Not a blog post about innovation

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Hello everyone,

The picture on the left is of me over this weekend.

Although I was able to get my Apple Mac going on Saturday after having spent all day rebuilding the primary hard drive, it was at around 11pm last night that my Mac decided to return to the dark side of not working.

Yes, it has had a very ordinary last few months.  Essentially my Mac had been resetting itself, sometimes about 1 hour of use, sometimes 8 hours and other times less than 5 seconds.  Sometimes it didn’t even bother to reset, it just shut down.  Perhaps the picture on the left side should be of the Mac pulling its own hair out, as it seemed to be chucking tantrums!

Let’s travel back in time.  A few months ago I had the same problem.  Unfortunately I purchased this machine in 2008 and therefore it now being in 2010, the 1 year Apple Care support had run out.  So what do you do?  You take it to an authorised repairer right.  That’s what I did.

Just in case you don’t realise, this is going to be a long story post!  Not my normal type of posting but I just feel like venting.  On a separate, but kind of related point, I saw “The Social Network”.  I had read the book that inspired the movie a while ago, but the movie stacked up really well.  My view, Sorkin and Fincher were the reason for that.  Two of my favourite writers / directors. The reason it is kind of related, in one part he is blogging because he is upset!

Back to the story, well my story that is.  So, a few months back with a Mac that wouldn’t start properly I lugged the machine into our car.  I drove, with my dog for company, to the Mac repairer who is located in South Melbourne.  Due to it being a Saturday they cannot look at it then so you have to leave it and then wait for the call.  Sweet, I will get the call and hear it is a faulty xxxxx, repaired and I am back in business.

During the week I receive a phone call from the store advising me that they have had the Mac running for 24 hours straight and they cannot see any problems.  Do they provide any other information?  Nope.  Just that I can come and pick it up, this is Thursday afternoon by the way, tomorrow.  Of course that means Saturday for me.

So, back in the car again, with dog for company, to pick up this weird Mac that shuts down for me but when someone else has it, it runs for 24 hours straight without missing a beat.

Right, now I could so easily cut a long story short, but you have come this far so let’s continue.

I plug everything in again, which does include a number of monitors (3), external hard drives (2), keyboard and mouse, plus a video convertor (H.264).

You could have blown me over with a breath, it works!  Strange.  But fantastic.  So, off I trudge in using my Mac again.  Feeling empowered, excited and able to feel like a functioning person (ok, geek) again.

Let’s move a few weeks forward now.  Can you guess what?

So, back again to the very sam Mac repair store.  By the way, did I mention that for kindly running my Mac for 24 hours without a problem they charged me $75.  Yes, they charged me to turn my Mac on and leave it on!  Hmmm.  They did kindly mention that it had quite a bit of dust so they gave it a clean.  How nice!

Once again, a Saturday morning and I unplug everything.  Sorry, I should mention that I didn’t just do nothing myself this time.  I tried unplugging monitors (1 of the 3), checking hard drives, and feeling for air on the fan. No impact.

I have to leave it there again.  This time I receive a phone call on the Wednesday leaving me a message.  Can you guess the test they did?

“We ran your Mac for 24 hours straight and we cannot see any problem.  Can you please give us a call back and perhaps we can discuss this.”

I had a busy week that week and just had no time.  I rocked up on the Saturday where the nice people again informed me that no-one was around.  I said I received a call and should take my Mac back.  After again forking over $75 I return home.  Again the Mac is working!

Now what?

This time I last about a week and the first signs of problems start.  It is a nightmare!

I am now at the cracking point, well, I am closer to it than ever!

I look on the internet about this problem.  There are similar issues but nothing identical.  People do refer to fan control issues causing the problem.  I download a freeware fan control programme and try and use that.  The program will not even start!

Therefore, I call the Mac repair store in South Melbourne.  Ultimately I get through to a person, how many numbers do I need to select to get to a person?  The person on the other end of course states I know nothing about your particular issue.  If you had of asked my name surely you could of looked it up mate? Oh yeah, how could that of helped.  The notes would have said:

xx/xx/2010     Mac brought in due to shutting down

xx/xx/2010     Ran test of leaving PC on 24 hours – no issues

xx/xx/2010     Charge this sap $75!

xx/xx/2010     Mac brought in due to shutting down (similar problem???)

xx/xx/2010     Ran test leaving PC on for 24 hours – no issues

xx/xx/2010     Charge this sap another $75!

I guess he was telling the truth.  He was in the service team and he knew nothing, that’s because running a PC for 24 hours isn’t a test!  He did tell me that maybe the fan speed was the problem (what the?!?!?!?  he gave me advice?  Clearly the sap rating had disappeared from his mind).

Then I laughed internally.

He advised me of this program on the internet, freeware, that I could use.  Thanks mate.  I CAN READ and find that myself – oh yeah that’s right, I did!

So, I am now really frustrated.  I get to Saturday again.  I unplug the Mac and grab the dog and we head off again!  I start driving towards Mac repair (no idea where because Apple do not actually give you options of where to go when you are out of Apple Care – nice customer service Apple).

As I am driving something in my mind says “why is history repeating?”, “why is history repeating?”, “why is history repeating?”,”why is history repeating?”

I stop the car.  I look at the dog and I tell myself I am a sap no longer.  Instead I walk my dog around Elwood for a while and then I head back home.

I decide to start trying to solve the problem myself.

I try removing RAM and seeing if that helps, leaving in the original Apple supplied RAM only.  Still having problems.  I finally get the fan speed programme working, but apart from making a hell of a lot more noise, it still shuts down.

I then decide that I will try to rebuild the main hard drive (there are 4 hard drives).  After some frustration, I get the CD to work and install OS X on the hard drive.  Hard drive utility does identify some errors on the main drive as well as a backup drive.

With these corrected and everything plugged in, my Mac starts working.  I then head off to watch “The Social Network” with my partner.

When we return the Mac has shut down (it had been on for around 5-6 hours straight by this stage).

Now, it will not start at all.  A few dings every now and then but nothing.

Again I open the Mac up, remove more RAM,  remove hard drives and remove video cards.  Every now and then I get a good ding and it stays on, of course I don’t have the monitors plugged in so I cannot see what is happening.

At one stage I get a stable system.  I then plug the monitors (4) back in and then hit shut down.  I try to start again but again nothing.  Hang on, did I just plug the monitors back in and get this problem?

When the Apple repair team do their complex 24 hour test (!) do they have more than 1 monitor plugged in?  Nope.  Ok, more than 1 monitor, system fails, 1 monitor system works.  Maybe.

But right now I am sitting here having removed the second video card.  The Mac has started, obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this.  It has now been going for around an hour.  I have plugged in a second monitor and all the external hard drives are back (2).  Every time I write a new sentence on this blog I hit “save draft”.  

I now listen to every noise from the Mac.

I now think about how in the next second, hang on have to hit “save draft”……..phew!

I now think about how in the next second it could shutdown.

It is like having a massive weight over your head, held up by a single thread.  Every moment you are wondering when the thread will break and “smash” on your head.

Is this saga over?  Clearly not, that weight is still over my head.  Tonight I leave the Mac on and if in the morning it it still on we have taken our first steps.  Then if it is still on tomorrow night, and then the next day, maybe then, just maybe, I can start to see the weight disappear.

If it shuts down.  Then I have no idea what to do as Apple don’t support you after a year unless you pay more (of course, and there is no option to take it out unless at purchase!) and their repair service providers (not sure if it is an official relationship as can’t see it written anywhere) seem to have a testing regime that if used for aeroplanes would see a plane fall out the sky every 10 seconds!

So, right now I am biting the last of my nails.

Luckily though, I do have my Acer eMachines laptop at hand so I can at least continue working (a $500 laptop which seems to function better than a Mac Pro at the moment).

Now, whilst I’m here do you want to hear about my partners Apple laptop that decided to have a fault this weekend?

Ok, perhaps another time.

Life is just full of wonderful challenges and fun isn’t it?

So for me, what was the point of venting this?

The world is an imperfect place, I expect things to stop working.

What I would like to see though is that the Mac Repair store takes some accountability for not actually fixing something.

But, I am more likely to win the Tattslotto.

Cheers,

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Scott North has extensive experience in enterprise risk management, internal audit, operational risk and compliance, risk strategy, scenario planning, technology risk, technology business analysis, systems design, financial accounting, and management accounting. Scott is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Chartered Accountants with a Masters Degree from the University of Melbourne in Business and Information Technology. Scott is also a Fellow of the University of Melbourne.