Kitchens Sync

Macintosh Reliability Improving Since the Shift to Intel

- 2008.07.07 - Tip Jar

In the past few days I have had a chance to personally experience the incredible durability of a MacBook. However, Macs were not always this durable. Several of the past models have had specific components with incredible high rates of failure. I also recently had an experience with one of those.

Good News First, Of Course

Before I dive into the bad news, I will start with something good. The MacBook I recently acquired is a Late 2006 Core 2 model, and it had been through quite a battle: the previous owner accidentally stepped on it. However, this did not do as much damage as could be expected. The screen, of course, is destroyed; only a narrow strip at the top remains intact and semi-functioning.

What truly surprised me is that the SuperDrive, though definitely damaged, still functions. It can't burn anymore, but the drive still reads discs normally. However, from the sound of disc injection/ejection, I can definitely tell that the servo got pretty crunched and may give out any time. So for safety, I cloned a Leopard disc to my bootable 4G iPod and installed from it. (Try that on a Wintel laptop!)

This computer will be a file server/802.11n router until I can find cheap parts to fix its problems.

During all this, I really wish I could have used Remote Disc, like the MacBook Air. Apple, if you're listening, please bring Remote Disc to the entire Mac population; I know others will be able to make good use of it. Surely the Intel Macs can have their firmware tweaked to support all the features of Remote Disc. Maybe the next Leopard update could even bring Remote Disc support to all users of Leopard, including those on PowerPC.

The Bad News

Unfortunately, just prior to all of this happening, I had an unfortunate episode with my 700 MHz eMac. A part in the display assembly called the IVAD cable gave out. This caused the display to exhibit what is commonly known as the "Raster Shift" issue. According to reports on the Web, this part has an extremely high rate of failure. Some people have even had to swap the part multiple times in less than a year. Thankfully, the part only cost me $40.

I was also required to do the parts swap myself, not a small task. The local Apple Store told me that my model is no longer supported, and the Apple Authorized Service Provider informed me that they only do $400 analog assembly replacements for this problem. This was something Apple's consumer division was very interested to hear, because a service notification was sent to all AASPs stating that this problem was to be repaired by replacing the IVAD cable, not swapping the analog assembly (as was initially done before the true point of failure was identified by Apple several years ago).

This problem reminds me of the myriad failure reports regarding the solder issue on the Dual USB and later iBooks. It seems that during this period, Apple may have had some issues with the engineering behind some of their products, leading to weak designs that failed over time. I seem to remember there were also a few other faulty designs during this period that led to Apple issuing recalls on other models to replace failing parts.

Put Down Your Screwdriver and Come Out Peacefully

Perhaps the reason why most new Apple products come with very limited user-service potential is indicative of their new standard in engineering. Apple has done what is necessary to ensure that blunders like these aren't likely to occur again on new products (or maybe they just think it's more fun to watch a Genius try to disassemble one of the new Intel Macs). LEM

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