Sunday, March 21, 2010

Macintosh Hardware Problems

Over the past few years I've had not one, but two, Macintosh laptops lose their LCD displays here in the home office during the hot, summer months. I don't know why, I sort of suspect a combination of heat and dust (I mean, just look on the wall above the lights and fan regulators, there's scorch marks all over). Both of these two laptops have the same hinge type, whereas the oldest PowerBook, with a different type of hinge has been fine...

The very last day of the 1 year warranty on the almost-new MacBook I managed to buy an AppleCare extended warranty, with the intention of getting it fixed in the U.S. sometime later this year or next year.

However, in December Leena found out about a Apple dealer near her family's house, PT for short. I knew it was there for several years, in the small office building on the same side street as her family, in fact, one of my close friends from my previous job said he used to work at an office in the same building and take his smoke breaks on a park bench across the street from my in-laws' house (that was before we ever met).

When the first Mac screen broke a couple of years ago (I joke that it was caused by my playing Diablo II, roaming through a mountain top castle as a Druid and raining flaming meteors down on demons when one of them bounced out of the game) I suggested we take it for repair to PT, but Leena said no way. She said PT owed her family money for years and never paid it, so we couldn't go there. At the time we found another, new Apple dealer in a new shopping mall in Kalyani Nagar and the price of fixing the broken screen was way too high so we bought a 20" external monitor instead (that I'm looking at now, as I type this).

But then earlier this year Leena again noticed PT and said we should take the newest broken Mac there. I mentioned the story she told a couple of years ago and she checked with her brother. She says she was mistaken about the incident and her brother says PT is a perfectly respectable business... She remembers her brother was going to buy their family business a new computer, from PT, some years ago and she would get the old one for herself. Her mistake is she only remember not getting her own computer and always blamed it on PT, when actually it was her brother who decided they didn't really need a new one and canceled the purchase...

We took the 13" MacBook to PT and the woman who owns it, Rajan, had their technician do a quick check to make sure that it was obviously damaged, like throwing something at it, and they determined that the broken screen was fully covered by the AppleCare extended warranty I'd purchased. They said they needed a week to order the part and then we could bring it in for replacement.

That went smooth and we decided to have them look at the 17" PowerBook with the broken screen that was not under any warranty (I bought it in 2005). She said it would be Rs. 42,000 to replace the screen, but then a little more checking and she said there was some kind of replacement where they would purchase the old, damaged screen for Rs. 17,000 and we'd only pay Rs. 25,000 for the replacement.

At that price we agreed to get it fixed, so Leena could have the 17" PowerBook for her own usage. Rajan ordered the part and about two weeks later we brought it to them for replacement. And that went fine.

I spent a weekend moving Leena's data from the older 15" titanium PowerBook to the newly repaired 17" one and got it ready to synch with Leena's iPhone without losing any contacts or videos.

Then after she used it for a day or two she asked me to get the sound working. Sound working? I looked and neither of the speakers worked on it. I tried various songs and videos and they were all silent. I verified that headphones worked, but the speakers were broken.

We called Rajan who asked her technician who said he didn't touch the speakers when he replaced the screen, they must've been broken before we brought it to them. I wasn't sure, but I hadn't used it in long enough to really be sure when the last time I heard sound from them was, maybe a year earlier? Rajan checked the price and it was only Rs. 1,000 to replace the speakers and we figured since we already spent a huge chunk of change on the screen, what was another Rs. 1,000 to get the sound fixed for Leena, so we agreed to that...

All went well again, the speakers got replace and we popped over to PT's shop to check it out. I played a QuickTime version of Apple's 1984 Superbowl advertisement for the Macintosh and Rajan liked it so much that she asked one of their techs to copy it to a USB thumb drive for them. They tried a couple of thumb drives but they were both bad and didn't work, so we said we'd bring it by another time for her to copy when they got a working drive, as we were late for lunch with Leena's family.

The next night we set the computer up for Leena to browse the web and she complained that she couldn't get the Bluetooth mouse to work, which had worked only two days earlier. I came and looked and there was no Bluetooth icon in the menu bar. I checked the System Preferences and Bluetooth wasn't listed there at all. I searched the System Preferences and it found Bluetooth items but choosing any of them and it warned me that there was no Bluetooth hardware attached. That's very odd, since Bluetooth is completely build in and is not removable.

Leena called Rajan who said she'd check with the technician who told her he didn't change any Bluetooth settings when he replaced the speakers so it had to be that way before we brought it. We knew it wasn't and Rajan said to bring it in the next day, then she left the office for home, since it was late in the evening.

In the meantime I figured I'd hook up a USB mouse for Leena, except when I did that, none of them worked. The red LED didn't light up in the mice and the computer didn't recognize them. I hooked up an iPhone and a USB thumb drive, and no luck, none of them worked.

Friday we took the computer back to PT for the technician to look at. By the end of the day Saturday he still didn't have it working. They got one of the two USB ports to work, but couldn't get the Bluetooth interface working unless the keyboard was lifted off the computer, or held down very hard. Sounds to me like he may have bent the motherboard while replacing the speakers and broken one of the contacts inside it or something...

We're not sure what they'll do now. It's long, long out of warranty, so we don't have any coverage there for it. I'm hoping they'll get a new logic board from somewhere and reuse the CPU that's in it. At their expense, of course, not ours...

We'll see...

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