This is what I do when I’m not at work.

On Vacation 'Til September 5th

Posted: August 25th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: generic | No Comments »

Oh my goodness. I didn’t think I was gonna make it, but as of 5:00 PM today I am on vacation. Whoopie!

I’m not actually going anywhere. Also, I doubt I’ll be doing anything “fun.” Instead, I decided to take off the time to study for my GIAC exams and get a bunch of stuff done around the house which has been ignored all Summer.

I just hope I don’t waste the time by sleeping 15 hours a day. Until then we can all ponder exactly how I am killing music…

DRM is killing music

Wishing you a safe and happy Labor Day holiday!

North Carolina Summer

Posted: August 12th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: local, random | 3 Comments »

Last week I took a landscape photo outside my home in rural North Carolina for the purpose of showing the beauty of Summertime in the South.

North Carolina Summer

This picture was taken about 4:00 PM on last Tuesday. It was really a lovely day. The sun was shining and folks were outside doing yard work, walking their dogs and melting into the pavement. Thankfully there is a big river nearby, which I had to cast myself into so that I might survive long enough to make this weblog post.

I think I’m really starting to come around to the side that opposes Al Gore‘s “junk science” film which asserts that something called “global warmingmay be happening. There is no proof of this fact, only the misguided rantings of a disenfranchised politician. He really should get back to inventing another internet or something.

Apple … Cares?

Posted: August 6th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: computers, grousing | 8 Comments »

Apple Don't Care About Its Customers

If you know me (even casually) then you know that I am pretty much obsessed with the Macintosh line of Apple Computers. I was working on Apple IIe machines when I was about 8 years old and I was there in 1984 hanging around UNC Student Stores so I could produce my Sixth Grade book reports on the first Macintoshes. I used the Mac labs pretty exclusively while attending Auburn University and have always felt happier and more productive using a Mac.

I did lose touch with the Mac family a bit in the late 1990’s when I went to work in the IT sector and found that no one had ever heard of Macs. That world was dominated by Windows (on the user end) and Unix/VMS (on the backend). This was an ugly time of adjustment when I realized that the most dominant operating system on Earth was an insecure, unstable, kludgy hacked piece of crap. I know people keep saying “But Windows is getting better!” however I liken that to putting lipstick on a pig and calling her “pretty.” If you have the richest, most powerful computer company in the world, then you can afford to build the best products. Microsoft is so far from that goal that they have to throw chairs around the office just to make themselves feel better.

Anyway, back to Macintosh. So I was utterly relieved and filled with joy when in 2001 I heard about the advent of Mac OS X — a gorgeous merger of the Mac user interface with the clearly superior BSD Mach kernel Unix sub-structure. Gone were the days of OS 7 and OS 8 limited network functionality or the OS 9 stability nightmare. Finally, a responsive, beautiful system that I could actually put to work as a Unix Administrator. Goodbye, CDE! (There are many haters out there who talk sh!t about the Mach kernel and other aspects of OS X, but to them I say “Build a better OS and I’ll buy it.”) I had my boss order me a G4 PowerBook and off I went, browsing into the computer bliss sunset.

This was when all the problems began. The first machine was a lemon. I’m talking severe hardware problems, continual system shutdowns and bi-hourly OS seizures. It took quite a bit of arguing through Fall 2001 to get Apple to acknowledge the problem, but eventually they relented and sent me a new PowerBook. That machine is still going strong, used regularly, and sitting on my desk waiting for me to greet it tomorrow morning. But I learned a valuable lesson from this experience — ALWAYS buy the AppleCare Protection Program for any Apple item you purchase. Without AppleCare, their attitude is basically the same as a disreputable used car salesman. If you have problems after the purchase, they don’t know who you are and they don’t care.

For years I was left wondering if maybe I had just had a bad experience and that they “got it right” most of the time. Sadly, I must report that this was not the case and that five years later not much has improved in this department. Sure, Wil Wheaton is willing to tow the party line and talk about how incredibly awesome Apple service is, but I’m not willing to be bought out by “The Man.” Both in person and online I have found countless instances of folks being completely screwed by Apple because of faulty products and even worse service. I can forgive a few lemons when you are the vanguard of innovation, but bad service? Sorry that is for fast food employees, not IT professionals.

Apple Doesn't Care About You

It is bad enough to add a $150-$350 “service tax” to every machine that you sell, but then to turn around and provide lousy service for customers who shelled out the bucks to be covered is like a slap in the face.

Case in point (of which I can cite many ), last Fall I got a new G5 iMac at work to supplement my aging G4 PowerBook. The machine ran quite well from October 2005 until April 2006. At that point, it randomly began “just turning itself off.” I would notice when I arrived at the office in the morning that my machine was powered off and wonder “Did the cleaning service unplug my machine?” And then over the next few days I discovered that something was very, very wrong with the power units within this machine.

By mid-April the box would suddenly power itself down while I was in the middle of composing an email or ssh’ing into a server I was working on. You can imagine how frustrating, not to mention productivity-sapping this was. The first approach was to deal with (and I’m putting this kindly) the ham-fisted, crap-attitude dickwad who acts as the Apple service person for our university. This guy seemed to get off on accusing me of making up the problem because he “couldn’t get it to do it” while it was in his care for 24 hours. Well, I’m sorry, but I did mention that the behavior was intermittent.

I heard a lot of hemming and hawing about parts being on back order and over the course of three weeks he made 2 failed attempts to repair the machine. The first was to re-image the hard drive, thus erasing months of work on my machine which unfortunately had not been backed up. Then the whole backplane/motherboard was replaced to no avail. We were deep into May and I still didn’t have a functional machine.

Finding no satisfaction with on-campus Apple representatives, I had to step up my approach and begin contacting Apple directly. (Remember, the 3-year AppleCare Protection Plan had been purchased, so they had no excuse to deny service). Well, this was nothing more than a run around where every few days I would get passed off to another AppleCare person because the guy they had put me in touch with “couldn’t help me.” I would make phone call after phone call and send in-depth technical emails again and again trying to get someone within Apple to give a damn.

By this point I was steamed and only requesting a replacement machine, but about two weeks into my hounding they “decided to contact me” and refused to take the machine back without one more attempt at repair. Two days later a black helicopter landed atop Davis Library and out popped William, obviously a highly-skilled technician from their crack ops team. In about 45 minutes he replaced both the power supply and the power inverter. (At this point, most of the computer had been removed and replaced.) We booted the iMac and watched it operate for about one minute before he disappeared in a cloud of smoke. I assume he choppered back to NORAD or wherever Apple keeps the flying monkey army.

Not 10 minutes after his departure, the machine powered itself off again. This time, like all the other times, I tried to boot the hardware diagnostics cd-rom and the box would spin and spin. Finally, I re-installed OS X and upon install reboot, the machine blue screened… Never to return. That was the beginning of June, roughly two full months after the problems started.

More phone calls to Apple reps. More voice mails saying they’d “love to help me, but couldn’t” and lots more non-returned emails and calls. Finally, one day while I was at lunch, someone from Apple called my office and said they were sending an RMA out to have the dead iMac returned. They also said “Once we receive the bad machine, we can send you a replacement.” Wow. If we have anything go wrong with any of our Dell hardware, we usually have a replacement part or machine within roughly four hours. Not bad Apple — only took two and a half months.

What is the point of my bitching? I’ll tell ya. Over the past three years or so, I have spent almost $25,000 of my own money on Apple machines because I believe they are the best personal workstations currently made today. I have referred friends and clients to Apple thinking I was doing them a favor by leading them away from the virus-prone and clunky interface of “that other company.” I have either bought or sold so much Apple hardware and software that they should compensate me with a manufactured home in Malibu with a nice view of the Pacific. And, for my machines and others, I always stress “Buy the AppleCare Protection Program or you’re f****d.” Now I’m starting to think that you are fscked even if you do buy AppleCare.

So you are the underdog. So you have a stranglehold on the digital music player market. So you want to convince the world that you build handsome, highly-functional devices. So someday you might like to garner more than 3 percent of the computer marketshare. Well, why are you letting us all down with such lackluster service? Seriously? In 2006 I’ve had more friends and family members tell me they would never buy an Apple product ever again after bad experiences with Apple service personnel. I have been humiliated by an “Apple Expert” in my local Apple Store because he thought he was a comedian and that my hardware problems “weren’t that bad.” I have been avoided by AppleCare employees to the point that I thought they had entered into the Witness Protection Program.

This is not simply the mumblings of a loud-mouthed malcontent hell-bent on rattling a few cages. No, instead I am a seriously disappointed customer who, by the nature of my trade and reputation, advises a lot of folks what to buy when they are looking for a personal computer. I also get to make decisions about what machines are purchased for use within my organization. Many people respect my technological opinion and, unfortunately for Apple, my long-held positive opinion of Macintosh is changing. Next time I think about dropping more than $8,000 on a home development workstation I will be checking a lot more websites than just