Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Apple tech support experience

Since I've posted the rant about not buying apple products because there was no Java 1.6, Java 1.6 became available and so I bought 2 Apple notebooks this year. Unfortunately my 2008 early model MacBook got some hairline cracks in the casing so I called up Apple tech support, got a case number, and showed up at the Apple store to drop of the machine for under warranty repair. The somewhat lengthy post below describes my experience:

1. Encounter with a tool

When I made it to the genius bar (3rd floor of the Sydney George st. Apple Store) I was approached by John a concierge. He asked me re-enter all the information I already submitted over the phone (this I had to do in order to get the case number).

I did that.

Then he asked me to sign a paper stating in a nutshell that:

- I have a backup of all the data (I do)
- I have removed all the private information from the computer (I most certainly did NOT)

I refused to sign.

My notebook, like most notebooks I imagine, is full of private data. I told him that if the technicians remove the hard drive and give it to me I'll sign the form and let them work on the repair without having any privacy concerns.

Now, John refused.

John informed me that they will not remove the hard-drive nor lend me the tools to do so myself. Instead he advised me to go home, remove the hard drive myself and then come back. The other option he gracefully offered was for me to go out, buy a screw driver then come back and remove the hard drive myself right there at the Apple store. But there is no way they would do it for me or lend me the tool.

I went down to the second floor to ask at the hardware sales desk if they, by any chance, sell the tiny screw drivers needed to take out the hard drive from a MacBook. The sales guy there told me that they don't sell those since removing the hard drive voids the warranty.


He told me however that the "guys upstairs" would surely help me with taking out my hard drive. Given my recent experience I was in doubt so I asked him if he could help me sort that out with the "guys upstairs" to which he agreed. Back upstairs I went, and we ran into non-other than my old friend John. I explained to John that he has effectively advised me to void my warranty by telling me to remove the hard drive myself, at which point he finally caved in and hooked me up with a "Genius" called Alex.

2. Encounter with a Genius

Alex didn't need to be an actual genius to see my point. He took the notebook of my hands promised that in 15 minutes he'll be back either with the whole thing fixed up or the hard drive for me to take home. I signed the papers, on good faith that within those 15 minutes he won't break or copy my hard drive (but hey I can be reasonable), I sat down at the Genius Bar and used my MacBook Pro to write this blog. In about 45 minutes Alex came around with my MacBook fixed and good to go. Though it took him a bit longer than he estimated I would like to thank Alex for being a human with a brain and common sense (at Apple this apparently is called a "Genius") he saved me from going home buying a tool I don't need and voiding my warranty. Thank you Alex.

3. Conclusion

How would I quantify my experience tonight.

Firstly, it's obvious that it takes much more effort to encounter a tool (John) than it does t0 encounter a Genius (Alex).

Secondly, even a otherwise capable organization like Apple with it's very cool stores has it's weak links (John) and it's strong ones (Alex).

Thirdly, the paper Apple made me sign before any work was done is completely silly. I had to agree that my notebook contains no private data (which it does like any other notebook) and the 2 ways I know of to ensure no private data are:
- remove hard drive (but also void the warranty)
- reformat hard drive before submitting to apple and restore data from backup upon return (not very convenient and lenghty)

So perhaps offering to remove the hard drive and then fix the computer may be an option that is more acceptable to a customer concerned about time and privacy such as myself.

Monday, November 24, 2008

gmail feature request: show me the video

Wouldn't it be nice if we could view videos attached to emails right inside the web client? Since Google owns www.youtube.com I cannot see this being a big problem for Gmail. The UI could also make exporting videos to Youtube a single step operation. It would save me time with having to download large email attachments and with looking for codecs to play the downloaded videos (though to be fair with VLC the second point is not so much). The transcoding of videos from * to Flash may be a bit resource intensive but an organization size of Google could just be up to it.
Of course if Google doesn't step up soon, I may just decide to implement this feature myself :)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

hacking cotopia

Lately we've been receiving emails about malicious players cloning other login names of other players by exploiting that we use unicode where different characters look the same (e.g. an ASCII 'C' looks like the Cyrillic 'C' for instance)
This is forcing us to restrict login names to the ASCII set.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Go vote

While I am not a US citizen I hope those of you who are will take this chance for a real change. The whole world is watching.