Apple Engineers Its Own Downfall With the Macbook Pro Keyboard | iFixit →

My 2011 MacBook Pro finally died (these models suffer from a graphics chip overheating problem) and I’m absolutely gutted because it was genuinely a beautiful machine to work on. It was rock-solid, had every port you’d ever need, and I sprung for the matte display, so it never had any problem with glare. And most importantly, the keyboard worked. The 2017 Touchbar MacBook Pro is the worst laptop I’ve ever used.

Apple Ireland

Apple are famous for sweating the small stuff. They pay attention to the tiniest details, the things that hardly anyone notices but make a huge difference to a user’s experience of their product.

Apple Ireland, on the other hand, appear to be a bunch of goddamn clowns. This could be a larger blog post about what it’s like to be an Apple consumer in Ireland (other possible topics: no TV shows in iTunes store, no visual voicemail on the iPhone etc. etc.), but let’s just limit it to one thing: the film section of the iTunes store

One of the things I really like about the film section of the iTunes store is the ‘themed’ bundles. For example, during fashion week, they had a sale on 25 films about fashion. Now it’s Halloween and they’re doing a sale on 25 horror films.

Click into this and you’ll get this list of films:

Can you spot the obvious mistake? That’s right, in this list of 25 horror films, there are only 24 films.

If you change iTunes store to United Kingdom, you’re presented with the full list of films. Apparently, we’re not getting Cabin in the Woods as part of this sale although it’s still available in the Irish iTunes store for €16.99

But the fuckery doesn’t stop there! Even in the Irish store, you can see that The Blair Witch Project is in the €6.99 sale. Except when you click into it…

(Again, in the UK store, this film is listed at the ‘sale’ price.)

Apple Ireland have definitely adopted the Irish attitude of “Ah sure it’ll be grand”. I’m just not sure how well this works with Apple’s overall reputation as a company that sweats the small stuff.

Hello →

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Are Apple Products Badly Engineered?

There’s a lot of brouhaha about the failure rate of Xbox 360s. In the same week, I saw three different news stories citing three different failure rates for the 360 (54.2%, 23.7% and 27.3%, if you’re interested). And everyone gives them shit because they’re, y’know, Microsoft.

Having spent the morning fixing a dying Macbook, I started thinking about what my failure rate with Apple hardware has been. And to be perfectly honest, it’s been pretty shit. In the past five years, I’ve owned (or co-owned) an iBook, two Macbooks, an iMac, a 60GB iPod, two iPod nanos and an iPod touch. Let’s see what’s happened with these.

  • Wife’s iBook ate its own display cable
    Putting a teeny-tiny display cable into a hinge that gets used all the time? Great idea.

  • Macbook case cracking
    This happened on both my own Macbook and my wife’s. If you see how the Macbook is assembled, it’s easy to see why this happens - you have to bend the entire keyboard plate slightly to get it to connect. Bending it weakens the decorative plastic ‘lip’.

  • Macbook case discoloration
    I got this on my white Macbook. Got the keyboard plate replaced, started happening again before I got rid of the Macbook

  • iMac logic board meltdown
    Brand-new iMac died within 8 hours of getting it because the logic board wasn’t connected properly, half the fans didn’t work and melted the graphics card

  • Dead headphone adaptor on 60GB iPod
    This was probably my own fault. I like to use headphones with strong cables and very little ‘give’, forcing the headphone jack to bend slightly. Still, this wasn’t exactly ‘heavy’ use. Managed to replace this via parts on eBay

  • Random lines on 60GB iPod
    No idea where this came from, but it’s like my iPod had a stroke or something. Turned it on one day and there was a strong black band going across the LCD screen. They’ve slowly started fading away now, going back to normal.

  • Dodgy connector on one iPod nano
    This both comes from and affects the Nike+. I plug in the Nike+ adaptor and it doesn’t detect a receiver. Works fine on the other iPod nano. Doesn’t affect normal connection to the computer.

  • Dodgy Nike+ on iPod touch
    My iPod touch will only randomly choose to see the Nike+ adaptor in my shoe. Usually after I do a complete reformat and restore, and even then, it only lasts for about a week.

  • Broken DVD drive in Macbook
    About a year after my wife got her Macbook, the DVD drive stopped working. It was hardly ever moved and rarely used. Still, it means that OS upgrades are a pain in the dick and I can’t run the hardware test utility any more.

  • Broken LCD backlight on Macbook
    This is what I’ve been dealing with today. After a random crash, the backlight no longer works. I can see the display on the LCD, but there’s just no backlight. I don’t even know where to begin with this

  • Update: Fraying on Macbook power chord
    Joanne’s comment reminded me about this. About a year ago, power on the Macbook was a bit flaky. We turned over the power chord and noticed that near the connector, the cable had burned almost completely through. We were lucky that we were in the house when it happened, this could have been a lot nastier than the €80 it cost to replace the chord.

So, of all the Apple hardware I’ve used in the last five years, the only thing that hasn’t given me an issue is one iPod nano (I’ve also got an Apple IIe from 1986 at home that still works fine). Which leads me to wonder if Apple products are badly engineered, or am I just extremely unlucky?

Failing Now.

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Our Macbook had been crashing frequently over the past week or so. It would hang randomly when doing minor things, like copying a new program into the Applications folder. Sometimes it would take the computer two or three minutes to get itself together. Other times, it wouldn’t get itself together at all and a hard reboot was the only option.

Eventually, I took a look in Disk Utility. The hard drive was listed in red. It told me the disk was dying. I used smartmon to give me more information, and this is where I got the image at the top of this post - my “Reallocated Sector Count” was at 0, and my disk was “FAILING_NOW”. I’ll spare you the gory details of what this meant, but the shorthand version is “ABANDON SHIP! WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST!”

Necessity: the mother of invention

Fortunately, we had a spare laptop hard drive lying around, so that wasn’t a major issue. We also had a spare 400GB desktop hard drive, with a USB adaptor. Unfortunately, we only had two power adaptors. Which meant I couldn’t power the macbook, the hard drive to be backed up and the hard drive I was backing up to.

We’d bought a bunch of spare power adaptors in the airport before we came but in our excitement, walked off the plane without them - oops.

So for the past month, we’ve been carefully swapping power adaptors around as needed. The hairdryer, the iron, our phones, the PlayStation, the computers, the wireless router… it got a little silly, but we managed. When I’d google for a place to buy electrical equipment in rome, I’d found that the main place is called “GPL”. And Linux has completely ruined that search term.

So when the hard drive began to die, I ran out and didn’t stop using my broken Italian and eleborate hand gestures until I came back with a bunch of power adaptors and two-prong figure-eight plugs.

(PS, for anyone searching google for ‘electrical equipment’ or ‘travel adaptors’ in Rome, I found a GPL on the corner of Viale delle Milizie and Via Giordano Bruno.)

Backing it all up

I’d heard a lot about SuperDuper, an application for backing up your Mac. A lot of people have said how it saved their necks, so that was the first thing I tried.

Unfortunately, it’s not so good for saving your neck when your hard drive is already on the way out. When it encounters a bad block on the disk (and your disk can’t replace the bad block, as mine couldn’t), SuperDuper will try a bunch of methods to access the data and then crap out. It throws its hands up in the air, shouts “I can’t work with these amateurs” and goes back to its trailer.

Tar wasn’t much better. In the end, I created a disk image on the 400GB hard drive and used plain ol' ‘cp’. When it came across a bad block, it complained of an I/O error but kept on truckin'.

So now I’ve got a proper backup, we’re working off the spare hard drive (with half the capacity, but it’ll do), and I got an RMA from the hard drive manufacturer.

Hopefully things will be back to normal next week.

Hello, I’m a Mac. →

Macbook signed by Mitchell & Webb David Mitchell and Robert Webb (PC and Mac in the UK adverts) were in Dublin promoting their new film, “Magicians”. After the screening, they were taking photos with people and signing autographs. So, naturally, I asked them to sign my Macbook.

Happy Birthday Apple.com! →

I’ve been pretty busy, so I missed this slightly, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate!

Monday was the 20th birthday of Apple.com. The domain was registered on the 19th of February 1987 and was the 64th registered dot-com address.

So happy birthday, guys!

New Mac Ad – Security →

Miaow. Coming barely a week after Bill Gates went off on one about Mac security? Saucer of milk for Steve Jobs.