Month: January 2014

Mac at 30

I first used a Mac at university in the early 90’s. It was in the university library and I’m pretty sure it was a Macintosh Plus. While it worked fine, it was a bit slow and nothing grabbed me about it so my first home computer was an Escom 486 and for years I was a Windows and PC user. It was my main games machine as the FPS market took off and the PC platform served me well for years.

The seed that started my move to Mac was in 2001 when the first iPod was announced. I’m pretty sure it was late 2002 or early 2003 before I finally picked up an iPod and suffered using Real software to sync my music on Windows. I loved the iPod. From the packaging to the ease of use, everything about it felt special compared to the competition. I still remember the button lights slowly fading – never got old.

Roll forward to 2006 and it was time to upgrade my PC, not to a newer model but making the switch to Apple. I bought a 21″ iMac and it was such a step change to what I had before. Quiet, fast and an amazing set of applications. A few months later and I bought a Macbook Pro. I was hooked.

Home Office

Home Office

Now I have a 27″ iMac, a Macbook Air, iPhone 5S, iPad Air and an Apple TV. Overkill but I still love Apple’s product design and software despite my recent moans. I didn’t expect much from Apple to celebrate that today was the 30th anniversary since the Macintosh was introduced but I was wrong. I guess time’s have changed since Steve Jobs passed away.

A beautiful website with a great interactive timeline showing the history of the Macintosh. It also wouldn’t right to not have a video from Apple celebrating the event.

There’s also an easter egg on the Apple site.

A custom font that shows each of the Macs from the last 30 years. Nice.

Despite the iPhone and iPad eating into it’s usage, I still wouldn’t be without one. Happy 30th Macintosh.

Apple in 2014

I use Apple products every day. iMac, Macbook Air, iPad and iPhone with a little bit of Apple TV thrown in for good measure. I love the hardware, it’s design and performance and the surrounding application ecosystem. As a combination they still can’t be beaten in my opinion. There is a growing problem though – Apple’s own software and services. The software isn’t as good as it used to be, the cloud services are buggy and unreliable and Apple seems to be doing very little to address the slide in quality over the past 2-3 years. This has to change.

A quick list of issues that have affected me over the past few months include:

iMessage
– Inconsistent as to which device will receive a message.
– Read once, mark everywhere – worked at the start of Mavericks but now only works sometimes.
– Sometimes slow delivery, sometimes none on a certain device. No pattern and easiest way to fix is sign out and in again on the affected device. That isn’t a solution.
iCloud
– Reminders – sometimes syncs properly and other times it feels like I have two separate todo lists and have to mark off completion of tasks in two places. Then a few days later they are back in sync.
– No faith that contacts and calendars are actually being synchronised correctly.
– Third party dev’s moving away from iCloud as a sync platform.
Mavericks
– Mail is awful. So many Gmail issues compared to Snow Leopard. The new fixes issued by Apple have addressed some but not all of the issues. Every few days I need to stop and start Mail just so I can receive new Mails that are flowing in fine on the iOS devices. Part of that may be down to Google not using standard IMAP?
– I want to use Safari as it’s fast and thanks to App Nap it will save battery life on the Macbook Air but it’s so fucking crashy. I can’t believe how unstable it is.
– Reminders, iCal, Contacts – still a poor usability experience from these core app’s.
– iBooks was new to the Mac and moved books from iTunes to iBooks but only those that you’ve purchased. Anything added manually has disappeared. Nice update.
iWork
– Updated across iOS and Mac by removing key functionality so that all platforms are in sync. I don’t have a problem with that approach, more the lack of any updates for 3-4 years and then someone hit’s a reset button this year. But don’t worry, some of the old features will return. Some? Any?
iLife
– Lot’s of love on iOS but hardly any on the Mac. The new Garageband also removed Podcast functionality.
iTunes
– Crashes often, library easily corrupted and I’ve no faith that it won’t happen again.
– Moved podcasts to Instacast which syncs properly across all devices and has had the side effect of improving iTunes.
iTunes Match
– A paid for service from Apple that when it works is brilliant but I’ve had a handful of issues since starting the service that requires me to stop the service on all devices and restart.
– Album art on iOS corrupted. Different covers for different albums. Small beer when I write it down but it frustrated the hell out of me. The only known solution – switch off iTunes Match, wipe any music from your iOS device and start again.
– Duplicated playlists – fine on the iPhone but duplicated 10 times over on the iPad. Solution – switch off iTunes Match, remove any downloaded music and start again.
– iTunes Match will randomly switch off on the iMac. No notice, it just does.
iOS
– Springboard in iOS 7 is really unstable. I see frequent Springboard restarts when I use the iPhone and the iPad has a couple of no icon app’s that work fine but don’t display the icon. It feels like an iOS beta on the iPhone at the moment rather than an OS that has been out for months.
– Apple really need to address some fundamentals like inter app operability as URL schemes aren’t a scalable solution. Let me choose my defaults app’s too. Mailbox and Chrome would be better iOS app’s if they could be treated as the default app’s for Mail and Web Browsing. Android is becoming a far more appealing option.
– iCloud backup doesn’t scale. The most you can buy is 50GB for £70 per year, yet I can buy a 128Gb iPad. Cloud backup should come free with each device and not be tied to an iCloud account. Buy an iOS device, get complementary cloud backup for free. Keep it simple.
– Newsstand – some magazine issues will auto download, some won’t. I see the badge indicating a new issue but opening Newsstand I see nothing against any of the news applications. Apple should kill Newsstand and publishers should just have their own stand alone app’s. Newsstand is broken.
– App Store – doesn’t scale, reviews are an issue and Apple seem to be doing very little about that.

Quite a list. Everybody wants Apple to launch a new product category in 2014 – a true TV solution, a smart watch, a larger iPad. I’d rather see them address the software quality issues that can be seen throughout their portfolio before they jump onto something new and I’m not alone. Unfortunately it will never happen – the market demands new hardware and software rarely gets attention, but it’s critical. It’s the lifeblood of the platform and it’s disappointing that Apple’s are often the poor option on a given platform. I look at the Verge investigation into webOS and what could have been with envy. Not just a striking similarity to the visual leap that iOS 7 made but real forward steps with usability on a mobile platform. Maybe in iOS 8 but I doubt it.

What stung the most in all this was a blog post about Evernote. Jason Kincaid posted a couple of days ago on Evernote, the bug-ridden elephant. As an Evernote user myself I’d noticed a dip in quality too particularly with the browser snapshot extensions. The next day saw Evernote’s CEO, Phil Rubin, reply on the Evernote Blog – On Software Quality and Building a Better Evernote in 2014. Time will tell if Evernote’s quality will improve but it was a great response in public acknowledging and committing to resolving software quality. If only Apple were as open and honest.

I used to tell people ‘it just works’ when discussing Apple products. Not any more.

Onwards

Another year passes and like 2013 I’m making no resolutions that I’ll beat myself up about in 12 months time. Lesson learned…or is it learnt? A picture says 1000 words (thanks Shak).

thisyear

2013 saw me turn 40 and unexpectedly get into running and lose some more weight. I finished the year under 13 stones after losing around a stone since the start of 2013. A little has crept on over the past month and no doubt some more will creep on over the coming weeks – it always does as I work through Christmas leftovers, but I’m really chuffed at taking weight off after stagnating for a year or two. The biggest surprise was running. I bought running shoes in 2011 but could never get into it. Couldn’t improve with the local hills killing me. In July I gave it one more go using the flatter canal paths and I slowly improved. From struggling to run a mile I can now go out for hour long six mile jogs around Glasgow. I never expected that and I really enjoy it too. Bonus. The rest of the year was a mixture of high’s and low’s but nothing too dramatic.

Happy New Year and all the best for 2014.

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