Posted in Mac

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.

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.

One of the OS X Yosemite features I had been looking forward to brings Netflix HTML5 streams to Safari. It’s supposed to drastically increase battery life and also takes away the last reason to have Silverlight installed.

But I uninstalled Silverlight and Netflix wouldn’t stop telling me I need to install Silverlight to watch anything. I found these requirements listed on the support site:

  • Early 2011 model or newer Mac
  • OS X 10.11 [sic] Yosemite or newer OS
  • Certain late Intel Sandy Bridge or any Intel Ivy Bridge/Haswell processor

As someone with a mid-2010 MacBook Pro that has a Core 2 Duo, this was really disappointing to discover. But it turns out Chrome has included the DRM components necessary for a while. Watching Netflix with HTML5 is as simple as installing Chrome.

If it doesn’t work right away, try going to chrome://components and seeing if the WidevineCdm component is installed. If it isn’t, click Check for update and it should install it. Once I installed this, Netflix started to stream perfectly without a trace of Silverlight in my system.

From the Netflix blog today:

If you’re in Apple’s Mac Developer Program, or soon the OS X Beta Program, you can install the beta version of OS X Yosemite. With the OS X Yosemite Beta on a modern Mac, you can visit today in Safari and watch your favorite movies and TV shows using HTML5 video without the need to install any plugins.

This might be one of my favorite details coming out of Yosemite so far. I’ve been waiting for the day I can uninstall Silverlight for good. Netflix is claiming another 2 hours of battery while streaming in 1080p on a MacBook Air, which is pretty impressive.

It turns out Netflix already uses HTML5 for Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1, so that has gone from being useless to being my Netflix app.

Apple buying Beats has launched a fierce debate about its motives behind the billion dollar deal. This piece by the Daily Dot puts some numbers behind it (emphasis mine):

Dr.Dre—the greatest hip hop producer of all time—has helped Beats headphones attain the prime spot in the black American hierarchy of gadgets, even above the iPhone. The fact is, Apple never had cachet with black people. Android is king in Black America. Some 71 percent of Black Americans own smartphones—the highest rate of any demographic—with 73 percent of black smartphone owners eschewing Apple’s iPhone for Google, according to Nielsen. And that has little to do with the price. The collective buying power of 43 million black Americans is forecasted to reach $1.3 trillion by 2017. With Dr. Dre on board, Apple may gain the support of black Americans and a portion of their buying power—and, more importantly, their cultural influence.

Just think about it: Apple is one of the biggest companies in the world, and have put decades of work behind their brand image. They are spending billions of dollars just for access to the wallets of black Americans.

Times have changed.