At one point I was the perfect Apple customer – I owned a Mac Laptop, iPod, iPhone, iPad, iSoul… everything but an AppleTV and Mobile Me account. Apparently it wasn’t enough for the replace-everything-in-two-years business model Apple had set up for their customers. I’m going to try to be as level-headed as I can in this post, but Apple has pushed me to the breaking point this week. I’ll explain….
A couple months back, the vibrate button on my iPhone stopped working. It wasn’t a huge deal, so I didn’t rush to get it fixed. I didn’t realize until later that my missed calls had skyrocketed because I couldn’t hear the ringer in my pocket. So I looked up the issue online and found out it’s fairly common and that Apple would try restoring it first and then replacing it if that didn’t work. I tested the restore solution to find out it didn’t fix anything (it’s like restarting your wireless router. You always try it and then call your internet service provider’s help line to have them tell you to try restarting it. Even though you explain that you already did that, you do it again to amuse them and…. IT’S FIXED! I still have no clue how that works.). Anyway, I took my iPhone into the Apple store to have it replaced. No problem there. The Genius Bar, while usually filled with snarky little mac fanboys, was helpful and quick. I got a replacement 3Gs and it was working, no problems. Although it didn’t have my settings yet, I could still use it before I restored it from my last backup saved the night before.
I get it home and plug it into my PowerBook to restore my settings. I select my backup from the night before and walk away to let it do its thing. A couple minutes later, I check on it and iTunes has stopped syncing. I was expecting this to take the annoying couple hours like it normally does to restore an iPhone, so I immediately knew something was wrong. When I picked up my phone, it was just a black screen with the white apple logo. I couldn’t get to the home screen or even reboot it. It gave me an error saying it was stuck in recovery mode and none of the google searches I did could help me troubleshoot it, so it was time for round 2 at the Genius Bar.
This time the “Genius” Bar wasn’t as helpful. First it was annoying that they made me register an appointment when there was nobody in front of me. I couldn’t just walk up and start talking to someone. I understand why they have that process, but when the store is empty and there are all these employees just standing around, they should just skip that step. Anyway, back to the real issue. I tried explaining what happened to the “Genius”, but like most macboys, his below average listening skills made him miss the part where I told him I was in the day before and this was a broken replacement iPhone. So he went through the same process of trying to restore it and he couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t boot up. By the second time I got through explaining the issue in extreme detail, he got it. He still tried to restore it because that’s apparently the solution to any problem the “Geniuses” have figured out. When the screen turned purple and started flashing green and yellow bars, he finally gave up and replaced the replacement iPhone.
After 30 minutes of this, I was just glad to walk out with a new (read refurbished, but new to me, so who cares) iPhone. Having been without a phone for an entire day, I tried calling my Dad to check in with my family in Cincinnati. The only problem was that I couldn’t hear anything. It said it was “calling”, but I couldn’t hear it ringing. I tried putting it on speakerphone, but that didn’t work. I could play voicemails and music, but nothing was coming out of the ear speaker at the top of the phone. Thankfully I hadn’t even made it half a block away from the Apple store, so I turned back to have the “Geniuses” look into this new problem. Once I got it, they couldn’t believe I was experiencing ANOTHER issue. Thank god this time they didn’t make me check in and didn’t bother restoring the phone. They just gave me another and I was out of the store in 10 minutes.
So now I’m on my third replacement iPhone in 2 days, but at least I didn’t have to pay for any replacements or put anything in the mail. It really could have been a lot worse. Apple’s warranty is the best out there. Period. If I had a Blackberry or Android phone, I would have had to deal with people at an AT&T or Verizon store who know even less about cell phone troubleshooting than Apple Store “Geniuses” and it would have been a much more difficult process to replace my phone. I wasn’t out of the woods though. The issues with my first replacement iPhone came up when I tried syncing it, so I knew that would be the test. I wasn’t going to trust this new phone until all of my music, apps and settings looked like my old phone.
As discussed in my previous post, I am the proud owner of a 15″ PowerBook G4 that I got at the end of my Sophomore year of college. It’s 5.5 years old, but it’s still hanging in there. Sadly, Apple has given it a 10 count and decided they’re done with it. I found this out when I tried upgrading my iPhone from iOS 4.1 to 4.2 and discovered the new update would only work on Mac OS 10.5 and my machine was a 10.4 (and because they switched to Intel processors after the version of my computer, I can’t upgrade to 10.5). To make matters worse, when I clicked on the “Update” button to download the new iPhone update, it acted like I was trying to update iTunes and kept telling me “You already have the latest version of iTunes”. I decided I’d just sync it and deal with the iOS upgrade problem at another time. Except this time iTunes had lost my backup from 2 days earlier! It showed up when I tried syncing the first replacement phone, but this time it was asking me to sync back to November. SUPER annoyed, I selected it anyway, but it only synced my photos, contacts and general settings…. no apps or music!
After making myself a stiff drink, I became determined to ninja my way out of this situation. I’m the DIGITAL ANALYST for Christ’s sake! I can’t let this little machine defeat me. I racked my brain for possible work-arounds to fix my syncing issue since restoring it didn’t work. I figured I’d try upgrading the iOS to 4.2 on my PC laptop. Of course this couldn’t be a simple process either. When iTunes finished downloading the file and was “processing” it, my “network timed out” and couldn’t finish downloading the file. I tried re-downloading it, restarting iTunes, restarting my computer… nothing worked. I googled the issue and a forum said to disable my Antivirus temporarily and that should fix it. While it did fix it and iTunes finished downloading the update, I was still annoyed I needed to disable my Antivirus protection in the first place. It’s a standard Antivirus program called Kaspersky that is given away with every laptop sold at Best Buy, so I know I’m not the only person who experienced the issue, but I digress…
I finished downloading the update and upgraded my phone to iOS 4.2. Hoping this would solve the sync issues I was having with my PowerBook, I plugged it in and crossed my fingers, but of course, nothing comes easy. Upgrading to iOS 4.2 made my iPhone completely incompatible with my old computer. iTunes won’t even recognize it and just spits an error back at me any time I try to make them play nice.
At this point, you must be wondering why I don’t just sync it with my new computer. Here’s why…. my iTunes music folder is saved on an external hard drive. I keep all my files there so if anything were to happen to my old laptop, everything important would be backed up externally. So when I got my new computer, I tried connecting it to the external hard drive, but nothing happened. The computer saw that something had been plugged in, but it wouldn’t let me open a folder or anything. Turns out, formatting it to work with my PowerBook made it incompatible with any 64-bit Windows operating system. So I couldn’t transfer the files or even access them from my new computer. I discovered this issue when I first bought this laptop and again tried to troubleshoot it online, download new drivers, etc. etc., but nothing worked. Since I don’t have a “Genius” Bar for my Samsung Laptop, I talked to the IT guy at my work.
Turns out that I could plug the hard drive into a new Mac and it would recognize it because the new Macs with intel processors have a driver necessary to read old Mac hard drives. So the solution was that I’d have to first transfer the files to a newer Mac with an intel processor, then reformat the hard drive to work with my PC, then transfer the files from the newer Mac back to my hard drive. That should in theory work.
Until I can get that worked out, I’m going to have to be patient. At least this phone seems to work, so I won’t have to go back and deal with any other “Geniuses”. A problem for the interim was that I don’t really use my phone as a phone. I really use it for the apps. I’m addicted to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, HuffingtonPost and Solitaire, so without those apps, my phone feels worthless. Well, while I was updating my iOS, I changed the email address used as my login from an old account to a newer one, thinking it wouldn’t be an issue. Sadly, I changed it right after my phone had synced, so it was still using my old email address as my iTunes username and I couldn’t change it to my new one.
This was an easy problem though. I’d just re-sync my phone and it would recognize my new iTunes account settings. Easy peasy one two thre…. ERROR! I guess Apple thought I hadn’t experienced enough crazy-stupid issues over the past 24 hours, so it tossed this curveball at me. It was saying I needed verify my account AND that my account was verrified in the SAME ERROR MESSAGE! Had hell just frozen over? I couldn’t believe it. Of course I turned to Google and found a post from someone having the same issue:
I really thought I’d seen it all, but this was a new level of WTF APPLE?! I followed the steps from the linked issue above and finally fixed my iTunes account after working on it for close to an hour. At least now I’ve downloaded my most important apps, so I can make it through until I transfer my external hard drive and can restore from my backup registered in November. I’m not even expecting to recover the backup I made 3 nights ago… part of me is just giving up after all of these iSsues.
For those of you who have made it this far into my longest post here, I apologize for the rant. You’re probably thinking, “You’re the Digital Analyst dude. You should understand tech becomes obsolete and buy gadgets more often” and there’s some truth to that. My problem with this whole situation is that it could have been avoided, but Apple decided my computer was obsolete. It wasn’t that it stopped working or that iTunes wouldn’t work on it or anything else. I mean, it’s not even 6 years old. I’m mad because I bought a $2000+ laptop 5 years ago and assumed it would work for at least this long, but really I expected it to go 7 years before I recycled it for the metal. I expect 2 year life cycles on iPods and iPhones, but a computer is a much bigger investment.
Is 5 years the maximum shelf life we can expect from computers now? I’m sure if I asked a “Genius” at an Apple Store that they’d tell me their new MacBook Pros will last longer than that, because that’s what they told me when I bought my PowerBook 5 years ago. That’s why I upgraded the ram when it started slowing down. That’s why I manually took the entire machine apart to replace the keyboard after some coke had been spilled on it. I invested time and money into keeping that laptop chugging along, but then Apple decides to stop supporting Mac OS 10.4 and I’m screwed.
What would happen if Microsoft decided to stop supporting Windows XP? People would be up in arms! Rioting in the streets. They bought computers 5 years ago that still work just fine today and then Microsoft decides to drop them? That’s not how you treat customers who have been loyal to your product for this long. Of course Microsoft will eventually stop supporting XP and new updates will only be available for Vista and Windows 7 computers, but at least they’re supporting their products and proving that they can still works 5 years later.
Although I have always vehemently disagreed, some have called me a Mac Fanboy in the past. I resent this label because I think it represents a very immature, biased and unbalanced perspective on consumer electronics. I’m not saying all Mac Fanboys are like that, but c’mon… we’ve all been in an Apple store when one of the customer service reps goes on a tirade about how bad Microsoft and Windows are, blah blah blah. They couldn’t find a nice word to say about Steve Ballmer if their life depended on it. I like to think that I approach my decision-making a little more balanced than that. If you look at my desk though, it’s a sea of Apple… (once upon a time, an iPad) iPods, an iPhone 3Gs, Airport Extreme and my dear PowerBook. I got my PowerBook when I was a Sophomore in college 5 years ago. When you’ve had a machine for that long, you form a special bond with it. It’s seen me through a study abroad, college graduation, 3 cross-country moves, love and heart break, joy and disappointment. It survived a lot of life experiences that I didn’t always think I’d make it out of. The only big thing I’ve owned longer was my second car (8 years).
THAT SAID, I wasn’t always happy with my PowerBook because I got the last model before they started using Intel chips, so I couldn’t upgrade to the newest OS. I was content with my Tiger, but slowly the Internet left my computer in the dust. The first major frustration I had with my PowerBook was that it was too old to sync with my iPad (RIP), but the kicker was when I was no longer able to watch streaming video of any quality without it going haywire. The battery also died, so it had to be plugged in all the time, and there was a major kernel issue where it would shut down without warning and only turn on when it felt like it (I swear…. I tried all sorts of voodoo, witchcraft, karma, prayer and incense, but no key combination, trouble-shooting guide or mac fanboy had a solution for me). This morning, I decided enough is enough! I need to buy a new computer.
I had been shopping around and weighing options for a couple months anyway, debating whether I’d get a MacBook Pro or pick up an iMac and use a iPad for mobile computing. I’d had a laptop since I went to college, but the more I thought about what I needed from a computer, portability wasn’t high on the list. I had reasoned that I could save the money on a MacBook Pro (my customized version cost about $2,350 before taxes… 15″ high-res antiglare screen, 2.53 GHz Core i5, upgraded 7200rpm hard drive with MSFT Office), and just get an iMac ($1400… 21.5″ screen, 3.06 GHz, trackpad + magic mouse with MSFT Office). My rational for making my home computer immobile was that I used my iPhone for any personal mobile computing needs and that I could use a laptop from work when I needed it.
Well, speaking of that work laptop, I have it set up right next to my poor old broken PowerBook and after a YouTube video wouldn’t load 2 nights ago, I decided to switch over and use the work laptop more regularly. It’s nothing special… just a Dell Lattitude E5500, but it gets the job done and while writing a couple emails this morning, it dawned on me that there wasn’t ANY reason for me to buy a Mac over a PC. So I went out and after a couple hours at two Best Buys, I picked up a Samsung Q430 laptop for $799 ($850 after MS Office). I put a lot of thought into what my specific needs from a computer were and decided I just didn’t need to spend the money on a Mac. I’m going to avoid comparing specs and weighing processor speeds against screen resolutions. Here are the major reasons I switched back to a PC:
7 Reasons I Bought a PC Instead of a Mac
1.) PRICE – After measuring the space on my desk and reading an article about unemployed people my age, I decided I couldn’t go with an iMac to save money because I would eventually need a laptop and a desktop is too limited. I’d have to buy a netbook or laptop to compliment it eventually anyway, so once that decision was made, I was left staring at a $2350 laptop, wondering whether it was actually worth that much money. Considering the quality of laptops Sony and Samsung were producing, I simply couldn’t justify buying a laptop 3X more expensive when the only discernable difference performance wise for me would be a 9 hour battery life vs. a 4 hour battery life.
2.) MICROSOFT OFFICE 2010 – This was an area where Microsoft just flat-out beat Mac. Fanboys will defend iWork until they’re blue in the face, but Keynote just simply isn’t on the same level as PowerPoint. Microsoft really nailed the user-interface when they redesigned the Office suite. I’ve stayed late at the office many nights because I had a PowerPoint presentation I needed to edit and I knew it would be a million times easier and quicker to just do it on my PC at work than try to work in Keynote or even the Mac Office suite. Anyone who’s worked with the Mac Office applications know they’re designed nothing like the PC experience, which I found very frustrating. Most of the functionality is in the Mac version as far as I can tell, but it really made me appreciate how well organized PowerPoint is on the PC. If I bought a Mac, I’d have to run Parallels so I could use Microsoft Office within Windows (additional costs not incorporated into the already crazy price tag…. see reason #1).
The new Office 2011 suite for Mac looks like a significant upgrade over the older versions, so I’ll have to walk back some of my criticism on the Mac office experience. The old Office suite really did affect my Mac experience so much that I thought it was all a plan at Microsoft to get consumers to switch back to Windows. Obviously, that didn’t seem sane enough to write in the first version of this post, but that’s how frustrating the old Office apps were on a Mac.
3.) APPS – This was probably the straw that broke this camel’s back (aside from reason #1). Getting a new MacBook Pro meant I’d get all of the iLife applications, which I was pretty excited about. The new Mac OS applications are great, but I don’t see as much value in native computer apps anymore. When I really look at my day-to-day life, I use Google for email, contacts, calendar and to-do’s,in addition to storing/organizing files. I still have to use Excel, PowerPoint and Word, but those are basically the only non-web based programs I run regularly besides iTunes and TweetDeck. When I thought about all of those programs, most of the PC apps were either on par or head and shoulder above their counterparts on a Mac. I was excited about getting iPhoto for a while, but realized I don’t take many pictures, and when I do take them, I upload them to Facebook immediately. I wanted to use Flickr or Picasa, but neither site really stuck with me for some reason. Now that Facebook has begun seriously upgrading their Photos app, my next major personal project will be to upload every single picture I own to Facebook albums. Similarly, I’ll just upload my videos to YouTube and save anything else in folders on my external hard drive.
4.) PRICE – Did I mention I saved over $1,400?
5.) WINDOWS 7 – You have to give credit where credit is due, and Windows 7 is a quality operating system. Microsoft was able to correct many of the annoyances of Vista (thank God I’ve barely seen any pop-ups since setting this bad boy up). It’s clean. It’s well-organized. It’s not as pretty as Snow Leopard, but it’s not the ugly step-child either. I spend most of my time looking at tabs in Chrome anyway, so the aesthetics of it all aren’t too important to me in the end. I just need it to work.
6.) VIRUSES – Many people cite this as the main reason they switch from a PC to a Mac, but over the past couple years, I haven’t gotten a single virus on any PC I’ve used because I always have some sort of baseline virus protection and I’m not an idiot. If I don’t know who sent me an email, I’m certainly not going to open the attachment. You can avoid most viruses with simple common sense. Make sure you’re downloading from secure websites, read the comments on Torrent files if you choose to risk it, and set up a little protection from mal-ware. It’s not that difficult. Macs might not have as many vulnerabilities to viruses, but they do exist and as Mac’s share of the market increases, they’re turning into a bigger and bigger target for malicious programmers.
7.) PRICE – Just in case you missed points 1 and 4, $2,350 minus $950 is $1,400. I just paid for a vacation to Costa Rica that I’ve been planning for over a year! I just really couldn’t find any justification in spending an extra $1,400 for a MacBook Pro. It felt like buying a BMW when the new Honda Accords look pretty snazzy and still get you from point A to point B. Sure, BMW’s are beautiful, well built machines. I have nothing against BMW. I hope to one day own one even, but I couldn’t justify buying one right now and I couldn’t justify buying a Mac either.
I’m still a big fan of Apple, but right now, their computer products just aren’t as differentiated as the rest of their product lines. The iPod, iPhone and iPad all have rivals on the market, but I don’t think any other devices are on the same level (Android is close, but the variance of quality in their apps are holding them back).
I’ve spent the day setting up and “breaking in” my new Samsung laptop, and so far I couldn’t be happier with my purchase. I wrote this post with it and the more I type, the more I fall in love with it. I couldn’t believe how many mid-size laptops tried to cram a full number pad onto the keyboard. It pushed everything off center, throwing off the spacing and how you look at the screen. I was not a fan at all. Some companies still design really poor laptops (I’m looking at you Dell, HP, Toshiba and Gateway… I trust those brands about as far as I can throw them), but Samsung and Sony both design beautiful machines that are reliable and perform well. What more can you really ask for (aside from a $1,400 rebate)?
I’m curious though. I hear about people switching from PC to Mac all the time, but I haven’t heard as many instances where people switch back to a PC after having a Mac. It’s time to speak up! Why did you switch back? Do you regret it or miss anything about having a Mac? Please post your experiences and thoughts to the comments section.
If we analyze the evolution of technology in the same way Darwin studied our biological evolution, the adoption of new technology starts looking more organic than we might have originally thought. The genetics of our digital evolution is the actual hardware and software available to us, but many people make the same mistake as those just starting their study of evolution when they place too much emphasis on the technology available and not enough on the environmental factors affecting the expression of that technology in the marketplace. The environmental factors affecting the evolution of tech are primarily economic in nature, but also include our ability to understand and assimilate new technology into our everyday lives.
Earlier technological developments like the printing press and even the television when it first came out were not as universally available due to their high cost of entry. Technology like these changed human life profoundly, but not as ubiquitously as the effect that the Internet will have in our lifetime. Whereas the printing press made it easier for us to transfer knowledge and the television provided a window into another world outside our own, the Internet combines the power of those two devices by mediating knowledge transfer in a world that both exists outside our world and all around it. The Internet is no longer relegated to being a glorified yellow pages and encyclopedia. Mobile and wireless technology is integrating the internet into nearly all aspects of our experience.
We are creatures of habit and the integration of the Internet into our home, work and social life can leave many feeling lost in the change around them. Habits are healthy for us though. They are grounding and help us understand exactly who we are and how we relate to our environment. They are an ounce of stability in the sea of change that we call our lives. However, they are also stubborn and create frames of reference that are hard to break, even when confronted with overwhelming evidence. Digital technology adoption is difficult for most people because it challenges the very framework of how we view and live our lives.
One concrete example of technology challenging the framework in my life is my foray into Twitter and location based services like Foursquare. Even though tweets are similar to text messages, it took a while for me to understand the public relationship I wanted to have with my followers and friends on Facebook. I’ve become pretty comfortable with Twitter, but as soon as one technology is assimilated, another emerges to challenge you. The latest challenge to my frame of reference is the location-based game, Foursquare. For those who are unfamiliar with Foursquare, it’s a game you play with your cell phone where you get points and badges for checking into stores, restaurants or areas you visit in real life. The controversial part for most people is that it can broadcast your location to anyone you’re friends with in the game, or post it as a status update to your Twitter account (and to Facebook in my case because my tweets update my status there). I’m slowly figuring out which information I broadcast and which I keep private, but it has certainly been a challenge to find the balance.
What technology has challenged you recently? How is technology changing the way you live your life?