It Just Doesn’t Work

Yucky Snow LeopardIf you’ve been reading my blog, you may have me pegged as an Apple fanboy. Sure, I own an iPhone, three Mac computers, and I even have the new Apple TV (a review is on the way). But I can assure you, even though I poo-pooed Windows 7 in my HP Envy review, I am not a blind Apple fanatic.

You’ve heard it before from others, but I’ll say it again: I just appreciate well-made products that make me feel like they’re worth the money I paid for them. So far I’ve had pretty good luck with Apple. Well, until recently.

For the past week and a half my six month old MacBook Pro has been malfunctioning. Here are the symptoms: If there are empty fields on a screen (such as Google’s search field) it will suddenly start filling them up with square box characters. Out of nowhere it starts making “bomping” noises. Bomp bomp bomp bomp bomp bomp bomp. It’s annoying. Worst of all, sometimes drop down menus become unusable.

The “square box character” error really gets out-of-hand sometimes. I bought AppleCare when I got the computer, but I was lazy and never bothered registering it. Well, it turned out that I needed the AppleCare sooner than I had expected. On a recent evening after trying to fix the problems myself (zapping the PRAM, etc.), I decided to register my AppleCare and make a formal tech support call. However, the process wasn’t so smooth. Trying to register was a big mess of box characters filling in fields, and drop down menus that I couldn’t select things from. I ended up needing to take out my five year old PowerBook just to fill out the AppleCare registration forms.

I don’t know why my MacBook Pro is behaving so poorly, but I do know when it started. On October 30th I uploaded a video about the Z96 LED light to YouTube. It was a large file, and it seemed like it was going to take a while to get it uploaded. So late in the evening, just before bedtime, I started the uploading process. I left the computer sitting on the couch running on its battery, with an Ethernet cable plugged into it, with the simple task of uploading a video to YouTube as I slept. A task so basic that even the cheapest netbooks should easily handle it.

When I awoke the next morning, the computer appeared to be in a deep sleep. The screen was black. However, it didn’t awaken when I tapped on its keys and trackpad. I touched the power button, and it did this weird grayed-out screen reboot thing. Anyhow, I restarted the computer again, and it hasn’t worked properly since.

I’m not feeling so lucky. Square box characters run wild on my MacBook Pro.

I’m running 10.6.4 Snow Leopard, and as delighted as I am with some of the features, I have to say that this is the crappiest version of OS X I’ve encountered to date. I started on Jaguar in 2004, and then moved up to Tiger for a number of years. In all of that time, OS X was solid. I maybe crashed once or twice. The issue I’m currently having with Snow Leopard is by far the worst problem I’ve ever had with OS X.

Maybe it’s the success of the iPad and the iPhone. Perhaps Apple has too much on their plate. Maybe their wild cat operating systems have taken a back seat. But it doesn’t matter what the source of the problem is. I can honestly say that if you’re a professional working in the field with an Apple running 10.6.4, you’re taking a risk. Your computer isn’t rock solid. You may be better off with a different choice.

To make matters worse, I really have to say that Apple makes the process of registering AppleCare unnecessarily difficult. It’s pretty cumbersome to have to gather and submit your sales receipt through their website. And I really got peeved when they turned down my first attempt at registration. They claimed that they couldn’t confirm that the receipt I submitted was from an authorized Apple reseller. They would have a point if the company that sold me the computer wasn’t an authorized Apple reseller, but this is not the case. With half an iota of effort, they could have easily have checked to see that I bought my computer from an authorized reseller. They did not. Apple doesn’t care.

So let’s review. I bought a 15″ i5 MacBook Pro six months ago. I tried to upload a video to YouTube, and it caused a terrible error in the machine that I cannot fix on my own. The computer is so screwed up that I can’t even fill out the forms to register my AppleCare. I eventually fill out the AppleCare forms with my five year-old PowerBook, and about four or five days later Apple rejects my form, expressing total disregard to the fact that I have done everything properly. Now I’m back at square one. I own a $2000 computer that’s essentially a useless piece of shit.

So the next time you’re doing mission critical work, relying on your Apple computer to get you through a paying gig, keep this in mind. Don’t get too comfortable if you’re running Snow Leopard. Before you know it you may be entombed in Snow Leopard ice. And don’t have high hopes that a Lion will come along to save the day. That big cat has a lot more potential for problems than its snowy little sister did.

Will I switch to Windows 7 or Ubuntu? No. Probably not. Is the honeymoon over for a longtime Apple user? Yup. Apple is no longer in the circle of trust. I don’t like them apples. :(

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Writer, musician, photo taker and video maker. When not writing somewhat longish articles for this blog, I write incredibly short things on Twitter: @SamMallery

3 thoughts on “It Just Doesn’t Work”

  1. You probably figured this stuff out yourself, but here goes:

    When I awoke the next morning, the computer appeared to be in a deep sleep. The screen was black.

    This is normal. When the battery runs out your mac goes to sleep. Before doing this it dumps the contents of your RAM to your HD incase the battery completely dies.

    However, it didn’t awaken when I tapped on its keys and trackpad. I touched the power button, and it did this weird grayed-out screen reboot thing. Anyhow, I restarted the computer again, and it hasn’t worked properly since.

    This was one of two things: 1) the normal wake from hibernation screen you see when your battery has completely ran out. 2) a kernal panic (the mac equivalent of blue screen of death). Kernal Panics are a warning that you must forcibly restart your computer, this information is presented in several languages.

    Is it your macs fault? maybe not. If you are going to leave your Mac on, plug in the charger.

    What should you do? Before skulking back to another OS, why not try creating a new user account. Try that and see if there are any problems there. Worst case scenario – wipe your startup drive and reinstall OS X. Its not nearly as painful as reinstalling Windows.

    Hope that helps, and thanks for the Z96 vids.

  2. One more thing:
    This could be a hardware problem. Yes apples QC is fairly awful these days, but if you have a problem, you can get it fixed without any extra charge. Usually pretty quickly too. Can you say that of other manufacturers?

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