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Archive for the ‘Ben Is Dead Magazine’ Category

MacBook Battery RecallOkay, say what you will, but I am a devoted Mac user/lover. They may kick me, cajole me, break my piggy bank all they want, but I still come back for more. I started on my dad’s Macintosh Plus (though I did do some initial tinkering on an older Apple with the big floppy drives) and got my first computer, a Mac SE, in 1988. Those were exciting times. Having just returned from an extended trip to Europe, I quit school, moved away from my friends and family to the city and found myself with no social life to speak of (you don’t mind if I end my sentences with a preposition, do you?…thanks). So what would any self-respecting, slightly bored Graphic Design drop-out do? (And note, there weren’t even computer courses for designers at that time; we were spending hours doing freehand typography, cut-and-paste, and a typewriter and Xerox machine were still the most technological elements of our creations). Without any experience, anything to base myself off of really, I decided to start a magazine, designed on my new-fangled 40 megabyte computer. It is said that “The power of the press only goes to those who can afford to own one.” Before 1985, it took hundreds of thousands of dollars for equipment to set up a small publishing company. By then that price dropped to around $10Ben Is Dead Magazine cover Celebrity Issue,000. The Desktop Publishing evolution was upon us, but it was so early on, I didn’t even comprehend what I was about to become a part of.

Even with the idea in one’s mind that people had more patience with slow computers because they had nothing to compare it to, I could have gnawed through my leg waiting for that SE to refresh its screen after making a simple change in Pagemaker (yes kids, we’re talking Pagemaker 1.0 and there were no options). I would make a change, go to the kitchen and prepare a sandwich, check the computer to see if it was finished, and on most occasions could actually eat the sandwich before the thing was done processing. Aldus and Adobe were changing the landscape, and pretty much saving Apple from near doom, by introducing post-script fonts and the publishing software to run them. It was such a headache: from the buggy nature to access of fonts that would print properly (most low-budgeters had to do some serious maneuvering to scam print-quality type faces). I made friendly with my local computer store, hung out there for days on end listening to Apple customers with questions and Apple geeks with solutions, and they’d let me print originals on their snazzy Laser Printer. (I won’t go into detail about how, before I could afford printing on a real printing press, we did covert nighttime missions into the Los Angeles Times offices [with the help of a dutiful employeeBen Is Dead Magazine Retro Hell – all in the name of freedom of the press...mixed with a dash of Abbie Hoffman] and copied thousands of issues on their copy machines – but I’ll simply give a shout out for their support! Mahalo!)

Once I had enough money (after making a bunch by stumbling across work as an Art Director for a top-10 ad agency [they were just getting their first Mac's in the late '80s so I had an "in" as a self-taught "expert"]), I bought a Mac IIcx, a gynormous monitor, and a LaserWriter II NT. This set up cost me a bit more than that approximate $10,000. Ouch. It was still slow, precarious, and seemed as if we were paying to be the test dummies for the new (personal) computer age. And yes, I was only happy to participate. It so happens, I would end up paying this amount many times over off the course of my long-term love affair with Apple (IIci, Quadra 950, Power Macintosh G3 Tower, Powerbooks, endless printers and monitors and mice and keyboards…).

All to say that from the early beginnings I’ve been there; I’ve stood by Apple. When Steve got the boot, when Steve made the great return. When quality lacked and before the revolution resumed with full-force. I felt the twinge, when in it’s slow decline and with people jumping ship, that I should make a serious investment in Apple stock, show my commitment and make a few bucks off the comeback I felt sure to come (unfortunately all my monies were eaten up by publishing debt [access to publish didn't seem to increase the profit margin for small press].) IBM and Microsoft were tech-geeks who weren’t social enough to relate to human beings. Windows was trying to be Mac OS, and didn’t do it all that well. Microsoft jealously grasping at creativity, could only mimic the visionary user-ability of Apple (as it does to this day [those are some pretty bad reviews of Vista, eh, and whoosh, we're already moving on to Leopard!]). Even when Apple capitalized on the ideas and technologies of others, ehem, it always repackaged with an innovative, friendly functionality and smart design that brought people and their machines closer together.

applelogoSo sure, nothing’s perfect. Perhaps us fanatics put too much of our hopes and dreams on one company and one man. But it was like we were a team. So when Mac seemingly became too big for their britches, when they left the illusion of personal relationship to post-iPod monstrosity, how were the old-school devotees supposed to feel?

Times have been hard. I admittedly strayed, regrettably purchasing a Sony Vaio Picturebook (only for the convenience of it’s compact size for travel writing…no, really), which ended up wiping out all of my writing –and much inspiration– due to some faulty hard drive issues. And I essentially had my quirky G3 stolen by an incompetent computer repair man here in Hawaii and it was years before I could even presume to afford another machine (the only thing I could count on was my eMate and though I love that thing it’s not the same as a real laptop – plus I can’t get it to download onto my MacBook [any tips?]). Even the borrowed clamshell iBook went belly up suddenly, one fine day. As a Licensed Massage Therapist I worked overtime massaging many rich so-and-so’s, who come here to buy land, increase housing costs and traffic congestion, and build their water-consuming, ocean-polluting golf courses. Hell, I even massaged Michael Dell and wife in order to afford a new Mac! I waited patiently, getting an inside tip on the upcoming release of the new MacBook Pro, got in on the first early 2006 shipment, and voilá, I was back in the world of computers. My old passion returning with zest. Might I actually write again? Design a new web site? Podcasting and blogs as the new ‘zine revolution. There was a lot of catching up to do!

I spent what in my current debt-lovin’ situation is a lot of money, and admittedly expected perfection (or at least some caring assistance with any problems). And there were problems. What were those weird annoying sounds buzzing from my new MacBook? And the laptop seemed so hot; sometimes the area around the keyboard felt almost electrified when I touched it. When the metal seemed to be peeling off the back of the machine I emailed Apple. There was only a computer generated response. Then my battery was barely holding a charge. I contacted Apple and they said there was nothing wrong with the battery. When after another few months I realized it wasn’t just metal peeling off the back, but that it was the battery expanding and that it was holding no charge, I called again. “Oh, we have a recall for that battery.” Huh? And no one bothered to tell me because…. “And you better take the battery out of the machine. You should only use it plugged in.” What? With a (nice as it is) magnetic power cord, how awful is that when it accidentally -easily- unplugs while you’re working? (I can tell you! :) )

So it only takes a few days for the new battery to arrive. And wow, I can actually type for more than 15 minutes before it shuts itself down – nice change. The peeling metal isn’t cutting me anymore. Sure, there are operating quirks, which upgrades seem to repair, but despite ignoring the heat/noise/electric issues the machine is an absolute blast. And all is well, that is until two new problems arise. Not big problems, but problems none-the-less. One is my power cord, the other is sleep mode. I put off doing anything about these because I have major events in my life, and soon will be making a trip to the mainland, where (instead of mailing my machine, which I’m disinclined to do) I can enjoy the ability to walk into a Mac store and meet geniuses at the Genius Bar who will immediately comprehend everything that is wrong with me, my life, and my computer and make it all better. That’s the kind of faith I have….

I go to the SimiValley store which is crowded (though much less so than others in Los Angeles) and ask for help. Well actually, it’s not made perfectly clear upon entering that one must type a reservation onto a computer so that you’re actually in line but after a while I stop one of the buzzing employees long enough to ask and am informed (as are others wistfully waiting) of the rules – seems you gotta be in the know. They ask what I need help with and I pull out the power cord. The end where the cord connects with the actual MagSafe power adapter is separating and fraying. I tell the young woman that I read a number of comments, some posted on forums on the Apple site actually, of people who this has happened to with some saying their computer started smoking because of it. (Upon looking right now, even the Wikipedia entry includes “…complaints about the MagSafe adapter focus on its tendency to fray at the connector head, and in some cases melt or catch fire in this area…”). I ask if there has been any recall similar to the battery that perhaps I’m unaware of. She glares at me as if I’m an idiot. Takes my power cord, looks it over, then with a ’tisk’ declares, “We haven’t had any problems with this. We use tons of adapters here. This only happens when people don’t handle it properly.” Oh!, I’m thinkin’, no she di’nt!!! “How do you take out your plug?” she then asks. I’m trying to restrain myself. “How do you wrap it?” like I need a lesson. I actually have to show her how I wrap the power cord properly. “I assure you,” I insist, “I haven’t abused my power cord, it started separating and there was no way to stop it. I’ve been very careful.” “How often do you leave the computer plugged in? How often do you take it somewhere to work on it?…” She continues with a laundry list of idiotic questions as if trying to break me down ’til I would admit, You’re right, it was me! I did it! As if somehow it was my fault that a power cord which seemingly should last more than a year was now disintegrating. It was exactly how I felt when I inquired about the battery before they were forced to fess-up that there was a problem. To keep a long story from getting too much longer, :) I waited over half an hour while she first went through the rigamarole of deciding whether or not I was even covered, and then (at my request) while she called stores in the surrounding area to see if there were any power cords available (apparently no store in or around Los Angeles had any in stock – huh?!). Despite all that time I spent with her I would have to do it all over again over the phone with Apple Customer Service and hope they could ship one out next week (Monday was a holiday). Then, to add insult to injury, she coldly informed me that she was going to have to “confiscate” my power cord because “it’s too dangerous for you to have this…the metal is showing”. Okay, so I was not going to be able to use my computer for almost a week? I don’t think so! I told her I wanted my power cord. She said she was going to have to put it in the database that I insisted on taking it, and that if anything happened it would not be covered. Could it get any worse? Suffice to say, I was not feeling the love portion of this love/hate thing.

Swallowing my pride I now had to tell her my problem with sleep mode. I explain that when I shut the lid (and hoping to avoid her banal inquiries I inform her that indeed I make certain it is shut all the way) half the time it doesn’t automatically go into sleep mode as it is supposed to (another common post on the Mac Forums). I explained that I would close it, put it in its case, only to find the computer burning hot with no battery power left when I took it out to work on. She takes the machine, does the P-Ram reset, and tells me it’s all fixed. Well, at least something good to come out of this little visit. I thank her and am happy to go. I run across the way to Brooks Brothers and sit in their massage chair ’til the store closes. That feels better. Unfortunately the feeling doesn’t last too long, as I will soon discover that her P-Ram reset did not resolve my problem, except to leave me without time to leave my computer in the store for repair, since my trip is almost over. And now I will have to spend $250 to renew my AppleCare which is to end that month, just so I can deal with that repair (and whatever new dilemma may arise) the next time I travel to a place with an Apple Store.

I’m not even going to get into my refurbished iPod Nano, purchased 23 days before the new more inexpensively priced and increased battery life Nanos were released (it’s 21 days to be able to return the product). The fact they didn’t discount the old Nanos before the release, so we didn’t feel so duped….I’ll just leave it at that.

I don’t know what the solution is? Perhaps, like AAA or Costco, we should have cards that show how many years we’ve been a member. And then add discounts the longer we’ve participated, the more we’ve purchased. My g-d, my card will show over 20 years of devotion. Surely I should have some priority? At least a hint of respect from the newbie “Geniuses” – especially snooty girls who don’t have battle scars from living through the days of one megabyte of RAM! Or didn’t pay their whole college tuition to essentially be beta testers of these early personal computers and, in a sense, help create the awesome computers we see today. And just because I can’t currently afford ProCare, why not offer me something even better, like Family Member perks? Because that’s what you do for family, Steve. And you’re always looking for new customers but maybe it’s time to reward the old ones. How many people have us first generation Mac geeks personally converted? How many conversations about why Macs are better than PCs have we had over the past 20 years?! We have been your street level ad campaign managers; your tireless cheerleaders. We have supported you during the worst of times and the best of times and gave you a foundation to improve and grow (as yes, you have done with us). But we have never faltered. We have been your rock. Steve, I still love you, but I need some real Apple Support right now. Don’tcha think it’s time to give back? That personal, clandestine relationship we’ve had all these years…I want it again…Steve…I miss you…I’ll be waiting for your call.

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For those wondering wha’happend…this post will eventually include some story. And I hope to include links to all the past Ben Is Dead Magazine contributors. So check back with us again later. xo

All posts written under the name “coconut girl” are written by ex-Ben Is Dead editress Darby Romeo.

All contributors who happen to have found me long lost…will be visiting from Hawai’i end of June ’07 Kern river-rafting reunion for all former BID writers out on bond :) Please bring life-vests – can’t take any chances with you guys. Brian Doherty (currently big-wig Libertarian at Reason Magazine) is co-ordinating so get ahold of him! Check MySpace for bulletins.

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