TV-PGJanuary 29, 2004: Apple finally acknowledges a problem with those iBooks whose motherboards keep dying; a Repair Extension Program is now in effect. Meanwhile, Pepsi swallows Apple's web site whole, and someone at Apple apparently has a penchant for stealing expensive store signs...
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Mea Culpa, Me-a Fix-a (1/29/04)

Well, it's about freakin' time! You're all well aware of the iBook motherboard problem, we assume; it seems that lots of folks who had purchased white G3 iBooks in 2002 and 2003 noticed their displays going all goofy after a while, and had to have their logic boards replaced multiple times and the darn things just kept right on failing-- some after the iBook had gone out of warranty, which had customers (especially dead ones) up in arms. The ridiculously high incidence of iBook motherboard failure shows that it's clearly a systematic design or manufacturing flaw, they said, so what's with Apple trying to charge people for out-of-warranty repairs? Oooo, icky.

Well, good news: faithful viewer Edward was the first to inform us that Apple has finally done the right thing and instituted a Repair Extension Program. Essentially, Apple is acknowledging that those logic boards are freaking out just a leetle too often for it to be a mere fluke, and so, starting yesterday, any iBook with a serial number starting with "UV220" through "UV318" exhibiting the symptom of Display Weirdness (rigidly defined as "scrambled or distorted video, appearance of unexpected lines on the screen, intermittent video image, video freeze," or "computer starts up to blank screen"-- no, "I have three stuck pixels and the image of Jesus occasionally appears at random intervals" doesn't cut it) qualifies for a free motherboard repair or replacement, regardless of warranty status. And by "free," Apple actually means free; they'll even pick up the shipping charge both ways.

"But AtAT," you whine, "I already grudgingly shelled out hundreds of dollars for Apple to replace my out-of-warranty iBook's logic board-- am I boned, or what?" Well, happily, the answer to your question appears to be "what": "Apple will reimburse customers with eligible iBooks for the cost of repairs covered under this program, and will pro-actively contact affected customers where Apple has their contact information." How cool is that? They'll call you about giving you your money back. Now there's a class act, right there. Granted, we're going to have to assume that this "Service with a Smile!" policy was prompted by the threat of imminent legal action, but it's still nice, isn't it?

Anyway, the program runs for three years after a given iBook was originally purchased, and Apple will extend the coverage further later on if it seems that iBook logic boards keep on keeling over. So if your iBook is in the covered serial number range and its video is looking a bit flaky, call Apple and get it fixed for free. Chalk up one more consumer rights victory for the walking dead!

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Cola... Music... Oh, And Macs (1/29/04)

What's this? A press release on Apple's web site that doesn't quote Steve Jobs or Phil Schiller? Something is tragically amiss! Worse yet, it also lacks Apple's standard closing "About Apple" boilerplate. Now how the heck are we supposed to remember that Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II-- or that it reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh? Indeed, we can already feel ourselves starting to forget what Apple is committed to; something about bringing the best personal computing experience to yadda yadda yadda through its innovative something and whosis thingy.

Oh, wait-- never mind, false alarm: it's just a Pepsi announcement which Apple has included in its own Press Release Library as part of the Great Pepsifying of You saw the 100 million bottles of Pepsi on Apple's home page, right? Between that and the Pepsi press release (which is actually about the company's five Super Bowl commercials, and only tangentially related to Apple because one of them happens to be the iTunes giveaway ad), at this point there's far more Pepsi at Apple's site than at Pepsi's own. Then again, there's an Apple logo on Pepsi's home page, so we suppose we can let it slide this time.

Actually, it's sort of refreshing to load up Apple's web site to find barely a Mac in sight: we see a kajillion Pepsi bottles, five iPod minis, iLife '04 and Final Cut Express 2 boxes, and a single teeny Xserve as the token Mac presence on the page. (Is it as refreshing as drinking a Sierra Mist? Yeah, it's kinda like that.) Of course, it's also a little alarming, especially to folks concerned about the Mac taking a back seat to music products and services at Apple these days. We were just getting used to the idea of Apple becoming a music company (shh-- don't tell the Beatles), and now we find we've got to get used to Apple selling soft drinks, too. We suppose we'd feel a little more at home if the Super Bowl ad press release had seen fit to mention that PepsiCo ignited the personal cola revolution in the 1890s with Pepsi Cola and reinvented the personal cola in the 2000s with Pepsi Twist, but hey, nobody said the transition would be easy.

Ah, well; at least the Pepsi tie-in means you can now download a couple of decent stills of evil teen song-swappers directly from Apple's site days in advance of the commercial's broadcast debut, as noted by the faithful viewers at Further Studios. (They're for "Media and Analysts Only," though. Ooooo.) The jury's still out on whether Pepsi's hand-picked brigade of Bad Girls headed by 15-year-old pirate lass Annie Leith will attract the same sort of inexplicable creepy cult following as switcher Ellen Feiss, but if it does happen, it may be worth noting that Pepsi says you can get a videotape of the commercial by contacting Lisa Cataldo at the phone number or email address provided in the press release. Score!

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"Hey! Hands Off My Logos!" (1/29/04)

Lastly, we turn to News of the Bizarre, as we examine the question that's on everyone's lips: are Apple's walls harboring a klepto? And if so, which One Infinite Loopster is the one with the sticky fingers? You have to understand, we're not talking about some guy who walks off with your pen, here; we're talking major boostage-- as in, theft of store signs that are allegedly worth roughly $12,000. Legally, that qualifies as Grand Theft Signage. Jail time, anyone?

No, we don't much get it either, but faithful viewer Lonnie Robinson passed along a Mercury News article which reports that someone at Apple apparently swiped the Apple logo signs from Elite Computers and Software. Elite, you may recall, was once a mighty Mac-only reseller located right across the street from Apple's headquarters, but things changed last April when the owner, Thomas Armes, refused to sign Apple's revised (and controversial) reseller agreement, got delisted as an Apple Authorized Reseller, and then sued Apple for "breach of contract, unfair competition, false advertising, and fraud" before shutting down his store. (What a time for us to have been on hiatus, hmmm?)

Well, here's the thing: when Armes killed off Elite last July, Apple allegedly asked him to take down the defunct store's rainbow Apple logo signs, because it doesn't look good when your logo is prominently displayed on a store right across the street from your corporate headquarters and said store has clearly gone out of business. Apparently Armes didn't bother, but two days later, he discovered that the signs were gone anyway-- so in his suit, he accuses Apple of having stolen the signs. When confronted, he says Apple originally denied the theft, but then arranged a meeting between Armes, Apple, and local law enforcement. Said meeting was to take place outside of Elite. According to Armes, Apple never showed... but "the three Apple signs, one cracked, mysteriously appeared outside the store 30 minutes before the meeting's scheduled time."

Sadly, no further details are provided; we assume that the signs were dusted for fingerprints, but had been wiped down prior to the return, because otherwise we probably would have heard about an arrest. So who swiped the logos? It was pretty obviously someone at Apple; a team of drunken programmers, perhaps? Or was it someone higher up? Like, say, chief software tech officer Avie Tevanian-- there's a bit of a cat burglar look about him. Or worldwide sales veep Tim Cook, known in the business as "Ol' Shifty-Eyes." Or could it have been big kahuna Steve Jobs himself? Granted, this is the kind of thing most people would dispatch a lowly intern to do, but the man is an infamous micromanager, and we've seen him do weird things in public before when it comes to protecting the use of the Apple logo.

Ack... Too many suspects, not enough leads. Where are the CSI guys when you need them?

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