Back to the Apple Store… (more Macbook Pro fun)

Display glitch in\'s message list view

Display glitch in's message list view

I went back the Apple Store’s Genius Bar for my third visit yesterday in an attempt to get resolution to the display glitches I’d been seeing (the first visit is described here with additional information on the issue in general, the second visit is noted here). The last visit resulted in a fresh install of Mac OS X and a promise to replace my laptop (now only just over a month old) if there was no resolution to the problem.

I left my first two visits feeling hopeful and appreciative of the helpful attention I’d been paid by the different techs I’d talked with. Although the solutions I’d been offered were pretty much what I’d expect from just about any tech support attempt, I at least felt that they understood the problem and sincerely wanted to fix it.

My third visit felt nothing like this. Instead I was left with the feeling that the tech I was speaking with had no comprehension of the issue and was also made to feel like I was kind of a dumbass for expecting so much.

Of course it didn’t help that I couldn’t reproduce the problem while sitting there, but I had come prepared with about 10 different screen captures showing it in action. And I’ve got to say the guy I talked to on my second visit was willing to promise a replacement system on just these screenshots.

Instead, I was made to feel first like this was something I was causing by scrolling web pages before full loaded (despite the screen shot showing the problem in a list view as well). I said that was not what was happening and also noted that it was a system-wide problem and that I’d seen the flashing of video symptoms as well. I’ve seen elements of this in Mail, Safari, Twitterific, iTunes, iPhoto and the Finder. Here’s a video of the glitch as it appears in iTunes (Quicktime;7mb). Quite annoying.

His fall back position was that it was probably a software problem and that there were a lot of bugs still in Leopard and Safari. Now, I’m willing to buy that it’s a bug, but I’m not convinced it’s in the OS and I know it’s not in Safari (too many other apps affected). Looks like a video HW problem or possibly an NVIDIA driver issue… About this time another Genius Bar employee walked by and commented that he saw someone else with the same problem just yesterday, mainly in Word (which I don’t have installed). Wish he’d stuck around so I could ask more but as usual the place was hectic and he went off to help someone else.

In the end my guy said he’d be willing to replace the logic board but he didn’t think this would fix it and again made me feel like this was a normal behavior I was seeing. I again called bullshit. This is not normal. My previous laptop (a 2005 12″ Powerbook also running Leopard) showed no signs of it, I’ve never seen anything like it on any computer I’ve used over the past 15 years of being a computer geek, and if it was normal the Mac press would be up in arms with complaints about it. No way this is normal. No way this normal for an expensive high-powered laptop with a high-end 512mb video processor. Uh-uh.

So I was given the options of letting them take my laptop for 2 weeks to replace the logic board or to try this guys other suggestion, which was to call Apple and call foul on this particular system, say it’s been a problem since I got it and get a replacement. He said he couldn’t do a swap in store because it was a refurb that I’d purchased from the online Apple Store, but he felt that if I called 1-800-MY-APPLE they might be able to take care of me more quickly than he could (turns out this was a very helpful suggestion).

I was willing to buy this and since I live just a few minutes from the store (and could easily come back for more abuse) I was also willing to go home and call Apple and see where that got me.

On getting home, I decided to first take another shot at trying to find and answer myself. I started digging into the console logs on the system. This only led down a short blind alley. Briefly I was hopeful that the issue I’d been seeing was somehow caused by the numerous kernel extensions that were installed by Parallels’ and VMWare’s demo software. Although removing all of these did result in a much quicker boot, within a few hours I saw the problem again.

So, with no resolution, I called Apple today to see what they had to say…

After a brief on hold wait, I got through to seemingly nice, friendly guy who took my name and serial number and looked me up. He immediately brought up my info from the Genius Bar visits took a look and said he’d like to put me on hold for a few minutes while he reviewed it. When he came back, he immediately said that it looks like I need to get a replacement computer shipped to me, put me on hold again and then came back a few minutes later with an additional person from the Apple Store customer support to arrange for the swap. Less than 20 minutes from the time I dialed, I had the procedure explained to me and they were sending me shipping labels for the return of this system.

Nice. No argument, no asking me to try stupid resets, nothing but immediate attention and promise to fix the issue. Even the guy at the store who I’d thought was being such a dick turned out to be offering good advice. Satisfied again, I await the replacement laptop (and hope like hell I never see this display issue in it!!!)…

3 Responses to “Back to the Apple Store… (more Macbook Pro fun)”

  1. Very interested to hear if the replacement system solves your problem. If it does, I’d say Apple has a very expensive problem on its hands. As much as you might not want to hear this I’m kinda hopeful the replacement system has exactly the same problem because that would demonstrate that it’s a software problem. I’m the guy that wrote the original APC article that drew all the attention to this problem and have been suffering from this problem since getting my MBP in Feb. I think Apple has improved things a bit with the 10.5.4 update because I certainly see the problem less often than I used to, however it will still reliably start happening eventually — usually after I have had the MBP running for a couple of days without a reboot.

    I’m disappointed with many aspects of this MBP:

    – the ambient light sensor is clearly faulty, with the keyboard flashing on and off constantly if I switch on keyboard backlighting at all

    – the sound output port has annoying R2D2 sounds at the end of any audio playback… and although this can be worked around by using high impedance headphones, I’ve never had this problem with any previous MBP or PowerBook G4.

    – the graphics output has this annoying glitching problem (fortunately the actual screen corruption rarely affects Firefox I find, so as long as I don’t use Safari I can keep it at bay most of the time — though the flashing video is pretty much system-wide.)

  2. Hi Dan, I gotta say I’m a bit dubious that the replacement fixes it as well. I’m hopeful but not counting on it. Before I shipped it out on Friday, I reformatted the drive, did a clean install and ran this way for a day. Everything ran swimmingly and my efforts to get the display issues to appear all failed. I thought about keeping it around and slowly adding things to the system to see what I could find out, but the desperation for a quick replacement and the hope this does the trick won out. You’ll definitely hear more as I get it up and running…

  3. HI, I recently (like less than three weeks ago) bought a new MBP in Australia, and have experienced exactly the same problem. Can you confirm that it was Apple themselves who explained right out of the box that you need a new machine?

    I called the store I bought this in (we don’t have Apple stores here on the west coast only authorised resellers), and they were very defensive even on the phone, insisting it was a software problem. I called bullshit and they said to do a firmware update, which is kind of hilarious because that’s a hardware problem.

    If Apple themselves said you need a new machine through official channels, then I’ll just go direct through Apple rather than waste my time trying use vaporware solutions.