Nancy Explains The Genius Bar

As of this writing there are 161 Apple retail stores in the U.S., 9 in the U.K., 7 in China, 4 in Canada, and 1 in Italy. They even have their own Web site. That adds up to 181 Genius Bars, full of trained Mac technicians ready and willing to help diagnosis and solve your computer problems. Most of them at no charge. Geniuses are all trained at the Apple headquarters in California.

If you have a serious problem and your computer is out of warranty and you donit have Apple Care, then it is going to cost you money to get your computer repaired. That is the real world, but a lot of time our "computer problems" are really our own lack of knowledge or information and the Geniusi can quickly tell us what to do to get back to work. (See my personal example at the end of this column and learn from my error in judgment.)

How Does It Work

I have discovered that some new users are not sure how the whole Genius bar thing works so here is a mini tutorial. You have to make an appointment. I have seen people throw temper tantrums in the store because they expected to walk in and get help immediately. They look like idiots. I think the only thing you can get done anymore without an appointment is a car wash.

To get an appointment you sign up at the Apple Genius Bar web site. There you choose the store close to you and schedule an appointment time. If your computer is completely non functioning and you donit have access to another one, you can go into the store and sign on to a computer and schedule an appointment. If you donit have a ProCare card you have to wait until the day you need an appointment to make it (starting at midnight of that day). With a ProCare card you can schedule up to 14 day in advance.

Then just show up for your appointment, computer in hand. Get there about 10 minutes before your scheduled time. You will see your name displayed on a large LCD screen and your name will be called when it gets to the top of the list. It you have a heavy desktop model and are unable to carry it by yourself, store personnel will even help you get it inside (get there early enough to get your machine in the store before your appointment time).

A Genius will then find out what your problem is and do his or her best to fix it while you wait. If it needs to be sent off for repair, the Genius will write up the order, give you a copy, and take care of sending your machine off for repair. You will be notified when it is ready to be picked up.

But wait, thereis more.

You can see a Genius even if your computer is not broken. They will help you with basic things such as how to go wireless, how to download music to your iPod, or even how to update your software. The standard appointment time is scheduled for 15 minutes.

But wait, thereis even more.

There are some special Geniuses who will train you. For an hour. One-on-one. This is not free, in that you have to have an annual membership to take advantage of it. The annual fee is US$99. You can get training on everything from how to use a specific Apple application like iWeb or iMovie, to how to build a Web site or create a Podcast. You can even use this time to get help customizing your Mac. You schedule training time the same way you schedule work time.

I mentioned a ProCare card earlier. A ProCare card also cost an annual fee of $99. With a ProCare card you can get same-day service at the Genius Bar or schedule appointments several days ahead. You get what they call Rapid Repairs which means going to the front of the line, a yearly tune-up on your computer, and one ProCare card will cover up to three of your computers.

That really is all there is to the Genius Bar process. Like most things Apple, it is sleek and simple and if you live near an Apple store you should give it a try.

Salute to The Domain Store Staff

I live in Austin, TX and ours is a pretty tech savvy city. We have lots of Mac users here and we have two Apple retail stores, the first was at Barton Creek Square and in March we got our second store, located at The Domain. Both of these store are great and we get great service from both. However, the new one is near my home so naturally I usually go there.

I spend a lot of time there, either buying door prizes for our CapMac meetings, helping friends or new users buy computers or equipment, or getting training for myself. Lately I have had to have some serious tech help as well. I watch and I listen when I am there, so please allow me to take a couple of minutes to pay tribute to the staff of the Genius Bar at the Apple Store located at The Domain.

First there is Caleb Basinger who is the Lead Mac Genius. Caleb is not only brilliant, he is calm and patient and a good teacher to customers and staff alike. He has often given up his own free time to come to our CapMac meetings to present programs.

Then there is Paul Adams who is both a Genius and a trainer. Paul is the kind of guy who not only remembers you from your last visit, but remembers what you were there for and has additional thoughts about what you talked about.

Rob Porta is the new Genius on the block. At least new at this store. He recently moved here from New York. It took Rob about two minutes to figure out what I had done to cause the problem I discuss at the end of todayis column. Rob has a great smile that lets you know he is really happy to help you.

The last Genius is Mark Dianda. Mark is known to be tech savvy and can usually find the answer to problems quickly. And then there is Ruben. Ruben Trevino is the Admin Tech for the Genius Bar. He keeps the whole thing running so the Geniuses can concentrate on giving the help we need. These five guys are great and they make a real difference to our local Mac community.

Geniuses To The Rescue

Apparently, out of the blue, I could not click open any of the folders on my desktop. Nor could I double-click on any links and make them open. See the pattern here? Nothing I double-clicked was working. However, I could empty the trash with my mouse and I could open my menus. I tried several things, but although I could open my Applications folder with one click and then my Utilities folder inside it with one click, I could not then open my Disk Utility application to run a test because it required a double-click to open.

It doesnit take very long for me to run out of ways to try and fix things, so off I went to the Genius Bar. Remember when I said "Apparently, out of the blue." Well, nothing is really out of the blue. I did something that caused that little problem. I switched to a different mouse for awhile to evaluate it for a future column and while I was setting it up I went into my System Preferences and made a minor change that I should not have made.

Keyboard & Mouse System Preference Window With Double-Click Setting At Appropriate Level

In the lower right corner (see my cursor in the illustration) is a Double-Click setting. I changed that setting to fast, thinking that it would make my folders open faster. What I was really doing was setting how fast I had to click my mouse button to get a folder to open. If I didnit click fast enough, folders wouldnit open. The setting in this illustration is a much more appropriate setting.

Sometimes I just complicate my life when I donit have to.

Fortunately, the Genius figured out what my problem was in about two minutes, and was able to fix it even faster. Thatis the level of service that I continually get when I go to the Genius Bar for help.