Friday, 29 January 2010

Joby Jollies - Update

Towards the end of last year I posted an entry waxing lyrically about the Joby Gorillapod and using it with the iPhone. At that time Joby had announced that their iPhone case, specially designed for use with the Gorillapod would soon be available as a separate item for those who already had a Gorillapod.

True to their word, within a few days the case appeared on their website and I put in my order just before Christmas. I didn't expect the package to arrive until the New Year, but half way through January there was still no sign of it. I contacted Joby through Twitter (@Jobyinc) and they replied to say they would look into it but could I email their service team. This I duly did, and within a few hours received an email explaining that the item had been sent on the day of order, but had apparently got lost in the post and a replacement would be dispatched forthwith.

A couple of days ago the iPhone case arrived and I would definitely recommend it to anyone with an iPhone and Gorillapod (especially if you've also downloaded the Gorillacam app also described in the post).

Whilst the suction pad I had been using worked OK, it did require a very clean surface, and was not suitable for anything too rigorous. The dedicated case provides a much more robust connection to the Gorillapod, and the iPhone simply clips into it with a very snug fit - in fact so snug it can be a bit tricky to get it out in a hurry. The good news is that the case fits flush on a flat surface. The case can be purchased direct from the Joby website and costs £14.95.

Gorillapod iPhone Case.jpg

It's worth noting that I would not consider this to be a replacement case for an iPhone. It's better than nothing, as it is sturdy enough, but it doesn't provide the depth of protection that I look for in a permanent case.

I'm pleased to award the first Apple Harvest service award of 2010 to Joby (sorry guys, it's a virtual prize), for their swift and effective response.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Back to Reality

After all the excitement of last night's iPad announcement (and thankfully an end to all the speculation and rumour mongering - for now!) it's time to wake up and smell the roses. The real world is still out there and Apple still has an existing product line to support. I see an increasing number of problems being reported in the press, in blogs and on Apple-related forums, that seem to suggest that the famous Apple quality standards may be slipping ever so slightly. An example is the serious issues with the latest 27inch iMacs which have seen numerous shipping delays. It's a fact of life that a business that built its reputation on the combination of innovative, elegant and high quality products cannot afford to let any one of those attributes be compromised. Of course, it may simply be that increased market share, as well as increasing numbers of products just means that there is more exposure of problems.

Traditionally Mac users have been very product aware. They don't just use their computers and software, they explore the systems and their possibilities and they understand the subtleties and nuances that make Macs so powerful. As more people migrate to Apple from traditional PC brands and Microsoft Windows we shouldn't necessarily expect that pioneering spirit to envelope the new breed of user.

So where am I going with all this?

My networking problems, documented in other entries in this blog have re-emerged, and I cannot find a satisfactory solution. However, I now find that I'm far from alone, which in some ways gives me comfort - working on the old adage of a problem shared being a problem halved (or even solved!). None of the suggestions that I've seen and tried have provided more than slight relief, and all of them involve tinkering with esoteric advanced network settings. Since this is a new problem (new in the sense that it didn't exist in my system six months ago) and is repeatable in other people's, differently configured, systems, the logical conclusion is that it is an OS bug that is causing a network failure.

What bothers me is that I never see any Apple presence on the Apple support forums, so we never know whether any of these problems are investigated at Apple HQ. Worse still, there is no way I can see for a normal user to be able to report a bug, other than as a result of a system crash - no crash no bug!

Apple needs to improve its customer facing support service to provide us with some reassurance that our problems are being investigated and that solutions, where applicable, are being sought. I'm on about genuine problems here, not the ones that plague support forums because people are too lazy or stupid to figure things out for themselves by picking up a book or doing a search on the internet.

Reputations built on quality will disintegrate overnight if that quality is compromised. Caveat Apple.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Confessions of a Fickle Browser User

When I first started working, the internet, as we know it today, was still in its infancy. So was e-mail; GUIs were only research projects, and browsers were people who walked around shop floors without any money in their pockets or bank accounts.

A few years later when I was properly ensconced in the corporate IT world I remember briefly playing with Netscape, but from then on in it's pretty much been Internet Explorer all the way. And on company owned machines it's usually been at least two versions of IE behind the latest one. IE has moved forwards in leaps and bounds since those early days when Microsoft was still in denial about the future of the net, and the last version that I used in anger on the PC, IE7, did just about everything I needed or expected.

Of course, when I bought my first Mac back in 2007 it didn't take long to realise that IE on the Mac had not exactly progressed with the times. Because my entry into the Mac world coincided with the launch of Leopard and Safari 3 it made sense to use Safari from the outset, and I was quite happy for a few months. But something, and I genuinely forget what it was now, made me try out Firefox. Before long, Firefox became my browser of choice.

I love Firefox's extendibility, and before long I had the browser configured exactly how I wanted it. I had toolbars for LinkedIn and Facebook, Xmarks (previously FoxMarks) for bookmarks, Morning Coffee to load a set of default tabs, and all sorts of other goodies. Almost all was hunky dory in the Apple Harvest world. But I started to get annoyed when some of my extensions failed to load every time there was a point update. And then there was the problem I had when my internet connection intermittently started hanging forcing a reboot.

When Safari 4 was released I decided to have another look at it, but it seemed to take forever to load my home page (mine is set to a customised BT:Yahoo home page), so I decided to stick with Firefox, and put up with it's inconveniences.

However, in the last couple of weeks I found out that some of the features that I really like were available to me in Safari. I began to investigate and to my surprise my home page loaded almost instantly. I installed Glims, Inquisitor and PDF Browser plug-ins. With these three additions I'm able to perform all the main tasks that I used to demand of Firefox, but with fewer configuration issues. And some of the super duper add-ins for Firefox that I used to have installed proved to be padding and superfluous.

I don't really need a Facebook or LinkedIn toolbar, Xmarks works fine with Safari, pages load fast and Safari is now my default browser. Until something better comes along!