I have an association between computers and urbanity. I live in the country, and computers come from the city. If I need my computer fixed, I go to a city. If I want to buy a computer, I go to the city. So when my brand-new Mac mini abruptly ceased to function on Tuesday morning, I was a bit alarmed to hear from Apple that I’d need to take it to the closest authorized repair shop…in Rappahannock County.

Never, to my knowledge, had I been to Rappahannock County. There’s some fancy restaurant up in Washington that I understand I’m supposed to eat at sometime if I get rich. I know Sperryville is in Rappahannock and that it’s a good hour’s drive away, but I don’t know why I’d go there or what, even, one might do there. So my first reaction was to say “no, I will not drive clear through Greene and Madison to Rappahannock to go to some sketchy repair shop in the middle of nowhere in Woodville, whatever that is.”


Ninety minutes later I pulled up in front of BlueRidgeMac. It’s housed in about the unlikeliest building you could think of for a computer repair shop, a large old house right on the main drag, such as it is. If there is any other business in Woodville, I didn’t see it. In fact, if there’s anything else at all in Woodville, I didn’t see it.

Spezzle, the mini, remained there for a few days. Come to find out that a) Intel Macs like their RAM paired, so combining a 1GB stick with a 256MB stick is not so smart and b) sticking Power PC in an Intel machine is not so good. A? Totally my fault. B? Small Dog‘s. I got the call on Friday that Spezzle was all set. I eagerly set off for Rappahannock again, not sure whether it was the lovely drive or getting my computer back that I was looking forward to. BlueRidgeMac had my mini waiting for me, with a new logic board, 2GB in (paired) RAM, and they’d even taken care of getting the improper RAM back to Small Dog. The three women there (twice my age and with at least twice my geek fu) explained to me the problems with my system, and what they’d done to take care of it, and I set off for home, by way of Graves Mountain Lodge, happy to have an excuse to leave the house on such an unseasonably warm day.

So if you’re within an hour’s drive of Woodville, and your Mac needs a little TLC (or if you straight-up need a Mac; and you do), head over to BlueRidgeMac. They’re nice folks, and it’s a fine trip. Computers might be a product of the city, but to get the best Apples, it seems you’ve got to head out to the country.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

9 replies on “BlueRidgeMac.”

  1. Huh. I’ve ridden by that shop twice (on Rappahannock bike rides) this fall, and always wondered what it was like inside. Surprised to hear that SmallDog screwed up.

  2. teacherken tried to post this, but his IP was blocked from the WiFi hotspot he was at:

    First, I affirm your use of Macs — this is being written on a G4 ibook, which is I think the 6th Mac my wife and I have owned – i actually still have a beige G3 desktop because I have a perfectly usable parallel port laser printer attached to it. I also have a G4 dekstop and my wife has an Ibook.

    Second – I love Rappahannock, even beyond the Inn, to which we have been multiple times on important occasions, and at which we stayed once on a special trip. We came very close to moving there at one point, seriously considering buying a house from – you will not believe this – Richard Viguerie of rightwing direct mail fame.

    There are a lot of creative types in the county, which might make it a logical place to deal with MACS.

    Oh, and Woodville was the village closest to the residence of Gene McCarthy, who settled in the county when he left public life, and wrote an interesting book about life in the County.

    We will probably never move there – Charlottesville would actually be far more likely. But you brought back fond memories over the past 2+ decades

  3. I have 2-3 ancient Macs that I have been trying to find time to work on – not that they will ever be as good as a G4 or iBook. I have always loved Macs but had gotten used to being pigeonholed into using PC’s in the work that I did. (Land Surveying) I did run a Mac network when I worked for the feds (BLM), primarily used by the artists and illustrators in the creation of the pamphlets used at various sites. (monuments, parks, etc.) At the time the network people refused to go along and I was asked to try to help them be on the same network everyone else was. The IT folks were not into Macs, and thought it was stupid and useless.

    Go figure – the government wasn’t very progressive. What a shock!

  4. I’m curious, what was the deal with the RAM SmallDog sent you? I’m aware of the memory pairing thing, I mean the “sticking Power PC in an Intel machine” bit.

  5. I ordered RAM for my Mac mini Intel, and they sent me RAM with an invoice identifying it as such. I stuck it in my brand-new never-booted Mini, it worked, all was well, though it wasn’t as fast as I’d expected. Last week, two months later, my system melted down. I took it in to BlueRidgeMac. They e-mailed me a day or two later to tell me that my biggest problem was that my system had PPC RAM in it, rather than Intel RAM. They swapped it out, accidentally mailed the RAM back to Small Dog’s supplier (with whom they’re working that out), and gave me a replacement 1GB stick and I bought another 1GB stick while I was at it.

    I hope that explains it.

  6. Waldo- The Mac folks in Pentagon City informed that there’s a problem with certain brands of RAM (no, I don’t remember which, I believe it starts with an “E”), in that it “goes bad” after about a year, and that if you want RAM that will actually last, go with Samsung.

    Of course, my poor iBook is currently god knows where, getting its logic board replaced, (turns out it was NOT the RAM on my machine that caused massive kernel panics), so I’d ask around before actually believing that.

    A word of note to all the Mac users out there: Do not go to the Pentagon City Mac store. It took them THREE visits to figure out what was wrong, all three times they said, “Ok, it should be fine now,” and it wasn’t. One of the guys was very rude, condescending and arrogant (he accused me of lying about going to the Mac store earlier regrading the same problem), but I believe he has been fired. If you’re in Northern Virginia, the Clarendon Mac store is best.

  7. Sadly the experiences in any Apple store, just like the experience in any big-box store is directly related to the skill, knowledge, patience, and problem solving skills of the employee you luck into at the counter when you go.

    The sad truth is that there are people who are good at solving problems and people who are not. There are people good at customer service, and people who are not. The stores in any chain generally do not have the management expertise to cull their employees for those factors, because anyone can have a good day or a bad day, and generally everyone is on best behavior for an interview for a job.

    If you luck into the ace problem solver on the planet who also happens to be excellent at customer care, but you catch her on the day her cat and mother both passed away, you are probably out of luck.

    What I am suggesting is be patient and persistent and you’ll help weak trouble shooters at a poorly managed store improved a little. I know it is not your job to, but a better run store will be better able to care for your machine in the future.

  8. Scott- I totally get your point, but there is NO excuse to accuse me of lying about having computer problems, and then accuse me of lying about coming in earlier regarding the “problem,” and refusing to help until I provided a reciept for the RAM I had installed when I was there the first time.

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