Archive for Apple

Apple’s Expanded Keyboard Service Program To Address #KeyboardGate Is Further Proof That The Butterfly Keyboard Is Horribly Flawed

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 24, 2019 by itnerd

This week Apple released new MacBook Pros to the world. And I told you why you might want to hold off buying one, assuming that buying one is even a viable option. But something else happened at the same time that those MacBook Pros were being released. Apple also expanded their service program for people who have issues with the butterfly keyboard. And if you look at what’s covered by this service program, you’ll note something interesting:

keyboard

If you look at the picture, you’ll note that included on the list are the 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros that were just released this week. Those models are the last two on the list.

Think about that for a second. A brand new product already has a service program attached to it. That’s strange is it not? It’s even more strange when you consider that Apple told media outlets like The Loop the following:

To address the problem, Apple said they changed the material in the keyboard’s butterfly mechanism that should substantially reduce issues that some users have seen.

Clearly Apple doesn’t feel that this change in material will address the problem completely. Otherwise they would have made a bolder statement than the one above. Which means that you can draw a couple of conclusions:

  • Apple knows that the basic design of the butterfly keyboard is flawed and any tweaking that they do won’t move that needle to the point where the keyboard isn’t a massive problem for them anymore.
  • Apple knows that only a complete redesign or the total abandonment of the butterfly keyboard will truly address this issue. And clearly they can’t do either at the moment.

If those two points weren’t true, Apple would not have bothered to add these new MacBook Pros to the service program to repair these keyboards.

Now you could argue that Apple is trying to instill confidence in its products by saying “Look we improved the keyboard, but if you have issues we’ve got your back.” But consider this. Apple has a department called Early Field Failure Analysis that looks into the quality of products after they ship and sounds the alarm to the Tim Cook’s of the world when things start to go off the rails. So with that in mind, they could have let these ship and gathered data to see how they were operating in the field. From that data they could have made a decision on whether to add them to this service program or not. Or if they need to take additional actions beyond that. But they didn’t do that. They instead added these new MacBook Pros to the service program the second that they were announced. That says to me that they know that they know that they still have a problem with the butterfly keyboard that they cannot fix.

I think it’s clear at this point that the butterfly keyboards are not only horribly flawed, but they appear to be unfixable. Because of that, those who are considering a new MacBook should stay far, far away from these notebooks and any notebook in the Apple lineup that uses the butterfly keyboard. Because Apple clearly can’t provide the reliability that you should expect from a premium product like the Apple MacBook Pro, and consumers should not have to suffer for that.

 

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Should You Buy The New MacBook Pros? Not Yet…. Perhaps Not At All…..

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 23, 2019 by itnerd

A couple of days ago, Apple quietly released new MacBook Pros to the world. For those keeping score at home, this is the third update to this line of Macs since last summer. And as a result, I have been bombarded with questions regarding if you should run out and buy one. Thus, here’s my stance on this based on two areas of concern:

  1. Apple has somehow shoved an 8 core Intel i9 processor into the top spec model. The problem with that is that when Apple shoved a 6 core version of the i9 processor in to last summer’s MacBook Pro, it had major thermal throttling issues. As in the processor would throttle back its performance due to the heat that it generated so that it would not cause the CPU to self destruct. As a result, it had comparable performance to an i7. Which meant that the i9 was a major waste of money. Now to be fair, Apple did push out a software update to fix that, and the i9 that they are using this time around is of a newer generation which may generate less heat. But seeing as they made no design changes to address heat that are visible from the outside of the MacBook Pro, why should anyone believe that the same issues aren’t going to reappear? Apple hasn’t said anything on that front which means we’ll have to wait until reviewers start to look at these new MacBook Pros and iFixit rips one apart to see what, if anything Apple did to address this. But color me extremely skeptical on this one in the absence of objective evidence that says otherwise.
  2. Then there’s that keyboard. The butterfly keyboard that is the source of #KeyboardGate. This is Apple’s fourth crack at this keyboard, and they swear that they have addressed the issues that have led to many cursing and not praising this keyboard. Not to mention a few lawsuits along the way. The thing is, is the fourth time the charm? Unfortunately we’ll have to wait to see how much static, or not is created by this fourth version of the butterfly keyboard before we know for sure if the fourth try is the charm. You can color me extremely skeptical on this one as well as given that Apple has had three previous cracks at this to get it right, Apple more than likely has a flawed keyboard on its hands.

For those two reasons, I would recommend that you avoid buying these new MacBook Pros for the time being. At least until reviews start to circulate, and the early adopters who push these machines hard start to say things about them. Or you can wait for a Dave2D video as seeing as he discovered the thermal throttling issue last year, he’s likely to be testing this version to see what happens with these new MacBook Pros. Regardless, you should wait. And if the reviews don’t show that Apple has learned from their past mistakes, you should not buy these MacBook Pros at all and wait for Apple to actually redesign the MacBook Pro so that they have a notebook that pro users would actually want to use as opposed to having an notebook that forces users to live with something that is sub-optimal. Or you can leave the Apple ecosystem because Apple will have shown by that point that they have completely lost the plot.

The choice is yours.

BREAKING: New CPU Vulnerability Disclosed. Patches From Microsoft And Apple Inbound

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on May 14, 2019 by itnerd

There’s a new CPU vulnerability that has literally just been disclosed by researchers. It’s called ZombieLoad and it is similar to the Spectre and Meltdown CPU flaws that popped up a while ago. Here’s what you need to know:

“ZombieLoad,” as it’s called, is a side-channel attack targeting Intel chips, allowing hackers to effectively exploit design flaws rather than injecting malicious code. Intel said ZombieLoad is made up of four bugs, which the researchers reported to the chip maker just a month ago.

 Almost every computer with an Intel chips dating back to 2011 are affected by the vulnerabilities. AMD and ARM chips are not said to be vulnerable like earlier side-channel attacks.

 ZombieLoad takes its name from a “zombie load,” an amount of data that the processor can’t understand or properly process, forcing the processor to ask for help from the processor’s microcode to prevent a crash. Apps are usually only able to see their own data, but this bug allows that data to bleed across those boundary walls. ZombieLoad will leak any data currently loaded by the processor’s core, the researchers said. Intel said patches to the microcode will help clear the processor’s buffers, preventing data from being read.

Speaking of those patches….:

Intel has released microcode to patch vulnerable processors, including Intel Xeon, Intel Broadwell, Sandy Bridge, Skylake and Haswell chips, Intel Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake, Whiskey Lake and Cascade Lake chips are affected, and all Atom and Knights processors.

But other tech giants, like consumer PC and device manufacturers, are also issuing patches as a first line of defense against possible attacks.

Computer makers Apple  and Microsoft  and browser makers Google and Mozilla  are releasing patches today.

So as soon as those patches appear for your Windows 10 computer or Mac, I would install them to protect yourself. I’ll update this post as soon as patches pop up.

UPDATE: Apple just put up this page addressing this issue:

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT210107

In short, Apple released mitigations when they released 10.14.5 as well as other software updates for older OSes that they still support.

UPDATE #2: Google has confirmed it has released patches to mitigate against ZombieLoad. The Chrome team has a technical advisory out that says that users should rely on patches for their computer. “Operating system vendors may release updates to improve isolation, so users should ensure they install any updates and follow any additional guidance from their operating system vendor,” said Google. In other words, make sure your Windows PC or your Mac is patched. Though I will point out that a new version of Chrome just hit my PC and Mac.

UPDATE #3: Microsoft has put up a document on this. And patches have apparently been released via Windows Update. Microsoft also has a page with guidance for how to protect against the new attacks. Meanwhile over at Amazon Web Services, AWS has been updated to prevent attacks.

UPDATE #4: VMware has released software updates for vCenter Server, ESXi, Workstation, and Fusion to mitigate this threat. Details here.

 

 

Now Would Be A Really Good Time To Buy Apple Branded Accessories As Prices Are Likely To Increase In America

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 14, 2019 by itnerd

Have you had your eye on an Apple USB Charger or perhaps an Apple Case for your iPhone? Well, if you’re American you might want to pony up for them now. The Verge is reporting that some accessories are now taxed at 25% because of the ongoing trade war between the US and China. Specifically chargers and phone cases:

But the codes involved in Apple’s “adapters, chargers, cables and cords” stayed on the list, and, starting last September, they have been taxed at a 10 percent rate when they entered the US from China. The same is true for iPhone cases and the iPad’s leather covers, both of which are also subject to the tariff, per Apple’s letter. On Friday, that jumped to 25 percent. (Apple declined to comment when reached by The Verge.)

So far, that cost has been born entirely by Apple and its suppliers. The prices listed on Apple’s website haven’t budged since the tariffs went into effect. At $70 for a charger (which would cost you as little as $11 under other circumstances), it’s possible Apple’s margins are wide enough that they’re able to simply eat the extra cost. It’s also possible that Apple’s Chinese manufacturing partners were willing to offer a slight discount in light of the tariffs. It could even be that, since September, Apple has been able to shift its supply chain around enough to dodge the impact of the tariff completely. But given Apple’s massive scale and intense quality demands, such a move might have been more expensive than just paying the tariff.

So, the bottom line is that you should expect prices to increase. And what’s worse is as this trade war escalates, other Apple products will start to get hit. And Apple would not be able to dance around this which means you’ll pay more. Plus, it is likely other companies will start to feel this as well which means that you as the American consumer will ultimately lose.

Apple Recalls Some Older Three-Prong Wall Plug Adapters Due To Risk Of Electrical Shock

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 25, 2019 by itnerd

Apple is recalling three prong power adapters that are meant for use in the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Hong Kong because they may break and cause a risk of electrical shock. If you got one of these with a Mac, an iOS device or via the World Travel Adapter kit between 2003-2010, then you are likely affected. The linked document will tell you how to identify the problematic ones (Which by the way you should stop using now…. As in right the hell now) and how to get a replacement.

I am pretty sure that I have one of these so I will be making a point of confirming that when I get home and taking action immediately.

UPDATE: I checked and I am affected by this. I used the link above to make a Genius Bar appointment on Saturday afternoon to get this addressed.

Apple Might Start Offering One Day Repairs For MacBook Keyboards Affected By #KeyboardGate

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 25, 2019 by itnerd

It seems that Apple is trying to mitigate #KeyboardGate by offering next day repairs of #KeyboardGate affected MacBooks. At least that’s what a memo obtained by MacRumors is saying:

Apple’s memo, titled “How to support Mac customers with keyboard-related repairs in store,” advises Genius Bar technicians that these keyboard repairs should be “prioritized to provide next-day turnaround time”:

Most keyboard-related repairs will be required to be completed in store until further notice. Additional service parts have been shipped to stores to support the increased volume. 

These repairs should be prioritized to provide next-day turnaround time. When completing the repair, have the appropriate service guide open and carefully follow all repair steps.

Apple did not provide a reason for this change, but the company is known for customer satisfaction, so it could be trying to speed up the process a bit to alleviate frustration. 

I’ll note that this has the feel of a Steve Jobs type of memo which is that he would want a certain end result and your job as an Apple employee is to simply make it happen any way you can and the details be dammed.

Part of the pain of having a #KeyboardGate affected MacBook is the fact that it takes so long to get them repaired. That’s a huge issue for people who rely on their MacBooks to make a living. So this move will buy Apple a limited amount of goodwill. However, some of my clients are on their second or third keyboard as Apple is replacing a known to be problematic keyboard with another known to be problematic keyboard. Thus to people in that boat, it doesn’t matter if they get the computer back the next day as the problem will simply happen again.

Perhaps Apple should just apologize for these crappy keyboards and for the negative experience of MacBook owners and actually come out with better ones to install into customer’s computers? Just a thought.

Apple Providing Free Data Migration With A Mac Purchase Or Repair

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 10, 2019 by itnerd

Something that has always people about the Apple Store is that they were always hesitant to swap your data from your old computer to your shiny new Mac for free. That’s a total non issue for yours truly, but for many users it is a roadblock that may cost Apple a sale here and there. And let’s be honest, it’s not the hardest thing to do and doesn’t require a lot of work seeing as Apple has tools to do that built into the OS that savvy users would use instead. I guess that Tim Cook and company figured that out because Apple is now offering data migration services for free when customers purchase a new Mac or need to have a Mac replaced for repair reasons. Prior to this month, data migration was priced at $99 USD:

Beginning April 2, there will be no cost for Data Migrations with the purchase of a new Mac or Data Transfers with a repair. Data migration was included as a feature in Apple’s One to One program, which was shut down in 2015. One to One allowed customers to pay $99 when purchasing a new Mac to get a year’s worth of instruction and help. When Apple ended One to One, data migration was still available as a one-time $99 service.

I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that Apple is using this to get people into the store and make sure that they actually buy a Mac as opposed to saying “what you want to charge me for moving my data over” and walking out. It may also be a shift to diversify their income stream away from the iPhone by trying to sell more computers. Plus it gives them an advantage over the Microsoft Store who charges for this sort of thing. Will it work for them? We’ll have to see.