Feb 04 2009

Spinster aunt just can’t let it go

Naturally you are following with unprecedented interest the shocking story of Mungo’s sudden decline, so here is the current state of affairs down at the Spinster HQ computer lab:

Total disarray! But the outlook, according to the Magic Eight Ball, is good.

Sure, I’m no board-certified geek, but I am a spinster aunt, which is just as good. By which I mean, I have a philips (sp?) head screwdriver. Over the years I’ve given Mungo a couple of video card transplants. I’ve performed open DVD-drive surgery to resect an impacted disc. I’ve reset its PMU and changed out its PRAM battery. I’ve reenergized its di-lithium crystals and massaged its obstreperal lobe. Thus it was for me it but the work of an instant to harvest the SATA drives from Mungo’s cold dead corpse. The drives now await transplantation into their new host bodies, which are currently being flown in by emergency airlift.

The autopsy revealed much deeply embedded dog hair, and also brown goo oozing from Mungo’s logic board. I fell to my knees, stretched my fists to the sky, and cried “NOOOOOOOO!” causing flocks of birds the world over to take flight.

Then I caved and ordered a new computer, also being flown in by emergency airlift. Lard help me, as much as Apple hates me, it’s another effing Mac.

I used to be an Apple cultist, looking down the Twisty honker at Microsoft’s cheezy UI, talking paperclips, and strange “.exe” viruses, but no more.

You know what? Fuck Apple. Like all bloated corporations with captive customers, Apple’s products are overpriced and increasingly unreliable. And omigod, the customer service? It sucks shit through Hefty bags. Considering the kind of grip $$$ they’ve extorted from me over the years, when I stagger into an Apple store with my 50-pound hunk of Chinese crap they should usher me into an Eames lounge chair, bring a bottle of wine and a tray of canapes, give me a neck rub, and listen with great interest as I speak of my hopes and dreams, of my childhood, of my relationship with my mother, of the coming feminist revolt. But instead they make me stand around, waiting.

On principle I refuse to browse the sparkling gewgaws.

Eventually, although not before the store has emptied of hot teen chicks buying iPod Nanos, they size me up as a middle-aged lady about whom the usual assumptions concerning computer literacy are made. So I give’em the old “I’ve had Macs on my desk, in my bag, and up my butt since they shoveled your first pair of Pampers into a landfill, so how about a little respect, you little retail mall toady” speech. This makes them hate me even more. They cop the ‘tude when I reveal that I didn’t buy their rip-off extended service plan, at which point they inform me with ill-concealed schadenfreude that I have to make an appointment with a “Genius,” the next available of which is next Monday at rush hour.

The crappiness of the service in their retail stores, however, is like eating a caviar taco on a yacht somewhere in the Aegean Sea compared to the condescension and rudeness when calling Customer Service, for which torture Apple charges like $92.86 per call for some tool to tell me — after asking moron questions like “Is it plugged in?” and “Did you restart it?”– that I need to take it in to the shop.

Back when I was a big smoker, I once took a Mac — Mungo’s G4 predecessor, Pongo — into a mom-and-pop repair shop. It smelled like rancid curry in there. Pop opened up my machine and recoiled against the wall, an arm flung across his face.

“It stinks!” he cried. “It stinks like cigarettes!”

Well, when I got that computer back it stunk like rancid curry for about 3 months.

No point to that story, really.

I want to be done with Apple once and for all, but dang it, I’m too old to learn a new platform, and they know it, the benighted geekbags. At least I have the small satisfaction of knowing that, by cleverly sending off for third-party RAM instead of ordering their ridiculously overpriced DIMMs, I kept a cool 5 bills out of their evil clutches.

Fuck Apple.

Except, you know, for the iPhone. That thing is fucking cool.

I may or may not resume blaming the patriarchy from a non-catastrophic computer situation viewpoint tomorrow.


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  1. Sarah

    Try Linux, Ubuntu. Free and user-friendly, what more can you ask for?

  2. Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D.

    Go ahead. Blame the patriarchy. Both Microsoft and Apple were founded and continue to be run by guys.

    And I don’t know what your experience is, but it is usually a guy who’s telling me stupid things like that my software is not meant to interface with the companion software that it came with…

  3. PhysioProf

    HAHAHAHAHAH! I clicked on the comments to see how long it would take for someone to tell you to go for Linux!!! First comment!

    (Not that it isn’t a good idea. I would do so if my work did not require the use of certain proprietary software that only runs on Windows or Mac.)

    BTW, you gonna aim the old obstreperal lobe towards the octuplets? My take is here:


  4. dawn coyote

    I’ve never taken my Macs for servicing at a Mac outlet. I always use the geeky second hand Mac dealer, who used to be able to create a machine from used parts to rival that built by any mad scientist. I believe that ended with the Pismo, which I used up until I got a MacBook Pro last year. Leopard was as near a religious experience as I get these days, having forsworn God and psychedelic drugs.

  5. Puffin

    Sorry you’ve had to endure so much grief, Twisty!

    Related – I never understood Mac-love, particularly after I tried to use a Mac for a year. It’s an intuitive system, which I could greatly appreciate, but I honestly think Apple is just way better at hype than they are at substance, at least for the non-professional market. I walked away with the realizaiton that non-pro Mac models are plastic crap. Spend the same amount on a PC and you’ve got a much more reliable machine that does a lot more for you.

    I also couldn’t help but hate Apple a little when they started that obnoxious ad campaign with the geek (PC) and the hipster (Mac). Great article from the UK:


  6. pulltaffy

    I feel your pain, Twisty. I’m currently in a lull between getting a worm on my laptop that required 8 hours of work to get rid of (and actually *knocking off* two of the keys in the process) and a desktop that crashes in a dizzying array of exotic error messages every time I try to use it. I was thinking to myself as I slogged through gigabytes of files looking for the culprit, “why don’t I just give up and buy a Mac?” I answered myself “because Macs might suck this much too.” Then I had a chocolate bar and some onion rings.

    I’m still undecided on the Mac v PC issue but I know I have to make up my mind soon. I’m caught between the familiarity of the PC and the hope that a Mac might be less of a pain in the ass.

    (Can I say ass in here?)

  7. yttik

    I blame the patriarchy for male computer geeks who don’t know what they’re talking about but have the nerve to speak to customers in a condescending manner. I fried my fan once and ruined a memory card. I took them in hoping to just buy replacements and the guy looks at me and says, are you sure it’s a hardware problem?? Well no, actually I’m not sure of anything, but since what is in my hand produced yellow smoke and is now melted into a unidentifiable shape, I just assumed this would be a good place to start.

    It was really pretty funny, I’m clueless inside a computer and terrified I’ll blow something up. I had to have several drinks just to get up the nerve to take the cover off. But my fears were unfounded, everything was color coded and snapped right in.

  8. thebewilderness

    My fan started running way too often, and for way too long, so I took the cover off and, Oh my dear paws and whiskers, you should not have seen the cat hair, dust, and debris in there. It was awesome!

    I am almost old and crotchety enough to move on from the beetled brow and the repetition of the same question over and over until the guy finally answers the question I asked, instead of the one I did not, to the much more satisfying prefatory statement that I am only going to ask this question once, so listen carefully, and answer promptly, because you do not want a major crazy old lady scene in your establishment. Eh? I’m almost there.

  9. Jezebella

    Can I get your next major crazy old lady scene on video? Because I’m ready to start launching those my own self.

  10. Enid

    Twisty, please, please write a novel. I shall blame the patriarchy that/if you haven’t already–for taking up your time with blameworthy crap instead of setting you free to enlighten us and start the revolution with novels of Twisty wisdom.

  11. TP

    Just because Macs are better than PCs doesn’t mean they are any good at all. I once spoke to a nanotechnologist who made silicon wafers for computer chips – it’s fascinating how smooth silicon must be to be etched with circuits to make chips – and he noted that every time a neutrino floats through a chip errors are possible.

    It’s all faith, and knowing that doesn’t make it any more or less reliable.

    I still follow the “external drive with a clone of my current system” technique of backing up, though. I can’t stand the idea that I don’t have a back up, even if it’s old.

  12. Pam I

    The buttons on a Mac are all in the wrong place to a lifelong PC user. I have to use the puffed-up white slabs at work and it’s like driving a strange car, when you give that idiot who steps out in front of you a good blast on the windscreen wipers.

  13. Shelly

    That kind of crap infuriates me.

    And god forbid you actually know exactly what you want and ask a salesdroid to get it for you. I found out the hard way that the instant gratification of buying from a physical store was not actually preferable to ordering online and waiting for delivery. The salesdroid grilled me up and down before deciding that the computer I’d asked for was, in fact, suitable for little ol’ me and allowing me to purchase it.

    As for Mac vs. PC and the stupid Apple commercials with the geek and the hipster, I just don’t get it. How can a company with a product that comes in four flavors claim–with a straight face!–that it is more individualistic than forty other companies with hundreds of different products?

  14. Molly

    I always used to get that sort of crap when going into bike shops. People who hadn’t been born when I started riding telling me nefarious lies about my bike and what kind of work they thought it needed. I hate that shit. The last time I took my bike in for work was different. The guy looked at my bike, then at me, and just said “You’ve put a lot of miles on this bike.” I almost cried. He then proceeded with the brake adjustment that I had asked for without giving me any shit.

  15. incognotter

    I went through the Mac service mess last summer when my hard drive died, 11 months into a new MacBook. The jackass “genius” believed his t-shirt and tried to tell me it was all my fault for not having a backup. According to him, the one thing you can be sure of is that eventually hardware will fail. He thought “eventually” and “now” were synonyms. I asked him if that is so why is my 8086 still running with the original hardware? Perhaps if they spent less on the Mac vs. PC campaign they could afford to buy hard drives with a reasonable life expectancy and then warrantee them against data loss. But hey, I just have a CIS degree and a vagina so obviously I know nothing.

    Anyway, Twisty, I feel your pain and hope for a speedy recovery from technical mayhem.

  16. hannah

    Linux Ubuntu is the way to go for those who are not yet too invested in something else.

  17. Twisty

    Alas, it’s too late for me and Linux, but perhaps others can be saved!

  18. speedbudget

    It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when we are debating which OS is slightly less crappier. I’ve never understood why we can’t just make things that fucking work right. Our society is able to transplant organs and make bombs that think. Yet we can’t put together a fucking computer that works?

  19. SuzyQ

    After reading about your problems with Mungo I stopped putting off swapping out a chipset fan from my machine. I had been procrastinating on pulling the old one.

    It’s much quieter now and I may have avoided an outlay for a total motherboard replacement for another year.

    You still might want to turn the hard drives from Mungo into externals.

  20. anna

    I had the same thing happen, incognotter. When he said “They all eventually go.” I said “In a year!!!!????” He said “yes”, thus destroying any illusions I had about the reliability of Macs vs PCs while simultaneously irking me. I was concerned about leaving my hard drive there while they replaced it, but I was told it would cost 800$ to recover the data if I wanted to go elsewhere to have that done first. I was pleased with the rapidity of service, but felt that one should expect a functioning hard drive for at least a year.

    I had purchased the rip-off plan because I don’t yet know the innards of computers. I got the impression that having the plan was *important*. At first they thought I didn’t, and I was glad I had the paperwork on hand. Incidentally, I also used to love buying things in actual stores when I needed them. From past experience, I wanted to avoid the “little lady” situation, so I just went online this time. It was much less of a headache, with the added novelty of watching the new machine’s journey.

    For me, the Mac is more intuitive and seems to play nice with the programs I run, but I don’t think anyone should have to anticipate their brand-new hard drive crashing within the year! My old PC notebook is off its hinges, missing keys, with a non-functioning optical drive, but the hard drive- still working.

  21. Laura

    What bugs me the most about Apple products is something that other commenters have hinted at: the Planned Obsolescence of Mac products is exactly as portrayed in desk version on an old Invader Zim episode:

    *student’s desk randomly breaks, shattering into unrecognizable pieces*
    Teacher: The warranty on your desk has run out. Get a replacement from the pile.

    Maybe sometime in the past, Mac products were not shiny toys designed to last a year to 18 months, tops. But I had a first-generation Windows iPod, and after TWO successive hard drive ultra-failures at the 18 month mark, I had had enough. I have since watched friends’ products fail at similar benchmarks, unsurprised. Just in time for them to buy version Slightly Shinier And Maybe Thinner, 1.02.

    Sadly, I have succumbed to secondhand Mac laptop ownership in an attempt to get actual work done on campus.

    Also awful about Apple: Software patents. SOFTWARE PATENTS!! AAARGH!!!

    But yes, I am with the first commenter: Return your product post-haste, complete with earful, and build yer own. If ya really need to, install a cracked copy of OSX. It really doesn’t make sense to NOT custom-build desktops; much cheaper, more reliable, you know whatthefuck you are getting into and that you aren’t violating all sorts of service agreements by opening the damn case. And it is easy! Color-matched wires plug into corresponding ports!

    Laptops, on the other hand, don’t seem to be as DIY yet.

  22. Valeries

    Twisty, the iPhone makes it easier for the man to spy on you.


    Sorry, but it all sucks.

  23. draconismoi

    Shortcut to adulation in a mac store: “I’m in the RANDOM ARTISTIC INDUSTRY and have always been a mac person.” Doesn’t have to be true. They’ll believe you and worship you as you deserve.

    Revenge for the new ‘genius bar’ and other retail horrors: Go in right before your warranty expires on whatever product with a problem. 9/10 they’ll just give you a brand new one rather than fix it. This is how I get new ipods and my classmates keep up-to-date on laptops (I buy mine used on eBay, so the new laptop every year program doesn’t work out so well for me). The great thing about the genius bar is that they believe themselves to be geniuses – so if they can’t figure out what your problem is (pick an obscure thing they’ll know nothing about, like the accessibility stuff), they assume it cannot be fixed and voila! new computer.

    In truth, I am a devotee of the Apple-cult, always looking for new converts. But I am not blind to their faults, and am not above milking the system. Incredible machines or not, it’s still a frakking corporation.

  24. hanna

    I’m with you on just about all of this, but, having been on the other end of a tech support helpline, I think you should know that a shockingly large percentage of calls really do go exactly like this:

    Caller: “My computer is doing this incredibly bizarre thing!”
    Me: “That’s weird. Have you tried restarting it?”
    Caller: “…No.”
    Me: “Well, why don’t you do that, and then call me back if that doesn’t fix it.”

    And then they don’t call back.

    So: annoying question if you have actually tried it, but necessary piece of information.

    I recommend mentioning in your opening narrative that you restarted it to no avail, so that you really can feel justified in being annoyed if you get asked.


    FWIW, plus, it’s probably too late:

    I took my apple computer to a place in Austin called HAPPY MAC and they (well, the one guy) were toally nice and fixed my mac for cheap. I think this HAPPY MAC place is the actual place to go; everywhere else I called (or previously went) was a bill to take a gander, etc. (By bill I mean a hunnerd dollars.)

    It does seem like you have already taken care of it, plus you don’t perhaps want to drive into town. However, if you drive into Austin you can eat in a restaurant!

  26. lauredhel

    I must be the only person whose Apple gear goes on strong.

    I’m using a first-gen iPhone without any trouble, and a MacBook Pro two and a half years old and in constant use. (I maintain a full backup with Time Machine, of course). My partner’s much older powerbook is fine also, apart from a wobbly power cord insertion caused by excessive exogenous wobbling. My old 12 inch powerbook (2003?) is still in service with an in-law, and working fine. My kid runs a CRT G3 iMac (2000?) which does the jobs he wants it to do. The only broken computer in the house right now is a first-gen Snow iBook (G3/500, made 2001), which I used for a few years before it was bashed around by a toddler for a year or two. The display’s not working now, but it seems to still start up ok and would probably work with an external monitor. There’s also a four- or five-year old iPod around here still in regular use.

    Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.

  27. Twisty

    “you don’t perhaps want to drive into town. However, if you drive into Austin you can eat in a restaurant!”

    Damn, girl, you have hit the nail on the head. I don’t want to drive into town, but my GOD there’s NOTHING TO EAT OUT HERE. I’ve lost 10 pounds since moving out to the country. Yesterday I sucked it up and buzzed down to SoCo because nothing but a Home Slice could lift me out of my pizza-deprived funk. That was 2 hours on the road I’ll never get back, but at least I had some decent pie. Damn.

  28. Twisty

    lauredhel, you obviously get the special Ozzian Apple gear. I hear it’s made by the wily descendents of exiled criminal elves.

    I will admit that my ancient Titanium Powerbook is still fine; I just need to a) find and b) charge its battery. I’m also using a 1st gen iPhone; it’s a fine little thingy in town, but I can’t recommend it as a person’s only mode of communication in Rattlesnake, TX.

  29. lauredhel

    I think it’s made by the same shh-don’t-talk-about-the-slaves exploited workers as the rest of the gear. All the more reason to squeeze as much life out of it as possible, I guess. Is there any computer brand made in a truly fair-trade way?

    “buzzed down to SoCo”

    I read this “SoCal”, and thought, blimey, that’s one helluva pizza craving. Wherever you are, though, it’s far closer to pizza than most of my home state is.

  30. PhoenixRising

    Laurel’s experience is quite similar to mine, although I am currently typing into the 12 in Powerbook G4 that holds our stereo and is on its 4th hard drive.

    Rather than handing it down to a relative I put the CDs on it, which filled the 40gig drive which meant that the OS wouldn’t load which made me oh so grateful for the snotty kids at the Apple store who believe themselves to be geniuses. Replaced the whole shooting match for me.

    The 2003 purchase of the snow iBook was good money because mine still works after having a beer spilled in it. Display is wonky but servicable and Mavis Beacon has Taught Typing to the kid on it already.

    Twisty, give Mungo’s organs to those who live on and buck up. At least it didn’t catch fire.

  31. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    My laptop is Linux, yay! I’m so into that hive mind thing. Linux is the Wikipedia of computers and I haven’t found a down side to that, yet.

    My PC gets a new trojan horse virus every other day, dammit. One day I’ll get one that Norton can’t catch and trade my hard drive in for something that runs on Ubuntu and not look back.

  32. Kuleana

    Yes, for those who are looking for something new, Linux, probably Ubuntu, is a great idea! One great thing about Linux is that there are about 2,357,299 different versions (called distributions) that have different strengths and focuses. I hope that as people get more tuned into environmentalism Linux will get more popular, because there are a lot of distros meant specifically for older computers whose hardware is often perfectly fine but had a Windows CalamityTM of some sort. The great thing is that a lot of those distros are still supported, unlike the older versions of Windows you could run on older computers. Unfortunately, I am not using my Ubuntu computer right now because I’ve been having trouble getting it to unpack .RAR files, which is how I get my pirated music. I’m pretty sure the patriarchy is involved somehow.

  33. Kuleana

    Damn! How does one do superscript around here?

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