The Mac, the PC, the Mac — A lesson in the futility of reason in a “post PC” type of world. (Spoiler: Why you need to buy a Mac)

15 06 2011

A few months ago, I posted about the situations my wife and I had with Apple products–most notably their portable “Macbook” and “Macbook Pro” models–and our series of misfortunes.

I also posted that I was going back to a Windows machine, bought one, and that’s where it went from there. Undoubtedly, I have had exceptional service with HP and HP Support–they’ve always been, for me anyway, approachable and easy to deal with. I know they get a bad rap through some of the magazine ratings, however, I have owned HP notebooks since 2001. The majority of issues I have had with them were of a software, Windows-related nature–rarely of a hardware nature. That said, I had the DV7’s DVD drive go out on me and need to be replaced not long after I bought it. The repair process with HP was very simple, they sent me the DVD drive, and it was drop-in quick. I cannot say enough about how simple and easy the repair process was through HP.  That said, I am going back to a Mac not because of HP but rather the Windows issues.  I’ll explain…

Strike #1 – Backups

I have a plethora of data on my hard drive that includes everything from movies, MP3s, pictures, home videos, etc. I average somewhere between 150-200GB of data in just content alone. That’s a lot of data!  As a result, I am fanatic–dear I say religious–about backing up my data. I am a user and supporter of Dropbox (referral link here) for my super-important stuff (school related, mostly), use an external HDD to back up the drive en mass, and a DVD writeable every so often just to keep things off-site.  I AM A BACKUP ZEALOT.

Windows 7 Home Premium x64 has a utility called Windows Backup and Restore which I presume does two things very simply–can you guess what they are?  Backup and (wait for it) Restore [your] data. One hopes that this would be such an easy venture into backing up data as Microsoft would portray on its website: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/features/backup-and-restore

So what’s the problem?

In short, this: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/979281

Title: Error code 0x8100002F and or error code 0x80070002 when you back up files in Windows 7

Description: When you click the Options button that is next to the notification, you receive the following message:

Check your backup results

The backup completed but some files were skipped.

View skipped files

My issue was I kept data within my user profile “C:\Users\[Name]\” rather than in the specified library of “Documents,” and as a result it was not being backed up.  I ran and checked to see if a restore file could be created and it couldn’t.  The data was not being backed up if it was outside of the Documents folder.

I added the said folder to the Documents “library” as Windows by default was set to back up anything associated with the libraries (i.e. Documents, Music, Pictures, and Video) yet it kept populating this same error.

Backup encountered a problem while backing up file C:\Windows\System32\config\systemprofile\<folder Name>. Error:(The system cannot find the file specified. (0x80070002))

According to Microsoft, this is the reason….

Scenario 1 cause

This issue occurs if you back up a library that contains custom folders that are located under your user profile.

In the last few months I have been using the computer, I was simply assuming everything on the computer was backed up when I selected “Let Windows handle backup settings” rather than manually configuring it on my own–a mistake I shall not make again, trusting Windows with anything.

In order to make this error go away, or more importantly make Windows Backup and Restore actually back up the entire computer, you need to select “Let me choose which files to backup” and tell it what to back up starting from the C:\ root directory level.

WHAT A F’ING JOKE!

I am looking at this and thinking, “WTH! Shouldn’t the default be to back up the  whole computer, Libraries and non-Libraries, and especially anything in the profile folder.  What a joke…. Apparently, I’m not the only person the humor of this debacle is lost on. Simply do a Google search for “Windows Backup skipping files” and the hits will come pouring in.

In the end, what does this all mean?  Well, according to Microsoft’s own Knowledge Base (KB) document, there is a workaround for each of the three scenarios listed. Since Scenario 1 applied to me,

To resolve this issue, use one of the resolution methods that are listed for your scenario.

Scenario 1 resolution

To resolve this issue, take one of the following actions:

  • Ignore the error message.
    Note The custom library files that are stored in your user profile will not be backed up.
  • Move the library folder from the user profile path to a location outside the user profile path. For example, move the folder to the C:\MyLibraries folder.
  • Exclude the library from the list of files that Windows Backup backs up. Then, include the original location of the content in the library in the backup list.
  • Move the library folder to a location other than the user profile folder. Then, add a link to the moved folder from the library. Make sure that the library is included in the backup. To do this, follow these steps:
    1. Click Start, and then click your user name.
    2. Right-click the folder that you want to move, and then click Cut.
    3. On the navigation pane, expand Computer, locate the place where you want to store the folder, and then paste the folder in that location.
    4. Right-click the folder that you moved to the new location, and then click Copy.
    5. Click Start, click your user name, right-click any empty area in the folder, and then click Paste shortcutNote To store the folder in a location other than a folder in your user profile, you may have to create a new folder. To do this, browse to the root of the drive in Windows Explorer, click New Folder on the Windows Explorer menu, and then edit the folder name. For example, rename the folder “MyLibraries.”
Wait wait wait…. what did that first part say again?!

“To resolve this issue, take one of the following actions:

  • Ignore the error message.
    Note The custom library files that are stored in your user profile will not be backed up.”
WTF!  Ignore the error message?!  That’s my data Redmond-loving idiots! Your software cannot back up data in my computer unless it’s listed in your precious Libraries by default?! What a stupid, stupid design!
Time Machine, however, backs up everything on your Mac, and even lets you restore an entire machine. The difference between Time Machine’s backup schemes is night/day.
Time Machine doesn’t take an entire night to backup approximately 250GB of data to an external USB 2.0 HDD. (approx. 2hrs, actually). Windows Backup and Restore (WBR) takes approximately 6 hours since it insists on backing up an entire system image along with each data backup.
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Anecdotal Complaint: Windows Media Player 12
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This is a short one.  Try to rip a CD in Windows Media Player 12 to MP3 format. It’s greuling…. The only thing more grueling is letting it try to update/complete album art.
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Conclusion: Why you need a Mac
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Someone once told me: “Your best compliments can often come from the greatest of insults.”
It’s no secret I have had my angst and frustration with Apple, including one of their ex-employees posting defamatory content about me. To Apple’s credit, they spotted and removed the content after a snapshot was e-mailed to them (I still have a copy, though).  The Yelp review I posted is available here.
I have had more than a few issues with getting repairs–mostly through the retail store–and getting repairs completed correctly and completely. 
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In the end, it all comes down to two things: product quality/reliability and customer service. At times, it is not how good or great a company is but how poorly others are. On this note, I can say that Apple has not cost me data or anything except time–Microsoft’s Windows 7 Operating System has cost me that plus the possibility of losing data. Their software does not do exactly what it is supposed to do.
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Despite all the extra features offered by Microsoft for Windows 7 customers, including Windows Live Essentials 2011, it all boils down to a sincere effort by the Redmond, Washington based company to detract from people leaving Windows for Mac OS X.
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The single-biggest reason to buy a Mac isn’t because it is not Windows but rather it is the antithesis of Windows. Everything from the simple “OK” or “Save” button to a system-wide backup, it just works. There is no what-if’s between the click and the action, it does exactly what you want and tell it to do. If you are a long-time Windows aficionado who thinks I’m crazy and Windows is the sublime future, I’m sorry to disagree with you. However, I cannot tell you how glad I am for Windows, that it’s here, and that it’s available for people to buy on their new PCs or install on their Macs.
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The only thing uglier than competition between Windows-based PCs and Macs is an all-or-nothing market where there is no competition.




Liking the HP so far…

16 03 2011

So did I tell you that I picked up an HP DV7 the other day?  Well I did… it is meant to replace my MacBook Pro which Apple has so graciously decided that the “cosmetic” issues notwithstanding was eligible for return. Thank you Apple for agreeing to take the computer back—thank you for all the time I spent in your stores, listening to your “Genius” technicians tell me things were “cosmetic,” “not covered under the warranty,” or my personal favorite, “I’ve only seen this when someone has tried to open the computer.”

The latter of those statements is probably my favorite—why would anyone spent $$$ on an extended warranty only to open the computer?!  I still don’t get that one..

Anyway, the MacBook Pro (MBP) is on its way back to Apple as we speak….and I’m typing this on my spiffy new HP DV7. I went with the DV7 for a few reasons, most of which is because it was on sale at Sam’s Club for a killer price—> $999!

I’ll be sure to post the link if anyone is interested. In the meantime, here’s the specs as unrepentantly plagiarized from HP’s support page…

Product Name
dv7-4287cl

Product Number
XZ031UA#ABA

Microprocessor
Intel Core i5-480M Processor 2.66GHz with Turbo Boost Technology up to 2.93 GHz

Memory
8GB DDR3 System Memory (2 DIMM)

Memory Max
8GB

Video Graphics
ATI Mobility Radeon HD 6550 graphics

Video Memory
1024MB GDDR3

Hard Drive
750GB (5400RPM)

Multimedia Drive
LightScribe Blu-ray ROM with SuperMulti DVD±R/RW Double Layer Support

Display
17.3” diagonal High Definition+ HP BrightView LED Display (1600 x 900)

Network Card
Integrated 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN

Wireless Connectivity

  • 802.11b/g/n WLAN

Sound

  • Beats Audio and HP Triple Bass Reflex Subwoofer

Keyboard
101-key compatible with island-style full-size keyboard with integrated numeric keypad

Pointing Device
HP Clickpad with On/Off button

External Ports

  • 5-in-1 integrated Digital Media Reader for Secure Digital cards, MultiMedia cards, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, or xD Picture cards
  • 4 Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0, 4th port shared with eSATA
  • 1 HDMI
  • 1 VGA (15-pin)
  • 1 RJ -45 (LAN)
  • 1 Headphone-out
  • 1 Microphone-in

Dimensions
16.35" (L) x 10.8" (W) x 1.25" (min H)/1.46" (max H)

Weight
6.86 lbs

Security

  • Kensington MicroSaver lock slot
  • Power-on password
  • Accepts 3rd party security lock devices

Power

  • 90W AC Adapter
  • 9-Cell 93WHr Lithium-Ion Battery

What’s In The Box
HP TrueVision Webcam with integrated digital microphone
HP SimplePass Identity Protection with integrated fingerprint reader

Of all the things I really like, it has to be the 17” screen and the fingerprint reader. Those are two of the niceties that make it a comfortable thing to use. The 15” 1440×900 screen on my MBP was nice and bright but the HP has a solid 1600×900—just a hair over the MBP but on a 17” display—so having that extra bit of real estate makes a lot of difference for me. A 1080 display would of course be perfect but the icons would be teeeny tiny.

The sound is remarkably good, it’s a lot louder than the MBP was. Some of the things Apple does is they put the recovery discs in the box for you, HP makes you burn your own. However, considering I could buy two of these for the price of a 15” MBP it just replaced, I’m not going to complain.

Now I know what you’re thinking—the parts (CPU, GPU, body, etc.) are not the same as your MBP so it’s like comparing Apples (pun not intended) to Oranges. However, here’s what the point is—Apple doesn’t make a 15” computer that costs less than $1,800 unless you have an educator discount or buy refurb. I can buy a 15” anything on the PC side for upwards of say….$500. Granted parts will not be the same but let’s be real—on the surface a 15” Mac costs more than a 15” PC. There is no way to get around that fact and I’m not about to debate it now. However, one thing I noticed almost immediately on the HP is that it is built to be taken apart by the customer. Conversely, the Apple laptop is built almost like a fine Swiss watch—you need special screwdrivers to open it, have to be gentle before putting it back together, etc.etc. I’ve come to the conclusion that the PC notebook is built like a Tonka truck—it’s built to be taken around, used, opened up, etc. It’s not meant to sit and look pretty on one’s desk, shelf, or otherwise—it’s meant to be used, not admired.  I get that it’s two completely different design ethos but take it for what it is—one is designed with the consumer as user, and the other with consumer as end-user.

There are those who change their own oil, and those who take it somewhere and have the unshaven mechanic do it. I prefer to do things myself if possible but only if I do not have the option to have someone else do it (esp. for free). In the case of Apple, I exhausted to the bitter end every single valuable resource I had in getting them to resolve issues with both mine and my wife’s Macs. The only person who actually gave a shit was a nice young woman who worked at their corporate office—the only one who actually took the time to try and fix our issues, rather than just throw us under the bus or placate us with a replacement machine. She will always have my eternal thanks for all her help.

As for the Mac, my wife still uses hers and it’s going on a year now with the replacement white MacBook (unibody) they sent. Hopefully we never have to send it in but if past experience is any indicator…..





Satire: How “horrible” was HP service….oh my.

9 03 2011

I just got a brand spankin’ new HP DV7 notebook. Thus far, I love it and it handles everything I throw at it (metaphorically speaking, of course).

When I started using the computer, I noticed that the Optical DVD/BD drive made a strange sound when ejecting….almost a grinding sound….so after a few days, I called up HP support.  I spoke to a nice young woman in N. America who had me take the drive out, test it, and verify it was the drive and not the computer itself.  When we verified it was indeed the drive, she FedEx’d me a replacement drive.  I called on Saturday, the shipment notification was on Monday, I got the drive Tuesday—it came pretty quick.

I’d be lying if I said it was anything more than 5min to replace the drive. As the nice young HP lady told me, it was “designed” to be taken apart and worked on—as is the case with the optical drive that went bad. 5 screws to remove the bottom, and one to remove the drive itself—all told it took 6-8min to have it apart and put back together.  Very fast, and there was a return label in the box.  I dropped it off at FedEx on my way to campus. Smile

The new drive works great and I’ve been burning discs just fine. The moral of all this?

– Minor inconvenience

– Zero Downtime

I could have taken the computer back to Sam’s Club but I thought—”why?” The screen is perfect, no dead pixels, everything else is running fine….if they can send me the drive, why the hell not?!

Conversely, this was absolutely not my experience with Apple, which required either their illustrious depot to repair even the slightest of things, or one of their “Mac Genius” people to do. If this had been Apple, I would have had to wait for a box to send it in, ship the box, wait for them to fix, and to send it back. Not like I’ve had any experience with that or anything….. Annoyed

Anyway, that’s all for now.