Another one bites the dust…

Continuing the saga that is the tragic romance between Apple products and myself, we have suffered yet another premature product loss. If you recall, I recently had a bout with Apple when my AirPort Extreme went wonky and I was forced to deal with the insufferable staffers at my local Apple Store. (In case you don’t recall, click here and read all about it).

As you know, in the aforementioned interaction Apple replaced my AirPort Extreme with a new one, not their “store service unit”. Nice of them to do! One problem….. that “new” AirPort Extreme just went tits up.

Some of you may be unfamiliar with the evolution of Apple’s AirPort product. To spare you the agony of reading a poorly written Wikipedia article, here’s the gist on the product:

airport_timeline

6thgen_airport_extreme_rearThe current iteration of the AirPort Extreme is undoubtedly a nice router and like it’s predecessors, when it comes to stability, is reliable. It just happens I was given a lemon. As depicted in the image to the right, there is a tiny light in the top right corner of each ethernet connection. The light indicates link status and gives visual indication there is a cable connected. Many routers and switches do this, it’s not uncommon. In fact, some also change color, amber for 100 Mb/sec or green for 1000 Mb/sec (or Gigabit). What they should not do, however, is stay lit when a cable is no longer plugged in.

Diverting your attention again to the image on the right, if you look at the bottom-most ethernet port, or the WAN port, you will see in the top right a green light. This isn’t supposed to happen. Essentially, the AirPort’s hardware believes there is a cable connected, which as you can see – is not true. When I first discovered this, I blamed my ISP (sorry guys!). As I have Fiber to the Home, we don’t have a modem, per se, instead we have an Optical Network Terminal, or ONT.

ontFortunately, my ONT (pictured left) has an indicator to inform you if the cable to your router (or computer) is connected. As you can see, ENET LINK 1 is not lit, despite the cable being connected to the AirPort Extreme (pictured above). To be fair, ONT’s have a module or card inside which can be damaged over time due to adverse weather conditions, and since I live in Florida, that was a concern. Manually configuring the connection to my laptop’s ethernet port resolved this issue and assured me it wasn’t my ISP (this time! :-P).

 

It is worth noting, this took place over a weekend, a blessing, as I don’t work weekends. Had this taken place during the week, I would have been livid and seriously contemplated acquiring the necessary transport to Apple’s Corporate Headquarters. Further troubleshooting and a few resets of the AirPort lends credence to my initial diagnosis (after I determined it wasn’t my ISP, of course) – it was toast. A replacement was in order, but given my experience with Apple not only over the last few years, but the last few weeks, I knew a few things:

 

 

  • Nothing of heaven and/or earth could compel me to set foot in the Jacksonville, Florida Apple Store. If I was going to any store to replace this, I would be visiting the Orlando, FL store at the Millenia Mall.
  • I am not giving Apple my credit card number as security for them to ship me a new AirPort via FedEx (or whatever method). They have given me enough grief and at this point should indulge me.
    That evening, I phoned a member of the Apple Executive Care Team…. and before any one e-mails me about it, No. I won’t give you his name, phone number, or e-mail address. If you want help from their team, e-mail Tim Cook, and someone will likely contact you within 1-2 business days. Back to topic….

Monday, July 21, 2014, I spoke with him and we agreed it was probably dead, but he did wish to troubleshoot properly before “just giving me another one”. I obliged, as one who works in IT and Tech Support/Customer Service, I appreciate the need of a company to fulfil it’s policies and as a former AppleCare employee, I knew it would not be incredibly tedious to troubleshot this.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014, I spoke with a Senior AppleCare Support Agent who, after 20 minutes (maybe less) agreed with the Executive Care agent and myself, it was dead. As of now, I’m waiting on the guy from Executive Care to return my call so we can discuss the inevitable outcome of this unfortunate event.

Now, you may be wondering…. with which of the many routers on the market did I replace the AirPort Extreme? The answer to your question: The Linksys(/Belkin) WRT1900AC. It looks like a relic from the last decade, but it’s full of spiffy new technology, a lot of RAM, fast dual core processor, and (at least mine) is running a very stable version of their new router OS. If you remember the old Linksys WRT54G(or GL) you fell in love with, then this is everything that was + more. I’d highly recommend it. BestBuy had it on sale for just a hair over $200.00, which is about $40 less than Linksys, directly.

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The Linksys, has been a breeze to configure, and oddly enough, works better with our PlayStation 3 and 4 than the AirPort did. I’m unsure if it’s UPnP related, or something else, but speed tests, lag, and general latency in multiplayer games has been less of a frustration than it was with the AirPort. Oddly, that was the very first thing I noticed.

It is worth noting two tiny things:

  • The AirPort Extreme, and predecessors, have a USB port. With this, you can connect a printer or USB hard drive, or both (and then some, with the use of a powered USB hub). My printer, a HP LaserJet 1012, perhaps the best laser printer ever created worked quite well with the Apple Bonjour setup on our computers. It was like many Apple products – a near zero configuration. We could print from nearly any computer on our network without issue. Not so much with the Linksys router. I’m unsure if it’s a driver incompatibility, or the funny quirks to the software you must run in the background to connect to the printer, but I was unable to make it work. To solve this, we acquired a print server from Monoprice. A $20 dollar investment, totally worth it at least several times per year.
  • Another USB quirk. The USB port on the AirPort for a hard drive is as useful as an asshole on your elbow. Data transfer speeds are abysmal, you may as well code the 0’s and 1’s by hand, it would be faster. With the Linksys router, I tried a USB 2.0 hard drive and USB 3.0, and achieved speeds consistent with the connection + read/write limitations imposed by the drive itself. This was most impressive. Also, DLNA makes it much easier to stream to our Roku or PlayStation device.
    Although I am unsure what the outcome of the above situation will be, I am sure Apple will replace it with a new one. It will likely be the last AirPort router I purchase though. As you may surmise, this experience has left a nasty taste in my mouth and furthered the sullied relationship Apple & I already have.

As always, questions, comments, a desire to bitch and/or moan (maybe both!), feel free to contact me.

Update 7/25/2014:

Apple has agreed to replace my AirPort Extreme, because the WAN port is bad. However, I’m given two options:

1. They can e-mail me a shipping label for FedEx or UPS and I can take it to the nearest store for drop off. When they (Apple) receive the AirPort, they will ship me a new one. The nearest FedEx or UPS center is 50 minutes away, in Jacksonville. Apple, a multi-billion dollar international conglomerate is unable to send me a label with pickup service included, because “they can’t”, so I’d have to pay to have it picked up.

or

2. I can give them my credit card for a $199.99 + shipping hold, while they ship me a new one. They will only release the hold after they have received mine in return, as a precautionary measure. Also, there is allegedly no way to override their system’s requirement for a credit card, which I find hard to believe.

Alternatively, I could go to the Jacksonville, FL Apple Store or another store of my choosing. However, I’m not driving 2.5 hours to Orlando to pick up a router.

This is unacceptable. I understand they are concerned I may not return mine, but after all, what would I need with two AirPort Extremes, one of which doesn’t work.

Guess who won’t be buying a Mac later this year? Me. That’s who. Apple won’t miss my money, that’s certain, but this level of customer service is abhorrent. Before you think they are being nice by offering to swap my AirPort Extreme at all you should understand – the AirPort is under warranty. According to the warranty, they would have to do that anyway! Due to my recent experiences with their retail and customer support teams, they could go a little out of their way to improve their now, tarnished, reputation with me.