Terrifying tale of an airport mix-up that turned a MacBook into a paperweight

Originally published at: Terrifying tale of an airport mix-up that turned a MacBook into a paperweight | Boing Boing


The key takeaway from Paul’s troubling experience is the importance of setting up Find My on any new MacBook you acquire.

Apple’s bad customer service seems to be the takeaway for me.


You just don’t understand Apple’s minimalist approach to customer support! :smile::smile::smile::+1:


And this is why you put stickers all over your laptop. Make it unique looking enough to be distinguishable to someone in a hurry that’s going to grab whatever laptop looks close enough to their own.


This reminds me of people spraying their bikes in horrible colours to prevent people nicking them :+1:


And slap enough on the edges so it becomes evidence if someone’s opened the case.


I agree. I’m confused why the proof of purchase wasn’t sufficient for Apple to unlock it.


As they say in the IT business, two is one and one is none.


I guess securing your data is a good thing. Securing it so much you can’t get into it because of an unlikely, but possible event is bad.

So there is no way to factory reset the laptop?

What about the data? Can you take the drive out and access it via some other software, or is it encrypted?


Indeed is it encrypted like on their phones? But while the owner would love to get his data back, I suspect there is also a strong motivation to get to play with his overpriced piece of Apple hardware again.


Which is pretty crazy you can’t reset the computer.

What about swapping in a new drive with a fresh OS install? Surely that is an option? Even if it is a BIOS issue, you can flash that.

I dunno, I am waaaayyy out of the computer game back from when I was building them. Its probably different now.


Lesson learned: even though you paid for it, it’s not your computer. The software installed isn’t yours *, and now it is abundantly clear the hardware isn’t yours. You use it by the grace of the corporations that would be gods on to you.

* Granted a license to use until the license changes anytime they want and can disabled and revoke at any time for any reason. You are their grateful sharecropper thrall paying for the privilege of using their property.


obligatory promotion of linux as the non-walled garden solution:

(“linux: it’s not just a nerdy learning experience” (but it is that too))


I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they never even bothered to engineer an override for the locks that they created. Parents with small children should take note that enough incorrect PIN entries will permanently brick their device.


Tools, too: spray-painting one’s tools in an eye-bleeding pink color tends to keep them in your tool box and not someone else’s…

On a current-production MacBook?

Laugh Lol GIF

(In all seriousness, though- If I was given a couple thousand to buy myself a brand new laptop, it’d be a Framework, because it was made to be repaired and upgraded.)


I knew I was out of it, but I didn’t know how badly. :frowning:


if they did, it would be a back door for law enforcement which lots of people really don’t want. so, there are tradeoffs

this though is very true. im sure they don’t want to provide the ability to brute force the key. a timed lockout seems a good route for that, but maybe there are “reasons”? not sure

eta: a weird thing, is that according to apple, you have to turn on “find my” to use “activation lock”

How to enable Activation Lock

If your Mac meets the Activation Lock system requirements, just turn on Find My to enable Activation Lock. It remains enabled as long as you keep Find My turned on

but maybe that’s a recent change?


I suspect that this involves the T2 secure enclave on the device, which is built to resist this kind of attempt.

As to why they’d make it irreversible, as soon as you make it so that one party – Apple, in this case – has a backdoor that allows them to override the protections, it’s pretty much guaranteed that someone else will find a way to do it. It’s rather like backdoors in cryptography in that sense; any cryptographer will tell you that there’s no such thing as a backdoor that only works for the good guys.

Apple may also have made it so that even they genuinely can’t unlock it so that governments can’t order them to use their secret key to unlock machines belonging to dissidents.

A motherboard swap – the T2 is on the motherboard, probably soldered on – would restore the machine to working order, but wouldn’t recover the data on the drive. But once you’ve paid for a new motherboard at Apple’s prices, plus their labor charges, it might be cheaper to buy a new machine.


I don’t understand what “Find My” has to do with the actual problem?

Indeed. Our corporate overlords have successfully eliminated personal ownership of computers, and now, by virtue of having licensed software in EVERYTHING from cars, to doorbells, to farm machinery are trying to eliminate personal ownership of everything else.