Archive for the ‘Apple’ Category
With the dust settling on the opening of Apple’s new App Store, it’s clear that apps purchased before the App Store opened are in some sort of limbo. In my case, I was in that position with Pixelmator [App Store link]. I purchased Pixelmator on December 21 for about $47 after using a discount code. However, with the App Store’s opening, the new price is $29.99 and, just to rub salt in that wound, the App Store version includes a free upgrade to Version 2 when it’s released later this year. Rather than sit back and stew I decided to do something about this.
At around 1.00AM on 9 January, I sent a note to the Pixelmator folks using their contact page. Here’s what I wrote.
Firstly, I want to say that I think your software is fantastic. However, having purchased Pixelmator only three weeks ago I’m feeling very annoyed that it’s now cheaper and I won’t get a 2.0 upgrade through the App Store.
I made my purchase on 21 December 2010 (Order XXXXXX). Even Apple give its OS updates for free if users buy a system within a few weeks of a new release (heck – they’ll even exchange a whole computer if it’s superseded within 2 weeks of purchase).
Is there something you can do to rectify this?
I was about to go to sleep when I thought I’d check my mail one last time. I was very surprised to see that a real human has responded to my note within minutes of my contact. Here’s the response.
We can issue full refund and then you can buy Pixelmator in App store. Will that work for you?
We do not want to annoy you in any way.
To all the developers out there – this is how you make your customers happy and into advocates for your company and your apps.
I’ll be taking the Pixelmator folks up on their very fair resolution. The whole process, from when I sent my initial message to the refund being processed took about 15 minutes.
Thus far, I’m happy with the 11-inch MacBook Air but I have a short wish list for Apple to consider for the next version.
- 256GB storage
- backlit keyboard
With those two extras, the 11-inch MacBook Air would be just about perfect. Even though there’s no optical drive, it’s not a big issue for me.
Ever since Apple released the 11-inch MacBook Air I thought it would be a good match for me. The problem was that with a 13-inch MacBook Pro and an iPad already in my toolkit, the Air was redundant. However, the opportunity to sell my MacBook Pro for a good price presented itself so a switch was justified.
I started the transition by calling the two Apple Stores in Melbourne to find out if they had stock of the 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo with 128GB SSD and 4GB of memory. This is usually a build to order specification but the Chadstone store had this in stock.
I then completed my usual Time Machine backup of the old MacBook Pro.
Once I was back from the Apple Store, I unboxed the MacBook Air, turned it on and went through the usual start up process. When prompted, I connected the backup drive from the MacBook Air and used the Migration Assistant to move my applications and personal data to the MacBook Air.
The start up time from when I unboxed the MacBook Air until it was ready to use with all my applications and personal data was about an hour.
I’ve used plenty of netbooks over the last couple of years. Technically, the MacBook Air doesn’t fit the netbook category as it costs more, has a larger screen and a full-size keyboard. However, it’s as light as most netbooks. All of this means that while the MacBook Air has several compromises, they aren’t as great as a netbook. I can touch-type and do most of the things I need to without feeling cramped.
The one thing the 11-inch MacBook Air lacks that I’d expect is a SD card slot. However, Apple has wisely put one USB port on each side of the unit rather than adjacent to each other. Apple tends to put the ports too close together in my view. As a result, it’s often not possible to connect two USB peripherals simultaneously. This isn’t a problem with the MacBook Air.
The lack of an optical drive could be an issue althoughI rarely used the one on my MacBook Pro. If I go away and want to take a bunch of movies I can always put them on a portable hard drive or USB stick.
Those are my initial impressions of the 11-inch MacBook Air. What else would you like to know? Are there specific use-cases you’d like me to explore? Let me know in the comments.
I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop CS3 for a while now – long enough that I figure it’s time to upgrade to something more recent. Since CS3 was released, my operating system has upgraded from Leopard to Snow Leopard and Adobe has released two more versions of Photoshop. However, the CS3 suites are pretty expensive and offer a lot of functionality that I doubt I’ll ever really need. So I found my self looking at alternatives. I’d used Gimp in the past but never really liked the interface.
Searching for alternatives led me to an App called Pixelmator. Running with the tagline “Image editing for the rest of us” the Pixelmator team have worked at creating a viable alternative to Photoshop at a fraction of the price.
The first thing that struck me with Pixelmator was that it really feels like a Mac application and not a port of a Windows program or some sort of compromised design made to fit both the Mac and Windows. Dialogs, palettes and toolbars all feel like they have been made for the Mac.
Pixelmator started off as a program developed by brothers Saulius and Aidas Dailide. The developer team has grown to nine now but the original vision of a great looking and functional app remains. Saulius is the architect of the user interfaces and website while Aidas’ focus is on features.
I’m not a graphic designer but I found Pixelmator to be easy to use. I’ve used it to tweak images I’ve downloaded and for creating simple website banners and other images. All of the basic tools I’ve required have been there and worked as expected.
I used Pixelmator to open and edit GIFs, JPGs, TIFs and PNGs. It can also open PSD files from Photoshop.
Pixelmator sells for just $59 USD – that’s way less that either Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. There’s a fully functional 30 day trial so you can try before you buy.
I was just reading this rant over at the new Australian version of T3 which got me thinking about something that’s been nagging at me – Apple’s MobileMe might look pretty but from a usability point of view it sucks.
Let’s start with the basics. Apple makes a big deal about “controlling the whole widget”. It means that they can control the user experience ensuring that users get the greatest stability and most consistent user experience.
A few months ago, the online components of MobileMe were given a significant face-lift making them look a lot like the equivalent apps running on an iPad. One can assume that a similar user interface will make an appearance in OS X Lion when it’s released in the middle of 2011.
One of the main additions to Mail, added in the latest refresh, was server-side rules. These allow you to have inbound messages automatically filed into folders as they arrive. This is an incredibly valuable feature for those that receive lots of email.
However, Apple has let users down with their implementation. For users who are using OS X’s Mail.app, there’s no way to take the rules created there and have them easily migrated to MobileMe. What makes this more bewildering is that Apple allows users to sync mail rules between machines using MobileMe.
Now, let’s assume that you’ve overcome that hurdle by manually recreating your rules (I had about 20 rules I relied on and have entered them into MobileMe). How do you know if a folder has unread messages? If I’m using the MobileMe website – it’s easy as the unread message count appears next to each folder. However, on an iOS device the same functionality isn’t present. The only way to find all my unread messages is to manually open and refresh each folder.
Apple needs to create an “Unread Mail” folder in MobileMe. It’s not hard to do. In fact, you can create one on your mac in Mail.app using a Smart Folder. And before the fanbois come out saying that GMail lacks such a feature – it’s dead easy to get a snapshot of your unread mail in GMail by searching for “label: unread”.
Once upon a time, when MobileMe was called .Mac, it was possible to use Apple’s online mail service to consolidate multiple email accounts. All you needed to do was give Mail POP access to your other accounts. It was easy and just worked. Apple, in “upgrading” the service took that functionality away. Sure, you can go to your other email services and have them forward email to MobileMe but not all email services allow that.
Mac Rumors recently sent a message to Steve Jobs and received a response. They asked
I love my iPad and iPhone4 and am a huge fan of yours and all that Apple does. I desperately want to stay inside of Apple’e ecosystem as much as possible.
However, MobileMe is making it very difficult for me to do so. Unreliable/unpredictable syncing, creating duplicate entries (sometimes scores of them), etc. It’s almost unusable.
And I know from forums (including Apple’s own support boards) that I am not the only one experiencing these very real and frustrating problems.
Please tell me it will get better, and soon?
Interestingly, Apple’s increasingly vocal CEO responded with a simple nine-word response.
Yes, it will get a lot better in 2011.
I really want to believe that. I recently gave a talk at my local Mac user group, iMUG, on cloud computing. In preparation for that presentation, I transitioned my main email and calendaring system from GMail to MobileMe. I figured that if I was going to talk to a Mac user group I’d better get my facts right.
For a basic user who only has one email account and doesn’t get much email then MobileMe is good enough. But the number of people who fit into that group is shrinking.
I know that a lot has happened since Microsoft released Windows 3.1 in 1992. We’ve seen user interfaces evolve significantly and an ongoing game of oneupmanship between Microsoft and Apple. However, it occurred to me while looking at OS X and the information made available by Apple regarding OS X Lion, due for release in the middle of 2011, that Apple has returned to some of the look and feel of the early 1990s.
Take a look at the following three images.
Notice that all have some similar elements. The interfaces are all application-centric. In order to do something, you need to choose the appropriate program. Although Apple’s recent systems are far more visually striking with nice icons the basic elements are the same.
I recall that when Windows 95 was released there were some cartoons around saying Win95 = Mac84. Well, perhaps there’s some comeuppance with OS X 2011 = Windows 1993.
Having migrated the blog from B2Evolution to WordPress I’ve now turned my attention to regularly posting. As an iPad user, I want to be able to create and publish content while I’m out. That means that I need to find the best iPad tools for blogging.
iOS Tips for Capturing Images
The iPad makes it easy to capture images from the web.
To grab an image from a website, just tap-hold on the image. A context menu will appear that allows you to save the image. That will put the image file in the iPad’s Photo app.
If you need a screen capture, which might be the only way to get an image if you need something that the usual image saving process can’t do then simple hold down the iPad’s front button and press the power button. If the sound is on, you’ll hear a shutter sound as the screen flashes. The screen capture will be saved automatically into your Photos.
Image Editing on the iPad
The first is actually an iPhone app but that’s not a big deal. Crop Suey makes it easy to crop and rotate images – perfect if you need to clean up a screen grab or some other image.
Crop Suey costs $1.99 from the App Store.
The second app is one for when you want to make things look a little special. Color Splash (free from the App Store) lets you apply some special affects to images. It takes an image, converts it to black and white and lets you selectively recolor specific parts of the image. If you need to highlight something in an image, just recolor that specific part.
Blogging Software for posting and editing on the iPad
Of course, the iPad’s version of Safari is big enough to run the WordPress admin tools from then browser. But what if you’re not online?
WordPress for iOS is a good place to start. It lets you create posts and save them locally. You can add images but it doesn’t let you set the alignment easily. Also, if you want to create a link you have to manually create the link – that means you need some basic HTML skills.
The reality is that WordPress for iOS is OK but very basic. In our experience, it also not very stable. We found that it would frequently crash after saving.
Another option is BlogPress. It’s a more polished app that can be used to create content for a whole bunch of different blogging systems including Blogger, Drupal and Joomla among others.
We like that is offers some basic HTML formatting and seems far more stable than WordPress’s app. One thing we did notice with the HTML formatting was that it uses the older B and I tabs for bold and italics respectively whereas “strong” and “em” are more commonly used these days.
We also like that BlogPress will automatically send an update to Twitter and Facebook when we post without the need to load a plug-in to WordPress.
BlogPress costs $2.99 from the App Store. In our view, the cost is worth it for the advantages it boasts over WordPress’ free app.
Keyboard Case – make your iPad a notebook
Typing on the iPad’s soft keyboard isn’t too bad but sometimes it’s nice to use something with actual buttons. We reviewed the PADACS Rubata Keyboard Case a few weeks ago at ITWire.
We’ve been using this case for awhile now and it’s getting used a lot. It does add some bulk to the unit, making the iPad the same size as a netbook. However, being able to pull the iPad out and use it as a regular tablet gives it an edge over many netbooks.
The PADACS Rubata Keyboard Case can be purchased from the PADACS online store for $110AU
Last Thursday, I asked my daughter to go out to my office and use my iMac to print some stuff she needed for school. The printers are all networked but her school-issued Windows 7 machine seems to keep losing its printers. In any case, when she got there, the iMac was frozen.
After trying all the usual things – Command-Option-Escape, clicking randomly, sacrificing a chicken – it seemed that the machine was well and truly clagged up so a brutal power off and restart seemed to be the only way out. That was the start of a painful journey.
After a restart that took about an hour (no, really. I’m not saying it felt like an hour. It actually took an hour) My desktop was visible but as soon as i tried to do anything I was confronted with the dreaded beachball. After about an hour of messing about I decided to leave the system alone and hope that OS X’s own maintenance routines would run and the system would get to the point where it was vaguely usable.
It was clear after leaving the system alone overnight that something was rotten in the state of Denmark. I managed to install the excellent system utility OnyX. I let it do its thing and it advised that I needed to run Disk Utility from my OS X installer DVD as there was something really wrong with my system.
So, I followed the instructions and Disk Utility told me that my system was seriously screwed and I ought to backup whatever I can and that the only cure was to reinstall my system.
Fortunately, I’ve been using Time Machine to back everything up to an external drive so i was reasonably confident that i wasn’t going to lose any data. In addition my main working files are synced to iDisk (although I prefer DropBox – I’ve been testing iDisk so everything was there but normally it would be in DropBox) and I use an IMAP email server so any emails not backed up could be easily retrieved.
Confident that all my data was safe, I used the installer to wipe my iMac’s hard drive and install OS X. After about an hour, the process was complete and I had a fresh installation of OS X 10.6.
At the end of the installation, Apple’s Migration Assistant ran and gave me the option of using a Time Machine backup to restore my system. That seemed like the thing to do so I followed the instructions. It took about two hours to recover the 500GB of data, applications and settings.
After that was done, I started the system and my Dock seemed to have all of my apps in place. I ran Software Update to get my system from 10.6 to 10.6.5 – that was a 1GB download – and a few other updates I hadn’t got around to in the last week or so.
All told, my system was back to how it was before the crash in about four hours. As far as I can tell not a single application, document, photo or any other data was lost.
The Morals of the Story
1. Maintain a regular backup
2. Have your most important data backed up to multiple places. A combination of Time Machine and cloud-based storage and email works for me.
3. Test your backup strategy. This is the one thing I haven’t done before
A little while I mused about an iPad 2 might look like. Well, it seems that we’re going to find out earlier than expected according to this story I’ve published over at ITWire.
Reports from Taiwan are that Foxconn Electronics, one of Apple’s key suppliers, will be shipping around 500,000 iPad 2.0’s in February 2011.
This isn’t rocket science but it’s clear that Apple has given the world a huge look in with regards to what iPad 2.0 will be.
The recent release of the latest iPod touch is a pointer to what Apple will deliver in the second generation iPad. Techcrunch is reporting a rumour (unsubstantiated by their own admission) that an out of cycle update may come in time for the holiday season. And let me tell you – if they’re right, I’ll be at the front of the queue to buy one.
At the top of the list of new iPad features will be the Retina Display. If Apple can increase the iPad’s display resolution and clarity then iPad 2 will be a winner. I never had any problem with the iPhone 3GS but sit it next to an iPhone 4 and the difference is massive.
iPad 2 will have a front facing camera. FaceTime is a big deal for Apple and it will be integrated into many of their products. I’m surprised that a camera wasn’t added to the new Apple TV but it’s a certainty for iPad 2.
iOS 4 will be part of the build but I suspect that the iPad version will be a substantial diversion from the iPhone one. Put simply, iPad is more like a traditional computer than the iPhone. That means a revised interface is needed. iPad 2 will have better task management and switching that its predecessor.