Not very Appley

I wrote this during the week, but I haven’t been able to post it until now.

I signed up for an iOS developer account with Apple last week. The sign up process was every bit as slick as you would expect from Apple, although I was advised that activation could take up to 24 hours, which seemed reasonable enough – I know that there are certain checks that have to be performed to protect Apple’s customers against fraudulent developers/apps.

A few hours later I got an email telling me I could go ahead and activate. I followed the instructions but was unable to complete the activation.

The next day I received an email from Apple saying there were inconsistencies in the data I had provided and requesting that I upload a copy of my “government issued photo ID”. No details of exactly what was inconsistent were provided. I double checked all of the data I had provided, I could not spot any errors.

I contacted Apple through the developer portal, expressing my confusion and seeking some sort of clarification. The Contact Us page says that they will return emails within one business day, but I waited for two business days to pass and then contacted them again as I had not heard anything. That was three days ago. Today I finally received an email response, except instead of being helpful it reiterated exactly the same message, there were inconsistencies in the data I had provided, but no details on what they were.

I decided to phone Apple.

My call was answered quite quickly and the guy on the other end of the phone took my details and tried to find out what was wrong. He explained that I had provided two different names during the sign up. I knew this was not right and so waited for him to expand. It seems that in one place I had listed my name as Mr F Oobar and in another I had listed it as simply F Oobar. I could not believe that this was the cause of the issue. One of the fields I had completed during the sign up process asked for my name as it appears on my card, the other asked simply for my name. Whilst I could understand how this could cause a computer to flag the play, I thought that a human being would instantly be able to diagnose the problem and dismiss it as unimportant. I asked the guy from Apple if he sort the issue out now that he understood and allow my enrollment to complete. Nope. Still needed to see my passport or drivers licence.

I was pretty annoyed at this point and said that if the guy was unable to complete my enrollment that he should go ahead and cancel it and refund my money. He didn’t argue and stated that I would receive an email later on explaining the details of the refund. I considered the matter closed.

When the email arrived it stated that they had processed the refund I had requested as “an exception to our policy”. Really? Because I thought that the Distance Selling Regulations made guaranteed my right to cancel when the contract was never concluded, I was never able to access the service and I had first attempted to contact them well within 7 days?

Seriously Apple. This is not what I expect from you and it really is not good enough. I am shocked that this is how you treat developers looking to contribute to your platform. :(

Dear Tim…

I like the way Apple work. I like their vertically integrated approach and dedication to pushing the boundaries of technology. Life inside Steve’s walled garden is pretty epic, but that doesn’t mean to say there aren’t things I would change. After the release of Lion, the standing down of Uncle Steve and with iOS 5 imminent, now seems like a good time to list my annoyances and suggestions.

First off, let me say that customised notification sounds for texts/emails/etc on iOS is a super massive win, the same for unified notifications. If these weren’t features in iOS 5 then they would be near the very top of my list.

1. When you are sending a text message, right after you have hit send, the name of the recipient is replaced with “Sending…”. This lasts for all of two seconds, but feels like an eternity when you think you may have sent that text to the wrong person. The level of terror is heightened by the fact that there is no option to cancel the text.

2. Sure, I now have the option to merge folders, but Finder still feels awkward to use as none of the views feel quite right. I don’t like the way that files moves around the mouse pointer when you are dragging them either.

3. When I connect my iPhone to my MBP, it irks me that I have to launch iTunes in order to sync my contacts, calendar, photos, etc. Bring back iSync!

4. I would like to be able to combine my FaceTime account on my phone with the one on my Mac, so that both “ring” and I can answer either.

5. I know that you can get other browsers for iOS, but what’s the point if the first time I click on a link it immediately opens Safari? Allow me to choose the default browser the same way I would on my Mac.

6. An air like MBP. Lose the optical drive, add support for the external SuperDrive (maybe a new ThunderBolt version?). Replace the HDD with a phat SSD.

7. A pony. I’d quite like a pony.

House Syndrome (Quick to the point, to the point no faking).

The theme of this short but sweet post is fakery, inspired by a week filled with it (and full of it).

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I think the Apple press conference on Antenna Gate was perfect. It was such an Apple thing to do. Steve Jobs rolled up on the stage and called out all of the media for their part in spinning the story into an international headline. The videos of the other smart phones being death gripped were cool, I don’t care how many companies release rebuttal statements – if the videos were in any way unfair or inaccurate they would be suing, and they aren’t.  To silence the remaining dissenters (fanboys), Steveo offered free cases or free returns; an immediate smack down to the haters drawing parallels between Vista and iPhone 4.

My point is that I just don’t have time for the perennial Salesman type: from the guy packaged in the clothes he thinks you think he should be wearing, to the sensationlist news reporter or politician looking to spin a situation in a favourable light. I guess that’s why I like Twitter, because I have been able to build up a stable of people who are real, who are opinionated in a good way and who are able to hold sometimes polar opposite opinions and yet co-exist with each other. I am unapologetically honest because life is easier that way. I speak my mind and sometimes it gets me into trouble, but hey, that’s me – take it or leave it.

When Gregory House met Vanilla Ice.

[Note: Dear future me. Please don’t forget any of the things that inspired this post.]

It’s an iMac. The End.

Sometimes I marvel at how the Universe works. Today I was discussing with two friends, one a colleague, the other my boss (virtual fist bumps to El Holandés and El Jefe) the naming convention that Apple uses for it’s products. The example we were discussing was the iMac and the focus of the discussion was why all iMacs are identified as just being an iMac and not an iMac Inspiron 550GTi. This evening an article appeared on TUAW.

“Apple’s official names for its products are generally simple. Although the current iMac bears very little resemblance to its 1998 ancestor, both products have the exact same name. In the hands of Sony or Dell the current iMac might be called the “iMac 12390 XMT” or something similar to differentiate it from the slightly slower and less capacious “iMac 10460 TMI” that they sold last year, but Apple keeps it simple: if it’s an all-in-one desktop computer, it’s an iMac. The End.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Time Capsule R.I.P.

deadtimecapsulegraveyard

When I first read on TUAW about the number of Time Capsules that were dropping dead around the eighteen month mark I was intrigued, but not concerned, as I had already transferred all of my data and Time Machine backups to a ReadyNAS Duo (having identified the Time Capsule as a single point of failure and having made the decision to use it just as a router). When I read a second article reporting that large numbers of  TCs were dropping dead at almost exactly the same point in their life cycles and that somebody had even gone to the trouble of setting up a website dedicated to memorializing the fallen, I was less dismissive. I’ve known for a while now that my TC was nearing the danger zone, so when it went nuts earlier today, and by nuts I mean refusing to boot, refusing to allow configuration changes and refusing to fall back to factory defaults, I wasn’t surprised to discover that it was 17 months and 16 days old!

Update: I have managed to resuscitate the TC, it doesn’t seem 100% happy, but it is working. I’m glad Apple decided to update the Airport range this week as I suspect that I will be in the market for an Airport Extreme in the not to distant future!

Talk to the palm (and other things)

This isn’t a particularly well thought out post, more a general meandering through my thoughts, an aggregated thought feed if you will…

I absolutely cannot see what Palm hoped to achieve by reporting Apple to the USB-IF. Why not just integrate with iTunes in the same way as every other mobile phone/MP3 player/random application manufacturer, it almost seems like it’s more about the publicity and less about, well… there isn’t anything else to it is there.

Still no Snow Leopard friendly Growl. Grr.

What happened to webchunks? I was in the middle of preparing a software release, just calculating the checksums for the Win32 and Linux versions (ready to be documented in the release note) and then I discovered that the owner of webchunks had failed to put enough coins in the meter and so I had to transfer the checksums via a combination of text file and USB pen drive! Luckily the owner is a friend of mine and once I reported the service outage, he was on it in a flash (well once he returned from Chessington ;-) ).

I’m getting more and more addicted to twitter. I think it is so cool to be able to access the uncensored thoughts of so many people, an online Ben & Jerry’s in a world so full of vanilla. Having opinions isn’t a crime. At the moment, I am particularly enjoying following Jason Bradbury (him off the Gadget Show); Chris Jericho (current WWE superstar); Ken AndersonAnderson (former WWE employee, still a superstar, creator of the CTM TLA) and Becky Kingston, who I only know of through one of Jason’s #followfriday tweets.

See I could have tweeted all of this in much less time than it took to write this post, but then I couldn’t have used the bitchin’ title that made me CTM. Anyway, I’m off to watch the footie…

Post tune: Velvet Revolver, Slither, Contraband

Where are all the plugins?

Where are all the plugins for Safari 4? I’m pleased that the nastiness that was Input Managers is no longer with us, but where is the community support, where on the Apple website can I search for Safari 4 compatible plugins? I don’t care how fast or compliant to web standards Safari is, if it doesn’t offer me the ability to reproduce the functionality of the Firfox URL bar along with NoScript, AdBlock Plus and the other plugins that I take for granted in Firefox, then I ain’t switchin’ back.

Close, but no cupcake

I was quite surprised to discover that Android, the mobile device OS created by Google and now developed by the Open Handset Alliance, isn’t any of the things that I thought it was. Somehow, I had managed to convince myself that Android was a Linux based OS, which it isn’t, it utilizes the Linux kernel, but that’s it. In fact, it’s lack of support for the standard Linux libraries makes it pretty much impossible to recycle any existing Linux apps or libraries for use on it. I also thought that Android provided full support for Java, but it doesn’t, for some strange reason, Android doesn’t use established Java platforms like SE and ME, it just uses the Java syntax. Disheartened, I sought solace in the fact that Android was at least fully open source, so it would still have the full support of the open source community, even if life was more difficult without Linux and Java. I was wrong again, parts of the SDK are closed source. Maybe so, but at least Google can put their weight behind making sure that the end user can use their Android running device in whatever manner they choose (think tethering)… Oh this is just getting stupid, how can the Android license be so open that it allows third party providers to close it!?!

<sarcasm>Yep, I can really see the advantage of plumping for Google and Android over Apple and iPhone OS 3.0.</sarcasm>

The List (I’m back bitch)

That’s right, the blog that shudders at the thought of conformity is back and ready to take aim on, well, everything. My enforced absence from the blogosphere lasted only about a month, but lots of stuff sparked my interest in this time and so I ended up working on several posts simultaneously and so without further ado, I bring you “The List”. “What’s the list?” I hear you ask, well I’ll just starting counting things off of it and I’ll let you figure it out.

  1. You know those adverts for HD content on Sky, one has Wayne Rooney in, well if you don’t have a Sky HD box then you haven’t seen it in HD. And yes fuckwit, even if you’ve got an HD tele, that means you.
  2. Between the Lord’s selling their votes to the highest bidder, through the complete ineptitude of the Speaker and on to the MPs greedily playing the expenses system for everything they can get. You all suck and you all have to go. And before anyone suggests that a General Election should be postponed until after the investigation into expenses has been concluded, I’d like to add that even if an election is called tomorrow an investigation should still be performed and anyone found to have stolen money from the tax payer should be prosecuted, regardless of whether they have paid the money back. Floating duck island my arse. None of you are sorry for what you did, you’re just sorry you got caught.
  3. I know she’s covered by the previous item, but she needs a special mention. Did anyone really need any additional reasons to dislike Hazel Blears? Can everyone say tax fraud?
  4. I’ve been on a bit of a binge recently, I’ve been consuming books about software development, and in particular C++ software development, at quite a rate and Scott Meyers’ books were recommended by quite a collection of people (a hashmap?). A lot of what I’ve read so far makes perfect sense; I’ve come across lots of items that have made me cringe when thinking about my own code and plan to do some serious refactoring because of this, but two things (so far) have struck me as really wrong: variables with names like ‘a’ (sure you can get away with ‘i’ or ‘it’ in a loop, but how does naming a variable ‘a’ help anybody) and splitting the contents of header files into two separate header files, one for declarations and one for definitions (just no). Expect further posts on this subject.
  5. Did you see last weeks edition of Click, it was a Windows 7 special? First came the Super Bar, then came the new improved Live Search and finally multitouch, or the Dock, Spotlight and erm, multitouch as they are known to OS X users. So not that ground breaking then, especially as the only laptop that the BBC could find that supported multitouch was a Mac. You just know that these features won’t work as well in Windows 7 as they do in OS X and for that reason Windows 7 is on/in the list, well that and the stupid Window shaking thing – see what happens when Micro$oft try to think like Apple.
  6. I tried to find out how my attempts to repay my student loan were going this week, but unfortunately they only have records for up to March 2008. Fine, Focus RS it is then.
  7. E Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Denver Nuggets, decided that his team wasn’t going to do it in the playoffs and so booked the WWE to perform in his arena this past Monday night. Unfortunately for Enos, the Nuggets did make it to the playoffs. Uh oh, double booking. No biggie, just turf the WWE out, to hell with the fans. Douchebag (great word).

Like I said, I’m back.

I want to be a minority!

A new product called U-Tag was brought to my attention recently, the premise is that it is a USB key that is worn as a dog tag and contains all of your emergency contact/medical information. It was designed for use by motorcyclists, or donors as they’re known in A&E (thanks Neil), but I thought that it would be a good alternative to my own stainless steel MedicAlert dog tag (worn to inform people of my serious allergy to certain medicines). I also thought that it would be a good idea for my Dad, who has had a heart attack and a stroke, and has a list of pills as long as the Nile (which would be very important for anyone treating him to have).

I visited the website and all looked good, until I discovered that they only support Windows users. [Insert joke about Windows users being most likely to crash here]. I emailed them to enquire about this completely uneccessary limitation:

I saw your product and thought it was a great idea. I currently wear a stainless steel dog tag which lists my allergies and other information, but currently would require someone to use the telephone number on it to contact Medic Alert to find out details of my medications etc. I also think it would be a good idea for my Dad, who has suffered a heart attack and stroke and has a long list of medication.

Why then do you only offer support for Windows users? I own a Mac, as do all of my friends. I also have access to a Linux machine, but no Windows boxes. I am a software engineer, and cannot see why you cannot display the data in html format, so that anyone can view it. You could easily have three different applications (one for each OS) for editing the data. Maybe I am missing something?

Their response:

Thank you for your question. The software is in Windows format because this is the most common operating system. It is extensively used throughout the emergency services and medical professions.

Yes, we could have gone straight to a HTML editor and produced a HTML file for all to read. After investigation, the security was not at a high enough level cross platform. Hence only going to windows. The software runs in windows directly from the USB device with no installation. We are currently recommending MAC users enter there details on a PC either a friends, a local library or internet cafe. The process is quick and intuitive.

I hope that answers your question, we are most defiantly not anti MAC far from it. All out design work was created using them. It was shear weight of numbers.

I decided that this was unacceptable, so I emailed them again:

Thank you for your response, it does explain things somewhat. However, I find it hard to believe that you can site security as the reason for not using HTML and then recommened entering personal medical information at an internet cafe or library. This is in addition to the fact that Windows (pick any version) is far from a secure operating system itself.

Anyway, thank you again for your response, maybe you can let me know when you become Mac friendly.

Regards,

Jo

P.S. Mac and not MAC, that mistake is guaranteed to upset any Apple fanboy, like me!

So I guess that makes me a discriminated against minority! Cool!

Update: One of the lead developers for this product took the time to email me personally, from a cramped bus in the Middle East, to inform me that they are in fact working on a Mac version of this product!