Apple charges customer $871.42 to replace a key on a MacBook Pro

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Yet another victim of what I have begun to call "Crumbgate".

Twitter user Dustin Curtis posted about his recent experience with Apple's repair service and his MacBook Pro.  He stated that his "T" Key stopped working on his 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro,  and that the estimated repair cost from Apple to fix that single key would be $871.42.   You will find his original tweet embedded below:

He is not the only one.   In fact there is a class action lawsuit regarding the "butterfly-switch" keyboards in the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro models.   Even the generally positive bunch of Apple pundits have been grumbling about this as a problem for over a year.   Many posting to twitter about how their own keyboards had failed and had to be replaced (most for free under AppleCare).

Now the cost of $871.42 is NOT the cost to replace a single key.   Not in the least.  The issue with this model of keyboard is that it is in fact, nearly impossible to replace a single key.   The course of action to replace a broken keyswitch on a modern MacBook Pro is to replace the ENTIRE TOP OF THE COMPUTER.   Which all said and done (if you don't have Applecare) will apparently cost you $871.42.   Dustin Curtis himself, in a later tweet put it best:

This keyboard first appeared in the 2015 12" MacBook.   I have to think that they have been aware of this problem for some time.    As far as I know, they tried to mitigate the issue with the 2017 models by adding a small bit of rubber under each key.   Though that doesn't seem to have helped.   As a cursory search of twitter finds people with broken MacBook Pro keyboards on nearly a daily basis.   

Apple itself has posted a knowledge base article on this issue,  stating that you should hold your laptop up in the air at a certain angle and spray compressed air in between the keys in the hope of dislodging any crumbs.   That knowledge base article would be truly hilarious if it wasn't a nearly thousand dollar problem for each user who encounters Apple's own design flaw.

The fact that Apple itself has the gall to be charging full price for repairs on a problem they themselves designed is unconscionable.   Especially when people have had to bring their laptops back to Apple 2 or 3 times for the same issue.   Even if the customer HAS Applecare Insurance and the repair itself is covered,  it still means that you will be without your $1000+ computer for nearly a week.   Most people who purchase laptops at those kinds of price points need them for their work.   While some people may be able to afford to have a backup machine on hand,  I know I don't have the means for that.

This is a huge issue for the MacBook Pro.   And I have to recommend highly at this time that you do NOT purchase one.    If for some reason, you absolutely NEED a MacBook Pro right now,  find a 2015 model with the old style keyboard on Ebay.   Otherwise,  wait for the next generation.  And then wait a month for the longer term reviews to come out.  I can't stress this highly enough. 

I used to think you could buy almost anything sight un-seen from Apple.   You used to KNOW that they made good stuff,  and that while it was expensive,  you knew you were getting your money's worth.    I wish I still felt that way.

Woman says Amazon Echo recorded private conversation, sent to one of her contacts

Woman says Amazon Echo recorded private conversation, sent to one of her contacts

This could be seriously bad for Amazon.   If this story gains traction (I have a feeling it will), this could be a disaster that is billions of dollars in size.

Gary Horcher from KIRO7.com wrote:

A Portland family contacted Amazon to investigate after they say a private conversation in their home was recorded by Amazon’s Alexa — the voice-controlled smart speaker — and that the recorded audio was sent to the phone of a random person in Seattle, who was in the family’s contact list.

”My husband and I would joke and say I’d bet these devices are listening to what we’re saying,” said Danielle, who did not want us to use her last name.

”We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house,” she said. “At first, my husband was, like, ‘no you didn’t!’ And the (recipient of the message) said ‘You sat there talking about hardwood floors.’ And we said, ‘oh gosh, you really did hear us.’”

Danielle listened to the conversation when it was sent back to her, and she couldn’t believe someone 176 miles away heard it too.

”I felt invaded,” she said. “A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, ‘I’m never plugging that device in again, because I can’t trust it.

If this is true,  it's a total and complete breach of trust with Amazon.   We've been told over and over that the Alexa only records when it hears the trigger word and waits for a command.   While it is doing that,  it has a light ring on the device that lights up to alert the user that it's recording.

If it was able to record without the light being on,  and sent that recording without the user's permission to someone in their phone contacts.   Well, this could put Amazon in a world of trouble.

The most annoying part of this article is the fact that there are so few details.   HOW was the information sent?  Via text,  via email?   It seems like an awfully strange path for a bug to take.

I have a (unfortunate) sneaking suspicion that this may be something malicious that was added by someone in the staff at Amazon,   and that was accidentally triggered somehow
(a certain phrase or frequency of sound perhaps?).

Amazon for their part issued an apology for the incident stating:

Amazon takes privacy very seriously. We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence. We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future.

Pretty weak considering the magnitude of this issue.   I have an Amazon Echo in my home.   I'm considering unplugging it for good after this.   I suggest you consider the same.

Terry Pratchett's "Troll Bridge" Trailer

I've waited all my life to see some of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series hit the big screen.    For those who don't know it,   Discworld is kind of a Monty Python-esque take on your typical "swords and sorcery" fantasy universe.   It has spanned dozens of books ranging from stories about wizards to stories about private detectives.

In 2011, there was a Kickstarter to put together a short film based on one of Pratchett's Discworld fables.   Recently the trailer for the film finally made it's way out.    And it looks like that signature Pratchett humor has made the transition well.

I can still hope to see a big budget version of a Discworld story one day,  but for now this is absolutely wonderful to see.

Literal Sinkhole Opens on White House Grounds

Apparently a literal sinkhole has opened up on the White House grounds and is growing.   A similar sinkhole opened near Mar-a-Lago last year.     Perhaps the universe is trying to send a message?

From Quartz:

And as of this past weekend, a sinkhole has been growing on the north lawn, Voice of America reporter Steve Herman observed, just near the press briefing room...
“It was noticeably bigger between Sunday and Monday,” Herman said. “It’s more than a foot long right now,” he said. A second sinkhole has opened up right next to it, he said.