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3G MacBook Pro prototype 'owner' gets parts returned to him

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
Apple has sent back custom-installed parts to the unwitting buyer of a 3G antenna-equipped MacBook Pro prototype, after reclaiming the computer last month.

Josh Lowensohn reported for CNet that Carl Frega received back from Apple a hard drive, battery and two sticks of RAM that he had installed in the machine to repair it.

Frega, a North Carolina resident, enlisted the help of a friend to post the prototype unit on eBay in August. The unusual laptop quickly attracted interest, with bids shooting up at one point to as high as $70,000 before the auction was shut down at Apple's request.

The Cupertino, Calif., company then contacted Frega and sent a private investigator to pick up the computer on Sept. 1.

Frega told the publication that he had made multiple requests to Apple to get the parts back. The components reportedly arrived in an unmarked Fedex box.



The laptop features an extendable 3G antenna on the right side of the display and a SIM card slot. Rumors that Apple has been developing notebooks capable of cellular data connections have persisted for years.

Frega claims to have purchased the machine from a former Apple engineer he met via the classifieds site Craigslist. The Apple employee allegedly received the prototype for "software development work" and never tested the cellular functionality.

After repairing the unit, Frega sold it on Craigslist, but the new buyer complained that the laptop was a fake after an Apple Store Genius Bar technician refused to service the machine.



"Opened machine to observe that nearly every internal part was third party; main logic board, optical drive, display, hard drive, top case, and others. Machine serial number (W8707003Y53) is also not recognized as a valid number," the Genius Bar repair sheet reportedly read.

The purchaser took the owner to small claims court, where a judge ruled that Frega must compensate the buy for the notebook and take back the device.

Frega is now considering legal action against the original owner of the MacBook Pro prototype. Including legal fees, he estimates that he has incurred $400 in costs related to the notebook.
post #2 of 40
For $400 he should let it go. This doesn't require legal action.
post #3 of 40
"the purchaser took the owner to small claims court"

oh maybe I got it - the guy who bought it (Frega) is looking to get the money he paid to buy it from the "Apple engineer" - at least I think that makes sense.

Somehow the engineer got hold of it - sold it to Frega - Frega tried to make a huge profit off it - Apple reclaimed it (did they have a court order? was it a polite request? did they offer to reimburse Frega? why did he not take the parts he installed out of it before handing it over?) - and now Frega wants to get his mine back form the guy who evidently had no right to sell it to him in the first place.
post #4 of 40
And who would ever think that a prototype would have valid serial numbers?!
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post #5 of 40
IMO he bought this figuring he would make big money reselling it. Apple won't fix it, he can't fix it so so his plan blew up in his face and now he wants his money back.

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post #6 of 40
He should be so lucky that $400 was all he's had to pay. Apple could have brought down the hammer on this guy with a team of layers.
post #7 of 40
"Opened machine to observe that nearly every internal part was third party; main logic board, optical drive, display, hard drive, top case, and others. Machine serial number (W8707003Y53) is also not recognized as a valid number," the Genius Bar repair sheet reportedly read.


The person at the Genius bar was not a genius.
How likely can someone install a third party main logic board, LCD display, top case, and others in a notebook? Virtually impossible.

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post #8 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by chabig View Post

For $400 he should let it go. This doesn't require legal action.

If $400 doesn't mean much, why don't you sent him $400. This is what small claims court is for.

It doesn't matter why the guy bought the prototype. If the courts forced him to return the payment to his buyer, he should have no problem doing the same to the original seller. Why is this such a problem for you folks?
post #9 of 40
Buyer beware...it wasn't sold with a warranty so the original seller owes this guy nothing. Small claims court is possible, but what would the argument be? "I tried to resell the laptop for some real money and got screwed...". Apple has already confirmed it is the real deal, so the original sale was somewhat legitimate. His only argument is that the sale was invalid because the laptop was never really 'owned' by the original seller. It was Apple's all along. Either way, he will end up expending more time, money, and effort for very little reward.
post #10 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Russell View Post

"Opened machine to observe that nearly every internal part was third party; main logic board, optical drive, display, hard drive, top case, and others. Machine serial number (W8707003Y53) is also not recognized as a valid number," the Genius Bar repair sheet reportedly read.


The person at the Genius bar was not a genius.
How likely can someone install a third party main logic board, LCD display, top case, and others in a notebook? Virtually impossible.

Not that impossible. I have a friend that builds custom notebooks all the time.

Fact even even he thinks this story is more bogus than the iPhone 5 prototype one. Kyle's theory is that someone got a MBP and maybe damaged it spilling water on it or something and decided to use the body to have some fun and rebuild a new laptop into it. Or at least tried. and then tried to pass it off as a prototype and this John bought into it.

It seems unlikely that a prototype would be given to someone for 'software development' that didn't involve the antenna or that Apple didn't track that thing every few days to make sure it didn't walk. Just doesn't fit their style.


Quote:
Originally Posted by spudit View Post

Apple has already confirmed it is the real deal,

No they haven't. We have only CNet's story that they have. Not the same at all.

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post #11 of 40
You know, in the end is $400 such a bad deal for a MacBook Pro even if the 3G aspect is inoperable?
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post #12 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Russell View Post

The person at the Genius bar was not a genius.

deleted, not worth it to confront this person . . .
post #13 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Russell View Post

"Opened machine to observe that nearly every internal part was third party; main logic board, optical drive, display, hard drive, top case, and others. Machine serial number (W8707003Y53) is also not recognized as a valid number," the Genius Bar repair sheet reportedly read.


The person at the Genius bar was not a genius.
How likely can someone install a third party main logic board, LCD display, top case, and others in a notebook? Virtually impossible.

You're obivously no genius either.

It was a very special prototype, thus nothing on that machine was serial production parts. Since Apple doesn't make any of those parts, they had to be custome made by a third party. Database accessible by Genius bar wouldn't have contained any information on these custom, in many cases unique, parts.
post #14 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

Kyle's theory is that someone got a MBP and maybe damaged it spilling water on it or something and decided to use the body to have some fun and rebuild a new laptop into it. Or at least tried. and then tried to pass it off as a prototype and this John bought into it.

I think that's unlikely and given the quality of the build (looking at the injection molding of the lcd bezel and the antenna), it appears pretty legitimate.

I am not sure why everybody thinks that Apple exerts such tight control over past development machines. That maybe the case now, but certainly not years ago (like this MBP).
Over the years I had purchased several pre-production Apple computers (G5's and Xserve's) that showed the various stages of designing the final product. That included custom logic boards, and internal plastics, etc.
These machines even had several stickers describing them as development builds. Either way, they were discarded just like other "old" computers.

I am actually more surprised that Apple even got involved. My assumption is this maybe the only remaining model like this and they like it for their own "museum"...
post #15 of 40
His last name (Frega) is telling: at the end he's been 'Fregato" (Italian for "shafted")
post #16 of 40
$400 includes his legal fees? Sound fishy to me.
post #17 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Whozown View Post

He should be so lucky that $400 was all he's had to pay. Apple could have brought down the hammer on this guy with a team of layers.

Wouldn't be that bad if they turned out to be great lays.
post #18 of 40
I can't imagine anyone stupid enough to buy a prototype Apple anything except as a curiosity or to collect...
post #19 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cpsro View Post

$400 includes his legal fees? Sound fishy to me.

It was small claims court. He probably represented himself.
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post #20 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The components reportedly arrived in an unmarked Fedex box.

Not even shipping labels?
Someone just "dropped it off" on his doorstep?
post #21 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

It was small claims court. He probably represented himself.

So what were his legal fees? You can recover courts costs and such.
He likely did represent himself as lawyers are almost never allowed to represent you in small claims.
post #22 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Whozown View Post

He should be so lucky that $400 was all he's had to pay. Apple could have brought down the hammer on this guy with a team of layers.

That's right. Photoshop layers.

(Sorry, just wanted to add some noise, maybe even blur the issue a bit.)
post #23 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_CA View Post

So what were his legal fees? You can recover courts costs and such.
He likely did represent himself as lawyers are almost never allowed to represent you in small claims.

Think of Judge Judy.
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post #24 of 40
I bought a prototype Apple notebook and all I got was this stupid T-shirt?
post #25 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by xsu View Post

You're obivously no genius either.

It was a very special prototype, thus nothing on that machine was serial production parts. Since Apple doesn't make any of those parts, they had to be custome made by a third party. Database accessible by Genius bar wouldn't have contained any information on these custom, in many cases unique, parts.

Are you saying the engineers at apple are not capable of designing, let alone building, a computer?
Who does apple use as their third party manufacturer, Dell, HP?


I agree the database the genius bar employees have access to only lists production units. But, they should have been able to look at the mlb's fit and finish as well as silkscreening to recognize it's an apple prototype.

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post #26 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

Not that impossible. I have a friend that builds custom notebooks all the time.

Really? Then you should have no problem showing us a MBP with a third party mlb, LCD display and top case.


Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by spudit View Post

Apple has already confirmed it is the real deal, so the original sale was somewhat legitimate..

No they haven't. We have only CNet's story that they have. Not the same at all.


Yes they have. By demanding return of the product indicates it's a real prototype.

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post #27 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Russell View Post

Really? Then you should have no problem showing us a MBP with a third party mlb, LCD display and top case.





Yes they have. By demanding return of the product indicates it's a real prototype.

Russell is right. Apple has no right to a custom modified MacBook. If it were me I would have contacted the Craigslist seller for proof he got it legally from Apple. If he could provide a receipt or an email proving the laptop was his then the sale would have been legal and again Apple would have no right to it.

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post #28 of 40
I think you guys missed something in the story here, unless I am way off the mark...

1. Former Apple engineer sells Frega the protoype on Craigslist

2. Frega then resells it to unnamed party who takes it in to Apple Store for repairs

3. Unnamed party is refused repair service by Apple Store due to non-standard hardware

4. Unnamed party takes Frega to small claims to get his money back due to false representation - assuming that it is a counterfeit machine

5. Frega loses small claims but decides to repair the laptop himself and then puts it on eBay to recoup his losses

6. Bids go through the roof and tech sites all over the Web pick up the story

7. Apple gets wind of this, and shuts down the auction as bids soar to over $70,000 and reappropriate the laptop as company property.

8. Frega wants the parts he installed to repair the laptop returned to him by Apple, which he eventually does.

9. Frega wants to sue the former Apple engineer for the money he spent on legal fees and repairs of the "misappropriated" prototype 3G Macbook Pro

You all seem to be ignoring a layer of events here, unless, as said, I am missing something. It seems Frega didn't try to make huge money off of it initially, probably didn't see the potential in it. He sold it first on Craigslist to someone, who also didn't see the potential in it, and just thought they were getting an Apple laptop that could be repaired to standard operating order. Not even the Apple store employees saw it for what it was, apparently.

It appears that even when Frega subsequently lost small claims court and then repaired it himself and put it out on eBay he wasn't expecting it to get bids in the range of tens of thousands of dollars. But that kind of bidding got the attention of the tech Sites, and subsequently Apple itself.

The fact that Apple stopped the auction and demanded the machine be returned to them is proof enough for anyone that it was a genuine piece of Apple hardware.

Am I wrong?
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post #29 of 40
that's no excuse. how can the penny not drop when nearly every part is 3rd party. How can anyone get hold of all these made to order parts unless they have a direct relationship with apple.......come on, he'd definitely no genius and he definitely doesn't think differently!
post #30 of 40
When Apple claimed back the prototype, why didn't they just give the last (legal) owner a new MacBook Pro as a replacement?
post #31 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by stw View Post

When Apple claimed back the prototype, why didn't they just give the last (legal) owner a new MacBook Pro as a replacement?

Because there probably was no legal owner.

The Apple employee would have signed some kind of agreement with Apple requiring him to return all prototypes. That means that the prototype belonged to Apple and Frega was dealing with stolen property. Why should Apple give him a new MBP for trying to sell stolen property?

Legally, Apple had every right to do what they did. And Frega has every right to sue the person he bought the computer from to recover his expenses.
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post #32 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jac the Mac View Post

that's no excuse. how can the penny not drop when nearly every part is 3rd party. How can anyone get hold of all these made to order parts unless they have a direct relationship with apple.......come on, he'd definitely no genius and he definitely doesn't think differently!

I thought that either the "engineer" had received the unit without memory, disk drive, battery, etc - and he added those parts in order to sell it (or the buyer adde those parts, not quite sure). OR since it was a prototype it was built from off the shelf parts not from prduction line parts used in standard models - and that if and when it when into production then it would include parts with Apple logos on them.
post #33 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by bloggerblog View Post

And who would ever think that a prototype would have valid serial numbers?!

Yeah, stupid Genius. They must get prototypes in for service several times a day. Why the heck didn't he recognize it as such. I'm sure Apple sends out service bulletins to all Apple Stores for every prototype they create.
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post #34 of 40
I'd like to know more about this engineer and the disposition of this prototype at the Apple level. I cannot believe they didn't ask for it back when the project was killed or he had completed work on his part of it. Did they lose track of it? Did he declare it lost or stolen? What has happened to him both before and after this became public? Doubt I'll find my answers in Steve's bio (which I have pre-ordered for my iPad and can't wait to read--I need something, anything, to distract me from the blow of his loss).
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post #35 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by spudit View Post

Buyer beware...it wasn't sold with a warranty so the original seller owes this guy nothing. Small claims court is possible, but what would the argument be? "I tried to resell the laptop for some real money and got screwed...". Apple has already confirmed it is the real deal, so the original sale was somewhat legitimate. His only argument is that the sale was invalid because the laptop was never really 'owned' by the original seller. It was Apple's all along. Either way, he will end up expending more time, money, and effort for very little reward.

Depends upon the terms of the original sale, and what declarations the "owner" (it wasn't his, it was Apple's) made to the first buyer. Fraud is fraud. If the guy said, yeah, this was a prototype I helped make, and they seem to have forgotten it. If you'll keep your mouth shut, it's an interesting idea that didn't work out. No, it's in peak shape. I can't vouch that it will support the next Mac OS X, and you definitely won't get Applecare. Don't show it to Apple."

That, at least, wouldn't be (say) a misrepresentation. Maybe Apple has recourse against whoever leaked it out, I don't know. But the only cause I could see would be that the item was misrepresented -- if it was, and if it can be proven.
post #36 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

Yeah, stupid Genius. They must get prototypes in for service several times a day. Why the heck didn't he recognize it as such. I'm sure Apple sends out service bulletins to all Apple Stores for every prototype they create.

It's not his job to determine what's up. He sent the relevant data to the home office. The serial number, he says, gets some serial that Apple would have in its home office computer, but they wouldn't be in all the Apple stores.
post #37 of 40
I have to give you lots of credit for sorting this story out, I was a but confused since it was poorly written article on what exactly happen first. I was going down this path in my miond before I saw your posting.

But I can tell you this much, if this was a real apple prototype the serial would have had something like this in it EVTxxxxxx or DVTxxxxxx, I own a number of apple prototypes the PCB as well as the Unit Serial numbers all have those letter in the number so they know they are pre-production units. If it was a real proto the Apple store would have kept the unit also Apple tracks exactly who has each prototype so if it is real then they know who that engineer is or was.

At this point I am not sure if it was an Apple proto type or some Chinese knock off.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MyopicPaideia View Post

I think you guys missed something in the story here, unless I am way off the mark...

1. Former Apple engineer sells Frega the protoype on Craigslist

2. Frega then resells it to unnamed party who takes it in to Apple Store for repairs

3. Unnamed party is refused repair service by Apple Store due to non-standard hardware

4. Unnamed party takes Frega to small claims to get his money back due to false representation - assuming that it is a counterfeit machine

5. Frega loses small claims but decides to repair the laptop himself and then puts it on eBay to recoup his losses

6. Bids go through the roof and tech sites all over the Web pick up the story

7. Apple gets wind of this, and shuts down the auction as bids soar to over $70,000 and reappropriate the laptop as company property.

8. Frega wants the parts he installed to repair the laptop returned to him by Apple, which he eventually does.

9. Frega wants to sue the former Apple engineer for the money he spent on legal fees and repairs of the "misappropriated" prototype 3G Macbook Pro

You all seem to be ignoring a layer of events here, unless, as said, I am missing something. It seems Frega didn't try to make huge money off of it initially, probably didn't see the potential in it. He sold it first on Craigslist to someone, who also didn't see the potential in it, and just thought they were getting an Apple laptop that could be repaired to standard operating order. Not even the Apple store employees saw it for what it was, apparently.

It appears that even when Frega subsequently lost small claims court and then repaired it himself and put it out on eBay he wasn't expecting it to get bids in the range of tens of thousands of dollars. But that kind of bidding got the attention of the tech Sites, and subsequently Apple itself.

The fact that Apple stopped the auction and demanded the machine be returned to them is proof enough for anyone that it was a genuine piece of Apple hardware.

Am I wrong?
post #38 of 40
Actually, it turns out the man who sold it to me worked for nVidia (I finally contacted him a few days ago). I'm assuming it was an engineering sample given to nVidia while they were working on moving to the GeForce 8600GT GPU. He says it was given to him as a gift for his own use, and he was under no sort of NDA or restrictions as to how he could use it. He was fully aware of the cellphone functionality and such and didn't think it was a big deal. Granted, who knows what's true and what isn't, but he seemed geniunely surprised by the way Apple had treated the matter.

And yes, I'm Carl Frega.

So yeah, the sequence actually was:

1. I bought it as a nonworking machine for parts. I run an ad on Craigslist saying I buy broken Apple hardware, and he responded to that ad saying he had a non-functional Macbook Pro.

Upon meeting him I noticed the SIM slot, and he explained to me that it was a version that wasn't released. I thought it was REALLY COOL. He had bought a replacement logic board off eBay, installed it, and it still didn't work. So he sold it to me. To give you an idea of how long I've been dealing with this whole thing, that was in JUNE.

2. I set about repairing it. That's what I do, after all. It turned out that the new logic board he had bought was defective as well (whether from the start or due to his installation, who knows). But he gave me the original red board in a bag with it. Of course I really wanted to make that red board work . . . . that was the neat part! I spent a huge amount of time and labor repairing it, since I couldn't wait to see what it would look like in the OS and whether the cellphone part worked. I had to desolder and resolder vias, clean everything, fix broken connectors he had damaged trying to fix it himself, and reflow the BGA soldering on the GPU (what killed it in the first place, and a common point of failure for these Macbook Pros. In the end I did get it all working again, and it functioned exactly like any other Macbook Pro . . . . no different. I posted on some forums about it, nobody really cared, I thought it was neat only to tech geeks like me.

3. I sold the machine on Craigslist, thinking it had no real special value. Again, this is kind of what I do . . . . buy, repair, resell. I advertised it as an Apple Macbook Pro and listed the exact hardware specifications. At this point the machine was WORKING: fully tested, fully functional, and with the same capabilities and specifications as any normal 2007 Macbook Pro.

4. The guy I sold it to took it to the Apple Store (Crabtree Valley Mall, Raleigh NC). Why, I don't know, but he did. I'm assuming he had some sort of software issue, because the hardware all functioned perfectly after I got it back later. And they told him it was some sort of Chinese counterfeit/etc and denied him service.

5. He sues me in small claims court. I couldn't believe it. It was obvious to anybody familiar with these machines it was nothing of the sort. It had proper Apple markings throughout, ran OS X natively and identified itself in the OS as a proper Macbook Pro. If it were a counterfeit it was obviously the best one ever.

6. I lost the case. I was dumbfounded. I lost solely due to that Apple Store receipt where "certified" Apple Geniuses quite literally said I was a liar. The judge obviously wasn't the technical type.

7. After paying the judgment and court costs (at this point I'm starting to be out serious money, time, and labor and really frustrated) I get the laptop back. I say what the heck, AGAIN fully disassemble the machine and take pictures of everything, spend a day writing a detailed listing, and post it on eBay. I just hoped to make back what I lost, and since the machine still worked flawlessly and was definitely neat I figured that might just happen. Maybe someone would want to own a unique Macbook Pro. I NEVER expected how crazy it would get.

8. After the bidding hit $70k (let me tell you, at this point I was basically glued to my comp hitting refresh with my jaw dropped) it was removed by Apple. I was not given a reason as to why. I then spent TWO WEEKS trying to get in touch with Apple or eBay . . . . neither would answer, they ignored me completely.

9. CNET wrote their article about it and asked Apple PR for comment. Then suddenly they cared. Not 30 minutes later I got a call from Apple.


Well, that's enough typing for now, but wanted to kind of set that part of the story straight. Maybe I'll tell more later, heh.




Quote:
Originally Posted by MyopicPaideia View Post

I think you guys missed something in the story here, unless I am way off the mark...

1. Former Apple engineer sells Frega the protoype on Craigslist

2. Frega then resells it to unnamed party who takes it in to Apple Store for repairs

3. Unnamed party is refused repair service by Apple Store due to non-standard hardware

4. Unnamed party takes Frega to small claims to get his money back due to false representation - assuming that it is a counterfeit machine

5. Frega loses small claims but decides to repair the laptop himself and then puts it on eBay to recoup his losses

6. Bids go through the roof and tech sites all over the Web pick up the story

7. Apple gets wind of this, and shuts down the auction as bids soar to over $70,000 and reappropriate the laptop as company property.

8. Frega wants the parts he installed to repair the laptop returned to him by Apple, which he eventually does.

9. Frega wants to sue the former Apple engineer for the money he spent on legal fees and repairs of the "misappropriated" prototype 3G Macbook Pro

You all seem to be ignoring a layer of events here, unless, as said, I am missing something. It seems Frega didn't try to make huge money off of it initially, probably didn't see the potential in it. He sold it first on Craigslist to someone, who also didn't see the potential in it, and just thought they were getting an Apple laptop that could be repaired to standard operating order. Not even the Apple store employees saw it for what it was, apparently.

It appears that even when Frega subsequently lost small claims court and then repaired it himself and put it out on eBay he wasn't expecting it to get bids in the range of tens of thousands of dollars. But that kind of bidding got the attention of the tech Sites, and subsequently Apple itself.

The fact that Apple stopped the auction and demanded the machine be returned to them is proof enough for anyone that it was a genuine piece of Apple hardware.

Am I wrong?
post #39 of 40
Carl, do you have any documentation that apple requested the unit or proof that they picked it up? If you do, you could appeal the ruling by pointing out to the judge that apple demanded the unit back, therefore it proves it was a real apple unit.
After that, go back to the apple store and tell that genius he/she is a dipsh*t. Sample for evaluation, EVT, apple everywhere.
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post #40 of 40
The time limit for appealing the small claims ruling is long since past. Not that I even would, because the guy who bought the laptop from me on Craigslist was a victim too, and only listening to what he was told was right by technicians who had more paperwork than I, if less experience. He felt bad after learning the truth of the matter and apologized to me for being so nasty in court . . . . he had been told I was a liar by Apple certified technicians, and it turns out I was right all along. The Apple Store receipt from the CNET article was actually e-mailed to me by him!

But I don't blame the Apple Store and their Geniuses either, they're far removed from the way things work at a corporate level with Apple apparently. I offered to bring the laptop to the Apple Store and hand it over to them and was told "No!! We'll send someone to you. We don't want to interfere with their business." Apparently even reading a blog site like this is a fireable offense for Apple retail employees, that is how far the culture of secrecy and paranoia goes. Instead they hired TWO different private investigation firms (probably at huge expense), one in Charlotte which hired another in Raleigh to send a man out to me.

The guy who called me from Apple and talked to me claiming to be the "new guy" and just concerned with doing his job to get the laptop back ASAP . . . . he was formerly the Chief of the Foreign Investment Unit, Counterintelligence Division at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. My lawyer looked him up and told me this isn't a man you can fight. Hell, he was a lawyer with the Marines when I was in grade school. This isn't fiction, where some clever kid can come up with some obscure law and somehow win . . . . nobody can fight a company who can afford to hire a man like that. Especially not someone like me, who's just really good at fixing electronics and not much else.
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