Andrew Breese

Musings of a professional geek

Tag Archives: apple

Thoughts about Apple’s recent batch of news

It is almost like Apple has a Deck of Many Things, and got all the bad cards at once.

They’ve had a seriously large wave of mixed and poor press, which can’t be helping their position in the marketplace. That said, it feels more like a series of unconnected issues which could have affected any tech-giant. I have to wonder though if they’re spread too thin. MS has had months like this too and folks still use their gear every day, and the laundry list of odd things by most tech-farms reads a similar way – although not as many issues compressed into such a short time frame. We’ve seen:

Apple’s new iphone 6, which people have gone crazy for…

  • I’d love a faster processor and more ram in my old iphone 4. I’ve seen the speed difference between the 4 and 5 and it is dramatic for the same apps, so I can only think that the v6 will be faster too. Add a little OS bloat and App bloat and perhaps the speed difference will fade over time, just like it does in our other computers.
  • I’m certain that IOS8 will be a better operating system than v7, just because it is where they will spend their dev budget. I don’t look forward to the end of life for IOS v7, but it is coming very soon now that the sales have been so good for the new toy.
  • There is a comparison between the Galaxy 5 and the iPhone6 variants which all but says the Galaxy is the same feature-set. I’m not sure that is true give the hardware specs, but the high level feature-set looks darn similar.
  • Larger phones do not appeal a lot to me, because I want a device which is a phone first, then a pda, or tablet, etc. I need to be able to carry it without it being obtrusive, and hold it in hand easily. It needs to fit easy in a pocket, and there is no way in hell the new huge iPhone will fit in the pockets of my wife’s jeans. If Apple made a smaller but faster iPhone that the v4 form factor, or even just slimmer I’d really consider buying that for both of us.
  • I’d also pay for significantly more battery life. Not just an extra few hours, I mean give me a week between charges like the bad old days in the 90s mobile phones.
  • My iphone v1 (which couldn’t be purchased here in Australia) still works fine. I now use it as a music player in the house for one of the bedrooms. Yes, it needs to be always on charge, and it only holds a small amount of music, but it is doing great.

Apple’s iPhones 6s can apparently easily bend in your pocket…

  • If true, sheesh. Smaller tougher phone anyone? Can somebody rush a titanium laced backbone phone cover for the damn thing and sell millions of units…

Apple release a new privacy statement, which might take a broadside at Google

  • It reads well if you don’t think they’re being smart-arses. But only when you consider that it might be snarky, it reads like they are being rude. To be frank I’m not convinced that this was rude at all.

Apple has the (perhaps hack) issues with icloud file security.

  • Blaming the end user is pointless and exploiting them is horrible.
  • Anything and everything can be hacked given enough time.
  • I do not use iCloud because I do not trust ANY of the cloud services (yet). If you want my data, then come to my home (or my offsite back-up server) and get it from my cold dead hands.
  • And they are addressing it.

Apple gift the U2 album to users as a purchase, creating a storm of negative press…

  • Giving away free music from U2 should have been a huge promotional boon, but the auto-purchase rather than opt-in shows that the strategy didn’t consider the negative response at all.
  • Ironically you need to have an iCloud account to get it, so I can’t grab the album. This is where I’m OK with the choice to not use iCould – yes I miss out on the features and offers they are making, but I also know that my data is still mine. That approach adds risk of loss from theft and hardware failure, but I manage that risk through my own back-up.
  • I would like to listen to the album, but not really fussed, and certainly not going to pay for it.
  • I am sure that it will be available on illegal sites straight away.

Apple IOS 8.x Update rolled back due to lost calls and a few other issues

  • New iPhones have an issue with the 8.x update, and rollback has been sent out. Youch.
  • “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. My advice is to never apply an update to your devices (laptops, pc, phone, etc) in the first weeks of it’s release. Let somebody else be the tester and suffer any angst. This has happened to so many devices that only people with issues that are directly affected by the patch should try it.

Apple’s OSX might be affected by the Bash exploit

  • The exploit could affect a variety of Linux based operating systems, but the method of attack is very specific, so isn’t likely to affect most users; especially everyday end users. Don’t panic.
  • The potential for the exploit has been around for decades, and this is something to patch and not something to panic about. The sysadmins will know which systems are at risk and they’ll be stressed enough for everyone.
  • get the systems patched and buy yourself a coffee for being on the ball. Don’t buy into the hype.

Apple is still the device platform I use at home, and unless somebody releases a cost effective way to alter that and maintain the bread of easy in controlling the devices that won’t change soon. I’m locked in for now.

They need a weekend on a beach somewhere to chill, then return to work refreshed. Poor bastards.

Some iOS7 thoughts

I’ve recently taken the plunge to update from IOS6 to IOS 7, and then 7.0.2 (or whatever the patch version was to fix the security hole). The experience of doing the update was kids stuff, and worked without issue. That is not to say that my experience from that point forward has been wonderful.

Instead I’m bemused by some of the choices the designers and product managers made.

Overall – I’ll adapt and accept it. Meh.

I’d probably be happy any phone or tablet device at this stage, as long as it has the apps I regular use:

  • phone, contacts, calendar, notes, etc
  • books and pdfs without DRM lock-in
  • multiple email account support
  • browser, video/youtube, podcasts, music, camera
  • social media apps
  • maps
  • rss, weather,
  • wow auth app, and logs app
  • flashlight, calc, timers,

I think a few users will be frustrated by change, but those users are typically frustrated by most changes in tech gear. I can accept the changes as attempts to improve and move forward. By comparison I think this update is leaps ahead of most Windows OS updates in presentation and design.

As much as it makes me sound like an Apple apologist – I still like the overall features.

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Pathways and barriers to Australian viewers

There are shows that are so damn good out there that make me want to slap on an eye patch, glue a parrot to my shoulder, and gurgle “Arrrrr” all the way through a BitTorrent client. The Game of Thrones, the Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Sherlock, and Hell of Wheels are the top shows I can immediately think of. These shows are incredibly high quality and worth paying for.

Alas they are distributed in an unfriendly manner in Australia. Some are not available, others are shown in Pay channels only, populated with ads and still broadcast at unfriendly times. The Walking Dead is shown on a pay tv service, with ads, at times which are probably appropriate for its rating but still frustrating.

Even the previews and community information sites which banter about these shows are often blocked, which leaves me feeling like a second class consumer.

Of these TV shows I’ve seen smatterings of some, and a fair proportion of others – via a range of mediums, be that purchased dvds, borrowed media, downloads, and some such. Some were even free to air (actually free) and at almost consistent times during a schedule. Sometimes I get to watch the preview teaser and that’s about it. I’m not sure that some of the shows will ever be on free-to-air TV in Australia at all, which is why Aussies get used to either streaming content, or more often using a Pay TV service or the DVDs.

There are any number of website blogs/posts talking about how it’s fair and reasonable to pirate content because it takes too long to get to Australia, or that the distribution network is unfriendly, or not high bandwidth enough. I feel that pain too.

But it struck home today after flipping through the comments on a Walking Dead page just how much rubbish those points of criticism are. The fact is that these shows are awesome and I mirror some of the attitudes of the “pirate customers” where the range of barriers frustrates me too much.

In spite of that the distributors creators are:

  • not silly to wish to be paid for their content,
  • not at all likely to be paid by me for the content if it requires a subscription to a wider service per month (i.e. no way in hell I’ll pay Foxtel just to watch 2x TV shows),
  • focusing on the “low hanging fruit” who already have pay to view subscriptions,
  • likely to be unwilling to show on free-to-air as the ad revenue alone may not be enough,
  • unable to compete with the BitTorrent providers who will steal the content regardless of how free, fast, or packaged it is. Zero cost in a range of formats, with no ads, within 8 hours of the USA viewing is better than any Australian distribution channel can offer.

So I get why the Distributors are not interesting in changing, and also why the file-sharers will not stop stealing content. Two aspects of a problem, where one is clearly frustrated and also clearly illegal. The general rule for Australia is that the shows are unavailable in a timely manner after release in the USA, even when that option costs a very large amount of money.

This creates a huge divide between the two views, more of a polarity: those who pay and those who steal.

That said, there has to be a way for the distributors to get some of the money that the people in the middle would give them, if a channel which was not wasteful and expensive existed. Apple’s iTunes is one for Game of Thrones where a digital copy was allowed, and each episode was paid for separately. That is a reasonable option, is quick and current, although it still seemed too expensive to my taste.

So what would I pay? Approx $2-4 per episode. Yes I know that is cheap, and here is why.

I measure the cost of the service, entertainment, or experience against what else it can provide. A season of a show runs approx 13 episodes which gives a rather skimpy revenue stream of $26 to $52; or as I like to think of it a DVD season of a show. It could also be measured up against a good bottle of wine.

Also a single episode of a TV show is not worth a lot by itself, or out of order. That means that to create a valued product the offering would need to incorporate several shows, offering a bundle of content with flexibility. Then allow me to stream/downland that content in a timely way after the USA release and I’m happy.

Something like a AMC+HBO-Australia, where I can pick a few shows and get them all. I’d be really happy, and especially happy as I would not need to install a shitty Foxtel-like box in the house, and also can have flexibility to view it everywhere I wish. That is a product with appeal downunder. Do you think HBO or AMC would be happy to take $100 to $200+ per year from me direct into their coffers? Yes, I think they’d be keen. And I’ll happy give it to them if they can get on-board with a better global distribution model.

Happy viewing.

PS – It is ever stranger to me that the folks who locally “print” the DVD and BluRays download a master of the show, and then burn them for sale in stores. If the distribution networks are good enough to do that, then they can mock-up or use an existing distribution system to get content out to the masses via selective subscription.

Yes, that will slow down the DVD sales, but the pirates were never those customers, and the DVDs charge a heck of a lot for material which is just pointless to me as a viewer (packaging, freight, dvd extras, branding, etc).

an apple service experience

A few weeks ago I had to replace my iphone due to a hardware fault, and it gave me the opportunity to experience customer service from Apple.

The back-story to this post is the iphone camera unit’s shutter would not open anymore. When the camera app started the shutter would normally start closed, and then open the software iris to let the user know the camera is ready to be used. On my phone it just stayed closed. Searching the web for similar issues indicated that it is a known hardware fault with the iphones, and it is usually replaced.

My steps to get this resolved were:

  1. Check apple website, search for service/warranty area, and then use the online form to find a service centre near work.
  2. Ring the service centre to make sure they were open and available.
  3. Go to the service centre to check in the iphone.
  4. At service centre I was told that they can’t help as only a few stores in Melbourne are authorised to take iphones, but they do most other apple gear. They said the next step was to ring the Chadstone (a large shopping centre) store and book in.
  5. Rang the Chadstone store and was told that I book in via their apple specific web mini-site.
  6. Go to the mini-site and book a time a week or so away.
  7. Visit the store, get the phone looked at, and replaced on the spot.

This was frustrating. The basic apple site did not direct me to the service centre book in for Chadstone. Instead I went through calls, store visits, and store clerks to find that the service was online and could have been easy, but instead was a long process. A 7 step process should have actually been reduced to 2 steps: book in via web and then visit store to get replacement. Blaarg.

Replacing the iphone (or any item that is within warranty) should be easy and the experience should be tailored for the customer. What is odd is that Apple actually had the systems in place, but the staff had no idea what to recommend. They fell back on the “call them and ask, sorry I don’t know” as the default answer. This is the level of service I expect from a fast food vendor earning minimum wage, not a huge multi-national. I’m now better informed about the initial service process for iPhones in Melbourne than the kid working in a city Apple store.

Now I realise that this type of activity is significantly better than some other companies will offer, and it is a negligible problem in the grand scheme of things. A little angst in customer service is standard now, and I think a typical consumer expects to be disappointed by warranty and service.

The last gripe I have with the overall experience is that the “hardware warranty” is basically bullshit as it is offered. The unit had a flaw with the camera equipment which required the unit to be replaced. However instead of the new hardware getting a new warranty period starting from the date it was replaced, the original warranty time still applies.

This basically means that if the same issue occurs again (and it is the same hardware) when the original warranty time expires I will not be able to get the unit replaced. Instead Apple will probably just offer to sell me a new unit. So a known fault just gets flipped for the life of the warranty until you’re screwed. Terrific. I didn’t feel I could argue as the store clerk insisted that it was either this option, or they would not help me.

So what would I expect instead?

The hardware warranty should start again from the date the replacement handset is issued. That unit is meant to be “new” and as such should be fit for purpose. I would also expect that even if the store clerk did not know what the process was, he should have found out on the spot and told me. Or at worse found out and rang me to let me know. This would mean that I would have had a better experience overall, and also that clerk would know for next time.

All we have now is a status quo of poor service based around it being easier to just say sorry and defer the problem. Consider this and think why the support phone lines are so blocked…

So good outcome Apple, but no cigar.

At least the bloody camera works, for the next 210 days more at a maximum when I get to pay for a new one. Guess at that time I’ll be looking seriously at the extended warranty, and what it includes on all sorts of phones.

FireFox 4 is released, but is it stable?

After all the posts about IE’s new version recently across the Internet, the friendly people at the Firefox factory have released version 4 of their browser into the world. Details are spreading prolifically, and it seems that the speed crunch which affected earlier versions of Firefox (to the point where at work IE was a better option) has been greatly improved.

Now if I remember the IE vs FF battlelines from many years ago we were all comparing features. Now it seems that both browsers have basically the same set of features (like you’d bloody hope) and are now touting the speed of the browser as the main difference. This is fine but I’d like to see a different metric used as the baseline for the browsers, that of stability.

Stability is hard to measure, as it is dependent on so many other factors of the computer which the browser may not be in direct control of. System resources can greatly affect it, other apps, silly plug-ins, extra fab toolbars, and all the other junk that get loaded onto a PC can make the measure hard.

So my plan and advice to the internet is to wait until we see some stability measures, and then go nuts. I was already running a beta so have little to lose by upgrading, but for others I’d say wait a week and install after we’ve seen a bit of fall out.

Cheers and happy browsing.

Ref: LifeHacker’s review

Updates:

iPad2 has me convinced

photo of ipad 2 side-on

Its like hard candy for geeks

A while ago we (meaning myself and other folks who dislike being early adopters) were looking forlornly at our friend’s ipads. I felt like I was doing something wrong when I picked up an iPad in the early days, the need to buy one was so great. However I did not want to once again buy a hardware device and be left holding a piece of dead tech in 18 months. I’ve owned a Clie organiser, a range of phones, and so many desktops and laptops that now I’m convinced that a hardware supplier has to at least get to a generation two (hey lets call it 2.0 to be funky) of a product before its worth spending anything.

And now I’m doomed – because the iPad2 is just that. It is smaller, faster, and does the same basic job as the original. You win Apple, consider it sold. I’ll be getting one soon after they are released in Australia, and I’ll be a drooling fanboy for the technology for a few weeks until my wife takes the ipad2 as her laptop replacement.

Then I’ll be pondering buying another.

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