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AppleCare, support, and repair issues

The recycling point is under-appreciated. For example, as companies like Apple push us away from wired devices toward wireless, battery powered devices, it's worth noting that the countries with the highest recycling rates currently recycle less than 5% of the lithium ion batteries in the waste stream.
It's not just lithium. The more complex that electronics or other devices get, the more problems there are in separating the various pieces to produce high-quality materials that can be reused by modern industry.

The peak fiasco may have been the "Single Stream Recycling" concept that seemed like a good thing several years ago. The idea was that the recycling machinery could sort paper, plastics and metal into separate streams, but it was vastly overhyped. The ugly reality was that the machinery did not work well, people did not clean the recyclables well enough, and a lot of things were not as recyclable as people claimed. A few years ago, promoters were talking about recycling complex packages like juice boxes and plastics of all sizes, shapes and forms. Now it's down to clean paper, and food containers of metal, plastic or glass (but not pill bottles, shredded paper, and lots of other things that might gum up the works).

Computers and other electronics are even more complex and harder to separate and reprocess into materials that can be reused effectively.

Ric Ford

I think she has a point:
Arwa Mahdawi said:
Apple says it cares about the climate. So why does it cost the earth to repair my Macbook?
... Chances are you have been in my shoes, forced to buy a new gadget or appliance because repairing your old one was too difficult. We live in a world where it is near-impossible to repair expensive electronics. We live in a world where trillion-dollar companies such as Apple are so obsessed with making us buy new things that they spend enormous amounts of money lobbying against legislation that would give people a “right to repair” their old electronics.

The fact that it is so hard to repair the things we supposedly own makes me angry at the best of times. But, on Monday, I became particularly apoplectic. Scrolling though Twitter, I noticed a sanctimonious tweet by Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Humanity has never faced a greater or more urgent threat than climate change,” he noted. “Apple will continue our work to leave the planet better than we found it ...”

To quote the great Greta Thunberg: how dare you? Seriously, Apple, how dare you take the higher ground vis-a-vis the climate crisis when you make it so difficult to repair rather than replace?

Engadget said:
Sonos gives a lame reason for bricking older devices in 'Recycle Mode'
... Recently, the company offered a trade-up program, giving legacy customers 30 percent off the latest One, Beam or Port. In exchange, buyers just had to "recycle" their existing products. However, what Sonos meant by "recycle" was to activate a feature called "Recycle Mode" that permanently bricks the speaker. It then becomes impossible for recycling firms to resell it or do anything else but strip it for parts.
... Sonos tried to defend itself in a way that might sound familiar to Apple users. "The reality is that these older products lack the processing power and memory to support modern Sonos experiences," the company told The Verge. ...
The Verge said:
Sonos explains why it bricks old devices with ‘Recycle Mode’
An irreversible kill switch for a discount is a bad deal for the environment
... "We feel it’s the right decision to make recycling a condition of this offer," Sonos says on the trade-up program's FAQ page. ...

... The quip in the video about removing the T2's NAND data blade module(s) and "it will work fine" I don't think is true. (This disrupts the boot process per some other reports.) Nor is it pragmatically a good idea, even if it was true – treat it more as a big "recovery drive." There still should be a 'maintenance" macOS there, if something goes deeply sideways with the Mac. If one ever needed to do a deep reset of the system, it would fall back to the default security settings. At that point, you need a macOS (and associated Apple recovery) volume there on the T2. ...
A key argument for not touching the internal chips is simply to avoid opening the device. Booting an iMac or Mini from an external drive has long been a good strategy to compensate for unsatisfactory internal drive, where "unsatisfactory" can cover a multitude of reasons.

Examples include
  • A 2009 iMac with a dying internal drive. The client got an inexpensive repair using an external drive, which was both faster and larger and continued using it until replacing it with a 2012 iMac. Of course, the old iMac then died of shame and was recycled.
  • A 2012 Mini with a small 5400 RPM internal drive now happily booting from a 1TB SSD in an OWC Thunderbolt enclosure, which also houses data and backup drives. Occasionally, I update the system on the internal drive "Just In Case".
  • A 2012 27" iMac with 2TB Fusion Drive, which was booted from an external SSD during early Catalina beta testing. (It is now running Catalina reasonably well from the internal drive.)
I can probably claim to have swapped more disks on more different hardware and OS combinations than most on this forum -- think RT11, RSX-11, and various UNIXs on PDP-11 and continuing to large IBM 'washing machine' drives and then modern 3.5 and 2.5" drives on Windows and macOS.

My point here is that, given that the computer is just another tool, keep it sharp in the most cost-effective (and warranty-compliant) way. For at about a decade, I have told clients that I would not open their Apple systems to increase storage, especially iMacs. This keeps warranty and hardware intact and, not incidentally, reduces my liability for broken IR sensor connectors and the like, and the iMac screens stay clean.

... A 2009 iMac with a dying internal drive. The client got an inexpensive repair using an external drive, which was both faster and larger and continued using it until replacing it with a 2012 iMac. ...
Occasionally a drive's electronics will fail in a way that hangs up the SATA bus. If the failure is intermittent, it can be nearly impossible to diagnose. Over the decades I've had a handful of these failures. The behavior was similar to the MacBook Pros with defective drive cables.

Yesterday a friend gave me his 2009 iMac 27" – it had been hanging with a black screen. When it worked, I used SMART Utility to verify the drive was OK. Hoping the problem was a thermal panic, I rebuilt it (cleaning everything and disassembling the heatsinks to apply new compound). I substituted an SSD for the hard drive (luckily, I had a spare OWC temperature sensor for that generation of iMacs).

I put the hard drive in an OWC external case to clone it. It wouldn't mount on my MacBook Air (via Thunderbolt-to-FireWire). System Information showed an unknown device. I tried the same setup on my MacBook Pro, and it also showed as an unknown device, but after a reboot, it hung Mojave, requiring a force power-off.

I swapped cases and tried an OWC USB 3 case, which also hung Mojave. On the next power-on, the drive worked and I got a clone.

I won't be testing that drive any more... I'll have to wait to be 100% positive that was the iMac's problem.

Ric Ford

Occasionally a drive's electronics will fail in a way that hangs up the SATA bus....
I have also seen this phenomenon, and it's a very big problem, because other drives won't work either, even if they are, themselves, good drives. Thus, you can't recover data from the failing drive, and you can't run the system off a good drive — you have to physically remove and discard the bad drive, which can be another big problem, if it's buried in an inaccessible Mac (e.g. iMac or modern MacBook/Pro).

I have also seen this phenomenon, and it's a very big problem, because other drives won't work either, even if they are, themselves, good drives. Thus, you can't recover data from the failing drive, and you can't run the system off a good drive — you have to physically remove and discard the bad drive.
What makes this so difficult to diagnose is that the logs don't report anything. My guess is that the hung SATA bus also hangs other critical buses, which ends up hanging the processor. That would account for why macOS doesn't kernel panic or auto-restart in these cases.

Ric Ford

Apple has a very limited new program through a third-party company for onsite repair (something that competing companies, such as HP and Dell, routinely offer):
Juli Clover said:
Apple Offering Onsite Device Repairs in Select Cities Through Go Tech Services

... Onsite repairs from Go Tech Services appear to be available in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Houston, and Dallas.

... Apple offers onsite repairs for its enterprise customers, but until now, there has never been a similar repair option for regular consumers. Go Tech Services is an Apple Authorized Service Provider, so the repairs aren't coming directly from Apple, but it's akin to visiting a similar AASP like Mobile Kangaroo or Best Buy.

It's not clear the extent of the problems that can be addressed by the onsite service provider. We were able to choose Go Tech Services for a cracked iPhone display, but not for a battery replacement.

Go Tech Services appears to operate exclusively through Apple, as visiting the company's website redirects to a notice that repairs must be initiated through Apple's support site.

Ric Ford

8. Apple's treatment of independent resellers and repair shops, forcing most of them out of business.​
Motherboard has details about Apple's secret demands on independent repair shops:
Vice said:
Apple’s Independent Repair Program Is Invasive to Shops and Their Customers, Contract Shows
Last August, in what was widely hailed a victory for the right-to-repair movement, Apple announced it would begin selling parts, tools, and diagnostic services to independent repair shops in addition to its “authorized” repair partners. Apple’s so-called Independent Repair Provider (IRP) program had its limitations, but was still seen as a step forward for a company that’s fought independent repair for years.

Recently, Motherboard obtained a copy of the contract businesses are required to sign before being admitted to Apple’s IRP Program. The contract, which has not previously been made public, sheds new light on a program Apple initially touted as increasing access to repair but has been remarkably silent on ever since. It contains terms that lawyers and repair advocates described as “onerous” and “crazy”; terms that could give Apple significant control over businesses that choose to participate. Concerningly, the contract is also invasive from a consumer privacy standpoint.

Motherboard has details about Apple's secret demands on independent repair shops:
The one thing that many do not disclose is that Apple's reimbursement for repairs is rather abysmal. Apple has a penalty for PPR - parts per repair.

A good tech may find more than one issue - a blower below speed and failed trackpad. Apple will ding the provider unless the repair is for one item then have the customer return in a few weeks to have the other part replaced? Really? Why? So they could come back and buy stuff! That is their thinking at Apple... whereas a logical-technician's thinking is "fix this now". And the penalty will be no reimbursement for the extra repair.

Oh, and you have to stock "x" of parts. The tech repair's manager will need to also decide "does this part value more reimbursement?", "will the customer not realize the blower's sub-par speed and likely not realize the future thermal issues?", "how does Apple think we can get more income from sales of other products that compliment return visits of our clients with upselling?" (That last one reads like a page from the automotive service writer handbook.)

Having once worked for an AASP, I can't imagine how any independent repair provider can sustain itself viably or financially off Apple's teat. Especially when there are Apple stores (over 500 worldwide with almost 300 of those in the US) pretty much in every state and country that has Apple customers.

I think this (Independent Repair Program) is some obfuscation that a ding went off at Apple Corporate bordering the monopoly of closed Apple support, sales, service. If Apple sniffs a profitable area, it will assimilate with NDAs in line. If its metrics after a few years show a whiff of staleness, it jettisons said service, store and products. I've seen it with designs (port reductions, feature reductions, complete EOL of software, changing materials, never any sales unless it's a clearance of soon-to-be discontinued products, poor partnership with BestBuy, etc.).

I'm skeptical that this program will benefit anyone but Apple. Time will tell when Apple is held responsible for the glut of e-waste and climate problems it's caused with outsourced manufacturing.

Genius Bar personnel being so clueless about the Mac Pro is clearly a failing by Apple, but I had much the same experience with the first dual-processor Power Mac G5 in December, 2003, when the graphic cards had a known issue (they would fail outright), and I had to go through all the same sorts of hoops in order to get an AppleCare case number so I could schlep the machine (39.1 lb. vs. 39.7 for the new Mac Pro) to the then nearest Apple Store — where no one knew anything about the machine.
In 2009 I bought a state of the art 2.93GHz Mac Pro. It would hard-crash after 20 minutes due to overheating. I tried everything including buying fancy fin heatsinks for the RAM – no joy.

Eventually I realised, along with others, that somehow audio files were causing a thermal runaway process. So I lugged it back to the Apple Store, telling them exactly how to make it crash. It came back to me after 10 days as “within parameters” – outrageous behaviour, which destroyed my confidence in the Apple brand.

Several months later Apple quietly released MacProAudioUpdate.dmg, and the machine has run like a champ ever since. Obviously, I have never been back to the so-called "genius bar."


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