Tag Archives: Apple

Amex ruining ApplePay in the UK

Amex and ApplePay

A few days ago, the good folk at American Express kindly sent word of an offer: Spend £3 in Starbucks and get £1 back – up to a maximum of £5. Not the most Earth shattering offer, perhaps, but given how much I spend in SBs each month, it represents free money (well, ignoring the occasional extra muffin to take my purchase over £3, of course). Thank you very much.

If only it was so simple.

I invariably use my Starbucks card on my phone – quick & easy (usually), and I get one in 16 drinks free. This offer therefore forces me to break my habit a little by using Amex. However, that shouldn’t be a problem as their’s was the first card I added to ApplePay the day it launched in the UK. As I tend to double-tap my phone’s home button to launch Wallet rather than the Starbucks app, it is actually one less swipe to use ApplePay. All good.

Except that my experience is that Amex rarely works contactless in the UK. Card or ApplePay. Turns out, it certainly doesn’t in Starbucks.

A quick search of Google and Twitter suggest I am far from alone on this – though to be fair, a lot of the results I saw were from 2015. Even accepting that things may be getting better; American Express’s flawed roll-out of contactless in the UK must have damaged confidence in using what should be a simple way of carrying out a transaction. It is bad enough that the £30 limit virtually cripples ApplePay. Yes, I know that “real” ApplePay merchants aren’t subject to that restriction. However, given that anyone can – and do – display Apple Pay logos, regardless of whether they are formally part of the system, that distinction is moot.

In the case of my recent experience in Starbucks (a “real” ApplePay partner?), the barista apologised and said Amex contactless has never worked for them, so I reverted to my Starbucks card. Yes, I could have used my Amex card in chip & pin mode… but for a £3ish transaction, that seems to be overkill, as well as being a huge metaphorical step backwards.

I honestly look forward to the day when contactless terminals are ubiquitous: Imagine getting served in a pub where they are plentiful and easily accessible at the bar… no messing with change or getting soggy banknotes back from the server whose hands are still wet from the overspill! Beep and they are on the next customer.

Contactless payment using devices rather than cards is obviously still in its infancy and while I have no wish to see Apple dominate the market to the exclusion of all else, I do genuinely hope we reach a stage where we, as consumers, don’t need to worry whether “our” particular system will work at any given venue. At the very least, is it too hard to ask that we be given some sort of clue up front? The official Amex page is woefully unhelpful. Who in the UK knows that the £30 contactless limit doesn’t (shouldn’t) apply to “real” ApplePay merchants?

Thanks to Amex, we are still a long way short of that. Their card hasn’t been the default on my phone for a long time and the way things are going, I may as well remove it all together. While I’m at it, why don’t I go to another card provider … one that works all the time?

 

With a hat tip to Duncan Stevenson and his Contactless Life blog, who has tried to get a grip of this situation, but has clearly been busy in his real life recently.

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Well, How About That – Steve Jobs Was Right After All

Screen capture of the BBC iPlayer Radio web app

BBC iPlayer Radio

As you may have noticed if you’re a regular listener to BBC Radio, the Beeb have hived-off the radio element of their iPlayer into a standalone entity. Currently it is  available as a web site and an iOS app for iPhone. Notably, there isn’t an Android version yet – for which the on air talent are forced to apologise for in an vague and roundabout sort of way when promoting it. Understandably,  a vocally significant number of Android users are miffed about this but I’m not quite sure why the majority of commenters on this BBC blog post see this a BBC conspiracy to promote Apple over their platform.

The truth is much more mundane and is explained on the BBC News web site  thusly:

The BBC’s Daniel Danker, general manager for programmes and on-demand, blamed complications with Flash for the delay in the Android app, but added that discussions are ongoing to resolve the problems

Oh, wait a cotton pickin’  minute there buckeroo. “Complications with Flash” you say? Well, I’ll go to the foot of our stairs.  Just one more of Old Jobsy’s prophesies  coming home to roost.

The bigger question here, however, is what the flying-flip the BBC need to use Flash for at all. I know diddly-squat about programming for Android, but are the BBC saying there is no way to use an HTML5 solution – the same one they’ve implemented on the iPhone perhaps.

Meanwhile, even though it fills a need which really didn’t previously exist (another lesson from Apple’!?) I have downloaded and installed the iPhone app. Seems well designed and ‘snappy’. The wake-up-to-a-BBC-radio-station-alarm may come in useful. Might  finally be time to dispense with my bedside Bug in favour of a dock for my iPhone?

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Mapgate

Apple iOS6 map of Ripley

Apple iOS6 map of Ripley – or is it Pentrich?

I’ve kept my own counsel on this matter for a while now, but one of the many negative aspects of working in an open plan office is having no choice in receiving the opinions of anyone and everyone within earshot – and there are many. I doubt my workplace is any different to anywhere else and it constantly surprises me how many of my co-workers have got an iPhone and/or (usually ‘and’!) an iPad. The knowledge level among my co-workers is also quite surprising, with many evidently reading the same ‘rumor’ blogs as I do (though maybe not as many or as frequently!). Nevertheless, it is not unusual and frequently infuriating to hear some of the bollocks which is pontificated. If I had a penny etc. for all the times I’ve heard someone advise an iPhone is “slowed down by having too many apps running and you need to press the no entry signs regularly to kill them all“. Nooooo! The increasing chatter relating to the rumoured iPad Mini (I fancy iPad Air as the name, actually) has not been missed. I was particularly taken by this exchange….

Fred: Why are they doing a smaller iPad, what’s the point? Bill: Well it’s because Amazon has the Kindle and Samsung has the Galaxy, Apple think they’re missing out and want to corner the market. Fred [with feeling]: The Bastards!

Er, Ok. The biggest story to exercise the minds the office tech commentators of late is of course how bad the new maps are on the iPhone 5. Widely touted examples of ‘Duncaster’ and, locally, ‘Sponden’ are bandied about. To be fair, we are probably in the best (or worst) possible place to judge how bad the maps are (though not quite as bad as the poor folk of Colchester). Satellite coverage in particular is beyond dire for most of Derbyshire. At least our neighbours in Nottingham have decent resolution in their satellite coverage – even if it is monochrome for some bizarre reason. Most of Apple’s woes with its mapping can rightly be pinned to the underlying data rather than the app itself. Indeed the app can be argued as being far better than what went before. I’m still not sure that the formatting of the mapping as beautiful as many think – I rather suspect that the American commentators have never seen true cartographic beauty produced by the Ordnance Survey. There is, however, a major issue with Apple mapping that can be be laid at the door of the app itself rather than just the underlying data. When a map is zoomed out it makes sense that a town’s label is placed close but not quite on top of the detail representing the urban area itself. For example, the label for Uttoxeter lies over three miles north west of the town centre, a sensible design choice at a scale of, say, 1:100,000. With a raster system of mapping, where new tiles are downloaded and drawn when zoomed into a larger scale, the label will be repositioned appropriately. The new maps, however, are vector data. In many respects this is a good thing as they scale smoothly and, so it seems, the data transfer required is reduced by about 80%. The downside is that with the vector data, the name stays resolutely where it is anchored and worse, that’s where the route planner takes the unwary traveller.

Apple iOS6 map of Uttoxeter

Apple iOS6 map of Uttoxeter – isn.

To see Apple Maps at their best, I recommend taking a virtual trip to Manchester. The aerial coverage and three-dimesnional buildings (the so-called “Flyover” feature) is implemented beautifully. And I think that is the point. In admiring what they’ve created in the good bits (i.e. most of their coverage of the US), Apple somehow managed to forget the rest of it which still needs work. They say that they are labouring unceasingly to update things, and I gather some evidence of this has started to appear. However, there is no indication as to when the data being generated by the “report a problem” system or updates to Yelp! to improve the business listings, will start to filter through. Perhaps this is sensible, as there is little doubt that the Trolls will have found this an excellent way to entertain their little minds. There is one thing that Mapgate serves to illustrate very well and that is Apple are increasingly the company that people love to hate.

UPDATE

As of late October 2012, not only has Doncaster had its name restored (still says Sponden though and there are no other repairs of local mapping faux pax), but I note today that the satellite imagery for Derby & South Derbyshire has improved vastly. Note this Before & After as the page refreshes…

iPad screen shot as the old imagery gives way to the new...

Improved, undoubtedly, but it is nevertheless about five years old. Oh well, gift horses and all that.

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Not for me, thank you

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So, where are we on the New iPad front? I vowed that I would have hands on with one (or two!) before making my mind up. Well, I’ve done that and have reached a decision – and it’s bad news for those who had a bet on me buying one.

Though Gruber mocked it (in a funny way, it has to be said) the Gizmodo review sums my thoughts up very well.

The truth is that while trying the New iPad in the Apple store at Highcross, I simply couldn’t tell the difference. In fact in KRCS I was sure it was old stock they had on display. To me, that speaks higher of the iPad2 than it is negative about the New iPad. Sure, the Retina Display makes photos look good, but so does the 2.

I had the opportunity to test my 2 alongside Jim’s shiny New iPad today. It is only holding one in each hand that the very slight difference in size/weight is just apparent – in isolation it is effectively impossible. As a quick test of speed I simultaneously launched the iPhoto app and the New was noticeably quicker. When I repeated the test to show Jim my findings, however, there was hardly any difference (despite “killing” the app from the task bar first – it was obviously still in RAM).

I still think non-US users are paying a supplement for the race to adopt LTE. That said, one feature of the New iPad I wish was in the iPad2 is tethering – something I’m sure I would use a lot.

My initial instinct has thus been confirmed: The New iPad is stunningly better than the first model, but at best only a slight advance on the 2. In some respects (perhaps understandable compromises brought about by the Retina Display) it is a very slight step back. I still doubt if the Apple of 12 months ago would have made that step – at any cost.

Bring on the MacBook Air refresh!!

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The New iPad and associated issues

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After the dust has settled on last night’s hoopla, it’s time to reflect on what was announced and released. Of course the biggie is “The New iPad”. Perhaps the most surprising part of the whole thing was the name… No iPad3 or iPad HD – one of the few things the rumour sites failed to predict. It is always a bit of a disappointment when Apple’s big show merely confirms what has already been leaked – and this time round there was a lot which wasn’t a shock. The main takeaway from the event for me is that until you see it, pick it up, play with it…. I doubt you’ll fully appreciate how different it is to the iPad2.

Of course the main feature touted at the launch was how wonderful 4G is, something which is entirely useless to UK users – and will remain so for the lifetime of the device. In some respects, and I’m thinking of the slightly increased width and weight, us Brits have been served a bit of a croc.

I have to say, of more interest to me were the relatively minor releases which coincided with the event: iOS5.1 has been waiting in the wings for weeks. Although a maintainance release, it’s biggest feature as far as I am concerned is the ability to delete individual images from Photostream. This was an omission that, for me and many others, rendered a great feature almost unusable.

Also released last night, along with a raft of updates to Apple Apps, was the new iPhoto for iOS. A snip at £2.99, this is a phenomenal piece of software, packed with features. I’m still getting to grips with it, but I really like the Journal feature. My first stab at creating a Journal. Still missing, as far as I can see, is the ability for edited metadata (keywords, faces, etc) to be propagated around the Photostream.

Also updated last night, the second generation Apple TV has been rejuvenated with a new user interface. Netflix are well placed by inclusion on this platform and Lovefilm should be looking over their shoulder. It would be excellent if BBC iPlayer were to be included, but maybe that’s for the future? Given that the new OS for AppleTV has all the features of the new iteration – except 1080P HD of course – I won’t be rushing out for one of them, after all.

So, the burning question, and one that seems to be on the lips of everyone who bumps into me at work: Will I be getting the New iPad? Well…. I certainly haven’t (and won’t) pre-order one. I want to have ‘hands on’ before I decide. In some ways, Apple have double-sixed me by retaining the 16Gb iPad2 at the cut-down price of £329. I suspect this will dilute the market for secondhand iPad2s, a factor which any potential upgrade to the new one relies upon. Interesting and pleasing to note that the launch in the UK will be concurrent with the US.

On balance, I believe I will hold my water until the inevitable update to the MacBook Air.

Then again…..?

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Farewell 2011…

Golden Gate ... Done That!

Given that it is impossible to pick up a paper or view a web site at this time of year without encountering a Review of the Year, I felt I couldn’t miss that particular band wagon. So here goes…

Probably of interest only to me and to my fellow tech geeks, the year opened with the purchase of a new camera – a Casio H20G – distinguishable from its predecessor pretty much only by the inclusion of a GPS chip. To me it has been a wonder of the modern world that photographs can have location data embedded in them, and that iPhoto allows them to be displayed on a map. So to have the camera do this automatically (And accurately) is a great advance. This really came into its own in March, as I will mention in a bit.

January also brought a less welcome event in the form of an injury at work which put a big dent in my previously barely blemished sickness record. Still, going out and testing the new camera was good physiotherapy.

The first trip away of the year was a weekend to Gloucester and Cheltenham in March. Not very exotic or adventurous, but we enjoyed our stay in what was then Ramada Jarvis’s Bowden Hall.

Derby Winter BeerFest

Derby Winter BeerFest

Also in February was the inaugural Derby Winter Beer Festival in the newly restored Roundhouse – a superbly atmospheric venue, but the news that an extra Gents toilet is to be in use of the 2012 event is welcome! Requiring users of the only gents toilets at a beer festival to use the main entrance/exit to the venue is a recipe for a large backlog of people. Fine ales were drunk nevertheless.

The rest of winter 2011 passed uneventfully, but as March dawned, the highlight of the year arrived. Regular readers of arewethereyet.org.uk will recall the details of our fabulous trip to San Francisco and Half Moon Bay, California.

San Francisco is a city rich with interesting things to see and do, and we were generally pretty fortunate with the weather. As fascinating as Alcatraz is to visit, I doubt we’d have enjoyed it quite so much without the bright sunshine which accompanied us. Certainly, when the rain came a few days later, it limited the enjoyment of the area a little, but our digs, the Argonaut Hotel, were first class and Kimpton Hotels are a chain to look out for. Once we got mobile with a hire care, however, and began to explore the area outside the city, things – literally – brightened up again. Half Moon Bay on the Pacific coast is a real delight, and to see the sun set over the Pacific surf is a life-long memory. Again, we struck lucky with our choice of place to stay, not least as we started the day with no real clue where we would end up, so it was real ‘pot luck’.

Map of our SF travels

Thanks to GPS in the camera and iPhoto, here is a map of our travels

All too soon it was time to fly home, though as a last surprise of the holiday for Kay, we came back in Premium Economy, the extra leg room making it almost – but not quite – a comfortable journey home.

Royal Crown Derby Titanic Exhibition

After such a high, life back home was ordinary. We had  visit to Royal Crown Derby to see the exhibition of Titanic ephemera. To fair, it was slightly miscast, though had they billed it more accurately as an exhibition of White Star Line material, it wouldn’t have had the same draw. For my part, having lived in or around Derby for 30 years, it was my first visit to the Crown Derby museum, which is actually well worth  visit in its own right.As summer approached we had several day trips out into the Peak District to appreciate the beauty on our door step. I took a drive over to the Potteries to successfully seek out the grave of my great-grand parents in Tunstall Cemetery in order to keep my genealogy quest going.

11th May was a highlight – the arrival, at long last, of my iPad2. Though still hard to get, several weeks after their UK launch (they were released when we were in San Francisco, so I’d had a play around with one then), I managed to secure one on-line from John Lewis and hotfooted it over to Nottingham to pick it up. The device has barely left my side ever since, though I admit that this is being typed on my MacBook. As good as the iPad virtual keyboard may be, it still doesn’t lend itself to long, illustrated, blogs.

Also in May, one of several beer drinking highlights in the year – Rail Ale at Barrow Hill. Inevitably it rained (the event wouldn’t be the same without a drizzle finding its way through the engine shed roof!) The vent continued the theme of drinking beer in Midland Railway buildings, which is always fun, and there was – as you’d expect – another fine range of beers to go at.

With June came a domestic upheaval as the incredibly long overdue replacement of my bathroom began. Having lived with the 1970’s burgundy bath and suite, it was definitely past its end of life by the time work started. Not wanting to be in a house for too long without toilet facilities, I upped and went off on my travels. Kay was on holiday with her mother in Spain during this period, so I headed for Dorset.

The first night of my adventure was actually in Birmingham as I went to a concert at the NEC. Originally booked when we thought Kay could go too, I ended up enjoying Journey, Foreigner and Styx all by myself (and a few thousand other crowd members!).

Swanage Beach

British Seaside at its finest

I arrived in Dorset to find it sunny and beautiful as ever. I stopped in the Grand Hotel at Swanage, having secured a good rate on line of course. Though I remember having meals there when Mum lived in Swanage, this was the first time I’d stopped there. Though perhaps living on time os long gone grandeur, it was nevertheless a pleasant hotel to stay at.

I’m not sure if it was the sun (yes, it was that strong) or something I ate, but my last night in Dorset was marred by being slightly under the weather – so much so I didn’t even go out in search of beer from the several excellent pubs in the town (or the hotel bar which served real ale).

On my return from Dorset, Kay was still away and my bathroom was nearly complete. At least it was usable. When the finishing touches were applied, I was delighted with the end result and would heartily recommend  Colin Hitchcock, the plumber responsible, for any other work.
The new bathroom

The new bathroom

Work-wise June was notable for a week’s driving refresher, which was a fun break from routine. Though with a true lack of foresight other part of the job, I would be at the retirement do of my cremate on the course before the year was out!

The summer Derby Beer Festival in July was another opportunity to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen all year, and my attendance maintained a tradition unbroken since 1983.

Derby Cathedral Tower View

Derby Cathedral Tower View

A minor ambition was achieved in August, quite by chance as it turned out. Rather like the comment I made above about Crown Derby, in my years living in & around the city, I had never been up the cathedral tower to appreciate the views. As we happened to be passing by one day, it turned out to be one of the infrequent open days, so I rushed back to the car for my camera and went up. Though not the sunniest of days, the weather was fine and the views more than satisfactory. Derby lies in the Derwent Valley, so the view to the south is longest, but even looking down on the city itself presented a unique perspective.

September saw the retirement do of Alan Smith that I alluded to above. Held in the Dolphin at Derby, that was a splendid night with several faces from the past showing up and many memories being recounted. The end of September, as you may recall, was exceptionally hot and warm – an Indian Summer if you will. At the risk of a theme developing in this narrative, I took advantage of that wonderful wether to visit a beer festival – this time at Ripley. So yet again I found myself drinking beer in Midland Railway surroundings as Butterley was the unusual, and very effective, venue for the event.

September also saw the debut of this Blog to an unsuspecting and ill prepared world. Theoretically at least, here I ought to end this recap of the year and everything from hereon should be Blogged. True to my promise not to treat the blog as a diary, however, there should be a fair bit that happened in the later half of 2011 which wasn’t mentioned here.

Autumn eventually came and 14th October found me queueing up outside an O2 shop after a night shift to buy the iPhone 4S. That, of course, was Blogged about so ’nuff said.

Vampires Rock

Vampires Rock

Toward the end of October there was another concert, this time with Kay, as well as Nick & Sue. The venue was the Ice Arena in Nottingham and the act was Steve Steinman’s Vampire’s Rock. Apart from a not-so-brief technical hiccup with the sound system, the performance was very good and really entertaining…. not bad for a Meat Loaf tribute!

Center Parcs Squirrel

Center Parcs Squirrel

Into November and a weekend away at Center Parcs. Most enjoyable and probably should have been subject of a blog in itself. In the end, despite taking lots of photos, I didn’t get round to writing about it all. The break coincided with Guy Fawkes, so we were treated to a fireworks display over the lake – an excuse to snap lots of photos, and some of them actually came out alright.

Center Parcs is notable for several things; its “sub tropical paradise”, sports activities and squirrels. True to form, we were adopted to a number of them, and despite their reputation as ‘tree rats’ I have to say they’re quite entertaining creatures. So much so that a calendar made up of photos I took of squirrels formed one of Kay’s christmas presents this year!

The other advantage of Center Parcs is that there’s not one, but two Starbucks in the village. That was attraction enough as far as I was concerned. An ideal place to chill-out. We certainly came back rested and ready to face the onslaught of Christmas!

Panniers Railtour

Panniers Railtour

November culminated with an unusual but very pleasant day out – a steam hauled rail tour. The objective from my point of view (apart from drinking beer with good friends) was that the route of the tour was over several freight only lines in the Burton & Derby area, an unusual opportunity to see the rail network from a different perspective. The tour was very popular with 12 carriages sold out. I’m not a steam aficionado, but even I could appreciate the spectacle of two small pannier tanks slogging their guts out to haul such a long train. The refreshment break at Leicester allowed us to adjourn to the Ale Wagon for several pints and convivial conversation.

Final highlight of the year was another concert, again at the Ice Arena but this time just me and Kay. The concert was opened by a joke of a heavy metal band called Steel Panther (at least I think they were a joke), followed by an incredibly loud and entertaining Mötley Crüe (the drum solo with Tommy Lee and his kit being rotated upside down while he drummed will live with me for a long time) and rounded off by Def Leppard. Though we were toward the back of the arena, we were pretty much central to the stage and so treated to a spectacular view of the stage. At its height (the drum solo) there must have been a thousand camera in the air capturing the performance – but that didn’t stop a steward near us remonstrating with someone for using their camera. Jobsworth!

So Here It Is Merry Christmas, as Noddy Holder once quite profitably said. The year is about up and we now have 2012 to look forward to. Let’s see what that brings…

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Some thoughts about the Steve Jobs biography

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I finally finished Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs and thought I’d share some of the impressions I was left with. Most striking is that Isaacson didn’t pull any punches. I’d read somewhere that he has been criticised for getting too close to his subject, and the fact he effectively watched Jobs die made him unable to be objective. I have to say I didn’t find that to be the case.

Whilst it seems Steve Jobs was almost universally loved toward the end of his life, the picture Isaacson paints of a young Steve Jobs is not an edifying one. Indeed, reading of the self-obsessed hippy who had questionable personal hygiene and a tendency to emotionally hurt everyone close to him, makes him out as a distinctly un-likeable character.

Jobs touched upon his parent’s Herculean effort to raise enough money to send him to college in his now famous speech at Stanford in 2005. At the time he seemed to wilfully waste that investment, but whilst he dropped out of Reed College, the time there undoubtedly shaped him: As well as embracing the substance use endemic of the time and the similarly typical (stereotypical?) eastern mysticism, it was here that his life-long obsession with wierd and wonderful vegan & fruit diets began.

Even his first foray into the world of electronics as a business was highly questionable ethically – the marketing of Steve Wozniack’s “blue box” which allowed the payphone network to be “phreaked”. In other words, during his early adult life, Steve Jobs stood for pretty much everything I would find abhorrent.

In detailing Jobs’ life, it is inevitible that Isaacson chronicals the rise of Apple – and a fascinating story it is too. It is perhaps the one fact about Steve Jobs that most people who had heard of him knew; that he had been famously sacked from the company he founded, only to return later and save it from oblivion. Again as noted in the Stanford speech, Isaacson details why the parting from Apple turned out to be a good thing for him. The narrative suggests that this was the turning point when Jobs changed from petulant and abrasive asshole, to skilled manager of people, subject to mood swings but with exceptional focus.

Jobs’ first undoubted success was in building and driving the team that created the Macintosh. Note that I didn’t say he invented the Mac, as history will erroneously record if based on current reporting. Like most of the creations he is credited or associated with, he saw the potential in disparate concepts invented by others. He put together a group of exceptionally hard working people who could just about tolerate his management style and who then brought the project to fruition, satisfying his exacting requirements. That first Mac was a computer which was indeed revolutionary.

Isaacson’s book, perhaps unintentionally, serves as a manifesto for Apple. It details the vision Jobs has infused the company with: That by putting products first and making something people will buy, and buy again once the next version comes out, the company will make money. Money and Jobs seem to have had an uneasy relationship – I suspect he never really understood it. His parents were not rich, but it seems he never wanted for anything and certainly never went hungry. When he did experience hunger as a student, it was pretty much of his choice in his search for whatever it was he was searching for in his Budhism. Apple was an almost overnight success, thanks to Woz’s brilliance as an engineer in the early days – his Apple II design sustaining the company well into the Macintosh days.

Even as a family man, we are told Jobs eschewed ostentatious displays of wealth – his house was modest, there were no security details or entourages around him. He famously worked for $1 a year on his return to the company, but then stuffed them in several ways by demanding a huge stock option. Another famous trait was to change his Mercedes every six months, taking advantage of a quirk of Califormia law that gives drivers that long to register new cars… allowing him to never display a licence plate. He refused to have a dedicated parking space at Infinite Loop – but promptly parked in the disabled bay wherever he went?!

The tale Isaacson’s tells which struck me deepest about Steve Jobs related to Apple’s MobileMe service. It is something I subscribed to and always found it perfectly functional. Not sexy, but certainly effective at what it did. However, it had teething troubles and attracted some negative publicity for the company. Walt Mosberg, a tecology columnist who is famously pro-Apple wrote a piece dismissing MobileMe as broken. That resulted in the entire MobileMe team being assembled in the auditorium at Infinite Loop and being berated by Jobs for an hour and a half. He told them they had brought shame on the company and should be embarrassed, that they were B players (Jobs’ ultimate insult!). It culimated with the manager of the team being sacked and humiliated in front of his team. I read this story and squirmed. Other than a bullet to the head this was the tactics of Joe Stalin. Perhaps in Apple’s world this is how you get the best out of your staff, but once again, it was behaviour which I found totally alien.

I was left wondering, had I met Steve Jobs, what would I make of him and what would he have made of me? The second part of that question is quite easy; there is nothing in my character that would tick any of his boxes, perhaps quite the opposite. Would I like him? It seems if I didn’t I would be completely out of step with everyone else who knew him. Isaacson’s book is crammed with accounts from people who were on the receiving end of Jobs’ worst behaviour, and yet no-one derides him or speaks of hatred. Perhaps, as I suspect, everyone who was that close to him knew he was dying by the time they were interviewed – something which has to colour people’s opinions of someone. Maybe though, despite all his mood swings and prickliness, people could see what he has achieved and thought it an acceptable trait in pursuit of the genius of Steve Jobs?

An excellent account of a unique man’s life. Given who that man was and what he meant to a generation, that the book is selling by the million – in both physical and electronic format, of course – is no surprise and entirely justified.

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iPhone4S – First Impression

iPhone4S

It’s hard not to be underwhelmed, really. Not particularly about the device – more about that in a moment – but because all the rumoUrs seem to have panned-out. One of the delights of an Apple event is to see the pundits thrown off course by something totally unforeseen. This time, the rumourmongers – well, the sensible ones – pretty much nailed it.

So what of the iPhone4S?

To be disappointed that it looks identical to the iPhone4 is to miss the point, and forgets history as Apple did exactly the same thing with the iPhone3 to iPhone3S. The notable difference is that time they didn’t wait 16 months to do it (11JUL2008 – 19JUN2009 according to Wikipedia). Of course a new design would be good eye-candy, although as Gruber pointed out the ‘teardrop’ design was unlikely, to say the least, as the iPhone is meant to be used in both portrait and landscape mode… and something that is thinner at the bottom than at the top would feel very odd indeed when held landscape.

I’m kidding no-one to suggest there was ever a chance I wouldn’t be getting the next iPhone whatever it looked like – I refer you to the aforementioned 16 months and the 12 months before that, since I bought my last iPhone (the 3GS when it was newly released). If there was a reason to seal the deal, however, it would be the camera. I’ve yet to see anything but the snaps taken at the media event and relayed in live blogs, but the announced spec seems impressive. The commentators I was following seemed awed by the examples shown at the event.

Siri – the voice command functionality – seems to have been developed by Gene Roddenberry. First impression is one of geeky admiration, followed quickly by scepticism. I hardly dare use the current ‘voice control’ function. When I say “Play Meat Loaf” expecting the iPod to burst forth, it actually replies “Calling Obscure Person Who Happens To Still Be In Your Address Book Because You Rang Them Once In 1998”. I’m confident that particular gremlin is history in Siri, so my third emotion is eager anticipation with just a hint of scepticism.

It was noticeable that of the 90 minutes the event lasted, barely 20 of them were devoted to anything new, with the audible sound of barrel scraping forming the back ground to the “Cards” app. The commentators were palpably bored right up to the moment Phil Schiller got to the iPhone4S announcement.

Right. The Apple site has been updated. Time to start digging for small print…

Update:

Apple.com/uk is fried by all the traffic…

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Amazon’s Kindle Tablet Is Very Real.

It seems that a genuinely competative rival to the iPad may be about to make it to market. This from usually very Apple-centric blogger, M.G.Seigler….

It’s called simply the “Amazon Kindle”. But it’s not like any Kindle you’ve seen before. It displays content in full color. It has a 7-inch capacitive touch screen. And it runs Android.

via Amazon’s Kindle Tablet Is Very Real. I’ve Seen It, Played With It. | TechCrunch.

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