Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Apple, are you kidding me?

Late last Wednesday afternoon I had what by now has become all too familiar: a Mac hard drive crash. Fortunately I learned my lesson after the first three times this happened to me, so this time I had a reasonably current backup. I lost just three or four days, almost all of it stuff I’d uploaded to the web already.

So the issue wasn’t data loss. The issue was the hard drive itself. The problem required a trip to the Apple Store (not exactly right next door), where the computer had to stay for three days. As down times go, that honestly wasn’t too bad. It was actually sort of nice to have an excuse to take a break from connectedness for a little while.

Plus the Apple “Geniuses” were nice to the verge of customer service overkill. One even told me that the company’s in-house code name for the computer I bought is the Ultimate. That made me wonder what their name is for the model with a few extras I didn’t get. Best not to know. I’d hate to think about people unwittingly using a computer known as the John Holmes.

My problem with all this (aside from this being the fourth hard drive crash in less than two years) was that in days gone past I could have tackled the repair at home. If the hardware was seriously torched (and in this case it may have been), then off to the store it would go. As I’d had it only a month or so, it was still under warranty. But at least I could have tried running some diagnostics and attempted to fix it myself before swapping in an expensive replacement part.

But in this brave new world that doesn’t happen. Because I needed to be able to boot from an external system disc so I could go to work on the internal hard drive. And do new Macs come with a CD system disc? They do not. Of course there’s a certain logic to that, as the new Macs don’t have disc drives. But I have an external drive that I use mostly to watch DVDs on the computer. So if I’d had a disc, I could at least have given it a try.

Another option would have been to use a Firewire connection to link the problem child up to an older, functioning computer that I happened to have downstairs. But Apple in its wisdom decided I didn’t need a Firewire port in my new machine.

Here then is the deal: in Apple’s imagineered vision, we’re all going to live in the cloud. We’ll store all our data in the cloud, connect to our peripherals via the cloud, watch movies from the cloud, do everything we do entirely from the fabulous world of the net-connected cloud. For the full effect, read that last sentence aloud while standing on your tiptoes, flapping your arms like a happy little bluebird and employing your most sarcastic tone.

In Apple’s defense, the cloud works great. Until it doesn’t. It provides us with all kinds of new possibilities. But if we rely exclusively on our net connections, we lose a measure of autonomy (not to mention opening our lives up to scrutiny by hackers at the government, corporate and freelance levels). At the very least, we appear to have surrendered the ability to opt in or out at our discretion.

So if Apple is going to watch over us like we’re a mass of ignorant children, then the corporation is going to have to make a bigger commitment to being a better parent. A few more geniuses in the design and assembly stages might save employing fewer at the customer service end. Just a thought.