Aug 102010

After plundering the fund I’d been building for next year’s iPad model, and adding the birthday check from my in-laws, I finally replaced my iPhone 3G (which was running dog-slow under iOS 4, previous post to the contrary) with a shiny new 32 GB JesusPhone 4.

There was much rejoicing, and I saw that it was good. Yay.

And on the 6th day, Aaron did look upon the iPhone and spake unto me, saying, “Why the hell is your camera lens all scratched up?!”

Oh shit.

Sure enough, the lens was nearly covered with scratches, yet the surrounding glass was unmarked. My heart sunk as I realized my shiny new toy was marred after less than a week, especially considering that the new camera was a big draw for me. I wracked my brain trying to figure out how it had gotten so scratched in so short a time. I never put it in a pocket with anything else. I hadn’t dropped it. I hadn’t rubbed the lens with anything other than soft cloth. While I had put it on flat surfaces with the lens down, I never scraped it across a desktop, and I’m pretty sure those desktops were clean. Regardless, the lens was still a mess.

I started taking a bunch of test pictures to see what effect it had had, and compared them to the couple of pics I had taken immediately after unboxing. Nearly every picture with any kind of direct lighting showed a hazy glow, and all of them were noticeably less sharp. I scoured the web looking for anyone else who had encountered the same problem, but there was very little reported so far. I sent a message to a friend who worked for AppleCare and asked what to do, but I didn’t get anything concrete back from him before we left for Pittsburgh. I was mildly depressed about it all weekend, because I was sure Apple would claim that because I had somehow damaged it, they wouldn’t cover it under AppleCare. I also didn’t want to lie and claim it was damaged out of the box.

The problem is the oh-so-sexy design Apple so proudly touted. On the 3G and 3GS, there is a very slight lip around the camera lens, and the backplate curves up at the corners, so the lens never rests directly against anything when placed on a flat surface. On the 4, the back is perfectly flat, with no lip to prevent lens contact.

Yesterday, after talking more to my Apple friend, I decided to just make an appointment at the store, take it in, and see what happened. I put on my sad panda face, marshaled my arguments as to why it wasn’t really my fault, and anxiously expected to be disappointed.

The tech, Justin, listened to my tale of woe, looked at the pictures, and examined the lens. He was also a bit shocked that it was so scratched up, agreed that the pictures didn’t look right, and declared that he would set me up with a new phone immediately. I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped open as all my prepared arguments evaporated.

While he set up the phone, I checked out his sweet tattoo. He had a band around his upper left forearm made entirely of Rebel Alliance logos in various sizes, resembling a chain of bubbles. I wish I had asked to take a pic of it. To test the camera of course.

When everything was done, he apologized that I had had an issue. I know Apple is probably being extra cuddly with iPhone 4 customers in the wake of Antennagate but, even before this, I’ve never had anything but a good experience with Apple’s support, either at the store or on the phone. Whether you love or hate their products or culture, they sure know how to make their customers happy.

The moral of this story? Get a damn case! This is one phone that absolutely needs one. The free case offered by Apple is all well and good, but they’re all on back order for weeks, depending on the model you choose. I also won a free StealthArmor case (tungsten) from that shipped today, so I’m holding out for that.

Until then, some tips:

  • Don’t put the phone in a pocket with any other object.
  • Set the phone down with the lens up. The front glass is much tougher than the lens cover.
  • Set the phone down on something softer than wood or metal. I’ve been using a blank sticky-note pad.
  • Don’t wipe the lens with rough cloth or paper towels.
Jun 202008

Apple just announced full support for Sun’s ZFS (Zettabyte File System) in the next version of Mac OS X Server, 10.6. This won’t provide me any direct benefit until it’s released for the desktop version (and not much even then), but I’m still geeked about it from a pure nerd standpoint.

Gory tech details can be found here, but basically:

– It has complete end-to-end data integrity. It always knows when a block of data is corrupt and corrects it automatically. No more Disk Doctor or checkdisk required after power failures, BSODs, etc.

– It implements high-speed RAID with full stripe writes throughout, with no controller card required.

– It does away with the concept of disk volumes (no more C: drive). All drives become a single “pool” of storage. As drives are added (or removed), the size of the pool changes on the fly.

– It can manage a maximum single file size of 16 exabytes, and a single storage pool size of up to 256 zettabytes, which is…really frickin huge:
1000 Gigabytes = 1 Terabyte
1000 Terabytes = 1 Petabyte
1000 Petabytes = 1 Exabyte
1000 Exabytes = 1 Zettabyte

May 292008

Mom's 20" iMac arrived yesterday at around 5:15pm. Both of us were as giddy as little kids on Christmas; practically literally bouncing up and down at the front door waiting for the (cute!) FedEx guy to show up. Scheduled delivery was supposed to be by 4:30, but because he had to deliver to Grosse Ile first, he was delayed. We set the box aside and relaxed, trying to finish the Panera salads I'd picked up. I scarfed mine down, while Mom gave up and took hers upstairs to the sewing room where we set it up.

There wasn't a whole lot in the box, and everything was packed tightly and efficiently: iMac, power cord, keyboard, mouse, two small booklets (Everything Mac and Everything Else), two backup DVDs, and a mouse-cleaning cloth. Setup was incredibly easy: I put the iMac on the desk, plugged in the power, ethernet, printer, and keyboard cords, then plugged the mouse cord into the keyboard. Done.

I parked Mom in front of it for The Great On-Turning and she fired it up. After the short but pretty "Welcome to Leopard" intro movie, Mom entered her Apple ID and personal information, registered for her free 60-day trial of .Mac (no credit card required, so you don't get billed automatically when the trial is up), then used the built-in camera to take her picture for her account photo, after multiple posing attempts.

She was so nervous about breaking anything or doing something wrong that every time I stopped her to suggest or explain something, she jumped. It was cute, but I felt kinda bad for scaring her. I kept reassuring her she couldn't hurt anything, and she eventually relaxed. I activated the right mouse button, which was off by default, then walked her through the basics of getting around in the OS: how the Dock works; that the menu bar for programs is always at the top of the desktop, and changes to reflect whichever program is active at the moment; identifying running apps by the blue dot under them on the Dock; how to quit a program instead of just minimizing it, and so on.

I went downstairs to her old computer to put her old stuff onto a thumb drive, and by the time I came back, she'd already mostly figured out how to create an appointment in iCal. I showed her the rest of the process and she made an all-day event spanning my and Aaron's trip to Alaska. Luckily she didn't have much to transfer from her old computer; just pictures, documents, and bookmarks, to the tune of about 688 MB. Transferring them to their appropriate folders was easy enough, but I got stuck at getting her pics to appear in iPhoto. I'd bought her a copy of Missing Manual: Mac OS X Leopard so she'll have a reference for figuring out how to do things while we're gone to Alaska, so I downloaded the iLife crash course PDF from the Missing Manual site and that told me how to import the photos, which turned out to be so easy I would have figured it out on my own if I'd had a bit more patience. In a bit of an ego boost, Mom remarked that she was amazed at how well I knew my way around a Mac based purely on book learning, having never owned one myself. Yet.

We also set up the Mail app for Gmail, which was just a matter of creating a new mailbox and entering her Gmail address and password. Done. It automatically started importing all her email from Gmail which, after the first 800 messages, we decided might not be such a great idea after all, and stopped it. I also discovered that Apple and Yahoo don't play well at all together. You can't import Yahoo mail into Mail, and you can't add a Yahoo account (which is what Mom uses) to iChat.

This lead to the first install of a third-party app: the Adium multi-service chat program (like Trillian for Windows). I downloaded the adium.dmg (disk image) file, which automatically opened up a little window displaying a cartoon depiction of picking up the Adium duck mascot and dragging it to the Applications folder. I did that right inside the window in question, and Adium was installed instantly. While trying to drag it from the Applications folder to the Dock to create an alias (shortcut), I accidentally dropped it on the desktop, which removed it from the Apps folder. Thinking it was an alias, I deleted it, which uninstalled the program. To get it back, I just dragged the icon from the trash back into the Apps folder, then dragged it properly to the Dock to make a shortcut.

Merely reading about how easy it is to install and remove Mac apps just doesn't prepare you for how amazing it is in practice, coming from 15+ years of Windows use. There's no lengthy installation or removal process, and no registry entries to worry about. The entire program and all of its support files are contained in a single package represented by its icon. Unlike in Windows, you can drag that icon into any folder on any drive and it will still run when you click it.

After getting her set up in Safari and iTunes (she has NO music files at all, and only a couple CDs!), and some more general poking around, I ran the software updater to get the small patches installed, prior to the big 10.5.3 patch which was released yesterday. Mom asked me to run that before I left so she would be forced to finish the quilt she was commissioned to make. I didn't get to show her the Spotlight search function, or see if her new printer/scanner would work properly when turned on (waited til after the 10.5.3 install for that), but I'm sure she can figure it out from the book. Heh, for the next week, she'll have to!

Her old computer is ready for the dumpster once I return and wipe or destroy the hard drive. It's a 10+ year old Gateway tower with 384 MB of RAM and a 15 GB hard drive, with Ubuntu Linux generously installed on it by my friend Alex over Christmas, after the Microsoft police caught up to her borrowed copy of XP. It's been adequate for her until the last couple of years, but even her modest computer needs have finally exceeded its horsepower. Even with Ubuntu's small overhead, it's dog slow, and Ubuntu's lack of drivers prevented her from using the scanner function of her printer. Firefox under Ubuntu also wouldn't properly load certain websites, and even IE under WINE emulation didn't work for every site, like her bank's online services. I do worry that she may have the same problem with Safari or Firefox on the Mac, which may require Windows and Parallels or Fusion just to run IE, but I'll cross that bridge when I'm forced to at gunpoint.

Mom and I were just totally enthralled by the whole thing, and I haven't been this excited about a new computer since building my gaming rig in 2003, and by an operating system, of all things, since the first release of Win95 and then WinXP. Although honestly, since the Mac hardware and software are effectively one entity, there's little distinction between the hardware and the OS. All in all, as corny as it sounds, it was a great experience, and I can't wait to get my own.

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Apr 282008

Sweet baby peaches! That’s it, I’m getting a 24″ iMac. The only thing that kept me from really wanting one, the shitty video card (ATI Radeon 2600 Pro), has been corrected with today’s refresh of the product line. The 24″ model now has the option of adding a GeForce 8800 GS instead of the Radeon, for $150 extra. The rest of it would be fine with the stock options: 2.8Ghz Core 2 Duo, 2 GB RAM, 320 GB hard drive. I’d just add the video card, iWork pre-installed, and the extended warranty.

Now I just need $2200, instead of the $2800 I was looking at for a stripped-down Mac Pro. If I add up everything Aaron’s spent on his new camera, I’m almost halfway there. mwahahaa!

Nov 022007

Reader comments on regarding the latest iMac patch:

MacZeus: “Does this update fix the glossy displays back to a matte finish?”

UltraVisitor: “Yes. This update features Apple’s new software pixel rarefaction technique that will physically change the surface of your display from glossy to matte, with just a few blasts of luminous radiation. Really amazing technology.

An interesting side note – if you stand in front of the display during the software pixel rarefaction, it will also wax your balls for you.”

How do I love snark? Let me count the ways…

Sep 052007

Mere hours before Apple introduces the next generation of iPods, Microsoft suddenly announced that they’re cutting the price of their 30GB Zune player by $50, to $200. To hear them tell it, it’s pure coincidence! Honest!

“It’s part of the normal product lifecycle, something we’ve had on the books for days months,” wrote Microsoft’s Cesar Menendez. “We just pulled some numbers out of our ass got some research back and customer satisfaction with the 30GB device is really high (around 94 percent of the 100 Microsoft employees who bought one) and we desperately pray expect even more consumers will now want to discover the Zune experience at the new lower price.”

Behold, the Zune Experience!

Seriously, I don’t understand why Microsoft doesn’t give up all this extraneous crap and focus on what they’re “best” at: Windows and Office. These are the only two products that actually generate a profit for them (almost entirely through OEM licensing to computer vendors); everything else has been a money pit billions of dollars deep (excluding mice and keyboards, which actually do well). Because they’re on top of the heap, they’ve lost the will to innovate, and are now reduced to playing catch-up with every company that actually has something to offer that people want.

Case in point, this other purely coincidental offering from Mindy Mount, VP and CFO for Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division: “…it’s not ‘unreasonable’ to think that Microsoft will integrate photo, music and touchscreen features into a Windows Mobile product in the future.”

Hey Mindy, what’s the difference between an Apple press release and a Microsoft press release?
About six months.

Add to all of the above the shenanigans over the Office Open XML Standard. What that article fails to mention, but has been covered elsewhere, is that Microsoft got busted stuffing the ballot box, so to speak, which forced a re-vote. As an aside, Apple’s new iWork 08 does support MS’s OOXML.

And so continues Microsoft’s slow slide off it’s throne. It happened to Apple in the mid-90s, and now history begins to repeat itself.

Jul 262007

Yesterday brokenbryan‘s friend Danny dug out his laptop while in our office. It looked suspiciously thin and brushed-aluminumy.

“Please tell me you don’t have a…”

Danny grins and flashes the Apple logo on his 15″ MacBook Pro. “Not fair!”, howl I. First it was a2andy‘s 17″ MB Pro and 8GB iPhone, now Danny adds insult to the injury. At least he let me play with it for awhile, further inflaming my already scorching case of Mac Envy. The Cipro I’m on is no match for this particular infection.

Despite our intartubes being temporarily down due to a wonky cable modem, I had Danny hook up to our inside LAN. It took literally 3 clicks and 5 seconds before he was viewing the shared folders on my PC. I can’t even add up the time and frustration I spent getting our two PCs and three laptops to deign to speak to each other on an all-Windows network: the frustration, the begging and pleading, even resorting to bribes.

“Please? Just connect to the Music folder? I’ll copy the new Tool album over to you. You like Tool, don’t you? Just one file for Daddy, please?”

“NO! I don’t wanna!”

“Fine! I only loved you for your games anyway! And you were adopted!” *sob*

This concludes today’s venting over my unhealthy obsession.

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