The "Current" PowerBook (3/15/01)
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You know how people always say you shouldn't ever buy a new car at the start of the model year? You're supposed to wait a few months until the kinks get ironed out. Similarly, the wisest course of action would be never to buy a brand new Mac until it's been available for a while. That way, the other less-patient Mac fans get burned by all the "issues," and you wind up with a more solid product, thus profiting from others' pain-- which is, of course, what civilized people do. Logical, right?

Unfortunately, when it comes to the act of buying a Mac, Apple usually cranks out such achingly cool stuff that logic rarely enters into the equation. That's why hundreds (if not thousands) of rabid, slavering Steve Freaks pre-ordered their PowerBook G4s mere minutes after the product's breathless unveiling last January. Can we blame them? Of course not-- the thing's made out of titanium, fer cryin' out loud, and who can resist that? So yeah, otherwise sane and rational people often go a little loopy during Apple product intros, but it's not their fault. Unfortunately, it does mean that they're the ones who are suffering through the PowerBook's initial "quirks," some of which are downright shocking in nature. (If you're not groaning now, you will in a minute.)

When we heard about the PowerBook's "play it level or listen to the disc grind like a block of steel on a belt sander" DVD-ROM drive, we shrugged the complaints off as nitpicking. We took the "whoops, I held my PowerBook wrong and the power cut out instantaneously" reports a bit more seriously, since the old disconnecting-battery-contacts problem was an issue in our Duo 230, as well. But it's the latest report of PowerBook weirdness that really has us creeped out to the extreme; faithful viewer Kevin pointed us to a discussion thread in Apple's support pages which indicates that some PowerBook G4 owners are getting mild shocks from their titanium little buddies. No, we don't mean static electricity discharges (though those are also apparently a problem with the latest PowerBooks). We're talking about actual flowing current-- enough to make the fingers tingly, but not enough to cause any real harm. Yet.

Think it's a fluke, or just someone's imagination? Read through the multiple reports of users who claim they can feel "a mild electric shock" as they move their hands across the titanium surface when the PowerBook is plugged into AC power, and then decide for yourselves. Several of these people have actually gone so far as to ground their PowerBooks manually by running wires from the case to a grounded outlet, which does indeed stop the shocks. So far it looks like every single person reporting this phenomenon is outside of the U.S., so we suspect it's an issue with the PowerBook's AC adapter and 200-220 volt house current-- and that also may be why we haven't heard reports of this disturbing problem sooner.

Now, personally, we're of the opinion that if we were lucky enough to be toting around a bad-ass piece of equipment like a titanium wide-screen supercomputer that's only an inch thick, we would probably accept the occasional electrical shock with aplomb; after all, maybe that's just the cosmic price you pay to be that cool. Still, if this is a real issue with the PowerBook's design, we hope it's limited to just a handful of users-- and that Apple fixes the problem stat. The last thing Apple needs right now is the six-letter "R"-word that rhymes with "shmeecall."


 
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The above scene was taken from the 3/15/01 episode:

March 15, 2001: Looks like Apple is serious about getting its education house in order again-- at least, if its latest acquisition is any indication. Meanwhile, the latest "issue" to surface in the PowerBook G4 is more than a little alarming, and a handful of iMac-bashing eggheads push our rant button...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 2925: Buying Back Into Schools (3/15/01)   Maybe it's just us, but we tend to think that most companies who lose a quarter of a billion dollars over the course of three months probably don't do a whole lot of shopping for big-ticket items like, oh, let's say, other companies....

  • 2927: Chew On THIS, Professor (3/15/01)   A roomful of eggheads can be an ugly thing. One person who thinks he knows more than everyone else is annoying; stick him in a room with a couple hundred like-minded individuals and a microphone and things can get downright nasty...

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