Friday, March 07, 2008

sad panda mac day

I'm an Apple geek. I can admit it. I've been primarily using Apple laptops for 5 years, own an iPhone and several iPods, Mac Mini's are connected to every television in the house, and I've generally pushed Macs on anyone I knew who was buying a computer and didn't need to play games.

Thus, I am saddened by three distinct Mac problems that tumbled together today.

First, the MacBook Air. Using an Air is a little like having an iPhone several months ago. People who would normally never talk to a stranger in public come up to you and ask about it. With the iPhone, it was easy to respond with a big smile and a loud "I love it!" With the Air, it's a little trickier. For the most part, I do love it. Even discounting the adventure of the my first one arriving broken, it has proven to have enough power to run Second Life, takes up no space in my bag, has a great keyboard, bright screen, enough battery life, stays nice and cool, and -- when everything is working -- has been an absolute joy to use.

Unfortunately, everything doesn't always work. Ironically, it is again an intermittent problem with the trackpad. Unlike the first time, this one is easier to reproduce. If I spend a lot of time with Gmail open in a tab while clicking around in other apps, eventually the trackpad button stops taking clicks. Tapping the trackpad still works and -- here's the spooky part -- reloading Gmail generally restores the click functionality. Alternately, shutting down and restarting Firefox fixes the problem. Oh, yeah, reloading it in Safari generally fixes it, too, so it isn't just Firefox.

Weird, eh? I don't quite have it reproducible enough to add into the Apple bug database, but I'm close.

So, I want to tell people I love the Air, but instead I tend to waffle a bit. Too bad, because it really has recalibrated what I expect from a laptop. I may never go back to a larger, heavier machine.

Second, my Airport Extreme wireless routers at home have been randomly dying. Turns out, there is a lot of unanswered discussion on the Apple boards about this, although several different problems seem to be overlapping. I have two wireless networks set up at home, one for 802.11g/n for guests and the Mac Minis and a separate 802.11n for our laptops. Both are on Mac Airport Extreme N routers. The .11g/n network started randomly failing the other day in a very weird way. The green light would stay on, but both wired and wireless connections would fail, the wireless network would vanish (even iStumbler couldn't find it), and if you tried to ping the router via a wired connection, the host would be down. Cycling power would fix the problem. Eventually it started happening continuously.

I figured the equipment had failed, so swapped routers and temporarily ditched the .11n network. Then it started failing. Since both were next to each other on a high shelf in the corner of the room, I thought maybe I had cooked both routers, so I went and got a new one and installed it in a better ventilated spot.

The new router began failing immediately.

Now I was really intrigued -- where "intrigued" is a synonym for "angry and frustrated." I turned on max logging and started streaming the logs to a wired host, looking for patterns. What emerged was that every failure was preceded by bittorrent using NAT-PNP to setup a route it would lock up the router. That hint gave me the clue that led me, via Google, to the linked discussion. I've tried the voodoo solution of turning off IPv6 support (Manual Setup -> Advanced -> IPv6 -> Local-link only) and so far haven't seen a lockup, but we'll see. Very annoying, as my home network had been rock solid for years.

Third, remember the comment about games? Well, just saw the Instant Action announcement and I want to check out there technology! Sadly, despite being a web plugin, they don't have a Mac version yet, which is too bad.

I'm sure tomorrow will be a better Mac day -- maybe I'll download the iPhone SDK to make myself feel better.


Laura123 said...

Hey thanks for the review. my mba suddenly turns off for no apparent reason right in the middle of my work. Have you seen this happen before. I was thinking it might be battery related and was surprised to see that you can get macbook air battery kits from other companies beside apple but i think i could be jumping the gun. Any thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated and thank you for your time!


ibogost said...

"maybe I'll download the iPhone SDK to make myself feel better."

So, I tried that today. I have an ADC account. Logged in. Submitted the new info. Got the confirmation email. Clicked on the link. Logged in. Got an error message, "please contact." Sent in a ticket. Email confirmation sez: "Due to the volume of email we receive through this channel, we cannot guarantee that you will receive a response to your email request."

Apple, where nothing works often.

cory ondrejka said...

Haven't seen that one before. I found that Apple phone customer support was very good, even with an intermittent problem.

I'm downloading it right now...

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