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6.28.2006 

The MagSafe meltdown -- famous for being Apple

Hello! Guess who's back. Back again. Mat is back. Tell a friend. You know what I learned while I was away? I should have sprung for that modem adapter for my MacBook. Contrary to what I believed, here in the technology capital of the world, broadband is not ubiquitous, and in some parts of the country, people still do dial-up. Who knew?

Onward.
The stories of the MagSafe meltdowns have inspired me to tell a little story. This being the second, well-documented, example, I thought some personal perspective might be in order.

The year was 2000 and 2. I was a mere lad of 29, nearly 30, and living in a studio apartment in San Francisco, surrounded by unemployed legions of former dot-commers with related cocaine and financial problems. It was a simple time, and I had (and have) Innurnet access from Earthlink in the form of DSL.

One day, I awoke to an odd smell in the apartment. A smell of burning wires. Alarmed, I began looking about, and discovered the power adapter for my DSL modem was in the process of melting away its plastic housing, leaving exposed red-hot wiring. The carpet below was all quite warm, and I think I was about 20 minutes from a house fire. I yanked the (gooey) plug form the wall, and called Earthlink, sure that they would share in my consternation at having my house nearly burned down. I have documented the conversation before, butI believe it bears repeating:
Me: Yeah, when I woke up today something smelled funny. It was the electrical adapter for my DSL modem. It had gotten really hot, and the plastic was melting on the side and it had nearly started a fire. I need a new one.

Earthlink: Yes, that's a known issue.

Me: WHAT?!? You KNEW about this and you haven't recalled all of them? Do you understand someone could die?

Earthlink: No, no one could die.

Me: What do you mean no one could die? If it starts a fire, it could kill someone.

Earthlink: That hasn't happened.

A few months after this, Earthlink recalled my DSL modem, and sent me a new one (I still have it) suggesting that the problem was rather widespread.

Yet what did you hear about it? Nary a twitter, I'd posit. And why not? Yes, it was a problem that only affected a small percentage of people.... but so is the MagSafe issue (and the latter case seems to have been caused at least partially by the user).

People care about Apple. Nobody gives a shit about Earthlink. We've also entered a stage where broadband is ubiquitous--forget that bullshit up top--and as soon as a problem arises, photos from Flickr send it spiraling all across the globe.

I'm not saying that there isn't a problem, perhaps there is. What I am saying is that it would be--certainly at this point when so relatively few have been sold--much cheaper for Apple to recall defective parts than to defend a class action lawsuit brought by hundreds, or even a dozen or so, homeowners who watched a Magsafe destroy their castles. It would be better PR, too. Perhaps one is on the way, though I doubt it.

And to prove my point that this is more an issue with obsessive Apple-watching than anything else, I leave you with links to IBM, Dell , Gateway, and Compaq. Remember those? Sure you do.

I'm not saying there isn't a problem. There very well may be. But every time a Mac user sneezes, the community shouldn't automatically assume OS X gives you the bird flu.

My friend Dave Wegener has patented and produced a cool little widget called the MacSaver that helps your MagSafe avoid frays and shorts, a known weakness with Macbook MagSafe power adapters. Ask about it yourself at www.wegenermedia.com. It snaps on to your MagSafe power plug. It's translucent and even comes in cool colors. Only $15. Tell him Durand mentioned it.


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  • hi, i'm mat honan, a writer in san francisco, california.
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