August 22, 2008

Apple's "Ease of Use" Fails Me Again, Time Capsule the Culprit

Two of the major reasons I've been an Apple Macintosh fan from just about my first introduction to computers have been the systems' ease of use, and product quality. There was a time when I would be happier using a decade-old Mac than the latest-generation Dell or HP, and that I felt absolutely sure buying AppleCare would be a waste of money. But over the years, it seems product quality has slipped, and I'm almost as likely to get a bum product as one I can expect to be perfect.

This most recent Saturday, I was delighted to pick up the long-awaited iPhone 3G, and also, a 500 Gigabyte Time Capsule, for backup. Now that the twins are here, I've been thinking to back up all their photos and videos would be a good idea.

So far, the iPhone 3G experience has been outstanding. I returned my Blackberry to IT today after transferring my phone number yesterday evening. Now that a friend of mine passed along a Bluetooth-enabled Jawbone headset, I can even make all those calls in the car without violating California's hands free law and being one of the thousands ducking below the dashboard to dial.

But the Capsule is an entirely different story. I unpacked it yesterday evening, installed the necessary software on my laptop, and plugged in the Capsule to my cable modem, as expected. Then I told Time Machine to find it, and start my first backup to the device.

It failed, saying, "the backup disk image could not be created".

So I checked out the settings and tried different things. I had the Capsule run the wireless network. I even tried plugging into the device directly, using Ethernet. No dice. And if I tried to drag and drop any files to the Capsule from my laptop over the network, they failed too. So, I took a paper clip, reset it to factory settings and started over. More shades of fail.

Try after try... failed.

Today, a friend on FriendFeed suggested that maybe the Time Capsule wasn't to blame, but instead, that my hard drive might have some permission issues. So, I tried that too. Why not?

Trying again this evening, I thought I had more luck, as the backup was "Preparing" for some time. But it too failed, saying "An error occurred while creating the backup directory."

Wandering through Apple's support forums shows I'm not the only person who has had issues like this, but after years of expecting Apple's product quality and simplicity to be a cut above the rest, I'm, like others, growing a little fatigued by products that don't just work right away, or making one of many trips to the Genius Bar to replace batteries, frayed power adapters, or laptop hinges.

I haven't yet decided how long I'm going to keep pushing to try and make this product work, but if it doesn't end up working out, and I end up returning it to the Apple Store, I'm not so sure I'm getting another one. I'm on Apple products all day long, so getting the entire experience down right is a must. I'm geeky enough that just getting an Apple product to work for me shouldn't be this hard.