Mac Scope

Hardware Failure, That Rare Mac Headache

Stephen Van Esch - 2004.07.09

My trusty PowerBook had its very first hardware failure yesterday. I must admit that I'm surprised and disappointed by this event. This PowerBook is only a little over two-and-a-half years old.

Granted, I've used and abused the thing no end. Countless productive hours a day (and we're not talking emailing and surfing, friends). Rarely shutting it down. Hauling it to trade shows and halfway across the country.

This little PowerBook has been the epitome of reliable. Not even a dead pixel (fingers crossed).

You'd think that I would appreciate all the mileage I've gotten out of this thing. It's been a real workhorse, after all. To be honest, I'm the same way with my cars. If my car needs a major repair (i.e., over $300) before the odometer ticks past 200,000 kilometers (about 125,000 miles), I get annoyed. I'm still breaking it in at 200,000k, for crying out loud.

Reliability is something I'm willing to pay for, which is why I switched to the Mac long ago. In fact, I made the switch when it really was more expensive to buy a Mac rather than just mildly more expensive, like it is now. It was a fairly big commitment, considering how much I had invested in Wintel.

As a testament to its longevity, my first Mac is still with me. I don't use it for anything, but I can still fire it up and surf the Web and check email if I need to.

It would be too much to ask a portable computer to match the record of my desktop. It's obviously more fragile and gets knocked about quite a bit more. But still, a hardware failure at this early stage can hardly be an indicator of good things to come.

To cap it, my dear wife listened for about two seconds to my tale of woe before flat our refusing to entertain the thought of a new G5 desktop. I mean, seriously, the machine that's my bread and butter is on death's door, and there's no replacement team in sight.

I'm starting to feel like the French national soccer team - aging stars that just can't keep up with the young bucks.

I'm in a quandary. Should I replace the current machine (wife's objections notwithstanding) or bite the bullet and get it repaired? No extended AppleCare for me, so I'd be on the hook for the full repair cost. (AppleCare is a wise investment but the money wasn't flowing like a fountain when I laid out a significant amount of savings to purchase my current machine.) Decisions, decisions.

What exactly happened to my machine? The tab key broke off. I mean, c'mon, if a guy can't trust a keyboard day in and day out (while command-tabbing about a million times a day), what can he trust? It's all about reliability folks.

Now about that new G5....

This column will be my last biweekly one for Low End Mac. It's been an exciting four years in the Mac world, and I'm anxiously looking forward to many more. I'd like to thank all the loyal Low End Mac and Mac Scope readers. It's been grand trading emails (and barbs). I'd also like to thank the publisher of Low End Mac, Dan Knight, for giving me the chance to write for his great site.

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Stephen Van Esch is the founder and president of the E-learning Foundry, an online training resource for Mac users. Steve loves the Mac and is doubly bilingual, since he's also fluent in Windows and French.

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