'Genius (Misery) Loves Company'

by Joe Leo, Columnist November 15, 2006

COMMENTARY: (11.15.06)-- American author Henry David Thoreau once said, "If misery loves company, misery has company enough." If misery was a company, Apple would fit right in, in terms of its retail store unit's popular walk-in tech support division, the "Genius Bar."

Thoreau also said, "Nature is full of genius... so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand." In this particular instance, the snowflake in question was my 12" PowerBook G4 which was missing a flake (a key cap) and nature was the Genius at the Apple Store.

Except nature in this instance was anything but full of genius, and in fact quite the opposite.

With my 12" PowerBook G4 now just over two months old, at least, from when I took it into my possession-- it was a store display unit and the inventory sticker on the box was stamped October 2005, though its almost flawless condition suggests it wasn't on display for too long before I bought it --I managed to turn my Mac into a PC.

There were a couple of keys on the keyboard at the time of purchase that were a little lopsided, probably from customers fooling around with the keys, or experimenting with the quality of Apple's product. Thankfully people didn't experiment with it too much. The keys that were a little off, I managed to straighten out by bending them upwards.

Talk about fooling around. I was adjusting one of those keys again the other night, and bent it a little too much, and "snap!" I swear the key popped off and said "oops!" when it came off. I just sat there looking at my new laptop like the world had just ended. It was a classic Homer Simpson moment. "DOH!" (Or was it, "Dough!"? as in money for repair).

I knew that this was a minor issue, but nevertheless, couldn't believe that I had just "broken" my laptop. My snowflake. My precious little aluminum snowflake. "My preciousssssss..." (Thank you Gollum).

My first stop was online to various PowerBook repair centers available on the internet. I immediately went to the three that I was familiar with, all with major reputations on the web and around the Mac circle, and it looked like only one place had what I needed. Replacements were $8.95 plus shipping, for a key cap and scissor switch.

(The "scissor switch" being the mechanism under the cap that connects to the board).

Apparently, I learned that the various models of the 12" PowerBook had a specific keyboard, and each unit was only compatible with a certain style. The 867 MHz, 1 GHz, and 1.33 GHz models all had the same board, while the 1.5 GHz model, mine, had its own.

$8.95 plus shipping? Surely I could find these cheaper on eBay. So I went and was right. A seller had them for $2.50 each, but again, I found a warning in the item description. "Compatible only with the 1 GHz and 1.33 GHz models. I have replacements for the 1.5 GHz, just e-mail and ask."

I was ready to buy, but was still curious about this compatibility issue. One, I save money on eBay, but what if I get an incompatible key? I could spend more from the reputable PowerBook repair place and get the right part for sure.

Doing a Google search for this issue, I came across an interesting link. One to a forum topic from someone who was looking to replace an "enter" key that had a hairline crack diagonally through half the key. A user responded to the guy's question and said that you could get a quick fix at the Apple Store.

You think I would have thought of that in the first place. It was late Saturday night. I was just distraught over having turned my snowflake, my Mac, into a PC.

The post further stated that if the user's unit was under warranty you would certainly get a replacement for free. If it wasn't, you might be charged for the part. If the Apple Store was "nice" as the user posted, you might still get it free.

I decided I was going to do the same and hoped that "my" Apple Store would be nice.

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