Tag: Apple

Tuesday’s financial links

Just numbers

Apple’s Genius Bar Must Be Serving Stiff Cocktails

Because some of the employees behind it seem delirious.

My monitor is an Apple Cinema HD 23”. It’s on the fritz – when I try to wake it up in the morning (or after any downtime more than a few hours) it takes anywhere from several minutes to several hours to turn back on. It isn’t just the backlight – when it’s dead, USB and Firewire ports are inoperable, and even the power switch fails to react. Sometimes the caps lock light on the keyboard (attached to the USB in said monitor) blinks while the monitor is black. It’s got a lot of AppleCare warranty left on it, but I’m not sure that really matters.

I’ve called the service/support line several times. They moved me to a product specialist in each case, and we carefully outlined troubleshooting steps. They ruled out any trouble with the MacBook Pro it’s generally attached to, and a visit to one of Apple’s Genius Bars was the latest suggestion.

As it turns out, my visit to the Apple Store in Cherry Creek turned out to be a sheer and utter waste of time.

Some highlights:

– The kid helping me, Travis, was quick to point out that waiting around for a $900 monitor’s backlight to come on was pretty normal. Sure it is, kid. Either he’s staring at ten year old Compaq monochomes while playing Doom(-1) in his parents’ basement, or he was just exercising his “genius.” Likely the latter.

– The kid also noted that I couldn’t possibly “be trying to scam him out of a new monitor.” Nice. All I could think to myself was why the hell anyone would want to get a new monitor, of the exact same model, if their’s worked perfectly fine? Apple hasn’t updated these monitors in years and if someone has AppleCare there is a pretty good chance they’ve got more warranty left than they’d get with a new one. Maybe the kid was just being a “genius.” As an added point, this particular monitor is completely free of dead pixels and has only minor ghosting/bleeding, not something many owners of similar equipment can brag about (read the Apple reviews to find out more). Why would I want to give that up? Thanks…I wouldn’t.

– Also behind the Genius Bar was another gent, a bit older fellow named Craig, that was listening in on the conversation. When the kid asked him what he thought, this yabbo starts into a tirade, directed at me, about how if they couldn’t replicate the problem exactly as described they would be wasting their time and money shipping it back and forth for repair. Thanks. I guess I was already wasting my time packing the monitor up in it’s factory case, driving to the mall, hauling up two flights of stairs and into the Apple Store. And along with the Macbook Pro I was told by customer care to bring along, just in case. I was left wondering what kind of “genius” would blather in such a way to an existing customer who just hauled in equipment he’d paid roughly $4,000 for. Instantaneous answer – someone behind the Genius Bar.

Let’s note…the customer care people rocked, laying out plenty of troubleshooting ideas which we tried day after day. Their solution of last resort was visiting the store, and only because they knew I wasn’t interesting in waiting weeks for a resolution. Also, the phone folks were pretty specific – I should note my case number when I brought the equipment in so the people helping me could review the related case notes first. I asked the kid three times…”you need the case number?” He said no, twice, and then noted on the last inquiry that they could get the case notes via the serial number of the monitor. Of course, the Genius Bar Work Authorization had no “steps to reproduce” printed on it, and I left the store fairly certain that I’ll soon be back to square one.

And sure enough I was right. Apple called me just before closing the following day to tell me my monitor was ready for pickup. I ran down there only to find them claiming they couldn’t replicate the problem. Right. A quick discussion with ol’ Craig, who babbled incessantly about all the unsuccessful troubleshooting steps they had performed, uncovered the following:

– The geniuses plugged the monitor into a MacPro, not a MacBook Pro. Call me crazy, but one could surmise the two machines have different video cards. Someone who is completely insane might also think that MacPros and MacBook Pros behave different when a Cinema display is plugged into them, particular in laptop dual-video mode (seeing as MacPros don’t operated in laptop dual-video modes because they…uh…aren’t laptops).

– The geniuses stated they could not provide documentation of the troubleshooting steps performed, because they didn’t actually document the steps.

– The geniuses stated that they never looked up the case number customer care told me to give them. They said they produced a new case number when items come in – so much for continuity in troubleshooting.

– Master genius Craig was beligerent as ever, yapping (again) in no uncertain terms that if I couldn’t document the precise steps required to produce the problem, then there was nothing they could do. This of course came out of his trap after the grand admission that they didn’t review the existing case, and didn’t plug the display into a relevant machine. So much for precise troubleshooting.

I leave you with a lovely picture of my dead display. I’m not worried – it’ll come on sometime soon, as in maybe when I get back from lunch actually dinner (as the photo was taken immediately after returning from lunch – and the display did turn on again, roughly five minutes after awakening the laptop).


UPDATE: A few days later, I get a chance to call customer care again. They are once again quite helpful – the senior support person I talked with says this issue screams of “power board failure,” and the display is now on it’s way to repair.

UPDATE 2: The display came back – two parts wound up being replaced. All seems good again. As for the “genius” bar visit – confirmed – a sheer and utter waste of time.

UPDATE 3: But…I spoke too soon. Same problem still exists (and a problem that doesn’t exist with another monitor in its place). I now suspect it’s a power supply issue.

LAST UPDATE: Called customer care. Again. They sent a new power adapter. Plugged it in, and sent the old one back. Five days running, no problem. To think, Apple spent roughly three hours on the phone with me, sent me to the dummy bar, shipped me a box, paid for shipping out and back, and replaced two parts, with no resolution. Then, a stupid little white brick of a power adapter turns out to be the problem. I’ll bet they spent $650 to satisfy the warranty service on a monitor that retails for $900, when they could have just started with the most obvious issue…a power issue. I’m grateful it’s over, but there’s a bigger point at hand – I’d venture to guess that as Apple gains popularity, linearly, their warranty service issues are going to grow, multiplicatively (if not exponentially).

Apple new product summary in fifteen heartbeats

Not particularly favorable.

The world is getting a sexy little laptop with wireless-only connectivity and an irreplaceable battery – the MacBook Air. They are also getting a 1TB drive that works over the radio – the Time Capsule.

This time next year, a bunch of MacBook Air owners will have laptops that lose their charge in twenty minutes, and they’ll have to pay $120 or so to get them fixed. They’ll be looking silly at their next coffee-shop meeting too, when the colleague says “oh I’ve got that file on CD.” Or worse…”I’ve got that file on my portable Firewire drive” (there’s no Firewire on the device either). This convenience have cost them roughly two grand to start.

Meanwhile, a whole bunch of other folks will have nifty storage units sitting on their shelves. They’ll download a 1.4GB movie from iTunes, which takes this user roughly a half-hour, and then they get to stir for another fifteen minutes when they decide to store it for future use. Big drives mean lots of (and big) files – transfer over the airwaves is a pain in the ass, 802.11n or not. I’m shopping for a new backup drive now, and won’t even consider one without (at least) Firewire 400.

It’s a lot of kit that seems destined to waste time as well as money. There’s an economic slowdown in the midst, and by the time people have money to burn there will already be something better out. Technology advances quickly, and I think Apple’s timing is off. Steve Jobs spoke, then Twitter went down? Give me a break – nobody cares.

But how about Apple’s stock price? Down 15 points in the past two days.

Fear and Loathing Is Not A Great Brand Image


No mention of quality control issues, although none of it will make any difference as long as the cheerleaders stay on board.

Apple Stores have gravitational pull on analysts’ brains

I found the whole bit from Piper Jaffray suspect, at best.

It seems PJ completely blew their iPod projection, and the iPod touch isn’t breaking any records either. The analysts failed to mention that Apple was handing out big red sale flyers on Friday which subsequently wound up on shopping mall benches (hence, the draw). And, 5.3 Macs and 1 iPhone per hour – the numbers were 4.3 Macs and 1.3 iPhones per hour in August. Apple could fare no better on what is supposed to be the busiest shopping weekend of the year when compared to a so-so back-to-school sales period, with a “red flyer” sale going on?

There’s more speculation here.

The brand promise of Apple

“Big blogger” gets upset that Apple is all talk, and no social interaction.

I think the bigger issue is that quality control is beginning to suffer. I never thought I would have a problem with an Apple laptop, but I’ve had plenty since the last upgrade (including two repair calls and finally a complete replacement). After owning four separate issue-free Dells over as many years (happily upgrading to the latest and greatest each time) prior to making the OS X switch, one finally came that was DOA. Dell began its slide soon thereafter.

Apple PR machine running in overdrive

Leopard gets grand reviews from three major media outlets in one day:

The Wall Street Journal
The New York Times
USA Today

I’m a Mac user, and I’ve been exclusively so for years now. But none of the new features will have me waiting in line for a box of spots, and the thought that I’ll wind up spending at least hundred extra bucks upgrading incompatible software as well (like I did with Tiger) is another deterent.

Apple’s month it is, but controversy remains

This is where the whole security by obscurity thing really comes into play…

MacWorld is starting, and concurrent with it is comes a beautiful step-child – the Month of Apple Bugs. People are finding bugs in OS X, and others are busy fixing them. That’s great, but you can never make everyone happy – some are questioning the concept of telling the world about the security issues before notifying Apple.

“In the long term, this project is making OS X more secure,” said Gus Mueller, a developer who sells his software through his company Flying Meat. “However, in the short term, these bugs, once shown, can be used destructively.”

So hackers are going to run out and build new exploits, then co-opt their zombie networks for the purpose of capitalizing? Is that what someone is suggesting?

First, that process would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack – Apple computers still make up a small percentage of installs worldwide. Then, you have to target a handful of slightly obscure exploits. If you’re the malcreant, you get started, but have to race Landon Fuller & Co. while they are fixing the exploits. All the while, you are hoping every Apple employee is at MacWorld (i.e nobody at Apple is paying attention to the finds or the fixes).

An unlikely scenario.

Meanwhile, I don’t hear anyone at Apple bitching about this. For those in their security department (if they have one), it should be a party. They’ve got others doing their job for them!

Month of Apple Bugs gets it’s first swat

As a result of the “Month of Apple Bugs” initiative, the first pest has been found (h/t to Slashdot). It is a buffer overflow issue that when applied very carefully, could lead to an “exploitable remote arbitrary code execution condition.”

I won’t opine on exactly what “exploitable remote arbitrary code execution condition” Mac users might face, because I simply don’t know (and the find doesn’t mention any proofs of concept in action). I’ll just take their word for it.

UPDATE: Sounds like the bugs started a while ago.

UPDATE 2: Next, please.

UPDATE 3: The quick fix is deemed a counter-attack. The Month of Apple Bugs is not really an attack, so lets just call all this by an infrequently used term….cooperation.

Apple Wi-Fi still under fire

Code has been released that that exploits a flaw in Apple wi-fi.

Let’s hope it is more legitimate than the last.