their hands they quickly lose perspective on the sorts of folks that drive the market.

My mom's Toshiba that's so old you'd expect to shovel coal into it to keep it running? It's a viable device until 2013 when Microsoft ceases to support Windows XP. Sans the OS losing legacy support, it will have an activity cycle somewhere around a decade. My wife's G5 iMac will be no different, already six years old and still capable of running Apple's Lion OS when it comes out.

I think the majority of consumers keep their computer until the device simply gives out or falls apart. More than a few have a storage space full of old obsolescence they can't bear to git rid of. You know how you are.

Yeah, I constantly dream of getting new computers and devices (and bags to carry them in), but as yet none of the Macs I bought in 2009 are likely to be replaced any time soon. That's a bold statement considering I once purchased a new laptop or desktop every 12-15 months from 1999-2009.

I plan to keep and use my MacBook Pro as my primary device for the conceivable future. Such plans are the coleslaw at the side of a big plate of tech envy though. The industry keeps churning out wondrous devices, like the Samsung Series 9 Laptop.

Here's the rub: I have talked about selling my MacBook Pro to upgrade many times, and gone through what is certainly a habit cultivated over ten years of owning products from HP, Asus, Toshiba, and similar. In a nutshell, I get that itch to trade up because the little guy is going to die soon. 15 months of use in the hands of someone like me is something like 3500+ running hours. The screen on my iMac gave out before the guts did.

I think there is some part of me that actually misses the tech grind though. I've even found myself looking at the Dell and Maingear sites going through all the endless combinations of different devices. Oh, and I can't stop looking at Alienware. I've wanted one since before they were bought out, and I still think they're very cool.

I wonder if they have support groups for this condition I have, whatever one would call it.

Post-PC Depression? As my father often says, yeah, I know...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

MacBook Pro - Solid State Drive

I own a 2009 Macbook Pro, a 5,5 MB991LL/A to be precise. It was the first Mac I ever owned and still my favorite. When my iMac started to act up I decided I needed to upgrade or buy something new to use as a primary. In the end, I decided to take my Macbook Pro from 4GB of RAM to 8 and add a 256 GB SSD.

I couldn't be happier with the outcome.

If you work with documents and projects of a size that require that you watch a loading bar a dozen or more times throughout your workday, a Solid State Drive is a good upgrade. xBench puts my MacBook Pro at 25 points higher than the average Mac Pro. Put into the proper context, my two-year-old Macbook Pro is a madman when it comes to most of what I do.

Aside from the performance boost, there were a couple of other bonuses I wasn't really expecting. First, my Macbook Pro is very quiet compared to before. It makes almost no sound whatsoever unless I'm playing a game and the fan kicks in. Second, it gets slightly better battery life now. Not a huge amount, maybe 25-30 minutes of additional operational duration.

If you are trying to decide between upgrading or buying a new machine, I'd take a look at an SSD as a possible option. Depending on your computer, it might be a significant performance boost for less money than a whole new machine. The difference with regard to my MacBook Pro was like night and day.

There's no Trim Support for the SSD I chose, but hopefully the release of the Lion version of Mac OS X will change that.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Without Duress

It's a turning point and a milestone when you are forced to reconsider your basic beliefs and live one's life differently. However, such a thing is also special when it is done without duress. It's rare enough in real life I have a hard time writing about in a fictional setting. Somehow it always feels sparse and contrived.

We spend so much of our time merely reacting instead of proactively engaging life. I notice that many of the fictional works that find themselves receiving a wider audience seem to include hapless folks in extraordinary circumstances.

In editing my first book there are many characters that are merely victims of circumstance. I've tried really hard to give at least a couple of the main characters the sense that they aren't merely reacting but working to create their own legacy in the face of adversity. Looking around in my own life it is difficult to find examples of people who are heroic without also being reactionary.

I blame the modern Christian faith for depreciating works of charity and acts of pious contrition. Much of what I think is pretty heroic is done by what would otherwise be idle hands and done out of some expectation rather than a pure measure of one's will. Trying to reach a US audience with these elements almost requires that your characters live in a strange vacuum or alternate reality.

Being righteous and portraying such an attribute in a fictional work is difficult without great care taken in both the language and the timing. While the act of writing such works should be a constrained mechanical process, the result must feel spontaneous as opposed to a reaction on the part of the protagonist or person.

Pushing past language to convey the intangible emotions associated with humbly aiding someone else is difficult. Most people have a pretty strict understanding of right and wrong they rely on instead of constructing that view case by case. I've read more than a few attempts to create these elements in a fictional work, most of the time I merely feel betrayed.

Like so many of the best things in literature portraying righteousness isn't done in a single sentence or paragraph. It is generally accomplished through the entire body of the work. Real life is no different I suppose, it isn't a single decision that makes us righteous, or one hundred, it is the sum of a lifetime.