Saturday, January 11, 2014

Apple Refuses Out-of-Warranty Repair Despite My Willingness to Pay $703

I write this because I want to share my experience with everyone especially Apple Fans. I will admit I’ve been an Apple faithful for many years and my house is a an Apple shrine with gadgets of all sizes. Since making the switch to Mac, it seems my house has proliferated with Apple products. At this time I do not own a Windows machine nor planned to; however recent events have made me reflect upon my decision to live in Apple’s walled garden. I may be ready to peek over the fence at other non Apple products once more. But dare I?

My story begins late December 2013 after Christmas, while off work over the holidays I decided my (Mid-2010) 27” iMac hard drive being 95% full needed an upgrade. Unfortunately an Apple  branded hard drive upgrade was twice the cost of off-the-shelf drives available at a local computer store. Being a savvy consumer armed with Google and the Internet I researched other Mac user experiences with same model and performing similar upgrades. It seemed as long as I purchased the same make  drive as shipped with my iMac I should have no problems. My particular iMac came with a 1TB Western Digital hard drive.  I found a great price on a 2TB Western Digital hard drive. Online research showed others reported great results with this drive in their iMacs; therefore I was satisfied with my decision and moved ahead.

I should also mention my iMac was out of warranty at this point no longer covered by Apple's one year warranty nor did I purchase Applecare. Given this fact I truly believed I was in a good position to perform the upgrade myself.  I started by following iFixit and YouTube videos.  The upgrade was completed  flawlessly thanks to these do it yourself tutorials. However, while researching the upgrade I came across forum posts indicating Mid-2010 iMac's have a second SATA port on the logic board. Since I had a 240GB SSD laying around (collecting dust) I thought perfect. I’ll add the SSD, boot from it and use the 2TB drive for storage. Again the upgrade process went flawlessly; I reinstalled OSX on the SSD and moved all pictures, documents and iTunes, iPhoto libraries to the 2TB drive. Life was good; except one of the 3 fans in the iMac began to spin up to 3500 rpm. Thus begun my FAN troubleshooting battle.

I won’t get into all the steps (which included hardware and software) but in the end through what I believe to be Apple’s design flaw, the display cable connector on the logic board was forcefully detached breaking one of the connector pins. (In case you haven’t seen it, the display connector socket is extremely fragile and from what I’m told breaks very often.) Needless to say I have a working computer with a working LCD panel but no way of attaching the panel to the logic board.

Thus begun my Apple store service adventure. Being the savvy consumer; again I turned to Google and other various sites looking for options. While by far the cheapest option was to purchase a board from Hong Kong; on eBay but It may not be the best choice. You never know what you’re getting. Is it a legitimate Apple part or a Chinese knock-off. Who knows? The best option was to service my Mac through an Apple store; luckily we have one where I live. Being a converted and faithful Apple fan I promptly scheduled an appointment with a Mac Genius. At the Apple store I explained to the Genius what had happened and asked for pricing on the logic board, labour charges and how long it would take. The Genius presented me with a quote of over $790 dollars (with tax). I agreed and signed on the dotted line authorizing the repair as quoted. Life was good. I left the store feeling happy.

The following day I get a voicemail message from the same Genius informing me that the repair is denied/cancelled because there are too many 3rd party modifications to the iMac. I’m to come pickup my iMac at my earliest convenience and arrange repair somewhere else.

At this point I was furious, angry and disappointed Apple rejected me and my money. I thought how could this be. I’m a faithful Apple customer, I’ve got their products coming out my wazoo and Apple won’t repair their product even when I’m paying for the repair. Over the next 2 days I tried to get In touch with the Genius by phone. Needless to say his customer service skills need improvement because he never called back despite leaving multiple messages. Finally on the third day I drove down to the Apple store and asked for a manager. I spoke with the manager about my case and he explained there was nothing he could do. According to him Apple has a policy whereby any Apple product so much as opened by you or a 3rd party; not authorized by Apple to do so, automatically disqualifies that product for service by Apple in one of its Apple Stores. What’s worse is the serial number of your device is blacklisted and will not be touched by any Apple Store worldwide. It’s flagged as a non-serviceable device. That includes any part; cosmetic or hardware. With my tail between my legs I took my iMac and went home.

I didn’t realize upgrading a hard drive (which is done at home by computer enthusiasts) all over the world constituted too many 3rd party modifications. Secondly I would 100% agree with Apple’s policy had my iMac been under warranty or Applecare support. Honestly the thought of performing such an upgrade during the warranty or Applecare period would not even enter my mind. But because it was out-of-warranty I did not believe, for a second that Apple would deny billable repair service. At this point as I write this my iMac is sitting in the corner broken. I’m still looking at other options. One of which is an authorized Apple service depot. However that option is more expensive than the Apple store. Of course I could still go the Hong Kong route and replace the board myself. I’ve put together many PC’s in my day and feel quite comfortable doing it. However, one thought lingering in my mind is the authenticity of the part I’m buying.

The other day (thanks to Google) I came across a Mac service vendor that specializes in repairing the display connector; the very part I broke. I called their 1-888 number and spoke with a gentlemen (very pleasant fellow) and we chatted about my experience. He told me this service is very popular and does it often, even for authorized Mac dealers. I guess a few of them have broken this connector from time to time. Funny enough he also said he believes this connector to be a design flaw. Both him and I agreed the connector is too fragile and should have a more rugged design. In the end I’m still looking at options. I have not decided what to do. However I’m leaning towards keeping my existing logic board and having the display connector replaced rather than buying a refurbished logic board through an Apple authorized service vendor.

As a consumer I’m appalled  at Apple’s arrogance in having such a policy for out-of-warranty devices. As an Apple Fanboy I’m simply shocked and heartbroken my beloved Apple would treat its devoted in such a manner. The pedestal on which Apple rested in my eyes has forever been cut down to eye level. My image of Apple has been shattered. I no longer believe its hype of superior customer experience. Apple is just another corporation with an overshadowing ego that has fallen victim to its own distortion field believing trust, integrity and customer service do not apply. It believes it can do anything. While I may be small with shallow pockets future purchasing decisions for my household may no longer involve Apple products.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Perfect Linux Laptop - Asus UX31E & Ubuntu 13.10

Linux Laptop Nirvana - I've been searching for the perfect rig for some time. However ever since buying my first Macbook Air no laptop or Ultrabook has ever been good enough to run Linux with style. My biggest beef with most laptops and so called Ultrabooks is their cheap plastic feel and absolutely ugly exterior. Enter Asus UX31E Zenbook Ultra Slim. This puppy is sexy on the outside, super thin, all aluminium design, runs an i5-2467M Intel Sandybride processor with 128GB flash storage. It's the perfect Macbok Air competitor on the PC side. Problem one, solved!

Problem two ~Linux support. When it comes to laptops, out of the box Linux support has always been a mixed bag. Even at best of times support is abysmal. Graphics, wireless, bluetooth, trackpad, audio are among some issues I've experienced in the past. But not this time, Asus has packed hardware nirvana into the UX31E. After installing Ubuntu 13.10 everything works as expected including suspend. Wireless, audio, graphics work great. But I'm most excited about keyboard functions. Audio volume, screen on/off, wireless on/off, screen brightness and other typical Fn functions you'll find on a typical laptop work flawlessly.

As for Ubuntu 13.10, Unity is starting to grow on me. The more I use it the more I like it. So far I've found a native or equivalent to most applications I consider critical to make the Linux switch successful. Those Apps include Evernote, Twitter, most Google Apps, Dropbox, development apps, graphics apps, music apps and even got Netflix working. I'm still missing a few minor applications but overall, Linux is providing a great environment and experience on the Asus UX31E Zenbook. If you're looking for a Linux laptop I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this model.

I'm very pleased with Zenbook's hardware. The processor is plenty fast for my needs. I wish I had 8GB ram but 4GB seems fine for current needs. I may run Virtualbox later at which time more ram would be warranted. On the flip side flash storage, read and write performance is fantastic. I haven't noticed lags or hesitation. Screen is very crisp and bright. Wireless functions work well including Bluetooth.

So what's the catch? Well, I do wish Ubuntu supported TRIM, but I've manually configured it at boot. Keyboard back-lighting is not an option. This model doesn't support it.  One thing that is a little annoying is the touchpad. I find it a little to temperamental but I think that is only because I'm used to a Macbook Air touchpad, this one works a little different. I'm sure its just a matter of adjustment. Other features I haven't tested is HDMI output, dual monitors or gauged USB 3 throughput. Although i have connected USB 3 hard drives and transfer time seemed relatively quick.

Overall I would recommend the Asus UX31E Zenbook with Ubuntu 13.10. Mileage may vary but my experience has so far been excellent, in fact its the best Linux experience I've had on a laptop. Before picking it up, I was looking at a System76 certified Linux laptop, but the Zenbook is esthetically pleasing with great hardware. Most of all, the price was right. If you're looking for a Linux laptop I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ubuntu is Best Linux for Beginners

Ubuntu is one of countless Linux flavours. Users have plenty of choice when it comes to Linux, yet Ubuntu has become a clear winner. Why? There are many reasons, I'm sure each of you will have a different reason but for me apt-get is the killer app.

I first looked at Linux when Red Hat was King; I purchased Red Hat 5.1 in fact I still have the boxed set on a bookshelf somewhere. Things have changed since then; when I think back my biggest complaint and I think many novice users would agree was the hassle of installing software. Downloading and compiling from source was a sad state of affairs. On the other hand once you got comfortable with ./configure ./make and all that jazz you have dependancy hell to deal with. No wonder many were turned off by Linux. Some of you may argue rpm's helped, yes I would agree. But if there was a dependancy problem rpm's were rather useless. I recall countless hours of shear agony and frustation attempting dependancy resolution.

Enter Debian based Ubuntu with apt-get and its repository heaven.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Windows Explorer Not Starting at Boot

Recently I had an interesting experience with an infected laptop. A rogue Anti Virus product called Antivirus GT made it unusable. First off Antivirus GT is fake, it does not clean any infected files in fact it downloads nasty spyware to your computer. Secondly every time you boot, it displays a fake virus scan window (see image above) showing various infected files. Then it promises to clean all infections if you buy a license.

One byproduct of Antivirus GT is it screws windows explorer. Let me explain, once you remove Antivirus GT you'll find windows explorer is no longer available at boot time; result ~no desktop. At this point do the three finger salute (CTRL-ALT-DEL) start Task Manager and manually start windows explorer by executing explorer.exe from File, New Task (Run..) However what you'll find is Windows complains it cannot find explorer.exe in "C:\Windows" even though file is clearly there.

After Googl'ing for solutions, finding and trying many different things I found the answer. From my limited programming experience Windows has a Debug option by enabling the following registry key HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Windows NT/Current Version/Image File Execution Options/explorer.exe By enabling Debugging explorer.exe is not available, is not started by the operating system nor can it be started manually. I had to delete Debug Key, reboot and viola desktop loaded.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


This post is off topic ~not exactly IT related but technology none the less.

I've always wanted a motorcycle but never really took the time to get a license or even learn how to ride one. Last  summer a female friend of mine signed up for rider training and soon afterwards bought a bike. I jumped at the opportunity to take a training course and I'm happy to say passed driver training and license exam. Since last summer I've been looking at bikes trying to decide what to buy.

Let me be the first to say your choices are almost limitless and choosing a bike is not easy. So many nice bikes out there and most, quite affordable. But I guess I should start by saying; before buying a bike or even thinking of one ~if you're married step number one is getting permission from your better half or at least bribery of some sort.

Next comes the hard part; choosing your ride. I looked at used bikes, looked at small bikes, sport bikes, touring bikes ~wow so many choices. In the end this bike caught my eye. BMW's G650GS

I liked its look and the fact its a street bike with an off road option. BMW places this bike in the Enduro category. Meaning its a street bike but can be used off road. It's engine size appealed to me I wasn't looking for something large not so much from a gas consumption but more from Insurance reasons. A smaller engine equals cheaper insurance.

I've only been riding it a few weeks but so far I'm loving it. This is my first bike therefore some of you may say you don't know what you're talking about. BUT for a first time bike owner I'll say this is an excellent choice. It's a nice smooth ride, extremely easy to handle and quite comfortable. I have not been on any long trips (not yet) but rides I've had were very good.

I love the fact it has ABS brakes I think this is an excellent feature especially for first time bike owners. And in my climate heated grips are sweet! The only other factory add-on I bought was a centre stand. Lastly I love the fact BMW offers a 3 year unlimited kilometers warranty with road side assistance.

If you're thinking about a bike and its your first, this one is an excellent choice. In fact my female friend who bought a bike last summer after our training rode it and now wants to switch to same model. She has a different BMW X-Country 650 but its higher, a bit larger (for her) and she says a little stiffer and for her harder to ride.

In any case I'm loving it and I would recommend this model to anyone looking for a first bike.

MacBook Pro Keyboard Illumination busted! (so I thought)

My employer recently provided a MacBook Pro 17" sweet machine! One of its great features is keyboard illumination. It really rocks in low lit areas or late at night while in bed. However after reinstalling Snow Leopard I ran into an issue or at least what I thought was an issue.

When I first got the laptop keyboard illuminated at all times and F6/F7 keyboard brightness function keys always allowed adjustments. After Snow Leopard reinstall keyboard illumination was no longer functioning and pressing F6/F7 did nothing; in fact on screen graphic showed a circle with diagonal line. I assumed I was missing a driver or something went wrong during reinstall process.

Immediately I googled the problem and found a few posts with similar issue however everyone posted "its working now and I don't know what I did to make it work" ~not very helpful!

So I thought I would post my experience in case others are pulling hair trying to figure it out.

It seems to me Apple has changed keyboard illumination functionality. Instead of always illuminating the keyboard and allowing F6/F7 adjustments at all times. NOW! and here is the important part you must be in a dark room before keyboard will illuminate AND allow any F6/F7 brightness adjustments. How I fixed my issue is I covered both speakers on either side of the keyboard (light sensor location). My screen auto dimmed and at this point I could use F6/F7 brightness function keys to full brighten the keyboard.

Uncovering both speakers auto brightened my screen, keyboard no longer illuminated and I could no longer adjust keyboard brightness using F6/F7 function keys.

If you really think about it that really makes sense because why would you need your keyboard lit when in a bright sunny setting. Simply a battery drain. I just wish this change in functionality was posted somewhere on Apple's site. If it was I missed it or could not find it. (I looked)

Hope this helps.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

E60% of US Managers will circumvent Company Security Policy!

I came across this article at Employees continue to put data at risk which talks about a study conducted by Ponemon Institute where it compares the "Human Factor" in laptop encryption. This year's study was expanded to include Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Sweeden. The most interesting and perhaps puzzling was the enormous difference between some European countries and their North American counterparts.
According to Ponemon Institute 15% of German and 13% of Sweedish business managers have disengaged their encryption solution. Compare this to 52% of Canadian, 53% of British and a whopping 60% of US business managers. WHAT??!?!? That's right sixty percent!

Let me get this straight corporations spend billions of dollars on all this fancy security software and 60% of US business managers turn it off. Why?? I'm sure reasons for doing it vary and there are as many reasons as stars in the sky but I'm willing to bet vast majority is simply convenience and I hate to say it required effort level to accomplish a given task.

North American's have always been a comfort driven bunch. Europeans have always been less extravagant in their lifestyles. I'm thinking environment issues like composting, recycling, driving much smaller and more fuel efficient cars. Much smaller housing and overall much smaller foot print on this wonderful planet. I'm guessing this attitude automatically translates well  to other work related situations including security. A little inconvenience for the greater good.

On the flip side we North Americans are quite the opposite we've always had a 'me' rather then 'we' attitude. We have larger housing requirements, larger cars, we produce the most waste per capita vs. other countries. If you need more examples look at waste management and recycling which has been flourishing in Europe for over 20 years (and I don't mean the basics paper,glass,plastic) Europeans have been recycling other items including food waste (compost) 15 years ago. The amount of landfill garbage they produce is minuscule as a percentage of their overall generated waste.

I guess what I'm saying is given the 'me' attitude we have in North America security will always take a back seat over convenience and required effort. We're just lazy! Will this ever change? I suspect it will but it will take time, lots of time. But given the growing global cyber attacks by governments and corporations things will get worse before they get better. And we can't afford such 'me' attitude much longer.