Beware of MacBook Boxes

I just received my brand-new Retina MacBook Pro, and I couldn’t be happier. The insanely crisp screen, speedy SSD, and hours of battery life make my old 2007 MacBook look positively ancient.

Having never ordered a laptop online before, I was sure to check the box for any signs of rough handling when it arrived. I examined both the brown external box and the internal white one for any scuffs, dents, and scrapes and was satisfied with their condition. But then I became so absorbed in transferring my data and playing with the new hardware that I neglected to give the entire laptop a detailed once-over. It wasn’t until the next morning that I noticed a problem: the Apple power adaptor had pressed a nice square dent pattern into the MacBook Pro’s bottom case during shipping.

​Four dents in a perfect square – a dead giveaway.

​If you aren’t familiar with Apple’s laptop boxes​, here’s a photo:

The white power brick is held directly under the laptop’s back corner.​

​Thankfully, the Genius ​Bar replaced the bottom case for free, but it’s a little disconcerting to see how far Apple’s trend of minimizing their shipping boxes has gone. There shouldn’t be any way to apply that much pressure to the MacBook during shipping, but the tiny box can’t provide enough protection. I’m curious to know if this is a common issue; both the Genius and Applecare technician claimed they’d never heard of it before. So if you have a Retina Macbook Pro, or possibly a MacBook Air or older Pro, check the bottom! While I can’t be sure, it’s possible that the aluminum bottom case of the Retina MacBook Pro is thinner than the older models.

​Interestingly, the Genius did hear of something similar happening to Mac Pros a few years ago. Apparently many customers were coming in with scratches all over one side panel of the Mac Pro, claiming it arrived that way in the box. Upon investigation, the factory worker who lifted the Pros into their boxes wore a large metal belt buckle that scraped against the computers.

Maybe this time a wayward employee in China is sitting on laptop boxes?

Ken Segall doesn’t like Apple’s new Genius ads

Finally, I know what to think about the latest Mac ads.

Mountain Lion

In case you haven’t heard, OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is available to purchase from the Mac App Store for $19.99. My MacBook is too old to run it, so I can’t say from firsthand experience how good it is. But others seem to like it, and I’d trust the likes of Macworld and John Siracusa more than me anyway.

Analysts disappoint in lower-than-expected accuracy regarding Apple Q3 profits

Craig Grannell rips open the habitually incompetent analysts who can’t for the life of them figure out Apple’s earnings.​

“We hear there are ongoing problems in European economies, which strengthened the US dollar, and the new iPhone’s obviously on the way, but we never bother to factor such things into our figures,” she said. “Instead, we just take Apple’s guidance figures, add a small chunk and cross our fingers. But in again using what we thought was a foolproof method, we nonetheless managed another miss.”

Why VGA Ports Still Exist

Daring Fireball called out three laptop manufacturers (Toshiba, Sony, and Dell) this morning for releasing brand-new laptops with VGA ports on the side, saying they were “skating to where the puck was in 1987.”

As far as technology goes, I agree. VGA is hopelessly outdated by HDMI, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, and even DVI. There’s doesn’t seem to be much point in hanging on to the huge VGA socket, especially now that it’s thicker than many high-quality laptops.

Unfortunately though, laptops don’t exist in a vacuum. They have to connect to things, and VGA is still overwhelmingly the way to go. External monitors use mainly HDMI now, but projectors are a problem. Visit any school or office and I guarantee they will provide you with a VGA projector. Schools especially don’t have the cash to upgrade their projectors, nor do they see a need when VGA still works fine.

So let’s be honest – I appreciate Apple’s quest for ever-thinner laptops and new display technologies, but it’s a pain to lug around a VGA adaptor cable whenever I need to run a presentation. You can’t bring your own projector to class or the office, and they sure aren’t using Mini DisplayPort. In fact, nothing ever uses Mini DisplayPort aside from Apple’s own monitor. The tiny ports are nice, but the compulsory dongles are not. I’ve heard it said recently that Apple likes to produce 90% of the product for 90% of the population so they don’t have to cater to niche markets. Maybe that’s true if every student or business worker falls into the remaining 10%.

There’s no easy solution – VGA ports are old and ugly, but laptop makers can’t just disregard the massive built-in projector base. Dongles are pretty much the only way to go (assuming you don’t want hideous laptops like the Dell mentioned above), but they’re far from an elegant solution. Just try explaining that “it looks better this way” when someone asks you why a MacBook can’t connect to a simple classroom projector.

Tim Cook’s All Things D interview: confident in the hot seat

Speaking of All Things D interviews, Tim Cook just gave a pretty good one himself. Here’s the transcript from Macworld, and some select clips from the All Things D site. After that, take a look at Dan Frommer’s astute analysis of the main talking points.

It sounds to me like Apple is in good hands, but Walt and Kara pushed pretty hard on the Apple TV rumors. Tim doesn’t yet command the respect that Steve Jobs demanded, and I doubt he ever will. Not that a more approachable CEO is necessarily a bad thing.

Things I’ve Missed

I was lazy last week and didn’t write anything here. Funnily enough, the world kept turning and interesting and significant things kept happening. Here’s what I missed:

Companies clam up about China

Nick Bilton of the New York Times asked Microsoft, Barnes & Noble, HP, Samsung, Lenovo, Amazon, and Dell about their Chinese factories. Not one company gave a straight answer, though Microsoft came close.

And people still think Apple is the only one using Chinese labor.