A 2nd Look At The 'Squeezable' PowerBook G4

Donit raise your voice when you should reinforce your argument.

Quoted by John M. Shanahan,
in the Most Brilliant Thoughts
of All Time (In Two Lines or Less)

Written in the 4th Century B. C., Aristotleis seminal work titled Rhetoric describes effective principles of written and spoken communication still respected, taught, and followed to this very day.

It was here that Aristotle set forth the three types of classic appeals for persuasion practiced by students of both logic and oratory:

  • logos, persuasive appeals to the listenersi logic and reason
  • pathos, persuasive appeals to the listenersi emotions, in order to cast the speaker/writer in a more favorable light
  • and ethos, persuasive appeals to the listenersi belief that the speaker/writer is credible

Keep this in mind as you read on.

I took seriously the criticism in reply to my editorial last week concerning perceived problems with the PowerBookis DVD-ROM/CD-ROM drive. Instead of getting upset with the ad hominen attacks, I decided to take them to heart and consider the possibility that I didnit see what I saw. :-)

  1. Last week, I wrote that tilting the computer 90 degrees causes the optical drive to screech. Mea culpa. That was an obvious exaggeration. You donit even have to tilt the machine 5 degrees.
  2. People accuse me of basing my editorial upon unsubstantiated testing. I went back and reread what I wrote, and I explicitly wrote that I observed what customers and Macophiles experienced in a computer store. But again, donit worry, I went in Saturday and personally tested the machine with bystanders.

I wonit recant anything that I wrote last, since I canit dispute the evidence of my senses.

"Yep, thatis definitely a design flaw"

At the local Micro Center, we have a PowerBook G4 400 MHz machine. At Micro Center, laptops arenit in immobilized cages like at CompUSA and other stores. Their display machines are attached to anti-theft cables, sure, but users are able to handle the machine the way they normally would -- pick them up, turn them over, etc.

So, I took advantage of this freedom of movement, just like my friends did last week.

I opened the PowerBook. I made sure that a DVD or CD was in the drive. There was, so I launched the Apple DVD Player.

I made sure not to do anything out of the ordinary. I started the movie, and then picked up the laptop. My right handis thumb was over the area of the disk drive; my other four fingers gripped the iBook below.

As I picked it up, the case pressed against the disk, and the disk began to grind.

I set it back down. I picked it up again. While the movie was playing still, I mimicked another common movement: moving the computer from one place to the other as one walks through the house. Again, I had to pick up the computer. This time, I intentionally did not grab it near the DVD drive. As the machine titled clockwise about 5 degrees or so, the grinding began again.

Iid seen enough. I then observed customers coming in to fondle the laptop.

I watched one man show another the battery slot on the bottom of computer (the movie was still playing). Again, grating sounds could be heard.

Other customers did similar movements. Nearly all wanted to lift the machine to test its weight. Nearly every time, the customer produced the grating sounds. Not once did I mention the alleged problems before nor after they played with the laptop.

There was one customer nearby, a regular Mac Observer reader, I discovered. I asked him if heid read my last column. He had. I asked him to test the machine and prove me wrong.

He easily duplicated what I had observed.

There really isnit much more that can be done. Hereis the deal: at Micro Center, we install software in all of our system for you to test-drive them. We connect them to printers, speakers, scanners, and other off-the-shelf products. In other words, we allow you to truly try before you buy. Hardly any of the major chains do this, so why would you be surprised that only at this Micro Center has this problem been experienced?

As I write this, I have before me a page from MacInTouch, in which issues are being reported with the DVD-ROM drive not ejecting disks properly. A coincidence?

As MacInTouch wisely admonishes readers, "If you buy a [PowerBook] G4 from a dealer, it would be worth testing the DVD drive before you leave the store."

Like I said last time, I hope Iim wrong. I want a PB G4. But if what Iive been seeing is true, I wonit buy one until the next revision.

Sure, this isnit a scientific study. Iid have to have control groups and experimental groups. Iid have to test many machines in many situations. Meanwhile, I stand by my anecdotal proof. Donit write, flaming me about 90-degree tilts and "viewing movies upside down." Mea culpa. Okay, I exaggerated, and I deserved the grief you gave me.

But letis not avoid the issue. I challenge someone out there to run in-depth tests on the problems Iive detailed. I have no problem being proven wrong.

I think we journalists owe this to the buying public.

Better yet, why donit you, gentle reader, go to a local computer store, ask a store employee to put a CD or DVD in the drive bay and conduct your own unscientific experiment?

But please donit dismiss it summarily just because you donit like what I say nor the way I say it. Either prove me wrong, or we can just wait until customers begin lodging complaints or applying for refunds or RMAs.

Apple no longer has to worry about becoming irrelevant in the foreseeable future of the industry. Since Apple is here to stay, though, nowis the time to stop fawning over every product Apple makes and, instead, hold the company accountable to be the responsible corporate citizen it should be.