Play Time

August 8, 2009

Abby is growing and changing more every day now. It’s unbelievable. I don’t want to take my eyes off her, because I know she’s likely to do something brand new at any moment. She’s not quite crawling yet, but she is certainly mobile. She’s developed a bit of a steamroller technique in which she covers a good bit of ground quickly by rolling over and over on her side. She can inch along forward and back like a little worm, too. Plus, every now and then while trying to crawl, she’ll tuck one leg up under her bottom and start pushing up trying to sit herself up. All of this plus her first tooth this week is pretty amazing.

The coolest thing, though, is that tonight, for the first time ever, Abby played with us. Now, we play with her all the time, but tonight, we were all laying on the bed after we made it with our freshly cleaned sheets. Maryalice was on one side, I was on the other, and Abby was in between. She was as happy as I’ve ever seen her. She was rolling and laughing and playing like crazy. She would roll up to one of us, flirt and smile, start to jabber on, and then take off for the other one. All of this was punctuated, of course, by her trying to snag the cat, who kept jumping in the middle of our little circle.

I love my family. I really, really love my girls.

OH, and Abby got a new high chair today. Here’s a pic of us testing it out with some carrots!



Apple’s Customer Service

June 22, 2009

The few times I’ve had to go into an Apple store for support on an iPhone or laptop, I’ve been blown away by the level of care I received and with the professionalism with which I was treated. Sure, customer service is an iffy situation, and your mileage may vary. However, Apple has topped customer service and satisfaction lists time and again, so I know I’m not the only one who’s been treated well.

This weekend, Apple had a new opportunity for customer service success or failure. Apparently, many new iPhone 3GS owners were unable to activate their phones. Some have been waiting in iPhone limbo for three days now, including a friend of mine. (My own 3GS activation was smooth as silk on Saturday, only taking 2 minutes.) Yesterday, Apple proactively reached out to those affected customers with the email below:

Dear Apple Customer,

Thank you for your recent Apple Store order. We appreciate your patience and apologize for the inconvenience caused by the delay in your iPhone activation.

We are still resolving the issue that was encountered while activating your iPhone with AT&T. Unfortunately, due to system issues and continued high activation volumes, this could take us up to an additional 48 hours to complete.

On Monday, you’ll receive an email from Apple with an iTunes Store credit in the amount of $30. We hope you will enjoy this gift and accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience this delay has caused.

Thank you for choosing Apple.

Apple Online Store Team

The outage only impacted a small number of users, but Apple didn’t wait for this “outrage” to hit the Monday headlines. They stepped up, owned their failure for these customers, and honestly apologized for letting them down. That attitude is relatively new to the company who’s known among haters as being “snobby, arrogant, and smug.”

Good for you, Apple. As consumers, we don’t really mind failure. We just don’t like lies and coverups when failure happens.

More at CNET.

iPhone Mania!

June 12, 2009

Time for another Apple fanboy confession. This past Monday, I put myself in a total news blackout as I do on the day of every Apple keynote address. I lock myself away in my office all day, change my IM status to “Media Blackout–Don’t Tell Me About Apple Announcements,” and walk quickly through the halls trying to avoid any geeky conversations. Why? It’s because I like to watch the video of the keynote address later that night, after Apple posts it online, with the wide-eyed wonder of the blissfully uninformed.

I love watching the Apple keynotes unfold. Since I’m not into sports, this is my Super Bowl. You wouldn’t want to watch the big game after you find out the outcome, right? That’s why I never want to know the Apple keynote news early. I’d rather watch it fresh myself.

So this week, I watched the keynote and got the low-down on what Apple wants me to spend my money on this year.

As an added bonus, the geeky baby watched it with me. We kicked back at my

Geeky dad and baby bonding over the Apple keynote.

Geeky dad and baby bonding over the Apple keynote.

desk and watched the video on my computer while the geeky mom laughed at us. Silly Maryalice. Abby and I know what we’re doing. This is important stuff, and prime father-daughter bonding!

As expected, they unveiled the new iPhone, a modest, yet somewhat significant upgrade to the iPhone 3G that was sitting on my desk beside me. I went to bed that night impressed with the new feature set, but not convinced it would be worth the money.

The most compelling upgrade for me, as a new geeky dad, was the improved camera with auto-focus and, of course, video. Having a decent video camera on me wherever I go is a big selling point, especially with a four-month-old daughter who’s starting to do revolutionarily cool things every day. But was that alone worth the cash?

Yes. But only if I could do it within my own stringent financial requirements.

The next day, my current iPhone 3G found itelf unexpectedly posted on Craigslist. The asking price was $430, which surprisingly was a pretty competitive price for a like-new iPhone with no pesky AT&T contract requirement. I had four offers within the hour, another five or so by 4:00pm, and $420 cash in hand by 8:00pm. Though I didn’t intend to do so when I woke up Tuesday morning, I sold my beloved iPhone. Not to worry, though. The iPhone 3Gs (the new model) was ordered and scheduled for delivery before I went to bed.

So, in all, I sold my current model for $420 and bought the new one with a cool new featureset for $435. Not a bad upgrade for $15, huh?

Entourage Must Die

May 29, 2009

Okay, let’s be honest. I’m a Mac guy. I love Apple products, Apple software, and the Apple way of life. I make no excuses about that. That said, we’ve just go to deal with the gigantic pile of suck named Entourage.

If you don’t know, Entourage is essentially the Mac version of Microsoft Outlook. It comes with the Mac version of Office, along with Word and Excel. For some reason, Microsoft chose not to simply port Outlook over to OS X, much like they’ve done with the other Office programs. Instead, they started over and did their best to totally deconstruct a wonderful PC program, Outlook, and turn it into a useless, buggy, unreliable monstrosity named Entourage. What garbage.

For the past year and a half, I’ve been stuck on Entourage at work because our Exchange server won’t sync my calendar with any other Mac program. That also means I’ve been depending on Entourage for my email. There’s the problem.

Without going into the laundry list of problems, let me just focus on the main one: Entourage doesn’t want me to send some messages. At least once a week, as I’m typing an email, the entire message window closes. Poof. It just disappears. The message doesn’t get sent, it isn’t saved as a draft, it isn’t moved anywhere; it’s just gone. Forever.

What’s worse, it always, ALWAYS happens when I’m in the middle of a long, important, sensitive, and carefully crafted message, often addressed to my boss or other leaders of my company. When it happened yesterday, I threw in the towel. Entourage must die.

I’m locked into it for my calendar, but I have email options. I tried both Apple Mail and Mozilla Thunderbird throughout the day and decided on Mail. It’s nice and clean, super fast, and simple. By simple, I don’t mean weak; I just mean that it does one thing, and it apparently does it very well. I like that in an app. Entourage, on the other hand, chose to go the other direction. It does a thousand different things, and does them all poorly.

Apple Mail is not without its problems. There are some extremely elementary things that it should do, but doesn’t.  For example, the preview pane is at the bottom, with no option to move it to the side. Really? I’m sorry, is it 1996? Am I using this program on a 15″ CRT monitor? No. I’m using it on a dual monitor setup based on a 20″ widescreen iMac. I’ve got enough screen real estate. Let me put the preview pane on the right side like every other modern email program, won’t you? At least I solved this one with a third-party add-on, WideMail. This awesome plugin also allowed me to set my inbox message list exactly like I had it on Entourage (which I liked). See the side-by-side below.

Apple Mail vs. Entourage Message List

Apple Mail vs. Entourage Message List

Also annoying is the way it handles image and PDF attachments. Attachment isn’t even the right word, since you can’t really “attach” image files. Instead, Mail inserts the images inline in the message body, regardless of size, orientation, or anything else. Worse, it does the same thing with PDF documents. I’m sorry, I’m not a four-year-old-girl trying to figure out how to email a picture to my grandmommy. I’m a professional who has to email image files and PDF docs to other professionals, and sometimes to automated systems that don’t recognize embedded PDFs. Epic fail. Again, fixed with a third-party application.

And last, the most annoying of all is the one that, I must admit, is most characteristic of Apple. If you’re using the preview pane, there is no way under the sun to prevent Mail from marking a message as “read” if you’ve clicked on it. How ridiculous. Even I have to admit that choosing to not do the simplest thing, despite the fact that every other email program on earth does it, is a total Apple move. This one is killing me. Even if I sneak a peek at a message in the preview pane, I still like to keep messages marked as unread in the message list if I want to come back to them later. Having them all appear as read is a joke.

So, there’s my email rant of the year. Entourage stinks, Thunderbird failed out of the gate, and Apple Mail is workable, but comes up short on the most basic things. I hate to admit it, but finding a quality email client is the one part of the Apple lifestyle that I find hard to defend to the naysayers. It just makes me glad I use Gmail for my personal stuff.

UDPATE: There’s a possible fix for this random deleting behavior. Check the comments for this post.

Favorite Search Term of the Week

May 29, 2009

Occasionally I like to peel back the curtain and show you all my favorite search term that someone used to find my site for the week. Today, I present the unabashed honesty of a fellow geek who knows how to use Google to find what he wants.

Picture 1

For the record, my geeky friend, I love my AppleTV, but if I were starting from scratch with a wide-open budget, I’d make a media center out of a Mac Mini.

Apple’s Response to New Microsoft Ads

May 18, 2009

I’ve made a little fun of Microsoft’s “Laptop Hunters” ad spots over the past couple of months. Granted, they’re the best commercials that Microsoft has done, but some of them are just silly. I guess the worst is the one with the “professional video editor” who wants to do her pro video work on Windows. Really? Even the Microsoft ads themselves are edited on a Mac with Final Cut. (That’s true. Check it out.)

This weekend, I saw Apple’s response to the Microsoft ads, and I thought it was great. I’m kind of diggin’ the back and forth public ribbing between these two companies lately.

Gimme a Zune!

May 12, 2009

Taking a break from the hillarious “Laptop Hunters” line of commercial spots, Microsoft has decided to throw a little love to the Zune. What’s that you say? Oh no, I can see why you would think that. But the Zune actually is still on the market. Seriously.

Here we have Wes, a “Certified Financial Planner” (and former Donald Trump “The Apprentice” cast-off),  to explain the cost benefits of an iPod vs. a Zune. Apparently “a lot” is more expensive than “a little.” Sure, the Zune subscription model is a fabulous deal, and even we Apple fanboys wish iTunes would do a subscription service, but I can’t really imagine many people throwing out their iPods just yet.

And is it just me, or does anything else think it’s weird that Microsoft keeps featuring great-looking product shots of Apple hardware in all their commercials? Think about it. They don’t show one product shot of their own Zune player. Not even one to balance the lovely iPod they put on screen. Genius.