Posts Tagged ‘rant’

Apple’s Dog Food

The saying goes that you should eat your own dog food. It seems to me that Apple should be doing this with respect to their iOS (specifically iPad) applications. Unfortunately, it’s their apps that I have most to complain about. Continue reading

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Google Voice? Who really cares?

I really enjoy listening to Jason Calacanis when he’s on TWiT, and I think he generally makes a lot of sense (and considering his success, he clearly knows more than me).  However, his anti-Apple rant (like so many others) is really off-base (I’m not the only one that thinks so).

There is no technical reason why the iTunes ecosystem shouldn’t allow the ability to sync with any MP3 player

The iTunes ecosystem does allow the ability to sync with any MP3 player (even more so now that music is DRM-free).  You can build an application that uses the XML library description that iTunes creates to figure out where all the music/video is, and do what you like with it.  The way I see it, there’s no reason that iTunes/Apple should be forced to support any MP3 player with their software.  Apple clearly makes some money from the iTunes music/video sales, but it’s clearly not the main profit generator is the ecosystem – the high-margin iPods/iPhones are.  Apple has spent a great deal of time and money building a store and an application to make the players more appealing.  Why should any other player get to piggyback on the top of that?  If (e.g.) Palm wants to create an online music store and develop an application that works with it and the Pre, then they should be able to (and I see no reason they can’t).

I like iTunes more than other media applications I’ve used, but it’s certainly not perfect, and it shows that it started out as a music player and is now a great deal more.  I love the iTunes Store, but Amazon completes with it (I can’t tell how well, since they won’t see to me in NZ) as does the Zune Store – which even offers a subscription model (no idea if this is available in NZ – it’s too Windows-centric for me).  There’s absolutely room for someone (e.g. Palm) to build a better store (or interface with an existing one like Amazon) and built a better application.  Do that, and build a better device, and you’ll get customers.  Don’t expect that Apple should have to help you compete against them.

Think for a moment about what your reaction would be if Microsoft made the Zune the only MP3 player compatible with Windows.

The iPod/iPhone isn’t the only MP3 player compatible with OS X.  However, isn’t the Zune is the only MP3 player compatible with the Zune store?  The “PlaysForSure” idea got thrown out some time ago.

Simple solution and opportunity: Not only let the iPhone work on any carrier,

How many countries is the iPhone locked in?  It certainly isn’t locked here, or in many other countries (e.g. Australia).  This is only an issue in some countries, like the U.S. – it’s a U.S. Apple problem, not an Apple problem.  From what I understand, it makes business sense for Apple to have an exclusivity deal with AT&T, at least for now.  I don’t see anything wrong with that.  If AT&T was bad enough, then people wouldn’t use it, even if it was the only iPhone choice.  If other companies made phones good enough on other carriers, then it wouldn’t matter which network the iPhone was with.  I presume this is a temporary issue and the U.S. will join the other enlightened countries before long and have unlocked phones, anyway.

but put *two* SIM card slots on the iPhone

A nice idea in some ways, but about as un-Apple as you can get.

3. Draconian App Store policies that are, frankly, insulting

This is actually points 3, 4 and 5.

Yes, every application on the phone has to approved by Apple, and if you were interested in something adult in nature…well…you can’t do that.

From all accounts, the approval process needs a lot of work.  One suspects that now that Jobs is officially returned to work (and Schiller is speaking openly about at least some things) that changes will happen before too long.  I think Apple must surely realise that the situation is getting out of control, and will start implementing changes.  For now, there are still a lot of applications that I really love, there are none that I know of (which is an issue, of course) that I wish I had, and only one that has been pulled that I love (which is Amazon’s fault, not Apple’s).  I’m willing to give Apple a bit more time to fix this – I suspect that even they didn’t realise quite how successful this would be.

4. Being a horrible hypocrite by banning other browsers on the iPhone

Again, this is really just a specific case of #3.  Personally, I see almost no demand for Opera anywhere apart from by a few (very extreme) fans.  I don’t even see much desire for Firefox or Chrome on the iPhone.

5. Blocking the Google Voice Application on the iPhone

There’s a lot of talk about this.  It seems overblown to me, considering that Google Voice isn’t even publicly available (I believe it’s an invite-only beta) and is U.S.-only.  I think it’s just that a lot of the noisy tech pundits use Google Voice, and so this impacts them directly.  I think there are much worse cases of App Store approval problems.  In any case, this is again just another instance of #3.

Making great products does not absolve you from technology’s cardinal rule: Don’t be evil.

It seems to me that the cardinal rule is more “make great stuff”.  I’ll still buy from Amazon, even after they killed my favourite iPhone application.  I dislike some of how Apple handles App Store submission, but I’ll still buy various products from them.  I dislike DRM in general, but the iTunes Store is good enough that it’s still worth using.

1. Do you think Apple would be more, or less, successful if they adopted a more open strategy (i.e. allowing other MP3 players in iTunes)?

Less.  A huge part of the appeal of the Apple ‘ecosystem’ is that because they control all parts, everything “just works”.  If you use all-Apple products, everything works so much nicer than if you mix-and-match.

2. Do you think Apple should face serious antitrust action?

No.

3. Do you think Apple’s dexterity and competence forgive their bad behavior?

Yes.

My 2GB, 4 day 0.0.1 iPhone update

A few days ago, Apple released version 3.0.1 of the iPhone OS, which addressed a pretty major SMS vulnerability.  When Olyvia tried updating her 3GS to 3.0.1, something went wrong.  The iPhone entered “Recovery Mode”, which means that it displays an image indicating that you need to connect it to iTunes, and you can’t do anything else (no phone calls, no iPod, no applications – absolutely nothing).  Connecting the phone to iTunes prompted a message indicating that the phone needed to be recovered – doing so downloaded the 3.0.1 update, and then got stuck on the “Verifying Restore with Apple” step for a long time, until it would finally fail with error “3104”.  This process could then be repeated, with the same results.

What this meant in practice was that the phone was bricked as of last Friday.  An update should never be able to brick a (legitimate, not jailbroken) phone! Even more, failing to verify a restore with Apple should never leave the phone in a broken state.

I tried many thing to resolve this:

  • Restoring on three different computers (three OS X Leopard, one Windows XP).
  • Using three USB cables.
  • Using two Internet connections (different router, different physical location, different ISPs).
  • Restoring with five different user accounts, including one that was created solely for this purpose.
  • Removing iTunes and the Mobile Device helper completely and reinstalling.
  • Restoring with an administrator account (both OS X and Windows XP) and a standard account.
  • Redoing the restore at many different times of day, including times when most of the US would be asleep (so the server load should be fairly low), over Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

None of this worked.  It did mean that I downloaded the 300MB+ update six times (one for each user account and once to refresh) over the four days.  That combined with the iTunes installation brings the total download cost to around 2GB.

I eventually gave up.  Google found many other people with this problem, but only a single solution, which involved opening a terminal connection to the phone and changing an environment variable.  I wasn’t particularly comfortable doing that, since if something goes wrong I want Vodafone/Apple to just replace the phone without any argument.  Since there isn’t any real support available over the weekend, I waited for Monday morning.

I wasn’t sure whether to contact Apple (expecting a “please call Vodafone” answer) or Vodafone (expecting a “what do you mean you updated your phone?  Can you do that?” answer).  Thankfully, Vodafone NZ has a very responsive and helpful Twitter presence (@vodafoneNZ).  I tweeted, asking who to call, and was asked for details.  I provided these (going into more detail in an email), and got back a (unfortunately not helpful at all) suggestion.  Since that didn’t work, Paul Brislen provided me with an 0800 number for the “iPhone Team” (I’d call them “iTeam”, subtitled “there’s an ‘i’ in iTeam”, but anyway…).  Unfortunately, since I had to do a lot of travelling and offline things on Monday, I wasn’t able to get to this until Tuesday.

I certainly appreciate a (free) phone number I can call.  However, I don’t have a great deal of time to spend talking on the phone, explaining a rather complex problem and the many steps that I’ve already done to try and resolve the problem.  I also have poor cellphone coverage (Vodafone’s fault) and a rather noisy landline (Telecom‘s fault), so voice calls aren’t a great solution to a problem.  Faced with a (presumably) long and difficult phone call, the ‘hack’ solution of altering the environment variable looked a little more appealing.

I downloaded iRecovery and opened a terminal (shell) connection to the iPhone.  Typing “printenv” gave a list of the environment variables – the ones that had a “P” at the start were presumably non-default values (these included “auto-boot”, “bootdelay”, “backlight-level”, and “platform-uuid”).  The article indicated that the “false” value for “auto-boot” was the problem (and the solution to use setenv to change it, then reboot the phone).  This seemed a reasonably safe thing to do (and also easily reversed), although I imagine that it would be rather scary to a non-programmer (who has no idea what “printenv” or “setenv” might mean).

Thankfully, this worked.  The iPhone rebooted – although it went straight back to the recovery page in iTunes, which wasn’t hopeful.  However, this time the recovery process worked flawlessly (using the existing four-day-old copy of the download).  The phone was recovered from the automatic backup, and then sync’d.  Some of the settings are a bit out as you expect in a recovery, but the phone actually works, which is really all that matters.

I don’t know what would have happened if I called the “iPhone Team” (and don’t need to find out now).  I suspect that we wouldn’t have got far, or maybe would have ended up doing exactly this (or perhaps having to return the phone for service).  I could be wrong about that.  I do feel that Vodafone (specifically @vodafoneNZ) handled this pretty well (and Apple extremely badly).

Go raise your own children, please!

It really bugs me when I’m told how to raise my child, whether by the government, by people I know, or random people off the street.  If you have children, then you get to decide how you raise them (I have no desire to interfere with that at all).  If you don’t have children, then it’s nothing to do with you, and you don’t know anything about it anyway.  For better or worse (and it does seem a lot like worse, these days), any man & woman can have a child, and if they make that decision (or a decision that leads to a child that wasn’t expected), then they are responsible for making sure that, to the best of their ability, the child is brought up appropriately.  ‘Appropriately’, of course, is completely up to them (the things insane people do, like violence and abuse, don’t count – if you’re so badly disturbed that you can deliberately injure your own child, then you don’t belong in society).

I have no problem with people offering advice, or asking for it.  But that’s where it stops.  I really don’t care in the slightest what you (where “you” covers everyone but my wife) think about how I am raising my child.  It’s our business, not yours.  When he’s my age, then he can make his own judgement about it as well (but while he’s a child, he doesn’t get to decide, either).  That means the government shouldn’t interfere, past ensuring basic rights (preventing the aforementioned violence, requiring schooling, etc).  That means that if you’re someone that knows me, you’re welcome to have any opinion you like about how we are doing it, but you can keep any non-constructive criticism and negative judgements to yourself.  If you’re a random person on the street, then feel free to give me a passing compliment, but you can save anything else to discuss with your own friends, if you have any.  I imagine it would be extremely annoying if grandparents did this (they’ve had their chance, it’s time to let the kids have their turn).  Thankfully, my parents are great, and let us do things however we like, even if it differs from what they would do (or did), all the while supporting us as much as they can.

One of the annoying things is that (as people who know me know) I really don’t care in general what people think about what I do.  I act as I believe I should, and am happy to discuss things with people, but I’m going to do what I think is right, not what other people think I should do.  So other people’s judgements wouldn’t bother me, except that it does bother my wife, and her opinion, of course, does count.

So, please: if you’re someone that does this, stop.  Next time you feel you’re going to criticise someone else’s parenting to them, remember that it’s their kid, and their decision, and save your comments for a water cooler discussion another day.

iTunes applications restricted to US store

What possible reason can developers (Apple?) have for restricting an application like Grocery IQ to the US store?  I would have purchased this, but it’s not available in the NZ store.  I can’t see any reason that it wouldn’t work just as well here.

(I can understand that annoying legalities prevent applications like Puzzlotto being sold, but that’s a whole different story).

This isn’t the only application like this I’ve come across, just the most recent one.  It makes no sense at all.