Tuesday, July 8, 2008

They took it! They took it. The Family Supercomputer. Who took it? The GENIUSES at the Mac bar. The geniuses told me it may be a bad video card, maybe a bad logic board. Well, I'm no genius but even I knew that.

So, before you mock me for owning a Mac, consider this while you wait for the SAVANTS at the PC bar (oh wait, there aren't any?): I've never claimed the Mac to be a superior computer. It's got its problems like all the others. I do consider it to have a superior operating system, however. I have all the same problems PC-users have getting mine up to speed but I can fix them in half the keystrokes. Are these things irritating and confusing? Yes. But where the PCs are always asking technical questions, the Mac never does. It either handles it on its own or explains and walks you through it in something more akin to that oft-used and handy parlance: Common English.

Anyway, the thing came on the other day and it looked like a bad day on a snowy, desolate landscape of Hoth. Then, after I got it going, it wouldn't wake from "sleep", which is an affliction going around the house these days. It was under warranty so I took the thing in, and they said they needed to keep it for a few days, so here I am on the old-and-busted model. I picked it up off the floor, blew the dust off it, cranked the flywheel a few times and it fired right up! It's a sweet little model. Some day it will be downstairs in the kitchen as a recipe hub. A fine retirement.

I guess these bad video cards are making their way into a lot of computers of late. The forums are all describing the same things. I suspect that it may have something to do with the recent model upgrades and the new operating system, but what do I know? Some folks have reported getting their computer back from the GENIUSES with a faster video card. One can only hope. (oh please! oh please!)

So I made an appointment at the Mac Store and hauled the beast in. The crowd hushed and parted as I made my way to the back of the store and hoisted it up onto the bar. It was the biggest thing there. A genius was assigned to me.

The geniuses are very friendly. Still, they admonished me for not shelling out the $250 for the 3-year extended service contract last November, but then I admonished them with the plain fact that the hardware is covered for a year and the "service" only gives me tech support over the phone which is more time-consuming and less educational than actually googling it off the net. Then they kindly informed me that the hardware is only covered for a year and the service plan lasts three years and I told them yeah but I get four years of hardware service if I sign up at the end of October. Silence.

"What seems to be the trouble, then?"

"Oh. It doesn't work."

"All right, let's take a look." Two other guys shadowed him as he began to hook up the peripherals. "Don't mind us!" they said. "We're just shadowing!" They had clipboards with quizzes on them. Geniuses in training, no doubt.

Wanting to avoid all the usual jabber about things I already know (this happens to me in Home Depot and the Toyota Service Center all the time) I explained that I already performed the Disk Utility multiple times, including re-installing the system software, repairing all the permissions, zapping the PRAM, resetting the SMC, and pissing on the spark plugs. Nothing worked. "Did you try taking out that third-party memory you installed and then booting it up from there?"

The shadow geniuses-in-training raised their eyebrows. I admitted I hadn't remembered to try that. I had been assured that the RAM would work perfectly in this model. The guy nodded condescendingly, like he'd seen such insolence before. He pulled the RAM out and put it in a little baggy, handing it to me with an upturned nose. "The heat sinks on these are obviously too small." Well, obviously.

He hadn't even booted the thing up yet and I suddenly had that sickening feeling that it was going to work just fine. It must be a named condition in science, where you drive the car down to the mechanic and when you get there you pray that it still makes the bad sound so everyone can be in agreement. The genius clicked the on button and...


Oh, great. There was the spirited, coming-online sound (now immortalized as the Wall-E startup chime) and we waited as the spinning ball stretched and loaded. Everyone leaned in to the screen and just as I was about to panic defensively -there it was: Hoth.

"Whoa." And everyone leaned back.

Shadow Genius #2 mentioned to Shadow Genius #1 that he had seen something similar right before the power source had "blown-up" in his old Mac Pro. "Blown-up?" I asked. He made an interesting explosion noise with accompanying gesticulation. "Smoke was coming out of the housing. My ears rang for a day," he said. And I thought Macs were supposed to be so great.

The genius said they'd have to keep it for a few days, which was okay by my ears. He asked me if my hard drives were all backed up and, of course, they weren't. He chided me, asked me to sign here, said they'd have it back good-as-new-in-a-day-or-two. They needed my password and for a moment I wished it had been "upyours2", like I use for all my Internet accounts, but oh well. I signed it over and thanked him, he handed me the power cord ("Keep this. You'll need it later.") and I turned to go before I heard, "Wait!" and the DVD drive opened up with a disc inside. It was Ratatouille. "Is this yours?" he smiled. Okay genius, bring it down a notch.

They tried to sell me backup hard drives and iPhones on my way out. I resisted the temptation and made my way past the hoardes with my power cord, my cartoon movie, my memory in a baggy, and what was left of my dignity. Everyone stared. Outside in the mall, a man walked up to me and -I kid you not- asked me if there was a "Radio Shack" nearby. I told him I had no idea. "Oh," he said. "I saw you with the power chord and thought..."