Apple Event Speculation

If Apple are about to launch a tablet style computer, I wonder if their recent purchase of an online advertising company Quattro is because they’ll be offering a centralised advertising service for tablet format publications, so that a publisher can just specify a place for an ad, and get a royalty paid direct by apple for the number of impressions the ad gets.

If they were to do this, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple had a policy of text-only, or static ads – overly animated attention stealing ads are, I suspect, the reason people have developed both cognitive blindness for banner ads, as well as ad-blocking software.

A couple of hours until we find out.

EDIT: still waiting, but I thought I’d chime in a bit about why previous tablets have largely failed – in the Windows world, they’ve been about selling a windows computer that doesn’t need a keyboard – that’s the goal as far as microsoft and OEMs have been concerned. The goal hasn’t been “create the best digital magazine experience”, where the hardware and software are just the enabler, because people in the PC world haven’t really had the big picture vision to want to move the world in a particular direction as the goal, in the way Apple did with music. Microsoft doesn’t really want to change the world, they’re the established player, keeping the world the way it is, thankyou very much, is their be all and end all goal.

Appletalk Printers and Snow Leopard

One of the changes that’s come in with the move to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard is the depreciation of Appletalk as a protocol. Despite not really being used too much on modern Macs, it has kept a whole generation of older printers running, usually with adapter dongles by companies like Asante. These bridge from Ethernet to Localtalk cabling, and allow the printer to be accessed from any other Mac on the network.

Another solution was to run a piece of software called Localtalk Bridge on an old Classic Mac OS machine (Mac OS 9 and earlier) that has both serial and ethernet ports. I found this solution had one advantage over the Asante dongle – it would stand up to large amounts of data. The Asante solution seemed to freeze up and stop responding if you sent enough graphically intensive print jobs to it. I’m assuming that it might be something to do with being unable to spit data out over the Localtalk connection as fast as it comes in over the Ethernet.

In my case, the machine doing the localtalk bridge was a first generation PowerMac 7100, running System 7.5.5, and set to load Localtalk Bridge on boot. So printing was a matter of boot the 7100 from its keyboard, wait a minute, print, then shut down by pressing the keyboard power button again, and hitting Return when you hear the beep. It was run essentially headless, connected up from its AV card s-video to composite connector, then to the video-in on a VCR (where it could be seen by hitting the AV button on the VCR remote), which acts as the broadcast TV receiver on my little studio TV.

It’s a ridiculously Rube Goldbergian printing setup.

So, when the new Mac Mini arrived with Snow Leopard, replacing the previous final generation PowerPC Mac Mini as my main machine, I was wondering how to keep my printer running. Digging through my random cable drawer, which is kindof like the Flying Spaghetti Monster mixed with The Terminator, I found one of those random cables that give you a “what the fuck is this for” moment – a USB to Parallel printer cable.

Now, I assumed this wouldn’t work. It seems so counter-intuitive that a printer which is almost old enough to engage in consensual sex would work with a brand new OS, using a connector on the computer’s end that was a science fiction idea when the printer was released, and a connector on the printer’s end that has never been used on a Mac.

I plugged the cable in, opened the Print & Fax prefpane, hit the “+” button, and there it is. Standard couple of click set up, and it’s there, custom icon and all the printing settings available.

It works. Perfectly.

So, now the old PowerMac 7100/66 AV, the first computer I owned after an Amiga 500, is finished. All that remains is for it to be wiped and taken to Anchorhead Reverse Garbage, along with the old 17″ Sony CRT that was bought with it.

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App Store Thing

These days it’s popular to rag on Apple’s iTunes appstore. Turn to any techtard / new media douchebag commentary site, and you’ll find whining about market abuses, slow app approval blah blah blah.

Well for all the ‘tardary developers claim about the appstore, here’s a story about why the appstore can be a great thing for consumers…

As a recent iPhone buyer, I wanted a file transfer solution to provide the iPod as hard disc functionality that the classic iPods sported. So, I did a bit of research and the reviews seemed to indicate that Veiosoft’s DataCase was the best solution. I bought DataCase, and attempted to use it to back up files from my Mac.

You’ll notice the word “attempted”, yeah, not “succeeded”. Put simply, my experience of DataCase was that it probably shouldn’t be on sale. Some files I attempted to transfer over would just vanish when they arrived on the phone, and then magically cure themselves a while later. None of the files transferred over were viewable on the phone – tapping them would produce a grey screen, though if you rotated the phone’s orientation, the file would appear while it rotated, and then go back to the grey screen. The only way to view it was to go back to the file list, then tap the file a second time. The crowning fail of the app was that while it claims to support rotation, and certainly does for the file browser, when viewing movie files it has a hard-coded orientation. That’s ok if you’re right handed, and you rotate your phone counter-clockwise to put it into landscape orientation. I’m lefthanded, however, and when I rotate my phone clockwise to landscape, the app shows its file browser correctly, and then displays the movie itself upside down.

Retarded. Brutally, freaking retarded.

I deleted and downloaded the app afresh. No difference.

How does something like this get through a developer’s process?

I filed a support email with the developer, but didn’t get a response. So, I decided to try letting Apple know what I had experienced.

Whenever you download an app, you’re emailed a receipt (even for free apps). On that receipt is a “report a problem” link. So, I followed the instructions, and sent an email expressing my issues with the app – that it’s basic functionality didn’t work, and that it made claims of functional behaviour based on the experience expectations Apple provided (rotation) that wasn’t implemented correctly as the user would expect.

I asked for a refund or iTunes store credit so that I could buy a different app to do the job.

Less than a day later I received a response from Apple, and here it is… I’ve removed the CSR’s name, only because I’m not sure about the ins and outs of naming Apple employees in this situation.

Hi Matt,

[removed], here from the iTunes Store. I understand that your purchase of “DataCase” has not been functioning as expected. I’m very sorry to hear that this item did not meet the standard of quality you have come to expect from the iTunes Store. I can certainly appreciate how eager you must be to rectify this issue, and I would be more than happy to help you out with this today.

I have gone ahead and reversed the charge for “DataCase”. You will see a store credit of $8.17 plus any applicable sales tax, on your iTunes Store account in three to five business days. You may need to sign out of the iTunes Store and then sign back in before you see the credit in your account.

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding this issue, please let me know and I would be more than happy to address them for you. Thank you very much for being part of the iTunes Store family, Matt, and I hope you have a great day.

That’s good customer service. It’s perhaps an overlooked advantage of Apple acting as a gatekeeper in this market. Apple gives us certain expectations of polish, and their position as a gatekeeper means we can use their standards against developers who drop the ball.

The happy ending is that I bought Olive Toast’s Files, and it works wonderfully.