Saturday, 29 November 2008

Apple's Rev A issues apparent again

My much-loved and well used 17" MacBook Pro 2.4Ghz from 2007 died inexplicably and completely a few weeks ago. Powering on produced an audible hard-disk spin-up but nothing else: no ability to reset PRAM, certainly no single-user mode, no firewire target disk mode, nothing.

My first reaction was panic - and I legged it down to the Apple Store to grab a replacement machine and dropped my old one back with Apple. It turned out to be the NVIDIA logic board issues that plagued a run of 2.4Ghz 17" Pros and they repaired it for free... which was great as I noticed from their receipt that the part would have set me back £675 or so!

But, and apologies for the long-winded intro, my issues really started with the new 15.4" MacBook Pro I bought to tide me over... It was the new model that had been out for a week and so I was most definitely back in 'Rev A' territory.

First, there was the intermittent trackpad click issue which they resolved with a firmware update. (It manifested itself for me in not responding to clicks or taps on occasion.)

Then there was the lack of RAM (I couldn't buy the 2.56Ghz model with 4GB of RAM because the Apple Store didn't have any) so I purchased 2 x 2GB from Crucial via MacWarehouse. This I fitted and immediately started getting full computer freezes. The entire UI would freeze and I would be unable to do anything but hold down the power and force a reboot (not ideal when in the middle of an AutoCAD plan in VMWare). I knew this must be a RAM related issue so I suspected dodgy sticks and ran the comprehensive (and mammothly slow) MemTest. All came out fine and indeed the RAM is not giving problems in any other way. But the freezes continue.

Now for the really weird bit - I have never had one of these when the machine is in my office. Yet the moment I start work at home, on the kitchen table, I will get one within minutes... Is it in some way prompted by something on my home network?

There is plenty of talk on this Apple Discussion thread about heat but I really feel that this is not the right line of investigation as I have used it on stands, for hours at work under heavy loads and in all manner of configs hot and cold with no freezes occurring.

And in the 2 weeks that I used the machine without the new RAM I never had a freeze so I am pretty sure the RAM is the root cause but such erratic symptoms are odd.

So Rev A issue 3: I use a 24" Apple display at work connected to my MacBook Pro as a secondary monitor (an ancient one using the DVI to ADC converter) via the new Display Port and if the Mac displays go to sleep when you wake them the external display will be covered with shimmering, coloured lines and it has to be disconnected and reconnected to restore it. This is quite frustrating to say the least because windows have to squeeze back onto the single monitor and then fan out onto 2 again and they don't always get back to the same places so you have to do the dance of the toolbars and palettes.

So those are 3 fairly key issues that I believe Apple should really not have allowed to ship. There are many people new to Apple buying these units and they will be very disappointed - and in many cases they will wonder why Apple has such a reputation for stability in contrast to Windows.