How reliable is your Mac?

Smiles for service

Your article “State of the Mac” ( June 2007 ) confirms my experience with the excellent service you can get from Apple and its authorized service providers. I was in Australia with my 17-inch PowerBook (bought, with AppleCare, in the United States) when its screen started having problems. I took it to an authorized Apple reseller in Brisbane; two days later, my beloved Mac was back with a new screen. I can only imagine what would have happened if I’d had a Windows box in the same situation.— John Uytendaal

There is a disconnect between your respondents’ satisfaction with their Macs and the failure rates they report. Over 40 percent of Macs in the survey had problems with circuit boards, memory, or fans, and almost as many had hard-drive problems, with some models topping 50 percent in those categories. Displays also had high failure rates. So it’s baffling that over 85 percent of owners would rate that reliability a 9 or 10 (out of 10). Failure rates like that in the automotive industry would lead to immediate mandatory recalls.— Jason Dougherty

Those component failure rates are a percentage of all Macs that had problems. Elsewhere in the article, we noted that roughly a quarter of all Macs in the survey had problems of some sort. So roughly 40 percent of roughly 25 percent had problems with circuit boards, memory, or fans.—Dan Miller

One area you neglected to touch on in your report on Mac reliability: What happens after AppleCare expires? My G5 is only a few months beyond the expiration date of its three-year AppleCare coverage, but it has developed a defect on its logic board (for the second time). It would cost more than $1,000 to repair it. I think a computer should last more than three years and a few months. And if a problem occurs when it’s out of warranty, repairing it should not cost as much as buying a new one.— Jim Hartel

I was surprised by one comment in your report on Mac reliability and service. Fred Morris, one of the people you interviewed, had received an apparently bum iMac; he said, “Apple didn’t have to replace my iMac. They certainly weren’t obligated to give me a better model than I returned.” I’m sorry but, yes, they were! Before Morris received that new computer, he had to make two trips to the Apple Store, then send his computer back to Apple, and then wait for a new one to arrive. How long was he without a fully functioning machine? In my opinion, what Apple did was just. I don’t think Morris should feel as though the company did him a big favor. He and Apple entered into a contract. He agreed to pay a thousand-plus dollars, and Apple agreed to provide a quality computing machine. Apple failed to uphold its part of the bargain. Replacing the original with one that worked was only fair; the “upgrade” was payment for his inconvenience.— Jon Barresi

A greener Apple

Michael Gowan’s “Eight Ways to Go Green” ( Working Mac, June 2007 ) was an excellent article, but it had one serious problem: The units of energy consumption cited in the article are incorrect. Watts measure the rate of energy consumption. So the phrases “you can save about 40 watts of electricity per day” and “you’re losing an average of two watts per hour” make no sense. The article has a lot of useful information (I’d always wondered how much power was saved in sleep mode), but in its present form it’s confusing.— Evan Romer

You are right. I tried to make the numbers easy to understand, but I tripped over my good intentions. I should have used watts, not watts per hour. And when I calculated the money saved by shutting off a Mac, compared with letting it sleep, I should have used watt-hours. Thanks for pointing this out. (See the corrected version of this story.)—Michael Gowan

“8 Ways to Go Green” focused mainly on ways to reduce your power consumption. That’s good, but it ignores another, more serious problem: Manufacturing electronics is an environmentally dirty business that consumes gigantic amounts of energy and potable water. Greenpeace recently ranked Apple as the least green of 14 major electronics manufacturers, for its use of toxic chemicals and its failure to set a timetable for phasing out the use of those chemicals. Of course, Apple has vigorously denied Greenpeace’s charges, and many consumers also discount them. But whatever the merits of those charges are, getting the electronics industry to clean up its act is an essential first step in achieving truly green computing.— Les Simon

Greenpeace has recently tempered its criticism of Apple, applauding the company’s new environmental initiatives; read more about it here.—Dan Miller

Turned off by the Apple TV

With all the hype and hubbub about the Apple TV, it took me a little while to figure out what the device actually does. It enables you to send digital content from iTunes to your TV, right? That’s it? Then I pass. Two things would have to happen to make me care about the Apple TV: First, it needs to be able to stream any video content directly from the Web to my TV. Second, content providers (Apple included) need to solve the HD problem. Maybe the Apple TV will amount to something in a few years, but for now it’s much ado about nothing.— Micah Dirksen

Spam fighters

Christopher Breen’s review of antispam tools ( June 2007 ) was excellent. Over the years, I have tried both SpamSieve and Spamfire with success. However, I have found a much easier and better solution to the problem of spam: Gmail, the free e-mail client offered by Google. I now filter all of my e-mail through a Gmail account, which catches 99 percent of my spam. It’s easy to set up: You simply forward mail sent to your normal e-mail address to your Gmail address, and then download your e-mail from Gmail’s inbox with whatever POP client you like (or through the Web interface). You can always view the mail that Gmail has filtered as spam. It’s simple and free, and it works!— Daniel Blackburn

It’s a shame that your review of antispam software didn’t include Spam Arrest, an online service that uses a challenge-response mechanism to filter your mail. I use this service in conjunction with Apple Mail, and it works almost perfectly, filtering out all the junk and only occasionally filtering out valid messages. It’s also smart enough to monitor my outgoing messages: after I send a message to an address, mail from that address is allowed in. The icing on the cake is that the Web interface allows me to check mail, both valid and unverified, when I’m away from my Mac.— Rob Bonner

One other tip for avoiding spam: Before my vacation last year, I set up an automatic “out of office” response through my ISP. Lo and behold, when I returned, my inbox was inundated with spam—and it kept coming. I’d advise your readers not to do the same. By the way, I bought SpamSieve on your recommendation, and it works great. It certainly deserves the five-mouse rating you gave it.— Lisa Wendt

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