Posted on December 20th, 2009 in Computer Security, Education, Technology | No Comments »
On Friday, December 11th, my MacBook Pro stopped working properly. I couldn’t get video regardless of what I did. I took it to the Apple store the next day, where I learned that my graphics logic board was the victim of the infamous NVIDIA recall. I was told that it would take up to 10 days to get it repaired. Just as I was starting to recover from the shock of being without my computer for 10 full days, the Apple employee who examined my laptop said they would need my username and password to complete the repairs.
There is no valid reason Apple needs a username and password to repair a graphics logic board. This is a basic principle of computer security: Do not give anyone your username and password. I asked why they wanted it, and I was told that they needed to be able to log into the machine to verify that it works. This is simply false, and I’m disappointed that Apple would claim it was true. Graphics can be tested in a variety of ways without using an existing username and password. First, they could have used the guest account on the machine. Second, they could have booted into an operating system on a CD/DVD such as Knoppix. Third, they could use a bootable USB drive. Fourth, they could boot from an external hard drive. These options are even documented on their website. Needless to say, I refused to give them my username and password. They refused to send the computer off to be fixed. I asked if there was anywhere else I could get it fixed. To their credit, the Apple store employees were prepared to give me a recommendation to Ten Plus Systems.
I knew almost immediately after walking into their store that Ten Plus Systems was a quality computer repair shop. First, I saw one of the technicians talking with the receptionist about a repair. They were clearly organized, and my gut told me immediately that the technician was a genuine computer geek. Second, they were selling an original, fully restored 1984 Macintosh. It was absolutely beautiful. It looked almost new, and a great deal of care clearly went into restoring this machine. I strongly believe that people who are experts in their field have an intuitive sense that allows them to identify other experts rapidly. (Read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell if you are interested in exploring this concept.) As a computer science PhD student who has built at least a dozen computers from parts, I consider myself an expert in this field. I could tell this store was run by experts.
I arrived Monday morning and my computer was fixed 26 hours later. It was basically a one day turn around on a repair that Apple said would probably take 10 days. They didn’t need my username or password. They didn’t even ask. Ten Plus Systems is an Apple-certified repair store, which means that any machine covered by AppleCare can be repaired there. They also repair Apple and PC machines not covered by AppleCare, and they recycle old computer parts for their customers. If you are near Raleigh and need computer repair work done, I would strongly recommend Ten Plus Systems based on my experiences with them.
Disclosure #1: According to the relatively new FTC rules for bloggers, I should disclose my connection with the companies I’m endorsing. I haven’t been paid for this post. I haven’t been given any gift of any kind for this post. I haven’t had an out-of-body experience in which I was in any way compensated for this post. (At least, not yet…) I’m just a genuinely satisfied customer.
Disclosure #2: I agree with Adam Thierer: the relatively new FTC rules for bloggers are almost completely unenforceable.