I've never been good at hiding my enthusiasms. Thus more than one post here about Apple and the geniuses behind the bar. I've been addicted since the first Apple machine made its way into our house when our kids were little and, save a few years when incompatibility with client systems made its use secondary (those days are long in the past), I've been a happy collector of a long stream of machines.
Almost problem free until that dreaded night in September when my hard drive crashed. Crashed is not sufficiently descriptive. Obliterated three years of work, email, addresses, articles, essays, books, photos...shall I continue?
Did I panic? No, not exactly. I had Time Machine, the "infallible" backup utility that works with Apple's newest operating system, Snow Leopard. It had been running for over a year, the little clock spinning counterclockwise (not sure this makes sense, ultimately, but never mind that). All I had to do was reunite with my backup drive (which I was separated from due to wonderful circumstances).
My drive and I got back together shortly thereafter...and then the horrible reality emerged. Time Machine had not worked, not recorded anything, zippo, zero. I explained the glitch in detail in this post. Briefly, and horrifyingly, Time Machine doesn't** work when one's machine name has non-ASCII characters in it. Huh? Every machine has a name; in my case, the Apple salesperson assigned it when I bought this machine, calling it, brilliantly, "Jessica Lipnack's MacBook Pro 15-inch." That would have two such offending characters in it - the ' and the -. Unfortunately, and contrary to what one would think about Apple's good user support, Time Machine does not issue a warning for this situation; in fact, it appears that the backup system is working, clock spinning and all.
I won't review the many hassles since - except to say that two months and counting, I'm still trying to obtain fully usable files from the disk recovery company, Kroll OnTrack. They're trying, which I appreciate, but we're not there yet.
Apple, meanwhile, has done something quite remarkable. After many calls, escalations, hours on the help line, conversations with very senior technical people and people in customer service, I received a reimbursement from the company a couple of weeks ago. They've asked me not to reveal the precise amount, which I, as a business person, am honoring. Every customer situation is different and I have to agree with them. From my perspective, mine is particularly awful: A 25-year customer and unpaid evangelist for the company experiences horrendous consequences from a malfunctioning product, incalculable, really, in terms of what has slipped away.
Where does this leave me? Convinced that Apple listens, that it, in this case, has honestly owned up to a mistake, and heard that there ultimately is no way to completely fix what happened to me and my files.
What to do going forward? Time Machine is up and running now that I've changed my machine name; the little clock is spinning; I've checked that the files are there (my bad, Apple, for not double checking instead of taking it for granted that spinning meant working); and I'm waiting for the release of a Snow Leopard-compatible version of Carbonite, redundancy being the only remedy in the digital world.
Thanks, Apple. You done right by this woman.
**According to this note on the Apple site, the problem was fixed in the 10.5.2 OSX update.
In the middle of this play, a villain enters center stage, bringing the action to a halt, blocking all exits, erasing the past.
Yes, friends, my hard drive crashed. Naturally, I'm a very good girl and thus use Time Machine on my MacBook Pro, which means I never have to think about backups.
So data recovery, complete restoration of my new hard drive (320 GB for $99 - who can believe this), should not be a problem, right?
Granted, when I took off for New York, I didn't pack my external hard drive, which means I've lost the past month or so of work, but, hey, my clients and colleagues are the understanding sort, who indulge my situation and will send me back anything I need until I can plug in that drive, hit "restore" in Time Machine, and life is back to perfection.
WARNING MAC USERS: If the name of your machine carries any non-alphanumeric characters, you cannot retrieve your data from your backup drive. Although it appears that Time Machine is working - it spins every hour (my setting for backup) - there is absolutely nothing available for restoration. I'm not kidding. The link earlier in this graf goes to Apple's purported fix for this with an update to OSX 10.5.2. Of course, I can't be sure of this but I believe I was running OSX 10.5.2.
In any event, if you're running earlier versions of Leopard, you probably are vulnerable to this kind of devastating loss too.
My crashed drive has now gone to the ICU (supposedly the premier data recovery shop for Macs) and I think I'm facing a rather large repair, providing they can do it.
Wish me luck. If I had more time, I'd detail the House of Horrors that I've been through with this but with my person in the hospital, I'm keeping a positive attitude, right?
Yes, positive attitude. The balm for bombs.
And, oh, Apple. Shame on you. There should have been a warning, a very clear warning, that this could happen. No error message. Very poor on the part of the company I've been a customer of for 25 years.
I know I should stop shooting all my pictures with my iPhone (hint, Apple: higher resolution and a zoom, please) but I can't. I just can't.
This one, taken at the Apple store on Prince Street in New York, reminds me of my favorite picture book when I was little: a factory with the front wall removed, many stories high, with workers busily constructing things and strange contraptions transporting objects from floor to floor, complete with chutes, fright elevators, pulleys, and carts.
This shot of the two-story Apple store reminds me of that book. If you remember such a book and/or know its name, please comment. I've looked in many a used bookstore for that very volume.
I don't know who came up with the idea for the Apple Genius Bar but, once again I have to sing the praises, at least of the brilliant folks at the one near me.
The idea is so simple. You go online, make an appointment, show up within 15 mins of your time, and someone like Michael (left) or Adam (right) greets you with approximately the same smile as seen here.
Of course, when I took this picture, I'd already revealed that I would blog them so perhaps they were a bit thrilled but then again Michael had just fixed my machine (again)...i.e., I've been there so many times that they know me by name.
OK, now on to the problem that took me there as I wager it's affecting other Mac users as well. Typically, I use Word, rather than Pages, the Mac word processor, and rather than Writer, the one in Open Office (about which more in a sec). Why? Because much as I love Pages's export capability, meaning that you can save to PDF and Word, it still is not optimized for writers. Please forgive me, Apple, but while Pages has wonderful formatting options, the most critical writing tools for me -- dictionary and thesaurus -- can't be dragged into the toolbar and require two clicks to get to them.
Similarly, I use Powerpoint and Excel, rather than Keynote and Numbers, but for different reasons. I prefer Keynote (here Apple's high IQ in graphics really shines) but unfortunately it doesn't import and export seamlessly to PPT -- at least not for me. And, because I'm constantly creating and receiving PPT docs, this is a real problem. However, when I have complete control over creation and presentation, I'll always opt for Keynote.
I'm not much of an Excel/Numbers user (shock!) but I've had similar opening/exporting problems. (As for any of these apps in Open Office, I have just installed it so cannot issue verdict now.)
Back to why I went to the Genius Bar yesterday. Last Sunday, I was quite the busy little keyboarder, using all three apps in MS Office--Word, PPT, and Excel. Everything was OK, slow as usual, but how can I complain if I'm running a 2001 version of Office on my MacBook Pro (the one with the Intel chip). It's a miracle anyway so slow I go.
Then I make the mistake of waking up on Monday. All Office apps crash on opening. I did what everyone does, tried 1000 times, searched for the evil preferences files that have shut down my version of Word before, and searched some more. Failing, I called AppleCare where I learned that mine had expired (!) just nine days earlier and that in any event they don't support Office, which anyone with a Mac knows, but that I might be able to get Microsoft to send replacement disks, because, of course, given the age of my machine and my flawless storing procedures for all things tech, I've lost the originals.
Were I to recount my calls to Microsoft, you would definitely click away because this attempt went on for the next 48 hours, involved being transferred back and forth to the same people 25 times (needless to say, I NEVER exaggerate), and ultimately resulting in my having to...
Go to the Genius Bar. Where the whole problem was solved in a matter of moments.
Yes, it was the Evil Preferences Files, which, stupid me, I couldn't find because I had failed to click "Systems Files" and "include" in the search (hint, hit the + sign, Mac-ies). Simple stuff. Mac users, try it next time Office or any of its programs crashes. Delete all preference files related to Microsoft and don't worry. It recreates them with every use. Once you trash, you're up and running again.
Now correct me, you techies, but it works for me.
And thank you once more, Michael (and Adam), for making it so easy to fix.
The battery on my MacBook died and Apple sent me a new one that arrived the next day. To swap them out, you have to remove the dead one (duh). Mine was "swollen," technical term, as per Apple support. I pried, used dangerous tools, and ultimately headed for the nearby Apple store at 8 last night. The mall was deserted; the Apple store was jammed. Swarms of clerks buzzed the store, jumping customers as they walked through the door. All kinds of customers, by the way. Looked like the UN was in session.
Most customers behaved; a few took out what seemed like lifetimes of unhealthy relationships on the clerks. A woman in pearls and a mauve sweater set, a french twist, and occasionally sunglasses, and armed with a letter from her husband, "who's a lawyer," was returning a number of items and was furious over the "re-stocking charge" (I don't like it either, btw) and wasn't going to "take it." She'd bought a MacAir but has dial-up, which is what made her so mad. It should have ports. Ms. MacAir has no ports (get it, "air"). The customer said the clerk had deliberately misled her into buying it and needed better training. The manager handled this one, with only one eye-roll when the customer finally put her head down to sign the return receipt.
I had plenty of time to watch this because the woman whose daughter technically preceded me in line for the "Genius Bar" (refers to clerks not customers) was upset too. She spent a very long time exasperating at the genius over the form she was filling out. The genius kept his cool. I don't know what her gripe was but clearly Apple was at fault, as well as the clerk, and this and that. When she finally got up to leave, she moved only a foot or two away and she too rolled her eyes at me as if I agreed with her.
I slid onto the stool at the bar.
Me: Do you get any training in psychology for this job? Genius: Not enough.
Battery removal taken care of swiftly. The genius had "a very thin tool" in the back, to where he absconded with my machine for a few minutes.
So I've been up for two hours and during that time have pressed the start button (oh, how I wish I could just insert the icon for it right here) on my MacBook Pro approximately 50 times. With the option key down, with the C held down, off/on, on/off...and how, you wonder, am I typing this? On an ollllllddddd machine, my trusty back-up iBook G4, which has possibly the most lovely form factor of any computer I've ever owned.
Well, turns out that the flashing question mark on my screen will not go away without contacting Apple. At least that's what the manual (it's in print! right next to me! here! - and don't I get kudos just for being able to find it along with the OSX install disks? yay, me) and what the website says. But, of course, dahhling, Apple support doesn't open until 6AM PDT - AND GUESS WHERE I AM?!!? Let's put it this way: three frustrating hours in the future.
I just had to record this for all of you who've ever experienced horrible terrible won't-start computer problems. I should have known. My machine was sending me weird messages yesterday that I chose to not exactly ignore but, let's say, postpone dealing with. And such is my plight today. Are you feeling really really really sorry for me?
PS: A certain member of my household says I'm showing remarkable calm. Meanwhile, I am certain that when an occasional member of this household reads this post, she will get a great big chuckle, saying, well, mom, did you...? And did you...? I DID!!! (for once)
Not sure how this passed me by, being a Mac user and all, but I'm now enjoying "Speech" in Pages. Pages is Apple's answer to MS Word (which has been crashing for unknown reasons, which makes me sad as Word and I know each other well). Thus I've moved to Pages from which I can export to Word, PDF, etc.
At the moment, I'm revising a very long piece of writing, trying to make the language absolutely precise (ha), thus using the "write then read out loud" method. Only yesterday I discovered that I can have Kathy (or Agnes or Princess or Fred or Bruce) read to me.
It's good, I'm finding, for things like tone. Even though the voice is annoyingly computerish, I'm hearing where I should use 'd instead of had, where I've used my too many times, that sort of thing.
Web Worker Daily has a good post on the value of using multiple monitors. With several applications open, I do find myself rooting through my desktop just as I do for a piece of paper on my desk (meaning same level of frustration). Where's the spreadsheet (better, which spreadsheet was it), why can't I click back into Word (idiotically left FIND open but can't see that because I'm copying something off a web page), which tab do I need on the browser (oh, off the screen)...I could put an end to all this if I simply used both the monitors on my desk, leaving work fully open across the screens. Duh.
PS: First time I saw serious numbers of monitors in people's offices was at Apple's R&D campus in Cupertino, California. Like six. Or eight. I never saw an office with only a single monitor. That was 1995. By now, they must have wraparound screens covering all walls.