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Entries in Apple (5)

Wednesday
Apr172013

Oh... Brother!

I've written before about the ups and downs of self employment, the concerns about keeping a regular flow of work, the sense of dread when everything seems to be slowing down, then the elation when everything starts to pick up again - as it always does.

I never tire of the feeling of satisfaction in doing a job well and not only being paid for it, but also being praised and valued for my work. For far too long I was a corporate drone, taking home my monthly salary but getting little appreciation for the work I did. It always appeared to me that there was a fear of praise, because that might possibly encourage the employee to ask for more money or increased status. Now, I do a good job and people genuinely appreciate what I do.

Every now and again I'm surprised by my customer's appreciation, and last week was one of those occasions. One of them called to invite me to look at a couple of jobs, and in conversation asked me if I would like their old printer, as they were getting a replacement. I recalled having seen it when I had re-fitted their home office last year and knew that it was an all in one A3 printer, copier, scanner and for what it's worth, fax.

I said that I was interested and when, a week later I arrived at their home, I was presented with a Brother MFC-J6910DW in immaculate condition.


When I got it home and linked it to my WiFi network I was even more surprised to find just how easy it was to set up and the depth of functionality it had. There was no installation process to go through, the drivers were already in place. It uses Apple's AirPrint which is great for wireless printing from mobile devices on the network. I use Printopia to achieve this with my large format Epson Photo and GCC laser printers.

The implementation of AirPrint means that the printer is not much more than 6 months old, and when I delved into the settings and specs of the machine, I discovered that it has only printed just over 130 pages from new. The ink cartridges are still about 75% full.

It's going to be a hugely beneficial addition to my home office, even if I don't use the fax.

I've since discovered that there is an iOS app from Brother which adds further functionality to printing and scanning when using my iPhone and iPad, although the app design is poorly implemented.

 

My customer refused to accept anything for the printer, but I have since made an appropriate gesture of my appreciation.


Sunday
Nov132011

Late Afternoon.

This is the first photograph posted here, to be taken on the iPhone 4S. It is exactly as shot. No filters have been applied and no modifications made. Considering the fact that it was shot directly into a setting sun, the level of detail and lack of lens flare is pretty remarkable for such a compact, multi-optic lens and CMOS sensor assembly. Any blur can be attributed to me, standing on a steep bank, hanging on to a hedge for support.


Wednesday
Jul132011

Training really does make a difference.

During the coldest part of last winter, I witnessed a road accident. I was driving behind a motorcyclist on a very icy day. He was riding carefully and was in the correct position on the road, so that he could see clearly and be seen. Fortunately we were not traveling at any great speed. As we approached a crossroads where a minor road crosses the road we were on, cars in front slowed quite suddenly, as one was turning onto the minor road. The motorcyclist touched his brakes and immediately lost control, sliding across the road, into the path of an oncoming car. I pulled over, onto the pavement, got out and ran over to the scene of the accident. The motorcyclist was stuck underneath his bike, which was wedged under the front of the car. He was not injured, though he was quite shaken. The driver of the car managed to release him quite easily, whilst I phoned the emergency services. I then waited at the scene, ensuring that everyone was okay, until the police arrived.

I was immediately struck by how quickly the police officer assessed the situation, identified what needed to be done and acted in a calm and professional manner to ensure that the road was made safe, that all information was gathered and that the needs of everyone at the scene were addressed.

Out of earshot of the people involved in the accident, he asked me to describe what I had witnessed and then allowed me to leave.

 

About a week later, I was asked by one of my customers to assist her in the purchase of a computer. She'd hardly ever used a computer before, but, through talking with friends, had decided that she wanted an Apple laptop.

I took her to our nearest Currys - PC World, which now has a reasonable selection of Apple hardware. I'm always wary of the staff in stores like this. Usually they have very limited product knowledge and tend to ask highly annoying and irrelevant questions like "Are you looking for something for yourself?", or the more usual "How are you today?".

Consequently, I have a tendency to zig-zag through these stores, dodging the assistants in case I end up saying something that perhaps I shouldn't.

We managed to get to the Apple laptops without being accosted and I was explaining the differences to her, in very simple terms between the MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. A member of staff wandered by, asking if we needed help. I said "no, we're fine thanks" and she didn't bother us any more. Shortly afterwards we were approached by another member of the sales staff. This one was the self appointed Mac expert, keen to impart his worldly wisdom in matters Apple, to anyone who would listen and, more specifically, those who did not want to listen.

He started with the usual, "Are you looking for something for yourself", directed at me and totally ignoring the my customer. I said, politely that we were fine and just looking, and that it was not me but my customer who was interested in a new computer. Perhaps that was my first mistake.

He immediately launched into his favourite subject; what he liked to do on his computer.

"Do you take lots of photos" he asked. "No", my customer said. "I don't have a camera". He launched iPhoto and gave us his " This is so cool, look, you can remove red-eye and everything" presentation. As he occasionally glanced up from what he was doing, he always caught my eye and never once looked at my customer. She reiterated, "I don't take photographs". Unswayed, he suggested that she should buy a digital camera or use her camera phone, because iPhoto was so cool. "You can even email your photos to family and friends or make books of photos, it's just so cool - do you listen to a lot of music?".

By this time, I had stepped back, out of his line of sight. My customer turned to me briefly and asked if he was getting on my nerves - I nodded.

She turned to him and said, "Look, I'm not interested in taking photographs, I don't have a camera, I don't have a camera phone and I don't listen to much music, I just want to look at the internet and send and receive email and maybe write the occasional letter". "Cool", he said, "but you may want to, in the future".

At this point, I stepped in and told him we would continue to look, on our own and call him if we needed further help. He was about to start saying something else, but probably thought better of it and walked away. "Just give me a shout if you need anything" he called across to us as he left.

During the next few minutes I explained to my customer what she needed to know about the range. She didn't need much more than a MacBook or MacBook Air, but liked the look and feel of the 13" MacBook Pro, which she eventually bought, along with a copy of iWork. The salesman was slightly more subdued during the purchase process, though he did try to sell a range of unnecessary accessories and an extended warranty which were politely refused.

What struck me about these two completely different experiences was that the two young men, the policeman and the salesman were, in many ways, quite alike. I would suspect that they were about the same age and that they both had very similar family, social and educational backgrounds; yet the way they dealt with the public in their professional capacities was markedly different.

Is the way they interacted purely down to the way they have been trained? And if so, why did the salesman irritate me so much? Does he irritate every customer in the same way, and if that is the case, are retailers like this missing the point and losing potential business because of it.

Certainly, high street retailers are fighting for survival. With the ever increasing pressure from online retailers with significantly lower overheads it's incredibly difficult for them to compete on price, so they have to ensure that customer experience is absolutely first class, and that means the face to face contact must impress the potential customer. DSG Retail Limited, the owners of Currys - PC World have, in recent months been investing heavily in store upgrades, and, from what I have heard, staff training; yet they still continue to lose trade.

I fully acknowledge that I may not be their typical customer, but if I try my best to avoid the sales staff in stores like these, I'm sure many others do too.

Sunday
Jul102011

The true cost of Mac OSX 10.7 Lion.

On July 20th 2011, Apple will launch Lion, the latest and probably most significant update to their desktop computer operating system Mac OSX.

Mac OSX 10.7 will introduce a whole host of new technologies and conventions that will be radically different to those in the previous iterations of their Unix underpinned OS.

The gradual convergence of their desktop/laptop and mobile operating systems is going to take a huge step towards being totally integrated. The launch of iCloud, which will replace their current MobileMe service, but add so much more, will be the glue that bonds the various platforms together. A service for storing and synchronizing our data seamlessly between all of our Apple devices.

There’s plenty of information and opinion about the details of these changes available online and I’m not going to go into detail about individual features and specifications. I want to look into the true cost of the upgrade for the average user of Apple computers and mobile devices.

As with all progress, some things have to fall by the wayside to allow for new developments to be implemented. Mac OSX Lion will only work on Intel processor equipped Macs; this means that the earlier generation of PowerPC Macs will not be able to run the new OS. Actually, some of the earlier Intel processors are not supported for installs of Lion.

As the transition between PowerPC and Intel processors in Macs took place, there was a need for Apple to ensure that software written to run on the PowerPC Macs continued to function. This is achieved with Rosetta, a dynamic translation function built into the Mac operating system. It effectively converts applications on the fly, compiled for PowerPC to run on Intel with surprisingly little degradation in performance.

With the launch of Lion, Rosetta is no longer a part of the OS.

Lion will be ground breaking and incredible value for money. At only £20.99 ($29.99 in the US) it’s surely a must have upgrade. But what is the true cost to the average user?

If I download and install Lion from the Mac App Store when it launches, many of the applications I use regularly will not work. Some may say that I shouldn’t still be using legacy software, some of which is almost ten years old, but these apps and utilities have worked perfectly well under OS 10.6 Snow Leopard and are the core applications used in running my business.

I’ve already started to move away from Microsoft Office and invested in iWork, which in itself isn’t a huge cost, although the time spent getting myself up to speed with the doing what I want to do in Pages and Numbers particularly, has a cost which has to be absorbed.

I also use Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign and even, dare I say it, GoLive. I own the original Adobe Creative Suite and have never found it necessary to upgrade. mostly I use Illustrator and Photoshop, but there is no simple upgrade path for just those two apps, because Adobe insist that the Creative Suite is a whole package and can only be upgraded as such. But the original CS, as a package has no official upgrade path either, so I have to buy the whole suite again at a cost of around £1,000, paying for Acrobat, Bridge and Device Central, which I know I will not use. The other option; buying just Illustrator and Photoshop will cost an eye watering £1,276. Even accounting for the probability of finding better deals online, it’s still a significant price to pay.

I also have an old GCC laser printer, an absolute workhorse which is still working, with its original toner cartridge. I print all of my business documents on it. GCC stopped development of drivers for it some years ago and even though there was a period when Apple dropped Appletalk with the introduction of Snow Leopard and I thought it would be rendered useless, I was, however, able to set it up as an IP printer. Hopefully it will still work under Lion, but I’m not sure whether or not the specific driver will function. I do have to consider the possibility that it may be time to buy a more current laser printer. (£150 - £200).

It also seems likely that the Apple Magic Trackpad (£59) will be essential for use with a desktop Mac using Lion. The touch and gesture interface on the iOS devices has completely changed the way we interact with our mobile devices. Lion will make this a far more fundamental part of the way we control our computers and a necessity to have some form of touch input device in addition to the now rather dated mouse. I do have a Magic Mouse which is probably perfectly adequate for touch control, but I hate it as a mouse, its just far too flat and slippery for my fairly large hands. I use a Logitech Performance MX mouse and, except for a few minor issues, I love it.

So, fantastic as Mac OSX Lion is going to be; and I really want to upgrade and experience the latest and greatest that Cupertino has to offer, I really have to weigh up whether I can justify the true cost of the upgrade.

I’m absolutely sure I’m not alone.

I suspect that I will do it anyway.

Thursday
Apr072011

iPad 2. The UK Launch.

 

It seems only right that, after having owned an iPad 2 for just over a week (since it's UK launch, on Friday 25th March 2011), I should post a short piece to my site from it.

Wednesday and Thursday of the launch week were very warm for mid March in North West England. Temperatures were in the high teens, Celsius. So, I set off to Liverpool on the train, probably a little under dressed for the cold afternoon of standing in line at the Apple Store in Liverpool One that was to follow. Although it was a sunny afternoon, I hadn't considered the cold wind blowing off the River Mersey and funnelling through the streets close to the docks.

I arrived in good time and joined the line at about 12:15pm. I estimated that I was about 50th. in line. As it turned out, I was 38th. Considering the fact that a few people had already been waiting for almost twenty four hours, I didn't think it was too bad.

Staff from the Apple Store spent the whole afternoon amongst the queuing fans, handing out complimentary water, tea and coffee. The warm drinks were certainly very welcome, though as a person on my own, I was a little concerned about taking in too much liquid with at least a five hour wait ahead of me. The line behind me grew pretty quickly and at the time the store reopened for the official 5pm launch, there were probably about 400 people there. A small team of staff also worked their way through the queue from the front, identifying which model of iPad everyone required and handing out reservation tickets.

 


At about 3pm the store closed for business and the staff began erecting a large black curtain across the front of the store, just inside the doors. Outside, there were photographers, journalists and film crews recording the event and interviewing willing fans, happy to share their passion for all things Apple. One of the photographers from the store tried to initiate a Mexican wave, but failed rather miserably as everyone was too concerned with just keeping warm.

Following a 10 second countdown, at exactly 5pm, the large curtain dropped to the floor and the doors opened to a loud cheer.

Each customer was assigned a personal shopper, who lead them through the store, helping with the selection of any accessories, before arriving at an area on the first floor of the store, where the iPads were being issued. They were then taken downstairs again, where payments were taken.

The whole process took less than ten minutes. Considering the volume of customers, the store didn't feel crowded and I certainly didn't feel rushed to purchase and get out.

 

This was my first experience of a product launch at an Apple Store. The atmosphere, anticipation and sense of community were more than compensation for the cold conditions.

When the next iPhone is launched, I will be upgrading.

Will I be getting it on launch day from an Apple Store? Almost certainly.