Charles Moore's Mailbag

AppleCare Value, Importing Bookmarks in Opera, and Beautiful Cars

Charles Moore - 2011.02.08 - Tip Jar

AppleCare Makes Sense for Laptops

From Alan Zisman in response to AppleCare Pros and Cons:

In the past, I've recommended that folks buy extended warranties - including AppleCare - for laptops and not for desktops; my own experience with laptops (including Apple's) has made it more or less a break-even proposition - I think I told you the story of my iBook G4/800 which had three hard drive replacements and two keyboard replacements, all on AppleCare. (Ironically, it's still running and in use years later, happily, on its final set of AppleCare replacements). Another iBook, a G3/500 had no problems and is also still in use even more years later.

Now, however, as SSDs start getting increased use, I may have to rethink that - most of the laptop issues I've seen have been due to hard drive failure, and SSDs simply aren't going to have the same sort of mechanical failures that are a real possibility in portable computers.

- Alan

Hi Alan,

I guess I've been lucky. I've been using laptops near-exclusively and intensely for 15 years, and the only major hardware failures I've had were a fried processor in a 3-1/2 year old WallStreet, a motherboard failure (presumed) in a six-year-old G3 iBook, and a zapped power manager in an eight-year-old (at the time) Pismo, none of which would have been covered by AppleCare had I bought it.

I've only had two hard drive failures in my entire 19 years of using Macs, neither of them in laptops. They were both with nearly brand new drives, one Seagate and one Fujitsu. I'm hoping that you're right about SSD reliability and longevity, but unless I buy a MacBook Air next time, I'm intent on using hard drives (or perhaps hybrids) for some time yet until the SSD technology matures and provides decent storage capacity at reasonable prices.


I've had far more hard drive failures than that - once I had the drives fail in my iBook and Dell laptop within a day of one another. The drive in my wife's iMac failed a year or two ago as well.

I'm a big believer in using Time Machine on a daily basis - and have written in appreciation of how straightforward Apple makes restoring after a drive replacement.


Hi Alan,

I guess I must lead a charmed life as regards hardware reliability. The oldest hard drive I currently have in service is a 40 GB, 5400 RPM Toshiba that I retrofitted to my first Pismo (still getting three or four hours daily use) back in 2002, and it's still going strong without ever a hiccup, as is the 100 GB Seagate drive in my other current Pismo, but it has a lot fewer hours than the Toshiba. The 20 GB IBM hard drive in our old iBook was still quiet and reliable at six years when the motherboard croaked. The circa 2004 17" PowerBook that was my production workhorse for three years and currently in daily use by my wife also still has its original 80 GB Toshiba hard drive with no sign of any issues, although I appreciate that most hard drive failures happen with little or no warning.

Time Machine is convenient if you like full automation, as it were. I used it for a while after upgrading to Leopard, but have more recently switched to Carbon Copy Cloner for backups. I like the greater level of manual control and user oversight I get with CCC, and it makes nice bootable backups that can be updated incrementally. Because I work with three computers, I usually have current projects backed up redundantly on a relatively frequent basis anyway, so I usually go a week or two between global backup updates.

So far so good!


AppleCare Has Been Worth It

From Richard:


I've owned quite a few Macs (Plus, IIsi, Quadra 650, Power Mac 6100, B&W G3, Mac mini PPC, MacBook Pro, Santa Rosa, and currently a 13" unibody MBP). My desktop Macs are tanks, and the Quadra and B&W G3 in particular I keep mothballed in storage because they actually still work.

Sadly, Apple quality has declined in my transition to laptops, virtually requiring AppleCare. Firstly, the removable batteries on the MacBook Pros would go from Good to Fair state with nominal evening usage in 6-8 months, even with conditioning, requires replacing them alone (3x $110) covers AppleCare. I've had each of the power bricks on my MBP's, except the Unibody, break once ($69 each).

The worst quality issue was the catastrophic failure of my Santa Rosa MacBook Pro's motherboard around 18 months. For that one failure, AppleCare didn't save me, because I had a cosmetic dent on one corner which the Genius snot at the Apple Store judged as grounds for invalidation. Even though that MacBook Pro ran for over a year with the dent, I never brought the system in for diagnostics proving the machine 'survived' the incident causing the case dent. Very aggravating. In the end, except for one machine, AppleCare has been worth it.

For iPhone and iPod touches, AppleCare also pays for itself - the top button my original iPhone went bad right before the 2nd year anniversary. I've had an iPod touch's front button go bad just after a year, and the battery on my iPhone 3GS went bad after 18 months. Each of these repairs was covered under AppleCare, few questions asked. The best part is getting a factory replacement right before placing devices for sale and the transferability of the warranty to the buyer as an extra selling point. Every iPhone I've sold this way sells the same day.

The jury is still out on the iPad, but I've bought AppleCare just in case for two of them. One device I didn't bother getting AppleCare for is my AppleTV 2.0 - I figure if it breaks, $99 is not too bad to replace it.

Thanks for article, definitely stirred my experience enough for me to write in!


Hi Richard,

Glad you did! Thanks for sharing your AppleCare insights and experiences with us.

I guess if I'd had the reliability problems you've experienced with Apple products, I would be more of an AppleCare fan myself. However, in 19 years of using Macs, mostly laptops and a few desktops in the early going, I've never had one single failure that would have been covered by the AppleCare two years of extended coverage. All issues, and they have been exceedingly few and for the most part relatively minor, have happened either in the first 12 months standard warranty period or beyond the three-year threshold, in which case AppleCare would have been no help.

I don't criticize anyone for buying AppleCare. We all have our comfort zones for taking risk in such matters. Extended warranties are really insurance policies. The manufacturer is betting that the number of problems requiring payout adjustments will be fewer in aggregate than the value of revenues received, and I would expect that their actuaries have crunched the numbers exhaustively.

Personally, as I noted in the article, by not buying AppleCare, I've saved more than enough money over the years to replace a 17" MacBook Pro if I had to, so for me the gamble of probabilities has played out in my favor. I exercise the same philosophy with cars, buying older models that I can afford to pay for up front and then not carrying collision insurance. Just the mandatory third-party liability and comprehensive coverage for fire, theft, animal contact, etc. which is a pretty good deal. Again, I've been fortunate in never having a major collision with any of the 60-odd cars I've owned over the past 40 years, but that's another movie.


AppleCare for Peace of Mind

From Dan:

Hi there,

I think your piece pretty much hit the nail on the head for me. Admittedly, I've never owned a new Mac, and only one less than three years old, which is quite an extended burn-in test. The only one I've ever lost to catastrophic hardware failure was a G4 iBook, from the well-documented video problem.

However, I've just bought my girlfriend a new Mac mini - replete with AppleCare. Why?

1) She's a student. In the (very?) unlikely event something goes wrong, she can't afford to repair it, and there's no guarantee on any given day that I can, either.

1a) She's going to be geographically distant during her MSc, leaving the principle source of free Mac support (i.e., me) several hours away.

2) She has to write both a bachelor's and a master's dissertation over the next 18 months. I'm not psychologically strong enough to cope with an unsupported IT meltdown before those are finished.

3) On a student discount, the value equation is dramatically changed - £131 for AppleCare at full price, as against £30(!?!) with the educational discount. All external factors notwithstanding, I think at that price (~6% of the asking price, as against nearly 25%) you'd be a lunatic not to take it up.

I've heard very good things about AppleCare from friends of mine, but as a general rule I wouldn't purchase it. But if you're in a situation like mine, where you're trying to manage down to as close to zero risk as possible, then it's definitely something to consider. I note in passing I was ready to buy AppleCare at full price in this case simply for "peace of mind" value - the aggressive price break was a bonus.


PS: How's NS? She flies back from her parent's place in SK today . . . I'm advised the weather is "brisk" :)

Hi Dan,

I hear you, and I agree unreservedly that AppleCare coverage for the price you were able to acquire it was a no-brainer, and I appreciate why in this instance you would have been willing to pay the full regular price for the coverage.

Happily, with the Mac mini, which has a very enviable record for reliability, you'll probably not need to make any claims. Even if you're covered by warranty, the downtime from hardware failures, not to mention the potential for data loss, are extremely inconvenient.

We've had a relatively easy winter here in Nova Scotia, at least as far as actual winter weather goes. Through December and into early January we had serial major storms for five Mondays in a row, but in my neck of the woods the associated precipitation came mostly as rain rather than snow, and the lake in front of our house didn't freeze up until mid-January (old normal was early December). Winter has finally arrived over the past couple weeks, and we've had one major snowfall, and another that was copious enough to impel me into taking the trouble to hook up the snowplow to the 4 x 4 pickup rather than shoveling. However, it's going to be a short winter here whatever happens now.


Happy AppleCare Customer

From Alex:

Your article on January 26th was comment-worthy. I prefer by far if possible the Best Buy purchase protection plans on laptops, even Macs, but since my Intel MacBook Pro was only able to come by itself at the time of purchase, I got to take advantage of how you can purchase AppleCare up to 360 days after you buy the computer and bought it 4 months and 1 day later.

What also pushed me over the limit is I was (and have been) deathly attracted to the Apple Time Capsule, and when I heard the MC343LL/A 1 TB model that was selling for $299 had significantly less chance of (predictable) failure than the first two generations (which had a 90% failure rate based on Apple's and Best Buy's websites plus and even the third generation (which had a 50% failure rate based on reviews at Apple's website,, and Best Buy's website) plus the 1 TB MC343LL/A ran significantly cooler, which indeed has been borne out in my personal experience of going on two days, I figured I was getting purchase protection plans for two desirable items instead of one. You may not have or even desire a Time Capsule, and that is perfectly okay. But I needed, desired, and now have one, and so AppleCare covers it for over two years, and I am a very happy camper. (Plus my three Intel Macs - two purchased new and one used - are used for school, and since school is my job right now, I can't claim the same protection with full honesty and a straight face.)

I do agree that sometimes it is better, but for me it was not, and if I need to I will apologize for that.


Hi Alex,

Thanks for the interesting letter. Certainly nothing to apologize for. Whether or not to purchase extended warranties is a personal judgment call, and I agree that with Time Capsule's miserable reliability record based on the actuarial data you were able to find, buying AppleCare would be extremely prudent with that machine. I've never had or used a Time Capsule, so I have no firsthand experience to draw on. I just use an array of large capacity external hard drives for backups, rotating them in sequence so that I have ongoing redundant backups that have been recently updated, as well as mirroring most current projects on my three production laptops and on the Web. I wish my Late 2008 Unibody MacBook supported FireWire, but once the initial backup is laid down using Carbon Copy Cloner, incremental updates usually go quite quickly even via USB 2.0.


How to Import Firefox Bookmarks into Opera

From Madison:


I was reading your article about your favourite browsers, and I would like to convert to Opera. My question is, how do I import the bookmarks from Firefox to Opera, if I am using a Mac computer? Where would the bookmarks be located?

Please let me know if you have the time. Take care and have a wonderful year of the Rabbit.


Hi Madison,

Thank you for the greeting, and wishing you a great Year of the Rabbit as well.

importing bookmarks in Opera
Opera can import bookmarks from the most popular browsers.

To import Firefox bookmarks to Opera, select "Import and Export" from the File Menu and specify "Import Firefox Bookmarks" from the submenu.


Yes, I understand this part so far. The question is, where are the bookmarks belonging to Firefox?


Hi Madison,

If you mean where are they found in the Finder, here is the info:

Profile folders are in one of these locations:

~/Library/Mozilla/Firefox/Profiles/<profile folder>,
~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/<profile folder>,

The tilde character (~) refers to the current user's Home folder, so ~/Library is the /Macintosh HD/Users/<username>/Library folder.


~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/<profile folder>,

Thank you, Charles. This worked for me. Thanks a million!

Have a wonderful Year of the Rabbit.


Hi Madison,

My pleasure.

Happy Chinese New Year!


Beautiful Cars

From Stephen:


Add another vote for the Avanti and Starliner coupe Studebakers. Raymond Loewy was an extremely versatile designer; his GG-1 locomotive design is timeless in railroad history, and the Air Force One livery is exceptional for a "military" jet.

Relative to automobile design, I think Bill Mitchell is among the greats. His 1963 to 1965 Buick Riviera is a classic, and his influence on 1960's GM products makes them among the better styled cars of all times. Richard Teague's AMC cars, like the Sportabout, Javelin, and AMX of the late 1960's and early 1970's, still look good today. Others, while controversial (I like the glass area shown by the Pacer as opposed to today's "gangster" cars, and the chopped tail look of the Gremlin), are most interesting when compared to our modern "jellybeans".

Keep up the mix of cars and computers; it's great!


Hi Steve,

Raymond Loewy was amazingly prolific. I keep finding more avenues he covered. Just this week I learned that around the same time he was working on the Starliner coupe for Stude, he also restyled the Cockshutt line of tractors and machinery for that Brantford, Ontario based maker of farm equipment. Cockshutt was eventually bought out by White Trucks of Cleveland, Ohio. Volvo AB acquired the US assets of the company in 1981 and purchased GMC's heavy truck business in 1987, merging it with White.

I agree about Bill Mitchell. The 1960s were largely vintage years for GM styling. IMHO, the '63-'65 Buick Riviera and the '65-'66 full sized and Tempest Pontiacs rank among the most beautiful cars ever built in the US.

I'm not quite as big a fan of Dick Teague, although he did certainly have his moments, and his designs were always interesting, even when they were not beautiful. I loved the original Javelin - a very clean and pretty design. Another Teague creation I like the look of was the mid-'70s two-door AMC Matador. Not so much the Pacer, and the Gremlin was a Hornet with the back end chopped off. It didn't drive well, but it was interesting to look at.

Very few of today's cars impress me with their styling, but I do like the Mazda 6, the new Hyundai Sonata and Elantra, and the Kia Optima and Forte.


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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at and a columnist at If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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