Back in January, I decided to part with a hearty chunk of cash in exchange for a 20-inch iMac with a G5 processor. It had been 12 years since I'd hung with the Steve Jobs crowd at the cool kids' table; I'd spent -- nay, wasted, I convinced myself -- all those years wandering through life in CTRL-ALT-DEL mode, fully cognizant of the fact that at any given time, the stuff I'd been working on for the past 90 minutes could get sucked into some vacuum that even Bill Gates himself couldn't access. But 2005 would be a Mac year for me, I decided. Soon, I'd think different. After all, that's what the commercials said would happen.
Truth be told, these first few months have been pleasant. Not nearly as delightful as the Macheads would lead one to believe, but nice nonetheless. My big Mac has plenty of meaningless little features that make me smile, such as the ability to instantly turn my digital photos from Europe into a cute little slide-show with a classical-music soundtrack. Granted, that's not why I bought a new computer, and it sure isn't worth a couple of thousand bucks, but it's a nice touch.
Not as nice is the lack of availability of software. I've got a TiVo that's loaded with stuff that I'd like to toss onto a DVD -- a feature TiVo supports as long as I'm running Windows-only TiVoToGo software. I'd like to check out that Sims game that so many people rave about, but it's just being released for Mac now. The Mac version, of course, also falls way behind in terms of game features. I'm learning this is typical.
But these are just minor irritants. For the most part, the Mac had been meeting my needs -- until it damn near burst into flames Saturday morning.
I woke up early Saturday morning, as I do on all Saturday mornings so Tiersa and I can haul our behinds to San Francisco for the farmers market at the Ferry Building. This Saturday wasn't much different than any other Saturday, except:
(a) we were meeting a couple of friends at the market, and
(b) the room in which we keep the Mac smelled of burning tires
Once the full effects of the stench hit me and I realized it wasn't coming from our downstairs neighbors (who regularly treat us to a cavalcade of olfactory assaults that would blind most mere mortals), I went into full-on bloodhound mode. I sniffed the new printer we just bought last week. It was fine. I sniffed the paper shredder. No smell there. I wandered into other rooms. The wine fridge? Nope. The wall heater? Clean. The beloved-yet-passive-aggressive TiVo? Angry as always, but not emitting a foul scent.
There was only one other possible source. There sat the Mac, smiling at me. "Think different," it was saying to me. "Like, the smell of an electrical fire is something you want in your home. That would be different."
I bent down, moved my nose to about a half-inch of the air vent on the back of the Mac, and took a whiff. Bingo. The unmistakable stench of burning wires.
I powered down Ol' Smokey and moved to our Dell CroMagnon 500, the Betamax of the Jackson Computer Library. I'm lucky it still worked, because I hadn't fed the hamsters that live inside of it since the Baked Apple arrived.
After a mere 15 minutes of Googlish research, I discovered that 20-inch iMac G5s built between November 2004 and January 2005 shipped with faulty power supplies that have a tendency to overheat and melt your Mac's guts after about three-and-a-half months of life. A lot of companies would consider recalling their machines because of something like this, but Apple likes to Think Different.
Apple's technical support staff was quite helpful on Saturday, when they arranged to ship me a replacement power-supply unit. (Apple has deemed the power supply a "customer-replaceable part," so I get to play service tech once it finally arrives. It took me three years to learn how to program my last cell phone, and I haven't even begun to figure out the one I acquired five months ago. This should be fun.) "You'll have it by Tuesday morning at the latest," wrote Jennifer, the Apple Chat rep, all the way from Hyderabad.
Today, however, the fruit is singing a different tune. I called their support line to confirm that the part would ship today. The person on the other line (who yawned into the phone twice, mentioned to me in her irritating Southern accent on three separate occasions how she simply could not wait for the caffeine from her tea to kick in, and addressed me as "Hon" 10 different times -- no wonder so many of these jobs get outsourced overseas, for crying out loud) not only refused to confirm the part would ship today, but she also refused to tell me whether or not the part was even available. For all I know, since these power supplies are bursting into flames more quickly than Michael Jackson's head at a Pepsi commercial shoot, this Mac is going to be out of commission for weeks. "I can't tell you if the part is in stock or not," she reasoned, "because by the time we get off the phone it may be out of stock."
So she couldn't tell me the part was in stock because it very well may have been in stock? Now that is a fine example of thinking different. It's thinking stupid, but it's also thinking different.
I've owned three or four Dells in my day, and not once have I ever received poor technical support from them. If something goes wrong, they send a rep to my home by the next day. They've never told me a part was "customer-replaceable" in order to get out of doing work they're paid to do, and they've always been quite honest with me regarding the availability of various parts that may be needed to fix a problem. None of these parts has ever been out of stock, but I've always felt if they were indeed not available, someone at Dell would mention it to me in order to keep me from calling them every two hours.
Yeah, Windows machines crash a lot. On the other hand, I've never had one turn into an Easy-Bake Oven after only four months of use. I guess it's all about trade-offs.