Saturday, February 16, 2013

It's (Not) Dead, Jim

I'm writing this post on a dead machine.  Or at least that's what the "service" techs at New Delhi's 4 Genius Minds, an Apple authorized service provider, would have you believe.

More like 4 Gullible Suckers!

Here's the story, as I've been tweeting on @joverdorf:

About a week ago, this beautiful Macbook Pro 13" drank a highball glass of vodka soda -- unadvisedly, of course.  I didn't witness the event.  But it went dead, and I got no response when I pressed the power button.  Only then did I observe the puddle of green apple scented liquid on the desk beneath the machine, and start sniffing the keyboard.

Getting screwed

$1400, down the drain?  So my early web research suggested. But I took it to 4 Gullible Suckers anyway.  They said they'd see what they could do, but the diagnosis would cost me 1500 rupees (about $30).  Fair enough, right?  I forked it over and came back two days later, only to be told that the machine had liquid damage that would cost Rs. 139,800 ($2500) to repair. (A new Macbook Pro 13" with the same features costs $1999 from the Apple Store).  On the upside, they said the solid-state hard drive was working, so if I went to Nehru Place and got somebody to stick it in an external case, I could recover the data.

Here's the report 4 Gullible Suckers gave me:

Work done:
1. Verify AC power presence with MagSafe LED indicating on or charge state.
2. Reset SMC (System Management Controller)
3. Disconnect all peripherals from unit.
4. Check battery indicator light array (Press button to activate) to verify that the battery is not dead.
5. Use a known good & correct type/wattage Magsafe Adaptor and AC cord connected to a known good AC outlet to test system.
6. Check the system with minimal configuration.
7. Disconnect keyboard flex cable from MLB to isolate power button. With display in open position, short MLB power pins to power on system

(I'm not an engineer. And I don't want to be too uncharitable. But that sounds a lot like the shaking and cursing the thing that I did myself).

Diagnosis Details:
Logic board faulty (Liquid damage)
Display faulty (Liquid spill)
Topcase faulty (Liquid spill)
CD drive faulty (Liquid spill)
HDD is working fine.
12th feb 1:59 pm, informed

Spare Replace / Estimated Repair Cost:
Inspection fee - Rs. 1500
Optical Drive, Super 9.5 mm - Rs. 12,900
Display Clamshell, Glossy - Rs. 39,200
Logic board, 2.66 Ghz - Rs. 72,500
Top case housing with keyboard - Rs. 13,700
Total: Rs. 139,800

Getting service

On to Nehru Place.  With the help of a friendly tout, I discovered The IThub deep in the bowels of a grungy, paan- and urine-stained building.

Abdul told me, "we can definitely put your hard drive in an external case. But why not let us try to repair your machine?"

"How much will it cost to look at it?" I asked, expecting a scam.

"Nothing. How much did they charge you at the place you took it before?"

I gave him the "Service Report" to scan.

"They charged him Rs. 1500 for a diagnostic!" he announced to the dozen odd people standing by.  General laughter all around.

I left with a functioning external hard drive, and hope that my Macbook might be salvageable.  Three days later, Abdul phoned me up.  "Sir, we have diagnosed your Macbook. If you want us to repair it will cost you Rs. 6000 ($110). It's so expensive because we had to replace the logic board." (4 Gullible Suckers price: Rs. 72,500, or $1350).

Do it, I said.

You can pick it up tomorrow after 11, he said.

Today I went back.  They whipped out the Macbook and booted it up.  But when I tried to type the password the keyboard wasn't working. So they took it back and fiddled some more. Chai was consumed. Business cards exchanged. Friendships forged. (A desi in town from Connecticut, a Delhiwallah who works at BBDO). A running twitter commentary unspooled.

"Sir, your keyboard is not working. We will try to source you another one."

I booted up the machine with a USB keyboard and checked "About this Mac."  What's this?  This machine had 8 GB ram. Now it has 4 GB.  More fiddling.  I checked it again.  The specs checked out.  And the machine was working.  I inserted a DVD.  Sure enough, the DVD drive was working.  I did a quick review:

Optical Drive, Super 9.5 mm - Rs. 12,900 -- Still working fine, despite 4 Gullible Suckers
Display Clamshell, Glossy - Rs. 39,200 -- Still working fine
Logic board, 2.66 Ghz - Rs. 72,500 -- Replaced for Rs. 6000 ($110 vs. estimate of $1300)
Top case housing with keyboard - Rs. 13,700 -- Not working, but manageable with USB 
Total: Rs. 139,800 -- Out Rs. 6000 plus Rs. 1500 for useless "official" diagnosis

Yep, the only thing wrong with it was the now-repaired Logic Board and the keyboard.  I took it home, and looked for a new keyboard/top case online.

Guess what: They are available for $125 or less.

Total cost: $110 plus $125 = $225 versus $2500.  Oh, yeah, and the $30 I gave to 4 Gullible Suckers for a life lesson.

Jugaad beats Macbook: 1-0.

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