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CrackBook Ho

(Photo: Past evidence of my present obsession.)

In the middle of a work meeting late Tuesday afternoon, my three-year-old Apple Macbook dropped decidedly dead. Mac users will not be surprised what I did next: before the end of the day, I replaced it with a brand-new one.

In my old Mac’s defense, it had been giving me problems almost as soon as I bought it. The palmrests began discoloring the month I brought it home and plastic construction joints began cracking apart soon after. Sometime in year two the optical drive began to fail.  As year three dawned last June, the system software began a slow but steady meltdown, causing applications to sporadically crash–or fail to open.

On Tuesday, after an innocent restart, programs ceased launching at all and mouse clicks went unnoticed for minutes at a time–and lucky me, with no DVD drive to reinstall system software. At least I had the presence of mind to maintain an external backup (thanks to Mac OS X’s built-in Time Machine feature), so, thankfully, I didn’t lose any data.

After an experience like that, some people might shy away from purchasing a computer from the same company that had supplied them with such a lemon. (Did I mention the first time I bought the Macbook it had “on-off epilepsy” that kept randomly shutting down the computer, forcing the Michigan Avenue Apple Store to replace the machine seven days after they sold it to me?)

Not us hard-core Mac fans. Thanks to that patented Steve Jobs reality-distortion field, we live with the eternal hope that Apple hardware and software will live up to the hyperbolic hype that always seems to surround each new release.

Now I’ve been a Mac user since July 1997.  I know that because my meticulously updated Excel spreadsheet of computer ownership tells me so.  Yes, having such a file scares me as much as you. (And if you don’t believe I have one, download it for yourself and see.)  So I’m aware Apple products can be breathtakingly sweet and effortless to use when they work as promised.

But those nearly 12 years of Mac ownership have also taught me no amount of funkily fannish Kool-Aid can cover up the occasional cracks in the magic mirror of Appledom.  I recall a Revision B iMac (owned from October 1998 to September 1999) that would crash at the drop of a hat.  A G4 Cube that, like my first Macbook, would shut off whenever it felt like it and had a hard-drive failure within a year of purchase (Sept. ’00-Oct. ’02). A Rev. 2 eMac with a hard drive that died after 18 months of use–another Mac trend?–forcing me to boot off of an external drive for the next year-and-a-half (July ’03-June ’06).

For that matter, let’s not forget the year-old iPhone whose screen died a month after the warranty did and the 2004 iPod that failed after a mere nine months. Or how about the bent-in-half MacBookPro with a faulty display sold to my old friend, Devyn, by the online Apple Store that required three returns and an eventual intercession by the Michigan Avenue store in order to get him–a first-time Windows switcher, no less–a working computer?

And through it all, the allegedly seldom-appearing “spinning beach ball of doom” showing up with more-than-promised frequency as one native program after another would lock the entire system up at random moments, sometimes necessitating a Force Quit, sometimes a harsher forced shutdown. (Safari–look at me when I talk to you!–you are the evil browser minion of Macintosh hell in this regard.)

So why does my spreadsheet tell me I’ve persisted in owning no fewer than 11 Macs in 12 years?  With the new Macbook, that’s the equivalent of one new Apple computer every 12 3/4 months. Yes, that scares me, too. All I can say is that when Macs work, they work–so well, in fact, that we tend to forget when they don’t. Even when, as in my case, they don’t work a lot of the time.

So, thanks to Cook County sales tax, I’m now 1,450 unexpected dollars short of my already inadequate ability to pay my 2008 income tax (thanks, New Depression). But in return, I’m the proud owner of a 2.0 Ghz aluminum unibody absolutely kickass October 2008 Macbook. Its specs, sexiness, and (God I hope so) sturdiness far outclass my Rev. A 2006 Macbook, which has been relegated to the bottom shelf of my TV stand to serve as an Airport bridge for wireless backups.

In its memory, I have named the hard drive of my new ‘book Rocko XI. Yes, Mac users tend to name their hard drives. No, that doesn’t scare me anymore. After 12 years, I’m used to it. Although the fact that I’ve sequentially named all 11 of my Macintosh hard drives after the mid-1990s Nicktoon, Rocko’s Modern Life, is probably cause for alarm.

Then again, so is the fact that I’m essentially typing on my tax payment. Of course, without a computer this work-from-home communications consultant and blogger doesn’t work at all, so a hard decision had to be made.  If receipts don’t improve, at least I’ll have a really sleek laptop waiting for me when I get out of debtor’s prison.

Hopefully it won’t come to that. Maybe the economy will get better and I’ll actually come to afford this sweet but oversold aluminum wonder. Maybe it’ll even live up to its hype, too.  Who knows? I think I have a shot at both. After all, if there’s one thing we Mac users tend do better than anyone else, it’s continuing to live in hope.

False or otherwise.

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Michael Thaddeus Doyle

I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.

My Bio | My Conversion | My Family Reunion


8 replies

  1. PC users who used to be Mac owners who used to be PC owners who used to be Mac owners (ok, nevermind, it’s just me) name their machines, too. This self-built PC is named Hoefler (named after Jonathan Hoefler of Hoefler & Frere-Jones type foundry []), and my Acer laptop is named Rand (for Paul Rand, iconic graphic designer, most famous for the IBM, ABC and original UPS logo).

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  3. Brian, you may be right. Often I have wondered if I (or my apartment) are wrapped in a strange magnetic field that renders Macs unhappy.

    Either that or I just Force Quit too much!

  4. I have had a completely opposite experience with Macs. I currently have a 7 year old G5 (one of the original releases) that still purrs like a kitten, and a 2 year old Macbook Pro.

    I also always buy the apple care plan…mine have paid for themselves. ALSO, do you ever run Disk Utility and repair permissions and repair disk? I do this regularly, and it helps keep things running smoothly.

    On the flip side of things, most PC users I know replace their machines every 2 years. I’d be interested to see comprehensive data on how long PCs and Macs last.

    Mike, I think you just have REALLY bad luck with Macs. Strange.

  5. MATT: Much as I resemble your comments, personally I think you just haven’t met the right Mac. I pray that someday you understand the moral error of your current computing lifestyle choice. 😉

    DEVYN: You and I bought our laptops within days of each other back in 2006. I would love to have kept mine going longer. I never could justify the cost of replacing the optical drive on my consumer model–you doing so on your Pro model makes sense, though.

    Over time I did add 2 GB of RAM and install a 160 GB internal drive. Unfortunately, one thing I just couldn’t fix was the case deterioration. The edge of both palmrests, right where the edge of the display comes into contact, began to crack in tiny lengthwise strips due to pressure from the closed lid.

    Eventually, I had to cover the lower right corner of the palmrest edge with Scotch tape to keep the top case from simply cracking off completely.

    In December, I briefly dated an Apple Store employee from Milwaukee. He told me the deterioration was not uncommon and that some people were able to get the top cases replaced even after their warranties had expired.

    You may recall I loved my ’06 Macbook for its reliability in that first year of ownership. That reliability overall just tanked as time wore on.

    Time Machine works well for me, but then again I’m not a photoblogger. So now the old machine is connected via Firewire to my legacy Porsche external drive and my new, Firewire-less 2008 Macbook backs up over Airport. So at least there’s some use left in the old laptop.

    Cold comfort though to my wallet!

  6. I have never understood the Mac Kool-Aid. Seriously. The ridiculous hype is part of why I’m so anti-iAnything.

    I have heard so many iPod brick stories from friends, I could build a house. And yet, they keep going back for more. Imagine if a car worked that way. If it just stopped working for no obvious reason one day. Would you take it back for another one? Would you continue buying that brand?

    This is not to say that I think PCs are perfect. They have their problems too. But at least they LAST. In the past 7 years, I’ve only had two laptops. Two, including the one I’m using currently.

    It’s almost a problem for my parents. My dad refuses to throw anything away that’s still working, so when my brother gave them a faster, upgraded PC, they kept the old ones. They actually have 3 or 4 machines sitting around the house, some 10+ years old.

    Besides the lack of logic, I’m also bothered by the sheep mentality. Only a small minority of Mac owners actually buy one because they compared the numbers and know what kind of machine they need. Most of them are just attracted to “uuu shiny!”, which, y’know, is totally a valid reason to buy a computer.

    Or maybe it has 2 more GB than the old one did. Or maybe there’s a new button. Neither of which make the product any better, but hey, it totally constitutes as a brand-new thing now, and Mac Heads just HAVE to have the new one now. Even though the last machine died after a few months, the new one will TOTALLY be different than the last one… or the one before that… or the one before that…

  7. So sorry to hear of your loss…. I would have replaced it the same day as well… But please, don’t shout out too loudly about the Steve Jobs reality-distortion field. We must continue to keep this a secret from Gates and his clueless followers.

    My MacBook Pro has had four hard drives (my own upgrades from the original 80gb to current 320gb), added memory, and I proudly obtained and replaced my superdrive last year… It is a bit tarnished from holding it up while lounging on the sofa, and the bottom is scratched up, but my fingers are crossed for one more year… In the mean time, I am still using Super-Duper for back ups, as I am not a fan of Time Machine (sucks up way too much real estate on the hard drive).

    I think the unibody models have resolved much of what caused previous MacBooks to go awry. Enjoy the new machine, good luck with your taxes.

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