Digital World: One more round with the Macbook

The signs were all there. But I can't help it. I'm a rebel.

By DAVID SHAMAH
February 17, 2009 09:47
Digital World: One more round with the Macbook

jobs apple macbook 248.88 ap. (photo credit: AP [file])

The signs were all there. It was like the folks upstairs had lit up a big sign. "Once was enough. Don't make the same mistake again!" But I can't help it. I'm a rebel. So I went out and bought another Macbook. When I say "signs," I mean it. Macbook number one, after a bit more than two years, is on its last legs. The "white stallion" that swept me off my feet in 2007 developed a bad case of overheating, and some kind of fan allergy - very noisy and slow. The fan slowed down, the processor temperature shot up, and when it hit 85 degrees or so - shut down! Of course, the thing to do would be to get it serviced (after all, I had the extended warranty). But iDigital, the local Apple dealer really makes you jump through some hoops to get the service you paid for. You can't just bring your computer to the Genius Bar like you can in the United States (there are no Genius Bars in Israel). If you want to have your computer serviced, you have to call up Apple in the US (at your own expense, of course) and request a "case number," which you then bring to the local Apple dealer, who then checks out the case number to make sure you opened up the file. Only when that case number is authorized do they consider working on your machine. You can expect to wait about two weeks ("five business days") before you get your computer back. And don't dare bring it in on a Sunday or Thursday: you lose out on an extra couple of days because of the weekend. Clearly, not a userfriendly operation. Of course, the hassle can all be avoided if you buy your computer here and pay the "Israeli price" - but that's for rich Israelis, who can afford to pay 50 percent more than what the thing costs in the US. And other than iDigital, there are few (I know of just one) other organizations that can service your Mac. I don't mean to put down the iDigital people, who now operate the Apple concession in Israel, because they're at least more polite than the old Yeda crowd, which used to run the authorized dealership here. And iDigital will, if you ask them, very politely point out the reasons why they "have to" run their shop the way they do, whether it's repair policies or prices. My point is that you really have to like Macs to want to buy one for use in Israel. I guess I'm one to talk, though, because I now have five Macs in my home: two Macbooks, one iMac, and two Mac Minis (for those inclined to do so, please reread that sentence before you drop me a nasty e-mail about my anti-Mac feelings). But in terms of convenience, etc., it's just much easier to go with a PC. And if you're in the market for a PC laptop, now is a great time to go shopping. Netbooks, those mini-laptops that started out as half-pint notebooks designed for Web surfing, have undergone some "feature creep," and many of them have robust hard-drives and enough memory to qualify as a "real" laptop. And the prices can't be beat: about $500 or so in the US (order it here and the price is still great, even with the shipping and VAT). And yet, and yet. Many of the bargain laptops/netbooks still come with Windows XP, which fits like an old glove. Windows 7, a much nicer OS, is still in beta, and the computers you can get for less than $1,000 aren't powerful enough to run it anyway. With the better machines, you get a version of Vista, which, if you're used to the simplicity of OS X or even the unclutteredness of XP, can be a shocker. And indeed, all the laptops I could have considered to replace Macbook I would have required my adapting to Vista. Which I could do, if I had to, just like I could install a Linux distro (which, if you know how to work with it, would be a refreshing choice instead of Vista). Or, I could spend a little more and get another Macbook. As so many have pointed out so many times, the Mac, in general, comes with stuff you would have to add if you were buying a PC - like the iLife software or its equivalent, the built-in video camera, etc. Price was never the issue, though: as mentioned, it was reliability and the ability to get the machine serviced, if necessary. The latter is something no one, other than the people in charge of the local Apple operation, can do anything about. If enough of us complain, I suppose they might take these issues more seriously. But what about reliability? Was I ready to take a chance on another weak-fanned, hot-running, first-generation experiment? Absolutely not. But the Macbooks are now in at least their third generation, and from what I gather, Apple has learned something about heat control and fans (and processors) that help these computers. And what a generation it is! I got the $1,200 Aluminum 2.0 gHz Macbook, immediately upgraded to 4 GB of RAM (it can supposedly take up to 8 GB), so I could run XP on VMWare (so you really get two machines for the price of one). The aluminum shell (crafted out of a single piece of the material) is just beautiful, and although the processor on this machine is nominally slower than the processor on the original Macbook, a faster bus and faster and more efficient memory actually makes the machine faster. The graphics are great (LED screen, nVidia GeForce 9400 graphics chip), and despite the misgivings some have, I personally love the glossy display (the matte one on the Macbook now seems much duller). It just feels like a solid machine. It was enough to sell me; hopefully, I'll be able to avoid the repair bench altogether. So, despite the signs, I went with a Macbook - again. And I'm very glad I did.


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