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MacBook Pro noises, LCD, touchpad, other problems

Dan Pourhadi

Fabienne posted something a little earlier updating you on the widely-reported hissing noise affecting the MacBook Pro. I've been trying to hold off updating you on my status, because it just keeps changing.

But since it looks like this is a bigger problem than even I anticipated, I'm going to post my experiences with the Pro, and things I've found that may benefit current or future MBP owners.

Click on, my friends.


Processor whine

First, yes, as I outlined in my previous post on the matter, I am experiencing an odd hissing/whiny noise coming from the machine. The noise is loud when the machine is idle, but when you run a processor-intensive app (ie, Photobooth), it goes away. I installed Apple's CHUD tools (found in the Xcode installer package on the Mac OS X install disk), loaded up the new Processor preference pane, and disabled the processor's second core. That eliminated the noise entirely.

Others who notice this have come up with various solutions of their own

-Run Photobooth and just leave it in the background. The noise goes away because the processor is in use.

-Install this Mirror widget. Run it, then remove it from the Dashboard. Blammo: The noise should be gone. Not sure why or how this works, but I suspect that when you remove it, it doesn't completely go away: there's probably some component in the background making use of the processor, eliminating the noise from the second core.

Other noises

Oddly enough, the processor isn't the only thing waking me up at night. The first MacBook Pro I received (I got a replacement, which I'll explain later) had several other hissing noises, too:

-The hard drive squealed. And when I say "squealed," I mean "disillusioned teen girl seeing Brad Pitt walk into the restaurant" squeal: At one point, I was asked to turn the machine off at night so it would stop bothering those who were sleeping in the room. That's bad.

-The LCD did indeed hiss. Turning the screen to maximum (or minimum) brightness eliminated the noise, but it was an eerie annoyance. MacInTouch claims that perhaps massaging the LCD in the bottom-left corner or bending back-and-forth the display would "break it in," possibly eradicating it, but I haven't tried that.

-The fan of my original machine would engage in random vacuum-like bursts. It was odd, and for a minute I thought the A/C in my house was going crazy.

All of those noises are no longer an issue on my new MacBook Pro.

Touchpad troubles

On both my old and new MBP machines, the touchpad will randomly stop working for periods of 4-7 minutes. When that happens, I'm unable to move the cursor, click the button, anything -- and all I can do is sit there waiting patiently for it to magically come back.

One hint says that turning off the "Ignore accidental trackpad input" will eliminate the problem -- but as I've learned the past few days, it doesn't.

Some good does come from this, though: I'm now a pro at controlling the computer with nothing but the keyboard. (If you're ever stuck in a situation where you cursor just stops and you're stranded, hit Fn Ctrl F7. That will enable Full-Keyboard Access, allowing you navigate OS X without needing the mouse.)

Screen annoyances

My first (and now my second) MacBook Pro had an incredibly noticeable white strip along the bottom of the LCD, making the bottom significantly brighter than the rest of the display.

Every -- and I mean every -- MacBook Pro I've seen or dealt with has this issue. Everyone I know who has a MacBook has this issue. My new one has it, and I bet when I go to the store and demand Yet Another Replacement, that will have it, too.

I'm a little frustrated because the issue on my newer machine is a bit more pronounced -- plus, it seems the backlight on the right side of my display is shot: the right is noticeably darker than the rest of the display. So the bottom is annoyingly bright and the right is annoyingly dark.

Combine that with the soul-killing whiny noises, and you've got yourself the type of problem historically responsible for insanity and mass murder/suicides.

As I've mentioned above, I managed to get my MacBook Pro replaced by a gracious Apple Store Genius (after frustratingly marching off from another Apple Store that refused to). Unfortunately, the problems still exist, and so I've scheduled another Genius Bar reservation for tonight, to see what other options I have (repair? a second replacement? We'll see).

Unfortunately, this machine is my new Secretary, Boss, and Client -- so going without for An Undefined Amount of Time will have repercussions that could very well threaten the carefully-knit fabric of the Universe itself. I can only pray that such a disaster -- ie, me being without my MacBook Pro for more than two days while it's off to Texas for repairs -- will result in minimum loss of life, and FEMA will have learned enough from the Katrina catastrophe to properly respond with first aid, food, heavily-armed rescue choppers, and a boatload of duct tape.

I know, I should have "anticipated" "problems" with my "new" MacBook Pro. That this should be "expected" and "usual" and "jeezus man, what were you thinking?" But I want to make one thing clear: Apple cannot use "well, it's a first Rev." as an excuse for sloppy manufacturing and hiring a Quality Control team so high on hallucinogens it can't distinguish an inconsistent backlight display from a colorful dragon strumming a guitar.

I love the machine. But I will love it even more when I get one that does what it's supposed to do without making me think I have a bad case of tinnitus and a serious eye problem.

And I hate to say this, because I'm a fan of Apple and I think the faster the Mac Base moves to Intel the better off we'll all be: But if you can wait on a purchase of a MacBook Pro, then wait. The issues are noticeable and consistent -- and until Apple acknowledges them and fixes the manufacturing problems, I can't recommend anybody put themselves in this position, especially if they're easily annoyed (like me) by the Minor Things that define the experience.

Post your thoughts in the comments, and I'll keep you up-to-date with my situation as it develops.

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