Friday, February 10, 2006

Techno Updates from the Past Few Days

As of Wednesday night:
The technological chaos of the past three weeks is ending at last. Michele found her cell phone, missing since January 19. My laptop is on its way back from Apple repair (got wet January 26); it should be at the Apple store Thursday. Our DSL, out for a week, has been repaired.

The laptop is not fixed, but at least we know what’s wrong with it—and why it didn’t bounce back from the wetting, as so many iBooks do. Apparently the plastic frame holding the LCD screen is cracked. Thus the tiny trickle of dampness got into the LCD itself—creating the most expensive possible repair. Sigh. They offered to fix the plastic for the original $300 estimate, but what would be the point of that? There was no way I could spring for the nearly $800 to replace the screen.

However, now that we know what the problem is, we may be able to find another way to fix the screen. Several trustworthy sources replace screens for $350 or so, including labor. The question is whether it’s worth the money, given that I can use the iBook as a desktop machine simply by hooking it to the monitor (plus wireless keyboard and mouse) I already own. But I will need a laptop for the trip east.

I’m amused that our high-tech problems are correlated with ancient astrological systems. There’s a T-square of outer planets in fixed signs that’s making 2006 memorable already. Occasionally some hapless planet will transit the empty spot and make a Grand Cross—a brief one every month, when the Moon crosses that sensitive spot, but several longer-lasting ones. Mars was just there, making combative aspects with Neptune in Aquarius, Jupiter in Scorpio, and Saturn in Leo.

As of Friday:

The iBook arrived in Emeryville yesterday. This morning I got email informing me that it was going back to be fixed, with a new repair number. Damn—clearly they'd received it, tested it, and sent it back as unrepaired. I could foresee months or years of this circuit, my iBook becoming a high-tech Flying Dutchman. So I called Apple this morning, and they promised to look into it.

I sat on hold for a while, listening first to some good hot jazz, then to a dreadful song by Barbra Streisand and the BeeGees named "Stranger in a Strange Land." Then the customer-service rep came back and explained that the iBook was being fixed for free. Apple will pay for the repair, since it was only a few months out of warranty.

They have my undying loyalty.

To be honest, they had it already. Apple products consistently work well, because they are elegantly designed, inside and out. The user interface standards are superb; for example, you never have to guess what will happen when you click OK, because the buttons are labeled with the action, not with generic consent.

Some people complain that Apple products may be a bit more expensive, but when I researched the issue, looking for a new laptop, I discovered that the iBook was actually competitively priced. Unlike many cheaper Windows laptops, it already included the wireless card, the sound card, all the things I wanted. Also, they hold their value; this iBook is fifteen months old, and I could sell it for very close to what I paid for it.

Every customer-service person I've ever dealt with at Apple has been courteous, competent, and thoughtful. Their corporate policy seems to be kindness. Or maybe they're just lonely. This is only the third time I've had a repair. After I'd had it for five or six years, the Apple IIe broke down; I've forgotten now what had to be replaced, but it cost $300. After eight years, it died completely; that was my second repair. And now this.

In more than twenty years of consistent, heavy usage, I've never found an Apple product that was a lemon. Think about it: since January 1984 I've spent almost every workday, most evenings, and many weekend days using an Apple computer. That's a minimum of eight or ten hours a day, and sometimes far more. I've written manuscripts and grad school papers, generated horoscope charts, run online forums, edited documents, designed and typeset books, created graphics, played games, and surfed the Internet. I've fallen in love. And despite that extremely heavy usage, the constant work, and the occasional cat strolling on the keyboard, I've had three problems. Three.

I can't think of any other product I've used so consistently and heavily that's given so little trouble. I've had refrigerators that were more demanding. And they don't play me music, or let me talk to people on the other side of the world, or offer me a nice game of chess.

Apple. They have my heart. And when the current book sells, I've got my eye on a 20-inch iMac.

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