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I have lost faith in Apple-certified refurbished products. 

I wrote about how I was going to send my recently purchased Mac Mini (refurbished) in for servicing. I decided to return it based on the advice of two Apple Geniuses I met on visits I made last Wednesday and this Thursday.

Apple makes returns sound simple enough. Either return the item to an Apple store or ask Apple to arrange for a courier to pick it up [source]. 

Apple returns policy.

But they do not tell you what the exceptions are. I found out the hard way that refurbished items fall into this category. Items that you pay for over monthly instalments might also be an exception.

When I bought my item, I had to visit the refurbished item site, and then either call a number or chat online to order an item. I chose to chat because I could copy and past specific details like URLs and item specifications there.

With my latest order, I had to wait two days before someone from finance called me to confirm my credit card details for payment monthly instalments. Collectively, this felt like a throwback to the 90s when e-commerce was fledgling.

Thankfully, Apple was very quick with shipping. Right after my financial details were confirmed, I received delivery information and the Mini was mine the next morning.

But as I explained earlier, my new device could not connect via wifi after a few days and was not able to perform TimeMachine backups at all. Instead of getting an apple, I got a lemon.

My first visit to the Apple store for technical support confirmed the wifi problem and solved it with a complete reset of the Mini. The first Apple Genius still recommended I return the item. My second visit was result of the TimeMachine issue and I wanted to return it to the store directly.

It was while in store and chatting with two Apple representatives that I found out that the item was “not eligible” for return. Just that, no reasons. So I had to call 1800-MYAPPLE to get things sorted out.

According to my call log, I spent 38 minutes on the phone trying to explain to the person at the other end everything that had happened, and then asking for the item to be cleared for store return. I was, after all, already in the store with the item and its original packaging.

I probably spent at least half of the call time waiting in silence. Well, not quite. I was at the Apple Orchard store and there was a class on vanity photography on full blast in the background.

Long story made short: The phone representative could not clear my item for store return and arranged for a courier to pick it up next week. 

I have lost faith in refurbished products. The quality control does not seem to be as high because I received a faulty product. 

BTW, this is not the first poor item. My 2017 Macbook Pro was also refurbished and its battery conked out in less than a year despite my disciplined use. It is also very sluggish — it barely keeps pace with a 2018 MacBook air.

The refurbished item return process was a nightmare for me. Refurbished items also do not seem to be accepted for trade-ins. If I need to buy another Apple product, I will stick to a brand new item and try to get an educator’s discount. 

This is a PSA of sorts. If you want to recycle an Apple product in Singapore via a trade-in scheme, you have to do so through an Apple partner.

There is just one local partner and it tries to be helpful by asking you for your device’s serial number. It does not tell you that only some devices are eligible.

Brightstar, Apple trade-in parter in Singapore.

I have used the service often enough to learn that it rejects items that were refurbished by Apple. It only seems to accept first-time purchased Apple products. Items that are vintage and obsolete — whether first-time or refurbished — also get rejected. This does not make sense given that the aim is to return the item so that parts and materials can be salvaged instead of mining the earth and manufacturing new parts.

However, the partner company will gladly accept a refurbished, vintage, obsolete item I donate. The company benefits financially and I do not. I would rather recycle items through ALBA or donate the items to a worthy cause, and I have.

One result of this selective trade-in practice is that I keep using old devices. My son has a hand-me-down iPhone 7 (the latest model number is 13) and the family uses a late 2012 iMac and a late 2012 Mac Mini.

This would be fine if Apple services them when they break down. Unfortunately, this task is outsourced to third-party players who charge a premium for their services. I had to repair the 2012 iMac twice and I could have bought a brand-new M1 iMac or a new Mini with external monitor for what I paid.

Refurbished Apple products initially cost less than original items, but I have discovered that I need to hang on to them longer than I need because the lone partner company that collects them has a strange stance. This could mean that I pay more over the long term to maintain my items. It also means that I look for other ways to donate or recycle them when they outlive their usefulness.


Video source

This was Apple’s product tribute to the new lunar new year. And, yes, it is lunar and not Chinese since one race does not have dibs on it.


Video source

But mine is not a rant on how peoples of other countries also celebrate this event. It is an appreciation of the processes behind the product.

The cynics might say that both videos are advertisements for Apple. They are. But the educator in me would point out how many more focus on the product (like a test score) and how few focus on the processes (like the actual learning).

Here’s to more product and process (P&P) videos over the weekend!

This is a follow up to my wish on Wednesday to replace my 2012 iMac with the recently released 2020 model.

Shortly after I shared my thoughts, I ordered the item online. The process to get the discounted iMac and pay by instalments was not as straightforward as simply getting one at full price and paying in one go.

Given the choice of calling a local number or ordering by online chat, I opted for the latter. I had used the phone ordering some years ago and it was too long and uncomfortable for my liking.

The online chat was smooth because I could copy and paste the URL that led to the exact model and specifications I wanted. That saved a lot of time that would have otherwise been used to get the order right.

The curious thing about ordering via chat was that the payment information and initial confirmation were still by phone. The phone call was the equivalent of inputting my credit card number and expiration details. The difference was that a bank partner handled this part of the transaction. This was still an uncomfortable process because I was taught never to give financial details over the phone!

That part was also out of Apple’s hands. If a bank partner did not have a centre to handle these calls, you could not use that bank’s credit cards to pay by instalments. Two of my credit cards normally qualify for this. However, one bank had stopped this service due to the coronavirus.

The final confirmation was via email. If I had paid full price and at one go, I would have received the same email. But since I wanted the education price, to pay by instalments, and get a free pair of AirPods, I jumped through these administrative hoops.

I ordered the iMac on Wednesday and received it and the AirPods by DHL on Thursday (yesterday). That was a quick turnaround!

If I had ordered normally, I could have chosen a specific delivery window. The hybrid ordering process I described above did not provide this option. However, the courier was considerate enough to give me a call before he stopped by.

I met the courier at my door in the afternoon and set up the new iMac with a Time Machine image of my old iMac. I drafted this blog entry a few hours later in the evening.

iMac 2020 overview.

I am pleased with how quickly the entire process of buying and setting up took. Now I only have to get RAM modules so that I can upgrade the iMac’s memory myself!

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I think that it is time for me to get a new iMac. My current one has been serving me since 2012. It is so old that Apple classifies it as “vintage”.

I had to repair my 2012 iMac twice in the last two years, so I am I not looking forward to another computer hospital visit this year. Better to reward myself with a new one.
 

 
Thankfully Apple announced the 2020 version of the iMac about a week ago. While it has lots of performance upgrades, I am looking forward to three seemingly minor changes — an all-SSD storage, user-replaceable RAM, and a better webcam.

The old iMacs had hybrid drives, i.e., an SSD with the operating system and a conventional drive for everything else. Since I rely largely on the cloud and external drives, the all-SSD move is not a problem for me.

The new larger version of the iMac also allows me to change and add more RAM on my own. While this is a mainstay of most PCs, Apple has locked its users out from most user-initiated upgrades. This exception will allow me to buy and install RAM without the Apple tax.

Finally, the new iMac will come with a high-definition webcam. Most of its laptops and other iMacs have subpar webcams that are embarrassing now that video conferencing is the norm.

Macs do not come cheap. I will be taking advantage of my educator’s discount, and since I am planning to get one now, I will get a free pair of AirPods as well. Combine that with a monthly installment plan and the new investment is a no-brainer.

Disclaimer: This was not a sponsored message.

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I am going to share something about Microsoft’s OneDrive and Apple’s AirPods, but this is not a sponsored message.
 

 
About a week ago, I accompanied my wife to the Apple Store at Orchard Road. It now has a queuing system to limit the number of people inside. Instead of joining the physical queue, the better way is to make an appointment using the Apple Store app. This ensures a much shorter wait.

My wife has been wanting to replace her Macbook Air for a while, but we waited to take advantage of the back to school offer of free AirPods. As an educator in Singapore, she was also entitled to a discount. There is no shame in taking a freebie and discount given how Apple charges a premium for its products!

We chatted with an exceptionally friendly customer service representative who reminded us that educators have access to a Microsoft license that not only provides the Office applications but also 1TB of online storage space in OneDrive.

OneDrive can be downloaded here. Once installed, it looks like another drive volume. It functions like one, too, if you have a fast and always-on connection to the Internet. This is not only good for synchronising files, it overcomes the limited storage on a Macbook Air.

Optionally, you can also download and install the OneDrive mobile app and/or the mobile versions of Office apps on an iPhone or iPad. These might help with editing and sharing in a pinch.

Again, this is not a sponsored message. I am not compensated by Apple or Microsoft in any way to mention their products and services. I am simply reminding other teachers and educators how to get the most out of their purchases.

No phone battery lasts forever. The battery in my iPhone demanded servicing with this ominous message:

iPhone battery servicing message.

I made an appointment online to have my phone serviced at Apple Store Orchard. I was in at the appointment time of 11.30am and got the device back just 40 minutes later.
 

 
This was better than authorised repair places like QCD and other operators like Atomware. Both those places took roughly 2 hours to do the same.

I had assumed that the popularity of the main Apple Store would slow things down. It actually had the fastest turnaround. Furthermore, the Apple service representatives are quick, knowledgeable, and friendly. This is in contrast to places like Atomware where messages go unanswered, expressions are dour, and they demand to know your passcode.

A small outfit should be nimble and change quickly to fill a niche or challenge an incumbent. Normally a large and official entity moves slowly and is mired by policies and bureaucracy. But this time the latter had the right policy — focusing on the customer.


Video source

Watching this video about the original Macintosh and other old computers brought back memories. When I was in secondary school, I joined a brand new computer club that had a few Apple I computers and IBMs.

We had lessons on BASIC and optionally on COBOL. We learnt from recipes the teacher in charge wrote on a blackboard and we wrote them down in note books.

As each of us had very little time with the shared computers, we wrote our simple programmes on paper in advance and tried to foresee what might happen. When we had actual access, we typed in what we wrote and tried to troubleshoot as fast as we could.

This was one of the first few times I felt empowered to create something, test it, and learn safely from failing. I caught the bug and needed my own Apple I.

But these computers were expensive and I bugged my father for one. Long story short — we could not afford an original so we bought one of the many clones.

I dove into simple programming at every waking moment. I enjoyed being able to start the Apple computer with my own programme running from a floppy diskette.

But my joy was interrupted by a demand from my father. He dumped a pile of unmarked papers in front of me and asked if the computer could grade them.

I was flabbergasted then and the memory troubles me now. Computers, particularly those without any of the peripherals and AI we have now, could not grade homework almost 40 years ago. Despite the advances in computing power and ability, they are still stumped by human nuance.

I was also stumped by wilful human ignorance as well. Older and sometimes well-meaningful folk (like administrators and policymakers) tend to observe technology from a distance. Without an immersive experience and use, they cannot see possibilities or limitations.

Technology makes change seem inevitable. But human change, not so much.

I hope that I will not have a new anniversary to mark. This year was the second year in a row I had to repair my once trusty 2012 iMac.
 

 
Last November, my iMac’s power supply blew so I could not start it up. As it was out of warranty, I had to visit an official Apple repair partner to get it diagnosed and repaired for about SGD280.

Almost exactly a year later, my iMac refused to start and the same repair place told me that they no longer supported vintage iMacs. I did not realise that a 2012 item was vintage.

Later I confirmed that Apple did list my iMac as a vintage product, but I was supposed to “continue to receive hardware service from Apple service providers”. Perhaps the repair partner did not receive the memo.

So I looked for a third-party repair place and chose one by proximity to home and projected cost. I found one that claimed it would charge me the same price as my previous repair.

But when I showed up at the store, I was told that the representative read the wrong row item. How carelessly convenient! I ended up paying SGD418 for the repair because of someone else’s misread.

I hope that my trusty iMac will not celebrate its anniversary. As a precaution, I bought a new UPS to counter power dips, surges, or unexpected shutdowns. Keeping my fingers crossed.

I like being able to stream media from a home server to mobile receivers and players. One app that I rely on is Infuse.

Disclaimer: I have not been asked to promote the app nor am I compensated in any way to write this. I am sharing my thoughts just in case anyone else has the same needs or faces the same issues I had with the app.

With Infuse, I can stream media stored on a server or an external drive to my iPad. However, when I updated macOS to Catalina, I could no longer access my shared folders and drives. I discovered that I was not the only one.

Fortunately, someone discovered a workaround.

Unfortunately, it was imprecise, particularly about how to give Apple Samba, smbd, full disk access in Catalina. So I outline what worked for me.

  1. Use Finder’s “Go to folder” and type “/usr/sbin“ (without quotation marks).
  2. Once in that folder, look for the file “smbd”.
  3. Create an alias (shortcut) for smbd by right-clicking on it.
  4. The alias should be copied to the Desktop. (If not, move the alias to the Desktop.)
  5. Open the System Preferences application, go to Security and Privacy, and select the Privacy section.
  6. Unlock this section with your system password and Allow Full Disk Access to smbd by clicking on the “+” sign and adding the smbd alias.
  7. Ensure that smbd is also listed/added in the Files and Folders section.
  8. Launch Infuse on an iOS device and regain access to previously shared folders.

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