Open letter to Apple

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 31.03.12    

The following is an extended version of my survey feedback regarding a recent trip to the Genius Bar at my local Apple store. Incidentally, writing this has been difficult due to continued display issues apparently due to screen saver bugs1 in OS X Lion (10.7).

So yeah, this isn’t good…

I currently own a 15” macbook pro, a custom purchase with a high-res screen from Apple in mid 2010. It has proven serviceable in the hundreds of late nights I’ve spent using it, being used from internet development to visual effects for a short film. However, over the past few months it was completely dying at entirely random intervals. No screen output, no network activity, nothing. I couldn’t find a solution, though suspected the graphics card, and after reformatting the entire drive and installing Lion (an OS I’d previously been able to avoid), the issues were actually much, much worse.

So I took it to the local Apple store for help.

After the first day of observation, I was called by a representative who told me it “ran slow” because “I had too many apps” – including “high end ones” (Adobe Photoshop, Newtek Lightwave, etc.). Telling someone their purchase is broken simply because they used it is preposterous, and slowness wasn’t remotely the issue I’d asked to be fixed. I insisted they continue testing, and later that day a logic board fault was eventually discovered. I was told it would require replacement, and would be without a computer until they could get the parts. After a few more days, it was replaced for free under Apple Care warranty coverage (it would have been over $500 to pay out of pocket).

No really, this isn’t good

When I got home, I discovered that not only was Lion still randomly initiating screen shutdown during use of the computer (including while I’ve attempted to write this article, which has been interrupt countless times), but the 2010 MacBook Pro line has a known issue – the graphics chipset is not properly supported by Apple, and while users are often given logic board replacements, the issues are seemingly perpetual. Check the Apple forums for thousands of reports regarding this problem.

Apparently machine death is inevitable unless the graphics card is manually disabled, crippling the computer to use only the integrated Intel chipset (hardly capable of running the applications I depend on). While recent OS X Lion updates were supposed to solve some of these issues, my experience has been utterly insufferable. Basic interactions are shockingly choppy, windows randomly select or deselect with mouse clicks becoming entirely ignored, and graphics performance is worse than ever.

I’ll fully admit I run a lot of utilities, and I completely understand that makes troubleshooting significantly more difficult. But I never had these issues before; not until the “upgrade” Apple has forced on anyone that wants to sync via iCloud, run newer applications, or even use the Apple development toolkit (all of which are Lion-only).

A history of fandom

I’ve been an admittedly zealous Mac fan for the past 11 years, ever since I started college and switched from an old AMD machine running Windows 98 to a dual G4 with OS9. Best computer I ever owned, and it was obvious Apple had managed to brilliantly merge software and hardware in a [mostly] stable, powerful system. In the years since, I’ve owned 6 or more Macs, several iPhones, at least one iPod, an egregiously over-priced Apple Cinema Display, and, probably to my bank account’s chagrin, more.

It hasn’t exactly been an upward trend, however. My beloved G5 was ruined when Apple’s liquid coolant system leaked and corroded the processors. Because my extended AppleCare had expired, Apple refused to cover the damage, insisting it would cost more than the cost of a new computer to repair. While OS X Snow Leopard (10.6) was probably the most stable and eloquent operating system I’d used, now my MacBook Pro isn’t even properly supported by the flagship OS supposedly designed to run on it.

The gloomy disillusionment

My faith in Apple, especially as a professional artist and user, has been slowly eroding for years (the death of Shake2, Final Cut Pro, and so much more), but this is just a little deplorable.

The moment the first iPad was announced, I worried. In light of continued rumours regarding the death of even the Mac Pro, we may have already seen the end of Apple as we knew it. Will they will be fabulously successful and make massive amounts of money? Absolutely, it’s already happened.

But the creative minds Apple once claimed to champion may well be looking elsewhere for even basic needs. It breaks my heart – there was so much right with where things were headed, to glimpse (however exaggerated it may be) a terminal end is devastating.

1 (updated 18.04.2012) Turns out the constant screensaver activation is due to a bug in OS X Lion running on many 2009 and 2010 MacBook Pros with any type of custom display drivers (such as Air Display). This has been well documented for almost a year, and Apple still hasn’t released a fix.

2 For an exceptionally insightful look into Apple’s outright disdain for the professional market, please read Ron Brinkmann’s rather dire account of the Shake termination, published in response to the release of Final Cut X in 2011.