23 March 2012


Apple may be the most valuable company in the world today, but in my view this is, ironically, despite its computer business. Awhile back the screen died suddenly on my MacBookPro one day and I found myself staring at 17 inches of  darkness wondering what to do. To make a long story short, after some frantic calls it turned out that the computer was unrepairable since the graphics chip was part of the motherboard and couldn’t be replaced. After mulling things over it occurred to me that the hard disk was probably okay, so I had no choice but to buy yet another computer, transfer whatever I had on my last Time Machine backup,  (an Apple device of course), and then remove the hard disk from the “old” computer and rig up something to connect it to the new computer, to retrieve the rest of my work, which I eventually did successfully. But I decided I was not going to buy another MacBookPro, because there’s talk of a new version in the spring and I’m not going to get stuck with suddenly obsolete stuff this time, if I can help it. 

This problem in some ways contributed to my hiatus from here for awhile, as I attempted to try working on my IPad with a bluetooth keyboard, (that being a nearly new IPad2 which of course lately has been replaced with a new version).  But trying to do any kind of serious writing on an IPad, even with an external keyboard, is sheer torture, so apart from some usefulness with Email when traveling, for me at least it is, mostly an expensive reader. Yet I still seem to go for their latest gizmo, as jaded as I am. (By the way, as I’m typing I notice that Apple’s own word processor, Pages, has a spell checker that doesn’t recognize the name of its own product).
Just like my previous model, the MacBookPro died shortly after three years, just when the Extended Warranty I bought expired. I won’t do that again because these things are apparently built to last three years anyway. I don’t remember how many laptops I’ve been through, but it goes back to the original. For that matter I can’t count how many computers I’ve been through since the first Apple II, but let’s just take the Mac. The first one came out with only 128k of memory, replaced a few months later by a 512k version (yes that’s kilobytes), but since the thing was sealed there wasn’t much you could do about it if you had the first one. Worse, when they did come out with versions that were more or less “upgradeable” they used a proprietary bussing system for internal boards you could insert, so that when they periodically would suddenly change to a new bussing system you would be stuck with a truckload of obsolete peripherals. Nevertheless I got snookered by Apple so many years ago that I’ve got too much invested in software to even think about changing. How about the first of the IPods? That was another very expensive turkey, and you’d laugh if you saw it now.  Until very recently Apple survived mainly by maintaining a user base of suckers like me that would keep shelling out for their stuff. The moral of the story is that you should never buy the first version of an Apple product.  
Sure things keep changing due to progress and improvements, at least sometimes, and three years is a long time in computer terms, but not for a product that costs what these things do. There was very little functional difference between my prior titanium laptop and this one, or the one before that. All of them did the identical things and the improvements were totally under the hood, and nominal, so there is no reason why such a device should not last longer, even with heavy use, like say, a television or refrigerator. 
This is not a total screed against Apple. But while waiting for the next MacBookPro to come out, instead of going for the highest end model this time I bought the lowest, a Mac Mini, at about 1/6th of the cost, threw out the Apple memory and installed 8gb (not from Apple). I figure to eventually use this as a media server when I get a new laptop because I hate having a desktop computer screen in my library. The memory isn’t overkill because its cheap and I need the power at the moment. I’ve had it on continuously and frankly I’m amazed at how much I am able to do with it. It runs cool and quiet and at this point is a definite bargain if you’re looking at one. 
Finally, I recently completed a project that may require a fairly large batch of touchscreen computers, based on porting over particular software. I quickly needed a document for service partnerships. I called HP and spent half a day getting told “it’s not my department without providing any other useful information from several different employees, all of whom had the almost sullen, indifferent attitude of many government bureaucrats. Then I called Apple. One person in I got a cheery “sure no problem” response. I guess that comes with the territory of a company riding high as the world’s most popular brand at the moment, though not because of of computers but rather all their other gizmos. So Apple may be “cool,” but don’t spend too much money, and again never buy the first version of an Apple product!

UPDATE: I did it again. I subsequently bought another MacBookPro for a lot of money, but not the latest retina version, which to me is just an expensive Macbook Air. Since that didn't come with the 17" screen I'm used to now, I bought the last version of the 17" model. In addition it is apparently also the last model with a Firewire 800 port, for various peripherals Apple made us invest in the first place. I then bought a Solid State drive and took out the Apple hard drive, and took out the memory and put in 16 GB, so they thing is super powerful. Yes, I like it, but not the cost.

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