Jan 30

New Apple Products and Software Updates

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Today Apple released new iPod Shuffles in four new colors – pink, green, blue, and orange, in addition to the original silver. Capacities are unchanged at 1G.

The 802.11n Enabler is available as a download from the Apple Store for $1.99, and upgrades all Core2Duo Macs with Airport Extreme (except for the 17″ 1.83Ghz iMac) to add 802.11n wireless capability.

Airport Extreme Update 2007-001 improves compatibility with Airport Extreme base stations and networks.

Security Update 2007-001 improves QuickTime security.

Jan 09

Happy Ending to my AppleCare Experience

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Someone from the Apple Store called this afternoon and said that my iMac was repaired and ready for pickup. Both the 20″ LCD panel and the SuperDrive were replaced (under warranty).

Thanks to Aaron and the other hardware techs at the Houston Galleria Apple Store (except for the guy I dealt with on Sunday when I dropped the system off).

Interesting fact: LG makes the LCDs for the 20″ Core Duo iMac systems.

Jan 09

New Apple products from MWSF 2007

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This morning during his keynote speech at Macworld San Francisco 2007, Steve announced two new products:

The Apple TV (formerly known as the “iTV”) is a streaming media server (based around an x86 processor) that connects to your television. Featuring HDMI and component video outputs as well as USB2, 10/100 Ethernet, and 802.11b/g/n wireless connectivity, the Apple TV can stream audio or video content from a Macintosh system or directly from the Internet to your television and display it in 720p high definition. It uses the normal Apple Remote and features a 40G internal hard drive that allows syncing of media from iTunes. Available in February, the Apple TV is priced at $299.

The iPhone is a combination wide-screen iPod, mobile phone, and internet communications device, all in one product. The user interface consists of a full touchscreen that uses a “multi-touch” interface that is controlled with finger presses and movements. The iPhone has a 3.5″ 160-pixel-per-inch full color display, runs OS X as its operating system, and has GPRS+EDGE, WiFi, and Bluetooth connectivity. For software applications, Safari is available (with full functionality of things like Google Maps) as well as software “widgets” for things like weather and stock quotes. Developer information is not available yet. Not detailed in the keynote was a two-megapixel camera. The iPhone is expected to be on sale through Cingular (as an exclusive partner in the US) in June 2007 and should retail for $499 for the 4G version and $599 for the 8G.

Not announced at the keynote (but here’s the press release) is the new Airport Extreme, now in the Mac Mini/AppleTV form factor (a flat square) and featuring 802.11n speeds (for use with the Apple TV). Buried under Apple’s 802.11n information page is a note that recent Intel-based Macintosh systems support 802.11n after a software enabler is loaded:

* iMac with Intel Core 2 Duo (except 17-inch, 1.83GHz iMac)
* MacBook with Intel Core 2 Duo
* MacBook Pro with Intel Core 2 Duo
* Mac Pro with AirPort Extreme card option

It looks like owners of first-gen Intel Mac systems (like me, with a Core Duo iMac and MacBook) are out of luck for the higher speeds unless Apple releases an upgraded Airport+Bluetooth module for these machines.

Last but not least, “Apple Computer, Inc.” is no more – the company is renaming itself to “Apple, Inc.” now that they’ve branched out into non-computer products such as media center systems and mobile phones.

Jan 08

Software Updates for January 8th

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Equinux has released version 2.5 of their MediaCentral media center product, now supporting Dolby Digital Surround sound, a new DVD Options menu, and enhanced performance.

XtraLean Software has released ImageWell version 3, their free image editing and uploading program.

Jonathan Nathan has relased DayliteABMenu, allowing easy access to Address Book information through a system-wide menu. He has also released Jon’s Phone Tool version 3.7 with added capabilities and fixes.

Madebysofa has released Checkout, a fully-featured point of sale system for OS X.

Snerdware has released Groupcal 3, an update to their application that allows Microsoft Exchange calendars to be managed from within iCal.

Jan 08

“101 Ways to Save Apple” from 1997: A Review

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In the May 1997 issue, Wired printed a list of “101 Ways to Save Apple“. Reading the list now shows a number of ideas that ended up coming true along with a large number that never happened.

Some of my favorites:

7. Don’t disappear from the retail chains. Rent space in a computer store, flood it with Apple products (especially software), staff it with Apple salespeople, and display everything like you’re a living, breathing company and not a remote, dusty concept.

14. Do something creative with the design of the box and separate yourselves from the pack. The original Macs stood out because of their innovative look. Repeat that. Get the folks at Porsche to design a box. Or Giorgio Giugiaro. Or Philippe Starck. We’d all feel better about shelling out the bucks for a Power Mac 9600 if we could get a tower with leopard spots.

34. Port the OS to the Intel platform, with its huge amount of investment in hardware, software, training, and experience. Don’t ignore it; co-opt it. Operating systems are dependent on installed base; that is your biggest hurdle now. It is not the head-to-head, feature-set comparison between Windows and Mac OS.

37. Take advantage of NeXT’s easy and powerful OpenStep programming tools to entice a new generation of Mac software developers.

76. Make damn sure that Rhapsody runs on an Intel chip. Write a Windows NT emulator for Rhapsody’s Intel version.

Ten years later, Apple Stores are everywhere. The multicolored original iMac was a bona-fide hit. Macs are now based on Intel processors running the NeXTStep-derived Mac OS X…

I don’t think anyone would have ever predicted the massive success of the iPod. When they came out in 2001, my first thought was “who would pay that much for a MP3 player?”, but six years later I’m on my fourth iPod (black 30G iPod Video and a 2nd-generation Shuffle, having previously owned a 1st-gen Shuffle and a 3rd-generation 10G iPod).

Jan 07

My AppleCare experience is slowly improving

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UPDATE: Everything has been resolved to my complete satisfaction.

I called the Galleria Apple Store today and spoke to the head of the tech department (who will be doing the actual work on my machine) and described the bad experience I had yesterday.

He apologized for the behavior of the Apple Genius (who had diagnosed all of the machine’s problems as being due to cigarette smoke before he even unpacked it out of the box) and said “Hey, you’re under warranty, plus you have AppleCare, don’t worry we’ll take care of you.”

It seems that I just had the bad luck yesterday of encountering a rabid anti-smoker.

Anyway, I’m expecting a call later today from the actual tech to tell me the status of my machine. After speaking with him, I feel better about any future dealings with that particular Apple Store; it was nice to be able to talk to someone who didn’t act like a condescending know-it-all.

Jan 06

Bad experience with AppleCare

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UPDATE: Everything has been resolved and I’m very satisfied.

Since the day I bought it, I’ve had a slight problem with the backlight on the left-hand side of my 20″ iMac Core Duo being uneven. Lately, it’s gotten worse to the point where I notice it if I have a solid color background, so I decided to take the machine back to the Apple Store (Houston Galleria) where I purchased it to have it looked at. The machine is still under its original one-year warranty (purchased on January 19th, 2006) and I also purchased the AppleCare extended warranty.

I hauled the machine in its original box through the mall, arrived shortly before my 1:15pm appointment, and waited for my name to be called. When I was called up to the “Genuis Bar”, I explained that there was a problem with either the backlight or the LCD (a “bright spot” – click the link for pictures – on the left-hand side), and that the SuperDrive would only accept around one out of four DVD-R blanks I put in it. Pre-burned discs and DVD+R blanks read fine, but it was picky about what DVD-Rs I use.

Before the “Genius” even UNPACKED THE MACHINE and powered it up to look at it, he said “oh if the display or any of the problems are caused by a foreign substance like tar, that’s not covered under warranty” (my wife smokes, but I do not and she does not use the machine). He had apparently made up his mind before even taking the machine out of the box or looking at the display problem.

After powering up the machine, he said “yeah thats probably tar I can see where its come in from the sides here”. I told him that I owned an iMac G5 for 2+ years and never had this problem, and none of my other LCDs in the house (including the one that my wife the smoker sits directly in front of) had this problem. His response was “different machines ventilate in different ways”.

I left the machine at the store; a tech is supposed to look at it tomorrow and call me with the diagnosis. However, from the way the work order is written up the tech (who I won’t name here just yet) had made up his mind before he even removed the machine from its box and the protective styrofoam “bag” from the display.

If I get told tomorrow that my warranty and AppleCare is worthless, I will not be happy at all. This is my fifth Macintosh system purchased in the past six years, and I don’t want to lose the faith I’ve had in the (up to this point, excellent) Apple support.