Category Archives: Tech Head

Macs, Computers, Tech in general

Apple and the Great SKU Problem

I know I list problem solver as a skill in my Linkedin profile but this one’s a doozey and has been bugging me for a while now.

Apple has too many iPads.

I know it is considered sacred to not criticize all things Apple but I really believe they just aren’t doing the right thing here. Ok so hear me out…

Ever since the iPad was introduced, there have been two many over lapping iOS devices and too many choices. I know that choice is a good thing but in this case there is just too much.

Try this scenario for instance. A person, (how about Alex, sounds like a good name right?), walks into an Apple Store, presumably to replace one of those still in use old PC laptops that Apple says folks are hanging on to. Also remember Apple loves to remind us how 50% percent of all visitors to the Apple Store are new to Apple purchasers. So Alex has heard of these iPads, maybe even has a friend of two who has shown them one or let them used it before. Alex likes to look around first so politely tells the front store greeter this and then walks over to the iPad table. Alex is then presented with this lovely graphic, or at least the real world equivalent of one.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 8.37.43 AMRight away, Alex has five models to choose from. Apple thought of this though and offers a handy Compare button on their website. I can only hope the employees in the store have an equivalent.

However this is the comparison…

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Not exactly inspiring now is it? I see one big, two mediums, and two smalls all with the same back. Looks like it’s also in some different shades of color as well. Watching my kids watch Sesame street and I know how this game is played. Aah Aah Aah, I love to count. 1, 2, 3, … 14, 15. 15 options for iPads.

But wait, there’s more!

Alex decides to check the tech specs because hey, more numbers means it’s better right?

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Or maybe not. In fact, on the website, Alex has to scroll through 16 more comparison sections. SIXTEEN, holy buckets people. On capacity and price alone there are 25 more options. And of course not all color options are available on all configurations.

Hang on a second here, let me go ask my NASA scientist wife to do some of those white board calculations and I’ll get back to you.

Ok I’m back and we calculate there are a total of 77 Apple SKU’s in this one product category alone.

Know I am no expert here but I am pretty sure our friend Alex would but like WTF Apple? You are supposed to be the easy company. Hey I know Alex, maybe like a responsible American citizen, you set aside a specific budget for this lovely new iPad and went to shop based on price. You will see there are prices ranging from $269 all the way up to $1229. So since this is your first iPad, maybe you decide you want to be a little on the simpler side and you decide $399 is what you saw in an advertisement and thats what your friend said he spent on one. This is going to be so easy now. Just give me the iPad that costs $399.

Oh. Wait.

There are three models that are $399. Oh for frak’s sake.

Ok so everyone now see’s that maybe Apple isn’t making this easy on anyone. Maybe they could do better. Being the problem solver that I am, here is my solution.

Apple should have three SKU’s. Yeah thats right you head me. I said three and I mean three.

I present to you the new and improved Apple iPad line up.

iPad s, iPad m, and iPad L. Yup, we all know what small medium and large means. Hell we buy clothes this way, french fries this way, and even Apple has always been a fan of the good, better, best model.

The iPad s.

This is what was the iPad mini 4.

The iPad m.

This is what was the new iPad Pro 9.7 inch

The iPad L,

This is what was the new iPad Pro 12 inch.

All iPads should be have cellular. All iPads should have all the same stuff in general. All the same size 64 GB space, all in silver or space grey only, just pick one Apple. They make more money of the colored cases and keyboard cases anyways. They should all have the same chip, the same general battery life, the same quality display, cameras, Touch ID, Apple Pay etc. Software is software, it naturally should also all have the same features.

And here is the kicker, they should all only be a fixed price difference for the display difference. I’d vote for $399, $549, $699.

And ok so you want a super, whiz bang, all the features model. Fine, Apple can add one more SKU and make a 12 inch with 256 GB and some slightly faster chip and make it rose gold (or better yet, ProductRED) for all I care. Have it automatically come with the keyboard and mouse and what have you. Sell it for $999 and be done with it.

So thats it. Four SKUs. No more of this 77 choices thing. What do you think? Doesn’t three, okay now four, choices make for a lot simpler experience. I’m sure that first time customer Alex would love it and I know I would.

I like Windows Phone 8 and the Nokia 920, but I didn’t make the switch.

So I recently got my hands on a new Nokia 920 with Windows Phone 8 and got to use it as my primary phone for two weeks. Before this I was using an iPhone 4s that I have had for about a year. So here’s my review.

nokia-lumia-920-black-front iphone-4

I like the phone. It feels solid, works well and just feels like a nice device. I did feel like it was too big to hold comfortably one handed though which is a common complaint of these phone with larger screens and the 4.5 inch display here is certainly large, especially compared to the 3.5 inch one on the iPhone 4s.

 

 

Things I liked – Hardware:

  • The larger display made taking pictures easier as it was much easier to see what I was shooting. 
  • The volume controls give you a much wider range of choice which I found useful for finding a more comfortable volume when listening to different styles of music.
  • Default 32 GB of space meant I didn’t have to worry as much about what to put on the phone or if I would run out of space while recording video.
  • The camera button does have a hold down halfway to auto focus feature.

Things I liked – Software:

  • The people app acts much more like a customized feed reader from common sources like Twitter and Facebook in addition to being the contacts app. This is actually a really great feature as I can effectively read Facebook without al the ads, fluff, and stupid posts that clutter my feed. The weird part here was that it took awhile to understand this feature and concept until I was actually playing with the phone. 
  • Live Tiles are surprisingly useful. That and coupled with the ability to change the size of the tiles really does make it feel more customized for me and what I wanted to see.

Now I admit I was surprised at some of the nice ideas and things that were different from my iPhone. However as the title suggests there were a few things I didn’t like as well.

Things I didn’t like – Hardware

  • The placement of the buttons on the side. There was no way to hold this phone without feeling like I was going to accidentally hit the sleep/wake button or camera button. 
  • I had to adjust holding the phone constantly in order to use it with one hand. (Seriously I actually felt I was starting to develop pain in my hand because of this thing)
  • Going back to my iPhone I really felt how heavy this thing truly is. (I can’t really say if this is good or bad but more just a very noticeable difference)

Things I didn’t like – Software

  • Games seemed more expensive. Most of the major title games were all going for more then the seemingly common $0.99 that iOS apps are. And the selection of free games seemed very “Eh” at best. 
  • No built in free messaging. Granted I was able to download and install Skype and WhatsApp messenger but both are somewhat clunky and I didn’t realize how much I would miss iMessage and Google Voice.
  • Speaking of Skype, if I logged into my phone with a MS account, you would think it would ask me to auto login with same Skype account. It didn’t.
  • The few apps I used on a regular basis (GroupMe, Skype, WordPress, WhatsApp, GunBros) didn’t really work all that well. Occasional crashes and deleted data etc. really provide for a overfeeling of just being half baked.
  • Lots of extra menus or gestures to being up info. Hey I like whitespace as much as the next person but with such a large screen I just found it annoying to have to go though extra taps or swipe. Especially the menu bar at the top. Just permanently leave it there for the love of all that is good in the world.

So overall that biggest impression I had was that while this is a nice phone and OS, I had no reason to switch whatsoever. I suppose if I had never used a smart phone before then maybe I might consider this phone along side an iPhone or Android device but as an upgrade it just made no sense. There were plenty of little annoyances and no feature or functions that would make me want to switch. I always thought that when it comes to competing in a market you have to do three things… 1. Do everything the competition does. 2. Only better. 3. And then some.

A few questionable design issues, and nothing I can’t already do on my iPhone, I felt no reason to switch.

Music makes the world go funky

I like music. I know it’s hard to believe but there it it.

In high school, I was that guy who liked a ton of music. I had a bumping car stereo with obscenely loud subwoofers and I liked school dances. The reason I think about this lately is that I have spent many an hours on the train commuting and it’s nice to put on a pair of headphone (in this case a pair of Sennheisers) and completely block out the world and enjoy some great tunes. It’s nice to catch up on old music from when I was a kid and discover new music too. For as much “garbage” music there is, there is also a lot of hidden gems. I download the free iTunes single of the week every week and a lot of times I find a good song that sure enough ends up on the billboard hot 100 at some point in the future.

I am also relearning about sound quality. I have spent so long listening to MP3’s, AAC, or other compressed formats that I find I have forgotten how good CD quality sound really was. I have always been able to tell the difference between the compressed and uncompressed versions and it has become more apparent as I listen to some old cd’s. This of course brings me to a really interesting observation. There has been this resurgence of over the ear high quality headphones. Beats by Dre being the seemingly most popular. However I can’t for the life of me fathom why people would by “high end” headphones at $200 to listen to crappy quality music. By quality I mean compression ration, not taste is music because Lord knows that debate could range to the end of time and then some.

So this has led me to a new project for the year. I am going to re rip my entire 400 some odd cd collection into full quality AIFF format. This is the format that the file actually is on the CD. (Give or a take some quibbles) I have an unused 1 TB hard drive for this purpose and I look forward to enjoying all that music again in a high quality format. Of course this means I might have to go to a *gasp* CD store and actually fill in the blanks of some of the purchased stuff from online.

So compressed of not, I recommend starting off the new year with a rediscover of all that old music you love. So turn it up and get down with your bad self.

OS X Lion Tip & Trick #1 (updated)

This is actually more of an annoyance then anything but I will point it out anyways. Apple has introduced a new version of scrolling in their latest operating system. It is designed to mimic the scrolling on the iPad. This is fine except for 2 reasons. Reason #1 is that they turn this behavior on by default. You would think after 20 something years of people scrolling the other way they would leave that the default and give you the option to turn it to the new way. Reason #2 is that if you are using a third party mouse on your Apple desktop, say like a Microsoft or Logitech with a few buttons on it; there is no way to turn this new scrolling off. Yup thats right. Apple has made a programing change to the operating system that requires you to have an Apple branded mouse or tack pad in order to change the settings. Since I just so happen to have had an Apple mouse, (that I had to dig around to find as it was in the garage) I did find that once you turn the scrolling behavior back to it’s normal default you can then un plug the Apple mouse and continue to use the mouse of your choice. Still this is really annoying.

 

Yeah see the part that says “Move content in the direction…”

Mouse System Pref Pane for Lion
It doesn’t show up unless you have a Apple mouse plugged in.
Way to go Apple. (sarcasm)
I will have a more thorough review of Apple later so stay tuned.


UPDATE: After poking around on a few forums and talking to some others it appears as though this is a random incident depending on how old your mouse is. Some folks are reporting that their Logitechs are working just fine. So your mileage may very.

Apple’s Magic Trackpad

So it seems a lot of the tech world is all uppity because Apple releases a desktop track pad and they are saying it is the End of the Mac OS as we know it. Well I believe they are half right as always. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Apple is an evolutionary company. They learned a long time ago to think way ahead and then take the baby steps to get there and wait for the consumers to catch up.

Apple will incorporate touch into Mac OS X eventually. But it will probably not be in the way most people think. Touching a desktop display never makes any sense because users arms get tired and looking at smudgy displays drives a lot of people nuts. Just look at the iPad and iPhone users. Almost everyone automatically wipes down the display after every other use.

If however you add a secondary display that is meant to be touched then it works perfectly. You get to keep all the added benefit of a huge clear display for viewing what you are working on and then use a multi touch trackpad to get more functionality. Lets look at my idea of where this is heading in terms of logical evolution.

1. Add multi buttons to mouse – Most PC users have appreciated this for decades and Apple finally dived in a few years ago.

2. Add a touch panel to top of mouse. – starts to mimic some of the ideas of the track pad but still gives users that mouse around feeling.

3. Add trackpad option. – Gives users the option of using a trackpad that functions the same as the one on their laptop.

Now on to future stuff

4. Make the trackpad standard for all shipping computers.

5. Attach trackpap to keyboard to make it a single device.

5.5 Make iPad app that can act like trackpad and do the same as below.

6. Make trackpad a display like iphone – can be used to display widgets and is programmable with infinite number of functions. Is demonstrated but iLife apps that replace keyboard with sliders, knobs, buttons etc. Is also opened up to developers to do with as they please.

7. replace keyboard and trackpad with larger display track pad that doubles as keyboard and trackpad when needed.

Etc etc

You see where this is going.

Also on a related predictive note. I don’t think Apple will replace the Apple TV. I think Apple is going to make the Apple TV an App for the iPhone and iPad. It will require the iPhone 4 or iPad and also a special dock that has etherent, remote, and hdmi output. to the Big screen TV in your living room. But it will allow these device to act as what is now the Apple TV hardware. And probably the App will only work when docked in the special dock which will be about 60 to 90 dollars. But this way you can use the Ethernet in the dock or the devices built in wifi to stream files from iTunes directly, or your home based network. And then immediately if you need to get up and go just take your portable device with you and continue where you left off.

Think about it. If Apple really wanted to make a massive push into the TV market why not just convert the already massive market you have. It makes consumers feel as though they get more out of the device they already have without having to but a whole separate device. And it would require little to no training because the user interface would be similar to the current iTunes and Apple TV interfaces already.

Anyways those are my two predictions for future Apple products.

The Making of A Mac OSX Netbook… well sorta anyways

So I recently purchased a iBook G4 14 inch from my brother Jack.

Anyways it is a great little machine and it was cheap. I paid $100 Bucks for it. Now the best part about it was that it had very little use on it and therefore the battery was a little over 4 hours.

I have been reading a whole bunch of stuff about these netbooks and even read the hack of someone getting a netbook running Mac OSX. Well at one point I had bought an EEE pc and it really just wasn’t for me. It had some great features but overall there were just too many compromises for me. Keyboard too small, display too low of a resolution, not enough of the apps I wanted or was used to. You get the idea. Now then on to my evil plan. What makes a netbook cool? Well the small size but then again I wanted the larger display so no problem there. The light weight, ok I can work on that, the solid state drives for durability, check and well that and the low cost but still good functionality.

Step 1. Bought an iBook for $100
Step 2. But some SSD drives of Newegg. $200 for 2x 8 GB Transcend SLC IDE drives.
Step 3. Buy an MCE Tech Optibay originally for Powerbook G4 15. ( being a mac tech i knew this drive should fit and I was right… go fig ) $100
Step 4. Put it all together in some weird attempt to make this work

Here goes…

IMG_0076.JPG

This was one of the two drives that I ordered and I had to format it first because any good tech will tell you it is important to test the drives before you reassemble the computer just in case you don’t feel like wasting several hours retaking the thing apart.

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Now in case you were wondering an iBook G4 is not the easiest of laptops to take apart. I used to work for Apple so thats where I learned to do it. There are take apart guides online if you feel ambitious.

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The Optibay is kinda a cool little thing. It does way significantly lighter then the original combo drive that was in there. Even with the second SSD drive installed.

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This next part was the only really tricky part to this project. The Mounting bracket for the iBook relies on the front bezel of optical drive which is a customer modeled piece. I had to break two tabs to get it to fit snug and it’s only attached with one screw. But the entire iBook is a snap one piece on top another so I wasn’t too worried about things flapping around in there.

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And here is the complete inside install. Yeah it is kinda geeky cool. Note that the optical drive uses and IDE connection. If you were thinking of doing this with the new MacBook Alums that just came out it uses a SATA connection. So we will have to wait for MCE to come out with a new optibay which I’m sure there are already hard at work on… I hope.

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Then I had to simply use an external optical drive to get Leopard loaded on there and RAID the two drives together.

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Some interesting specs for those who are into that sort of thing. The boot time was reduced from 1 minute 46 seconds to about 38 seconds total. Sequential read and write times were faster but not dramatically. However I did run xBench and compared it to my buddies 15 MacBook Pro and his random read writes were about 1 MB a sec, and this thing smoked that at 28 MB a sec. And since the whole swap file is being paged in and out it is a significantly faster machine over all. Applications launch almost instantly and for some weird reason it also shuts down almost instantly as well. It will take some getting used to in terms of not feeling the drive spin or make noise but hey, wave of the future and all that. Also I get about over 5 hours of battery life now.

And here is a random pic of a stuffed animal with a knife through its head for no good reason. Enjoy and happy scrapping

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Sheesh People

Okay so yes yes yes we all know Apple will be updating the MacBooks and possible the MacBook Pros at the end of September, early October. Why do we know this you ask? here’s why. 

1. They wont update laptops during the middle of the back to school promotion. Can you imagine a bunch of people who just bought a new laptop, filled out a bunch of rebates only to find a new model out the next day. 

2. By waiting a full two weeks after the back to school promo they won’t have to honor any of the 14 day return policies unless you intend to pay a restocking fee. This isn’t evil actually just a practical way of doing business. 

3. Being a part of a channel partner, we were told to stock up to allow for sales for the next 6-8 weeks. DO the math and that is the end of September. Also this would allow for apple to introduce the holiday line and not need to worry about it until Macworld. 

4. I Also expect the iPods to be discontinued at the same media event and they will discount the iPod touch and rebrand it as a ultra mobile laptop. I mean why not, it does almost as much if not more then some of those “netbooks” we see cropping up all of the place. 

Now on to these pictures floating around about the new aluminum case. Of course they will use aluminum eventually but these here are fakes. Wanna know why?

Well as you can see by the pics this lid would use a two hinge design. Apple abandoned the two hinge design after the Titanium PowerBook G4 because they were considered too structurally weak. Im amazed no one else seems to notice this…

 

Hackintosh take 1

Okay so I found this old pentium 4 at work and have spent most of the day trying to get OSX installed on it. I know random huh? But hey what else are you gonna do right. So first it wouldn’t boot the disc due to the fact that it doesn’t have a DVD drive. I tried to install it off the USB drive but the machine simply ignored it. I put in a DVD drive and it managed to boot the kernal but then it would just freeze and reboot the machine over and over again. So now I’m downloading a 10.4.8 disc to see if that will work. I may just give up and install Ubuntu but where’s the fun in that. So appearently the problem has something to do with the fact that an old P4 only has sse2 instructions and macintel 10.5 requires sse3.

That and I am almost done ripping all of star trek deep space nine to our network at the house. Yeah for several USB hubs and half a dozen drives huh?