Random Thoughts – Randosity!

Apple’s newest MacBook: Simply Unsatisfying

Posted in Apple, botch, business, california by commorancy on March 12, 2015

macbook_largeIt’s not a MacBook Air. It’s not a MacBook Pro. It’s simply being called the MacBook. Clever name for a computer, eh? It’s not like we haven’t seen this brand before. What’s the real trouble with this system? A single USB-C connector. Let’s explore.

Simplifying Things

There’s an art to simplification, but it seems Apple has lost its ability to rationally understand this fundamental concept. Jobs got it. Oh man, did Jobs get the concept of simplification in spades. Granted, not all of Jobs’s meddling in simplification worked. Like, a computer with only a mouse and no keyboard. Great concept, but you really don’t want to enter text through an on-screen keyboard. This is the reason the iPad is so problematic for anything other than one-liners. At least, not unless there’s some kind of audio dictation system. At the time, the Macintosh didn’t have such a system. With Siri, however, we do. Though, I’m not necessarily endorsing that Apple bring back the concept of a keyboard-less computer. Though, in fact, with a slight modification to Siri’s dictation capabilities, it would be possible.

Instead, the new MacBook has taken things away from the case design. More specifically, it has replaced all of those, you know, clunky, annoying and confusing USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt port connectors that mar the case experience. Apple’s engineers have now taken this old and clunky experience and ‘simplified’ it down to exactly one USB-C port (excluding the headphone jack.. and why do we even need this jack again).

The big question, “Is this really simplification?”

New Case Design

Instead of the full complement of ports we previously had, such as the clever magsafe power port, one or two Thunderbolt ports, two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card slot, now we have exactly one USB-C port. And, it’s not even a well known or widely used port style yet.usb_macbook

Smart. Adopt a port that literally no one is using and then center your entire computer’s universe around this untried technology. It’s a bold if not risky maneuver for Apple. No one has ever said Apple isn’t up for risky business ideas. It’s just odd that they centered it on an open standard rather than something custom designed by Apple. Let’s hope that Apple has massively tested plugging and unplugging this connector. If it breaks, you better hope your AppleCare service is active. And since the unplugging and plugging activity falls under wear-and-tear, it might not even be covered. Expect to spend more time at the Genius bar arguing over whether your computer is covered when this port breaks. On the other hand, we know the magsafe connector is almost impossible to break. How about this unknown USB-C connector? Does it also have the same functional lifespan? My guess is no.

I also understand that the USB-C technology automatically inherits the 10 Gbps bandwidth standard and has a no-confusion-plug-in-either-way connector style. But, it’s not as if Thunderbolt didn’t already offer the same transfer speed, though not the plug-in-either-way cable. So, I’m guessing that this means Thunderbolt is officially dead?

What about the Lightning cable? Apple recently designed and introduced the Lightning connector for charging and data transfer. Why not use the Lightning connector by adding on a faster data transfer standard? Apple spent all this time and effort on this cool new cable for charging and data transfer, but what the hell? Let’s just abandon that too and go with USB-C? Is it all about throwing out the baby with the bathwater over at Apple?

I guess the fundamental question is… Really, how important is this plug-in-either-way connector? Is Apple insinuating that general public is so dumb that it can’t figure out how to plug in a cable? Yes, trying to get the microUSB connectors inserted in the dark (because they only go in one direction) can be a hassle. The real problem isn’t that it’s a hassle, the real problem is that the connector itself was engineered all wrong. So, trying to fit in a microUSB cable into a port is only a problem because it’s metal on metal. Even when you do manage to get it lined up in the right direction, it sometimes still won’t go in. That’s just a fundamental flaw in the port connector design. It has nothing to do with directionality of it. I digress.

Fundamentally, the importance of a plug-in-either-way cable should be the lowest idea on the agenda. What should be the highest idea is simplifying to give a better user experience overall and not to hobble the computer to the point of being unnecessarily problematic.

Simply Unsatisfying

Let’s get into the meat of this whole USB-C deal. While the case now looks sleek and minimal, it doesn’t really simplify the user experience. It merely changes it. It’s basically a shell game. It moves the ball from one cup to another, but fundamentally doesn’t change the ball itself. So, instead of carrying only a power adapter and the computer, you are now being forced to carry a computer, power adapter and a dock. I fail to see exactly how this simplifies the user experience at all? I left docks behind when I walked away from using Dell Notebooks. Now, we’re being asked to use a dock again by, of all companies, Apple?

The point to making changes in any hardware (or software) design is to help improve the usability and user experience. Changing the case to offer a single USB-C port doesn’t enhance the usability or user experience. This is merely a cost cutting measure by Apple. Apple no longer needs to add pay for all of these arguably ‘extra’ (and costly) ports to the case. Removing all of those ‘extraneous’ ports now means less cost for the motherboard and die-cuts on the case, but at the expense that the user must carry around more things to support that computer. That doesn’t simplify anything for the user. It also burdens the user by forcing the user to pay more money for things that were previously included in the system itself. Not to mention, requiring the user to carry around yet more dongles. I’ve never ever known Apple to foist less of an experience on the user as a simultaneous cost cutting and accessory money making measure. This is most definitely a first for Apple, but not a first for which they want to become known. Is Apple now taking pages from Dell’s playbook?

Instead of walking out of the store with a computer ready in hand, now you have to immediately run to the accessory isle and spend another $100-200 (or more) on these ‘extras’. Extras, I might add, that were previously included in the cost of the previous gen computers. But now, they cost extra. So, that formerly $999 computer you bought that already had everything you needed will now cost you $1100-1200 or more (once you consider you now need a bag to carry all of these extras).

Apple’s Backward Thinking?

I’m sure Apple is thinking that eventually that’s all we’ll need. No more SD cards, no more Thunderbolt devices, no more USB 3 connectors. We just do everything wirelessly. After all, you have the (ahem) Apple TV for a wireless remote display (which would be great if only that technology didn’t suck so bad for latency and suffer from horrible mpeg artifacting because the bit rate is too low).

Apple likes to think they are thinking about the future. But, by the time the future arrives, what they have chosen is already outdated because they realized no one is actually using that technology other than them. So, then they have to resort to a new connector design or a new industry standard because no other computers have adopted what Apple is pushing.

For example, Thunderbolt is a tremendous idea. By today, this port should have been widely used and widely supported, yet it isn’t. There are few hard drives that use it. There are few extras that support it. Other than Apple’s use of this port to drive extra displays, that’s about the extent of how this port is used. It’s effectively a dead port on the computer. Worse, just about the time where Thunderbolt might actually be picking up steam, Apple dumps it in lieu of USB-C which offers the same transfer speeds. At best, a lateral move technologically speaking. If this port had offered 100 Gbps, I might not have even written this article.

Early Adopter Pain

What this all means is that those users who buy into this new USB-C only computer (I intentionally forget the headphone jack because it’s still pointless), will suffer early adopter pains with this computer. Not only will you be almost immediately tied to buying Apple gear, Apple has likely set up the USB-C connector to require licensed and ID’d cables and peripherals. This means that if you buy a third party unlicensed cable or device, Apple is likely to prevent it from working, just as they did with unlicensed Lightning cables on iOS.

This also means that, for at least 1-2 years, you’re at the mercy of Apple to provide you with that dongle. If you need VGA and there’s no dongle, you’re outta luck. If you need a 10/100 network adapter, outta luck. This means that until or unless a specific situational adapter becomes available, you’re stuck. Expect some level of pain when you buy into this computer.

Single Port

In addition to all of the above, let’s just fundamentally understand what a single port means. If you have your power brick plugged in, that’s it. You can’t plug anything else in. Oh, you need to run 2 monitors, read from an SD card, plug in an external hard drive and charge your computer? Good luck with that. That is, unless you buy a dock that offers all of these ports.

It’s a single port being used for everything. That means it has a single 10 Gbps path into the computer. So, if you plug in a hard drive that consumes 5 Gbps and a 4k monitor that consumes 2 Gbps, you’re already topping out that connector’s entire bandwidth into the computer. Or, what if you need a 10 Gbps Ethernet cable? Well, that pretty much consumes the entire bandwidth on this single USB-C connector. Good luck with trying to run a hard drive and monitor with that setup.

Where an older MacBook Air or Pro had two 5 Gbps USB3 ports and one or two 10 Gbps Thunderbolt ports (offering greater than 10 Gbps paths into the computer), the new MacBook only supports a max of 10 Gbps input rate over that single port. Not exactly the best trade off for performance. Of course, the reality is that the current Apple motherboards may not actually be capable of handling 30 Gbps input rate, but it was at least there to try. Though, I would expect that motherboard to handle an input rate greater than 10.

With the new MacBook, you are firmly stuck to a maximum input speed of 10 Gbps because it is a single port. Again, an inconvenience to the user. Apple once again makes the assumption that 10 Gbps is perfectly fine for all use cases. I’m guessing that Apple hopes the users simply won’t notice. Technologically, this is a step backward, not forward.

Overall

In among the early adopter problems and the relevancy problems that USB-C has to overcome, this computer now offers a more convoluted user experience. Additionally, instead of offering something that would be truly more useful and enhance the usability, such as a touch screen to use with an exclusive Spotlight mode, they opted to take this computer in a questionable direction.

Sure, the case colors are cool and the idea of a single port is intriguing, it’s only when you delve deep into the usefulness of this single port does the design quickly unravel.

Apple needs a whole lot of help in this department. I’m quite sure had Jobs been alive that while he might have introduced the simplified case design, it would have been overshadowed by the computer’s feature set (i.e., touch screen, better input device, better dictation, etc). Instead of trying to wow people with a single USB-C port (which offers more befuddlement than wow), Apple should have fundamentally improved the actual usability of this computer by enhancing the integration between the OS and the computer.

The case design doesn’t ultimately much matter, the usability of the computer itself matters. Until Apple understands that we don’t really much care what the case looks like as long as it provides what we need to compute without added hassles, weight and costs, Apple’s designers will continue running off on these tangents spending useless cycles attempting to redesign minimalist cases that really don’t benefit from it. At least, Apple needs to understand that there is a point of diminishing returns when trying to rethink minimalist designs…. and with this MacBook design, the Apple designers have gone well beyond the point of diminishing returns.

How to make iTunes 12 look and act like iTunes 10

Posted in Apple, botch, business, california by commorancy on January 17, 2015

iTunes 12 has been out since just about the release of Yosemite. In the fall, out of the box iTunes 12 looks like iTunes 11, with that horrible all new interface that Apple foisted onto us. Well, all is not lost. You can now make iTunes 12 look and act a whole lot more like iTunes 10. Though, keep in mind that it’s not a perfect reincarnation of iTunes 10, for most purposes it is still very functional. Let’s explore.

The New Interface

When you first kick off iTunes 12 (or 11 for that matter), you’ll see that it shows your albums as large icons. If you click an icon, it expands and shows track listings below it in a split screen setup.

Here’s a tutorial video that shows what can be done. This video is HD, so you should expand it full screen to see the detail.

 

How to set up iTunes 12 like iTunes 10

 

Obviously there are still differences between iTunes 12 and iTunes 10, such as the row of buttons moved to the top rather than in the left playlist sidebar. But, these are more cosmetic than a problem. As long as I can get to list mode that I am most familiar with using, this was my biggest gripe with the the new iTunes views. I’m glad they’re back.

Searching, Movies and Playlists

Searching has changed somewhat. When you search, you will get search results by song and by album. This is relatively handy when creating a new playlist. You simply drag the album over and drop it on playlists and it will create a new playlist. Though, the playlist info is shown on the right including renaming it. Once you click ‘Done’, it will be saved into the playlist sidebar and you can edit it there the normal way.

You can also create playlists that now contain movies. So, you can drag your favorite trilogies over and create a playlist of these films. It will them play the playlist in order. These will also show in the left sidebar under Playlists when on Movies. The Playlists view is in the center section.

Changing Art

If you highlight all of the tracks in list view then right click and ‘Get Info’, you can paste the art in the upper right corner with the keyboard (as long as it’s on the clipboard already) and then save. It will then apply the art to every selected track. This is not much different from iTunes 10 if you used the get info panel. However, if you used the drag and drop method in the lower left of the window, that method is no longer here.

Cover Flow

Unfortunately, Cover Flow is still not back in iTunes 12. It’s funny too, because Cover Flow is still available as an option in MacOS X Yosemite in Finder. I don’t fully understand why it was removed from iTunes 11, but for whatever reason was left in MacOS X. This is inconsistent and odd. Apple is usually very consistent in UI design, mirroring whatever is in the OS in the applications. For whatever reason, the iTunes engineers have inexplicably removed Cover Flow from iTunes. I know that there was a lawsuit against Apple for the use of Cover Flow. So, it’s possible it was removed from iTunes 11 to satisfy that patent lawsuit. Apple, just pay the friggin’ patent trolls off and put Cover Flow back in.

iTunes 10

While I still like iTunes 10 for many reasons (full screen artwork), the small art panel in the lower left, etc. These are small concessions when considering an upgrade to iTunes 12 when you need to manage your library and you need to sync your latest iOS devices. Most all of the functionality I used is now back in iTunes 12 and I’m glad that it’s there. The ugly horrid album view is, mostly, a memory for me. I use that view only for films because it makes sense. I want to see the movie poster to know that’s the movie I want to watch. For albums, I want the track lists in the original way that made it easier to manage.

So, there you go. It’s now easy to get your iTunes 12 install very close to the way iTunes 10 use to work. Of course, there are still some things that haven’t been added back in. Though, the list view that looks like iTunes 10 is the thing that allowed me to finally upgrade to this this latest version.

Why does my iPhone/iPad sync all of my music every time?

Posted in Apple, itunes bugs, Mac OS X by commorancy on December 10, 2014

itunes_redI have a lot of music in my iTunes library that I have collected over the years. I also have several Apple devices such as an iPod, an iPad and two iPhones that I sync. Some people see my devices and think I have three phones. Even though it looks like a phone, one of them is an iPod. I carry the iPod for two reasons: 1) If the battery runs out on the iPod, I can still make calls. 2) I put only music on the device leaving my phone open for apps.

Though, that’s not really the problem. I also have multiple computers each running iTunes software and this is where the problems start. When I sync my iPod, it resyncs all 5000+ songs over and over again (takes far too long). Let’s explore.

iTunes and Media

Let’s understand the reason why iTunes resyncs a song to a device. The primary reason iTunes resyncs a song already on your iDevice is due to a change in song metadata. What is metadata? Metadata includes information such as play counts and last access times. It also includes other tag data such as artwork, title, artist, track number, duration, volume, etc. Basically, any changes to any portion of the IDtag associated with the song will force a resync to the device. Why is this important? It’s important because many households now have multiple computers.

For example, let’s say you purchased your brand spanking new Airport Extreme 3TB drive and you have now copied your entire iTunes library of music and movie files to to that network drive in hopes of sharing to your multiple computers. Nothing seems wrong with that, right? So, now all of the computers in your household will optimally share these same exact media files. Definitely a space saver, or so you thought. Yes, it may have solved your space issue, but now it has created an entirely new problem. That problem, last access times will change each time any of these computers sharing this folder play a song. Worse, when any single computer’s iTunes software instance updates to a new version, iTunes will scan the entire library of files. Let’s understand why this is a problem.

Shared Drives, iTunes and Last Access Times

When you have multiple computers accessing a single set of media on a shared network drive, this can lead to the multiple computers battling over which computer has last modified a specific song or movie. In some cases, as I said above, an iTunes instance might touch every file in the library. When other iTunes instances start, they will see the song last modify dates have changed from the last time it launched and mark the song to be downloaded to your device.

Let’s assume you have 3 computers in your household: one is yours, one is your spouse’s and one is your child’s. You have hooked each of these computers to a /Volumes/Music folder hooked to that brand spanking new Airport Extreme 3TB drive (where your media files now live), each of these computers will update the last file time access separately. Let’s say your spouse’s computer’s iTunes has gotten updated to a newer version. Each time an update happens, Apple ‘fixes’ the library to make it compatible with the newest version. This ‘fixing’ action touches every single file in the library and marks the last access updated.

So, you come along and plug in your iPhone to sync on your computer’s iTunes software (also sharing this same folder). Because every file has now been updated as a result of your spouse’s update to the latest iTunes version, your device will now download every song to your device. The same problem will happen when your child’s computer is updated.

How do I solve this problem?

The solutions aren’t as easy as one might hope. The easiest solution is to duplicate your entire library to a new folder and point your iTunes instance to that folder. Then do this again for your spouses computer and your child’s computer. Unfortunately, if your library is terabytes in size, this solution may not be practical. If your library is 100-200GB, that might be possible. This is really the best of all solutions. Once you separate your library into separately duplicated media folders, each iTunes instance will have exclusive access to its files only. This is the best of all worlds because the only iTunes computer that will update those files will be yours alone. This means that play counts and last access times will remain 100% accurate and are controlled exclusively by your iTunes computer. The same for your spouse and your child’s library set. The downside is that any new purchases made by your spouse will need to also be downloaded separately by you and by your child. Downloading from iTunes isn’t a problem today because they allow re-downloads from the cloud. But, it is somewhat of a hassle as what’s contained in each of the libraries will diverge.

In the case where you have a 1TB or larger sized library and this duplication solution is impractical, there is another alternative.

Home Sharing Server

Apple now offers the Home Sharing feature in iTunes. What this setup requires is a single system completely dedicated to the Home Sharing service. I might suggest, for practicality’s sake, to buy a new computer to dedicate iTunes to the Home Sharing server purpose. I might suggest a Mac mini or an iMac for this purpose, though you could just as easily use a Windows machine running iTunes. Let’s assume we’re using a Mac mini for this purpose as Mac mini’s are reasonably inexpensive and will serve this purpose perfectly. For performance reasons, I might also suggest a wired connection between the Mac mini and your shared library device (i.e., Airport Extreme 3TB). Your remote computers can access the Home Sharing library wirelessly.

This setup requires unwinding the shared drives mounted on each computer separately and abandoning that. Instead of sharing a network drive to each computer, you will now exclusively share that folder to the newly designated Home Sharing server. Then, share your iTunes library through Apple’s Home Sharing services within that Mac mini iTunes instance. This will then be the only machine that has direct access to your network drive media files. From here, you will then connect each of the other notebook computers and devices to this Home Sharing server to access playlists, music and movies.

How does this solve the problem? Because the single dedicated Home Sharing server has exclusive access to the files, only it will update metadata rather than having 3 or 4 or more computers competing to change file access times. It also means you only need to create your playlists once rather than on each computer separately. Now, a single set of playlists will reside on the Home Sharing server which can be managed centrally from that single computer.

Why is this not a perfect solution? Play counts. Because each computer accessing the Home Sharing server will update play counts for anything consumed, this can cause those songs with updated play counts to resync with your device each time your child or spouses listens to or watches a movie. On the other hand, the number of media that requires rsyncing will be substantially fewer than when each computer can potentially update every file in the library.

It is also not a perfect solution for syncing because you will need to sync your device with your Home Sharing server itself. Not the computer that’s consuming the Home Sharing library remotely. But, it will nearly eliminate the need to resync every file to your device each time you sync.

Can this be resolved by Apple?

Sure. But, it’s not something that will happen overnight. The reason this is a problem is because iTunes doesn’t fundamentally understand the concept of a multiuser environment. MacOS X does, but not iTunes. Apple has shoehorned in some pseudo multiuser features, but without fully supporting everything required for a multiuser environment. For example, to fully support multiple users on a Home Sharing library, each user would supply a set of unique credentials to identify themselves to get into the library which would then create a separate and unique profile for each user. Under that separate profile, iTunes could keep track of play counts separately for each user. In this way, what you play and what your spouse plays would be unique and different. So, if you synced your device against your user profile, your devices would only download those items that you had consumed with your device(s) only. Same for your spouse and for your child.

Implementing a full separately profiled multiuser system in iTunes is the only way to segregate devices and syncing. This is also the only way to prevent syncing extraneous songs after they have been played by someone else. Unfortunately, today this is not a reality.

Additional benefits that could come out of a multiuser system using individual profiles is parental controls. Each profile could then have a set of permissions to allow or disallow access to parts of the library. For example, if you had a playlist of R rated movies, you could set parental controls to lock out access to that playlist from children. A multiuser system offers a lot of benefits to parents for access controls in addition to solving the problem of re-syncing every song in the library to an iPhone or iPad.

If you would like to see such a feature added to iTunes in the future, I encourage you to visit Apple’s iTunes Feedback page and leave an enhancement request for a full multiuser and parental control system be added to iTunes Home Sharing feature.

Apple Watch: A commentary

Posted in Apple, business, california by commorancy on September 11, 2014

Apple WatchI had not planned to write anything about the newest Apple announcements, but I’ve decided there are few things that need to be said about the Apple Watch. Let’s explore.

Apple Watch

So, this is the one thing that’s on everyone’s mind. I mean, it basically stole the show, but not necessarily in a good way. Why is that? Let’s start by saying that phones are the new watches. Most people don’t need to wear watches any longer because the phone itself suffices for that purpose. I mean, why carry around two different devices each needing their own battery charges when you can carry around one? I think this is where Apple assumes their distortion field is enough to overcome people’s recent aversion to wearing watches.

It’s not like the Apple Watch has reinvented something new. It’s a bloomin’ watch for chrissake. Its most basic feature is to tell time. It’s not like that’s new or revolutionary. It’s all the extra bells and whistles that come along for the ride that make or break the deal. Are those extra bells and whistles worth it? For some maybe yes, for others likely no. I mean, if you don’t need the pulse monitor or step tracker and you don’t really plan to use it as an iPhone controller, then you’re cutting about 60% of its functionality right off the top. For the $349 price tag, that’s quite pricey for a bulky thick watch.

Yeah, it’ll have a music player, but how much storage? We’re not really sure yet. But, if I know Apple, it’ll go out on the cheap and we’ll get 8G or some piddly amount like that. Just enough to hold a tiny music collection, but not enough to really be useful nor is that storage in keeping with a $350 price tag. It might also play movies, but why? Who wants to watch a movie on that tiny watch screen? Not me. That’s why I bought an iPod touch, though I don’t really much like watching moves there either. So that’s why I also bought an iPad.

Watch Failure?

Adoption of this device will be tough for Apple primarily because it will be difficult to retrain so many people to embrace the need for the Apple Watch. I mean, people have done without watches for the last decade just fine. For those people who love to wear watches, though, the Apple Watch might appeal to them. But, at that price tag, it might not. I mean, you’re going to be wearing a $350 device on your wrist in addition to carrying around a $500 valued iPhone. After all, what’s the point in buying this watch unless you have an iPhone? The other problem Apple faces is name brand watches. There is no way Apple will push aside such luxury brands as Rolex, Cartier, Patek Philippe, Tag Heuer or others. For the person looking for a luxury brand, they won’t think twice about looking at their favorite luxury brand. The Apple Watch won’t even factor in other than just having it as a novelty item. I guarantee the red carpet crowd will still show off their Rolex watches and not the Apple Watch when showing off their newest duds waltzing down the red carpet.

However, there will be a core group of Apple early adopters who will invest in this technology from Apple just because it looks cool and is new. After those people are done shelling out the cash, what then? We may find that the Apple Watch fares no better than sales of any other watch brands, which are not doing all that well today (other than the super ritzy brands of which the celebs adore).

Battery Life?

Apple faces a whole new set of problems when introducing this new device. Obviously, the battery will be a big deal clincher for a lot of people. If the battery lasts 3-5 hours, that’s just not enough to be useful or you’ll be yanking that watch off your wrist to charge it up frequently. This would be the absolute kiss of death for this device. No one is going to put that much time and effort into keeping it charged constantly.

Knowing that this device has Bluetooth and possibly WiFi, both of these wireless protocols are absolute battery hogs. There is no way around it. If you have Bluetooth and WiFi enabled, you can say goodbye to any decent amount of battery life on a device.

For example, when I cut off WiFi and cellular data on my iPhone 4s, I can typically get at least 3 days worth of charge out of the battery. With cellular data on, you might get a day at best. With WiFi on, you’ll get a day at best. These wireless protocols are out and out battery killers. For this reason, that’s why it wasn’t on the original square iPod nano. And, the battery on the iPod nano (aka. first gen Apple watch) lasted amazingly long.

Overall

This new Apple Watch itself is bulky, and bulbous. Though, I like some of the features, like the less breakable crystal. But, there are things I don’t like, like the icon vomit on the main screen. It’s easily one of the most ugly eyesores I’ve seen on an Apple device yet. I’m also not sure that Apple can sufficiently overcome this last decade of training people to use mobile phones as watches. Apple even ironically ushered in this trend with the iPhone itself. Now they’re trying to undo this? Good luck. I’ll wait and see just how the sales do on this long term, but I’m not holding out much hope with this first version of the watch.

Perhaps Apple can fix a lot of these problems in the 2G version of the watch. Personally, I’d rather see them do a pocket watch edition. Now that would be more useful. The screen would be bigger, you can hold it in your hand like you do a pocket watch and it has that cool button at the top which could be used for so many things (including opening a flap covering the display like a normal pocket watch). Not to mention, there are many people who collect pocket watches over standard wrist watches. We’ll just have to wait and see how well this all turns out.

iOS7: Lightning Cables vs Consumer — Who Wins?

Posted in Apple, botch, corruption by commorancy on September 25, 2013

There’s this really annoying error message that you might see if you’ve bought a third party Lightning cable and you try to use it on your iPhone under iOS7.  The error message reads “This cable or accessory is not certified and may not work reliably with this iPod” (or iPhone or iPad or whatever).  Let’s explore what this means.

Consumer Penalized

Lightning ErrorLet’s start simple.  You bought a Lightning cable and expected it to work. Within each Lightning cable there’s a unique identifier that an Apple device can read.  It then compares the identifier to some kind of database within the iDevice to see if Apple ‘blessed’ the cable. Basically, any company producing Lightning connector cables must license the technology from Apple.

I’m fine with licensing. But, that’s a legal distinction between the cable manufacturer and Apple. The consumer should not be involved in this fight.  Yet, here we are.  This battle is being waged on you, the Apple consumer.  You’re penalized for having bought an ‘unlicensed’ cable. Unfortunately, unlicensed cables don’t specifically come with a warning stating that they are not licensed.  So, the consumer is buying blind when buying cables. There is no way to know if a cable is licensed or not.  At least, not without an Apple device that tells us so.

Apple’s missteps

With the old big dock connectors, the devices were able to recognize unsupported accessories or cables and warn. And, they did. Those cables also had a method to do validation checks similar to this Lightning validation error message.  Again, I’m fine with that as long is tells me immediately after I purchase a cable and plug it in. If it doesn’t work immediately after purchase, I can return cable immediately. No money lost.

Unfortunately, Apple waited all through iOS6 and the iPhone 5 allowing use of the Lightning connector without ANY warning. Instead, they waited until iOS7’s release to warn the consumer and even prevent some cables from working AT ALL. Yes, that’s what this error message actually means.  It means that Apple has detected an unlicensed cable and in some cases will warn that it either cannot use it or warns you that it may not work.  Apparently, that warning message may warn for a number of times before permanently disabling the cable’s use.

While these cables worked perfectly fine with iOS6, some of them don’t work at all to either charge the device or for data transfer under iOS7.  Some of the cables do work, but possibly for only a short time.  But, this isn’t the point.  If the cables worked perfectly fine under iOS6, they will also work perfectly fine under iOS7.  This means that Apple is deliberately and intentionally preventing these cables from working.

Waited Too Long

Error 2

The huge misstep is that Apple waited over a year to warn consumers.  And when something is finally given to us, it’s not a friendly notice.  The device simply prevents some cables from outright working. Keep in mind that that’s a year of time that many people spent money buying many of these cables. Cables that can no longer be returned and can no longer be used.  Apple has waged war on you, the consumer. They are not waging war on the manufacturer who produced ‘unlicensed’ cables.  This action is actually causing monetary damages to the consumer for the lost money spent to purchase the cables. Some cables that previously worked no longer work and the consumer cannot return them nor can these cables be used.

Apple has effectively just slapped its very user base in the face and said, ‘F-you’.  I can’t imagine any other company doing this in this way.  At least give your users  some advance warning this is coming.  Don’t just do it, tell no one and expect us all to sit here all nice and happy.  It’s not my problem that manufacturers are making ‘uncertified’ cables. That’s your problem, Apple.  You need to take those manufacturers to court. Don’t penalize your paying consumers because you don’t think the cables should work.

And note, the cable I purchased is a retractable cable.  I only bought it because there was no other retractable Lightning cable on the market when I purchased. If Apple had produced one, I’d have bought it from Apple.

Class Action Lawsuit

I can easily see this turn into a class action lawsuit against Apple.  As a consumer, we had no way to know the cable wasn’t licensed until the warning message, a warning message that showed up over a year late. And, in fact, iOS7 doesn’t even state the cable is unlicensed, it states that it’s not certified. As a consumer, that’s not my problem.  I bought the cable, it worked.  iOS6 didn’t warn me of this problem and it continued to work.  Now, Apple is telling me that that cable can no longer work with my device even though it worked perfectly fine with the same exact device for many months prior to iOS7.

Plain and simple, consumers have now lost money paid for these cables. Apple is to blame. If they had enforced this policy from the beginning, this wouldn’t be an issue. Because they didn’t, consumers are now literally paying the price as Apple intentionally stops these cables from working even though they are perfectly usable cables.

I’d really like to see an attorney sue the crap out of Apple for this behavior and force Apple to redress all of us consumers’ for our money that we’ve lost because Apple sat on its fat butt not saying anything. Apple just sat there letting consumers buy more and more unlicensed cables. Then, after letting consumers buy these cables for a year, they lay the whammy down and stop the cables from working right now.

Now many of us have dead cables that we can’t use, can’t sell and that we spent good money on.  And many of these cables were not cheap and were not marked as not licensed.  At minimum, Apple should be required to cable swap all consumer purchased now non-working unlicensed Lightning cables for an Apple licensed cable so we’re not out any money.  It’s not the consumer’s fault Apple didn’t warn the consumer properly. It’s also not the consumer’s fault the manufacturer sold us an unlicensed cable. That fight is clearly between Apple and the cable manufacturer. Apple, take your fight to where it belongs.. between you and the manufacturer. Don’t take it out on the very customer that you depend upon to keep you in business. Not a smart move.

As a consumer, I simply want a fully working retractable cable without stupid warning messages or I want my money back. Apple, you clearly owe me a replacement cable for waiting a year to warn me thus losing my ability to return the cable.

IOS7: The New Android?

Posted in Android, Apple, botch by commorancy on September 19, 2013

Note, apparently some readers think I do a lot of ranting. Sometimes I do. In this case, you better get prepared for a rant of epic proportions because here it comes.

White screens and borders, really?

BadWhiteCalendar

Ok, so when I flipped open my iPad the first time on IOS7, I’m greeted by white screens (or nearly white screens). At first I wasn’t sure to make of it. Now, I’m quite sure. The white screens must go. If you’re trying to use the iPad in the dark, it’s like having a flashlight shining in your face.  No, thanks.

Not only are the white screens extremely distracting, they’re hard on the eyes and there’s nothing quite like staring at the end of a flashlight when you’re sitting in the dark. No, bad idea. Worse, whatever happened to the light sensor? Come on Apple. You put the sensor on the unit, use the damned thing will you? If I’m in a low light environment, choose a background that complements the low light environment. If I’m in a high light environment, again, choose a brighter background to make the contrast stand out.  I don’t need to be blinded in the dark and I don’t want to see a washed out screen when it’s bright outside.

Gag! the Calendar app has that white background with red letters by default. Red? Really?!? I may have to rethink my Calendaring again.Whatever happened to all of that great engineering that used to work at Apple?  I think they’ve all gone to Android. Let’s put some thinking caps on shall we?

What’s worse than white screens?

BadiOS7

I’ll answer that question.. It’s when the OS flips back and forth between black and white screens.  So, now not only do you have blinding white screens with garish colored fonts staring you in the face, now iOS has to flip between the solid white screens to solid black screens. Sure, there’s this fade transition thing, but it’s still overbearing and unnecessary.  This is, in my estimation, one of the absolute worst design practices I’ve ever seen from any company. Who would ever design any application where one screen is almost solid white and the next is almost solid black.  This is the absolute antithesis of good design. No graphical designer of any merit would even hint at let alone pitch such a stark transition between two elements.

An OS should be about experiences that let you get your work done. Not experiences that distract you from that purpose. If anything, the OS should blend into the background and facilitate getting the work done.  Instead, the OS practically waving a red flag in your face and saying, “Here, look at me”.

Photos App is absolutely broken

BadPhotosApp

When you’re just viewing photos, there’s this annoying white bar at the top of the screen that covers over the top 10% of the image. What’s that all about? I mean, can’t Apple software engineers figure out how to properly scale an image so it can be fully visible on the screen without being covered over by menu bars?

If you try to set wallpaper with the Photos app by scaling or sizing an image, be prepared for the whole app to lock up and possibly even cause your whole iPad to spontaneously reboot. This app is seriously unstable. Was this software even remotely beta tested? Once again, come on Apple.  I can understand if something like Bob’s app was borked up, but the Photos app is pretty much a necessity. This has to be fixed and pronto.

And, to top it off, when you can manage to get the app not to lock the whole blasted iPad up when moving and scaling, it pushes 30% of the image off the top of the screen with no way to correct it.  What crap!

Background Image movement effect

That new live motion background thing is the most worthless use of extra CPU cycles I’ve seen yet.  The short and sweet of it is, let me turn it off.  Don’t care about, don’t want it, don’t need it. And, the affect is so small it’s just pointless.  I move my iPad 10 inches back and forth and the background moves maybe 1 pixel. Stupid waste of resources.

Lock and Unlock sounds no longer work.

Nuff said. [UPDATE] I kind of figured this one out. After the update to iOS7, these sounds are inexplicably disabled. However, if you go into the Sounds area in settings, you can turn it off and back on. This at least enables the lock sound. It does appear, though, that Apple has stripped the unlock sound from the system.

Carnival Colors

Where are we, Google?  Seriously. I don’t want garish colors shining in my face at practically every turn. Some of the colors are almost like fluorescent green colors. It’s like, bad and ugly all at the same time.  I don’t mind the flat look, but these colors seriously need to be muted down a whole lot.

Android Clone

Apple just ripped a page out of the Android book with IOS7, especially when it comes to the so-called streamlined fonts. This OS looks and feels more like Android than any other OS I’ve seen.  We already have an Android. We don’t need another one. Do something original Apple. After all, that’s what you used to be known for. If I wanted to buy an Android tablet, I’d go buy one.  I don’t want my Apple product to look and feel like an Android tablet.  Of course, now we just need to wait for Google to file a lawsuit against Apple.

I’m hoping that Apple can get this quickly derailing train back on track soon with 7.0.1 as this thing called IOS7 is a hot mess. … and I thought IOS6 was bad.

Revert back to iTunes 10 from iTunes 11 (Mac Edition)

Posted in Apple, botch, business, itunes, itunes bugs by commorancy on February 27, 2013

[UPDATE 2015-01-17] New Article: How to make iTunes 12 look and act more like iTunes 10

Thanks to Danny Rolnick for this very detailed and helpful explanation and for his permission to post it here on Randosity. His steps came in as a comment. However, because my previous Randosity article on this topic was clearly geared toward Windows, I thought this one deserved its own topic, especially as thoughtful and well written as his comment was. So, without further adieu, here is Danny’s very detailed explanation on how to rock and roll back to iTunes 10 from iTunes 11, if you’re using Mac OS X.

To go back to iTunes 10, I am happy to show you the way — By Danny Rolnick

I happily regard myself an expert now on how to downgrade iTunes 11 back to 10 on a Mac. Having found a straightforward and logical way of doing so, I thought it my duty to share with others. I can’t express what a relief it is to have version 10 back again. See the method at the bottom. Feel free to jump down there if you want to get started. Let me know how you got on in the comments below.

My view on the experience I have had of using iTunes 11

I have been a mac obsessed devoted fan all my life (I’m 46), never used a PC and got my first mac back in 1988. Until just the past few months I wouldn’t hear anyone say anything derogatory about anything Apple. However, a few things are rocking my ‘religious like’ devotion. Most of all, I have been dumbfounded about issues of the recent iTunes evolution in version 11.

I am also obsessed with music, movies and music videos. It’s not just a hobby – I am a DJ and Video DJ by profession. iTunes, since the very first release, has been the backbone of the way I organize and store all my digital media. I never had any need to seek an alternative and have also enjoyed the integration it provides with my iPhone and other iDevices etc etc.

My library is huge. I don’t mean to brag but aside from my digital music collection of 40,000 + tracks, either purchased from the iTunes store or imported from my CD collection, my music video collection is over 10,000. I am a proficient iTunes user and I often have reason to need to re-tag my files within iTunes or sometimes I use MetaX.

Until now, I have never resisted installing any available Apple updates and even feel some excitement in anticipation of the improved features. etc. iTunes version 11 has changed all that now. iTunes 11 is, without question, an inferior version to 10. Anyone who feels otherwise is probably only using iTunes in a basic way, and for this reason I have always thought there was a market for a pro version of iTunes for people like me.

iTunes 11 simply doesn’t work

I click to play a track, click again because it hasn’t started and click another time.  Only then do I hear the track play. It takes ages to build links to external files, just as long as it takes to actually import them to the media folder. Tagging takes ridiculously long to the point you would need to leave the tagging to be done overnight. I could go on, but you are probably reading this because you have already experienced your own issues concerning version 11.

Before following the method below, I tried to seek alternatives to iTunes all together. I briefly tried Double Twist and Song Bird among many other software packages, but the truth is that iTunes is better for my personal purposes.

The most disappointing thing about version 11 is the silence from Apple about the obvious problems. It is this specific fact that has aggravated me so much. Maybe I am romanticizing, but I can’t help imagine that Steve Jobs would have ever let version 11 go as far as actually being released.

Steps to revert to iTunes 10 from iTunes 11

Here are the Stages and Steps for Mac OS X only. Thank you to Bogoss on MacForums for help with this article.

Stage 1 — Uninstall iTune11, Reinstall iTunes 10

Note: Any changes you have made to your music files since you used last used version 10 will be lost but any purchasses you have made in the time since can be downloaded again if you can’t find those purchasses in your media folder. If recently made playlists are of particular importance you could export the lists to somewhere for later.

  1. Back up your iTunes Folder(s) just in case.
  2. Download these apps
  3. Download iTunes 10.7 (last version before 11). Check your download folder, it might still be there. You can also get it from the 10.7 Apple Support Web Site (Click the big download button)
  4. Using AppZapper, simply uninstall iTunes 11. Before you drag the iTunes icon from the Application folder to the window you will need to open the preferences of AppZapper and deselect the box next to “Keep Apple applications safe”
  5. Open the 10.7 dmg file, you will see the pkg file (usually you would double click it to install), but now, this time drag it out somewhere (e.g. Desktop).
  6. Open Pacifist
  7. Drag the pkg iTunes 10.7 file to Pacifist and then click install from the menu bar
  8. During installation, click replace every time a window pops up.
  9. Installation finished, iTunes 10.7 is back!
  10. Don’t open it yet!!!!

Stage 2 — Recover your Library

See this video that explains the process to recover your library here:

  1. In FINDER – go to your iTunes Music Folder located in (Your User Account)=>Music=>iTunes
  2. Within it, open the folder called Previous iTunes Libraries.
  3. Identify the most recent backup. It has the date at the end.
  4. Duplicate it. Move it to the desktop.
  5. Rename it as ‘iTunes Library.itl’. Basically remove the date from the file name.
  6. Go back to your iTunes Folder and rename the file there which is already named ‘iTunes Library.itl’ to ‘iTunes Library.itl.old’.
  7. Now move the ‘iTunes Library.itl’ file from your desktop to this location.
  8. Now open iTunes 10.7. If it can’t find your iTunes library, select choose library and navigate the application to the new ‘iTunes Library.itl’ file you created.
  9. Breathe a sigh of relief, you’re done!
  10. Copy this and post it to help others. Only come back to me to say Thanks, not for more support.

Danny

Revert back to iTunes 10 from iTunes 11 (Windows Edition)

Posted in Apple, botch, itunes, itunes bugs by commorancy on December 27, 2012

[UPDATE 2015-01-17] New Article: How to make iTunes 12 look and act more like iTunes 10

If you’re looking for the Mac OS X downgrade steps, please check out this Randosity article. After giving iTunes 11 a fair shake, I have come to the conclusion that this version is so hopelessly broken that I just can’t deal with it any longer. So, I’ve decided to roll back to iTunes 10.

The iTunes 11 botch

It is very obvious that Tim Cook (and crew) are systematically undoing every ideal that Jobs held for Apple. iTunes 11 is no exception. With its missing menus, unnecessary drop down menus, haphazard interface, missing Radio link (well, not missing, but moved to a hard-to-find area), huge graphical album listings and no easy way to set art on music any more, the whole iTunes 11 release is one big botch. Well, the last straw came today when I tried importing a CD. It imported fine until I stopped it because I realized the import settings were wrong. When I attempted to restart the import, iTunes 11 would only begin at the next track and refused to replace the existing, something that iTunes 10 does quite nicely. When I put a second CD into my second drive, the whole app locked up. Then, I killed it with task manager. On startup, it proceeded to lock up Windows and prevent me from working with the desktop. I’ve never had this issue with iTunes 10. Worse, playlist metadata is now stupidly globally linked. Meaning, if you uncheck a song in one playlist and it exists in other playlists, it unchecks the song there too. So, now checkboxes are global settings across the whole of iTunes. That’s just some of the underwhelming, but major changes in iTunes 11. I’ve had it with iTunes 11 and all of its stupid new quirks.

Rewriting that much of an app is really a gamble and this is one gamble didn’t pay off. I’ve heard some people seem to like some of the changes. I’m not one of them. Seriously, what was the benefit to changing the interface that radically for no end-user payoff? I mean, at least give us users some kind of a bone to endure that kind of radical change. There just isn’t any reward for dealing with this massive of a change. All we get is whole lot of learning curve, fighting through bugs, dealing with stupidity in UI design all without any substantial ease of use improvements.

Restoring iTunes 10

Well, I finally made the decision to revert back to iTunes 10. The first problem was locating the most recent version of iTunes 10. Thankfully, Apple Support keeps older iTunes versions online (or at least, they’re there now). So, if you are thinking of reverting back to iTunes 10, you might want to grab your copy now before they take it down. But, keep in mind that once you’ve upgraded to iTunes 11, your ‘iTunes Library.itl’ (What are the iTunes library files?) file will be updated to the latest format which is incompatible with iTunes 10. So, you will have to restore back to an older version of library.itl or possibly face rebuilding your entire media library from files on disk.

Steps to revert on Windows:

  • Download iTunes 10 from the above link
  • Start->Control Panel->Programs and Features
  • Make note of the iTunes 11 ‘Installed On’ date.
  • Uninstall iTunes 11
  • Install iTunes 10
    • Don’t start iTunes 10 at this point or you will receive an error stating that library.itl was created by a newer version. Continue on with the steps below.
  • Go to C:\Users\<your user>\Music\iTunes
  • Rename ‘iTunes Library.itl’ to ‘iTunes library.iTunes11.itl’ (in case you want to revert back using this file)
    • Note the space in the name
  • Copy the most recent backup of ‘iTunes Library.itl’ or of a date just before you installed iTunes 11
    • Copy C:\Users\<your user>\Music\iTunes\Previous iTunes Libraries\library.<date>.itl to
    • C:\Users\<your user>\Music\iTunes\library.itl
    • If you don’t have a backup copy, you can simply delete ‘iTunes Library.itl’, but you’ll probably have to rebuild your media library from scratch. Deleting this file doesn’t delete your music, it will just remove iTunes’ reference to it.
    • If you have a ‘iTunes Music Library.xml’, you may be able to import that to rebuild your library more easily.
    • You should regularly export your library as ‘iTunes Music Library.xml’ anyway in case iTunes ever gets corrupted.
  • Once you have iTunes 10 installed and ‘iTunes Library.itl’ recovered, you can start up iTunes 10. Assuming the ‘iTunes Library.itl’ was a backup created by iTunes 10, it should start just fine. If it doesn’t, keep recovering older ‘iTunes Library.<date>.itl’ backup files until you find one that works.

Now you’ll want to review your library to ensure that any new music you’ve bought or added is there. If not, you’ll have to add the folders of that music to this library.

Note, if you have changed where your library.itl resides, you will have to rename it there instead. If you haven’t modified iTunes in this way, library.itl will be in the above location (or whichever drive is your Windows boot drive letter).  Simply deleting the file, iTunes may be smart enough to pull its most recent backup copy, but I haven’t tested this.  So, I’d rather choose my library.itl from the backups.

Additional note, you can’t tell which version of iTunes generated the library.itl file. So, you will need to review your backup library.<date>.itl files and locate a dated file that’s before you installed iTunes 11. If you don’t remember the date you installed iTunes, you may be able to find the install date in Control Panel->Programs and Features.

Mac Note: that with the exception of the paths, the basics of these instructions may apply to MacOS X. I’ve just not reverted iTunes on MacOS X as yet. However, you’re in luck, Danny has produced a rollback article for Mac OS X here on Randosity for Mac OS X users.

Apple’s progressive slide

There are some technology changes that Apple makes that work. There are some that don’t. Part of the problem is a quality control issue. Steve Jobs was a stickler for high quality control to the point of perfectionism. This is a good thing in that Apple’s quality was always near perfect when Jobs was on duty. Unfortunately, since Tim Cook has taken over, that quality level has dramatically slid down. The iPad 3 was the first example, then OS X Lion, then iOS 6, Mountain Lion and now iTunes 11.  I won’t even get into that thing they’re calling an iPod nano.  I still shutter to think that someone at Apple thought the new taller iPod nano would actually have a real world use case over the ‘watch’ version? I should just avoid the obvious discussion about the whole taller nano debacle.

I’m not sure what the Apple engineers are thinking at this point, but one thing is crystal clear. There is no one at Apple driving quality control either at a software or hardware level. I doubt that Steve Jobs would have ever let iTunes 11 see the light of day the way it is now. The changes were far too drastic requiring a huge learning curve without any real benefit to the user. I mean seriously, what did Apple hope to accomplish by making this drastic of a software change?

For example, if Apple were planning on introducing a Netflix-like streaming service and iTunes needed the software to support this, I can full well understand implementing a needed software change to support this. If they were planning on allowing some new advanced technological approach to playlists, like Facebook style sharing of them, then maybe a change might be required. But, making a change just to make change isn’t useful or wanted. Complicating the interface and moving things to unnecessary new areas is not wanted. Users don’t want to have to relearn an interface just because someone decides to haphazardly move things around with no rhyme or reason.

Analysts amazingly silent?

I’ve yet to see any analysts making any calls on this or any other Apple quality issues. Yet, it’s crystal clear. Apple is not the Apple it once was. I’m sure the analysts are just biding their time to allow their clients to get their money out of Apple before making word of the problems that are just beginning to face Apple. In fact, it’s the same problem that now faces Sony. Sony used to be a top notch, high quality and innovative technology company who could basically do no wrong. Then, something happened at Sony and they’ve not been able to produce anything innovative in years. Apple is clearly on its way to becoming the next Sony. It’s also inevitable that without hiring someone (or several people) of the caliber of Steve Jobs that has both the technological vision combined with high levels of quality control, Apple doesn’t have a future.

As a software developer, you can’t just throw out any change to the wind and hope it succeeds. No, you have to bring in test groups to review the changes and find out how the average user responds to the changes. Apple shouldn’t have any trouble putting testing groups together. But, it appears that iTunes 11 did not get user tested at all. It’s a shame, too. iTunes 11 has some cool features, but those are just completely eclipsed by the poor quality of the software and the stupid design decisions.

Can Apple recover?

Yes, but it’s going to take someone (or several people) to bring quality control back to Apple and someone who is willing to say, ‘No, that sucks. Try again’.. just someone should have to said about iTunes 11 before it was ever released.

iPad mini: Smaller? Yes. Worth it? No.

Posted in Apple, botch, cloud computing by commorancy on November 5, 2012

With all the hype over Apple’s new brainchild, the iPad mini, I’m just not so hopeful about this tablet model at all. Apple has definitely taken a step backwards in this one, which is quite an unusual step for Apple. Typically, Apple always retains previous technology standards it has already set in new products. Usually, it even improves upon those standards. Not so with the iPad mini.

What exactly is the iPad mini?

This tablet is effectively a smaller version of the iPad 2 with a better camera. That pretty much describes it. Many people even go so far as to call it the iPad touch. Actually, the degrades the iPod touch. The iPod touch at least has a market in small handheld touch devices. The iPod touch has a form factor that’s actually useful when you don’t want the expensive 3G data cost tether, that and having access to the rich set of applications available in IOS. So, you can buy into pretty much what an iPhone is without that monthly data tether. Unless you’re on the go 90% of the time or you travel 100% of the time, having a data plan on a phone is pretty much a waste when you are also buying internet at home.

Yet, Apple hasn’t yet to introduce the 3G version of the iPad mini, but it is apparently on the way. That said, what is it about the iPad mini that makes it a compelling device? Well, frankly not much. For me, Apple botched it. Shrinking an iPad 2 into a smaller form factor while adding a better camera just isn’t enough. This is not what Apple is known for, but it is what the NEW Tim Cook Apple will become known for. That is, rehashing old devices into new form factors. The Steve Jobs’s Apple was never about rehashing old technology in new ways. Steve Jobs was always about pushing the envelope to make technology better, easier and faster for the users.

So, the question is, how does the iPad mini fit into that Steve Jobs’ vision? It doesn’t. This is the reason Steve was against releasing a smaller form factor tablet. The iPad mini is everything Steve Jobs didn’t want in a tablet and it is the reason it has not existed until now. It took Steve Jobs departing this earth to undo that vision. That’s why Steve could make Apple better with each and every device and why Tim Cook will begin struggling to keep Apple alive.

Is there a market?

Probably, for people who simply don’t want to carry around multiple devices (i.e., Kindle, iPod touch, iPad and camera), the size of it the iPad mini might work. For me, the 1024×768 screen is just too much of a step backwards. The iPad 3 is a compelling device with its retina display. Why did Apple skimp in this department on the iPad mini? I don’t get it. They’re not known for taking step backwards in technology. This is something I’d expect from Samsung, Asus, Dell or pretty much any other PC maker. I would never expect this level of technological concession from Apple. On the other hand, if Apple had made a phone out of the iPad mini, that might be worth considering.  In fact, turning the iPad 3 into a phone, I’d be all over that.  I’m rather tired of carrying around a phone and the iPad.  Just let me carry one device and let that device be an iPad. With wired and Bluetooth headsets, you don’t need to hold a phone to your face any longer. So, let’s consolidate the devices. That change would definitely make the iPad mini much more attractive as a device.

Weight and Size vs Price

Yes, it’s smaller and lighter, but at what a technology cost? You get a smaller technologically inferior device from what Apple has previously produced in the Retina iPad 3, but at a substantially higher price than is expected for such an inferior device. At $329, you’re effectively buying what exactly? An expensive 1024×768 tablet. Granted, it runs IOS that has previously been known for its stability. Unfortunately, that has changed with IOS 6. What has originally been considered base stability is now gone with IOS 6. Apps like Mail, Safari and even iTunes are unstable. You’ll get a notice for an email in a banner, click on it and the Mail app crashes. Definitely not stable. I’ve also had regular crashes with Safari and iTunes.

So, what Apple had going for itself in stability of IOS is pretty much gone. IOS has now lost its standing as the ultimate goto tablet OS. It’s just a matter of time before the quality of Apple’s products degrades to the point where it’s not even worth discussing. Note, we’re already on the downward side of the Apple quality bell curve. So, unless Tim Cook can manage to crack the whip and right this ship, Apple’s ship is already listing. It’s just a matter of time before it capsizes.

Apple’s Botched Rollout Plan

The whole roll out plan for the iPad mini was just convoluted with its staggered late announcement a month or so after its fall release announcement and then the staggered roll out of the device itself with the WiFi version releasing first. Definitely not something Jobs would have ever allowed. The parts also leaked on the Internet early, so many people already knew the form factor before ever hearing the announcement. Apple needs to lock down its supply chain much more tightly than it has. Again, this is something Jobs would have gone on a tirade as well. Secrecy was critically important to Steve Jobs.

Worth it?

Depends on what you want to do with an iPad mini? While I can definitely see a use and the usefulness for the iPad 3 with its multi-core processor and Retina display, taking this much of a step back for the iPad mini is not the answer. If you really must have this form factor, then perhaps. As a gift, if you really want to spend that level of cash on someone, perhaps. But, even as a gift, it could be seen as ‘cheaping out’.  That is, giving them a Toyota when they wanted the Ferrari (iPad 3).  Be careful with this one as a gift. For people who won’t use the pixels on the screen, it might be ok.

So, is it worth the price? No. This device would only be compelling if it were about $100 cheaper at each model price point or if it contained a phone. At $329, it’s too costly for such a huge step backwards technologically. The size does not make up for that. At $229, it would definitely be getting much closer to the right price. At $199 for a 16GB WiFi model, the iPad mini would be truly at the right price for that level of 2 year old technology. Asking people to pay $130 more for a 2 year old device is just price gouging, or as some people call it, the Apple tax. In this case, the Apple tax is most definitely not worth it.

Restore a Mac formatted 6th Gen iPod nano in Windows 7

Posted in Apple, botch, Mac OS X by commorancy on September 22, 2012

I recently picked up a sixth generation iPod nano refurbished from Gamestop.  When I got home and plugged it into iTunes for Windows 7, iTunes recognized it as a Macintosh formatted iPod and said that it needed to be restored.  Here’s where the fun begins.. not.  Several things happened after I plugged it in.  First, Windows recognized it as drive O: and opened a requester wanting to format the iPod.  This format panel stays open until cancelled. Second, when I tried to restore the iPod, iTunes kept showing me error 1436, which is a rather non-descript error that takes you to a mostly generic Apple help page that is only moderately helpful.  I take that back, this help page wasn’t helpful at all.

Note, Macintosh formatted iPods cannot be used with Windows.  However, Windows formatted iPods can be used on both Windows and Macs.  So, this is simply a problem that exists because this iPod was originally formatted on a Mac.  Such stupid issues that cause such time wasting problems.

How did the first restore go?

It didn’t.  I realized the above mentioned Windows disk format panel had the iPod open and the 1436 error was due to this.  However, that was just the beginning of the problems. When I cancelled that panel and I tried the restore again, I got a different issue.  Basically, iTunes opens a progress bar that keeps moving without any progress.  I wasn’t sure if this progress panel was normal or abnormal.  Although, I suspected abnormal after 3 minutes without any changes.  So, I began searching for how long an iPod restore should take.  I found that restore should complete in only a few minutes (less actually).  So, I knew something was wrong when it wasn’t making any progress.

Disk Mode

It was clear that iTunes wasn’t going to restore this iPod through its normal means.  I began searching on the net for how to recover this iPod and ran into a site that led me to Apple’s How to put an iPod in Disk Mode help page.  This page is actually very useful and where the 1436 error page should have led me but didn’t.

What is Disk Mode? Disk Mode puts the iPod into a state that allows it to be formatted as a disk.  Well, you don’t really want to format it.  Instead, in Disk Mode, it gets rid of all that pesky Macintosh formatting garbage and actually lets you restore it properly.  For the sixth gen iPod nano, to put it in Disk Mode, press and hold the power and volume down buttons until the screen turns black and the Apple logo appears.  When you see the Apple logo, press and hold both volume up and down buttons until the iPod shows a white screen.  This is the Disk Mode screen.

Recovering

At this point, I plugged the iPod back in with iTunes running and iTunes saw that the iPod was ‘corrupted’ and asked to restore it.  Well, the restoration this time went like a champ.  No issues at all.  However, after I restored it, I did have to close out of iTunes and restart iTunes.  Until I did that, iTunes kept telling me that the iPod was in ‘Recovery Mode’ even though I knew that it wasn’t based on the screen of the iPod.  After restarting iTunes, that stopped and it finally recognized the iPod as new and let me put music on it.  Yay!

So, there you have it.  Although, it should have been as simple as plug-in and restore.  But, Apple had to make this a chore because of the PC vs Mac formatting thing.  Seriously, is that even necessary?

Design

Let me take a moment to commend Apple on this design of this iPod nano.  When the first long skinny nano was first released, I thought it was kind of cool, but not worth it.  Then the smaller squatty nano arrived and I liked that design so much that I bought one.  I got my use out of that and eventually bought an iPod touch.  However, the iPod touch isn’t useful in all circumstances and I wanted something smaller and lighter.  When this nano was released, I always thought it was a great idea and well executed save for the fact that it has no application support.  So, here’s where Apple dropped the ball on this one.

The size and weight is awesome.  The look is great, especially if you get a watch band.  It just needed a refresh to add a few more features like Bluetooth, video (although, not really necessary in my book) and apps support.  I loved the square display because this is the exact image ratio of CD covers.  So, it was the perfect marriage between a music player and a user interface.  Some people complained that the touch display was overkill.  Perhaps, but I always liked it, but I have never needed one of these.  I still don’t really need one.  The reason I bought one is because Apple has discontinued this model in lieu of it’s bigger screen cousin.

The new nano, however is neither nano in size nor is it really that small.  This nano was the perfect size and perfect shape.  It truly deserved the name nano.  However, the new nano is really not deserving of that name.  The screen is too big and it’s really just a dumbed down iPod touch.  Yes, the new nano has video capabilities, but so what?  I don’t plan on ever loading video on it.  Without WiFi or streaming mechanisms, there’s no point.  I realize Apple wants to enrich their ecosystem (read, sell more videos to people), but this isn’t the device to do it.  In fact. this latest nano design to ship late 2012 is really not that great looking.  I feel that it’s stepping too far into the same territory as the iPod touch.  So, why do this?  It’s also bigger, bulkier and likely heavier.   The battery life is probably shorter even.  It’s no longer a small portable player.

The 6th generation iPod nano (this one I just bought) is truly small and light.  It can go just about anywhere and has a built-in clip even! It lacks some features, yes, but for a music player I certainly don’t miss them.  If you’re thinking of buying a 6th generation iPod nano, you should do it now while the Apple outlet still has them in stock.  Yes, they are refurbished, but they’re still quite spectacular little music players.  However, don’t go into the purchase expecting the feature-set of an iPhone or an iPod touch.  It’s not here.  If you go into the purchase thinking it’s an iPod shuffle with a display, then you won’t be disappointed with the purchase.

Apple’s ever changing product line

What I don’t get about Apple is removing a product from its product lineup that clearly has no competition in the marketplace at all, let alone having no competition even within its own product lineup.  Yet, here we are.  Apple is dropping the 6th generation design in lieu of the 7th generation design that’s bigger and bulkier (and likely heavier).  In fact, it looks a lot like a smaller dumbed-down iPod touch.

In reality, the 7th gen nano is so close to becoming a tiny iPod touch clone that it clearly competes with the Touch.  This is bad.  The 6th generation nano (pictured above) in no way competes with the iPod touch, other than it has a tiny touch screen. The 6th generation nano design clearly still has a place in Apple’s lineup.  I just don’t get why they dump products from their lineup and replace them with designs that aren’t likely to sell better (0ther than to those people who complained you couldn’t play video on the 6th gen nano). The 6th gen nano is great for the gym or while running.  However, after this newest nano is introduced, if you want a square sized small music player, you have to get a shuffle with no display.  The bigger bulkier 7th gen design just won’t work for most activity use cases.  Apple, your design team needs to better understand how these devices are actually being used before you put pen to paper on new designs, let alone release them for public consumption.  Why is it always just one device?  Why can’t you have both in the product lineup?

Of course, if they had retained an updated 6th gen model along with adding the 7th gen model, then that would make a lot more sense.  Removing the older model in lieu of this one, this is not a replacement design.  You can’t wear this one like a watch.  So, that whole functionality is gone.  What I would like to have seen is two models.  A 6th gen revamped to add more features like bluetooth and perhaps a camera and, at the same time, introducing this new video capable model.  The updated 6th gen doesn’t need to playback movies, the screen is too tiny for that.  In fact, the screen on this new 7th gen model is too tiny for that.  Even the iPod touch is too tiny for watching movies, in practicality.  It’s not until you get to the iPad does watching a movie even become practical.  In a pinch, yes you could watch a video or movie, but you’d be seriously straining your eyes.  I’d rather do that (or rather, not strain my eyes) with a much bigger screen.  No, an updated square-format touch screen iPod is still very much necessary in the lineup.  I understand Apple’s need for change here, but not for the use case that’s now lost with this 7th generation iPod. Sometimes, Apple just doesn’t seem to get it.  This is just one of a new series of cracks in the armor that is the new Jobs-less era Apple.  Welcome to the new Apple folks.

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