Hardware Stability

Apple G3 and G4 iBooks


If you own a copy of OSX version 10.3.x known as 'Panther' and any G4 iBook computer released by Apple, please reduce microprocessor speed in the Energy Saver control panel now unless you are prepared to replace your computer every 3 years. The latest OSX software (i.e. the Finder and the Dock) draws more power than usual and forces the IBM-built processor to work harder than ever before (despite the use of video graphic cards to reduce the load on the microprocessor), resulting in extra heat being emitted from your computer and a greater chance for your computer to breakdown in a shorter period of time. It is believed based on current evidence that Apple is choosing to build products having built-in obsolescence such as regularly overheating the processor to ensure consumers continually have to replace Apple computers with new ones roughly every 3 years.

The best way to reduce heat emissions in the processor is to reduce the processor speed. For example, if you own a G4 iBook, lower the speed of your computer by at least 25 per cent in the Energy Saver control panel where it says "Reduce processor speed" in the Advanced Settings of OS9 or the Options button in OSX. By so doing, it will take a lot of effort for the processor to heat up despite performing regular processor intensive work on it.

There are also reports of the RAM slots on the logic board of G4 iBooks losing connection to the RAM cards due to excessive heat.

We also highly recommend that you go into the Monitors control panel (or appropriate button on the computer) to reduce the screen's brightness slightly as there has been numerous reports of blown pixels due to excessive power at the high brightness range to drive the screen.

About the iBooks...

In May 2001, Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) made an attempt to reduce the cost (down to A$1,800), weight (2.2kg) and size (285x230x35mm) of Apple PowerBooks. The new G3 iBooks come with a 12.1-inch (diagonal) TFT XGA LCD screen making these new laptops much more convenient to carry around. Although the high resolution of the screen of 1024 x 768 pixels (driven by an 8MB ATI Rage 128 Mobility graphics chip) will make it more difficult for some people to read text of 12 pts or less on a word processor, the crisp and bright active matrix display will go a long way to making it readable, especially during the day. There is also a minimum respectable amount of speed of 500MHz with a Level II backside cache, a 10GB hard disk and a built-in 56K modem for all the new iBook models.

While expandability is limited to a 10/100 BaseT ethernet port, two USB ports (version 1.1), a FireWire port, an Apple RGB port to enable mirroring of the iBook's display on an external monitor, and a combined audio and video (AV) output port for showing presentations on external displays or listening to music with a pair of headphones (but with no PC card slot available), we are pleased to see Apple Inc. has paid attention to basic details like a better power plug that now fits easily and smoothly into the power socket of the computer (which is a far cry from earlier models with their tight connections that ultimately caused the power socket to break from the circuit board inside, and therefore is clear evidence that Apple knew of the problem in previous powerbook models).

With a price tag of around US$1,399 to $1,799 (approximately A$2,800 to A$3,695) depending on the RAM (the basic model has 128MB which is the absolute minimum if you intend to run MacOS X on top of your other applications) and whether or not you choose a standard built-in (i.e. non-removable) CD-ROM, CD-RW or the more useful DVD/CD-RW combo drive is much more respectable.

The new larger G3 iBook!

As of January 2002, Apple has addressed a much needed feature with respect to the screen size of the G3 iBooks. A new revised "top-end" 14-inch TFT/LCD screen G3 iBook was available. As Fiona Angus wrote in her product review for the new G3 iBook in the April 2002 edition of Australian Personal Computer (APC):

"...Steve Jobs has incorporated into the new iBook design the "enhancement" he claims was the number one request for the iBook from its devoted user-base: more screen." (1)

This latest incarnation from Apple is physically larger (32cm x 26cm around the base) and heavier (2.8kg) than the other G3 iBooks to help accommodate the larger screen and to make it more comfortable for consumers to type on the keyboard. It has a 20GB hard disk, 256MB of RAM, a 600MHz G3 processor with Level II backside cache, and comes with a DVD/CD-RW combo drive.

Battery time per charge has been extended to last an extra hour, bringing the total battery time to roughly four and a half hours (or six hours according to Apple when it is run optimally, whatever that means). However these battery times have to be considered highly optimistic. In reality you should expect the battery time to go down quickly after regular charging and discharging of the battery during normal use. Evidently, by the time your 12 months warranty is up, the maximum battery time per charge will normally be about one to one-and-a-half hours if run optimally.

All USB and FireWire ports are standard as in the smaller G3 iBook. All in all, this "larger-than-life replica of the 12-inch" model is reasonably well-constructed for its size and weight. Although it has never been tested for shock proof in a situation where you may accidently drop one of these machines on the floor, if you are able to protect it well and use it normally, it should outlast the PowerBook G3 Series computers and perhaps even the colourful clam-shell iBook.

This PowerBook was selling for US$1,799 (AUS$3,995)

The new 12.1-inch TFT G3 iBook 700MHz!

Now that customers are a little happier with the new screen size of the G3 iBook, Apple has noticed a dip in profits from the sale of the smaller 12.1-inch TFT iBook model. As of June 2002, Apple has bumped up the speed of their smaller G3 iBook to either 600MHz or 700MHz and a 20 or 30GB internal hard disk (you do have a choice, but you will still have to pay the same high price!). There are no indications the USB ports have been upgraded to version 2.0 to get the decent data transfer speed between external hardware peripherals and your new G3 iBook. But apart from that, everything else is still the same (i.e. no indications of better quality control in the TFT/LCD used on this particular model).

But just in case there are some customers already feeling a little bit unloved in the 14-inch TFT variety of iBooks, Apple has been extremely generous in providing a similar upgrade to this model as well.

Should I buy one?

Do you own, or are your contemplating on buying, one of those G3 (and now G4) iBooks from Apple Inc.? If so, you should be aware of a few common hardware problems associated with this machine (depending on the specific G3 or G4 iBook model you have or intend to buy):

iBook models introduced before October 2001

  • The early G3 iBooks models were notorious for having one, two or more blown pixels on the screen. This means that if you look at the screen when it is turned on, you may notice an intense blue, red or yellow dot that doesn't seem to change colour as you move your cursor over it. The cause for this problem is due to one or more of the three transistors controlling the colour on a single pixel being faulty. Why? It is believed the company is trying to introduce obsolescence into its products by ensuring the screens do not last a long time. Apple manages to do this on this particular model by putting higher levels of power into the screens and thereby reducing the screens' expected lifespan.

    So what happens if consumers discover a screen with blown pixels? Given the low price of these computers and how many pixels there are on the LCD screen (something like half a million is not unheard of these days), it is no longer seen as an Apple policy to replace the screen even if the computer is brand new and under warranty.

    Actually, all manufacturers of LCD screens now believe that up to two blown pixels is acceptable (although this will be dependent on where they are positioned). Any more than that and you have the legal grounds under the Trade Practices Act (1974) to have the screen replaced under warranty. But as one Apple spokesman allegedly said to an Apple customer Mark Davids of Dee Why, NSW, and quoted in the February 2002 edition of Australian MacWorld (page 10):

    "If we replace your screen we can't guarantee you won't get three blown pixels."

    Well, there is a simple way to check. Just turn on the laptop and look at the screen. Unfortunately Apple cannot provide this level of quality control for such a simple and cheap machine. Hence the only way to solve this problem is for you, as a consumer, to look at the screen when it is turned on before buying the iBook from an Apple reseller (or a previous owner if sold second-hand). Apple is counting on you to be the quality control person! Perhaps you should ask Apple to pay you for the work.

    Or instead, learn not to buy these cheap and cheerful Apple laptops straight away. Consider waiting a little longer until the quality of the LCD/TFT screens improve (or Apple decides to reduce the power a little for extra long life). Or alternatively, go for a higher quality and more expensive laptop; there is a higher probability the machine will have better quality control checks from the manufacturer. Or stick to the desktop variety of computers with a quality CRT (or the better TFT/LCD) screens.

    If you must buy a new cheap iBook right now, always ask the sales representative to have the laptop you are going to buy running and working first in the shop. In that way, screen problems can be observed and noted before making a financial commitment on your part to acquire the laptop.

    9 September 2006

    PC laptop manufacturer ASUS claims to have a Zero Bright Dot Warranty on all their laptops, meaning that if one bright dot is found the LCD screen will be exchanged no questions asked for the first 30 days of purchase. Certainly better than Apple's policy.

  • The thin clear plastic polycarbonate finish and the paint covering the trackpad are of such poor quality that it can easily be damaged by common household chemicals such as methylated spirits (1). Of course you should never use harsh chemicals like ammonia or turpentine to clean your iBook. And methylated spirits - composed mostly of ethanol - is certainly not of the same class as sulphuric or hydrochloric acid, let alone ammonia or turpentine. Yet despite the common nature of this solvent in the household and at schools, the outer plastic and paint finish of the G3 iBook somehow reacts badly with this substance. For example, the paint on the trackpad is soluble in alcohol by the way it dissolves quickly (ethanol is a mild acid), and the plastic appears "eaten away" when subjected to methylated spirits.

    For an insight into this problem, Tim van Emmerik of Sale in the state of Victoria, Australia, wrote the following letter to the editor (2) of Australian Macworld May 2002, p.12:

    "I am a secondary-school teacher. Recently I received an iBook to replace my old faithful - a black G3 PowerBook.

    Apple proclaims the iBook to be robust and of a rugged construction, but in one of my recent classes, some methylated spirits spilt onto the iBook's track button and surrounding plastic. Wiping off the drops with a cloth (thinking that this would be a quick fix), I noticed that not only had the thin clear finish surrounding the iBook's internal surfaces been eaten away, but paint had also disappeared from the track button.

    My G3 PowerBook had more wars than this feeble jelly belly of a laptop and it always came out trumps. I think Apple needs to think different with regards to the non-rugged poor excuse of a finish on this machine. If it's going to survive the next couple of years, I'll need to wrap my vulnerable iBook in a protective watertight nappy and treat it like a baby."

  • There has now been some instances of "sticky or dry" LCD hinges on the 12.1-inch TFT/LCD G3 iBooks. The affected powerbooks have a disconcerting effect of sticking, then suddenly releasing, then sticking again and so on as customers move the LCD screen up and down. This releases an audible cracking sound as if the LCD screen is getting damaged (the hinges probably need some machine oil).

    Although there has not been an official report of an LCD screen actually breaking from this simple act of moving the screen up and down on the G3 iBook, it wouldn't be too surprising if Apple would say, "You can't complain about the iBook considering this is a 'consumer' product sold at a 'consumer' price!"

    30 April 2004

    The problem is believed to be related to the stiffness of the screen hinge joints and the limited lubrication to keep them rotating smoothly. It is alleged the titanium and aluminium G4 PowerBooks are similarly affected, but not as great as the G3 iBooks. Mr John Grzeskowiak of RadTech has suggested to MacFixIt.com a tad of lubrication into the hinges using RadTech's Glide Kit may solve the problem. For learn more, click here.

  • The round flat transparent power adapters known affectionately as the "yo-yo" (the old Model No. M7332 for the 45-Watt version) have come in for criticising by a number of consumers. This is supposedly the improved power adapter that should have replaced the original, more dangerous black rectangular power adapters used in the original Apple PowerBook G3 Series computers (e.g. Wall Street etc). For further details, click here.

iBook models introduced between October 2001 and September 2003

Apple Inc. is again not taking a hint from its customers with yet another innundation of complaints about the hardware manufacturing problems (3) emerging on the G3 iBooks introduced after October 2001 and which have recently been discontinued by Apple (why is that so?) as of September 2003.

The iBooks most seriously affected are the 600MHz/700MHz/800MHz machines with dual USB ports and have a 12.1-inch 16/32VRAM or 14.1-inch LCD 16/32VRAM screen, and possibly a few 900MHz iBook models although this could be an anomaly. Most previous G3 iBooks sold by Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) prior to October 2001 don't seem to have the problems or were not as common as in the models introduced after October 2001.

The complaints can be found on a number of web sites including Apple's own discussion forum since the beginning of 2002.

Among the hardware problems highlighted by the iBook users include the backlight cable running over the screen hinge of the iBooks apparently suffering metal fatigue leading to intermittent failure of the backlight past a certain screen angle. While other iBook users have noticed the screen problem getting much worse to the point where the screen data is being scrambled, showing stripes, or going black intermittently as the entire video cable running over the screen clutch hinge seems to suffer a similar problem at different screen angles.

Soon afterwards, the logic boards (or motherboards) allegedly go dead soon after the screen problem. Why? It is claimed by some users that the ATI chip and other parts of the video circuitry for driving the screen display may get damaged after touching the frayed RF shield portion of the display cable (4). All is required is to flex the casing of the iBook by pressing the bottom left-corner (below the fn and Control keys) and regularly opening and closing the screen as needed to damage the display cable and it is possible to increase the chances of a shortcircuit developing between the fine metal mesh of the cable and the video circuitry containing the ATI chip on the logic board.

The more technically-minded users carrying a dead iBook have confirmed the outer metal mesh of the display cable acting as an RF shield does fray significantly as the cable rubs against the rough edges of the screen clutch hinge and it is this frayed metal mesh which is short-circuiting with the video circuitry on the logic board.

Notice the plastic insulation this iBook user had to put around one of the screen cables to prevent further damage of the fine metal mesh insulation (or RF shield) while rubbing against the sharp edges of the screen hinge. Such a move is believed to reduce the likelihood of a possible shortcircuit from the fine metal mesh with the logical board underneath. The black wire is believed to control the backlight. Picture courtesy of http://www.cj7jeep.com/ibook_disaster/index_2.html

In yet another claim from several unhappy iBook users, the ATI chip itself may not have been soldered properly to the logic board and this may explain how a little flexing of the iBook casing and the mere heating up of the computer during normal use is usually enough to create problems on the screen.

To add to the woes of other iBook users (and to Apple if they are forced to implement an Apple repair program in the near future), it may be possible to damage the logic boards of these iBooks in a different way. The alternative way for the logic boards to get damaged is allegedly through the FireWire, Ethernet and other ports. Apparently these ports may not be properly protected from unusually high voltages and/or currents occurring outside the iBook from time to time and this seems to cause the logic boards to suddenly go dead or the ports themselves may no longer function properly.

Nevertheless, one thing does seem universally in common with other users of the affected iBooks: people are attributing the abovementioned screen problem of the iBook to the logic board problem or vice versa although there is a general feeling it is the logic board (which is effectively the entire computer). As one anonymous technician said:

"I have replaced several iBook 700 logic boards, most of them 14" models. Apple says they have figured out what was wrong with them and have rectified the problem. The trouble is, it's really the entire computer. That's all there is, just one part that does everything. If there's a power problem, replace the logic board. If the ethernet/USB/video-out/ firewire port is dead, replace the logic board. The list goes on." (5)

So what is Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) doing about it? Well, apart from censoring what was allegedly up to 700 postings on the Apple discussion boards relating to the iBook screen problems and logic board failures since 2002, the logic boards and screen cables are being replaced. However, don't expect the logic boards to be the proper updated version. And some iBook users are having to pay for the logic board replacement at considerable personal cost to themselves unless they have extended AppleCare warranty (again at considerable cost to the users beyond the standard price of the iBook).

For example, some users have been permitted to get a full replacement for the 800MHz G3 iBook (possibly the 32 VRAM or the 14-inch LCD 32 VRAM models supposedly discontinued by Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) in April 2003 or more likely the early 2003 800MHz G3 iBook model discontinued by Apple in October 2003), or instead the 900MHz G3 iBook, and in some cases the latest G4 iBook. It is in the G4 iBook where users have noticed significant improvements in the logic board design and manufacture in this particular computer. Other users, however, were not quite so lucky and have simply had a logic board replacement which may or may not resolve the problem (6).

As for the cable itself, a number of Apple resellers are following the workshop manual of replacing the entire screen and cable. (7)

If you have one of the above affected iBooks, this might be a good time to consider selling the machines now and getting something better, or go for an extended AppleCare warranty. Because users who are lucky enough to have the machine under warranty will get a logic board replacement at practically no cost. But if you are most unfortunate enough to be outside the warranty period (even a mere two weeks outside the period), users have been asked to pay anywhere between US$600 to $900. Combine this with the cost of replacing the screen in order to fix the screen cable (roughly between US$400 and US$920) and all the labour and this is virtually the cost of another brand new iBook.

No wonder so many iBook owners are spitting chips (probably of the ATI variety) in Apple's direction. These quality control problems are the bane of Apple users who are trying to do nothing more than complete their work with the machines. And it is costing users more time and money to resolve the quality control issues while Apple minimises its own costs (and probably making wild assumptions about how most iBook users are allegedly not using their machines properly and may have illegal software copies sitting around on the hard disk which is why the iBooks have to be returned for a check) for its incredibly poor decisions by keeping quiet in the hope enough users will simply buy a new Apple computer (or get legitimate software copies).

So why the problem?

Maybe Apple Inc. is quietly suggesting to users to pay for a few hundred dollars extra every three years the extended AppleCare warranty so that customers can keep returning the computer (together with the internal hard disk) again and again, with the hope that users will never know exactly how these laptops are made?

Or why not buy the latest G4 and G5 computers while the G3 iBooks now look like whopping great big lemons at the moment? We can be sure Apple will love that idea, wouldn't they?

There are also some users claiming the latest OSX version 10.3.2 upgrade released in October 2003 is somehow connected to these screen problems and eventually the death of a number of logic boards on the affected G3 iBooks. Well, it isn't too far-fetched considering there has been a report of the 867MHz titanium G4 PowerBook suffering greater overheating problems than usual after the 10.3.2 update. All it takes is enough heat in the iBooks (without the fans turning on as it should to let the users know what is happening) to see the death nell coming to enough logic boards.

Or perhaps all of this is just a coincidence?

It is also possible that the accuracy of our insights into the "Wall Street" computer and how it has been manufactured is causing headaches for Apple and that such iBook reports have decided to come out of the woodwork to distract readers from noticing our work. Or it is possible that genuine users who have spent at least 12 months using the iBooks are coming to the view that they are not manufactured as well as Apple could make them. (8)

Whatever the truth, one thing is certain. Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) is making it harder for people to determine precisely which iBook models are affected by the screen and logic board problems.

For example, it is part of Apple's plan to manufacture iBooks to look very similar on the outside despite minor differences in G3 processor speeds and perhaps the occasional extra feature or two. This manufacturing decision from Apple to make virtually identical-looking computers within a series with minor improvements (followed usually by a couple of steps back in the manufacturing process where appropriate for Apple) over a short space of time (usually around 6 months or less) allows the company to hide behind its own claim that there are iBooks that users are not complaining about (e.g. users of G3 iBooks introduced before October 2001 or G4 iBooks after October 2003) while other users who've purchased iBook models between October 2001 and October 2003 are having a extraordinarily hard time in getting their products to work properly and consistently for longer than 12 months (and preferably no less than 3 years minimum).

Again the message is clear: never purchase an Apple computer in the first 6 months of its introduction (it should be a minimum of 18 months) until all the problems in the computer have been ironed out. If waiting this long means Apple will no longer manufacture and sell what you want, then that's bad luck for Apple. You can always buy the computer on the second-hand market instead (if it is good, you'll just have to look around carefully for what you want). (9)

Or if you are unlucky enough to have purchased one of the affected iBooks and you can't afford the time and money to get another computer or pay for AppleCare, why not join the class action against Apple to get the problem fixed properly and permanently? Or sign a petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/ibook123/petition.html.

Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) continues to have a bad habit of manufacturing and selling real lemons to the unsuspecting public on a regular basis since 1996 for various reasons and it is time Apple is made to learn to get its act together now or it will not survive much longer in the IT industry (i.e. it will probably be bought out by Microsoft or IBM).

Because the only thing that is holding up Apple at the moment is its marketing arm which is successfully sucking in gullible members of the public (notably quite a few in the US) who can't see what is going on. But once the marketing hype crumbles and people learn to see right through it all will Apple products show its true substance (i.e. none at all).

Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) in Cupertino, California is a bit like a runaway horse carriage at the moment with shareholders sitting tight inside and looking out thinking everything is rosy and the view is great. The carriage also has a lever for a brack system (apparently controlled by the CEO Steve Jobs) and the whole lot is travelling at one hundred kilometres per hour downhill. More and more people outside are noticing how the carriage has already lost one of its wheels and another one is about to do the same. So what does Apple do? Instead of stopping and thinking about how to fix the carriage properly, Apple is relying on its marketers and a bit of corporate secrecy to hang on tight and hope for the best. Actually we can even hear Steve Jobs saying, "Full steam ahead!" while he chooses to ignore the problems around him (in fact, we are of the impression he probably knows exactly what is happening).

So while the carriage is travelling at high speeds down a hill, some observers think the Apple marketers are dismally trying hard to use sticks and ropes to help keep the suspect wheel of the carriage in position. Unfortunately, what Apple doesn't know is that if it gets too fast and loses its way down the hill, it is going to lose too many wheels and the entire carriage will come crashing to a sudden halt. Then it will be a matter of another company such as Microsoft, IBM or whoever to come along and pick up the pieces and make their own new OS from the remains left behind during the days Apple was choosing to think about its own profits and nothing else.

Apple computers are just good-looking high-priced, but terribly cheap to manufacture plastic and metal toys ready to fall-apart in about 12 months of purchasing them. Apple will only produce the odd good machine to save its own skin from a potential consumer backlash on its products. But you will have to look hard to find out which ones they are and to be quick enough to buy them before Apple decides to discontinue production of the good ones!

NOTE: Apple resellers may or may not be aware of these problems. Those resellers that are aware will tend to keep quiet or suggest selling you another computer (at your cost of course)!

Want to know why there are so many problems with the iBooks since October 2001? Have a read of this.

2 January 2004

There is an allegation from a MacFixIt.com reader named Mr Peter Hilleard claiming he has found an Apple Service document dated 11 July 2001 from the "Restricted: Apple Specialists" section of the Apple's Knowledge Base titled iBook (Dual USB): No Display, or Dim Display, but Computer Appears to Operate Correctly. The document, authored by Mr Michael Huckerbone, was found by Mr Hilleard and other users earlier through the AppleCare web site as ADC members (10).

The document purportedly shows Apple Inc. has been fully aware of display cables capable of being damaged in the iBooks introduced before October 2001 and the problem has presumably got worse with the newer G3 iBooks introduced after October 2001 until September 2003.

According to Mr Hilleard, the document says in troubleshooting step 5:

"Verify backlight cable and LVDS cable connections are seated properly and that the cables are not damaged." (11)

It is in the part that says "Verify the backlight cable and LVDS cable connections...are not damaged" where Mr Hilleard believes Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) is admitting to the problem as early as July 2001. As Mr Hilleard said:

"This indicates Apple knew as early as July 2001 that these displaycables can be damaged - It is not caused by the user (because the cables are completely hidden inside the iBook [and in most cases the machines were used normally.)

This is therefore a design fault. Yet when asked, Apple has steadfastly denied that there are any known issues and have charged many hundreds of dollars to repair this fault for any iBooks outside of warranty. Nor has Apple warned users of their prior knowledge that the cables can fail or advise of any measures the user might take to limit the problem." (12)

Maybe this is true. Then again, it is hard to tell whether this quote from a Service document is referring to another problem altogether and the company is merely asking the technicians to check the display cable for possible damage as a standard procedure. Of course, the question we should ask is, "How would the cable get damaged?"

To make things almost intractably difficult for anyone wanting to start a class action against Apple, other Apple users have allegedly noticed similar wording in this area for Apple Service documents written and updated for other Apple computers introduced after July 2001. This includes the titanium PowerBook G4 and, with the date removed, the latest aluminium PowerBook G4 12-inch and 17-inch computers.

It is hard to tell whether Apple Inc. is really trying to cover its backside by claiming in all possible future class action against the company that this is standard procedure for all their products. But if a company wanted to hide behind a secret agenda of deliberately producing substandard computers (perhaps as part of a new policy of introducing obsolescence into its products), this would be an excellent way to do it.

3 January 2004

Other users have noticed similar wording from Apple to check the display cables in earlier Service documents prior to 11 July 2001. As MacFixIt.com reader Mr Michael George said:

"Prior to the 2001 iBook style, the troubleshooting tip in question states "Verify the display cable and inverter board cable connections to the logic board" or "Verify display cable, inverter board, and I/O logic board connections" followed by the statement "Replace display cable" (depending on the power book model.)" (13)

Notice how the wording is different. Apple has suddenly decided to change the wording in the Service document for July 2001 to say the display cables of iBooks should be checked for damage.

Maybe Apple was anticipating the possibility of damage to the display cables in the iBooks?

Again it is hard to get a firm grip on what Apple was trying to do here.

iBook models introduced after October 2003

Please note that the latest G4 iBook introduced after October 2003 has not had sufficient time to reveal its own set of problems by Apple users. So it is hard to tell for sure whether this is a better iBook model to go for if you have to stick to these products.

NOTE: Maybe the problems of the G3 iBooks is just another way for Apple to encourage consumers to see the benefits of upgrading to the latest G4/G5 computer and OSX.

Now if only there is a way to encourage Apple to see the benefits of producing quality products for consumers as well?

12 April 2004

Since upgrading OSX to version 10.2 and 10.3.x, G4 iBooks users have noticed a much higher than expected power usage from their laptops' rechargeable batteries, much shorter battery times before recharging is necessary (and usually without a warning), more dead batteries requiring replacement, and the computer feeling hotter than usual.

Apparently these users are not alone as complaints are surfacing from other PowerBook users experiencing the exact same problem after upgrading their OSX to the Jaguar (i.e. 10.2.8) and Panther (i.e. 10.3.x) versions.

For further details, please read this article from MacFixIt published on 5 April 2004.

24 May 2005

Apple Inc. has issued a battery recall for the latest aluminium 12-inch and 15-inch PowerBook G4 laptops, and the G4 iBook computers. As Apple stated:

"In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and other international safety authorities, Apple is voluntarily recalling certain lithium ion rechargeable batteries that were sold worldwide from October 2004 through May 2005 for use with the following notebook computers: 12-inch iBook G4, 12-inch PowerBook G4 and 15-inch PowerBook G4. These batteries were manufactured by LG Chem, Ltd. of South Korea.

The affected batteries could overheat, posing a fire hazard to consumers. Apple has received six consumer reports of these batteries overheating. If you have a recalled battery, please stop using it and order a replacement battery immediately. Once you have removed the battery, plug in the AC adapter to power the computer. If you must temporarily use your computer with the battery, do not leave it unattended and check for signs of overheating.

Apple has initiated a worldwide exchange program and will provide eligible customers with a new replacement battery, free of charge."

Battery model number and serial number range (inclusive) are:

(i) A1061 (HQ441-HQ507)

(ii) A1079 (3X446-3X510)

(iii) A1078 (3X446-3X509)

and serial numbers that begin with HQ441 through HQ507 and 3X446 through 3X510. To view these numbers, the battery must be taken out of the computer. Serial number is located beneath the bar code. Look for the first five letters of the serial number code.

Please remember, a number of customers may discover the battery may not come out properly, necessitating the laptops be brought into an Apple store. Apparently one of two plastic levers on the locking end of the battery may have broken and is partially jamming the release mechanism.

1 October 2005

Now that things are starting to look a little more stable in the design and manufacturing of Apple iBooks, the latest G4 iBook is not expected to be revamped to a G5 version any time soon due to the over heating problems. In fact, Apple is concentrating on building a brand new range of PowerBooks and iBooks using the Intel processors. Until then, it might be a long wait before these new products come out. In the meantime Apple has decided to put in all the essential upgrades customers where looking for in the G4 iBook to keep the hoardes happy.

So now for A$2049 you will get a bigger Seagate hard drive of 60GB with motion detection sensing technology (still a bit under par with what's available with hard drive capacity), bumped up the RAM to 512MB (considered a critical improvement when running OSX "Tiger" and other OSX applications), Bluetooth added with Wi-Fi radio, and a surprisingly long battery life of 6 hours if you don't use Wi-Fi to surf the internet wirelessly (4 hours if you do).

Please note that the battery life will dramatically reduce over time, so expect a minimum of 1 hour after say 6 to 8 months of continuous use. Again you should consider purchasing another battery and use it after 12 months or until such time as you get fed up with the short battery life of the older battery.

Keyboard is a bit noise when typing suggesting it is not of the highest quality for a laptop that has been around for a few years.

Overall, this is perhaps the best iBook Apple has produced for some time. If you have to buy anything new from Apple and you are in the market for a low cost laptop, a G4 iBook may be the best option for you.

28 November 2005

We need to back track on our statement where we claimed "things are starting to look a little more stable in the design and manufacturing of Apple iBooks". It seems a number of G4 iBook users are enjoying yet another fault courtesy of good old Apple design and manufacturing. Only this time the fault is more serious and brings back nightmares for G3 iBook users. We now have the resurgence of the logic board problems.

As shocking as this may sound, we are forced to contend the G4 iBooks are reaching a stage in their lives (about two years) when something has to go bonkers for no good reason other than it is lasting too long and Apple needs people to buy new computers. This seems to be the case with reports of logic board failures according to a MacFixIt.com article.

Apple already provides a logic board replacement problem for G3 iBooks manufactured between May 2001 and October 2003 for the following problems:

(i) Scrambled or distorted video

(ii) Appearance of unexpected lines on the screen

(iii) Intermittent video image

(iv) Video freeze

(v) Computer starts up to a blank screen.

The most common problem for G4 iBook users is the inability to boot up or shows a blank screen on startup, flickering and other unusual behaviour of the display, erratic trackpad movement and/or frequent freezes.

A replacement program for these G4 iBook logic boards have yet to be approved by Apple. So expect the usual US$900 - US$1000 for replacing them if you are not under warranty. Or go to eBay.com to purchase one for around US$400 and do it yourself (or find someone who can for a good price). Please note that Apple has not rebuilt the logic board, so you will get the same potentially faulty item (assuming it is a logic board problem) as the one that came in your iBook when you first bought it.

1 December 2005

This MacFixIt.com report continues on the G4 iBook logic board problem explaining how the price for its replacement from Apple direct and Apple authorised resellers varies significantly. Prices quoted can range anywhere between US$859 and over US$1,000, which is nearly the price of a new iBook these days. You will definitely need to shop around carefully for the best price. And get it itemised. The main message in this report for all consumers is how important it is for you to consider purchasing the 3-year extended Applecare warranty for your Apple computer as you will never know what will happen when you purchase one.

But should consumers have to pay extra for this?

Taking out an extended warranty service for your Apple computer is understandable if the problem is rare and especially for older Apple computers where a replacement for certain parts could be prohibitively too expensive outside of the warranty period. But why should customers be forced to pay for an extended Applecare warranty service for a problem that is apparently looking quite common for a number of users and for a model which is still being sold by Apple as an official product in a particular series currently in the production line (irrespective of Apple's quick attempts to change computer features within a series to give the impression previous Apple computer models in the same series are too old to have the new features incorporated when something does go wrong)?

In fact, why pay extra when this should be part of the price of purchasing a new Apple computer?

If it doesn't work properly for a period of no less than 3 years (i.e. the time given by Apple in its extended warranty) despite every effort to look after the product (give or take a few scratches), why should it have been sold in the first place? Or if it is, the extended warranty should be standard on purchasing any new Apple computer.

HP does it. Dell does it. IBM does it. Why can't Apple do it?

A company that has confidence in its products and knows it will last the distance should have no hesitation in providing such a warranty as a standard feature. For Apple to make it an optional feature and expect people to pay for it can only mean two things:

(i) The products aren't that good (in the sense the hardware will fail sooner than you think); and/or

(ii) Apple wants to make extra profit by selling extended Applecare warranty to users as an optional extra.

And by making the products so easy to fall apart (or look like it is badly scratched) after a short period of time, it is no wonder MacFixIt.com and other experts are recommending users pay extra for the extended warranty feature. Given the high price being asked by Apple for the parts (as no one else is allowed to manufacture the same parts cheaper), customers don't have much choice!

It is all part of what Apple describes as good marketing and business sense, not good customer service sense in the true sense of the phrase.

4 January 2008

The battery exchange recall and replacement program for iBook G4 and PowerBook G4 laptops is allegedly not going as smoothly as Apple Inc. would hope according to MacFixIt.com. This program affects 12-inch iBook G4, 12-inch PowerBook G4 and the 15-inch PowerBook G4 manufactured from October 2003 to August 2006. The more expensive 17-inch PowerBook G4 doesn't appear to be affected. The replacement batteries issued by Apple Inc. for the PowerBook G4 are still not holding their charge after a few weeks or months of use. A number of users are reporting limited battery time (usually under 20 minutes after fully charging the battery) during normal laptop usage or may fail completely causing users to rely entirely on the AC adapter for all their work. The problem may be worse after users have updated OSX to version 10.4.11, but this is not fully confirmed by Apple Inc.

The batteries were meant to be replaced because in the words of Apple Inc. the batteries supplied by Sony Corporation of Japan allegedly "pose a safety risk that may result in overheating under rare circumstances". Well, now it seems like some replacement batteries won't store enough power to melt an ice cube.

Are these replacement batteries from old stock which Apple Inc. is trying to give away instead of sending back the whole lot to Sony and getting a fresh and properly manufactured batch of replacement batteries? Definitely looks like there is a quiet Apple policy of letting customers do the quality control work for the company.

The problem appears to get worse when the battery charge has been depleted and is not recharged quickly enough to a full state within a few days. Apparently lithium ion batteries like to be fully charged compared to the old nickel-cadmium variety.

Apple will hopefully provide an explanation as to what is happening to the batteries to users very soon.

Keyboard lettering fading

People are noticing the lettering on the keyboard of G4 iBooks are fading. Further details can be found in the titanium PowerBook section.