Sep 28 2009

Why I will never, ever buy another Apple Macbook

Category: MiscMatt @ 05:00

If you came to my blog today in the hopes of finding useful content, you are going to be sorely disappointed, because I have decided to waste your time today by telling you how wrong I was to ever buy something made by Apple.  Before I do that though, allow me to bring you up to speed on what I was thinking when I made this mistake last year.

A (not so) long time ago, in the same place I’m sitting now…

I was enrolled in a master’s program at Tennessee Technological University, and the fall semester was just about to get underway.  I had been lugging around a Dell Inspiron 9400 the previous semester.  This Dell was indeed a desktop replacement.  It had a nice video card, 4 GB of RAM, lots of storage, and a big, 17” widescreen, 1920x1200 LCD display.  As you might can imagine, this thing was anything but lightweight.  I dropped it on the scale at home, and it weighed in at a whopping 11 lbs (approximately).  Combine that with books and a long walk across campus, and you have me wishing I had something lighter to carry.

At the same time this was happening, I suppose I was starting to succumb to the allure of Apple and their products.  Virtually everyone on campus was using a Mac in some form or fashion and raving about how great they were.  When I decided to buy a smaller laptop to replace my mega-Dell, I did something I usually don’t do, and I spec’d out a machine from Apple in addition to Dell, HP, etc.  I expected the Macbook from Apple to be significantly more pricey than one from Dell or HP, but after a large student discount, the Macbook was actually slightly cheaper than the Dell and HP models I was looking at.  The Macbook also came with a free iPod, which my wife wanted anyway, so I gave in to the Apple bug and ordered one.

“Hey, let’s make everything not do what you expect it to do!”

A few days later my new Macbook arrived.  Keep in mind that I wanted to love this thing.  I was already the target of ridicule from some of my “friends”, and I wanted to be able to tell them how Apple had improved my life and made me a better person.  Unfortunately that isn’t what happened.  Despite what everyone had told me, I hated Mac OS with a passion.  You can read some of the reasons why here, I won’t get into them too much right now.  After limping along with Mac OS for a while, I finally started dual-booting Windows.  This worked fairly well except for one big problem: Macs have a single freaking mouse button.  It is 2009.  Apple, 1985 called, they want their mouse back. 

You get what you pay for…

I managed to get by using the crazy-ridiculous put-two-fingers-on-the-track-pad-and-click-for-right-mouse-button-but-be-careful-not-to-move-your-fingers-at-all-or-it-will-think-you-are-scrolling functionality for the last year.  It’s annoying, but it mostly works (except when you move your fingers at all).  Still, I couldn’t help but feel like maybe the $200 or so I saved cost me a lot in usability.  The Macbook started to seem like it wasn’t such a great deal after all.

Fast forward to August of this year.  We decided to try out some virtual office stuff here at my day job, so I fired up my Mac in the hopes of using the iSight camera for video conferencing.  There’s just one problem though: the camera isn’t registering.  It isn’t registering in Windows, and it isn’t registering in Mac OS, it’s just gone.  After Googling, I discovered that this is actually a very common problem, and that the cables that connect the camera to the motherboard are notorious for coming unhooked.  “Oh well,” I thought, “I paid for the most expensive warranty option, so I should be able to get this fixed tomorrow.”  See, I had previously dealt only with Dell and HP, both of which have great support (not counting the time I got stuck with an operator who couldn’t speak English very well, but that only happened once).  With either company, I could call, describe my problem, describe how I tried to trouble-shoot it, and I would have either a new part or a service technician waiting for me on-site the next day.  Amazing, especially when you compare it to what you get with your Macbook…

“We’re sorry, we’re booked for the next three days, and you can only schedule an appointment three days in advance…”

That’s a paraphrased quote.  Let me explain it.  With a Macbook, you basically have two service options: pack it up and ship it back for repairs, or find an Apple Store and take it in to the “Genius” Bar, which is “Genius” in the same was as ramming your face into a brick wall.  I don’t live in a major city, so I was looking at a 1.5 hour drive to the nearest Apple store.  Still, I actually needed to go that direction anyway, so I called to make an appointment.  After waiting on hold for 15 minutes before talking to a person, I was told that I would have to reserve a 15 minute slot at the bar, and that there were no slots available on the day I wanted to come.  I asked when the next opening was, and she couldn’t tell me, because you can only book 3 days in advance, and they were full for the next 3 days.  So my only option was to call back the next day and try to schedule an appointment.  Compare and contrast this with a Dell CompleteCare warranty.  My brother just had his video card die in his Dell.  He called on Friday, and a guy just left our office an hour ago after swapping the LCD, the motherboard, and the video card.  In less than one full business day, he basically got a brand new laptop, and he didn’t even have to leave the office. That is how you do service.  Apple likes to think that they’re innovating, but requiring someone to mail you a computer or bring it in for service is what I went through in the early 1990s.  It’s not what I expect in 2009.

So long, Macbook, you’ve been many things, but a good laptop isn’t one of them!

At this point I decided to say “Screw it.”  Getting my webcam working wasn’t worth the hassle.  And no matter what, it wasn’t going to solve my main complaint, which is THE LACK OF A FREAKING RIGHT MOUSE BUTTON.  This weekend I dusted off my old Inspiron 9400, formatted it with Windows 7, and enjoyed being able to right-click without having to think about how to position my fingers on the touchpad.

I hope this post serves as a warning to anyone else who is tempted to test the waters in Appleland.  Everyone there will tell you how awesome and warm it is, but it’s only warm because the water is full of piss, and they only think it’s awesome because they want to feel special because they were conned into buying something Apple made.  There is nothing about my Macbook that I will miss, aside from the sturdy case and the lightweight design (both of which Dell does nicely now).  I am very happy to be shelving that thing for the foreseeable future.

Apple, keep on “intuivating” it!

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