Plagued hardware and the grain of salt

It’s General-Advice Friday, which, as you assuredly know, always occurs on the second Friday of the shortest month of the year whose final digit rhymes with “heaven.” And because it is, I’d like to offer up this query from reader Bob.

Have you heard anything about Apple resolving the screen issues that seem to be plaguing the MacBook/MacBook Pro series? I read the threads under Apple Discussion Forums and it scared me off upgrading my iBook, so I was wondering if there had been any “official news.”

Bob, while I’d like to offer a very specific answer to your question, the nature of General-Advice Friday forbids it. Instead, please allow me to suggest this:

Don’t believe everything you read.

That’s not to say that those posting concerns about the quality of their Apple products on Apple’s Discussion Forums are fabricating their complaints. I’m simply suggesting that what you read are often the experiences of a very small sampling of the population. Despite the desperate tenor of those posts, it pays to dig a little deeper and resist the temptation to term a problem cited by a handful of Mac users as a “plague,” “pestilence,” or “epidemic.”

Where to dig deeper? If there’s a really serious and common problem—batteries exploding, cases discoloring, displays cracking, iPods locking up—you’re going to read about it somewhere on Macworld’s site. Part of our job is to report the bad Apple news as well as the good. Any “official news” from Apple regarding hardware or software problems will merit a big old headline on our main page. And even if a problem doesn’t merit a news story, our very own forums are sure to hold a post or two related to problems our readers have had with a particular hunk of gear or software.

I’ve found MacInTouch’s Reader Reports to be a valuable resource as well. Unlike with the Apple Discussion Forums, where you tend to see few “I don’t know what you’re talking about, my Mac works just fine, thank you” posts, MacInTouch’s Reader Reports contain broader ranges of experience. Scroll through the Reader Reports on the MacBook and MacBook Pro and you’ll get a reasonable idea of how serious particular issues are.

I’d also try MacFixIt’s forums. Mac troubleshooting is MacFixIt’s game and its forums reflect the nature of the site’s mission. If you’ve pungled up the $25-a-year for a MacFixIt Pro subscription you have access to the site’s archives—material that is walled off from non-subscribers.

To sum up: Apple’s Discussion Forums are a great place to learn more about the issues people are having with Apple products and one of a number of terrific site for finding answers to your Mac problems, but you should bear in mind that, here as well as in life in general, people are more motivated to lodge complaints than compliments.

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