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My 'Wallstreet' PowerBook Just Died... And I Just Finished Paying For It!

My 'Wallstreet' PowerBook Just Died... And I Just Finished Paying For It!

by , 9:00 AM EDT, August 3rd, 2001

Many a truth is spoken in jest.


Praise and criticism are both frauds.


Brothers and sisters, my heart is heavy. At 6:40 p.m., on July 20, my PowerBook G3 "Wallstreet" died, leaving me behind as a distraught spouse.

According to psychologists, whenever a loved one dies, the survivors go through what's termed the "Grieving Process." There are several stages to this process. One stage is called, simply, "Anger." In this stage, the survivor goes through a phase of asking, "Why did you leave me?" or "How could you do this to me?" There are other stages, consisting of various emotions, thoughts and actions common to those who've just lost a dear friend or family member. I've pretty much gone through all of that; now that I'm more objective about this "death," I am wondering about the cause of death. My conclusions are maddening.

My conclusions led to my current anger at the parents of the deceased: Apple Computer. I bought my PowerBook in March of 1999. That means that the thing was a little over two years old when it died. Is two years an acceptable life span for a computer? Of course not, and I blame Apple somewhat for this brief life span.

Why do I blame Apple? God, where to do I start?

To be fair, my PowerBook was a trusty workhorse, often accompanying me on trips, to work, to the park, to the bookstore, on vacations. I probably don't want to know how much I've spent on upgrades, since the thing was meant to last a while:

  1. the factory 2 Gig hard drive went to 6 Gig
  2. the factory 32 MB of RAM went to 288 MB
  3. a media bay Zip drive
  4. a media bay 6 Gig hard drive
  5. a Lucent AirPort card
  6. a Bookendz docking station
  7. a USB PCMCIA card
  8. an extra battery
  9. a battery charger

Here's where things went wrong.

Many months ago, while preparing to use my laptop, I opened the lid and heard a loud "snap!" From that point on, my display hinge had very little tension in it to hold the display open. I've written about this elsewhere, so I won't rehash it. I lived with the fact that my display can't be opened below or beyond certain angles.

Then other things happened.

I noticed that I had problems with it going to sleep -- namely, it would not awake from sleep mode. Here's the deal. I'd be at home, typing away on my laptop, with my AC adaptor plugged in. I'd put the PowerBook to sleep, unplug the AC adaptor and put it all into my backpack. I'd drive to, say, the library. I'd open my PowerBook and see the LED throbbing in cadence with some unknown metronome. Knowing that my batteries were fully charged, I'd press a key to wake it up. Nothing would happen. I'd press another key. Nothing. Then, I force the machine to reboot (three-finger salute). Nothing. Disgusted, I'd pack my stuff, drive all the way back home. On a hunch, I'd plug the AC adaptor in. As soon as I plugged it in, the fan would come on for a few seconds, and then the computer would essentially shut down. Puzzled, I'd press the power button, and it fired up right away.


The above happened sporadically. I thought nothing of it and life went on. Then it got worse.

Last month, I noticed that my battery wasn't charging when my AC adaptor was plugged in (there's a control strip that indicated charging, etc.). As a test, I left the AC plugged in and popped out my battery. The laptop died immediately. I unplugged and plugged back in the AC adaptor. I tried booting up the machine (battery still popped out). Nothing.

I knew it wasn't my AC adaptor, because I had a brand new one (a customer at Micro Center needed to catch a plain in a few hours on a Sunday, and needed a replacement AC adaptor for his Wallstreet. I sold him mine and bought the one that I currently have).

Anyway, I knew that my AC adaptor wasn't bad, but just to be sure, I went ahead and requested one of those replacement adaptors that Apple is giving out like candy.

Still, nothing.

Oh, well, I thought, I can at least run the machine off the batteries. I then went and bought a battery charger for my two batteries. I received that, charged up my batteries, and put them in. I pressed the power button. Nothing, dammit.

By now, I am cursing Steve Jobs and various members of his family who undoubtedly had nothing to do with my PowerBook problems. I pronounced a pox on Woz, Sculley, Spindler and Amelio for good measure.

I look at the stack of PowerBook peripherals that will never work with any newer Apple laptop, and I subsequently begin to curse out Apple's Board of Directors, by name. THIS is for YOU, Larry Ellison! THIS is for YOU, Bill Campbell!

I'm mad.

I could probably get the laptop fixed, according to a Mac-loving friend at Microsoft. But, I shouldn't have to be affecting such repairs just two years into the life of this thing. Where's the quality that Apple espouses? My screen hinge is a known and widespread issue. Also, my AC problems are a known and documented issue.

Yet, Apple will do nothing about either problem.

If I were to go to Apple, the third thing they would tell me is that this problem is due to user error. In other words, it is my fault that the AC doesn't work. I was probably pushing it in too hard (they say this while they go and correct the problem on every subsequent laptop; notice that this problem isn't reported with any laptop after the Wallstreet. Nice CYA, Apple).

What's that? What're the first and second things Apple told me, you ask? Oh, I thought everyone knew those:

  1. your computer is no longer under the one-year warranty, so we can't help you
  2. you don't have an extended AppleCare warranty, so we can't help you.

In light of 1) and 2), I know for a fact that they wouldn't get to telling me that third thing. I found that out from an Apple-certified technician who's dealt with this issue mucho times.

There are two lessons here for me -- one I've learned from this experience; the second is an outgrowth of this experience.

Lesson #1: Get an AppleCare warranty from now on. And use it to the hilt for every hiccup your computer has. I have AppleCare on my Cube and flat-panel display. I've sent that damned Cube to Apple twice for the same problem in one week (couldn't boot from any CD with the display plugged in -- never mind that I had my share of problems with the documented on-off switch). Extended warranties are like insurance policies -- and I despise insurance policies -- as soon as you are "driving" without it, something will happen that requires that you have it. Damned if you do; damned if you don't. Don't leave home without it.

Lesson #2: My next laptop will not be a "Revision A" model. That means I will not be getting a PowerBook G4 or iBook anytime soon, since both are first versions. Before I get one, I will make sure that the thing has been out for a while, depending instead on the rest of you to be Apple's guinea pigs. Even so, that will be hard enough with Apple, since, iMacs notwithstanding, its hardware morphs faster than Monica Lewinski can... well, you know what I mean.

For some of you, this is probably the first time you've ever heard me say anything negative about Apple. Don't worry. I'll resume the cheerleading tomorrow.

But, today, dammit, I demand my moment of ire.

I understand that the Law of Averages dictates that due to the nature of mass production, there will be a small percentage of product that is faulty (don't let me tell you how many times I saw Rev. A iMacs returned at CompUSA with faulty analog boards), but why does it have to happen to me? Why can't it be that guy who can afford to buy a new laptop every year? Hell, I just finished paying for this thing. For me, buying computers are as bad as buying a car nowadays -- both are done on the installment plan. These days, I guess it's safe to say that we now have three major payments in our lives: the car payment, the house payment and now the computer payment.

Welcome to the digital lifestyle; I hope you can survive -- and afford -- the experience.

With this rant, Rodney O. Lain has destroyed any chance whatsoever of being Steve Jobs's personal valet and all-around flunky. Lucky for him that he still has his job as a regular columnist for The Mac Observer, via his "iBrotha" column.

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