The Apple Store at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, has become my new hangout. It’s not because I enjoy dropping over. I don’t. The parking can be inconvenient and it’s always a challenge to find the damn store.
It’s become my hangout because Apple has been unable to resolve recurring “kernel panics” on my low-end Macbook laptop. The kernel panics trigger a gray screen with a warning in multiple languages that the computer must be shut down. It’s Apple’s way of letting me know the computer has crashed.
I bought the laptop in May 2010. The crashes started occurring a few months later. I didn’t know what they were and just lived with them for a while. When it dawned on me that something might be wrong, one of my daughters brought the laptop over and had it looked at. Apple tried to replicate the panics but was unable to do so. We went ahead and installed a new operating system, but the crashes continued to recur.
When I brought the laptop in, Apple replaced the operating system again and stress tested it. I had to go back to pick it up later that week, but the crashes continued.
I brought it in again. This time around Apple replaced the RAM chips and tested the computer. I picked it up again after a few days, but the crashes continued.
The third time around Apple replaced the logic board. The crashes continued, this time more frequently.
That’s when I felt like Apple had forced me to make an ass of myself. I called the store manager and invited him to share my pain. He vaguely implied that if I brought it in again, Appple would supply me with a replacement. That brings us to a week ago yesterday, when I walked out of the Apple Store with the same model of a new Macbook laptop.
In the past eight days the new Apple laptop has crashed four times, most recently a moment ago when I opened it to kill time while waiting for what has become my weekly Genius Bar appointment. I’d appreciate any constructive comments readers might have.
UPDATE: My Genius has diagnosed the problem via the kernel panic log on my new laptop. It’s a problem arising in the interaction of the OS 10.6 operating system and the Adobe Flash player. Apple just updated OS 10.6 yesterday with release 10.6.7, which I have now downloaded. However, I have no reason to believe that the update fixed the problem. With the help of my Genius, I have also downloaded the ClicktoFlash plug-in, which should let me minimize my use of the Flash player.
I’ve asked the store manager to contact someone in management who can give an unhappy customer more information about the problem. He said that he doesn’t have anyone in corporate management he can turn to and offered me the Apple media helpline at the Apple helpdesk. I think Apple should be able to do better.
PS: Thanks to all the readers who have responded to my request for comments (or who have responded via email). The Apple Store gave me an entirely new laptop last week when it changed out my old one, thinking it was a hardware problem. The last four crashes have occurred on my brand new Macbook laptop. As I understand the issue, it is a known software problem of unknown origin, or at least unknown to the Geniuses serving Apple customers. My guess is that someone in Cupertino knows more about it than the Geniuses at the Apple Store.