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Marco Arment’s impressions on his impulse purchase of a MacBook:

Instead, we have major compromises on previous invariants. Until now, since I started buying Macs 11 years ago, Apple had never shipped a laptop with a keyboard or trackpad that was less than great. They recognized that a laptop without a good keyboard wasn’t a good laptop, even if a lot of people would be OK with it and buy it anyway.

Now, Apple’s priorities have changed. Rather than make really great products that are mostly thin, they now make really thin products that are mostly great.

This concerns me more than you probably think it should. Not only does it represent compromised standards in areas I believe are important, but it suggests that they don’t have many better ideas to advance the products beyond making them thinner, and they’re willing to sacrifice anything to keep that going.

He perfectly sums my impressions of recent Apple devices up. Between the MacBook, and to a lesser extent the iPhone 6, Apple seems to be struggling with the diminishing returns in the pursuit of thinness.

I couldn’t believe how bad the keyboard on the MacBook felt in person at the Apple Store. Short of an engineering miracle of some sort involving the complete rethinking of a keyboard key, this problem cannot be fixed due to physical limitations. There just isn’t enough space to make the key travel far enough.

Houston Coffee and Cars

I spent a few days in Houston, and went to the local Coffee and Cars event. Highlights included a LaFerrari, 2 McLaren P1s, some Porsche 918 Spyders, and my personal favorite, a yellow Enzo. I was pretty impressed with the turnout.

Row of hypercars

Pagani Huayra

enzo

classic-carrera

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Smarter Archives 3.2.3 has been released. The only change is the addition of a German (de_DE) translation, thanks to Jay Linski (@jaylinski).

Download it now.

I’ve spent some time on the phone with Apple tech support recently, and it has become clear that a certain “knowledge barrier” exists that you need to clear in order to get effective technical help. I avoid tech support a lot of the time, opting instead to search online for solutions, but sometimes you exhaust all options and have to call in. Especially if you need something administrative like an RMA done.

In Apple’s case, the first person you encounter on the line is a “tier one” support personnel. They don’t seem to know much beyond guiding you through troubleshooting steps that can be found in their handbook, and I assume on Apple’s online knowledge base. Not that this comes as criticism; I would bet 95% of their calls can easily be handled with this. Think Grandma calling in to set Yahoo! mail up on the iPad her grandkids just got her for Christmas.

But having to get past this person becomes frustrating. I certainly think I know more than I actually do, but I know more than the average Apple user. So when I’m trying to explain how two-step verification works with iCloud, it devolves into me guiding the support person through Apple’s own products, them realizing this call is more than they can handle, and getting referred to a “senior service advisor.”

Once this happens, my calls go a lot smoother. The senior advisor has not only the authority to take more serious actions on Apple’s end, but they also have a much more expansive technical knowledge and it finally feels like someone I can communicate effectively with.

That’s the “knowledge barrier.” I wish companies offered some way to jump over this barrier; an option for technical people. But I can also see people opting for this because they think they know what they’re talking about, and they really don’t.

Thankfully, once you get past that first person, Apple tech support does a great job.

If you haven’t signed up for a VPN service yet, you need to. I’ve been a customer of Private Internet Access for more than a year now, and the annual $40 has been more than worth it.

Here’s a quick list of what I’ve used it for:

  • Tunneling torrents through it
  • Connecting to IRC networks that don’t use SASL and/or mask your IP
  • Watching Netflix outside the US1
  • Connecting securely to public wifi

Especially that last one. Every time you sit down at a Starbucks, a public library, or anywhere with a publicly available wireless network, there could be someone listening in on your wireless transmissions. It doesn’t require much knowhow to pull off either.

Note this matters even more when you log in to websites that aren’t using a secure connection (http://). Your credentials transmit in plain text. That should scare you.

So get a VPN account, set it up, and start browsing securely.


  1. This goes both ways: sometimes you want access to the US catalog from outside the country, and sometimes you want access to another country’s catalog (e.g. Canada’s) from inside the country.