My New Macbook

My Review:8 —UPDATED—

NOTE: I HAVE UPDATED THIS REVIEW, AND CHANGED THE RATING. PLEASE SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM FOR THE UPDATE.

I am seriously conflicted here. I would love to give this machine a nine or ten. But at the moment, I simply can not.

I am lifelong PC user. I’ve been using Windows, in its various stuttering iterations for many years. All my life (my computing life) people have been raving about Macs. “They’re wonderful. They’re so easy to use. They don’t break all the time like PC’s. PC’s suck.” Etcetera.

So I was pretty excited to get my first Mac. Sol has a Macbook and raves about it, and I needed a new, small travel machine, so I decided to get one. I got the 13″ black Macbook, and upgraded to 2GB’s of memory. So it’s got a 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB memory and a 160GB hard drive. For specs see: http://www.apple.com/macbook/specs.html It’s pretty, it’s sleek, and it is very responsive when launching and running applications. It’s got the killer Mac UI (user interface) and typical Apple attention to detail. There’s only one problem: it keeps shutting down.

macbook-black.jpg macbook_graphic.jpg

You’ve heard of the Blue Screen of Death? This is a commonly referred to problem with PC’s when there is a sudden and catastrophic failure of the Windows operating system. It might require only a simple system reboot, or it might mean that your computer is toast. Well, in the first 8 days of my Mac ownership I had 6 system crashes, what they call a Kernel Panic Shutdown. That means that the Unix core (the kernel of code which is the basis for the operating system) experienced a severe problem and had to shut down. That’s bad. That’s “crossing the streams” bad. And it happened 6 times.

What’s it like? Oh, the whole screen grays out, and a black box with white text appears in the middle of the monitor which says “You need to restart your computer. It displays this information in a number of different languages, though since the machine is locked up, there’s not much else you could do anyway.

kernel_panic-1p0f.png

So I called Apple Care three times. After the third attempt, I finally made an appointment to go into my local Apple store and talk to a “genius”. Genius might be a little strong, but he was pretty smart. After about 2 hours of tinkering they decided to just give me a new computer. So I brought that one home, reconfigured it to my preferences, updated my Address Book, downloaded all the software updates, and now… I just had my third and fourth Kernel Panic Shutdowns. God Dammit.

At first I thought it might be me. I downloaded Camino browser, and then I started having problems again. I got two shutdowns, so I uninstalled it and removed all reference files from the Library and Preferences. After that it seemed to be fixed… until today. Today I got two more Kernel Panics, and I am seriously bummed. I really want to love this computer and be a “Mac guy.” Mac guys are always so cool, so in touch with Nature and with themselves. They talk better, dress better, communicate better. Sighh.

From my reading on the internet, the most likely story I’ve found so far involves possible issues with the wireless card. I mostly have been using wireless internet for this machine, so that is certainly plausible. Meaning the correlation is there (I have had shutdowns while using the wireless internet) but I cannot yet prove causation.

This is not a snide, back-handed, pro-PC attack on Macs. I genuinely want to be a Mac guy. (OK, the hyperbole from the last paragraph was a little snide, but only partly so.) But I keep having problems. Sol thinks it’s me. That I have some kind of electro-magnetic emission that causes all electronics and gadgetry to fail. Maybe that’s my X-Man talent.

In any case, I am forced to give a mediocre rating to my new Macbook. I want it to kick ass, but thus far it does not.

black_macbook.jpg

By the way, I welcome any suggestions or commentary, especially from those who have experienced similar problems. Thanks much.

– David

————————————————————————————-

Update – August 9th, 2007

I have received a couple of comments on this post – thank you for the responses. I recently visited an Apple store in my area nad spoke with someone at the Genius bar. Apple has acknowledged the kernel panic issue, and confirmed that it IS related to the wireless card on certain Macbook and Powerebook models. There is an update to the wireless software available from Mac. Just click on the apple in the top left corner and click on updates. It has been 1 week and counting since I updated, and no kernel panics yet (fingers are crossed over here.) Best of luck to the rest of you. 🙂

-David

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9 comments so far

  1. London Mike on

    I think you know I “hate” Macs, but I have come to deal with them as they have been ubiquitous in the educational community practically since the advent of the personal computer. I have made a policy of not working with Macs unless I don’t have another option, but I have still become familiar with them as I have had to work with them from time to time — usually because someone is having difficulty with something and asks for my help.

    So, I offer my computer-consulting services to you in the hope that I can help your computing experience improve, despite the fact that it’s with an Apple product. If you still have the problem when I arrive in town soon, I’d be happy to help you out.

    That said, I’d like to comment (ramble?) on Macbooks. First, let me explain my credentials on the subject: I don’t have one and don’t plan to get one, and I haven’t researched them, nor do I want to. However, almost anyone that knows me knows that I have 20+ years of serious computing experience, troubleshooting a myriad of computer problems, as well as several years of experience working in the computer industry in capacities ranging from tech support to large-scale network administration and management.

    Basically, Macbooks and Apple computers in general are like any other sophisticated piece of electronic technology: they are prone to failure for countless reasons and can be very difficult to fix or even troubleshoot depending on the issue. Whether you use a Mac or some other kind of PC, this will always be the case. Macs do not somehow transcend this limitation because of magic, or Steve Jobs’ genius, or Apple stores’ geniuses, or even superior engineering (which is definitely NOT the case anyway — I apologize for saying that to a few of my good friends that actually are Apple engineers).

    I don’t get headaches over dealing with my PC for one major reason: I am familiar with it. After everything else is considered, that’s what it really comes down to. And such is the case with “Mac guys” that you mention in your review. They know Macs primarily and can sing their praises because they know them and they can solve (or, more importantly, prevent) problems because of that familiarity. Consequently, their Macs work great and they can be as satisfied with their computers as I am with mine.

    But I believe your perception of them, which I’ve witnessed other people share to a degree, as “always so cool, so in touch with Nature and with themselves” has a lot to do with the extremely limited market share that Apple computers have in the whole PC market. [Before I continue, let me make it clear that I realize your comment was partially tongue-in-cheek, but I feel that many people do feel that way (especially “Mac guys” themselves) and that I believe there is some explainable truth to that concept, which I would like to address]

    Apple only sells 5.6% of all mass-manufactured PCs in the US and has an even smaller market share worldwide as of a report that came out 4 days ago (*** see footnote), which doesn’t even take into account the number of “clone PCs” that many people purchase from various computer stores or even PCs they build themselves like I have always done — none of which are Macs.

    This small market share combined with the fervent support of users results in Macs getting a “cult” status within the computing community. As such, many members of this cult feel a need or even compulsion to announce or spread their love of Macs to as many people as possible. I’m sure Apple Computer loves this since it saves on their marketing expenses, but if after all of this, their market share still hasn’t significantly changed in over 10 years then I think it’s safe to assume that they just are not providing what the majority of the market wants or needs, at least in an Adam Smith/free market sense anyway.

    Also, your perception of “Mac guys” as people who “talk better, dress better, communicate better” may be true (at least compared to other computer nerds) for a couple reasons:
    – Macs are very accessible in schools, and people who take school seriously may spend a lot of time on these computers and therefore develop a familiarity with them causing them to continue to use them in the future. As such, many regular Mac users are well-educated folks that are likely to be able to “talk better” and “communicate better.”
    – Macs are very expensive compared to other comparable computers and many people that buy them are going to have more money available to make that purchase which suggests that Apple’s customers comprise a more affluent component of the market. This results in some Mac users being able to “dress better” as well as be well-educated, which I’ve already talked about.

    In conclusion, the Macbook is not going to be any more infallible than most other makes of computers, and “Mac guys” are not necessarily people worth emulating (except that many of them may be well-educated and/or financially well-off), since in truth, the majority those people are just going to be computer nerds (especially the most vocal ones). But I’ll still say congratulations on your purchase and I hope you get the problems you’re having resolved — let me know if I can help.

    *** The article is definitely NOT anti-Apple at all (the title actually lies since Apple actually placed 4th) and can be referenced here:
    Apple Ties For Third In U.S. PC Market
    http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=201002329

    The press release for the report showing the actual numbers:
    IDC – Press Release: PC Shipments Accelerate…
    http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp;jsessionid=EAUNC2ELMRO3WCQJAFDCFFAKBEAVAIWD?containerId=prUS20789807

  2. David on

    First of all, an Adam Smith reference and a couple of footnotes? Color me impressed.

    Generally speaking, I agree with your assessments (of the market place, of your analysis regarding “Mac guys”, etc. ) I am glad to be using a Mac because unlike your self, I have 10+ years of “soft” computing experience, and none whatsoever with Macs. So it’s neat for me.

    Also, regarding the general issue, I have made some discoveries. My buddy Sol, referenced above, has had his Macbook for 6 months and never had a panic shutdown. On Wednesday last week he had his first. On Tuesday night (the night before) he downloaded a major update for OSX.

    In the same meeting where he had his shutdown, a web designer in the room (also with a Mac) mentioned that he he’s had his Powerbook for a couple of years and never had many problems with it. At least, that was the case until about 2 weeks ago, when he downloaded a major update from Apple. Since then he’s had a bout 15 or 20 panic shutdowns, averaging about 1 or 2 per day. Interesting.

    At the very least, its encouraging that I’m not alone. And it’s very plausible (I think) that a recent update could be causing a problem which seems to be furrowing brows in confusion when I bring it up – everyone at support says that my problem is unusual, but I think it will become a lot less unusual over the next few weeks. And hopefully Mac will release a patch soon to fix the problem.

    In any case Mike, thanks very much for your excellent comment.

    David

    BTW, the “Talk better, dress better, etc.” remark was very much tongue-in-cheek – though your analysis of the root causes behind that comment (were it true) was well reasoned. But I don’t think it’s really true. I see sloppy ass Mac-users all the time. And one could probably argue that they are lazy and sloppy for the exact same reasons you used to explain their appearance and diction.

    Heh.

  3. Russell on

    I’ve been having this same experience with my 15″ MacBook Pro! It crashes or freezes at least a couple times a week. I was a Windows/Dos user for ~14 years and switched this past April. I’ve been living with the crashes because I’m just so happy to not be working on a PC for now. Also, I used to work with Visual Studio which brought my IBM to a complete halt all the time .. so there’s no surprise now that I’m using TextMate I’m a lot happier. I was hoping that their next line of laptops would be better and I’d upgrade.

  4. David on

    Hey Russell, thanks for the comment. I recently was in the Apple store and spoke with a “genius” there. Apple is aware of the problem and says that it DOES seem to be related to the wireless cards in some of their models. They released an update to the wireless, and since I downloaded the update I have not had any more kernel panics (about 1 week and counting.)

    So maybe plug your Macbook directly into the ethernet cable, do another update, and see if things improve.

    Good luck man. 🙂

    -David

  5. […] I have a lot of stuff. Firstly, I have several computers. I have a hell of a time figuring out what content is on which computer. This is especially true when it comes to music. I’ll have the inspiration to download an album on one machine and then forget if I synchronized it with another. Recently I was put in the situation where I wanted to to transfer a lot of content from one machine to the next. This was due to the recent purchase of a MacBook Pro. You can read David’s review of that here. […]

  6. Russell on

    David – thanks for the info .. I’m all up to date, so I’ll just have to wait and see what happens this week 🙂

  7. David on

    Awesome Russell – good luck to you. I am panic-shutdown-free for two weeks and counting, so I think the patch helped.

    And thanks for your comments. 🙂

    David

  8. Russell on

    2 weeks later and still running with no crashes 🙂 Much much much better.

  9. David on

    Fantastic – me too. I think they finally figured it out. Thanks for keeping us up to date Russell.

    David


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